This post is the 14th in the series “Homemade Mother of the Week.” If you know a woman who is thoughtfully sharing her passion for the planet, families or the well-being of others, please nominate her for this special recognition. Send an email with all the details to firstname.lastname@example.org
This week I am so happy to introduce you to Dena Davis. As the mother of two boys – one with a rare genetic syndrome – Dena is a busy full time mom. But, she still finds time to nurture her entrepreneurial spirit as an ambassador for Barefoot Books (a book publisher I adore). What I find so inspiring about Dena is that her work supports her family and enriches the lives of so many others. How cool is that?!
Homemade Mothering: Welcome to Homemade Mothering, Dena! To get started, tell us a little bit about your life and your family.
Dena Davis: We are a family of four living in midcoast Maine. My husband and I met in California, taught at the same school for awhile, bought an old house built in 1850 in Maine, and moved here to begin our east coast adventure. That was nine years ago! We have Benjamin who is 7 and beginning second grade. We also have Noah who is 3 years old and in preschool.
HM: Can you tell us about Cornelia deLange Syndrome?
DD: Our oldest son, Benjamin, was diagnosed with a rare genetic syndrome, Cornelia deLange Syndrome, just before his first birthday. Children with CdLS typically have developmental delays, an upturned nose, eyebrows that meet in the middle, a down-turned mouth, reflux, and limb abnormalities. Benjamin is mildly affected. He has some mobility issues and uses a walker to get around, though he is beginning to walk more on his own. He has apraxia of speech and only says a handful of words, so he relies on sign language and a computer to aid his communication. He has a heart defect that is monitored annually and reflux for which he takes medication. His orthopedic issues are followed by specialists on a regular basis. He receives therapy both in and out of school.
HM: What kinds of challenges has your family faced since your son’s diagnosis? What kind of happy surprises have come as a result?
DD: Starting our family was a long road, so we were so relieved when we did get pregnant. We thought the roller coaster ride was over. Benjamin was born with a club foot, and I remember thinking that was such a huge challenge. Little did we know that he would be diagnosed with a genetic syndrome months away. The challenges were letting go of the dreams any parent has for their child, adjusting to therapists coming into our home several times a week, going to doctor after doctor, and navigating my way out of postpartum depression then this diagnosis.
Of course what we didn’t know then was that this journey would make us stronger, bring us closer as a couple, and that this boy would touch so many lives with his melting smile, social butterfly personality, and determination. The people we have met along the way have enriched our lives immensely. I wouldn’t say CdLS defines who Benjamin is or our family, but it is an important part of our lives. We are comfortable sharing with others about CdLS and I volunteered to be the CdLS Awareness Coordinator and Regional Coordinator for our state. We have wonderful support through the CdLS Foundation in Avon, CT.
HM: Why did you decide to become a Barefoot Books ambassador?
DD: When we found out that Benjamin had CdLS and would need many doctors’ appointments and therapies, I decided not to return to teaching. I tutored for awhile and when I discovered the Ambassador program with Barefoot Books, it was a match made in heaven! I had worked for a book distributor in California between teaching placements and had loved the behind-the-scenes workings that go into creating books. I had never owned my own business, but I knew I would bring my teaching skills to this, and it just seemed like the perfect fit. The flexible schedule, absence of sales quotas, multicultural and beautifully illustrated books offered by Barefoot were just too good to pass up.
HM: What is the best part about being a Barefoot Books Ambassador?
DD: I have so many “best parts!” I’ve mentioned the flexible schedule, of course. I have been able to bring both of my boys to story times and craft times I’ve led at our local Toy Library and other public libraries. I love being part of the Barefoot community and working with other supportive women passionate about children’s literature. Leading a team of ambassadors around the country wasn’t something I had a plan to do when I first joined Barefoot, but now I am honored to have a fabulous team of motivated, creative women with whom I share advice and provide encouragement as they grow their businesses in their own communities. Another “best part” is getting to know other creative entrepreneurs in my area and finding ways to collaborate with them. The possibilities are endless, and this suits my personality so well. I honestly can’t imagine myself going to work a 9-5 job again.
HM: Since you are essentially in business for yourself, what creative ideas have you come up with to increase business?
DD: I’ve offered a free story time at a new local coffeehouse in my town to being them new customers and to bring myself publicity and sales. I’ve offered crafts and stories at calf unveiling days, lobster festivals, boat shows, and more. I’ve provided traditional book fairs at local preschools and elementary schools and helped hosts earn free books through home parties. I’ve provided fundraising for farms to schools organization by setting up at a farmers’ market and am a traveling guest at several different farmers’ markets in my area. I am most proud of creating a Children’s Festival in my town to bring people to the historic building that houses our library, to offer a resource fair to families of local services for children, and to provide exposure for small businesses and non-profits. The exposure for my business was one of my goals as was raising funds and awareness for the Cornelia deLange Syndrome Foundation. This past May we also raised funds through the Thomaston Children’s Festival for the victims of the tornadoes in Oklahoma.
HM: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
DD: I love getting together with girlfriends for walks, coffee or drinks. I love networking opportunities through our local Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Women’s Network. Listening to live music and going out to eat are delightful events in my life, too. Now that I have a couple mornings with BOTH boys in school, I have enjoyed quiet walks alone, sitting by the ocean, listening to the wind rustling the leaves and the waves crashing against the rocks. I plan to spend some of this down time connecting with nature, writing and reading!
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