Did you know October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month? It’s true! There are multiple other groups advocating for awareness this month, too, like breast cancer and dwarfism. We’re focusing primarily on Down syndrome, of course, in celebration of our sweet Samuel. To spread awareness this week, I’m sharing a few photos from our very recent trip to St Paul for the annual Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk put on by the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota. In years past, the walk has also been held in Duluth, but this year it was not, so we happily made the trek down to join thousands of others to celebrate the awesomeness of Down syndrome. It was fun to see friends from the Twin Cities area and participate in such a huge event. There were over 8,000 people!
This little man means the world to me, so it was very special for me to spend my birthday celebrating him. Before he came into my life, I had a pretty clear picture of what things would look like. I’m a planner, after all, so I was sure everything would go pretty much as I had imagined. A few kids, move to Kenya, teach, send my kids off to college, and so on. I suppose a lot of us imagine life like that. Maybe not the Kenya part, but you get it. Sam shook my understanding of who is really in control of that path. He reminds me to take life little by little, trusting that God is in control and that God has good plans for us.
Instead of sporting our traditional superhero costumes this year, we went the more predictable route and ordered team shirts. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect for the St Paul walk, but I did know that most teams do shirts. If we head down for the walk again next year, we’ll know exactly what to expect. And we just may return to our eye-catching costumes.
We didn’t have a tent with us, as many of the other teams did, but we managed to find a fairly cozy spot under the trees and soaked in time with our friends. Hannah & Luke were able to make it down from Duluth, which made Ella & Sam giddy. Hannah is our weekly date night babysitter and has even spent a couple weekends with the kids when we’ve needed to be out of town. They absolutely adore her! Hannah has been to the walk many times. Her cousin, Jonah, has Down syndrome and just started his first year of high school!
Big Sister was thrilled to have our friends’ kids to play with while all the boring adults sat for lunch. (Seriously, she called us boring. It’s her new word. Everything is boring unless it involves running, gluing, or eating something sweet. I guess I can’t blame her!)
Sam’s buddy, Cody, joined us for bit. Aren’t they adorable together?! Cody also lives in Duluth. We have pictures of the boys together last year, both dressed as superheroes.
After playing and eating, it was time to walk! Sam told us he was ready to go! (He really did! It’s his new word!) PS How adorable are his shoes?! My friend Lexie made them for our little man. They are his favorite shoes, which is good, since I’m also in love with them.
A marching band led the group, which went on and on and on. We jumped in at the end. It was way too much fun just watching all the people!
We walked and played a bit more and gave big hugs to our friends before everyone left the park. We’re so thankful to have such amazing support for our little guy and Sammy’s Superheroes!
From the park, we headed to the Mall of America. I knew it would be packed on a Sunday afternoon, but I couldn’t resist the idea of spending the afternoon of my birthday at Nickelodeon Universe, the indoor amusement park at the mall. (Though, for those of us who have been going to MOA since it first opened in 1992, it will forever be known as Camp Snoopy, the name of the park for its first 10 years.) We hit it big time with our first ride…the escalators. Haha. It’s kind of true. Ella and I rode them up and down while Pete and our friends were in a kitchen store. This is not a new activity for me. My mom loves them just as much as Ella! Oh, I’m sorry. Did I say Ella? I meant Princess Anna, of course.
I was fully prepared to take Ella on her first ride at the mall, but I guess I didn’t think she’d be ready to move up the fear scale so quickly. After a very quiet, smooth Blue’s Clues ride, she spotted this beast. Ella is tall for her age, so she was given the okay to ride.
My mama heart was freaking out at this point. She didn’t scream or cry, but I could see she was worried. The ride lifts kids way up in the air (much higher than she is in this photo) and then drops them nearly to the floor. She looked so little next to the big kids!
Pete had a thought the ride might scare her from any big rides in her future, but that was far from the case. She immediately asked to ride again as soon as it was over. Instead, we headed to the carousel. Safe for everyone, including Sam! He loved the music and the up and down of the horse. He pressed his cheek against the bar and giggled the entire ride. I wish I had a close-up video! We do have this photo, but please excuse my silly expression. Focus on the cute little boy.
While we were in line, Ella stated she knew which animal she would ride. Was there any question? The horse with the roses, of course. Princess Anna looked perfectly royal atop her gallant steed.
One moment, please. This donut…is…delicious!
While Sammy enjoyed his mini donuts, Pete, Beth, and Brian took Ella on the log chute. They got soaked! Ella was in heaven.
What a time we had at the park! Shortly before leaving, we each had an ice cream cone with sprinkles and made our way to Caribou so I could pick up my free birthday drink. While I was ordering, Ella sat down on the floor next to Daddy. By the time I had my drink in hand, she had fallen fast asleep.
A beautiful little princess after a very exciting day.
Daddy carried her to the car and off we drove toward Duluth. In all regards, it was a beautifully perfect birthday.
Photo Friday is a little glimpse at our week in pictures. To see more, follow TheMangoMemoirs on Instagram!