Seven weeks ago I started taking a supplement called Thrive and it has changed my life. I wake up at 5:30 every morning excited to exercise and conquer another day. I am in a healthier state both physically and mentally, which is critical when raising a child who cannot do anything for herself.
Elisabeth needs me to be the best I can be - and so I will.
I look at this picture and am somewhat amazed. I reflect back to a few years ago when I was walking with a cane - and even a month ago my back leg was barely getting up off the mat. I have recommitted myself to living a healthy lifestyle and it feels absolutely invigorating!
If you would like more information on Thrive and how it can help change your life, too, I invite you to go to their website and make a customer account so that you can see all the products they have to offer. I promise, you won't regret it!
Next month we are heading south to my old stomping grounds in Southern California. Naturally, we promised the girls a day at Disneyland. After all, it's tradition!
A few days ago Alexandra approached me with a question. She wanted to know if we could go a second day if she paid the admission price for her and her sisters.
"Absolutely." I told her.
For the past few months Alexandra has been working as a Spanish tutor and has carefully been stashing her money away in the bank. After sitting down and calculating the cost she figured out that she will indeed have enough to cover the admission. I am continually proud of Alexandra and the person she is becoming.
Here is a video of her telling Elsa the exciting news:
I was looking at Elisabeth yesterday and marveling. It is an interesting thing to parent a child so unique; quite different than I ever imagined it would be.
I recall a day in particular when I was pregnant with her. I was at the mall and saw a family pushing a wheelchair with a severely handicapped child in it. The girl was not just physically handicapped, but mentally as well. I knew that if Elisabeth were to survive until birth I was looking at a clear image of what my future would be. It was a little frightening, to be honest.
When Elisabeth was born she looked as normal as any other baby. Even in the first few months she seemed like a typical infant - because really, newborns don't do anything other than eat and sleep. But I knew the truth, that other children would grow and learn and progress while Elisabeth stayed behind in a permanent state of babyhood.
And so it has been, Elisabeth is still like a baby. She can't talk or walk or eat. Nor does she understand much or know how to communicate. She has become that girl in the wheelchair at the mall. But it's very different than I imagined it would be. You see, it doesn't feel like a burden, but a privilege. The truth is, when I take Elisabeth out to stores and I see people looking at her, I secretly assume everyone wishes she was theirs. I feel like I am the keeper of an angelic being. And when I look at her, I don't see a person who is lacking, but a child who deep inside holds more wisdom than I could ever comprehend. It's almost as if she's on a different plane than the rest of us, like she can't even be compared to typical humanity.
That is why I marvel, that is why I am grateful, and that is why I feel so blessed that she is mine.
When I arrived at the school to pick her up I had not yet heard if she had won the election. I spotted her across the grass before she saw me. I could see she had a sparkle in her eyes and was standing tall and proud. And I knew. I knew she had won.
One second later she spotted me and came running into my arms, "I won! I won!"
Friday was perhaps my proudest parenting day thus far. As I sat in the gym and watched her sing her speech in front of all her peers I kept thinking, "I can't believe she's mine." At the end of her song I heard a young man behind me say, "Did she just say 'It's your loss if I lose'? I like it. I'm voting for her". I then looked at all the other students and could see that they were all a little bit in awe. To impress an audience of middle schoolers is no easy feat...and she had done it.
Last November Elisabeth had a fundoplication done to prevent vomiting. From the time she was born, Elisabeth vomited all day, every day. This meant I was continually changing bibs, clothes, and bedding. Not to mention the discomfort that she lived with. A fundoplication seemed like the right things to do in order to improve quality of life - for both of us.
Little did I know how it would change her life.
These past few weeks it is as if Elisabeth has awoken from hibernation. For years she has slept the majority of the day. She stopped sitting upright, she stopped playing with toys, she stopped smiling and laughing, and she stopped vocalizing. She was regressing in every way.
What I didn't anticipate with this surgery was the difference it would make in her seizure activity. You see, now that she doesn't vomit, all of her medications stay in. And with her medications staying in, seizures are down to a few a day. And with only having a few a day, her brain has come to life!
She is smiling, laughing, sitting up, playing with toys, interacting...she has even started saying the word 'again' again after several years of silence. It is miraculous. I had mentally resigned myself to the fact that Elisabeth would never regain the skills she had lost - I never imagined this could happen! It has brought us such joy to see our little angel coming to life 'again'.
And to think, there were times during her rough recovery
that I questioned if it had been the right thing to do!
For my birthday in January my brother gave me the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I can say with certainty that it has had more influence on me than any other book - ever - and quickly claimed a spot in my top five.
Outliers dissects the lives of successful people by analyzing the factors that contribute to their success. It immediately had me thinking back to a post that I wrote in 2008 titled Thoughts on Greatness. In that post I thought about the greatest people who have ever lived and wondered, were they predestined for that greatness? Or was it all just a random (yet perfect) aligning of circumstances? These ideas have fascinated me for years and so I found Outliers to be absolutely captivating. One thing I was reminded of after reading it is that we need to work for success...and that when life presents an opportunity it needs to be taken advantage of.
And so I have become an extremely demanding mother. I see my children and the opportunities they have been blessed with in life and refuse to let it all go to waste. Where I used to think,
'Oh, Lorelai went straight to the gym after school and didn't get home until 8:30, I won't make her read.'
I now say,
'Lorelai, you have to go to the gym straight after school and won't be home until 8:30, so wake up early so you can get your reading done.'
My view on childhood has completely changed. I used to view it as a time for children to enjoy being carefree and act on their whimsy. But now I see it as a prep period. This is their prep period for life. This is the time to learn discipline, develop talents, gain confidence, set goals, and figure out who they are. Now is the time to prepare them so that when they turn 18 they are ready to venture out into the world, completely capable of managing themselves and their affairs.
On Friday Elsa was in the music parlor practicing piano. There were some mistakes in the piece she was learning. I told her the problem was with some of the notes as well as the counting. Her timer went off but I explained that she couldn't leave until she corrected the mistakes. She sat and sat and kept asking for me to just show her.
'No,' I said, 'this is something we have gone over before. You need to think it through, solve this on your own. If I just show you, you won't be building problem solving skills. Plus, I would take away the joy that you will feel when you fix the problem and get it right all on your own.'
So she kept sitting and kept working. There were some tears - and a lot of frustration. But I would not bend. I now see each day and each experience as an opportunity for my children to grow in intellect and character.
In the late morning she approached me and asked me to come to the parlor and listen. I did....and it was perfect. Oh, how she beamed! Then she reached over and gave me the tightest hug along with a 'thank you, mom'. She understood why I had made her stick with it and she felt the joy I told her she would feel - a joy that comes from conquering a difficult feat and knowing you never gave up. It was a simple yet profound lesson, one that I am sure will carry on with her to adulthood.
**Stay tuned for more posts in my Outliers inspired series.
Alexandra has decided to run for student body vice president at her middle school. Campaigning begins today and she left with a tall stack of Keep Calm and Vote for Alex posters to hang in the hallways.
She has never ever - in all her 12 years - gone by the name Alex. But as soon as she started middle school teachers and new acquaintances automatically shortened Alexandra to Alex. It has been driving her crazy. When it was time to design the campaign poster we realized that Alexandra was far too long for the layout. So - begrudgingly - she conceded to the name Alex.
Five years ago we got a handicapped placard for Elisabeth. I remember looking at the expiration date of March 2015 - it seemed like forever away. Looking at my then-two-year old Elisabeth it was hard to imagine her at seven. Yet here we are. As always, time keeps marching on and today we got our replacement placard (expiration 3/20 when Elisabeth is 12!).
But enough about that, let's talk about having a handicapped placard. I love it. Raising a child with brain damage is a lot of work - hard work, so I am going to enjoy the perks where they come. Parking up close is necessary because I need space to get the wheelchair in and out, but it is also just plain nice - and I'm not afraid to say it.
I haven't done it yet, but one of these days I'm going to buy Elisabeth one of those shirts that say,
It never ends. It is always there. And for years and years as hard as I tried I could never keep on top of it. There would be piles and piles waiting to get washed, and as I worked to get those piles washed there would then be new piles waiting to get put away. And when at last those piles were finally put away (days later??) there were once again baskets of dirty clothes awaiting me...and so the cycle began again.
On Monday the 16th of February I finally said enough is enough, there has to be a way to win the laundry battle. I began evaluating what exactly the problem was and concluded that it was in the quantity. When doing laundry only once or twice a week there was SO MUCH that it would take me the entire day to rotate it all through the washer and dryer. And because it took the entire day I never had time to get it all put away, so it would then sit piled on my bed or in baskets for days waiting to get folded. There was just too much.
So, I thought, I need to reduce the quantity so that I can get it washed and put away quickly. And the only way to reduce quantity was to increase washing frequency (are you following me?). I set forth a plan of attack:
Every morning when I wake, do two loads of laundry, one dark and one light, of all the clothes, towels, and linens that were soiled the day before. Just two loads. And then get those two loads immediately put away.
Ladies and gentleman, I am proud to announce that my plan worked! I have conquered the laundry!!!! For the past two and a half weeks we have had zero laundry build up. As planned, I have done two loads each day and gotten it all put away before noon. When the children get home from school, all laundry hampers are empty and drawers and closets are full of clean and pressed clothes.
I was putting makeup on in my bathroom when Elisabeth began having a seizure. Immediately, I ran to her side and assured her that Mamma was there. I looked down at my hand and realized I was still holding a makeup brush. So I took it and gently began stroking her cheek with the soft bristles. I thought perhaps it would soothe her, comfort her.
Bibliophilenoun:a person who loves or collects books
There is a thrill I get with books. The way they feel, the way they smell, the thoughts and ideas written on the pages. It excites me.
Above my fireplace I have all my most colorful books stacked in rainbow order. It's like a waterfall of books and it makes me immensely happy.
Of course, with all my colorfully bound books on display there, it left the neutral toned books to go on my bookcase in the corner - all the black, brown, tan, and gray. The bookcase looked drab and lifeless. So I did the only logical thing... I flipped them around so the spines faced backwards, leaving the bright white pages visible.
Alexandra thought I was crazy.
I thought I was brilliant. Peculiar, but brilliant.
That little figurine of the woman is the one souvenir I bought myself in Ethiopia.
We named her Seyba - after Elsa's birth mother.
I call this the bookcase o' mystery - because when you pull a book off the shelf,
you never know what you're going to get!
Side note: I am about to start cataloging all my books, so they will probably only remain this way a short while longer. But that's okay, I like to change things up every few months!
One of my goals for 2015 was to continually make things beautiful in my home. Not that things were drab around here before, but I wanted to go above and beyond to make it special. When the girls are all grown I want them to have memories of a house filled with color, beauty, and fresh cut flowers.
In accordance with my resolution, I decided to spruce up the dining table in honor of Spring, which is just a few short weeks away!
When the children got home from school they oohed and aahed at how pretty the table looked. I have to admit, I oohed and aahed, too. I love it!