Monday, November 28, 2011

'Tis the Season

This is the earliest that we have ever started putting up Christmas. I want to officially thank the checker at Wal-Mart for mentioning Santa to Ty, my 3-yr.-old, back in OCTOBER!!! I can’t even begin to explain how many times I have heard --- “Santa’s coming over?” --- since before Halloween! So, I guess that’s why we were so eager to pop open the Christmas boxes and start decorating. Each year we like to start a fire and put on old Christmas classics (think Bing Crosby and Dean Martin). I grew up listening to this kind of music at my Grandma’s house, so I want to give the same experience to my kids.

Opening up the boxes of ornaments always brings memories of years past. Each year, I let the kids decorate the tree that first night, knowing that the majority of ornaments are going to end up on the bottom most branches. I’m not one of those moms that has a perfect tree that could be featured in Martha Stewart. Not that I don’t want to be that kind of mom. I just know my limitations! I like our tree to just look like a mish mash of this and that. No real theme. Just a tree that tells a story of mine and Chris’ childhood merged with our own kids’ memories.

The boys had fun, but Elise wasn’t feeling well. I was planning on letting her suck on a candy cane, but we will have to wait until she is 100%. Taste is a very strong sense for her, and I love to see the delighted look on her face when given something sweet!

Elise was feeling pretty bad, but hung out with us in her beanbag surrounded by Christmas friends!

The whole family together (rare picture)

Never too big to get on Daddy’s shoulders!

Major concentration!

GiGi and her boys

S’mores time!

Roasting in the fireplace

Careful, Ty!

Lane’s marshmallow caught on fire!

I ate 3.

Ty’s creation...

Loving on my baby girl...

The Christmas season has officially started for Elise when she wears her red sparkle shoes!

We sure love Santa…

But we know who to worship during Christmas!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?

(Kind of a long post. Lots of pictures! Just an update on the family...)

We got a dog. There, I said it. I think if I say it enough, it will sink in. We got a dog.

Lane has been on me about getting a dog for years. This request has always been met with the same answer. Not now and here is why:

  • Dogs cost money. We are trying to save money. It doesn’t add up.
  • Our home life is already crazy and unpredictable -- beyond most people’s crazy and unpredictable lives.
  • Who will be left taking care of the dog? Mama. I am the one home all day. No thanks!
  • Where will we put the dog when we travel? Remember the point about saving money and not spending it?

A few weeks ago during breakfast, he asked me, “Mom, has it crossed your mind to maybe get a dog sometime soon?” He has never been obnoxious about it. He doesn’t beg or nag. He just asks every so often. It was something about that particular time, with his voice so sweet and patient, that pushed me into seriously thinking about bringing home a dog. After talking it over with my husband, we announced to Lane that we could start on our journey of finding the right dog for our family. Lane was thankful and ecstatic at the same time. His first words were, “Can we go get one now?” I had the pleasure of hearing those words many many times over the next couple of weeks!

After scouting out all of the surrounding shelters for the perfect fit for our family, we thought it was going to take much longer than anticipated. We had not t seen one dog that fit our picture of what we wanted. We decided to widen our search, and drove 45 minutes away to one last shelter that, hopefully, would provide us with our doggie.

That day we brought home “Tanner”. As soon as my husband and I set eyes on him and saw his disposition, we knew he was ours. When he came home from school later that afternoon, I was met at our door by Lane along with many of his curious and eager neighborhood friends. From that day on, this dog has been played with, cradled, walked, loved on, and wrestled with by not only my kids, but by plenty of others up and down our street.

Although this is officially “Lane’s” first dog, he isn’t the first dog to be part of the Haden Family. My baby before real babies was Toby, a miniature Yorkie. I had him all through college and my twenties. Toby had a wardrobe of T-shirts, pajamas, and a swimming suit. I taught him lots of cute tricks, and he was even voted “Denton County’s Most Talented Dog” several years in a row (He won talent contests at a local dog fair). He became a “Haden” when Chris and I married. He became a “dog” when I brought Lane home from the hospital! I didn’t love him any less, but I quickly realized what having a real baby was like, and Toby was definitely a dog.

Two years later, after Elise came along, Toby went to live with my parents. He just proved to be too much to care for along with Lane and his very needy new sister. Toby died this past year, and along with him went a large piece of my youth and my heart.

Several years passed after Toby moved out to live with my parents, and we found ourselves with an opportunity to get a new Labrador puppy. A woman at our church offered us one in the hopes that he could be of some help and maybe even a companion to Elise. We brought him home with high hopes, but very quickly realized that he was less a companion to Elise, and more a buddy to Lane. Special training that we were to get for this dog fell through, leaving us with the job of figuring out how to make a connection between him and our little girl.

I understand how beneficial dogs are to children with special needs, but the truth is, Elise just wasn’t able to connect with something that she didn’t know existed unless he was licking her face or we were forcing her to rub her hand across his fur. In the few months that we had Bonnie, we witnessed how much enjoyment Lane had from having a dog around.

The problem was, though, that ultimately this dog was bred to be a companion to someone with special needs. When it became painfully obvious that that wasn’t going to happen with Elise, we knew we needed to give Bonnie back so she could be of help to someone else who needed her (She ended up with a boy with Aspergers).

Fast forward 3 years, and here we are! I have to admit, I was scared. Scared of vet bills, where to leave him when we’re gone, training, walking, and the giving of attention to yet one more being in my household.

I’m not scared anymore. The kids love him. He loves the kids. I initially intended on waiting a bit before introducing him to Elise, just to get a feel for his true personality. As days went on, though, I noticed that each time Elise cries or screams from her room, Tanner perks up and shows great concern as to what is going on. I have caught him several times kissing her in the face (Ewww!) when I have turned my back. He is gentle and cautious around her.

My hope in the coming weeks and months is that Tanner can be a companion to not just Lane, but to our entire family. Who knows, maybe Elise will even take a turn petting him and exploring what in the world this thing is next to her with wiry hair, a wet nose, and thumping tail!

Never mind that I have bathed this dog 3 times in 3 days (it’s raining here), said the words, “No, Tanner!” at least 576 times, and had to add stronger scents to my Scentsy just to cover up the new dog scent in our living room. This is finally the right time in our lives to add a new family member. Everyone is pitching in and doing their share.

He’s a good dog, and I think we’ll keep him.

Baby Lane and Toby in 2002

I was obviously still struggling with the fact that Toby was not my baby anymore!

Toby with Chris and Lane. He had beautiful hair… when I brushed it!

Lane and Toby

Two buddies playing in the backyard.

Bonnie sleeping in Elise’s bed

Bonnie laying by as Elise works with her switch fan.

I didn’t even ask!

The boys are proud of their new buddy!

It takes two to walk him...

A boy and his dog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finding the Funny in Tragedy

“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)

My sense of humor is multi-faceted. I appreciate a good practical joke. Satire is present in just about every other conversation I have during the day. Slapstick holds a special place in my heart -- I’m not sure how many 34-year-olds there are out there with their DVR set to record Dick Van Dyke on a daily basis! I picked up on self-deprecating humor from my parents. There’s something about pointing out your own flaws before anyone else can that is satisfying--and funny! My husband and I bonded from the moment we met over our ability to laugh at life.

I grew up in a funny family. So many of my memories involve tons of laughter and joking around. My mom was voted “Wittiest” in high school. My dad has a treasure trove of jokes (many self-made) that he can pull out to fit any moment.
When you grow up in an environment mixed with wit, physical comedy, and wisecracking, it kind of rubs off.

I definitely understand that not everyone shares my appreciation for finding laughter in almost all situations. I don’t expect them to. God created us all with differing funny bones, some extremely sensitive and some more refined. We also all deal with life’s challenges in our own way. The natural response for me was to look for humor and comedy in our situation as if looking for a sliver of light in a dark tunnel.

During my pregnancy and after I knew of Elise’s brain injury, I bought and wore a pink maternity shirt that bragged, “My kid is a genius.” We have joked for years about wheeling her around the neighborhood on Halloween night strapped into her standing frame. All she would need is a mask around her mouth and she could go as Hannibal Lecter. These are just a couple of examples of my darker humor.

The thing is, though, if we didn’t find things to laugh at, we would probably just cry. Laughing at something sad or tragic doesn’t make it any less sad or tragic. It just redirects our feelings of sorrow and grief. I still have my fair share of these moments of despair when I think about Elise and the tragedy of her situation. But, boy am I glad that laughter and joy are never too far behind.

As a matter of fact, laughter was present even on the night Elise was born. We were all well aware of what was about to happen. Our lives would be changed forever. The simple, peaceful family life that my husband and I had built with our not yet 2-yr.-old son was going to be forced into chaos. There was nothing to do about it other than meet it head on. As my labor moved along, the delivery room was full of people-- family and friends hanging around. We were taking pictures, laughing, joking, and generally having a really good time. At one point, a nurse asked for everyone to clear out of the room. She had a very somber look on her face. My husband had gone to get something to eat, so it was just her and me in the room. She asked me if I was aware of my situation. Did I understand the status of my soon to be born baby girl? Was I informed of the impending problems and even possibility of death after her birth? I assured this nurse, with a smile on my face, that I did know what I was facing. All of it. She told me something that has stayed with me this many years later. She said, “Well, the way you were all acting--with the laughter and joking and overall joy that was in this room, I figured that there was no way that you knew how sick your little girl is, and how serious this situation is.”

What that nurse didn’t know, is that we pulled our joy, our peace, and even our laughter from our faith in Christ, and His ability to carry us through whatever we had to face. For the last 2 trimesters, we had time to worry, groan, and fret. Elise would be here soon, and it was time to celebrate!

There is no doubt in my mind that my sense of humor has absolutely saved me in times of despair. The day after Elise was born, we were told of her complete deafness in both ears. At the time, that is the extent of what we thought was wrong with her (wow, were we wrong!). In that moment, I felt as if the world was caving in on me. The anguish I felt that day was almost unbearable. Up to that point, I had kept pretty calm about the endless possibilities of problems Elise would be born with. As long as she was in my womb, she was safe and fine. After her birth, we were hit right between the eyes with the fact that, no, everything wasn’t fine. In the days and weeks that followed that initial punch in the gut, many other issues would come to light. Elise was blind. Elise had CP. Elise would be significantly cognitively delayed. With each declaration of her next malady, the punch got softer. After a while, I joked that the doctors could come in and tell me that Elise was going to grow a horn out of her forehead, and I would just ask, “Is there a medication or therapy for that? What do we need to do?” In other words, it’s like you hit a limit on how “bad” you can feel about something. After plummeting to the bottom of the pit we were thrown into when her brain damage was revealed in an ultrasound, the only place to look was up. I don’t know about you, but just the act of looking up puts a smile on my face.

“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”
No, this isn’t a song from The Byrds, it’s Ecclesiastes. This verse sums up so much of what life is all about. No matter what your life story is, there is a time for everything. Even laughter.

I laugh in the face of the devil. I’m not suffering. I’m living. I’m happy. I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, and I thank Him for my baby girl, Elise.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

In the delivery room before having Elise. All of the waiting must have gotten to us! This is Chris playing the part of the doctor...

If you thought that was bad, my dad joined in!

OK, Gigi’s turn. This was at Ty’s birth.

Who knows where we got the lips! Elise was in the hospital with a respiratory infection.

Elise wearing PawPaw’s glasses. I sure wish glasses would help!

Cataract glasses are NOT a good look for a baby!

Elise sporting a mullet! Also not a good look for a baby!

Elise isn’t the only one who can rock a wig! This is Ty wearing a wiglet...

Two goofy boys having a good time. (Lane and Daddy)

This is a typical way my brother interacts with my kids...

Lane's imitation of Elise...