I don’t know what I was doing 12 years ago today, but I do know that I was not thinking about Rachel completing elementary school, graduating 5th grade and heading off to middle school. She is a June baby so I was pregnant on this day and I was working for Youth Villages. I suspect I was training my sweet intern Meg Lawler to manage the volunteers when Baby Rachel was born. I know that 12 years ago I didn’t know anything (to speak of) about Down syndrome except that my unborn daughter had it. I had a prenatal diagnosis by choice. I knew a lot about what people with Down syndrome supposedly couldn’t do. I knew a lot about the services available and that I would be utilizing the advocacy skills God had been developing for a lifetime – this time for my own daughter. I wondered what she would look like. I wondered the same as I suppose everyone wonders about any baby they are about to birth. Today, 12 years later, I am an expert on just one child with Down syndrome. I’ve heard about all the maladies she is at higher risk for because of Down syndrome. I’ve had psych reports explained to me for hours when I expressly stated that I understood it and didn’t want it read to me. It’s a terrible reflection of Rachel. I have watched her smile (the greatest smile on earth her mother says!) melt hearts. I’ve watched her learn and struggle to learn. I’ve failed on so many occasions trying to figure out how I can help her learn something that she learns differently from me or anyone else I know. I am having my own party because I understand we don’t have spelling lists and tests in middle school. They have been one of my greatest sources of poor mothering. I’ve heard her tell me my “brain can’t remember” or “my brain is tired”. I am guessing that is truer than we realize. I often say she has to work twice as hard to do half as much as some other people. She doesn’t complain – she keeps on working. Mostly, I’ve cherished watching her grow into a beautiful, confident young lady. Yes, 12 years ago there were many unanswered questions. Today there still are and there always will be. Today, I do know that she reads beautifully, she can do a good amount of math, work her iPad and my iPhone better than I can, that she loves social studies and science and learning, loves her friends, that she is loyal, devoted and faithful to the things and people she loves. And as of 11:40 this morning, she is a 6th grader. Thank you Rachel for being my best teacher ever. I’m pretty sure I have many more lessons to learn.