Sunday, December 21, 2014

'Tis the Season.

Last night, we somehow had 60-plus people in our home to celebrate the Christmas season.

I did not take a single picture.

I did not make a single cake pop.

Sometimes, life is busy.  We love having people from all different parts of our lives (old friends, work friends, neighbors, church friends) come together to eat cookies and make merry.  In past years, I've managed to get my act together to make dozens of cake pops and intricately frost cookies, but this year, the reinbeer were as good as it got.

But my pre-party work was limited to prepping the house and a few trips to the store.

Here's what I did to make my life easier:
* I bought a bunch of stuff from Great Harvest.  Apple scrapple, rolls, biscotti, cookies….. zero time in the kitchen for that.
* Instead of a kids' craft, I taped a roll of paper to the table in the basement, put out markers and toys, and set up a tent.  The kids ended up making their own entertainment with dress up, art, and jumping on the guest futon (which isn't very bouncy, but hey, it's not a good party until you catch 4 preschoolers/toddlers mid-jump!)
* I put on a pot of decaf coffee and put out a crockpot of apple cider (apple juice, cinnamon sticks, a bit of honey.)
* I bought a big box of applesauce squeezies and put them in a box in the living room.  Win.

Right now, Ellie and I are watching Christmas movies on Netflix.  The lights are on the tree.  We have church and gymnastics today and school again tomorrow.  (That's right.  We actually have school until December 23.)  But in this moment, I am relaxed and laughing at Ellie's commentary while Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy star in the Nutcracker on TV.
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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just for Fun.

I did another little photo shoot on Sunday morning with this adorable family.

I'm going to take the plunge and start charging for photography in 2015…  hello, New Year's resolution!

In the meantime, around here, I should be preparing to host an event on Saturday, but all I've done so far is prep the reinbeer.

A photo posted by Megan Landmeier (@meganlando) on
I'm hoping to get on the ball and actually cook tonight!
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Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Very DC Day.

Saturday morning started off with a trip to Arlington National Cemetery for the annual Wreaths Across America laying of Christmas wreaths.  I had the opportunity to photograph Team Bear laying wreaths and it was beautiful and heartbreaking.

Afterward, Matt and Ellie picked me up and we checked out a disappointingly small holiday market.  We did, however, meet a man in red.

Since we blew through the holiday market in about eight minutes, we headed to the train exhibit at the Botanic Garden, one of my favorite holiday traditions.

Ellie isn't trying to be Rudolph - her nose is recovering from a fight with some stairs.

Merry Christmas.  Live it up.
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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Penguins and Reindeer.

Just popping in for a little laugh for your day.

I wrote recently about our family tradition of allowing Ellie to pick an animal from the World Vision or Heifer International catalog for end of year giving.

As we looked through the photos, I asked Ellie what she wanted to give.

"I give a bird."
"Okay, these ducks or these chicks?"
"No, I give a PENGUIN!"

And that is how we celebrate Christmas around here.  Donating penguins.

She eventually settled on "eight chicks," but if anyone knows of an organization accepting donations to purchase penguins for families in need, we'd happily write another check or loan you a preschooler to volunteer.

P.S. I wore these glasses all day teaching Friday.  Ellie really wants them.  And the best comment I got?  "You know you're not a REAL reindeer, right?"
A photo posted by Megan Landmeier (@meganlando) on
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Ellie's early reading skills (letter identification, the idea that books have words, etc) are on track.  Her early math skills are a bigger challenge for her, which is fairly typical for kids with Down syndrome.  I also tend to work with her on reading skills more, because I happen to be a Kindergarten English teacher.

School has been working on counting, so when Ellie's daily Christmas book was 10 Trim the Tree'ers, I wondered how it would go.  Good news - she counted to ten.  The less good news - 1:1 correspondence needs some work.

And just now, she was holding a candy cane ornament and insisting "It's a big 2!"  Not quite, but I'll take it.

Have a great day.
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Sunday, December 7, 2014


This weekend is full.  Next weekend is full.  Although the Advent season calls for quiet and reflection, finding that time has been a challenge, just like every year.  Yesterday, Matt and I split events so he could attend a wedding and I could take Ellie, as promised, to the Nutcracker.  She was excited.

A video posted by Megan Landmeier (@meganlando) on

I adore the Nutcracker.  Last year, I wrote about there was something about taking my little girl that made me weepy.  This year, she understood a bit more of the story.  Of course, this year, I read a book in which the little girl's name is Marie, and the company we saw used Clara.  I have no idea why I didn't just continue with Marie (it's not like they talk or like Ellie can read the program) but it took her a moment to get over the name change.  She loved Drosselmeyer and this morning when I shared that information with Matt, she said "He ANGRY!"  Ellie imitated all the dancers when she got home, spinning around our living room in her little tutu.

She loved the second act especially, with the Russian dancers and the bakers.  She did not enjoy the Waltz of the Flowers, and that number was accompanied by the sounds of quiet snores.

After the Nutcracker, Christina came over to build our annual gingerbread house.  Instead of one house this year, Ellie picked a small village.  It worked out well, since Ellie got one little house and the grown ups each got two.  When Christina came in, Ellie sprinted out of the kitchen where she was "helping" me toward the front door, yelling "Christina's here!  Christina's here!"  Christina was not allowed to sit more than two inches away from Ellie throughout the evening.

A photo posted by Megan Landmeier (@meganlando) on

As Ellie gets older and participates more, I find myself getting teary as we celebrate things that are a normal part of childhood to me - seeing a ballet, building a gingerbread house, singing about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Although the fresh days of Ellie's diagnosis are long past now, I am in contact daily with new mamas, waiting to see if life will ever be "normal."  I remember wondering how normal my life would be.  I just found a Lego car in the middle of the Advent wreath.  A little girl just told me to stay on the couch, because she's going upstairs to get Daddy and request pancakes.

Last week, I got a big reminder that life is short.  In the midst of a busy Advent, I'm going to try to stop and soak in every moment.
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Share a Card.

The year Ellie was born, we had a big Christmas card list.

Not only did we include our whole family, but we also sent cards to all of the medical professionals Ellie encountered in her first year, including those who treated a very scared pregnant woman and shared with her the life-altering news that her baby girl would have Down syndrome.

Those doctors had seen us in dark, terrifying days.  They'd also kept our baby safe and given her a shot at life by performing the two major surgeries of her first year.  We sent them Christmas cards because I wanted to say thank you, and because I wanted them to see that their support took us from parents of a tiny, medically fragile little girl to the parents of this:

Not from our first card.  I can't find a digital copy of the photo and don't feel like getting out my scanner.  But this one is even better.

Over the past couple years, I haven't thought to send a holiday card to our genetic counselor or OB anymore.  But I think this year I will.  They know we had a happy baby, but they should get a chance to see that life continues to be okay, that our little girl with Down syndrome continues to smile, and that we appreciate their work.

Thank you, thank you, to every therapist and doctor who helped our daughter arrive safely.  The DSDN is encouraging parents to share holiday cards with their medical professionals this year.  I know a lot of parents who were given grim news and are sending out their cards to show a different side.  Fortunately, all we're doing is continuing a story…. a story in which some kind doctors shared an unwelcome diagnosis that has since become just a part of normal life.  It's time they got an update.
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