Monday, October 24, 2011

If Happy Little Bluebirds Fly...

One of my all time favorite and most beloved movies has always been “The Wizard of Oz”. I watched it growing up with my dad. He is a lover of music and musicals, so it was the perfect movie for him to introduce me to as a little girl. As most children do, I always wondered if there could be a world somewhere out there, beyond the rainbow. Another more colorful world than ours? Why not? Little munchkins, a Tin Man, Lion, and a Scarecrow? Sure! I can’t remember when I realized that, no, this was an impossibility. I cherish those early days of “anything goes”! No matter how or when I figured out that these were just things to dream about, the magic of those thoughts has never left me.

If I squint hard enough, I can see Elise all throughout this movie. Her life in general feels like an out of control tornado, tossing and turning her every which way. She has faced head on her own kind of wicked witch. I would love to see the day that the virus that did so much damage to Elise (CMV), would be demolished as if landed on by a falling house, never to harm another unborn baby again! As far as courage goes, I don’t know if she’s actually had that. She doesn’t really have a choice in how to face her hardships. Sometimes I thank God that she isn’t any more aware of her own situation. On a lighter side, I think she definitely shares the sentiments of the Scarecrow. She’s got a brain, but she needs a better one! In this adventure that is Elise’s life, I know that the main prize in the end is for her to one day make it to the Emerald City with streets made of gold!

With all of the beautiful music in this film, the song that truly captures the essence of Elise’s life is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. I always think of Elise when I hear this song. Not because of Dorothy, the movie, or happy childhood memories. I see the place described as “over the rainbow” as heaven. Those of us who know Jesus and have a daily, personal relationship with Him are the “happy little bluebirds”. I hear Elise’s voice questioning,

“If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh why can’t I?”

In other words, just because she can’t think the way we do, understand the way we do, commit herself to God the way we do, does that take away from her having a relationship with Jesus and joining all of us “happy little bluebirds” over the rainbow in heaven?

Something that has always nagged me has been--Does Elise know God? Does she know who Jesus is? The question remains, since she has a soul, but no capacity to make decisions concerning it, will she essentially have a “free pass” into heaven? My confusion over this issue has been tossed into the messy closet of my mind, already full of puzzling uncertainties only to be answered by God himself.

When faced with this confusion, I have gone straight to the source of all answers- the Bible. Among many other verse references, in Romans 1, Paul argues that people who know God and do not follow him are without excuse and will not enjoy eternity in heaven. Since Elise doesn’t have the ability to hear or understand this knowledge, much less submit to it, will she be held accountable for it? This Mama’s answer is no, of course not. What a wonderful comfort to read the words of David in 2 Samuel 12:23 after losing his baby son. He said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

When I listen to this song, over the rainbow is not a land from a lullaby, but from the Word of God. This land was promised to every soul who came to trust Jesus as their personal savior and invited Him to live within their heart. I think it is safe to say that Elise’s name has already been written in the Book of Life. Whether she knows God in a way created just for her, or whether she has to wait until death to be introduced to her Savior, it doesn’t really matter. All that I care about is that she have the opportunity to live eternity in heaven.

Being over the rainbow for Elise means that, finally, for her, skies are blue, and her dreams will come true. The clouds will forever be behind her. All of her troubles will melt like lemon drops, and she will be taken far above the chimney tops… straight into the waiting arms of Jesus.

(This video was made by my husband. We used my absolute favorite version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Harry Nillson.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Costume Madness!!!

Ever since Chris and I met back in 1995, we have always taken Halloween costumes very seriously. Before marriage and kids, we dressed up together for parties. My favorite was the year I went as a cat and Chris was Animal Control. He made up a uniform and led me around all night on a leash (very anti-feminist, I know!) We had a blast.

After Lane came along, it only took one year of a cute store bought duck costume before we decided that it would be fun to make them at home -- stuff you can’t really find at the store. Lane wasn’t into Power Rangers, Superman, or Harry Potter, so we had to get creative. We all started brainstorming ideas starting in the summer. We would pick a favorite and then figure out the best way to create it. My husband, Chris, is the creative mind in our family, so the task always falls directly on him (Don’t let him tell you he doesn’t love it!) He has perused the aisles of Home Depot, Lowe’s, Halloween stores, The Dollar Tree, and Walmart searching for the just the right materials and parts for each costume. He always surprises me with his resourcefulness and ingenuity.

In about the 1st grade, Lane wanted to gain a certain freedom from these elaborate costumes, so we cut some holes in a sheet and he went as a ghost. The next year, he was a skeleton (easy peasy). Well, this year, Lane will officially pass the “Homemade Costume” torch along to his little brother. Ty will have just turned 3, which is a perfect age for this sort of thing. For the first year, he understands what we are going to do, and he is pretty excited about dressing up. Ty has, in the first few years of his life, worn store bought costumes (Resale shops have always proved to be treasure troves of costumes for all of my kids.) I am so excited, though, that this year we have decided to go with Oscar the Grouch. We like to be pretty authentic, so I’m pretty sure Ty will be spending most of his night wearing a trash can!

Elise has always been something that is easy to wear. I’ve seen pictures on the internet of extravagant costumes for kids in wheelchairs, but never did any of that. Her costumes are limited because she can’t keep any kind of head piece or ears on, and any sort of wings have to be attached to the back of the wheelchair! We always dress her up, though, and take her around with the other kids to trick-or-treat. I try to get all of her costumes at resale shops because it isn’t like she is going to be playing dress up with them throughout the year like most little girls. This year I am looking for something a little different from past years. Maybe a cute leopard outfit...

As for Lane, well, I expect he will pick something easy and comfortable. After all, when you’re 9-years-old, isn’t it all about the candy anyway?

I will post pictures of all the kids in their final costumes after Halloween!

He literally walked very stiff just like the Tin Man. He was tired at the end of the night. Daddy and Popi carried him to the car!

Enjoying Fall Fest at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church. This was Elise’s 1st year to wear the 50’s costume. She wore it another year as well.

On our way to a Halloween party! I was pregnant and went as a country hick. It wasn’t too much of a stretch for me -- other than the teeth! Chris and Lane both won costume contests that night.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Seeds, Cookies, and Buckteeth

Last night we had GiGi and Popi over to carve a pumpkin and bake cookies. I think it was our best “Halloween pumpkin carving night” yet. This year I decided to turn the activity of creating a Jack-O-Lantern into a Christian devotional that compares the act of carving a pumpkin to the making of a Christian. I googled ideas of how to pull God into this Halloween boat that we love to sail on every October. After all, anytime is a good time to talk about Jesus, right?

We look forward to this holiday every year because it means we get to start putting up the first of many seasonal decorations for the year and begin brainstorming ideas for homemade costumes (As I am writing this, my husband is at the kitchen table with green yarn and a glue gun creating an Oscar the Grouch costume for Ty!) But each year, I search for ways to weave our faith in Jesus Christ into the annual quilt of holidays and celebrations (Christian based or not). I will write out the devotional at the end of this post if anyone wants to use it with their kids. If you have already carved your pumpkin, you can still go over it with them. I thought it was a good visual lesson for my kids to recall every time they see a Jack-O-Lantern.

The boys getting yucky! Watch the knife, Daddy!

Elise had to come inside because the mosquitos were attacking her! They love her and began biting before we even thought to spray her with OFF! The rest of us didn’t even get 1 bite. She must have super sweet skin...

We always bake our pumpkin seeds. I remember taking baggies of these to high school and getting sick from eating them all day. You can’t stop at just a few!

GiGi with Lane and Ty. These seeds were polished off in just a few minutes!

Halloween cookies! This is as good as it gets as far as making cookies goes. I’ll save my more creative baking for Christmas!

(That picture doesn’t look posed at all, does it?)

Sneaky little hand!

All of the kids with their pumpkin (the one under Lane’s arm). We took about 20 pictures, and this is as good as it got! Elise was too interested in her hands to give me a good shot with her pretty face in it!

Just a silly picture of Lane on our porch. I would like to call attention to our address. Kind of spooky! OOOOooooo…

My husband is a very creative and crafty kind of guy, but for some reason, our Jack-O-Lanterns always seem to come out pretty simple. They made this one with buck teeth. I guess that was easier than carving a grin full of teeth!

Christian Pumpkin Carving Devotion

Being a Christian is just like a pumpkin! Let’s carve a pumpkin and I’ll show you what I mean.

First, God picks you from the pumpkin patch and brings you in from the field. The Bible says He selects us out of the world. We are in the world, but no longer of the world.

He then washes all the “dirt” off the outside that we received from being around all the other pumpkins. All the outside influences of our former life must be cleaned up. Old things are passed away and all things become new.

Then, He carefully removes all the “yucky stuff” called “sin” out from the inside. (begin to pull out all of the slimy insides) Sin will not have such internal power. He then changes us from the inside out by the Power of His Word. That’s why it is important to go the church and learn about God’s Word. He carefully removes all those seeds of doubt, hate, greed, and fear. He replaces them with the seeds of faith, hope and love. After Jesus is invited inside, you begin to experience the changing power of God’s love in your life.

Then He carves a new smiling face. Our countenance is changed by the power of His presence in our life. We then become so grateful. It can even show on our face!

Now we light the candle inside. This pumpkin now reflects the light from inside out. So too, when Jesus, who is called the Son of Light, lives inside of us, He shines through our life for all to see. We can let His light reflect through us to reveal His presence. “Let your light so shine before men that they may be able to see your good works and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.”

So you see, we Christians are really like this pumpkin! We will never be the same with Jesus inside of us. We can say like this jack-o-lantern, “Thy presence, my light!”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stuck in the Middle...and Loving It!

*** Ok, this is my longest post so far. It is about the relationship between Elise and her brothers. I tried my best to keep it short, but that was impossible! ***

My family took a walk the other day around our neighborhood. Does it get any better than that? Everyone together, talking, laughing, racing, holding hands. It dawned on me that evening that Elise is in the perfect placement in our family. A big brother to look out for her and a little brother to look up to her (if only in the literal sense!)

Lane was not yet 2 when Elise was born. He doesn’t remember life without her. I definitely hold the memories close to my heart of the time where it was just Lane and I. Those were the innocent days of a life dreamed about. A life with a husband, a child, a house, and a future filled with brothers and sisters (I wanted lots of kids!) After the birth of Elise, everything shifted. Lane became an instant big brother to a sister who would never mentally grow out of infancy. Although he grew up through his earliest years with her, I’m sure there were times that he still felt like an only child. There was a total lack of any play, communication, or even fighting between the two of them. Of course, there was always the competition of needs. She may not have been taking his toys and competing for my attention in the playroom, but so much of my time was spent with her in therapy, at appointments, and caring for her special needs at home.

Lane and his Sissy

After Elise’s birth and the realization of our new future, we settled down with the thought that we would not have any more children. As a matter of fact, a certain surgery was scheduled for my husband! It was ultimately canceled the day before it was to happen, because I developed a major case of cold feet at the prospect of no more kids. Who knew? If Elise were to pass away in her first few years, we would most likely want another child.

She didn’t die, and life became easier. We had achieved a new normal. Knowing that it was important to both my husband and I that Lane have another sibling with whom to share his childhood as well as his adult life, we decided to ask God for another child. Ty came along at the perfect time. He injected our family with a much needed dose of God’s grace. He was a breath of fresh air, and the house was again filled with the typical adventures of a family enjoying a newborn baby. We began putting him in Elise’s lap from the very beginning, letting her feel his fuzzy hair and plump cheeks.

Ty and his Sissy

To this day, Ty has never acted like anything odd is going on with Elise. I’m sure he believes that there is a kid like her in every family. Why not? If we had a unicorn in our house for all of this time, he wouldn’t know the difference with that either. Neither of my boys have a “Before Elise” perception of the world. What they know has always included her. I pray that Lane and Ty feel as if Elise has a definite part to play in our family. Maybe not for moral support or as a role model, but as a sister.

Lane will be her protector, her defender when words are used against her. He knows exactly how she likes to be patted on the head when upset, and he can accurately explain her situation to anyone that asks. As a smaller child, he would tell people, “When she is in heaven, she will see, hear, run, jump, sing and play!” That made him feel better about all of the things that his baby sister was missing out on here on earth.

Lane loving on Elise

Lane watched his sister grow from being a baby to a little girl, but Ty has only known her as the big girl she is now. I think he sees her as an older sis, even if he passed her up at around the age of 3-months-old! He loves helping her in from the bus. “I’ll do it!” he yells, as he shoos me back toward the house, as if he could personally push her wheelchair up the sidewalk and in the door. He feels a responsibility toward Elise. When she cries, he runs to find her paci. Looking in my rear view mirror, I will see him holding her hand, in a display of brotherly love.

What must it be like to grow up with a sister that you can’t share memories with? The boys will have to hold on tight to the ones they have and share them with each other as they grow. My brother and I have always been able to share our memories of childhood.

"Remember when we slept side by side on Christmas Eve and told each other what gifts we knew the other would get in the morning?"

"Remember when you dared me to climb that tall pine tree and I got stuck so dad had to get me down?"

Unfortunately, this cannot happen with my boys and their sister. The “remember when's” can come from me, though. One day they will only have their memories and photographs as a reminder of their relationship with Elise as they were growing up. In these pictures, I can see a big brother and a little brother who have shared their lives with Elise in the most unique fashion. Never a song sung together, nor a toy shared. No reciprocation from the little girl that they know as Sissy. But, apparently, when that is all that you know, it doesn’t seem to matter. What must it be like to know that this person that you shared many of your childhood experiences with will never understand or remember them? Is an experience any less important and lasting if only remembered by one of the people involved?


Happy New Year!

Brother and sister bath time

Although we have often talked about the perks of having Elise as a sister (no fighting over toys and games, an abundant supply of cool toys in her room to play with…), I’m sure that the boys would welcome the regular perils of a brother/sister relationship in exchange for a sibling who is whole and well. And, oh, what I would give to have to break up a fight or yell into the backseat, “Lane don't touch your sister again!”, or, “Elise get out of your little brother’s room.”

I know that each of my boys will grow into men that were shaped by something very different than those around them. The life of their sister, and their position as her brothers, will etch a deep groove into whom they become. After years around Elise, you can’t help but develop empathy, patience, a certain amount of tolerance, and a greater kindness toward others. These are the gifts that she can give her brothers.

I asked Lane recently if he ever felt as if he is missing out on something when it comes to his sister. He said, “No, because I’m fortunate that she’s different. It has caused something in our family.” I asked him what that meant. He continued, “We’ve grown more in God by it- we have more faith.” I knew exactly what he meant by that. I know these words sound like those of a child who has listened to his parents talk a time or two around the kitchen table. Whether he is echoing what he has heard or not, I know that he truly feels this in his heart. We have taken the role as teachers and trainers very seriously with our kids. Often, though, so much of what they say or feel comes from their hearts alone, untouched by what we have so lovingly poured into them.

So, I got to thinking-- what is a sister? A female who has the same mom and/or dad? A friend for life? Someone to laugh with, fight with, play with and cry with?

Well, our description of a “sister” has to be tweaked quite a bit. You won’t find our definition in the dictionary. A sister in the Haden family means a one-way relationship. It means loving someone even though you’re not sure that they even know you. It means finding that connection between siblings even though there is no communication or basic “give and take”. I hope that what my boys see from us as her parents is an unconditional kind of love. It’s not a reciprocation of what you are being given. It stands on its own, with nothing in return. That’s a love that isn’t experienced by most.

Elise will always hold a special place and position in our family unit, as well as in the hearts of her brothers. And I bet if she could tell us, she would definitely say that, yes, she is stuck in the middle… and loving it!

We can share!

Hang on tight, Bubba!

Family walk in the neighborhood