Buddy Walk and How You Can Help!


We had do much fun at the Buddy Walk this past weekend. If you aren’t familiar, it is a walk benefitting Down syndrome. Hundreds of families and friends gathered at a park in Birmingham to hang out, eat, and celebrate how amazing Down syndrome is. They have walks like this across the country.

It’s always amazing to me to be at an event like this because it shows you how big our world of Down syndrome actually is. I love it!

You may have seen this precious little doll before, but let me introduce you to Wren. Wren is Gracie’s bestie. Wren’s mom and I have high hopes and big plans for these two girls. They are going to change the world. img_5426

Wren has two sisters, Willow and Pippa, and she also has a brother, Fox, who is currently waiting in China for his mom and dad to come get him! He also rocks that amazing extra chromosome like Gracie and Wren. img_9152Isn’t he amazing? He’s undergone open heart surgery across the world from his parents and we are so ready for him to be home.

They are hoping to travel in the next few weeks to go get him and we could not be more excited. As I’m sure you know, adoption is expensive. They have been working hard to raise the $35,000 it takes to bring Fox home.

I am a firm believer that even though God is not calling Les and I to adopt right now, He is calling us to support those that adopt.

I’ve been sharing with the world since Gracie was born that she, Wren, Fox, and others with Down syndrome are MORE ALIKE THAN DIFFERENT. Can you think of a better message to spread? Nowadays, it seems that message expands past special needs. No matter your skin color, religion, gender, job, whatever… we are MORE ALIKE THAN DIFFERENT.


We had these shirts designed for our Buddy Walk and I am so excited to be able to offer them for sale for the next two weeks! img_5433

And here’s the best thing – ALL the money we raise is going to go to the Glasgow family so they can be ready to get on that plane when they get the call!

We are offering these shirts in short sleeve and long sleeve, in adult, youth, and toddler sizes. Help us spread the message that we are all MORE ALIKE THAN DIFFERENT and when you do, you are helping a family bring their son home. That’s a WIN WIN!


Orders will be taken until October 21st, and shipped within two weeks of the closing date.

Click here to order!

Posted in Adoption, Down Syndrome, Every Day Stuff, Gage, Gracie

Navigating Our Normal

I hate that it has been so long since my last update. I just set a reminder on my phone to update more often because I want to have a virtual scrapbook of our lives and of our normal. I also want to always be able to look back and see how far Gracie has come, and document some of the things we are doing with her in therapies, because I know how much I searched the Internet looking for information and stories of others when I was pregnant with Gracie. How could you not look at her learning to walk, or sing, or dance, and not think, “wow. Maybe this will be great”?

We had a fun summer. We got to visit some Generate camps (this is a branch of YM360 that Les started). Les and I flew to Dallas to see the first camp, and then we took the kids to Covenant College in Tennessee (where Les and I met and got engaged!), so they could see camp! We added on a visit to Ruby Falls, the Chattanooga aquarium, and went back to the spot Les proposed!



Don’t you love Gracie’s face? Clearly we are keeping her from lunch!


Gage had so much fun at camp. The summer staff was amazing with him – lots of high fives, hugs, and letting him be a part of camp. He cried on the way home because he didn’t want to leave. This video is so precious because on his first take with the megaphone, he was quiet, but this time was after we told him to be loud!

Gracie went to the eye doctor and we discovered that one of her eyes is focusing on things much faster than the other. Left untreated, her other eye could potentially start to turn in, so we were given the option of trying glasses, patching, or putting eye drops in her better eye to blur it so the weaker eye would be forced to work harder. As he was telling me the options, Gracie ripped out her bow and threw it at him, so we both agreed that keeping glasses or a patch on would probably not be a good option! The drops have not seemed to bother her at all, so we are very happy and hoping for a good report in December to check her progress. img_7784

We have also made some changes with her therapy. We have loved our time at The Bell Center for the last 2.5 years. They have helped us navigate our new normal so well! We decided that putting Gracie in a Mother’s Day Out program would be really great for where she is in her development right now, and we could not make both programs work, so Gracie is now attending a MDO program two days a week, and then we are getting private therapy at a new place to help supplement two days a week. We are so grateful though, that The Bell Center exists and provides so much help for us and other families.


Gage started Kindergarten this year. I can’t believe it. img_8465He was so excited about starting! He will tell you he was most excited about his new pencil box!

Last week, Gracie attended her first day of Mother’s Day out! She is in a program at a local church, and so far, we could not be happier. She is able to be with typical peers her age for a few hours, two days a week. Our hope is that Gracie will grow even more as she is surrounded by these peer models. She has done great eating at a table with friends independently, playing outside, doing crafts…it’s just a lot that makes my heart swell. Both mornings she has walked in and not given me a second look! I would much rather have that than tears!


These are exciting times. I can’t wait to see how my babies grow and learn over this next year.

Now…bring on football season!


Posted in Down Syndrome, Every Day Stuff, Gage, Gracie

Here’s the Truth…

I have shared with many, and even wrote about it throughout blog posts on here, that although it was really hard for me to find out about Gracie’s diagnosis so early in my pregnancy, I am so grateful that it happened that way.


I did lots of questioning and had a lot of hurt and anger as I wrestled with what our new normal was going to look like. It’s embarrassing now, but that’s the truth – and that’s why I am so glad I found out early. I am so blessed to be able to meet a mom with a new diagnosis and say, “however you are feeling right now is OK, but I promise, it is going to be amazing.”


Because, here’s the truth…

It. Is. Amazing.

How it has changed me, Les, Gage, our family, and friends areĀ serious, life-changing, monumental changes. The respect and value that has blossomed in me for others is overwhelming sometimes. I think before Gracie, I had a bit of a blind eye and was just naive to a lot of the world. I am so glad I am not that naive, nonchalant person anymore.

The things that stir my heart and am passionate about are completely different. Inclusiveness, saving the lives of the unborn, spreading the word that all life is precious, that those with disabilities are more alike others than they are different, and that God’s plan is perfect, are all things that weren’t on my radar to this extent before Gracie.

Man, I am so grateful I have those fires inside of me now.


Here’s the truth… The way that I am seeing the beauty of God’s perfect plan for Gage being Gracie’s older brother brings me to tears on a regular basis.


Here’s the truth… We all wake her up together on most days and try to be the first one to hold her and snuggle her. (Gage won this past weekend).


Here’s the truth… Gage is leaps and bounds more compassionate, patient, and thoughtful than I could ever imagine was possible for a 5-year-old.

Here’s the truth… Because of Gracie, I have been able to talk to several people who receive a prenatal diagnosis that are scared, contemplating options, and questioning God, and have been able to share about our new normal and how blessed we are.


Here’s the truth… her love and excitement over sweets creates some of the most joyful moments we have as a family and she makes us laugh more than anyone ever could.


Here’s the truth… she has the best smile and laugh and brings out the best in all of us. We will do anything to see her (and Gage too!) have fun (even if that means Les runs down every aisle of the grocery store to make them belly laugh).


Those truths about having a child with Down syndrome don’t sound too bad, do they? Sure, there are a few more medical concerns, some therapy appointments, some extra work at home to help her have every tool she needs to develop, but who cares? All that is leaps and bounds worth it if it means I get all the moments I listed above.



Posted in Down Syndrome, Every Day Stuff, Gage, Gracie

Happy Tears

When you find yourself crying in an elevator, it seems like a good time to dust off the blog and give an update!


Gracie had her yearly cardio checkup and her heart looks PERFECT. The cardiologist doesn’t see why her repair would not last her entire life.

I took this video afterward and then stood in the elevator and cried, thinking of being in this same building when we first saw her on the ultrasound knowing she had Down syndrome, then hearing her heart defect may be fatal, then seeing it change over the weeks into something surgery could repair.

She was born, and we came to this building every week or so for weight checks and echocardiograms leading up to her repair. So much anxiety and prayers that our baby would gain the weight she needed and would make it through surgery.

And here she is. A week or so away from her two-year anniversary of heart surgery…WALKING out of her appointment. We are so grateful. Praise God.


The last month of so has been filled with pool days, baseball games, and Gracie perfecting how to walk!

Our neighborhood pool opened this past weekend and the kids had a blast playing in the pool. IMG_6853




Gage played his first season of baseball. Les pitched to the boys and it was so much fun! At the beginning of the season, Gage could not hit the ball at all and had no idea what was going on! It was so exciting to see how much he developed over the season. Gracie loved cheering him on (and also loved squirming to get out of my arms to practice walking! Thanks to my mom and dad for helping with her at the games so I could actually see Gage play!)


I love this picture because it is Gage batting, Les pitching, and my dad as 1st base coach!


I can’t wait to cheer for him in more things!

I have so much more I want to share about Gracie, our lives, and what we are learning, so I’ll do a better job of keeping the blog updated. I do so much on Instagram (@jme027), so sometimes it’s hard to remember not everyone sees that!

On a fun note, some of our stories were recently shared in two publications! Click below to read more!

B-Metro article

Alabama Family Trust



Posted in Down Syndrome, Every Day Stuff, Gage, Gracie

Oh Happy Day!

Today is World Down Syndrome Day.


I never knew there was such a day until a few weeks after Gracie was born.

But here it is, and I am so happy. It’s a great day to recognize Gracie and all of our new friends, and share with the world that Down syndrome is awesome, that Gracie and her friends are more alike you and I than they are different, and that Gracie and others who happen to have Down syndrome deserve to be treated with the same love and respect that you would treat anymore.


If you are reading this, you know all this. You probably love Gracie and have had your world opened a little and your heart softened to those with special needs.

So will you do me a favor on this awesome day? Reach out to others with Down syndrome if you see them. Give the parents a high five and tell them they are rocking their “normal,” and tell the kids or adults with Down syndrome, “Happy Down Syndrome Day!” and that they are awesome, and you are so glad God created them so perfectly. You would not believe the impact that has been made on my day when a complete stranger stops me to talk about Gracie.


Things won’t change unless we push for it. Society won’t see Gracie as worthy and amazing unless we all believe it and live it.

I’m so grateful to God that He has given us our Gracie, exactly as she is. Spreading the word that her life is precious is one of the most exciting and fulfilling callings I could have on my life.




Posted in Every Day Stuff

Why “They” is Not My Favorite Word

I had an interesting conversation today, that included a statement that I have heard no less than 100 times since we found out Gracie would be born with Down syndrome.


It goes a little something like, “oh! THEY are so sweet…THEY are complete angels.”


Now, I am in total agreement that Gracie is super sweet and an angel. However, those are just characteristics of Gracie. Other people with Down syndrome may also have similar characteristics, but so do people who do not have Down syndrome.


It’s this whole “People First” language thing, that I blogged about here.

When Gracie is lumped into a THEY, then she loses being just our Gracie, and becomes another person with Down syndrome. Does that make sense?

I absolutely know that people say this with the best intentions and are simply trying to find a common ground with me and be supportive, and I can assure you I have said that in the past. As I am growing and learning more though, I am understanding how important it is to simply talk about the person, and not concentrate on their disability and lump everyone that has something similar into one group.


Thanks for learning along with me, and sharing in our journey.




Posted in Every Day Stuff

Small Steps are Big Steps

I caught the most amazing moment yesterday on video. I have been dreaming, and we have been working toward this goal for a long time.

It may only be a few shaky steps right now, but our Gracie bug is going to walk and run one day. These are BIG steps for her! Six days after her 2nd birthday, she decided she would go for it!

Speaking of steps, the Mercedes marathon was this past weekend. It was such an amazing time! On Saturday, they had the children’s run for all the kids who attend The Bell Center.


I thought Gracie may take a few steps holding on to my hands, but she walked the entire way!

She even made the news!

On Sunday, some coworkers and friends and I met downtown at 6 am and were bused off to different locations to complete the Mercedes Marathon relay! We did so awesome! It was freezing, but so fun. Our anchor, Paul, was finishing up his 8-mile portion to complete the marathon, and we all jumped in with Gracie and finished as a team. How amazing is it that they yelled her name as we were running (thanks for that, Ashleigh!)!

Thank you to all who donated to support us. We surpassed our fundraising goal and all of that money will go to The Bell Center so they can keep providing amazing care for these precious children!


The last few days have been amazing. Lots of steps for mommy in the marathon, and now steps for Gracie. I have cried more tears of joy in the last 24 hours over her small, shaky steps, than I have in a long time. Praise the Lord for our Gracie. She lights up our lives.

Gage loved wearing all of our medals from the weekend!


Tomorrow, we are having a little 2nd birthday party for her!

Posted in Every Day Stuff

Run Run Run!

I am so excited! Some coworkers, friends, and I are running a relay marathon team to run for Gracie at the Mercedes Marathon on February 14th!

This is the picture I chose for the back of our shirts. Don’t you think if you are running behind me (or let’s face it…passing me), that this little face would make you smile?!


The Bell Center does fundraisers like this to raise operating capital so they don’t have to charge families a huge tuition to receive the amazing level of care and support they provide.

Did you know that if The Bell Center did NOT do fundraising as their main source of revenue, then our family and every family that receives their amazing therapy, care, and support, would pay at least 7 TIMES more in tuition?

We are only $494 away from being fully funded for the marathon. That is amazing! If you would like to support our team as we run in Gracie’s honor, please donate! Any amount is appreciated! $10, $20…whatever!

All donations go directly to The Bell Center, and you are directly helping our family and families like us, who are navigating their new normal. The help and support we have received from The Bell Center has been amazing.



Posted in Every Day Stuff

3 months

Yikes, blog world. It’s been almost 3 months since our last update. Let me take a moment to do a little updating and then we can move on to regular posts in the weeks and months to come.

We’ve had a vacation of a lifetime since I last posted.


Disney Fantasy ship

We went to Disney World for a day, and then boarded a Disney cruise for 7 nights of awesome. We ate yummy food, lots of ice cream, watched shows, played in the water, and had amazing family time without the distractions of phones, computers, planning dinners, cooking, cleaning, housework, and anything else that takes away from being fully present. Magical.

Gage LOVED every roller coaster. I thought he would be scared, but he screamed and laughed through each one. Disney World also has a program called “rider switch” where Les could take Gage on a ride and then get me a ticket so I could take him as soon as they got off. It was great that neither one of us missed out on the rides with him. Well, I missed out on Splash Mountain….but that was intentional.

Clearly, Les and Gage LOVED Splash Mountain. IMG_3137

This is our second Disney cruise and we always leave saying, “this is totally worth it. We will save and not go on little trips if it means we can go on another Disney cruise.”



Pirate night





Gage turned 5 on this cruise and we had so much fun celebrating his sweet life.



The kids even got to trick or treat on the boat!

I am glad they got to have a little Halloween fun on the boat because when we got home in time for Halloween, it was a bit of a bust. It rained all night. I took Gage to a few houses with an umbrella, but Gracie had an ear infection and so we didn’t even take her out.

Gage got a new belt in his karate class. He loves his karate class. Check out my crazy mom face in the back of this video – trying to mouth the words, and smiling ear to ear…and his daddy, sneaking to the front to get a good video…and Gracie, cheering all night after he did his exercises..it’s no secret that we love cheering for him.

We are talking about signing him up for some sports this spring. I can’t wait!

We sold poinsettias this year again to support The Bell Center, where Gracie gets early intervention 2 days a week. Thank you to everyone that ordered! We sold 50 poinsettias and had fun delivering them to our friends.


We just got back to work and school from a long Christmas break and it was amazing. Not a lot of schedules, lots of pajamas and movie time, baking, and gift giving. Christmas is so fun with kids!



We got to meet up with Gracie and Gage’s cousin at the Zoolight Safari one night. We love hanging out with them! We weren’t very impressed with the Zoolight Safari though!


Gracie was not interested in Santa Claus. At all. We had to go to our ENT one day and there happened to be a Santa in the lobby taking pictures with the patients and giving out toys. Of course I felt like I should take advantage of a Santa picture, even though we had an appointment to meet Santa a few days after that. Gracie was not impressed.


And she did not like the next Santa either. She had a death grip on Les and was not going to let go. Gage did not have one problem jumping up in his lap and telling him he wanted skittles and a pirate costume.



He was shocked Christmas morning when he got a riding toy for outside! He wore his pirate costume all day (and most days since then!), and rode his 4 wheeler. He looks like he is in a biker gang, doesn’t he?!IMG_3989


Gracie got a little kitchen for Christmas. I searched long and hard for one for her and I am very happy with what we found. Her therapist wants her to work on pretend play, so a kitchen seemed perfect. This kitchen is adjustable, so it is a great height for her to work on pretend play, as well as reaching, squatting, cruising, and a laundry list of other things we are working on. It can adjust to a taller kitchen as she grows, so even though it might not be the trendiest little kitchen out there, it’s perfect for us.


Are you telling me that this kitchen is all for me?!


One last little update. Gracie went in to have her tubes replaced the other day. One was clogged, and her ENT proactively will change the tubes every 1-2 years as she grows, because kids with Down syndrome have small ear canals, which can sometimes lead to more infections, or hearing loss. Her first set has done nicely and has kept the few ear infections she has gotten manageable.

photo 1(3)

What do you mean no food when I sign “eat” to every person that walks in this room?!

He came in after the procedure this week and said, “Well, I have some good, but weird news.” He proceeded to tell me that her eardrums had created holes a little larger than the tubes were making, so the tubes were not effective anymore and they did not need to replace them. He said they are grateful when this happens because they won’t have to keep putting the kids to sleep and replacing the tubes. He said in the future, when she starts diving in pools (which she will!), and swimming a lot, we may have to get her ear drums patched, but that would be down the road.

I have heard and read a few questionable things about this, but we will trust her doctor because he is amazing, and just keep a watch on her. The main thing I am always concerned about it is hearing loss, so we have an appointment with the audiologist coming up to make sure she is good. We could not get a good read on her a few weeks ago because of the clogged tube situation. I just want to make sure a hole in her ear drum isn’t causing any sort of hearing loss.

photo 2(4)

Chugging apple juice after surgery

I am so grateful that we see our ENT every 6 months, so we can always stay on top of this.

I have a letter to share that I wrote to the high-risk doctor we saw when Gracie was diagnosed. Honestly, he was horrible and had a very negative impact on me when we were going through all the ultrasounds for my pregnancy. I sent him a Christmas card! I’ll save that for my next post!

Posted in Every Day Stuff

Leaps and Bounds

It’s been a while since I posted. Life has been busy with work, play, and therapy – but not full of doctor appointments or anything bad, just normal life!

PicMonkey Collage

Our Gracie bug has been growing like a weed. I mentioned a few months ago and that we were having some trouble with weight gain. We got any medical concerns ruled out, so we met with a nutritionist and worked on calories and some new ideas. We are very fortunate Gracie is a great eater, so she was game for whatever we gave her! Lately, she has been enjoying a diet full of super muffins, waffles with peanut butter, PBJs, avocados, hummus, green beans, carrots, and whatever I cook for dinner! She has gained about 3 pounds since meeting with the nutritionist and we could not be happier!

She has also been well, so that’s a huge blessing. I am so grateful my mom keeps Gracie on the days that I work. She works with Gracie just like I would, and Gracie can nap well and eat well. It is a great situation. Thanks, Nana! We love you!

We have had MONTHS of me wondering if Gracie would ever crawl, pull up, and do many other things. Yes, I know that kids with Down syndrome develop on their own timeline, and I tell myself that all the time, but sometimes it’s still hard. However, it’s true – when a child is ready, they’re ready. And Gracie is ready!

She now crawls on all fours!

And pulls up!


And tonight, she started this!!!

She is also communicating more!

We are so excited about these recent (as in, she has started all of this in the last month) developments. She works so hard for everything. Sometimes it makes me want to cry because I get so frustrated at how hard she has to work. I wish I could help her, but she keeps pushing and keeps trying, all with an awesome attitude, and she is teaching me so much.

We also attended our first Buddy Walk last week. We had a team with several amazing families I have grown to know and loveĀ  – some since our diagnosis while I was pregnant! It is so amazing to see so many families celebrating Down syndrome. Our team name was “More Alike Than Different.” That is a mantra I have adopted since having Gracie because she and her friends are truly more alike than different. Times have changed, friends. Back in the day, people with Down syndrome were institutionalized. Today, kids begin early intervention at birth and have so many resources available. We have big dreams for our Gracie bug and we will do whatever we possibly can to give her every opportunity her heart desires. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for her life.

Here are some pictures from the Buddy Walk!





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Posted in Every Day Stuff