Tuesday, September 1, 2015

When You're the Adult: You Give More Than You Get

Yesterday, Grace had her one year evaluation with Early Intervention - she is doing well, and was recommended to continue her therapies. We are excited to have one more year with her EI therapists!

Today, I took Laura in for her six month evaluation and vaccines. Unsurprisingly, she is top of her class percentage wise for weight, head circumference and height (in that order!). Grace was extremely well-behaved once she realized that she would not get her head measured, and showed off her AFO and walking to Dr. M.

In the past few weeks, I have been searching for a new babysitter. Our former one got a new job with more hours, and we encouraged her to take it. Unfortunately, the search is (still) on.... I taught class yesterday, and I teach class again next Tuesday. I am trying not to worry about who will watch my children, but, I'm picky and I'm limited in my resources.

Will's salary covers our east-coast COL, roughly, and so the babysitter's salary must come out of my salary; and my salary - as an online history teacher - is not sizable. Then there's the hours we're asking - very part-time, but we pay fairly.

I get why people wait to have kids - it can feel really overwhelming. Expenses are almost the least of it; the time put into caring for them is more than 24/7 - it's a calling to care, a vocation to love. How can I best care for my children, even when I'm working? You the Parent have to take care of them; the little people depend on you! I see it in both the girls: the way Grace watches us and brightens up during play time or meal time; whenever Laura catches our eye.

This experience has highlighted an bygone era of villages raising children. I wish there was more community help set up in our parish, because I am sure there are numerous retired ladies who want to play with babies for a couple hours a day. Or even a parish day center in the area! It seems so vital, especially for young mothers who need more support. If the Church wants to support the vocation of marriage and the call of parenthood, she needs to respond in practicalities as well as prayer.

Each parish has their own calling, I know. To be fair, I'm surprised Will's hospital does not have a day care facility. It's the second largest employer in the region, a top 100 hospital in the country and no child care support?! There is an independent day care center one block away, but they do not have enough space for the demand. I would have to put the girls on a waiting list! (Remind me to get on my soapbox later and write them a letter.) Well! At least I have two students whose schedules could fit us in. Fingers crossed we have good interviews, compatibility and hire within the week.

Last night Will joked that all he does is make money and set up mouse traps (trap: 2, mouse: 0) while I keep the family going, the girls happy and complete my school work (teach and graduate). While residency is not easy, I had to laugh too - it feels that way!

He makes the girls so happy too, and that is the easiest gift to give them - the best gift. No toy is better than time spent with people who love and cherish you.

The paperwork will never end, the to-do list may never be accomplished, and the house never stays clean - adult life means you're always giving, always trying harder. That is good. It is good to exert yourself to help another, and to make life more beautiful for yourself and your family.

It is in giving out of love - not just duty or obligation or begrudgingly - that we experience the kind of euphoria intended to spur us on when it's tough being an adult, making all the decisions, being responsible for chores and taxes and catching the mouse that chewed on your dining room rug...

Pope Francis said at the Meeting with the Volunteers of the XXVIII World Youth Day (July 28, 2013):
"In encouraging you to rediscover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone, deprived of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity and responsibility. 
Dear young friends, “in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. 
I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage to ‘swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy.”
This, of course, is the best part of being an adult: happy doing your thing, because wherever you've been: you're here now. Wherever you're going, you're here; rejoice and be glad. Life is hard and imperfect, but we can still enjoy it. Give more than you get, and love every minute you can.

It's really hot here... but we're loving it.
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Friday, August 28, 2015

Six Months: Laura

Six months ago, I was having really painful contractions and trying to tough it out before my epidural... six months later, we're playing with baby toes and Laura is pivoting around on the carpet, playing with Grace's tea set.

Most people call her a serious baby, and I do not necessarily disagree - definitely observant. Also, a loving, joy-filled baby. A baby who is content being held and loved; a baby who makes her mama feel so happy to just be her mama. Quality time baby? I think so.

She's also an extremely good sport when her sister climbs into her crib almost every morning.

Grace calls her "rar-rua" and loves her baby sister. Laura even laughs and giggles as Grace tickles her! Sisters, sisters, as the song goes... I love watching them enjoy each other so much.

Laura is growing well - that's the first thing people point out. Yes, physically, of course - and mentally, and in her wonderful personality. We've bonded even more this summer, and Laura is starting to out-smile Grace (if possible!). 

In silly pictures, this is me attempting to get a picture of Laura's one tooth that is poking through the gums, causing her to wail in the evening. Well, it's there!

It was around this age that we really wondered what was going on with your sister - much less interest in moving (at that point). It's amazing watching your body contort and how unwilling you are to stay in one place for too long. Laura Kathleen, keep on moving, trying to crawl, and swim on land. You're almost to the army crawl! (Your 2nd Lt. Uncle Mikey in the Army is going to love that!) You're so strong, intelligent and playful. I'm going to keep enjoying this baby time while it lasts.

Love you so much,

p.s. but maybe less attempts to roll off couches and beds?

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

New Swag: Grace's First AFO (Plus Shoes)

Grace's cerebral palsy is labeled "right hemiparesis" - so, our emphasis for therapy is concentrated on her right side. As a preventative measure, she got her first AFO (ankle foot orthotic) for her right foot. Both of her physical therapists recommended it, and it came just in time for Grace to start taking her first independent steps! Her AFO supplier is called SureSteps - it's rigid enough to supply support, lightweight, and help keep the weight evenly distributed because she feels like she can trust her right side more. She needed a prescription for it, and her doctor was happy to write one.

The fitting was... full of tears. Grace doesn't mind shots, but she abhors being measured. (Head measuring still ranks as all-time worst.) She liked picking out the pattern too!

Three weeks later, we went in for the fitting and - a couple minutes of crying later - she was up! Notice how she is initially still leaning on her left leg.

She felt very comfortable, which is important, and it fit very well. She starts to shift her weight over a bit; it looks more equal.

She even put weight on it almost immediately! Huge improvement already.

Downside: Her current shoes do not accommodate the AFO; and while shoes are not necessary on carpet, they most certainly are on hardwood and tile (plentiful in our rental).

Upside: Happy Grace! Loving her posture improvement.

We're going on a week of wearing it now, and Grace is doing really well. She wears is twice a day, for 30 minutes. We won't be pushing her to wear it more (like we do her patch), per instructions. She doesn't cry either when we put it on, which helps me. We'll even have her stuffed animals wear it too, when she's not. Gotta share love around here!

The next day, we went shoe shopping! In Three Bears fashion, the first shoe's strap was too short. The next shoe's strap was longer, but barely velcroed over the brace. The third shoe was perfect - stretchy sides and a stretchy strap across the shoe. Affordable ($15) and super cute (muted gold with detailed bow) -- thanks, Target!

We received a lot of recommendation for shoes - here are a few: StrideRite; Robeez, Osh Kosh at Target (the ones we tried did not reach far enough); Health Tex at Wal-Mart; Toms; Pediped.

The other advice we got was to buy a wide version of a shoe - that works too! Fortunately for us, this shoe had stretch built in, which allows this shoe to be used outside of brace time. 

As you can tell, wearing an AFO is not cramping Grace's style.

I could not find this actual shoe on the Target website (??) - but here is a similar shoe. Ruffled socks are a must as well.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

One Year Later: Bridget

One year ago, around dinner time, I was sitting in the hospital cafeteria when I got a call from my sobbing mom: Bridget, a cousin of mine, had died.

Bridget was one of my most favorite cousins (first cousin once removed) - really, she was everyone's most favorite! A bubbly, lively, loving cousin who I've adored my whole life. She always made me feel loved. People felt the presence of Bridget.

I was waiting to give Will his dinner; I was with Grace, and Will was late meeting us - his patient was taking longer than expected. The phone call didn't feel real. I sat there, mustering composure. My concentration was  broken only by a classmate-friend of Will's, who stopped by Grace and me to say hi before his ER shift started. All of the sudden, my eyes filled up with tears and I frantically apologized, saying that I just got a call saying a family member had died, and would he give Will his dinner?

I called home and my Dad booked me on a flight so Grace and I could go home for the funeral. There was no doubt in my mind: I would be there.

First solo flight!

Being part of a very large extended family is funny. We love each other so much, but most only see each other at major holidays. I got to see second cousins I hadn't seen since a few Christmases earlier (married life means I wasn't in town for the cousins party) - it was wonderful to catch up. Was the occasion bittersweet? Of course. Still, we're there when it counts, right? Waiting before the funeral mass in the room with our huge family was beautiful - seeing so many cousins, aunt and uncles, and my grandparents. Family is a beautiful thing.

I do not like those sayings about how friends can be more family than actual family members, or something like that. It's still a comparison - like, but not the same. Friends you can pick, keep in touch, and foster a relationship with for as long as you desire. You're born into your family - and even if/when you're apart, your relationship can never be wholly severed. For better and worse, family is family is family.

I love my family, and I know how lucky I am in that capacity. Even living 10+ hours from my family, I'm reminded of them: I fixed my Aunt Kim's breakfast casserole recipe this week; my grandfather's watercolor hangs above our fireplace mantle; crucifixes from Will's grandfather hang around our house; Will's sister painted Grace's dresser; pictures my little cousins colored for Grace are displayed by her toys; two paintings from Bridget's home now hang in our front hall.

I love Bridget so much, and I will miss her every day. I grieve the memories we'll never make, and I cherish the ones we have. She is so very dear to me, and I ask that you think of her today.

Here is the written form of her eulogy, given by her sister Trish. I hope it shows you all what a truly unique individual she was, and how even the happiest-looking can mask their pain.


Dear Everyone who loved Bridget, This is Trish. I can't tell you how much all your thoughts, prayers and photographs have meant to my parents, our family and Todd. Right now we are just trying to deal with losing our "Bird". For those of you that couldn't make her service (we know you were there in spirit), here is her eulogy: Bridget’s nephews, my sons, Nick and Luke have a book – Heaven. It is a story about angels coming to call a dog to heaven. The little girl and the dog have a chance to discuss heaven before he goes with the angels.

The little girl’s heaven includes endless rollercoasters, mountains of chocolate and no bedtime.
The dog’s heaven is filled with fire hydrants, “whiffy things” and lots of BONES!

Bridget’s heaven may include “whiffy things” – but only because she has LOTS of non-allergic dogs by her side. And, her dog, Gypsy, is leading the pack.

Bridget’s heaven has an endless garden that never needs weeding. It’s filled with flowers that are always in bloom and the most beautiful tomatoes, herbs, peppers and English cucumbers you have ever seen. The avocados are always ripe.

In Bridget’s heaven the cars are always clean. Laundry is always folded for you. And, every angel has a label maker, wears purple sparkly socks (like Donny and Marie) and yellow smiley faces are everywhere.

Her cloud is definitely the neatest on the block – and the prettiest. It is perfect. Beyond perfect. Every inch of her cloud is carefully considered and beautiful. (She should have been the designer in the family. She had a talent for it and loved working with Doug and Lisa, at Greiwe, years ago).

(But, Dad, I bet she is already starting her list of projects to do with you someday)

She will have a giant dining table – big enough to fit her entire family. It will have fondue pots with an everlasting flame and will be set with the prettiest china and crystal.

I’m guessing the clouds in heaven don’t have walls - to hang her pictures of the people she loved – but that clouds have windows so she can see us. She has two BIG picture windows to see Mom and Dad and Kris.

Super special windows so she can always see my Nick and Luke. And, our niece Rigley and nephews Ian, Ryan and Aiden.

Aunt Missie and Uncle Dick. Aunt Madge and Uncle Eddie. Aunt Liz and Uncle Tom. Aunt Kay and Uncle Bob. Uncle Paul. (I know she is already hanging out with Aunt Nancy. She really loved her)
Rick. Jenny. Greg. Liz. Doug. Missie. Kathy. Marianne. Barbie. Gigi. Eddie. Annie. Lisa. Beth. Susan.

And her favorite cousin and best friend Micki, Lynn, Kathy, Lisa, Jessica, Chris, Janet, Russell, Bill and all her friends. And, Matt.

And, Todd. I have no doubt she will be prepping her kitchen in heaven for the day when she and Todd can make dinner together again - with vegetables from her garden while they sip a creative cocktail or two. They loved cooking together.

In Bridget’s heaven the sun is always shining and the beaches are always open. Considering how she could ROCK a bikini on earth, I can just imagine how beautiful she looks in her bikini with wings.
Bridget LOVED to sky dive and hang glide. Her nickname was “Bird” and she loved being a bird. She did it whenever she could. Maybe her love of flying and all that time in the air was just practice for when she received her angel wings this week. (But, hopefully, as an angel she won’t have to worry about landing in piles of cow whiffy things like what happened last year in Puerto Rico.)

There have been many times in my life I have felt certain angels with me – especially Nanny, Dan Kohnen, Melissa’s mom and recently Caroline’s mom. I know Bridget will be there too – and hope you can sense when she will be there with YOU. Because, she will.

She is.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Who Wore It Better?: Polka Dots

 Grace and Laura match again!

I would type more but Grace is using me as a literal jungle gym as I type... Trick question! They're both adorable.

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