Thanksgiving Inspiration | The Kid's Table

Saturday, November 22, 2014
I am not a fan of the kids table. Thanksgiving dinner is a family event and it doesn't seem right to split the family on this all important day. But our guest list this year surpassed our twenty seat table capacity and Sam and Ellie were jumped at the idea of playing host to their friends at a kids table, providing they approved the table setting. Drawing inspiration for the kid's table from these sources:
(one) (two) (three) (four)
Super simple, kid friendly and festive. Plus this entire table is going to be under $10. Big time win. Can't wait to see it all come together!

5 Reasons Fall is the Best

Thursday, November 20, 2014
Can we all agree fall is the best? If not, let me try to convince you with my five reasons to love fall.

Scenery- How can you not love a landscape transformed into a brilliant glow of red, orange and yellow? The lighting is absolute perfection. The air is crisp and refreshing to breath. This time of year just looking out the window makes me happy and so very glad to be alive!

Pumpkins - On my porch and in my coffee. It's all good. By the time September rolls around I make very few recipes that *don't* have pumpkin as the main ingredient.

Sweaters, Scarves & More Sweater - I love my knits and woolens! (Except no actual wool because I'm allergic and it's makes me sneeze and itch :P) Confession: I'm something of a sweater junkie. Pretty much every morning finds me bundling up in a cardigan or pullover. I'm sorry, but getting dressed is so much more fun in the fall. Layers galore!

Thanksgiving Magazines - While you're agreeing with me, can we all admit Thanksgiving in the very best holiday? I couldn't even explain why. It just is. And the Thanksgiving issues of favorite magazines (I'm looking at you Bon Appetite and MS Living!) and always, always the best. My mom has a copy of Bon Appetite from 1994. Every year when we sit down to assemble our Thanksgiving menu we pull out the much loved issues that has come to be a family heirloom and reverently brush off the dust.

A Clean Slate - Most of all, I love the fall because with the new academic year, comes a reboot to all our lives, thinking and schedules. The world is once again busy and productive. (I'm happiest when busy...it's a flaw, I'll be the first to admit, but that's the way I'm wired.) We're full of purpose and work is confronted with a new vigor. In the immortal words of the brilliant F. Scott Fitzgerald...

"Life starts all over again when it get's crisp in the fall."

And that's pretty much the sum of it.

Happy fall.

-näna

P.S. Comment and tell me why YOU love fall!

Christian Royal Pottery - beautiful pottery making dreams reality

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Christian Royal has a vocation and a business. While that is not unusual for many people, it is unusual for an individual who was born with Down syndrome (DS*). For the past seven years, Christian has been making pottery. For the past four years, his pottery has been sold in upscale stores and art galleries in Charleston, South Carolina. To grow his e-commerce sales, consideration was given to search engine optimization using Google ad words. But, what would that be compared to a Kickstarter campaign? It was a no brainer! This is a project to promote elegant ceramic art From Sea To Shining Sea. This could be a big deal for Christian to be discovered by Kickstarters.

In 2009, John and Jan Myers, professional potters of thirty years, taught Christian their unique style of making slab pottery. They trained Christian in a method that enabled him to produce graceful and stylish stoneware and, in so doing, they changed his life. In 2012, Joni And Friends, a ministry to people affected by disability, did a thirty-minute television documentary on him that received a Silver Telly Award. He may be the first Down syndrome individual to become a professional potter. Christian still struggles with single words and has yet to grasp basic addition, the seasons, or time. He does not get abstracts. And, fortunately, pottery is not abstract. Making a piece of pottery is very tangible and "down to earth." You start with a block of wet, gray clay and take it through a series of sequential steps that eventually results in high-fired stoneware – Graceful in Form, Capturing Beauty Through Leaf and Lace Impressions. Christian sees the results of his labors with each completed kiln firing. It is delightful to him.

The guiding motif for Christian Royal Pottery is: Stoneware With The Charm of Things Imperfect and Simple.

Christian’s studio and handcrafting skills have equipped him with a vocation that animates his life with purpose, camaraderie, and identity in society. And, many individuals have been part of the story that is Christian Royal Pottery. Without the help, guidance, and opportunities provided by many kind-hearted folks, Christian and his pottery could never have achieved his modest successes thus far.

For a potter to sell pottery across America would be impressive. For a potter with DS to sell across America would be remarkable. The goal of this project is for Christian and his pottery to be discovered beyond Charleston. This is an ambitious goal but highly achievable among interested Kickstarters. And, such an achievement might signal other families about new possibilities for their loved ones with special needs."

This is awesome stuff, guys! What a major step forward not only for Christian but for every individual affected by Down Syndrome. And, as if the idea of helping this great project wasn't enough, the rewards (with and $18+ pledge) are amazing. Truly, this pottery is the most beautiful I have seen and I'm excited to see what this enterprise will accomplish. Get involved by visiting Christan Royal Pottery on Kickstart.

Autumn Babies

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Fall provides such a lovely backdrop. And the lighting! Don't even get me started.


 
 
Love these kiddos. It is ridiculous how much they have grown since summer and how much they are *not* babies anymore.  But gosh, do they wear fall well.

Cheers,
nana

10 Christmas Gifts for Down Syndrome Advocacy

Monday, November 17, 2014
I love this place! Coffee doing amazing things? Yes, please! Not only is their vision "...to employ developmentally disabled people in jobs while competitive jobs while providing high quality product that keeps customers coming back." [from their website] they also feature special blends of coffee for The Buddy Walk and The Arc, proceeds from which go to support those organizations. Learn more about their mission and the work they are doing on their website: furnacehillscoffee.com

2. Christian Royal Pottery
Christian Royal is such a talented young man! Based in Charleston, Christian designs and sells the most beautiful pottery. The details are just amazing. Christian also has Down Syndrome.  From their website: "The stoneware incorporates the natural splendor of leaves or the artistry of beautiful laces, which are shaped into flowing designs and functional forms. The making of stoneware involves numerous steps over several days. Each piece involves Christian and his assistants in a collaborative effort, following many sequential steps. While some of the pieces may be similar, none are identical due to the process. Handcrafting produces variations in size, shape, color saturation, depth of impression, and minor imperfections that give each piece part of its appeal. Thus, the studio adage: Stoneware With The Charm of Things Imperfect and Simple." Visit ChristianRoyalPottery.com to learn more.

3. Sweet Sycamore
Jill Taylor is the mother of a sweet girl with Down Syndrome. Based in Richmond, Jill designs beautiful prints she sells on Etsy, such as this print inspired by her daughter. Visit Jill's Etsy shop, Sweet Sycamore.

4. Mt. Lebanon Soap Company
These soaps and so beautiful and even more beautiful is the story behind the creation of Mt. Lebanon Soap Company.  In 2010 Erin and Chris Csernica combined their professions of chemical engineer and message therapist to create soaps to sell as wedding favors. In 2011 their first daughter was born with Down Syndrome. They decided to put all the profits they make into a special trust fund for her future and hope one day she will share this budding business with them. Find Mt. Lebanon Soap Company on Etsy.

5. KK Glass Art
From their website: "Kelderman Klassy Glass is a new microenterprise of Kailin Kelderman's family in Reno, NV. KK is 15 years old and has Down syndrome. All of her life she has been fully included in her community, attending school with her sister, Eilish, who is 13. We have always had high expectations for both of our daughters. Both KK and Eilish are enrolled in the Nevada Pre-Paid College Tuition program, so their college educations were paid for when they were young and we expect them both to go to college. This microenterprise began when Mary, Kailin's mom, took a class in glass fusion...She enjoyed it, took a few more classes, and started to see some potential for a future business. Kailin has always been very creative with color, but not so great at precision, and with glass fusion, there is the opportunity to create beautiful pieces of jewelry without the need to be extremely precise. Kailin has already created many beautiful glass pendants. We are hoping her interest will continue to grow and that this will eventually become an income-producing business for her. Currently, all family members are working on the new business and enjoying creating art together. Kailin continues to create, while Mary and Bill handle the glass cutting, drilling and wire wrapping. Our first showing of jewelry was at the 2009 - 2010 National Down Syndrome Congress' national conference in Sacramento. We sold a lot of jewelry and had a great time! Since then, we've done a few craft shows and are starting to market the jewelry in local Reno stores. Money from the microenterprise goes into savings accounts for the girls and reinvestment in the business."
Visit KKGlassArt.com to learn more.

6. Stampin' Off the Path 
I love this "Keep Calm It's Only and Extra Chromosome" key chain from Stampin' Off the Path. Carissa, the mastermind behind this Etsy shop, is aunt to a sweet girl with Down Syndrome and made a bunch of these last year for her Buddy Walk. Find at Stampin' Off the Path's Etsy store.

7. The Henry Owl Initiative
From their website: "In 2012, [my big sis!] Kaitlin Wachter designed a plush owl for her yet-to-be-born baby brother, nicknamed “Henry”. A friend saw the owl and loved it so much she asked Kaitlin to create another owl for a friend adopting a son from China. Shortly after, the owls were added to A Stitch In Lives' inventory and from there the Henry Owl Initiative was born. Henry was born on April 28, 2013. Within hours of his birth he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Shortly after receiving his diagnosis Kaitlin decided to donate over 50% of the proceeds from Henry Owl sales to support Down Syndrome Awareness. During a promotion from September 1 to December 3, 2013 over 140 Henry Owls were sold. A Stitch In Lives donated more than $1,000 to F.R.I.E.N.D.S., a Down Syndrome Advocacy group based in Frederick, Maryland. The Henry Owl continues to be A Stitch In Lives’ best selling product. We are proud of our owls and what they are doing to educate and inspire the Down Syndrome community and the world."
Visit HenryOwls.weebly.com for more info or find your owl at A Stitch In Lives

8.  Beauty In The 21st
Christina is a dear friend of my family and mommy to Madison, a brave little girl with Down Syndrome. At her Etsy store, Beauty In The 21st, she sells the cutest headbands and necklaces, including this headband and this necklace in the blue and yellow Down Syndrome awareness colors.
Visit Beauty In The 21st on Etsy!

9. Inspires 2 Aspire
Todd says on his website: "Inspires2Aspire, wants to inspire others, including individuals with disabilities and their families by seeing that they can do great things. This site exists because people like you helped me to achieve my goals even though the odds were against me. Many people inspired me to work hard at whatever I did and to never give up. I learned to believe in myself and others. Living my life has its challenges, but it's also a lot of fun! That's why my company Inspires2aspire. You can make a difference in someone's life by offering encouraging words, but sometimes the words don't come easily. Let us help. My cards are about my life and experiences. I hope they inspire others to take a chance and try new adventures."
Visit Inspires 2 Aspire's Store to check out their posters and notecards.

10. Miss Katie's Kreations
From their website: "Miss Katie Henderson is an internationally recognized artist who happens to have Down Syndrome. She grew up in Lake Ridge, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC and moved to Florida with her family in 2004. She used fashion design books to teach herself how to draw posing models...She practiced for several years before discovering her own technique. While sitting at the kitchen table, Miss Katie said to her dad – “Hey, Pops - Why don’t you be an entrepreneur and give me some money so I can start my own business.” Miss Katie’s Kreations was established in August 2011...Miss Katie has exhibited her work in both public and private galleries, juried fine art shows and events in Florida, Indiana, Texas, Washington, DC and Colorado. Miss Katie's original drawings and/or giclees have been purchased throughout the United States including 33 states and the District of Columbia. Miss Katie gained an international following with her works being sold in four countries - Mexico, Great Britain, Canada, and South Africa. In December 2012, "Marie Claire - South Africa" featured Miss Katie in their article - "Eye on the World - Florida Boundless Ambition - The Success of a 30-year Old Artist and Designer is Changing The Way We Look at Fashion." Her story has been featured on blogs, and in on-line fashion magazines around the world including Australia, Poland, Japan, Greece, Mexico, and Russia. In March 2013, Miss Katie exhibited her art in the Rotunda of the Florida Capitol." And if that wasn't  impressive enough, Miss Katie has done amazing work for Down Syndrome advocacy, including raising $2,200 for ARC and $1,500 for The Special Olympics. You go, girl!
 To view and purchase Miss Katie's artwork visit MissKatiesKreations.com

And as a bonus... 

If none of these gifts catch your fancy, no problems! You can still support Down Syndrome advocacy this Christmas by going to Smile.Amazon.com and choosing F.R.I.E.N.D.S. of Frederick as your charity. Amazon has pretty much any gift you could want and they will donate a portion of every purchase through Smile.Amazon.com to F.R.I.E.N.D.S.!

Buddy Walk 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014
This is Addison. You already know a good bit about the all together lovable person he is. Next to him is my friend Madison. She is one of the strongest, bravest girls I know. They are both going to do great things (hopefully together! :D) and I can't wait to watch their lives unfold.
photo credit
It was an honor to participate in my first Buddy Walk on September 20th, walking for and with these two amazing people!
The Buddy Walk is a nationwide event founded by the National Down Syndrome Society. True, one mile long is not a challenging distance. This walk was designed so everyone can participate, regardless of physical ability. The walk has come to be just a (mostly figurative) part of a celebration of the wonderful gift of Down Syndrome. To learn more, visit the National Down Syndrome Society.

The 4077th

Friday, September 19, 2014
Are there any M*A*S*H* fans out there?
I have recently re-watched the series and remembered the reason it ran for eleven seasons and is one of America's greatest. It isn't like most TV series...you know, where the first three or so seasons are awesome and then it fades until the ratings are so low the series ends. Every season of M*A*S*H*, the silly and serious, is equally entertaining. But then how can you really go wrong? It's a medicine + comedy...two of my favorite things! :) I love my evenings with Colonel Potter, Hawkeye, Trapper, Radar, Klinger and the gang. And laugh you must because the comedy is just brilliant. The most important part of comedy is timing and this show just nails it.

The resemblance between Hawkeye and Trapper and my sisters (Kay and Emma) and I is unmistakable. Except their tent is the Swamp while our room is the Flat. And they drink martinis while we drink coffee. And they play poker while we play spades.

There's this weird connection between the colonels and my parents. My Mom and Colonel Potter would get along very well, I think. He is a commanding personality and capital leader but also "one of the guys". Even though I missed Henry I love Col. Potter and wish I had him for a grandfather...plus I can't help but laugh out loud when he gets mad. When I see Henry Blake all I can see is my dear pop. And I mean that in the best that's-why-we-love-him sorta way. Except minus the fishing. Because he hates fishing. (Ironically, my mom loves fishing.)

Sydney Freeman is brilliant. And can we all agree Trapper > BJ? Enough said.
But I hate the way the series ends. Umm...why couldn't the finale be about everyone going home, settling into post-war life and living happily ever after? In my mind BJ is back in San Francisco coaching his daughter's soccer team, Colonel Potter is retired and moved to Florida with Mildred and Hawkeye married a brilliant surgeon who keeps him in line.

But the series isn't all martinis and Hawaiian shirts. There are serious, even dark moments. Because we're talking about war. And while perhaps war is sometimes necessary, it is dark and the death of so many should ever be taken lightly. It disturbs me, the cavalier manner with which war, violence and death is so often regarded. Maybe it's because there is so much darkness in the world our senses have grown dull to the horror. Or maybe it's because we are too far from the suffering and ourselves have never experienced the pain and loss.
I know this is too small to read - click to enlarge
As I was watching the series I contemplate the Korean War for the first time since my 10th grade American history. The whole war, and specifically MacArthur's plan, is one of those topics I just can't settle my mind about. Could it have brought the war to an close? What about the inevitable death of thousands, soldier and civilians? Would it have saved more lives than it destroyed? Can you possible reduce human lives to figures? Maybe it sounds good on paper, but when you consider children, killed and maimed, how can that ever be "the great good"?

I don't pretend to have the answers to these questions. I'm not used to not having the answers. In a lot of ways, I'm glad I do not. Ultimately, I'm thankful I do not have to know the answers and I don't have to make the decision. God's will be done. Because, when you know God...when I reflect on His heart, love and position as the Creator of life, I can say "God's will be done" and truly mean it. And rest in His design. I can trust what He brings to past is best...will bring to past love and life...and, ultimately, will bring Him glory.

This wasn't where I was headed with this post. I have rambled and this is where we have arrived.
Thank you for reading.

please note this mention is not a blank endorsement of the show. there is a lot of mature content, especially in the first few seasons. use common sense, people.

Downton Abbey at Winterthur Estates

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
I think we can all agree the great costumes are one of the very best parts of Down Abbey. I mean, seriously. Those people knew how to dress. Winterthur Museum is the former country home of the de Pont family. It's also the temporary location of some of the best costumes from Downton Abbey.

Winterthur is beautiful, certainly elegant and posh. Some of the details of this house are so intricate it's hard to fathom the work that went into crafting the furniture, curtains and even trim.
But it's also...excessive. And by excessive I mean 157-rooms-for-a-family-of-four excessive. Basically the founder of the museum, Henry du Pont, spent his whole life collecting American crafted furnishings, supposedly for the sake of preserving American history. Literally this guy would buy whole rooms and have them moved to Winterthur. When Mr. du Pont died he had the home made into a museum. It sounds neat. Until you consider a man...a man so rich I can't even wrap my head around that much money...and his only legacy is things. Stuff that one natural disaster could destroy in a heartbeat. Just saying, I would have had a bit more respect for him had he say, founded a school, hospital, scholarship program....something with perhaps a bit more meaning than things. And I'm not saying he didn't invest in other causes (honestly, I don't know too much about him) but he did put a lot of time, energy and money into materialistic pursuits. But that's just me. Regardless, it was beautiful and an interesting experience.

Of course, the main reason for the visit was to see the Downton Abbey exhibit. It was amazing. These costumes have so much detail you totally don't pick up on in the movie. And seeing them in 3D you can really grasp the whole elegance and air of them.
What is a little girl to do among so much finery? Carmella was so beside herself she went and touched Lady Grantham's purple dress and jacket. She also asked if she could try them on and wanted to take one home. Of course all this made the nearby attendant freak out. But I'm confident she will recover, the costume will survive and I now have a great story to tell Carmella when she is Downton Abbey fan.
Because how can I possibly write about Downton Abbey without quotes...

"Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class."
 

“I’m not a romantic…but even I concede that the heart does not exist solely for the purpose of pumping blood.”

...and now I'm going to get all sappy before wishing you goodnight...

"You've lived your life, and I've lived mine. Now it's time we live them together."

Summer Highlights

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
I was talking to a friend on the phone. I asked her how her summer had been. She said it was fantastic and she couldn't wait to tell me all about it. Then she asked about my summer. "It was okay" was really all I could say. Which is pretty c lose to accurate. There were some really high, amazing point. And there were some really lousy points. There were some really wonderful memories made. And there were some things I really missed not having this summer. I'm not complaining, I'm really not. Life is all about seasons. There are summers full of long, relaxing days and there are harried summers lived day by day. There all good because, regardless of circumstances, you accept the season God has placed you in and resolve to make the best of it.

Let's talk about the really good moments.

There was the awesome, week long visit from my very dear friend Cassie.
And there was meeting Cassie's family for the first time. 
There was the lovely fourth of July celebrations in my hometown.
And my all-time favorite fourth of July tradition, fireworks and a concert by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra at Antietam Battlefield.
There were lovely days spent splashing and reading by the pool. 
And a much needed, beautiful, refreshing visit from my amazing friend Julianne. 
There were days spent visiting favorite museums. 
And celebrating birthdays.
There was strawberry and cherry picking.
And lots of outdoor time with my family.
There were parties (before quarantine).
There were days spent exploring local attractions.
And, of course, there was food so good only an Italian could have made it.
Sure there were messy bits too. Like therapy, hospital stays and medicine. But they were memories too and therefore worthy of mention. 
I'm learning to love all seasons of life. 

"Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons..." Daniel 2:20-21

Nineteen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014
this photo has absolutely nothing to do with this post except it makes me happy and I don't like photoless posts
Those of you older than I will laugh but, to me, nineteen is a pretty big number. The last year of the teens. It feels like I can no longer get away with being a kid and all of the sudden the world in general is going to expect me to be a full blown adult. Not a bad thing. Just different.

It's pretty incredible how much has happened in this past year.

I graduated high school
I learned to drive
I had my wisdom teeth extracted (I will never be able to comprehend why this simple procedure is considered a milestone)
I began to learn the violin
I ran my first race, a 5k for Down Syndrome awareness
I revisited Georgia (once) and Lancaster (twice)
And I traveled to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland and Detroit, Michigan for the first time 
I joined a (beginner) band/orchestra
I witnessed the marriage of a very dear friend
And saw another dear friend go home to be with Jesus
I volunteered at a camp helping kids with disabilities learn to ride a bike
I joined a Down Syndrome advocacy group
I reconnected with my mother's second cousins
I planned a Valentine's banquet and Henry's first birthday party

That's what I did during my eighteenth year. Now let's talk about what God did.

He began to unravel a plan and purpose for my life
He taught me about timing and how His timing is just as important as His plan
He showed me what true service was (and the joys of truly serving)
He changed my thinking on so many issues
He convicted me on honesty, pride and the need to live free of every expectation except His own
He saw me through every uncertainty, tough spot, joy and heartache

It's easy for me to feel  frustrated when I sit back and analyze my life. There are so many imperfections, so many areas in need of sanctification. It's easy to want to give up, stop fighting for a Christ-like perfection that seems impossible. I don't expect perfection. But I do pray that every year I grow a little closer to Jesus, a little more selfless and reflect, a little better, the love of my Savior.

...yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Romans 6:13