Author Archives: whoopsiepiggle

Supporting student success should be top priority of universities

Dear University of Akron President Gary Miller: Welcome to Akron, a great place to live for many reasons: its park-filled river valley, friendly residents and housing stock, over which a Goodyear Blimp regularly sails, that is both gorgeous and affordable. … Continue reading

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The time-consuming job of affordably clothing multiple children

Two seasons of the year, spring and fall, one parent in every household with children too young for high school takes on an unpaid, part-time job: clothing processor. The assignment is most labor intensive in the fall thanks to school … Continue reading

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On Depression and Parenting

Opal drives a lackluster Ford pickup, its faded paint more of a burnt umber than the original Santa-suit red. With her dogs riding shotgun, Opal leaves Ohio one day without notice, driving west through the skinny states and a few … Continue reading

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A House without Teenagers Isn’t the Same

Last weekend, my second son, Hugo, came home for the first time since June. This is his final year at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, where he’s getting a dual degree in opera vocal performance and European … Continue reading

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Cleveland’s Playhouse Square understands importance of sensory-friendly productions

During his job interview with Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, Daniel Hahn was asked about programming he wished to initiate. He then pulled from his valise a framed photo of two boys — his son and his son’s best friend — hamming … Continue reading

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September, Peaches and the Beatles

I savor Northeast Ohio’s distinct seasons. The snow-covered hush of January reflects the welcome quiet after the holidays. In April, snow gives way to mud and delicate flowers. June softly opens sweet summer before the dog days of July and … Continue reading

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Sensible gun laws are long overdue

When I moved from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to 22 Green St. in Dayton the spring I was 19, it felt like a homecoming. My peripatetic childhood included 10 schools, but between the ages of 9 and 14, I lived in a … Continue reading

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Today’s immigration stories are little different than those of previous generations

When 13-year-old Christina Gyllenskog and her family left their country forever, she had never been away from her family’s farm for more than a short while. Mormon missionaries converted the family in North Sandby, Sweden, and soon thereafter my great-great … Continue reading

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Children need freedom to venture out on their own

    Before she retired, my mother-in-law was an elementary school principal. Recently, a former colleague of hers became the principal at a failing charter school, which she promptly overhauled. Student performance quickly began to improve — from academics to a … Continue reading

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Teach children respect and politeness for all

Back when “Talk of the Nation” was a call-in program on NPR, it aired a show that hit home: Middle-class parents who were raised in working-class families often rigorously monitor their kids for elitist behavior. Where and to whom we … Continue reading

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Perfect as they are, LGBTQ youths need support and safety

“I think you want me to be gay!” laughed my son Hugo a few years back, stressing the word “want.” “No, I want you to be happy,” I said. “When growing up, I had friends who couldn’t come out to … Continue reading

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Second Ohio Press Award in Two Years

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The upward spiral of integration of people with intellectual disabilities

Babies with Down syndrome are the cutest, with their round little faces and eyes, tiny ears and noses, cuddly bodies. Even as they become toddlers, it’s not uncommon for strangers to comment on just how adorable kiddos with DS are. … Continue reading

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Social contracts of last century brought prosperity and need reimplemented

Siblings attending rival schools has become a family tradition. I went to Ohio State University because I lived in Columbus. The year I graduated, my younger sister (from my father’s second marriage), graduated from the University of Michigan. My eldest … Continue reading

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Ageism can steal elders who still have many insights to share

I took maternity leave a week before Lyra’s due date. Since her elder brothers had arrived 10 to 14 days late, I figured I had at least a couple of weeks to nest (read: organize every closet and cupboard in … Continue reading

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Tending to my children’s spiritual development

In the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries traveled to Tibet. There they met the fifth Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political head of the country. Graciously welcomed to the high court in Lhasa, the missionaries worked tirelessly to learn Tibetan so … Continue reading

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Approach is important when talking about vaccines

After several recent outbreaks of measles in the United States, the anti-vaccination movement has gotten renewed attention, much of which paints “anti-vaxxers” as either ignorant of basic science or sociologically indulgent, willing to coast on the high vaccination rates of … Continue reading

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Letting go of third son is hardest yet

My first child was born shortly after I turned 28. Having learned nothing about babies in my own upbringing, I approached my new role like a college course I refused to fail. Between the deficit of attention in my childhood … Continue reading

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Poetry is the best gift during a final visit

Dear Mary Oliver, I didn’t follow my own rule and now it’s too late. I took your poems to Arizona a few weeks before my grandma turned 90. I knew it was the last time I would see her. Diabetes … Continue reading

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Family’s tragedy shows need for sentencing reform, affordable childcare

The grisly murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly by order of his country’s de facto head of state, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, caused me and many other Americans to finally recognize the horrific genocide occurring in … Continue reading

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Prison sentence for child’s accidental death benefits no one

My daughter, Lyra, has become a runner. I don’t mean she’s racing fellow kindergartners in track, but like with many children with Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder, she takes off with no regard to safety or even a destination. … Continue reading

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Finding joy in a cold, snowy winter

If you want someone to blame for last week’s weather, look no further. For several months, I have been using all my mojo to call up a hale and hearty winter in Northeast Ohio. I began doubting my powers as … Continue reading

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The Golden Rule of Parenting: Just Show Up

When I met the big boys’ father in the early 1990s, he was a young architect. He worked at a drafting table with draftsmen’s pencils shaved into fine points with specialized sharpeners. I can still hear the whir of his … Continue reading

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Updates on popular columns from 2018

Reader response to my columns reads like the title of a country and western song: “Special girl, dogs and old cars.” Far and away, I receive more letters about our daughter, Lyra, and issues related to her Down syndrome than … Continue reading

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Beloved car may be nearing end

According to Buddhist teachings, the root of all aggression is desire. Not being attached to a specific outcome — be it with events, people or things — reduces suffering. Buddhism also emphasizes the importance of compassion and, therefore, detachment is … Continue reading

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Curiosity, essential to learning, is threatened by social media

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Claude picked up Hugo in Rochester and together they drove through Canada to their grandparents’ home in Northern Michigan. On their way, they listened to 1984. Hugo is taking a class on George Orwell, and Claude is … Continue reading

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LIFE Project teaches parents how to advocate for kids’ educational needs

By the time he’d finished the third grade, my eldest son, Claude, had attended a public school, a parochial school, a Quaker school, a Waldorf school and a Montessori school. The following year, when he was in the fourth grade, … Continue reading

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Raising a family of voters

Put me in charge of everything and I’d immediately mandate compulsory voting. In the 26 countries with compulsory voting, not only is turnout high (even when enforcement is weak), but a wider demographic of the electorate is politically informed. For … Continue reading

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A few words about Down syndrome

With our daughter Lyra’s birth, we learned, among many things, the importance of language when discussing her diagnosis. In my lifetime, using the word “retarded” to describe a person with Down syndrome has become entirely unacceptable. I understood this perhaps … Continue reading

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Those who sexually assault women do not consider them fully human

Earlier this semester, students in my English composition classes at the University of Akron read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”Written in 1729, Swift’s satirical solution to rampant poverty in Ireland was for English overlords to buy and eat 1-year-old Irish babies. … Continue reading

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Capstone trip with young adult children marks new relationship

A Viking inheritance as sure as my blue eyes, wanderlust courses through my veins. I’ve purchased less expensive houses and driven old cars to have more money for travel. Any dog I adopt and any child I birth quickly learns … Continue reading

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Runners: A terrifying behavior in certain children, including one of my own

“One of the first questions I ask parents who come to my office is, ‘Do you have a flopper or a runner?’ ” The audience laughed knowingly. We were listening to a talk given by a doctor of behavioral medicine at … Continue reading

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Cultivating a household of readers

“Did you hear they’re making a TV show of Donald Duck Adventures? You know, the one we had a subscription to?” asked Hugo. There was no subscription to Donald Duck Adventures. In 2003, I called and told the publisher I would pay … Continue reading

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Flyer for Lyra’s classmates

Many families make flyers to send home with the classmates of their children with Down syndrome. I’ve seen several made by friends of ours, who helped us with ours. Rather than wondering if Lyra has Down syndrome or why one … Continue reading

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Mom, stepdad and kids work together to create a family

The wedding of our friends Michael and Jessica, celebrated 10 years ago this week, was an event that brought together more than just two people. For weeks, people prepared the farmhouse of Jessica’s grandmother. In the backyard, the couple were … Continue reading

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Akron Children’s Hospital: Great for everyone, invaluable for frequent flyer

They say it’s impossible to know how good your homeowner’s insurance really is until you file a claim. The same can be said of your local hospital. Until 2012, I had only a handful of experiences at Akron Children’s Hospital. … Continue reading

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When households merge: What to do with all that stuff?

In the 1967 film Barefoot in the Park, newlyweds played by Jane Fonda and Robert Redford move into their first apartment together. They own so little, the apartment holds their vibrant emotions more than their meager belongings. I envy such simplicity. … Continue reading

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Fully house nearly empty…for now

I have at times, like most parents, imagined my life with a different number of children: What if Claude had been my only child? What if I had stuck to my guns on zero population growth and birthed only Claude … Continue reading

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Childhood abuse still echoes in adult survivors’ lives

In a room recognizably located in a nursing home, a tiny lady with white hair speaks in a bird-like voice to her young nurse, “I must hide under my bed.” “Why?” asks the nurse. “He’s coming!” says the old woman. … Continue reading

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No more: All sexual assault is intolerable

On February 1, 2014, Dylan Farrow published an open letter in the New York Times describing how Woody Allen, her adoptive father, had sexually abused her. A week later on Facebook, I shared a Vanity Fair article that deconstructed, point-by-point, … Continue reading

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Simplicity & creativity need when potty training

“What about potty training?” I asked the doctor. What I was really asking was, “But what does it mean to have a child with Down syndrome?” Lyra was less than 36 hours old when we met with the geneticist to … Continue reading

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The End of an Era: 25 Years of Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

“How does that make you feel?” asked my physician. My eyes suddenly burned and I gulped before speaking, my voice hoarse with emotion. “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that,” I said, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. After … Continue reading

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Urban community comes together for schools and kids

 After the 1997 Ohio Supreme Court decision declaring the state’s school funding system unconstitutional, the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission (OSFC) was established. This triggered a statewide evaluation of public school buildings. Many, especially in urban and rural areas, were deemed … Continue reading

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Getting Kids to Eat a Healthy Diet–Relax!

Mothers trying to get their kids to eat is such a universal stereotype, I’m pretty sure it’s hardwired in all women’s brains. Long before humans farmed, we were hunter-gatherers. So, too, were our direct ancestors, Homo erectus, for nearly 2 million … Continue reading

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Sometimes the best decisions are the toughest

“She has an incredibly strong hunting instinct and you can’t change that,” my vet said. “One day, her instinct will override her training and it’ll happen so fast, there’ll be nothing you can do.” I had asked the vet about … Continue reading

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Screen time: less is always more

In the 1980s, a bumper sticker that read “Kill Your Television” was common, especially around college campuses. A rather radical notion at the time, today, when most people have smartphones in their pockets, it seems charmingly quaint. For many years, … Continue reading

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Treat friendships as though your life depends upon them–for it does

Until this month, the last time my friend Jen Marvelous and I had a long, uninterrupted visit was Jan. 5, 1994. I met Jen in a plant pathology class at OSU’s College of Agriculture. She and I alone seemed to … Continue reading

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For Valentine’s Day, Send Love

Rather than chocolates and dinner at a crowded restaurant, would you like to fill your heart on Valentine’s Day? Then check out the Valentine Project. Co-founder Andrea Margida is no stranger to cancer. When she was 16, it took her … Continue reading

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January Stillness

Each December, I look forward to the frozen quiet of January. Holiday décor goes back in boxes and the boxes go back on shelves in the furnace room. It’s a relief to reclaim the living room as adult space. For … Continue reading

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Buddhist family finds joy and friendship in church choir

Those of you who regularly read this column know we are a Buddhist family. Our children learn Buddhist teachings, stories and, starting at around age 4, how to meditate. At 10, they undergo a 9-day rite of passage at a … Continue reading

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