Analog Trail

Last Saturday, Jon and I had one of the nicest date nights in recent memory. (Admittedly, it has less competition than we might wish.)

Jon was connected a while back with a local artist who needed technology expertise to help with lighting for one of his pieces. Jon spent quite a bit of time planning, helping to install and then programming a series of LEDs. The piece is called Analog Trail. I think it’s fantastic, and I want to give a shoutout to Phil Foster, who does remarkable work.

Last Saturday night, the piece debuted at the 3 x 3 Art Show. Three galleries in Leiper’s Fork, a little historic village just south of here, opened their doors to the public to feature works by local artists. We admired Analog Trail on the wall and enjoyed the other works with a lot of people who were undoubtedly more familiar with the local art scene than we were. We sat outside in the slightly-crisp air under strings of white lights and a full moon and listened to live music. We wandered out behind the art galleries to watch fireflies flashing their secret messages across the fields. It was one of those perfectly lovely evenings you wish didn’t have to end.

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The photo doesn’t do the piece justice, and it can’t show the twinkling stars, randomized lightning, flashing phone screen, and flickering campfire. 



Guys and dolls

Buckle up, dear readers. We’re going to talk about gender. Wait, don’t close the browser window yet! Hang with me, and I think we can get through this without losing our minds.

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend whose little girl is a bit of a tomboy. She has more than once expressed a wish to be a boy, which in some families might induce panic and in others send a parent out to buy a new wardrobe. My friend is a wise and experienced mother, however, and has calmly given her daughter room to explore the things she enjoys, free of any gender-related pressure. You don’t have to like frills, she assures her daughter.

Our society has made a mess of gender. Some strange collusion of marketing, parenting and sex and gender politics has narrowed the gender world for our children to what can only be described as a pigeonhole. In that context, significant numbers of boys and girls inevitably are going to be left wondering where they fit in. All it takes is a trip down a few toy aisles to see what I mean. What message is a little girl getting if she really wants the latest monster trucks or construction toys? How long does it take for a boy to understand he’s not supposed to like dolls or sometimes putting on the princess dress? My son’s favorite colors have changed every few weeks for years, but at four, he came home from preschool with the understanding that pink was a girl color. I assured him that he can like any color he wants, but imagine how those messages accumulate from the time our kids are too young to know what it means.

Please don’t misunderstand: I am not trying to explain gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual identity or any related complexities. I am not even remotely qualified to address those issues with any authority. What I can address is the world in which I am raising my children, and the issues I face as a parent. This includes pervasive societal pressure to accept a ridiculously narrow definition of gender and worry or label if our kids stray outside those boundaries.

People, can’t we all agree to ditch these artificial definitions? Some girls love frills and pink and naturally gravitate to dolls and dress-up and tea parties. There is nothing wrong with that. But let’s not discourage them from also loving cars and trucks, dirt, sports or roughhousing, or make those who do feel as if they don’t belong. Some boys naturally thrive on wildly physical shenanigans, loud and aggressive games and the world of bash-’em-up Matchbox cars and superhero escapades. But what of the ones who love putting on mom’s high heels, enjoy a good tea party, tenderly rock babies and stuffed animals to sleep or pretend to whip up a good omelette? Are they any less boys? There is an endless combination of all these things and many more, so beautifully varied and individual, a kaleidoscope of personality and experience in every child. Yes, there are basic differences between the genders, and I don’t mean to imply otherwise. However, we live in a time of false dichotomy, where everything is arranged in opposition to something else. Life doesn’t often work that way. Kids naturally try things on, testing what fits, imitating the many adults in their lives. The best way to make an issue where there isn’t one is to overreact to that natural process and impose our own fears or assumptions on children who are – and should be – endlessly testing and becoming.

Earlier this week, my son wore a pair of princess dress-up heels and superhero underwear in an imaginary game I did not attempt to understand. He likes pretty things and has a baby doll he occasionally plays with. He wishes to have his nails painted when I paint mine. He sometimes plays family with his friends on the playground, and other times he plays soccer. He spends hours with his cars, planes and trains in games that regularly turn raucous, and his imaginary worlds often involve good guys and bad guys and what he gleefully labels “violence.” Lina has a dollhouse and lots of babies she adores, but she also loves block towers and the occasional toy car demolition derby. She is often rambunctious in her play. She likes books about farm equipment and trucks that get stuck. These are their idiosyncrasies, the wild cocktails that comprise my children. The world has plenty to say about expectations and normalcy (whatever that is). But for now, I still have some ability to hold those messages at bay and let my children discover for themselves what brings them joy and who God designed them to be.

And kindergarten – check!

Corin’s end-of-school party was today, and in a few hours, he’ll be headed out on his final bus ride as a kindergartner. We weathered all that anxiety last summer, and now he finished the year thriving and confident, a kid in his element with his friends and a teacher he has loved. I’m going to miss kindergarten. Even with the modern change to more academics, it definitely still has that introductory feel. First grade suddenly sounds like real school. Corin is excited about it, but, as usual, I am wishing we could slow things down, just a little.

And so our summer begins, on a cloudy, 67-degree day. We have plenty planned – a week of day camp for Corin in June, swim lessons for both kids, a week of family camp for all of us in July – but there will be some down time, too. I’ve penciled in the building of blanket forts, catching of fireflies, reading of books, watching of movies and roasting of marshmallows over bonfires. I’ll keep you posted.


The kids played some fun relay games out on the blacktop, but we’ll limit the pictures to this one, since I don’t have permission to share the other kids’ photos. I did meet the much-discussed little girl Corin has identified as his future wife. 


When Jon asked Corin last night what he would miss most about kindergarten, the answer was immediate: “Miss Davis.”


Year one of preschool – check!

Today was Lina’s last day of preschool for the summer. I have been surprisingly emotional about this. She has come such a long way since she started in September, and I have so much love and gratitude for her teacher, aides and therapists who have helped that happen. It’s also one more of the endless reminders of how quickly time is passing.

We had Lina’s IEP meeting last week to set goals for next year, and I came away so encouraged. The people who gathered in that room love Lina dearly, and the IEP goals they drafted tell us they have the same high expectations for her that we do. When I said it was my personal goal to have Lina reading before she starts kindergarten, heads nodded all around the table. I know she can do it, and even better, so do they. Lina has a team of six consummate professionals – her teacher, two aides, and speech, occupational and physical therapists – all working together to make sure she is able to reach her full potential. Her school is in a county that believes and invests in high-quality, inclusive education for all students. No school system is perfect, and I know IEP meetings will get harder as Lina enters the more challenging general education setting in elementary school. They’ll probably get harder again with each new stage of her education. But I am so thankful that she is getting this start, with these people at her side.


Party snacks!


Her beloved speech therapist, Ms. Jody



Our favorite preschool teacher, the fabulous Ms. Meri



Spring Picnic at the Zoo

Today was one of our favorite Down Syndrome Association events: the Spring Picnic at the Zoo. It’s an event for member families, and it’s done up right. There’s a meal, time for mingling with families from all over the region, plus full access to the zoo. This year, there was face painting and a photo booth. The weather was perfect, and the kids are both old enough now to really enjoy the zoo. It was a fantastic day, and we are, as always, so grateful for the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee.




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Jumping like a kangaroo






Greeting a friend


Making a monkey











Mother’s Day

This is perhaps the lushest spring I have experienced in Tennessee. I suppose it’s extra rainfall that has brought us this verdant wonderland. It’s been a steady succession of blossoming, from the daffodils in March to pears, dogwoods and cherries, irises and peonies and now the sweet smell of honeysuckle and blossoms I haven’t been able to identify.

Somehow, the spring profusion seems like a fitting lead-up to Mother’s Day, with its celebration of the women who give life, the nurturing they provide and the growth they support. I love Mother’s Day, in all its cheesy Hallmark glory. You’d think the experience of infertility would have soured the holiday. Instead, I fully appreciate the privilege of being honored with funny and thoughtful cards, preschool crafts, little gifts payed for with saved allowance, and delicious meals lovingly prepared by a kind and capable husband.

This year, I thought a lot about children whose mothers are missing. A recent experience with a little boy my son’s age has reminded me that not every kid gets wrapped in the arms of a mom who cares and is there in the ways she should be. I’ve thought, too of friends and family members whose moms are gone, leaving what must be an unfillable hole.

I am so grateful for the time I get to spend with my mom, and for the hugs I get from my precious kids. Corin loves holidays, and his excited Mother’s Day wishes continued all day. I did laundry and housework and got annoyed by the dog, but the time with family was the highlight, as it always is.


No water guns in the house!


The boys’ table, a.k.a. Trouble Corner









My sweet mama



I still have scars from where he stabbed me with a pencil – twice – but I do love that brother of mine.


What better metaphor for motherhood than choosing the photo where everyone else looks normal?







Who armed the hooligans?



In lieu of keeping up with baby books…

I’m really not so good at blogging. I’m pretty sure one of the top pieces of advice for would-be bloggers is, “Post often.” Oops.

I thought it might be time for an update on both kids. What I mean by that is, I’ve had an attack of guilt over my failure to record my kids’ milestones and development. Lina’s baby book is pretty much blank, and I am terrible at remembering when things happened for either kid. So, here’s my attempt at a snapshot of the Sharp kids at 6 and 3 1/2. As this is mostly for my own neglected record, feel free to skim or ignore completely.



His first time ice skating, a trip we promised as a birthday gift

  • Reads pretty proficiently but still prefers to be read to. We recently finished The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, which he loved.
  • Just lost his fourth tooth last night. It was, by his account, kicked out by his sister. He appeared in the kitchen holding his tooth, with a muddled tale of Lina kicking at something but instead hitting his arm as he wiggled his tooth. On a related note…
  • Knows I am the Tooth Fairy. I do not confirm or deny, but he is unshaken in his conviction.
  • Has an incredibly vivid imagination. He is almost always deep in some fantasy. We are all assigned roles in his games on a daily basis. Yesterday, we were giant robots. We’re regularly super heroes, any variety of animals, pirates, Star Wars characters, and the list goes on. He spins wild tales of grand fights and adventures, and there are always good guys and bad guys. Sometimes the good guys win, sometimes not.
  • Loves macaroni and cheese best of all foods in the world.
  • Also loves scrambled eggs, spaghetti with olive oil and parmesan, pizza (no mushrooms!), crunchy bean tacos, yogurt, veggie “sausage” links, applesauce, bananas, pears, Wheaties with milk, hummus and cheese sandwiches with pickle and lettuce, and for treats: brownies, cookies, M&Ms and ice cream.
  • Eats most vegetables and fruits pretty well.
  • Is very affectionate and gives lots of hugs and kisses and “I love you”s.
  • Wears size 6 clothing, though the pants are sometimes too long.
  • Wears size 11-12 shoes.
  • Loves “specials” – library, P.E., art and music – at school, but also really seems to enjoy the classroom time. The days are long and he is very tired by the time he gets off the bus, but he loves his teacher and friends and has had a positive kindergarten experience.
  • Cannot carry a tune to save his life. This one has taken our musical family by surprise.
  • Is easily frustrated when things don’t go according to his (often very specific) plans. He likes to be in charge and often loses his temper when he doesn’t get what he wants when he wants it. We have spent a lot of time working on this, and I have a feeling we’ll be working on it for quite some time to come. My firstborn is strong willed and likes to have control. (I have no idea where he gets that.)
  • Has a pretty strong grasp of basic math, such as simple addition and subtraction and the very beginnings of multiplication and division.
  • Is very cautious by nature. This kid is not a risk-taker or diver-in. He is learning to overcome nervousness and fear to try new things, and he generally finds his footing with a little time.
  • Learned to ride a two-wheeled pedal bike over the winter/spring. He’s still a little hesitant with it, but he’s getting there!
  • Loves his sister and sometimes plays well with her but often gets terribly frustrated by her propensity for messing up his carefully ordered world.
  • Plays heavily with his matchbox cars and toy planes and also enjoys his train set, musical instruments (small guitar and keyboard), Legos, puzzles and dress-up costumes. He also loves to play board games.
  • Still sleeps with the lion “lovey” he’s had since birth. We recently gave away “new lovey,” an identical lion bought ages ago in an unsuccessful attempt to introduce an alternate. Alas, the original was already irreplaceable.
  • Loves the Cars and Planes movies.
  • Does his own laundry with some help.
  • Goes to bed at 7:30 p.m., gets up around 7 a.m.




Spring school picture. It’s her, messy hair and all.

  • Has experienced a huge leap in her speech development over the past couple months. She has a vocabulary of hundreds of spoken words that grows daily, which means she relies less on signs (though she does still use them). She has just begun putting two or three words together. Her preschool teacher recently returned from maternity leave, and after her first day back, Lina was able to spontaneously tell me that she saw a picture of Ms. Meri’s baby on her phone. (I checked with the teacher to verify!) You can imagine my elation. Clarity is still a challenge, but we’ve seen progress there, too. She does not currently say “k” or hard “g” sounds.
  • Can climb and descend the stairs independently on her feet, holding the railing. Can jump with both feet off the ground and kick, throw and sometimes catch a playground ball.
  • Loves her friends at school and adores her teachers, especially her speech therapist, Ms. Jody. She is very affectionate and gives fantastic hugs.
  • Has a very hard time with sharing and can get aggressive when someone is in her way or not doing what she wants them to. We are working on this one. She will still occasionally pull hair, but that issue is much improved.
  • Has a well-developed sense of humor. She loves silliness and laughter. Grandma was dressing her the other day and teasingly asked, “Are these the dog’s pants?” Lina thought it was hysterical.
  • Can be downright sassy. If she doesn’t want to do something, she responds with “No!” accompanied by a foot stomp.
  • Likes for things to be her idea. If she feels pressured to do something, she will balk. This girl is independent and very strong willed. She likes to test boundaries.
  • Believes the world begins and ends with books. She carries books with her everywhere and asks to be read to many, many times a day. She understands that letters make words and will point to each word to ask you to read it. She loves Bible stories. Her favorite is David and Goliath, which requires an accompanying song with all the motions.
  • Hates having her hair combed.
  • Knows all her capital letters by name and can name a few numbers, as well.
  • Adores music. Singing is the one thing that will unfailingly calm her in any situation, which has been true since she was tiny. She amused (at least I’m choosing to interpret it that way) everyone in the pews around us at church last week when she responded to a children’s choir song by shouting “Yay!” and clapping enthusiastically.
  • Wears 3T clothes and size 6-7 shoes.
  • Still takes a 1 1/2- to 2-hour nap every afternoon.
  • Goes to bed between 7 and 7:30 and gets up way too early. She is usually awake before 6 a.m. but thankfully plays happily (if rather noisily) in her room until someone comes to get her.
  • Loves bread (toast, waffles, rolls, cornbread), butter/peanut butter/almond butter and honey or jelly, veggie meats (both kids are very vegetarian!), spaghetti or noodles, string cheese, pizza, yogurt, goldfish crackers, applesauce, veggie straws, tortilla chips, avocado and most sweets. She sometimes tolerates broccoli, peas, banana, apple and pear. She usually won’t touch foods she doesn’t like or recognize, but her palette does seem to be broadening gradually.
  • Prefers mommy for some things but definitely prefers daddy for bath and bedtime.
  • Sucks the first two fingers of her left hand when she is sleepy or needs comfort, as she has since she was a few months old. She has a much-loved stuffed bunny (and an almost identical alternate – we learned our lesson!) whose neck ribbon she rubs. She also likes to sleep with a big stuffed bunny she got for Easter and sometimes her favorite baby doll.
  • Can draw lines up and down, across or in circles as requested and can operate scissors with some support.
  • Loves her Little People toys, nesting cardboard blocks, her babies, her little toy piano, dress-up clothes, shoes and hats (hers or “borrowed”), her little play kitchen and shopping cart/food, and did I mention BOOKS?!!
  • Receives one hour of speech, one hour of OT and 20 minutes of PT every week during school, in addition to support toward her goals from all her teachers and aides. We are so pleased with her preschool program and the progress she has made over the school year.

These kids light up my life. I always wanted to be a mom. I fought hard to become one. But not even all the years of longing prepared me for the hugeness of motherhood. The joy, the frustration, the exhaustion, the pride, the love…THE LOVE. It’s all so much bigger than I could have fathomed. Even when they drive me crazy, I thank God these kids are mine.