Sunday, April 12, 2015

The beauty in our differences

As Cadence is getting older she's having more "new" friends over to our house. Most have only known Cadence for a few months or a year. Almost none of them know that she has a cleft lip/palate. If they ask why her nose is flat on one side or that it looks like she's missing teeth even though she hasn't lost any yet, she'll easily tell them that she it's because of her cleft palate. Of course, I don't think that any of them know what that means. But they got an answer and off they run to the playground.  Until they come to our house.

We have Cadence's referral picture in a frame. The picture that introduced me to my third child. The picture that I stared at endlessly, getting lost in her eyes, wondering if she was being loved and taken care of. Worrying about how she would transition into our family. Wondering if our love would be enough to help get her through whatever has happened to her before she was placed in our arms.

Another one of my favorite pictures that we have out is the first professional ones of my three girls. I swear my heart grows every time I look at the pure joy on their faces! Cadence's big, beautiful cleft smile... I fell in love with it because it was her. I even had a hard time when she had her lip repaired. I missed her cleft smile desperately.

When I look at those pictures now I don't see her cleft lip. I just see her. However, when new friends see the pictures, the cleft is all that they see. It does look dramatic. Most kids have never seen a child with an unrepaired cleft. And I think it can be hard to relate that to the crazy, giggly girl that they know.  Most of them ask questions about it, understandably. Some are a little confused, some listen and move on. A few have said things that can hurt if Cadence is really paying attention. "I'm sure am glad I wasn't born with a cleft" and "That is soooo weird". I don't fault them. They are young kids. I'm sure my kids have said inappropriate things in similar situations.

I know from our six months that Cadence was first home with her unrepaired lip the reactions that happen in stores and on the street. We're standing in the grocery line and Adult makes every effort not to look at Child with cleft. Kid can't stop staring at Child with cleft. Adult grabs staring Kid and whispers "Stop staring" and tries to hustle them away from Child with cleft so they can't see. Back then, I made every effort to reach out to that family though. To explain to kids that this a cleft lip, it's how Cadence was born, just like staring Kid was born with brown hair/freckles/blue eyes. Yes, it looks different and because it makes it hard for her to talk a doctor will fix it one day and her lip will look like most kids. I wanted to use the moment to teach them that it's okay to look and ask questions (hopefully politely) but mostly I wanted them to know that she is a kid just like they are... just one that looks different. Because all of us are different and that's what makes the world kind of awesome! There is beauty in our differences and they don't have to be ignored, just respected.

Cadence is a pretty self assured little girl but I worry that as she gets older about comments that she hears might not roll off her back like they do now. For now I'll try to help my kids see the beauty in everyone's differences as well as the things that makes each of them different from every other person in their class or on the street. Hopefully they will carry that with them where ever they go and with whomever they encounter.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Community Day for Cadence

Last week was Community Day at Cadence's school. I had signed up to help out for 4 hours (!) and wasn't completely enthused about it. My work needed help and I contemplated bailing on volunteering to make a few extra bucks. Ironic, huh, that I was planning to bail on helping out the community ON Community Day! Anyway, I decided to go into work a little later and complete my chore at the school. Before I know it Cadence won't be
 begging me to come volunteer during her class anymore.
**cough, Sierra, cough**
I am so glad I did it! The amount of work and energy that was put into this by the teachers was amazing! The kids had 10 stations to go to and a bag of money to spend. They are learning about money denomination and spending habits. I was in awe at how orderly the whole event was considering the volume of 5-6 year olds involved (all of the kindergarten classes). There were a ton of parents to
help out. The kids' excitement and positive energy in the room left
me feeling all warm and fuzzy! I truly feel blessed that we
have found our way to such a great school and community!
Riding the bus

Stop at the Soda Shop

Everyone needs to do yoga during their busy day

Grocery shopping

I worked the shoe shine station which cost 10 cents. We showed them how to
do it, they handed over two nickels, and shined each others' shoes
 The kids absolutely LOVED shining the VP and teachers' shoes

They watched a "movie"

At the post office they wrote a letter to a friend

Reading at the book store

They got to take home the book that they bought

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My last first sentence

Warning **Brag post**
I am so proud of my littlest! Earlier in the year I was told that she passed her basis kindergarten assessment but "just barely". Because she has "The Best Kindergarten Teacher Ever" Mrs.Abell was on it. She sent home a computer ABC sight/song for us to use as well as a baggie of other goodies for Cadence to play and learn with. Since Cadence loves to "play school" she was very excited about this. Cadence also started working with a book buddy one on one during the school week. I only freaked out a "bit" when this all started. We've been very lucky that school and learning have come pretty easily to my kids so this was my first experience with one that needed extra work.
Last week Cadence came home with this drawing and sentences that she wrote ALL ON HER OWN! We were so proud and she was so proud of herself! Let me translate the phonetic
spelling for you.
My family is a good family. We go to the movie theatre. We are go to
Once space ran out she was done and her speech deficit shows up in "theatre" because that is how she would sound it out. But, dang! Thanks to her fabulous teacher, book buddy, and lots of hard work, she's come a long way, Baby!

Monday, February 2, 2015

A gift from the heart

When I was 8 years old my grandfather gave me a dollhouse for Christmas. He had spent almost 1 1/2 years meticulously working on it. The details in the house are amazing! Popsicle sticks for the roof, actual wallpaper inside, handmade furniture, some of which were replicas of antique furniture in our very own home. Our current address at the time was 4484 Wrangell Place and that was the painted on the house. There was even a tiny framed picture of my brother and me! Included in the attic storage space was a Christmas tree with presents. Inside the house was tiny magazines, a toilet with a moving handle to "flush", a washer and dryer and even a holder for the silverware. My Gram helped pick out the rug and wallpaper and my great grandmother, Dub-dub, made the curtains, bedding, and baby clothes. The dollhouse and my Pops had a write up in the local Wheeling paper too!
Even at a young age I knew that it was a special treasure. It was one of a kind and made with love and his whole heart. And now I am so lucky to be able to pass it on to my girls. It has been at my parent's house where they would play with it when they visited but we decided it was time to have it in our home full time. Laurel and Cadence are thrilled! They have loved setting it up and playing with it together. It makes my heart full to see it! I feel very lucky to be able to pass the love and hard work of my Pops be appreciated by my own children. I can only hope one day that their kids will play with it too!
I love how the whole house opens up. And so much storage
space in the attic (cue the realtor's voice!).

Even the back and sides open for easy access.
I loved playing with the miniature board game and presents.

The detail in this furniture is amazing!

A tiny picture of me and my brother!

The local write up that states "a gift which will be a part of their lives forever...
possibly a part of their childrens' lives". That is my Pops and Dub-dub.
I always loved this tiny storage spot with the washer and dryer.

My girls enjoying it now!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Made of AWESOME!

This girl is made of Awesome! She put that outfit together and she totally owed it! She owns everything that she builds, says, makes, creates. No holds barred. She has her moments of shyness and bashfulness and regret. But most of the time she is wide open, full of life and joy, and taking the world by storm. 

As we were walking into the grocery store the other day she was skipping ahead singing "I'm cool. I'm awesome. I'm cool. I'm awesome!" Laurel and Sierra trailed behind saying "Mom, she sounds kind of conceited. You should tell her to stop." I can't. I just can't do it. I said to my older girls that Cadence has her whole life to be knocked down. Someone will knock her down at some point if she doesn't do it to herself first. If she can retain a portion of her self-love and self-confidence, that will be a win. But it will change eventually. There will be a boy, or a frenemy, or an outright bully that will make her stop and question all of her awesomeness. Sadly, it may even be the voice in her own head after seeing a commercial on TV or a supermodel in a magazine. She will question her looks, her strength, her smarts, her worth. She will question and compare and wonder if she's good enough, if she's smart enough, if she's "fill in the blank" enough. That is the sad fact of life. I sure as hell am not going to be the one to knock her down.

Don't get me wrong. I'm fully aware that she shouldn't skip her way down Wall Street chanting "I'm cool. I'm awesome!" as she swings her briefcase. At least not out loud. But my wish for her, is that she will sing it in her head. I hope that she holds on to the confidence that she has when she looks in the mirror at her stripes and polka dots and her crazy hair that she "did all on my own" and can say to herself  on a regular basis "I kinda kick ass. I'm smart, I'm strong, and I have worth." You are made of Awesome, Cadence. Don't ever forget or doubt it, baby girl!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why I said "yes" to Nepal

Brad is currently in Nepal. He's hiking. For 3 1/2 weeks. When I reveal these details (no, it's not humanitarian and yes, he's there for almost a month) jaws tend to drop a bit. Brad said to me one night "My friends are in awe of you that you are letting me do this".  I told him "My friends are in awe of me to for letting you do this!" as I laughed. Even after being married for 13 years it still strikes me as odd.  This notion that even as an adult we are in a place where we need permission to do certain things. I get it. I'm not saying that it's not valid. It just feels strange when you think about it. My kids say that they can't wait to grow up so that they can do whatever they want. That's not always the case though.

Brad has always watched shows about Mt. Everest. He hiked the Appalachian Trail when he younger and made a couple of attempts at long hikes as an adult. I know that when he is in the woods and hiking he finds a kind of peace that is hard for him to find elsewhere. (Personally I'm able find that kind of peace on a massage table!) When he told me almost a year ago that hiking the Annapurna circuit in Nepal is something that he hoped to do in 2014 I asked the usual questions.  Is it safe, how much does it cost, how long? I thought about it for a minute and then said "Okay". He looked at me skeptically. "Really? I didn't think it would be that easy." I didn't think it would be either. Granted, it's not a foreign concept for Brad to be gone for long periods. When he was in grad school he spent about 8 out of 16 months in Maryland and West Virginia, although he typically came home on the weekends. That was also 4 years and 1 kid ago. But the kids are older now and life is a little easier in terms of the physical labor of kids!

I've been trying to figure out why it was so easy for me to agree for him to go. I can't really come up with a solid answer other than it just felt like the right thing to do. He encouraged me to go to Uganda last year when I faltered about the difficulty of arranging childcare. I knew it was a life long dream of his to see the Himalayas. Marriage is a work in progress. Sometimes you have to put in more work to make progress. I guess I agreed to work a little more knowing all that he would get out of a trip like this and what the gesture could do for our marriage. It was on opportunity for me to "fill his bucket". I know that Brad's realistic enough to not ask for something this "big" very often and he has expressed his gratitude and appreciation almost daily. It felt well worth the sacrifice to help him achieve a bucket list item.

**Post note: This was obviously started a little while ago and I'm just now finishing it up! Brad came home a little early because he missed the girls and me a lot. Once he saw the Himalayas and finished his trek it felt like it was time to come home. I'm glad that he got what he needed. My time was fairly easy actually with lots of good girlfriend time! One week after Brad went through the Thorung La pass there was a a freak blizzard that killed many trekkers. There is almost never precipitation this time of year on the trail. It's scary to know that had his days been off by just a bit... I'm praying for those hikers and their families.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The downside of Disney's Frozen on Ice

A few months ago I saw tickets for Disney's Frozen on Ice go on sale. Even Sierra loved the movie and they have watched it countless times in the car and we have listened to the CD to death (possibly my death!). Brad suggested that it might be a good "girls night" so I talked my sweet friend Lisa into joining us! I'm not gonna lie... it was pretty awesome! Great skating, cool effects, happy kids. What's not to love?

And this. This is why I love Lisa!

Very cool monster effects

Beautiful costumes

Don't deny it... You just started singing "Let it go"!

Cadence catching "snow" as it fell into the audience.  
We later discovered that it was actually bubbles. 

And this... what can make one happier than Olaf?

Except a particularly adorable 5 year old who loves Olaf!

And this sweet smile (I'm not neglecting Sierra, sadly she just stopped hamming it up for the camera a few years ago)

A little smile from her

Unfortunately though, while all of this kids looked like this:

I was sitting next to them feeling like this:

Why?  Because these days are numbered. And going fast. So, so very fast.  I feel like it was just last year that we took Sierra to go see Dora when she was two years old. I don't even think that she understood exactly what was happening on stage but when everyone else clapped you'd have thought Sierra just watched her favorite Olympian take the gold! She was so freaking excited! I swear, we did that just last year. Then last month we brought Cadence home from China as she toddled around with her big, beautiful cleft smile. Yet somehow this morning she hopped out of my car with her oversize back pack and walked right into kindergarten. It. Makes. My. Heart. Ache. 

Don't get me wrong. Brad and I already talk about the trips that we will take and the things that we will do in 13 years when the last one heads off to college. However, I'm already getting a strong taste of teenage-hood. And I have to admit that I kind of prefer a preschooler meltdown to it. I know, I know, there are lots of good things about the kiddos growing up. And that's what we brought them here to do, right? To guide them through this world, hopefully get some of it right and send them out on their way to be good, kind, contributing members of society.  I just want it to slow down a little bit. Maybe a lot. I want to know that someone will always be there to excitedly throw her arms around my neck when I get home. I want to have a little one to cuddle in my lap when I read a book. I want sweet, homemade cards with hearts all over it "just because". I want it all for a little longer than it's going to last. It's almost enough to think about having another. We did actually start the paperwork for a second adoption this past winter. Then reality smacked us in the face when we realized that most days we barely keep our heads above water with three. So, we stopped. I think what I realized is that I don't necessarily want another child, I just want more time with the ones I've already got. 

So instead of lamenting I'm going to try and be more intentional with my time with my girls. While there are certainly days when I count the minutes til bedtime (and I won't pretend like I shouldn't ever feel that way) these days are flying by. It's time to put more focus in the right places.