Thursday, March 29, 2007


When we first moved in to our home we loved all of the trees on the property. We were moving from the country in to the 'burbs and knew we would need some trees to comfort us. In our usual family fashion we went just a bit overboard. Using a quick count in my head, our lot contained about 25 trees. Many of those trees were full grown trees. A handful were markedly taller than our two story colonial and gave our property that feeling of having been solidly here for quite awhile. We even put up a rope swing for the boys on the one level branch in the whole yard. They loved to swing out over the sandbox, pretending to fly over all sorts of wonderful lands, creating whole stories with their friends as they went. It soon became apparent however that our love for all of those trees was transient at best.

It took us just a few months here to realize that the trees had overtaken the yard. When we got an up close and personal look at the bushes surrounding the house we realized the former owners had never met a pair of pruning shears. And then we realized they could have cared less if an ounce of sun ever hit the dirt anywhere in the yard. Moss grew well here, grass not so much. Something had to change. My Dad and I plotted our campaign and soon everyone else was on board.

We started small at first. Younger trees that were being crowded out came down. Trunks less that six inches across were growing mere feet from the foundation and had to go before they got bigger. The initial thinning also took out several bushes, some evergreens that hid the lights on the house, and opened up the other garden areas that were overgrown. The second round a few years later took out some trees that weren't so healthy and needed to come down to let others grow tall and strong. A blue spruce, growing majestically behind the house was pushing on the foundation so it came down, too. Then there was a lull in the need to deforest our yard. Things settled down, some grass was growing, and even though the tetherball court included some errant branches, we trimmed them out of the way as needed. Life was as peaceful as it could get in a lot in the middle of the 'burbs, filled with boys and their toys. Then I married Don.

Don came with more knowledge than we had previously put to use. Apparently, trees with hollow trunks that towered over a house really needed to come down no matter how much shade their leaves provided. We said goodbye to the most majestic tree on the lot. I was sad to see it go but oh how the front yard looked so much bigger without it! At the same time an obnoxious, dirty tree by the drive came down. It was amazing how much cleaner our cars were that year. And then he set his sights on the tree with the rope swing. The children flung themselves in front of the tree screaming "NO" as loud as their little lungs could muster. The newbie Dad relented and they gladly swung their way through a few more good seasons until the rope finally gave way.

This past fall we took at good look at that tree. It had a large wound that had happened early in life and it had weakened the tree. It had also been strangled early on and the lower part of the trunk was smaller than the upper part. We began to plot its demise as well. The boys begged for another year. We watched it weather the winter and talked about how we might save it. We listened as it creaked and cracked in the winter winds and we wondered if it would benefit from a tree surgeon who might be able to fix it for us. And then reality hit.

This tree towered over the back yard, kept grass from growing over a good quarter of the only usable space back there. The sandbox rarely dried out because the sun didn't get to touch it after the leaves sprouted on the branches above it. And those leaves... we could really do without all of those leaves come fall. The winds began to shift. The tree needed to come down. Why put all of that money in to saving it when we then would throw even more money in the yard hoping to kill the moss and grow a few precious blades of fresh, green grass? No, the tree was coming down.

And today it did. It took less that 30 minutes. The sun is shining on the sandbox. How amazing is that?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Inside, 'Outide', Upside Down

Here in NEOH we're actually experiencing spring right on schedule. The weather yesterday flirted with 70 and today it definitely made it over that. How wonderful it is to hear everyone coming out of their winter cocoons, to see the streets populated again with children who are running, laughing and having a blast in their new found freedom from the rather dark, indoor days. How exciting to plan the garden, think about taking hikes in the metroparks and revel in the joys of riding your bike once again. And oh how I have begun to cringe when I hear "I wanna doe outide".

Yes, along with everyone else, Laura has watched the boys playing in the mounds of snow. She's watched us shovel from the safety and warmth of the house. She's looked longingly after the boys as they don the jackets forced upon them on the slightly warmer days as they break out the basketballs for the first time. She's caught glimpses of them getting their bikes ready for riding again. And yesterday she watched them head out in shorts. She's finally figured it out. It is warm enough for her to go out, too. And she is going no matter what.

It started yesterday morning. Jonathan, with the very large heart of a big brother who can't find anyone else to play with at the moment, offered to take her out to play. She was thrilled. She clutched her hands in front of her, opened her eyes wide and smiled from ear to ear. "OUTIDE!" and "YES" were all she could manage to say as we put her shoes on her for her first fun day in the great outdoors since last fall. She headed out the door with delight and began to explore the front yard with Jonathan. Soon they were raking leftover leaves with small sandbox shovels and drawing pictures on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. She was busy, happy and thoroughly enjoying herself. Jonathan was doing his best to keep one eye on her while watching his friend's empty driveways with the other, ready to pounce on them the moment they got home.

Oblivious to the tragedy that was about to engulf her, Laura happily clapped right along with Jonathan when one of his friends pulled up in their driveway. With purpose Jonathan began singing the Clean Up song and Laura went right along with it. Within minutes everything was put away and he began shuffling her towards the back door. Suddenly, the little light bulb in Laura's mind clicked on. This wasn't in her plans. She began to balk. She wasn't going back inside no matter what. Loud wails began to arise from deep within. It didn't matter. She tried crying. He could have cared less. She tried to dig in her heels. He picked her up. She tried pleading. He didn't fall for that either. Finally she plopped down in the driveway, determined to stage a sit-in, or in this case a sit-outide, if needed. For just a moment I thought she might win. Jonathan looked like he might give in. But only for a moment. After looking up at me watching in the doorway with a slightly frustrated look on his face, he reached down, picked her up sideways and headed towards the door. She wiggled, she screamed and she kicked. Jonathan held firm. Somehow in the scuffle she ended up upside down.

As I stepped out the door to retrieve the precious package from Jonathan, I knew this was just the beginning. There would be many more days of pleading to go 'outide', and many more days of her ending up just like she did today. She'd come full circle. She'd been inside, 'outide' and upside down. And it has only just begun...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Presenting Princess Laura!

Everyday I wake up knowing that the day will start in a very predictable manner. Don will run out of the house on his way to the bus stop by 6 AM, the boys will groan as I wake them up at 7 and warn them to be quiet, and Laura will inevitably arise by the time their feet hit the floor as the noise they make lamenting the need to get up reaches her alert ears. And sometime within the next 30 minutes I will hear the following: "Mom! Oh MOM! I wan my toes!" I'll smile knowing I'm not sure I want to tackle her closet yet and respond with "Are you sure? Wouldn't you like to stay warm just a bit longer?" only to see her head shaking no and to hear "I wan my toes" once again. And I'll sigh as I head to her bedroom, holding her hand as she drags me behind her.

Once we enter her room, she'll run and play for a minute while I inevitably contemplate what it is we have to do that day and whether it requires play clothes, good clothes or whether she can wear one of her prized possessions - a dress. Eventually she'll spot me looking through her outfits and run over to express her opinion and choose a dress. I'll say no, she'll say "pease" and look at me with those precious pleading eyes. I'll contemplate whether she can really stay warm enough in a dress if she wears tights or a pair of leggings and she'll eventually know I'm softening when I tell her that the particular dress she's chosen doesn't match any clean tights or leggings. Willingly she'll choose another and another until we find a match and I begin the days first change.

This morning things didn't go like they normally do. I was on the phone bright and early leaving Jonathan to play with her for awhile. Little did I realize that Laura had just been waiting for such an occassion to wear what I'm sure will become her favorite outfit. While I was otherwise occupied, her brother, very willing to acccomodate her desires if it keeps her happy, agreed to dress her in whatever she chose. For her that meant tights and a dress. Jonathan, realizing the dress wasn't warm enough on it's own, encouraged her to choose a shirt to go under it. He's such a caring big brother, isn't he?

After helping to dress her, they snuck downstairs for the unveiling. While I wasn't watching he told her to hide behind the chair until he told her to come out. Then with a flourish he announced "Presenting Princess Laura!" and just as I twirled around in my chair, out pops Laura, dressed for her day in her very own outfit. I can only describe it as 'interesting'. Her Aunt chose the word 'colorful'. I think she was just being nice. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Our "Fingerprints of God"

Sometimes I know the Lord gives you little gifts. Little things that happen that leave you with a feeling of awe, knowing you have indeed been blessed by God today. Today was such a day for me.
Laura went in to see her Pediatrician for her three year check. Once again he marveled at who she has become. How, from that baby who could do nothing for herself and didn't have enough oxygen to live, could come this very animated, thoughtful, delightful bundle of joy has him overwhelmed. He declared her a 'normal three year old' with some minor physical delays due to her clubbed feet. I could hear the disbelief in his voice as he said it but then he repeated it again with more force as if convincing himself that she was what he saw in front of him.
We left with smiles on our faces and we ran through the parking lot to the car in a race to see who got there before we landed in a pile of giggles. As I made the short trip home, Steven Curtis Chapman came on the radio. It was as if the Lord was wrapping me in his arms. And I listened to his gift as he reminded me just how loving he is as Steven Curtis Chapman sang:
I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it's true
You're a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you're covered with the fingerprints of God
Indeed Laura is covered with the fingerprints of God. There is no other way that she could be the wonderfully living, breathing child, full of life and laughter. And again I listened as he sang:
Just look at you
You're a wonder in the making
Oh, and God's not through, no
In fact, He's just getting started...
I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it's true
You're a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you're covered with the fingerprints of God
Our little daughter, covered with the fingerprints of God. How awesome is that?

'Proud' Doesn't Even Cover It

When our precious Laura was just a line on the pregnancy test we had so many dreams for her, so many things we knew she would accomplish, so many fun, creative things we could enjoy with her, so many play dates and projects lay ahead. Little did we know that there would be so many extraordinary challenges, too. So many who would say that she'd never accomplish much. So many who would tell us not to bother but to come to grips with what they deemed her future and so many who would wonder behind our backs when we might begin to face reality. So many who didn't know the power of a determined mother and a merciful God.

Her struggles kept us engrossed in her needs for two years and then the fog began to lift. With the swipe of a surgeons knife freeing her tonsils and adenoids, we began to see tremendous strides in her accomplishments. First she ate food without choking. Then she slept through the night without snoring, breathing evenly from dusk to dawn. Next, we were kicked out of OT and then feeding therapy turned in to speech therapy which then turned in to taking a 'let's wait and see' approach which means we no longer go to ST either. Daily we hear new words come out of her mouth, new adventures in speaking we were told never to expect or that we'd never hear. So it seems our speech therapist had it right. She can take a break and we'll work on things if she needs them when she gets a little older.

PT is our only weekly therapy. Given all of her casting and post surgical issues, it is nice to have PT there and yet even our therapist periodically says that Laura doesn't need to be there as much and we may be going to a part-time schedule soon. Her Pediatrician has said so many times that she's going to do what she's going to do and we'd just have to wait and see what that might be. Secretly I think he thought she wouldn't do much and on her two year check up he admitted as much to me while marveling at all she has accomplished. I can hardly wait to see him today for her three year check. He won't know who she is as she talks constantly, asking him questions, clapping for her own accomplishments and inhaling her 'Princess Snacks' every chance she gets.

All of this is certainly something for us to be proud of. She's accomplished more than anyone thought she would in her lifetime, let alone in three years. But that isn't the proud moment I wanted to share with you today. This proud moment is special. This proud moment came from Laura herself.

For months, probably more than a year now, Laura's therapist Merri Jo has been working with her on walking up steps. She'd almost get it and then a surgery on her feet would set her back a bit and Merri Jo would start all over again. Teaching her to walk, balance and then of course climb the stairs, alternating 'righty' and 'lefty', bending her legs and feet in all the right places at the right times. Entire sessions would be devoted to this as she would put things on the top of the stairs that Laura could get and then walk over to place or play with on the shelf where Merri Jo had put a slanted pad, forcing her to dorsiflex her feet to walk up the 'hill'. Over and over. Practicing again and again. Each time using both hands on the railing to walk up and down those four little steps. Lacking confidence and strength to do it on her own.

Here at home she'd stop at the bottom of the steps, waiting for Don or I to take her hands so she could walk righty and lefty up the steps, knowing our railing and the wall are just too far apart for her to reach both at the same time. Over and over again we'd walk her up the stairs saying 'righty' and 'lefty' as she climbed to the top. Once she reached the last step we'd proudly smile and clap, saying over and over "You did it!" and "You are such a big girl!" And often, we'd watch her slide down the steps so we could do it all over again.

This weekend was different. This weekend I headed upstairs to put something away, telling Laura she had to wait for Mommy or crawl up the steps herself because my hands were full. She said "Otay, Mommy" and I assumed she's be waiting for me when came back downstairs, sitting on the bottom step, humming to herself as she usually did. But no. As I came around the door from my bedroom I met Laura, standing at the top of the stairs. The look on her face was one of total joy. Astonishment. Downright utter pride. And then she looked up at me, started clapping her hands and shouted "I did it, Mommy! I cwimmed the teps by myselt!" I couldn't help myself. I picked her up and swung her around, hugging her little, precious body to my own, shouting right along with her. She'd done it. She'd really done it. All by herself. Standing up, one hand on the wall, the other waving in the air as she took each step. Talking to herself as she went up those stairs. What was once a mountain had become a mere molehill to her. She could do it all on her own. And the pride in her accomplishment was so all encompassing that it radiated from her very soul, warming up all of us in the midst of her achievement.

Since that moment she's conquered those steps time and time again. Always leading with righty, but always doing it 'by myselt'. And her pride still shows. She knows she's done something big and she likes it. I can't wait to see her face as she accomplishes all of those other things she has yet to experience. And I'll be right there, waiting to clap for her at the top of the steps.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Parenting Weighs On You...

In thinking about, and actually writing down, my goals for this year, many of them were centered around how I could be a better wife and mother. I even wrote a few down that had nothing whatsoever to do with parenting or being a good wife. Or so I thought. But as I began planning on how I could work towards and achieve my goals, I realized that most of them really crossed all categories because they make me a better person. Period. I am meeting all of my goals when I organize the house so that we live more simply. I am meeting all of my goals when I strive to bring more peace and gentleness in to the household. And indeed I am meeting all of my goals when I become healthier and lose weight.

Ah, weightloss. That elusive dream. Or is it? Who controls what size I am? In large part, (no pun intended!) I do. I choose what comes in to my house because I do most of the shopping. I choose what is on the menu because I do most of the cooking. I choose what I put in to my mouth because I control me. No one is bribing me to shove that cookie in my mouth. No one is encouraging me to eat six miniature chocolate bars instead of just one. No one else is telling me that one more small helping of mashed potatoes won't hurt. I do that myself. It is really my choice. So what am I going to choose? How can I be the best person I can be, serving the Lord, my husband and my family in the best way I know how? Certainly a slimmer, healthier me would go a long way in that direction, wouldn't it?

Last fall I started back to Weight Watchers. My Mom, one of my best friends and certainly a very strong role model in my life, strongly encouraged me to go. The words "you have to get healthier so I don't have to raise those kids without you" kept coming up in conversations so I figured I ought to pay attention. I've lost some weight and am happy with my progress but I wish it were more. Indeed, some of the weight I lose I find again. And then lose again. And then find it again. But overall, I'm headed down and feel like I'll stay there. Slow but steady wins the race. With determination, a greater understanding of what makes me tick, and the knowledge that serving the Lord is more important that any cookie will get me through.

And good snacks. Lots of good snacks. Kudos, Fiber One Bars, 100 calorie packs of anything good, gooey or chocolatey, Creamsavers, 94% fat free Kettle Korn Popcorn, Quakes, WW Frozen snacks, Klondike Ice Cream Sandwiches, Smoothies, individually wrapped chocolate, WW cakes even with stiff icing on top, wheat thins and light swiss cheese wedges, WW and other high fiber bagels, and low calorie, high fiber yogurt keep me going through thick and thin. Hopefully less thick and more thin as time goes on.

And encouragement. Mom and Don are always encouraging me. I so need that. The small victories, when shared with them, become bigger victories. It gives me strength and courage to say no to the next cookie. And then there are the unexpected ones, those that help you know you really are doing the right thing, for the right reasons, and that you will succeed. Times when your sister-in-law mentions that you are in jeans again that you haven't been able to wear for awhile. Or when the neighbor mentions that you are looking great and asks if you've done something with your hair because they can't quite figure it out. Or when your son looks up at you with those big, innocent eyes and says "Mom, you really are pretty today." Yes, encouragement will carry me through.

Yes, I am becoming a thinner, better wife and mother. And a healthier person overall. I'm learning how to make better choices, not only in food but in other areas of life, and I'm teaching my children now to make better choices, too. But overall I think I'm becoming a better person just because I set a goal and I'm working on it. No more dreaming, wondering or deciding. Just doing. It feels good.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Trials of 'Tweens

As I sit and listen to my 9 year old tell me why his life could use a little help these days I try to put myself in his shoes in order to be as objective as I can. It isn't easy. When you're as old as I am, life has given you experiences that somehow can't be explained well in 9 year old terms, so I don't try. I just hug him a little more and settle in for the next 'tween difficulty.

When he's feeling sorry for himself, his first statement often is "I don't have any friends." Pointing out the fact that regularly the phone rings as several neighborhood boys ask if he can play would only cause further distress so I don't mention it. Nor do I point out that sitting inside lamenting about how you don't have any friends instead of heading outside with a ball to see if he can rustle up some fun with a few other boys who are looking lost and lonely in their driveways doesn't help matters any, either. I'd mention that he could call and ask someone else to play but I've done that before and I'm not in the mood for the eye rolling that comes with such suggestions in moments like this. So I keep quiet.

Soon I hear "You let Matthew do more than me." Pointing out that there is a four year difference in their ages would probably not help him so I keep quiet about that. Noting that Matthew generally acts much more mature than he does probably wouldn't help either so I just keep that one to myself as well. And if I dare begin to mention that Matthew has finished all of his chores, completed his homework, took out the garbage without being asked, and asked if there was anything else I needed him to do before he asked me if he could go out and play ball, I know there will be a long list of things he did last week that helped, too. So I don't mention it. I do however sigh and look longingly at his chore list hanging on the bulletin board. And I realize that deep down he does know why Matthew gets to do more than he does and someday he'll be doing much more than Laura gets to do and I'll be having this same conversation with her. And I'll probably smile just as knowingly then, too.

Sometimes I think that if I hear "we never get to go anywhere because of Laura" I'll just scream. But then when I think about all of the Sunday mornings we've missed because she was sick, the many nights of sleep we've not had because she was uncomfortable, the umpteen times we've had to decline invitations or make alternative plans because her health, delays or eating issues wouldn't allow it, I understand his frustration. However, I also know that because she outlived any diagnosis of impending death or severe delays, because she is just barely three and knows her colors, how to count to ten and about half of the alphabet, can eat on her own, drinks from a sippy cup and not a g-tube, and because she just walked up the steps for the first time 'all by myselsh', I know that all of those sacrifices were worth it. That is something he'll have to figure out someday when he has children of his own. So I will wait patiently for him to understand.

As I start to hug him a little tighter and he starts in with another deep sigh of the 'tween years, I look out across the street. Armed with her latest gamecube game, Devon is coming over to rescue him from his doldrums. I wonder how she knew he needed her right now and then I realize that she's a 'tween, too. She also struggles with feeling like the world will come crashing down at any moment or that her life is far to hard for one so young. And she knows that Jonathan is tender, accepting and safe. So I wonder just what happened today at school that sends her running to one of her security nets. But I am thankful for her and smile as I gently poke Jonathan in the shoulder, get his attention and point out the window. His body begins to rise once again. Joy bubbling up from his toes. A friend after all. Life is good.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Cabin Fever

Over the past two months we've endured several feet of snow which seems to fall all at the same time, bitterly cold temperatures, high winds that create blizzard-like conditions and far too many snow piles created from our attempt to move the snow out of our way. It honestly seems like it will never end. But we trust that eventually spring will arrive. It will bring warmer temperatures, rain, rain, and even more rain, and of course blooms on the trees, flowers bursting from the muddy garden and the opportunity to dream about what plants we'll grow this year in order to add some home-grown vegetables to our table. Meanwhile, cabin fever reigns supreme. I know it effects the boys so we send them out as often as we can. Riding bikes, playing basketball at the rec, quick pick up games with the boys in the neighborhood and of course sledding down the piles of snow we've created keep them occupied. Laura, however, is a whole different matter.

In a normal week, Laura will accompany us to several grocery stores, at least one trip to the library, her normal therapy with Miss Merri Jo, church, and wherever else we run off to as we take care of our house and visit with family and friends. The past few weeks have been much less active for her. For at least a month it has been too cold to take her out much given her health issues, so trips to the store and other errands have more often been done by one parent as the other stays home with her. We've had to cancel therapy several times due to illness and temperatures so cold they married the bottom of our garage door to the cement preventing the van from even thinking about venturing out in the blizzard. Church has suffered the same fate for her. The library is but a distant memory as she hasn't been since just after Christmas meaning Mommy or Daddy picks out her books and videos for her. Parks aren't even in the equation. Laura is housebound.

In the past few days our temps have been much more normal, hovering in the 30's. Rain is actually in the forecast instead of snow and we've had a few sunny days under our belts to tantalize us as we look forward to spring. This morning isn't one of them. Rain is pelting the house and the sun isn't even thinking about making an appearance. We're expecting several inches of rain over the next 24 hours and flooding, due to the ice flows breaking up and backing up the river, are expected. But Laura could care less. As I dressed her she decided it was time to do something outside so she began her precious requests.

First came the cautious statement "I wan to go outtide." Followed by a still cautious but more empowered "Pease?" When I said no she tried again. "I dough to da Docor?" Again I shook my head no. So she tried again. "I dough to terpy to sees Me Mrri Dough?" I smiled knowing she's missing Miss Merri Jo because we had to cancel therapy this week. But I still shake my head no. And so it goes. She works down her list: "We dough to churt?" No. "We dough to ta tibary?" No. "We dough to Honey and Poppa's?" As I smile I again say "No". "We dough to get tosies, otay? Pease?" Sadly, once again I shake my head no. There will be no grocery stores for her today. She sighs. She is out of suggestions and she knows she'll be home once again today. She wraps her arms around me and cradles in my arms as we head downstairs to enjoy the day together once again. I'm sure she's already wondering how she can use her precious little head-cocked "pease" to get something to keep her busy for awhile.

And so cabin fever continues...