Beautiful aren't they? Admittedly, baby feet are one of my favorite little baby features. So scrumptious. And these two little feet are no exception. You would never know by looking at these little feet, that each cell contains an extra amount of chromosome material. Perhaps these little feet alone can prove that they are more alike, than different, from every other little set of little feet. And as a mother, I have beautiful dreams for these little feet. I dream that these little feet will lead him, one step at a time, into his mommy and daddy's arms. I dream of the pitter-patter sound that these little feet will leave behind, as he runs to seek his big brothers and sisters in a game of hide and seek. I dream that these little feet will be twirling and whirling after his sisters graceful dancing feet. I dream that these little feet will be making a big puddle of a mess as they stomp through pools of rain water. I dream that these little feet will one day kick that ball into the net with waves of encouraging cheer rolling towards the field. I dream that these little feet will lead him to his first steps on the school bus, only pausing for a second to turn and say goodbye. I pray that these little feet will walk besides Jesus's feet, and that his little hand will be tightly clasped in the middle of His almighty hand, leaning on Him and trusting Him, and when needed, to allow those powerful hands to carry him. These hopes and dreams and prayers are not only for these little feet, but for every pair of little feet that have come into our family. Each one is a unique gift, that bring us to our knees in gratitude and love. And we recognize that each pair of feet should be lead, encouraged, modeled, and loved. Today I am thankful for our six pairs of little feet.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
It is so profound how God connects us with exactly what we need and who we need on our journey of life. It is so amazing and powerful. Immediately after we got his diagnosis in utero, I connected online with families from all over the country, who were blessed with one or more of these children and their families. It's like my eyes had been opened to a new world that I did not know existed. And going to our first Buddy Walk this year was so incredible. It truly felt like a large family, and looking in the eyes of all these other parents, you instantly knew how blessed they are, and see the genuine joy on all of their faces. They get it. They get it! I did not get it, even a year ago. I did not have the understanding. Sometimes I wonder if these children are sent on this earth with special missions, rather than special needs. Similar to the mission of an angel sent down to earth. And families with these children know exactly what I am talking about. I've seen Luke change and move so many people on his path, in his short six months of life. I have seen him bring so many people to tears, in his short six months of life. He has opened people's hearts and minds in immeasurable ways. I did in the early stages of his diagnosis grapple with whether he was intentionally created with that extra chromosome, or if it was a result of free will, and the fall of man. I concluded early on that it was a result of that. And then he was born. I now do feel as though that is not the case with Luke and others born with dis "abilities". I have felt God's hand so strongly on this journey. I feel as though these little ones are so intentionally here, as they were made. And oh the beauty in that! God, help us to learn from them.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
I know what you're thinking ... probably not the title you want to hear coming from the mouth of someone who is diligently working towards being a better version of who God wants me to be! But if you have children, from toddlers to teenagers, the act will creep into your vision field at one time or another. Manipulation! It enters the battlefield wide-eyed around the age of two, and manifests itself as more knowledge comes on board. Initially it's cute, as if we can almost physically see those little wheels turning in their heads, as they find ways to get their needs and wants met. It then usually disappears towards the early elementary years, as they turn into people-pleasing angels, eager to show us how responsible and grown-up they are in their actions. Then, maybe to see if we're paying attention or really know anything all about parenting, manipulation tactics resurface around seventh grade, on steroids. All of a sudden we're not as intelligent as our child species (ha ha), and we are challenged with the "M" word once again. This is the olympics people! And I will absolutely say that some kids are born with a higher level of it, then others. :-). I find that it has to do with how spirited, or strong-willed they tend to be. The stronger the will of the child, the stronger the parent's will needs to be. Particularly with one of my sons, sometimes I feel as though he and I should be in a court room. Both of us pointing out a number of valid points, evidence to support it, and a very convicted passionate plea why he should get something he wants, or should not get a certain punishment that we deem fit for the action. Sometimes I actually want to give in, just because he gave me such a convicting case! But as parents, as you all know, it is so important to stand our ground on the big things. We all learn from our mistakes, and definitely learn to pick our battles, but it does seem that children need solid roots, and solid boundaries. This can sometimes be challenged if we are more focused on a "friendship" with them. An older and wiser parent once reminded me that we as parents are not their friends! Friendship will come later, when they are young adults. I think we can look at ourselves as the big oak tree in the front yard, with deep roots, making us very resistant to being blown over as the big storms blow through. And we have to then ask, what do we want for our children? Do we want them to be young pine trees, with shallow roots, that fall and crash the first time they're challenged with anything hard? Absolutely not. We lead by example. We live by example. In their plea to get what they want, our children will resent us for standing our ground. But eventually, it seems that most children do eventually come to their senses, and perhaps even throw a "thank you" back. My last birthday card from my oldest daughter included a note, thanking me for handing down my values and faith (sniff sniff). Some of those battles were worth it at least. Now I wouldn't be honest if I said I never cave in. Sometimes I will cave in because of pure cuteness. I was driving our three-year-old home from a birthday party the other day, where she enjoyed ice cream and cake, with a side of candy. Already revved up on sugar, she pleaded with me to allow her to have something sweet from her gift bag. Her: Can I have a lollipop mommy? Me: No honey Her: Can I have a bag of fruit snacks? Me: No honey. Her: Well can I have the snow covered chocolate chips? Me: no honey. Her: well why can't I have any sugar?! Me: because you have had plenty of dessert at the party already! Her: fine then! I'm just not going to have any candy then! (Thinking she was really getting back at me!!!). You have to admit, pretty funny for cuteness sakes.:-). And the manipulation saga continues. :-) Stand your ground mamas! And if you ever find me in a weak spot, remind me to do the same! Support and surrounding yourselves with like-minded parents is one of the key to successes . . .along with MUCH prayer.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Okay all of you sisters out there with big families, you know what I'm talking about when I say we get comments. Comments from people of every generation, young and old, from every culture, and most likely from every language. I just am unaware of the non-English comments. :-). The most common ones are, "you must have your hands full", bless your heart", "are you Catholic?", " I'm sure your older children are big helpers around the house", "Are you going to have more?" ( jaw hanging), and "Look mom, it's the Dougers!". Most of the time, particularly if we are all out and about going out to eat, or going into a store, etc., we just get the stare. Now I absolutely believe that people have good intentions with their comments, and I do not hold anything against them whatsoever. But I have to admit that it makes me very sad that we are in a place in history where having more than two children is out of the norm. And it makes me sad that people assume that because we are Catholic, and have a big family, that it is simply because we do not use birth control, and just leave it all up to chance. I do find myself getting a little defensive (At least feeling it, if not showing it), when explaining to people how we got here. Explaining that there was a time when we were young, naïve, untrustworthy, and we had this preconceived idea that we had to plan out our entire lives. Joseph and I wanted two children, three at the most, a golden lab, and a house with the swing hanging from a big oak tree in the front yard. I will admit that we just hung that swing up, but as for the rest of our plan, God worked on us. When I meet young people that are just completely living in God's will, confidently, and with complete trust, I am amazed. Joseph and I had to grow into this. We were led down a longer path, with many detours, some small mountains, peaks, and valleys. God put just the right people in our lives at just the right time. And on this path, we learned to pray. And with praying, God worked on our hearts. We have come to realize that there is nothing in this world as precious as a human life. As I have said before, where there is life, there is love. And God is love. I have found myself ministering to young moms who are on the fence about having that third child, as I have met dozens of women who are in mourning of the fact that they permanently closed the door to have more children very early on. That could have very easily have been us. I remember Joseph being very nervous the first time I left him home alone with the two children, where as now I see a very confident father who would not hesitate in a second to grab all six kiddos and go for an outing. The changes I've seen in him as a father, and as a man of faith, completely move me and bring me to tears. And the changes I've witnessed in myself are plentiful enough to fill the pages of a book. Often times we will be asked "and what do you do for yourself? You need to make you time!" I can honestly say, that thought does not cross my mind! Our joy right now is seeing our children succeed at life, and love on each other. There is nothing like it to compare. I remember when Joseph and I were young, we spent every weekend going out to dinner, working out two hours a day at the gym, seeing the latest movies, hanging at Barnes & Noble with our coffees. At the time, that felt like enough. But where we are right now, again, there is just no comparison. I would never say that everyone should have a large family, but I would encourage each and every young family to keep that option open, and to constantly be praying about it. I brought our three-year-old to a fitness play class yesterday, and ran into a young mom who I had ministered to just a year before. I remember her saying that they are done having children, after having two. I shared our story with her, just to give her a little bit of a different perspective. I cannot tell you how excited I was when I saw her yesterday, as she was so radiantly beautiful, and five months pregnant. God is amazing! With that said, today I am thankful for a beautiful family, but I know we never know what tomorrow brings. We never know how long any of us have on this earth. And we will never know the trials that are to come tomorrow. As parents, we pray, we love, and we do what we think is best as far as how we raise our children. We have not let fear affect our choices. As fear is not of God. I can only promise all of you young mamas, that your love can be stretched, That your heart can be opened, and that you will never regret prayerfully considering growing your family.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Monday, September 15, 2014
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
With most things in life, I've always taught our children that less is more. As toddlers, when my girls would walk up to me adorned in several patterns and colors, three layers of tutus, topped with a bundle of sparkling necklaces, and a scarf to boot, I would smile and complement them on their beautiful choices. But when our oldest daughter got to middle school, it was time to teach her the truth. Less is more! Less eye make-up honey, and absolutely less electronic time, and don't forget less time with your friends and more time with your family please. And the topper, less thinking about what other people think! Yes. Less is more. But like anything, I have learned that it depends on the subject when talking about less-isms. There are no generalizations in life. I think of Luke for instance. He's a perfect example of more is more. That extra chromosome number 21 has absolutely graced him in such a way that he enhances every life that he comes in contact with to date. I truly believe that. Because with that extra chromosome, those around him bode extra perspective, extra acceptance, extra gratitude, extra joy, and extra Blessings. An example, all of our children's first smiles brought complete joy to the room, without a doubt. When they grabbed their first toy, found their slobbery little mouth with their own hand, or tracked their mommy walking across the room with their eyes...all very exciting. With Luke, these "firsts" brought tears, as it meant yet another developmental milestone was made. I'm guessing this is the case in families with any kind of disability within. From the outside looking in, I would have assumed that those families were constantly struggling with the fact that their kids were not "typical". I pictured quiet desperation and regrets. Again, I was completely blind, and absolutely ignorant. In a society that prides itself in having children with top grades (4.0 is no longer the bar), who are all-star athletes, and artistically talented, It's hard to get recognition for other amazing attributes. Children with disabilities themselves obviously have a long list of amazing gifts, including perseverance, positiveness, and pure affection. But what about what these kids are teaching us? It's like a multiplier affect!! In God's beautifully orchestrated plan, these children were strategically placed in this world to create balance. To remind us that we ourselves are not perfect, and that our strength should come from our Father in heaven. Only in His plan is there perfection. And with each human being He has created, there are gifts, or strengths. Wouldn't a society benefit on emphasizing these, rather than focusing on one's shortcomings? In our children, we should be praising them for practicing compassion, empathy, kindness, and humility. When our son joined "peer buddies" in middle school last year, he did not know what to expect when working with children with disabilities. He was quickly paired up with a nonverbal boy with autism. Gabriel quickly learned that though nonverbal, this boy had such a charming personality. When Gabriel would walk down the hall and see this boy, he would always smile and wave at him. The boy in return would run up to Gabe with a big smile, and wave right back. When the school year was over, and Gabriel and I were conversing about this, he mentioned that it brought sadness to him, for before working with these children, he unintentionally did not acknowledge them in the hallway. And just one person waving at them, changed their entire demeanor. The changes that I've seen in our children are astounding, since our family gained that extra chromosome. Today I am so grateful for more.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
As all the kids returned to school last week, I made my way down the to-do list, which included cleaning through the children's clothes in the attic. What a task, considering we have every size up to 13, in both genders. Yikes!! All was going well, as most sizes were contained to one Rubbermaid container, until I reached girls, size 12/13. I soon found myself surrounded by three containers full! Completely baffled, I started rummaging through all of Anna's middle school clothes. It was a perfect blend of Abercrombie and Fitch, American Eagle, and Gymboree. Yes, Gymboree. Then it all came back to me. Those initial middle school years, when they are still our little girls, but they are trying, yearning, seething to catapult out of that nest. When we are trying so hard as parents to keep them sheltered and innocent,and their naïve teenage minds think they can embrace all that the real world brings them, not knowing what that real world is actually like. Hence I remember being so thrilled in the fact that we could still get size 12 in Gymboree! My excitement was never matched by my daughter's reactions. So there was a lot of compromising in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. She never wore the Gymboree (though I obviously did not return anything, so I was holding onto hope) and I eventually let her wear Jeans and a couple of T-shirts from The "hip" stores. Now in high school, I secretly smile every time I see my daughter going to my closet to borrow something. :-) And although I get after her for not always returning things, I am overjoyed in the fact that she has found on her own a conservative way of dressing and looking beautiful, and treasured. When she returned home from school on that attic clean out day, I looked at her in the eyes and apologized for trying to dress her in Gymboree at the ages of 12 and 13. She just threw a big smile back at me. I think that she understood that I had good intentions.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Monday, August 25, 2014
On Sunday morning, we were all getting ready for mass, and Joseph lays his newly pressed pair of khakis on the edge of the bed. He then gets in the shower. Meanwhile, Luke was laying in the middle of our bed, which quickly attracted Olivia, Joshua, and Eliana. The king size bed, covered in a mountain of down blankets and pillows, topped off with a cute baby, was too much to resist! They were rolling and doing somersaults off the left side, then the right side..... you can only imagine Joseph's face when he walked out of the bathroom in his boxers, anticipating that his nicely pressed pants were on the side of the bed still obediently waiting for him. The kids had already moved on, and left a mound of wrinkled church pants on top of the bed. I cannot tell you how hard I was laughing. I think I actually had tears coming out of my eyes. It was just one of those moments. And now that the kids are back in school today, you would think that I would be excited to have some order back in the house, and have time to make everything neat, organized, and clean again, but I miss them so much. :-(. My heart physically aches this time of year, when we are saying goodbye to summer, and goodbye to the freedom of having lazy days. I long to look out the window and see them playing explorer together, with their binoculars and bug boxes, and little straw hats on their heads. I already miss seeing my 12-year-old give soccer lessons to the younger ones in the front yard. I miss seeing Anna contrive up a new smoothie recipe, while dancing around the kitchen with Olivia to her Frozen music. Although there is much to mourn, I know there is much to celebrate. I know they are learning and growing, and experiencing new opportunities as we speak. Sigh.....
Friday, August 22, 2014
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Monday, August 18, 2014
With Love, Luke
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Sweet four month old Luke is proudly sporting his stripes in these cute leg warmers, providing warmth to his little legs, and easy access for diaper changes. Mommy gives these two thumbs up!
Friday, August 15, 2014
Today he will get his second chest tube removed, as well as his heart leads. This will make it much easier to pick him up and cuddle. Yeah! He does have some residual congestion as a result of the breathing tube, and will continue to be on a low dose of oxygen, and LASIK to remove the extra fluid around his heart. We were able to see his chest X-ray taken right before surgery, and his heart was taking up 2/3 of his chest cavity. Like any muscle, if its working hard all the time, it will get bigger. ❤ Seeing that xray made it even more real for us. Now that its fixed, over time, it will resume to a more normal size.
Yesterday evening, the hospital chaplain stopped by for a visit. He commented on how much he loves this hospital, as it is filled with so much love and healing. I have to admit, when we came to Levines Children Hospital for the first time on Monday, I was thinking the opposite. I couldn't get over seeing sick kids in wheel chairs and hospital beds, and wanted to see those children free from these walls, doing things that kids should be doing. But the chaplain was right. Isn't this life? Curve balls can be thrown at us at any time. Sometimes we can jump, sometimes we can move to the side and have a "close call", and sometimes they just hit us. And instead of pleading "why me", these are the opportunities for us to use our faith. To be reminded not to take things for granted. To be reminded that our Father does not abandon us. To bring us together as brothers and sisters through L❤VE, through His presence.
Dear Heavenly Father, today we are so grateful for Luke's life, for these amazing doctors and nurses, and for taking all of our fears and anxiety away during this process. Thank you for helping us accept the unknowns, and filling us with your peace and love. We will forever be grateful for this. Amen.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
His first night in the hospital was a steady and uneventful one. No major surprises surfaced, and Joseph and I were actually able to get some sleep. We had an incredible nurse that stayed with Luke the entire night, administering different medications which seemed like every 10 minutes, turning alarms off, moving tubes and wires around, etc. Talk about a high stress job! Thank God for good competent nurses. This morning they extubated him, and with that, he had some strider, which they medicated him for. They are going to wean him off the Phenol today, and put him on a low dose of morfeine. He should be able to resume eating today.