Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Hiya, Cheeksqueaks!

I'm pulling my time and energy back from some less-than-encouraging spaces in order to devote more of my attention to this one.  While I spend most daylight hours chasing a moderately mobile toddler who crab-scoots with the speed and aptitude of Futurama's Zoidberg, I still manage to eke out breathable amounts of recreation during baby naptime, during which I must use my precious stillness both wisely and quietly.

Therefore, blogging is back in.

Facebooking is out.

Bow-making, book-reading, and crock pot-stewing are also in.

Out:  Department store-wandering, afternoon judge show-watching, toenail-bedazzling, and fantasy novel-perusing.

And above all, family-knitting-togetherishness is the innest of IN.

Time to redraw the circle I dance in, then abandon myself to the steps.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Beach Baby!

Before I get completely carsick and yarf for reading my own writing in the back of a moving vehicle, I want to take the opportunity to tell you why this road trip to Florida has proved to me yet again why we won the baby lottery when we were blessed with Ava Leigh.

Being in the car for two days at a time can really fry a kid's marbles.

Cheeks was like, "Oh, you're gonna play Sesame Street for the seventeenth time and feed me Ritz Bits?  I am SO down with that....AGAIN!"

Not that she didn't have her moments of sequestration-induced nuttiness.

We took her to dinner every night (except for mommy/daddy date night!), sometimes around bedtime (since that's when we would be rolling into town), and she would have every nearby table flirting with her and any waitress in the joint squeezing her soft little paws and tickling her chin.  The maid from our hotel couldn't help from giving her a smooch and a snuggle as we were leaving.  All she ever had to do was sit in one spot and wave, confident in the expectation that every soul in the room will soon be in her thrall.  It still astounds me how she draws so much goodwill and affection from perfect strangers....even people who look like they've never attempted to smile in their whole life.

I dare you not to smile watching a toddler eat seaweed salad.

Aaaaand I got to hold her hand a lot.

Holding hands with a child with Downs is like holding hands with a cheribum made of marshmallow.

Her hand is still newborn-soft....

...even though now it smells more like peanut butter slobber and Cheerios instead of Johnson & Johnson's.

Oh, and this week, I decided that she somehow grew even prettier in the Florida sun.

As if that could happen.

It's already kind of a crime against nature for a kid to be this cute.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rules of Food


by Ava "mini" Clenney, 
as interpreted by Heather Clenney

I am willing to try anything once.... As long as it doesn't appear to be gelatinous.  It doesn't matter if the food item is something the majority of children gobble with gleeful abandon (Ex: mashed potatoes, pudding, yogurt, boogers).   A good rule of thumb is: if it slides, I will yarf.

If Honey Boo Boo Dog is present during mealtime, the pattern goes: a nib for me, the rest for you.  Exception: Cheerios, soup, tofu.

Condiments go in the hair.

Small, difficult-to-pick-up foods go in the floor.

Corn goes in the air vent.

In restaurants nice enough to offer cloth napkins, be polite and coy.  Eat the most sophisticated dishes with relish and flirt with the waiter and every senior citizen in the room.  Convince Mommy and Daddy you are a sweet angel pie when taken out to eat.

Be an unrestrainable food-flinging gorilla child at Taco Bell.

When possible, chase a bottle of milk with a few raw onion slices.  Insist on being passed around the table for a round of kisses.

Blueberries = body art.

Everything tastes better with your foot suspended in the air.

Get excited about vegetables!  They get excited about you.  They tell you so.... Loudly.  And stinkily.

Chocolate cupcakes make one free of all restraints of behavior and bedtime.  WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

There must not be more than three items on a high chair tray at a time.  Rid yourself of their presence forcefully and immediately.  Failure to do so may result in the reversal of Earth's polarity.  Best to be on the safe side.

You can get a lot done with a few sharp teeth.  Just look around. We live in Arkansas.

 Enjoy food.  It gives you pleasure.  And energy.
And gas.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Itsy Bitsy

On a boring day in pulmonary clinic....

...what else is there to do besides work on our Itsy Bitsy Spider?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Zombie Parenting Manual

It amazes me how much parental perspective can shift in the course of twenty-four hours.

One moment, I'm boo-hooing into my longsuffering husband's armpit because Ava's had a choking spell and I'm convinced my instincts aren't sharp enough act in aid to keep her lung clear..... and then the next morning I'm beaming back at her pediatrician whose ecstatic gushing over her health and development plasters my previously broken heart with smiley-face stickers.

In my quest for reassurance -- the kind that no well-meaning Facebook comment can provide -- I'm coming to the conclusion that ALL parenting is fraught with danger, and when you invite another individual into this world, you're essentially handing them your heart to use as a chew toy.  

Just the fact that they exist has he potential to thrill you to tears, as well as to terrify you beyond all reason.

There is no perfect assurance they will be okay....  Or okay as YOU define it.  God's ways being above our ways and all, sometimes his Way is not our preference.  

Maybe this is why I meet so many incredible parents when we're in the hospital with our daughter.  The trials of illness and disability are capable of spitting out very calm people on the other side.  These parents who have walked through the fire with their kids are ALWAYS the first people I would contact in the event of a Zombie apocalypse.  They'll nail the fort shut, calmly assess the food supply, and engage you in honest, heartfelt conversation regarding your child's brush with braineaters until the wave of unded bypasses your burg.  They'll never whine about the invasion or the lack of chocolate pudding packs in the rations.  They're just gonna keep the windows and doors secured and make short order of any zombie dumb enough to dance with a chainsaw.

Gruesome metaphors, perhaps. 


I'm sitting in the teen romance section of a bookstore, and apparently they're all the rage in romance these days.

Anyway, the meat of the matter (ew) is this:

Parenting is a unending cycle of celebration, diligent exhaustion, and fear.

Kid learns how to crawl after months of medical professionals reminding you that their development will be challenged.  You cheer them down the hallway.  After a few weeks, the novelty wears off, and you tire of chasing them.  You pull all the pluggables out of the walls and try to keep a fascinating toy in their hand at all times.  Then your kid discovers the allure of dark, steep stairwells, and it doesn't matter whether you're too tired to chase them or too broke to buy a baby gate.  You make do with a big, ominous box on the landing.

You deal.  And if you've been a little further down a dark road with that kid, you're just excited to walk a bit further with their little hand placed trustingly in yours.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

So Big..... Like YOU!

I'm sure that most parents have a moment when they look down upon their rapidly-sprouting progeny and say to themselves, "Holy moly!  I can't believe it's natural for a kid to grow this fast!  They must be putting hormones into our baby food these days...."

Well, excuse the peas and carrots outta ME!

Being the mom of a little girl with Down Syndrome, I thought I had a fair advantage.  Some wishful bit of my heart -- the part that obsessed over having a baby of our own for years and years -- felt smugly, if not wrongly self-assured that I would get to enjoy the smallness and the helplessness of the baby years that mother-hearts crave.

Well, guess what.  Ava Leigh is developing so fast that at seventeen months, my head spins at how rapidly she's learning how to conquer her little world.

And you know what?  I don't mind one bit.  I like the toddler years EVEN BETTER.  

Yes, that's right.  I wrote those unwritable words.  I LIKE my kid as a toddler.

More fun than a barrel of beetlebugs!

She's tossing her cookies rarely, if ever, at all.  That factor carries huge weight.

She wants to mimic everything we say and hear.  The cute stuff.  The bossy stuff.  The not-so-Baptist stuff.  Even the inanimate object stuff.  (I was listening to bagpipe music one evening and I swear on a stack of kilts that she was trying to imitate its wail and keen!)

She wants to go everywhere she sets her mind to, and it doesn't matter if she has to do the splits ten dozen times to get there.  She's gonna get that ball/dust bunny/flip flop and do what she pleases with it.  (Usually what pleases her is to lick it.)

It's our booty, we can crawl if we want to!

Maybe this thrills me so much because I hoped that she would be as bold as her daddy, and not so reticent as I am.  When she was born with Downs, I think I put that hope for her on a shelf and didn't give it much more thought.  I regret having that attitude -- just because Ava has her own unique set of genetic blueprints doesn't mean she doesn't have a lot in common with other members of her family.  I'm truly thankful that she has her daddy's see-it-through-ness, and her great-nana's boldness, my independence, and my great-granddad's wackiness.  The more she grows, the more I wonder if that extra chromosome gave her an EXTRA magnified dose of some trait on one side or another.   

She's sassy...


...and a wee bit irreverent...

and I know where she gets every bit of it!  

She is becoming so much more herself.... Yet she is an uncanny mirror of so many beloved family members.

I wish that I could reassure so many other new parents of kids with Down Syndrome that no matter how unique their child is, their son or daughter will undeniably possess attributes that will help them identify with other members of their family, whether it's a physical similarity or an expression of their personality.

It is SO important for children to be valued for how they stand out in the world.... But isn't it just as important for them to feel that they belong?