Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What Dreams Are Made Of.

We are gearing up for the lunar new year next month, the year of the ram. I am preparing a fun lesson plan for Ella's class, Ella and I are collaborating on a lunar new year card to send out to everyone since we completely dropped the ball on a Christmas card. Any time I get the paint out, she's thrilled.
We also spent a great day at our art museum celebrating Martin Luther King. Each of our kids created a patchwork square to be displayed with others. Ava's dream was to be Paw Patrol.

Roz's dream was all about her cat love.

And Ella's dream was to fly a plane one day. (We hope you do, Ella!)

The kids spent some time enjoying one of my favorite art installations ever, "Anything Can Break". You can walk, skip, dance under the hundreds of pretty boxes hung from the ceiling and sensors detect movement with a variety of ethereal sounds.

Ella got lost in her own little dream-like dance.

Roz and Ella's dreams were made real when they realized they were getting a slumber party that night due to the MLK holiday. Henry was pretty excited too.

Part of the week was spent going to work with me and completely taking over my office...
...investigating the snow dusting left on the remnants of last year's garden...

...cuddling up with a late arrival Christmas present from cousin Haley...

...and the good news of MY healed broken foot!

At the urging of Larry, I took a whirlwind trip down to see Marie, Jesse and the rest of the family. I left early Friday morning with everything in place for Ella to get to school under Larry's steering. I was happy to get the "great drop off!" text. As long as I give her a clear-cut series of events as to why I am leaving, how long I will be gone and when I will return - she consistently proves to be the Big Game Player.

And I got to do this.

And I got to talk to Marie, even though she never opened her eyes or indicated that she knew I was there. I got to rub her head and tell her stuff. And it was right where I was supposed to be.

It wasn't until late Friday night that I noticed this painting from a very young Ella during one of Marie's rounds of chemo and radiation. It has been hanging on their kitchen cabinet all this time. It kind of took my breath away.

I was able to stay the night with Aunt Kay and Uncle Pete in this little gem of a home. They live in such a beautiful neighborhood.
Jesse gave me Marie's boogie board - her sole means of communication when she could not talk.
And then I noticed this: the bird clock from my grandma's house. It immediately took me back to her home, the big picture window looking out on the backyard, the bird book close by, the funky chandelier that hung overhead. So, yes, there was a lot of, "Wow..." for me in that 24 hours.

And my two loves did just great without me. They went out to dinner together and had a slumber party while watching a movie. I made it home by Saturday afternoon anxious to wrap my arms around them both.

Sunday Snuggles with these two.
As of this writing, Marie is still hanging on in a coma with 24/7 hospice care. For whatever reasons, it isn't time yet and my heart continues to be with them all, fully, while they hold vigil.

The best for last! Ella got her first ever report card. She is doing very well in everything but the only part that really matters to us right now is this:


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Can I take him with me?

From the back seat, “Mama, when we go to heaven, are we allowed to take anything with us?” Always while we are in the car, the biggest stuff comes out. (One exception: while showering last week, she peeked in to ask me what her birth mother’s name was!)

I knew where this was going and I knew why it was on her mind. I paused to gather my thoughts. “Are you worried about Panda, Ella?” Yes, she was. I thought about explaining how none of our ‘stuff’ here matters in heaven. Instead, I told her God understands how much Panda means to her and that he would be with her as long as she needed him, even in heaven.

It has been a long seven days for our family. Our little beacon of grace and strength, cousin Marie, has been fading peacefully under the care of wonderful hospice nurses. We knew this would be coming as she stopped all treatment for cancer. But we thought we had a few more months, you know? Don’t we always think that?

Since Marie, Jesse and their children live about four hours south of us, we arranged a time for Ella and me to ‘talk’ to her. Jesse held the phone up to her ear and we said our good-byes. KatieRoz were at our house at the time so Roz was able to talk to her as well. Looking your child square in the eye and being practical and honest about death is not as difficult as I thought it would be. You throw on your big girl pants and just dive in, which is how I try to handle most in life.

It doesn’t mean it didn’t break my heart wide open to hear these little girls tell Marie to sleep well. It doesn’t mean my throat didn’t catch when I whispered to her that I’d see her on the other side.

Earlier this week, Jesse changed his FB profile picture to this:

Marie, 34 years ago on New Year’s Day 1981. I can’t take my eyes off this photo. It holds promise and newness; there is a slight tinge of orneriness. She is truly herself here, comfortable with whomever was on the other side of the camera.

Even as we wait and prepare for the next steps, we will do our solid best to hold on to the promise, newness and yes, even that orneriness she is showing us here. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

they need love and we have love to give.

You will never be able to convince me otherwise: the only real way to teach your child how to care for others or how to 'each other' is by actually doing it around them, with them so that they learn from your behavior. I'd like to think this is on the front burner at our home all the time because we really try.

When we sat down Roz and Ella last Friday and explained to them what our Friday afternoon adventure was going to entail, I borrowed a line from one of my favorite Todd Parr books (We Belong Together, and thus title to this blog) to explain our trip to the Ronald McDonald House. It worked. TeamAddy was ready to go.

Our little friend, Addy, had major cleft palate surgery performed on Friday morning. The Ho family was all set to have extended stay at the RM House from Thursday until her discharge date. Behind the scenes, I contacted the House Director to see how we could help and give back to the House for taking such good care of our friends. Everything aligned perfectly as they needed someone to prepare dinner for all 14 families on Friday night.

Mary Pat, Katie, Ella, Roz, Thomas and I had a wonderful time in the huge kitchen. The kids could not have been better.

We did all this quietly so that neither Sara nor John would feel guilty or obligated to come over while we were there. Addy's surgery was a success. Rockstar Addy also handled the recovery period after the long surgery quite well which meant they could steal away for dinner at the House.

Oh the tears and smiles when they walked in!! The relief from weeks of worrying, the nail biting during the surgery - all of it - seemed to wash away as we all gathered around the kitchen table. Oh and the food wasn't too bad either.

It was my first experience volunteering there. I was impressed at the community support our particular House gets and how smoothly everything runs. It is top on my list of "must do again soon!".

And our little Addy? Well, don't think major surgery is going to get the best of her. That little stinker did so well that she was discharged from the hospital on Saturday! She really is a dynamo.

I was super happy to take this post-surgery selfie with her on Sunday.

Way to go TeamAddy!


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wheels are turning in all different directions.

My little bookworm! Ella is progressing so well in her reading. Yay Ella! I can't believe how her little wheels turn, how her imagination seems to go non-stop from morning until night. Most of her free-time is spent doing the following:

  • Teaching to her imaginary students in her bedroom.
  • Playing with dragons.
  • Playing My Little Pony.
  • Singing Frozen tunes 
  • Reading
  • Bossing (imaginary students or the cats)

Long gone are the days of Thomas the Train and setting up train tracks all over the living room floor. She will still play with cars or planes. But 90% of her play is done up in her bedroom usually with Thomas and Mavis lounging somewhere in the midst of her toys or books or the ten other things she has strewn about the room.

Long gone are the days of a meticulous room, especially as she got ready for bed. Oh the fits she used to have if just one little thing was out of place on her dresser or bookshelves! Her need to control all that has finally calmed down which is great. The messy bedroom we get in return is not so great.

We had multiple snow days or late starts due to weather and below zero temperatures over the last week. It has made getting back into the groove of school and routines quite difficult. She's hit the 1/2 way point of the school year and dang, I can't believe it.

We did take advantage of one snow day and saw the movie Annie. I even snagged two more kids, Josh and Claire, before we met up with KatieRoz.

The kids were big fun and so was the movie. You know what else comes with winter break and snow days? Relaxed 'bedtime protocol'. I have lost count how many times this happened in the last month. See how well she shares the bed? One day she won't want to do this and based on how quickly time is flying, that one day could be next month for all I know. We certainly don't have the room (queen sized bed) or the sanity to do this every night but we will admit to the deepest sleep having her right next to us...like all is right with the world.

Larry and I are also trying to be better bookworms in 2015. I've devoured one book and am on my second as of January 15. So, yay me too!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Before we returned to our reguarly scheduled life...

We did ALL the things!!! We had our annual Christmas Break gathering with Roz, Ava, Thomas and the newly initiated Addy at the Ho House. Because John Ho was home, the kids got to bring their swimsuits for hot tub fun. There was no way the moms were venturing out in the frigid temps.

Look at all that cuteness. We are blessed to have these friends who share the same journeys with us. Our children are blessed to have each other, whether they realize it now or not.
We managed to squeeze in a little time with Josh, Claire and Mia at the 11th hour too.

Ella got to bust out one of her favorite gifts - make your own snow globe. She was super proud of her baa-baa black sheep globe (not a panda...I know, crazy).

We headed over to Ruthy's house for her annual NYE bash for a bit, where Ella pretty much made herself at home in between all the adult chatter and celebrations.

The best part? We were home and in bed by 10:40pm. The three of us snuggled into our queen sized bed for the night. I will admit not a soul was awake to smooch at midnight. It didn't matter :)

On New Year's Day, we took the girls to blow off some steam at the mall AND blow some money that was burning holes in their respective pockets. They each left ecstatic with their purchases.

Our three-some enjoyed a great afternoon at the Museum too. Whew, we were busy. Larry doesn't often get to go with us. Ella was delighted and so was I.

A local ballet group performed under one of the art installations and we made a point to get there in time to take in the performance. It was nice and Ella sat riveted but still not enough interest for me to convince her to actually take ballet lessons.

We made it back to school on Monday, only to have a snow day today. She was beside herself that Mother Nature had thrown her this bone. After being home for about 30 minutes this morning, she rattled off a dozen things she wanted to do elsewhere. I'm really hoping we have school tomorrow or she will drive us all nuts.

Stay warm! ~H