Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I want to frame everything she draws these days

Lila has been really into drawing and coloring lately and has been expanding her repertoire beyond disembodied heads and random shapes.  Everything she draws is painfully cute.  I mean so. cute.

She'll spend a good 30 minutes parked at her desk and then come out and show me some darling masterpiece she'd been working on.

Let's play a guessing game.  I'll show you ten pictures she drew and you can guess what they are.  I'll give you the answers at the bottom of each photo.
Lila holding a balloon.  With the sun.  Can you even handle the cuteness of this?

 I came home from running errands one night and she had left me this note before the Husband put her to bed. "Dear Mom Goodnit Lila" and those are hearts at the end.  MY heart could hardly take it.

 Flowers. The best.  I want a whole garden of her flowers.

 This is her as a robot.  Those circles on her middle are her robot buttons.  At some point she started drawing eyes with circles around them for her glasses which just slays me.  She is THE CUTEST little person.

 This is Faith and Lila having a picnic.  I love the way she made them sit.  That yellow blob is the picnic basket.

She was really proud of this one because she thought to give the people eyebrows.  Or eyebrow.  What I find interesting is that she looked at her drawing and thought, "Hmm, something's missing...oh I know!  Eyebrows!" and completely neglected the torso, arms, hands and hair.  That thing next to the people is a house and there's a rainbow in the sky.  And another rainbow that evidently didn't meet quality control requirements and got X'd out.

Nanny and Pop's house.  With people looking out the windows.  Where does she come up with this stuff?

Franny.  Our eleven-legged dog.  This was one in a series she did of our entire family.  Franny was by far the most distinguishable amongst the group.  Mostly because she was horizontal.  Oh, and all the legs.

 Lila and Daddy.  And the most adorable butterfly ever.  She wrote her name and an "E" for Eric on the house.  Also, I'm not sure when she started drawing the ground and the sky or where she picked that up, but I love it.  I remember doing that as a kid, too!


Lila and Faith at the "PARC" - the red thing resembling a tongue or a popsicle is a slide.  And Lila and Faith are swinging.  This one I actually did frame.

Are these cute to everyone else or just to this mama?  Which one is your favorite?  I really can't decide between the Bespectacled Robot Lila or the Lila holding the balloon.  Ooh or the flowers.  And the picnic's so cute, too.  And of course I love her and Faith on the swings.  Okay I love them all.  What can I say?  I'm a proud mama.

Four years old is the best.  I love this stage.  She's so awesome. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hope Stories

We have some new friends who have become dear to us very quickly: the Baldwins.  Lila and their daughter Jaslen are kindred spirits.  They match one another in enthusiasm, passion, theatrics and volume.  Not to mention a mutual love of playing dress-up.
We took Jazzy to see Frozen for her birthday and the princesses were dancing after the movie.
Jazzy's little brother, August decided he loved me one day and now comes to me with his arms up for a snuggle on a regular basis which is, as you can imagine, a-okay with me!  (Also, he calls me Mary.  That part is a mystery.)  Jazzy's big brother, Lincoln is Lila's latest crush.  I think it's the freckles.  I'd be a goner for those freckles, too.
Snuggling in Lila's bed watching a movie together.  Can you tell Faith never watches TV? She was transfixed!
We met the Baldwins just before their fourth child - their son Hartman - was born.  Hartman was born with a rare heart condition that puts his life at risk on a daily basis.  We have marveled at James and Christina's attitude and perspective as they have walked this road.  I have been privileged to walk alongside several friends who have endured unimaginable fears and heartache and I can say about the Baldwins what I would say about the Ballews and the Nagels and each of my other friends: their faith in Jesus and his goodness is astounding.  Being observer to their stories reminds me again and again the Jesus is our only true hope for healing and rescue.

Our church has a tradition of sharing Hope Stories when we meet together.  Sometimes they are endearingly simple stories - breakthrough in a friendship, the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with a co-worker, a memorable interaction with a stranger.  Sometimes they are profound and moving stories of transformation, healing and courage.  Each story's intent - no matter how dramatic or mundane - is to give testimony to the Hope we have found in Christ.

Our friends, the Baldwins shared their Hope Story this weekend and I wanted to share it with you.

Hope Story: The Baldwins from gathering network on Vimeo.

If Jesus were sitting on your couch, what would you say to him about your biggest heartaches?  I was humbled by their response.  I'm not sure it would be mine.  But I loved what Christina said - that she had "disciplined [her] heart to say [thank you] and that's almost the overflow now."  She was saying that she chose to have that be her response - it didn't necessarily come naturally, but she disciplined herself to be grateful.  It gives me hope that my responses to the suffering in my own life can be transformed into gratitude.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gotcha Day

A year ago yesterday I met my daughter for the first time.  I still remember the warmth of the room, the nervousness in our hearts, the catch in our breaths as we opened the door to our daughter.

I remember wondering if I would love her from the first moment.  I remember worrying that I wouldn't find the right balance between releasing my pent up enthusiasm and anticipation and respecting First Mama's last hours as her mama.  I remember imagining what it would be like to finally have her in my arms.  And then, she was.

Surreal is still the only word I have for the experience.

I recently came across a notebook as I was cleaning out some piles that had accumulated in our closet.  In an urge to purge, I nearly threw it away without looking at it.  I'm so glad I didn't, because it was the notebook in which I had scribbled notes during our first three hours with Faith and her Mama and Baba.  Those pages are a treasure I would have been devastated to lose.  Let this be a lesson - never throw anything away!  (Just kidding - we have a hoarding sickness in our house between the Husband's sentimentality and my laziness/frugalness. What if I need this someday?)

Those notes brought me back to how much we didn't know about our daughter.  I wrote down things like how often she ate and how to tell if she was tired.  I wrote down random things like "wears Huggies." (Why did the kind of diapers she wore matter to me?  I don't know.)  And I wrote down pieces of information that I only dared hope we would have back when I was praying my Impossible Prayers.  Things like where in China her family is from and how her birth parents met.

It was comforting to compare those notes to the mental notes I now have as her Mommy.  It was comforting to realize that now it's me who knows the most about her.  I know which cries can be ignored and which ones require immediate action.  I know the look on her face when she poops.  I know the food she likes and the ones she'll spit back out.  I know how to scan a room and pick up things she'll eat or things she can reach to pull down on herself.  I know that she loves things that make noises and isn't really interested in books other than to eat them.

For so long I questioned myself, wondering how First Mama would respond in a situation.  Now I just react on instinct.  I know her.  I'm her mommy.  But I still think about First Mama constantly.  We have her picture up several places in our house and we show her picture to Faith.  I think about her when Faith is sick and wonder what sort of remedies she would have to soothe and comfort.  I think about her when Faith hits a milestone and wish I could see the pride and delight on her face.  I think about her when I'm losing my cool and wonder if she would find the same things frustrating.  I think about her when I'm watching Faith and Lila play and imagine what it would be like to not have any of your children with you.

Today I was reminiscing this morning about March 27, 2013 and remembering how terrified I was to buckle her into our car and drive away from the person who knew everything about her.  What if she cried the whole way home?  What if I couldn't figure out how to comfort her?  What if something came up that I didn't think to ask First Mama about?  What if I didn't feel like her mom?  What if she was scared of us?  It was all so overwhelming just as it was delightful and exciting.

And now, today, March 27, 2014 we have hit the one-year mark.  Faith has been ours for a full trip around the sun.  And today I am in the throes of motherhood.  Faith woke up with a fever and has been a miserable and weepy mess.  But today, I am grateful that I am the one to caress her warm forehead, administer the Tylenol and rock her to sleep.

In some ways it feels like yesterday that we were introducing her to the world.  In other ways, it feels like she's been ours forever.  Either way, I am grateful - grateful beyond words - that she is my daughter.

Happy Gotcha Day, Faith-baby!  You are, as your shirt says in that picture, SO LOVED.

Friday, March 21, 2014

World Down Syndrome Day

Today, March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day.  Down syndrome is caused by a complete or partial third copy of the 21st chromosome which is why today - 3/21 - has been designated to celebrate the wonderful people in the world who were created with a bonus 21st chromosome.

So today we are celebrating our own little awesome kid and thanking God for his creativity in design and the blessing of Faith in our lives.

She's a spitfire, that one.  We had to switch physical therapists recently because of some scheduling changes and her new therapist commented that she is stubborn and then said, "We can work with stubborn!" Ha.  Let's hope so!

I love that Faith-baby so much it hurts me.

I did a quick Google search for "down syndrome" and the video I shared yesterday came up.  What made me sad was that a lot of the descriptions of the video made a reference to people "suffering" with Down syndrome.  Which was, I thought, the EXACT OPPOSITE point the video made.  Down syndrome is not something that Faith suffers through.  I suppose you could say she suffers through it the way I suffer through my inability to be on time or my self-criticism.  There are ways that we are all wired that make certain things harder for us than for others.  And on the flip side, we each have been given gifts and abilities that are unique to us.  Faith is no exception.

As I said yesterday, my deepest hope is that Faith's life re-teaches the world that Down syndrome is no tragedy.  Sure, there are things about it that make life more challenging, but in the words of one of the wise men in the video, "isn't that true of everyone?"

Spend one day, one hour, one minute with Faith and the last word on your lips will be suffering.  She is joyful and happy.  She is creative and persistent.  She is beautiful and smart.  She is perfectly and wonderfully made.

She is my daughter.  And I would choose her again and again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dear Future Mom and Sevenly

I love this.  For obvious reasons.  I hope Faith's life and our choice to add her to ours communicates our deep belief that Down syndrome is not a tragedy.  It is a gift.  Faith is a gift.  And I am so very proud that I get to be Faith's mom.

This week, Sevenly is giving $7 of every purchase to the International Down Syndrome Coalition - an organization that is working to make adoption affordable for families wanting to adopt children with Down syndrome.  We might be a little excited about such a fantastic cause!

Check out these cute tees and consider supporting Sevenly and the International Down Syndrome Coalition!

Monday, March 17, 2014

the cutest

I've totally forgiven Faith for her late night shenanigans.  Mostly because how can you stay mad at someone this totally awesome?

Faith loves to swing.  We walked to the park by my parents' house today and she was in heaven.

Big sis was also in heaven.  That girl loves to be outside.  We have learned that one 60 degree day does not mean that it won't snow the next so we have made it a point to play outside any day in which the temperature goes above 40 degrees!

Spring, please come to stay!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Faith and I are in a fight

Let me tell you something about myself: I'm not a nice person when I'm tired.  Or hungry for that matter, but that's not really relevant to this story.

What is relevant is that I act like a pre-schooler when I'm tired.  I know because I have a pre-schooler and I am often horrified at how much my behavior mirrors hers when I'm desperate for sleep.  Today, she threw herself on the ground and cried when she saw that I had cut her face and Faith's face out of a picture so I could put them in the locket the Husband gave me as an anniversary gift.

I told her that we had another copy of the picture.  I told her that I wanted to have her picture with me in my necklace so I could show people my beautiful girls.  This did nothing to mollify her. "You broke the picture!" she yelled between sobs,  "I wanted two of that one!  I'm frustrated that you cut that one!"  And then she threw it on the ground dramatically.  And then Dr. Mommy prescribed a nap as a remedy for irrational tantrums.

It's not pretty when a four-year-old loses her mind over something completely innocuous.  It's far uglier when a 30-year-old mommy does the same thing.  This is something I've learned.

Anyway, back to the fight I'm in with Faith.  Why am I in a fight with my 17-month-old?  Well, I'll tell you.

She was awake from 1:30-4:30am this morning for no discernible reason.  It's one thing when a child wakes up in the middle of the night and either through scientific experiment (putting my hand on their head to check for a fever) or through blind trial-and-error (new diaper, offer a drink, pat the back, wipe the nose, sing a song) I can figure out what's going on and fix the problem.  It's quite another when a child is awake and hollering and no solution emerges and eventually after all the bumbled trouble-shooting the child is then too stimulated to settle back to sleep even if the initial problem had been remedied.  Such was our reality last night.

The Husband and I took turns trying to soothe and pacify the Yeller, but to no avail.  She shoved the bottle away in angry defiance.  She flopped around in our arms when we tried rocking her.  Thinking she might be teething, we tried Tylenol which she slurped up and then went right back to her screaming.  Afraid she would wake up Lila, I brought her into our room and put her in the pack-n-play thinking maybe she just needed to be in the same room as we were.  That...didn't work.  At all.

Around 3:30am - after enduring two hours of noises of objection that ranged from fussing to all-out screaming - I was starting to have those thoughts that set off warning bells in your head and tell you to stay away from your children lest you rip their arms off in a Hulk-like explosion of sleep-deprived anger.  When I expressed such thoughts to the Husband, he wisely took over sole placating duties and took her for a car ride which calmed her down enough to finally go back to sleep.

And more importantly, I got to go to sleep.

This morning, I woke up still a little bit angry.  Because, you know, the whole I'm-really-mean-when-I'm-tired thing.  The Husband was already up getting the kids breakfast because...I really did marry the very best one.  And so when I emerged from my room, Faith was happily shoving blueberries in her mouth and she looked up at me and grinned.

Didn't she know we were in a fight??!!

Apparently not.

So I sighed and I kissed her on her forehead and said, "I don't feel like I love you right now, but loving you is a choice I'm making today."

And she said, "A-ba-da-ba-da-ba."  Which means, "I'm so sorry I kept you up last night Mommy.  I'll never ever do it again."

At least I hope that's what it means.
She certainly looks sorry, doesn't she?