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Had you noticed I haven’t mentioned Down Syndrome Awareness Month this year?

Every October since Nathan was born in 2010, our family has participated in a local Buddy Walk for Down syndrome. Well … it’s kind of local. We walk with the Down Syndrome Society of Mobile County (DSSMC), but we don’t live in Mobile County. Basically, you can see Mobile County from Mayberry, but there’s a huge body of water in between.

We intended to walk, we really did. But after four years I’ve come to realize that while DSSMC does some great things, few of them benefit us – at least not directly – because of the distance, so I wasn’t very motivated to raise money (plus Sarah Kate was already fundraising for Miracle Marathon). I’m confident we’ll walk with them again in the future, but we didn’t get our act together this year, and at the last minute I picked up a nasty stomach bug, so … no Buddy Walk 2014 for us.

At first, I felt guilty. What sorry kind of advocate am I?

But when we went to Mass on Sunday, and when I took Nathan to preschool on Monday, and when I grabbed my camera to shoot Nathan for Andi’s Official Down Syndrome Awareness Month Post, I realized that I – no, we, our whole family – advocate for people with Down syndrome every single day – and that’s just in our “real” life.

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When I post photos of Nathan hitting practice balls off of a tee in our backyard, I show the world that kids with Down syndrome enjoy sports just like typical kids. And when someone looks closely and notices that those practice balls are actually softball-sized, they realize that kids with Down syndrome admire their older siblings and want to be just like them (sometimes, anyway – sometimes they enjoy tormenting their older siblings, which is the soundtrack of life that I’m listening to as I type this post).

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When I snap and then share a candid shot of Nathan and Sarah Kate, her arm draped affectionately around his shoulders, the image contradicts the message that so many parents hear before their child with Down syndrome is even born: that the other siblings would be better off without him.

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By contrast, an intentionally posed shot of the two of them speaks plainly the opposite message: that sometimes he thinks maybe he’d be better off without her, or at least without her holding him down for the picture. :)

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Two and a half years ago, I wrote the following:

I know that when some people look at my family, they see heartache. They see struggles. They think to themselves, “Thank goodness that’s not me.” They imagine that my life is difficult, that I am sad most of the time, and that I want to escape from the hell that I’m living in because I have two children with disabilities.

But they’re wrong.

It isn’t my children that make life difficult, bring sadness, or make me long for an escape – it’s the people that believe these things about my family. Our daily life isn’t much different from that of other families. We laugh and love; we eat and drink. I do the laundry; Mr. Andi mows the yard. Sarah Kate does homework; Nathan plays with toys. It is a beautiful life.

That post remains one of my most popular; I think it’s because I struck a chord with many of you out there who feel what I feel, that it is the outside world that is the problem, not my child.

Nathan is loving, happy, willful, obstinate, funny, energetic, and obstinate (yes, I meant to say “obstinate” twice). He is a challenge, there is no doubt. But he spreads sunshine wherever he goes – there is little chance those who come across our path will not be “aware” of him.

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If you love someone with Down syndrome, I bet you know what I mean.

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Now it’s your turn: I know that not all of you reading have a child with Down syndrome, but many of you do, and I’d love it if you’d let me share a photo of your “buddy” here on the blog for Down Syndrome Awareness Month. If you’d like to participate, share it on my Facebook page by noon ET next Wednesday, October 29 with your child’s name. No Facebook? Shoot me a message here and I’ll let you know where you can send your photo.

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Sun-Beams is a collection of links to stories, articles, photos, or videos I have come across that I believe will inspire, inform, or encourage you, as well as my favorite photo posted on my other blog, Violet Film, from the past week.

What People Can’t Tell About Kids With Down Syndrome From Looks Alone – Great stuff here, and I don’t just say that because my kid is featured in the article. :)

Petitioning for a Princess – I love Disney, and I have no problem with princesses, but I’m with Courtney on this one.

How a Magazine Article Convinced a Former Ballet Dancer to Teach People With Down Syndrome – A neat story about someone who found her life’s calling

Does Study of Down Syndrome Hold a Possible Cancer Cure? – We already know there are studies about the link between T21 and Alzheimer’s, and now this. Yet, if people like Richard Dawkins had their way, there would be no one with Down syndrome left to study.

Football player with cerebral palsy earns starting role – I’m not a fan of some of the overly dramatic wording used in this story, but I do like the story!

Photo of the Week:

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Seven Snippets … Or Not

October 17, 2014

I’ve got a list of snippets for you, but I was hit hard this week by the stomach flu, and … I just didn’t have the strength to finish typing them up. I’ll hold the details on Sarah Kate’s new braces, a video of Nathan the first night he got his fire truck loft bed, […]

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Yep, He Really Did It: The Fire Truck Loft Bed

October 16, 2014

Remember a couple of months ago when we dreamed of building a fire truck loft bed for Nathan? Back then I said: Mr. Andi is 100% sure he can build it, but I’m only 60% certain he can do it, so I calculate the odds of us attempting it at 80%…..Stay tuned. Well, the bed is (mostly) finished so I […]

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Could This Tiny Packet Change My Daughter’s Life?

October 14, 2014

Strictly speaking: No, because it’s a sample. But packets like it – filled with real blood, not just a demo fluid made to look like it – do have the power to positively impact children with cerebral palsy, autism, diabetes, and other health conditions that have no cure and few treatment options. My recent trip […]

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Sun-Beams: October 12, 2014

October 12, 2014

Sun-Beams is a collection of links to stories, articles, photos, or videos I have come across that I believe will inspire, inform, or encourage you, as well as my favorite photo posted on my other blog, Violet Film, from the past week. Disabled Army vet Noah Galloway turns heads on cover of Men’s Health – Overcoming not […]

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Seven Snippets: Adorable Sushi Dates, Progress on the Fire Truck Bed, and the Southern Elaine Benes

October 10, 2014

— 1 — This story about Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin and his new friend Ann may be the cutest thing I have seen all year. It’s almost six minutes long, but worth every second. You can read more about the story here and here. — 2 — The kids and I went to the county band […]

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There’s No Village for Special Needs

October 9, 2014

I’ve noticed a lot of people these days lamenting the loss of the “village” in parenting. In the past, women banded together to help each other; the newbies had built-in mentors to lean on for help or advice. But today, extended families are scattered, so mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts are no longer readily available to […]

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Nathan’s First Fun Run

October 7, 2014

You saw the picture on Sunday. Nathan looked “all grown up” – ready to attempt his first 1-mile fun run. He was looking at the camera, smiling broadly, as if to say, “I got this.” The reality? Not quite as smooth as you might expect. It was a last-minute decision to put him in the race. […]

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Sun-Beams: October 5, 2014

October 5, 2014

Sun-Beams is a collection of links to stories, articles, photos, or videos I have come across that I believe will inspire, inform, or encourage you, as well as my favorite photo posted on my other blog, Violet Film, from the past week. 4-year-old boy with Down syndrome denied birthday party at gymnastics studio – The story (told […]

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