Photographs by Laurie @ Horizons Photography

November 25, 2015

Reality Check

I took the kids to beavers tonight, I have an impending cold, the kind that teases you for days before it really lets loose and parties in your head until you think it might actually blow your head up... I had a great coffee chat with a friend while the kids were in beavers and then I took the kids home and rushed them to bed so I could have time to myself... to feel sorry for myself with a kleenex in one hand and a warm lemon drink in the other. To 'entertain' myself I flipped on Netflix and picked a film called Blood Brother...

REALITY CHECK: I have first world problems.

This film is based on a true story about a guy named Rocky who went travelling as a tourist to India. While there he went to an orphanage and stay for a while getting to know the kids, after a set time he leaves to finish his travels but they all seem empty to him compared to those kids he'd left behind. He was faced with a decision. Adopt one? Forget them all? Become a part of their family and move to India.

These kids all have HIV/AIDS. He serves them with such love, unimaginable love, sacrificial love. There is one portion of the film that takes you through him caring over a sick child in hospital who he was sure was going to die. He worked tirelessly to make that child as comfortable as possible, to give him a 'special' death. The boy however lives to the amazement of all. He credits God, the doctors credit him.

I was so moved by the love in this film... especially in the world climate we are living in right now. There is so little love like this left it seems. Everyone is always 'picking a side' or being offended by a group, or hating based on bias, or killing in the name of religion, terrorizing millions of men, women and children... it's such a dark time.

Strokes me that we could all use a little bit more of this particular kind of love... it's the kind of love that moves people to change, the kind of love that offers hope, the kind of love that breaks down barriers and as in the case of that young boy... it's the kind of love that can save lives. It's the love that faces fear but does it anyway, it's the kind of love that is honest, painful, awe inspiring.

I see the suffering of the children living there; I think of our Hospital stays and the many comforts I miss as a result... and I am truly humbled. What we have seen, what we have gone through is absolutely NOTHING. It is, while hard and often scary, a first world problem. We walk around the streets of the cities we live in and we pass a millions blessings that we no longer see, maybe we never saw them to begin with because it's our way of life... Running water, nurses who cover us when we need a coffee, heck... even coffee makes the list of the thousands of things we take for granted every single day. Electricity? Wifi? Car? Ambulances when tragedy strikes? The list is endless, and we sit in our warm homes and complain about politics or how offended we are by Starbucks red cups...

I hope; I hope that one day someone can say that I loved well, that I was able to show love, that I will serve and serve sacrificially. That is my prayer, that I will choose love or selfishness.

I urge you to take the time to watch this film... BLOOD BROTHER... (on netflix) it was worth the hour something I spent for the eye opening.

November 5, 2015

They can overcome.

For most of Josh's seven and half years we have been told he has a language impairment and learning disability resulting from the stroke... he's heard it over and over again at multiple appointments... he's heard the doctors say repeatedly where is weaknesses are, and he's heard his teachers tell me over and over again where he's missing the mark... it's been a fact of his life; it's become a fact of our lives...

Last fall Josh came downstairs after only 4 days of school crying; he told me that he didn't want to go to school because it was 'too hard' and he 'can't do it'... he told me that he 'can't read' and that all the other kids are reading but not him... it was hard to hear him so defeated but no matter how hard we all tried his progress was painfully slow. His test scores for reading were quite low (way below his grade level should be - according to provincial standards, which is not necessarily achievable by the average kid if you ask me)...

When my Grandpa died we had to drive up north to the funeral; on the way to keep the kids from fighting I started asking Josh math questions... turns out that he can do double digit (carrying the 10) addition in his head, as well as subtraction... I made a bit of a deal about it because I was so impressed... The next day I noticed something different about him; he was wanting do math more and more, he kept asking me to ask him questions. That was when I was hit in the head with the truth of Joshua's life. I should have seen it before; but Josh has been hearing how he 'can't' do things from everyone, doctors, teachers, therapists, and even me when I am talking to the doctors and teachers... without even realizing what we were doing we were crushing his self-confidence. You hear you 'can't' enough and you start to really believe you can't.

So, I started that very day working to build that confidence in him. I talked endlessly to whoever would listen (when Josh could hear me) about how much his reading was improving, how his language was so much better, how the new medicine he was on was allowing him to do things he couldn't do before. I started telling him multiple times a day that he 'can' do it, that he 'was' doing it.

It has been a month since Grandpa's funeral, just one month. Josh is reading is getting so much better already, he's not where he needs to be, he's got a long way to go, but he's TRYING, and he's getting it, I can see his brain engaging and the code of letters is starting to click for him. Yesterday he started to try to read the signs on the way back from an appointment at Sick Kids... We were sitting in the cab and the taxi driver commented to him what a great reader he was and Josh's little face lit up like it was Christmas.

This morning when we waited for the bus I told him how proud I was of him, that he was getting so great at reading and that when Daddy (who has been a way for the week) comes home he will be so surprised with how far he's come... Josh looked at me with so much pride in himself, and then he came over and initiated a heart warming hug. It almost felt like a thank you. (I hug Josh so much that he never really initiates hugs; so to get one from him was a gift).

I got so used to the appointments where Josh is being tested for things (learning and language), appointments where he's present but often busy with a game or colouring, that I forgot he's taking in absolutely EVERYTHING we are saying about him; and he's taking it to heart. It should not have taken me so long to see this, to change the language we use around him from 'can't' to 'can'. It should not have taken so long... but I am so glad it didn't take longer.

If you learn anything from our story learn this: Words are powerful. They can break a spirit or they can make a person whole. They can defeat a person or build them up to be victorious. They can be heard even when we don't think the person is listening. How and when we use words to describe our kids will determine a lot of things about who they will become. It can't always be helped; these conversations sometimes need to take place; but balance is imperative; when the doctors/teachers are done telling them what they can't do, you need to step in to tell them that they can, and you need to help them believe it. The change I have seen in Josh in just one month is proof that self confidence in a child, believing in themselves, is a huge part of the battle and it will determine if they win or lose that battle.

The wonderful thing about kids? They bounce back; they overcome.

November 2, 2015

pause the chaos

It is an interesting thing when you set traditions... we started one a long time ago when Kaleb was just a year old; one we didn't know we were setting but has turned into one of my favourite things to anticipate each year. When he was one and Josh was two and a half we dressed them up in their costumes and we drove to our friends house where the men took the kiddies (five in total) around the streets for halloween. Kaleb in his stroller as Tiggy and the rest racing around banging on doors and begging (very sweetly) for any treat they might have. Every year I get a group photo (some years were a trial with four boys and a young lady). Each year I look at them and remember what they all looked like the year before and I can't get over how much they have changed; how much they have grown. I look forward to seeing them grow; to seeing how long we can keep this tradition alive before they would rather go trick or treating with their friends. 

There is something so magical about childhood, as they get ready to go out, as the anticipation amps itself up and the thrill of being outside on the dark streets comes to it's brimming head I can distinctly remember what that feeling was like. Then the return; when you get to show mum all that loot! The inevitable 'sorting' of the candy where in our house we check for all the scary things my parents used to check for but also for any peanut treat. (Sometimes when it's something Mama really likes she finds things on the label written in invisible ink - glad he can't read yet). It works in our favour that Tim and I are known to take a week holiday to ourselves following halloween so all those peanut butter cups manage to find a home in our suit case.

This year as I watched their rosy cheeks return, when they picked up their over flowing bag and tried to hug it to themselves because it was so heavy I was overcome with how fleeting this thing called childhood is. The little lady I talked about, the only one in a group of four boys, looks so much older this year, Josh too is getting so tall and grown up. It's hard, when you are in the thick of it with them to stop and appreciate the moment for what it is. It's hard to watch the chaos and not sit in it for a few seconds and just enjoy it. It's life's fluidity I guess but it seems like only yesterday that I was the rosy cheek little girl clinging to my own over stuffed bag of candy waiting for my Dad to remove 'dangerous' items that he would sacrifice himself for me and eat on my behalf.

May you each have a really wonderful November and try to pause the chaos long enough to enjoy it for what it is... a very precious memory.


October 27, 2015

missing you

I remember walking along the beach for hours with my Grandpa... we would catch tadpoles, watch the waves, make sand castles, dig to China, skip rocks, smash rocks together and break them to see what treasure lay inside them... the hot sand on our feet made me skip along until I reached the water and there I would hold his hand and we would splash our way to the store further up the beach. He would buy me a treat, often a popsicle, and then we would make our way back, sticky melting sugar water making a big mess; but we didn't care. We talked, though I can't remember what we talked about. Now that I have children of my own I can imagine that the conversation was about everything we saw along the way and I imagine I peppered him with questions about life. Those are some of my favourite memories of him. Those walks that for many reasons stand out in my memories as my special time with him. 

He was a quiet, stoic man. His life wasn't easy. Every ounce of love he had for me had to be masked, hidden, because unfortunately my Grandma wasn't an easy women. It took years for me to come to terms with that... maybe I am still working on that. Those walks, just he and I, there was no need to hide, no need to pretend. His calloused hand holding my much smaller child one is a tangible thing that I can feel as soon as I close my eyes. 

If you went to the cottage you would find Grandpa in the garage, building something usually. I would follow him around and he would let me. No matter what he was building he made space for me beside him and hand me some wood, nails and a hammer and together we would work. The smell of sawdust still takes me back to that workbench; his body close to mine. When the work was finished he would announce that it was time to go to the beach and we would run down to the beach and there, for hours, he would row our boat filled with friends, we would jump off and he would haul us in, just for us to jump off again. He never seemed to run out of time for us. He didn't say it often... but in his actions we knew we were loved. 

As I got older and the visits became harder I would get random cards in the mail from him, reminders that he loved me. Once when I was living in my first apartment on my own I got a St. Patricks day card in the mail. Who gets a card for St. Patricks day? It's one of the few I put into a special place, to pick up on days like today when I am missing him... 

It saddens me to say that it wasn't until 15 years ago; that I got a real chance to know my Grandpa. He moved in with my parents and for the last 15 years he's been a welcome and fun part of our family. He made several trips to Europe to visit me while I lived there. We went to Wales, visited Venice and explored Austria together. There are so many things about him that make me smile, so many things that I miss... it's been almost a month since he passed away; I think I am still trying to come to grips with that. 

He was, is, part of me. I see him in myself, I see him in my boys. I thank God for the time we had with him, particularly the gift of the last 15 years. I thank God that he is at peace now, and that one day I will get to hold his hand again. Until then, I will miss everything about him, everything.

Goodbye Grandpa,  I love you.

October 9, 2015

celebrating life

This week we celebrated the life of my Grandpa who at 97 surprised us all by quietly and quickly passing away last week. This is not the day to post about how I feel about that, In many ways I am still processing how I feel; that post is to come. However, this week is also a week that we celebrate the life of our youngest who turns 6 today.

As Kaleb grows and I discover the many facets of his blooming personality I can't help but wonder at the boy he is and the man he is becoming. He is so fiercely protective, he's sweet, generous, kind, and he's got eyes and charm that manage to get him anything he wants... the two are a dangerous combo for the ladies in his future.

He can be a character and recently he's learned that humour cheers people up... when he's seen me with tears in my eyes he's there with a quick smile and some silly antic to make the smile return to my face. He has begun a fairly regular habit of waking me in the morning by crawling in beside me in bed and just snuggling for a while. This year when he started school he quickly decided that it wouldn't be cool to be seen kissing his mama goodbye; so we began the fist pump tradition. I won't lie, it was a wake up call, realizing that it meant the end of the baby years for me. The next day I dropped Kaleb off at the door of his class, we did the fist pump, said goodbye, and I walked away... I was half way down the hall when Kaleb came running out of class and yelled 'Mama! Wait!'.. I turned around and saw him running to me, his arms outstretched. I gave him a hug and then he gave me a kiss. A brief moment, but a reminder that he's still little, he still needs me, and as much I had missed the goodbye hug and kiss... he'd missed it too. 

He is growing up on me, there's no escaping that, but as I get to know all the wonders of his personality I can't help but enjoy discovering the man he's becoming. There are so many things to love about this little guy, and so many times he's made me proud; he's a remarkable little man.

Happy Birthday Kaper... all of my love, forever...

Mama, xoxox

August 26, 2015


I have always been wary of a label for Josh... once upon a time there was a doctor who insisted that Josh was autistic because he couldn't speak. I fought back and got him assessed by another set of doctors who quickly shut down the autism diagnosis and said that his language was a stroke issue and it's been that way for many things in his life. I hate labels! However, one label that I have not been able to argue and that has stuck with him through out all the assessments, through school (to date), and which has become an increasing problem at home is just three letters. ADD (the acquired variety and without the hyper active component). I have known that this is an issue for some time now and I have learned that it happens in many kids with CHD, but last year it became a growing and more pressing concern. I sought help from a few doctors and finally on Monday it was decided to put him on medication to help him; and to give him his best shot at his new school. Since we now know that he doesn't have an LD and he isn't language impaired and that he is in fact in 'catch up' mode we agreed that we want him to have the best possible chance at learning that we can give him. He started on the mediation yesterday morning...

Today I went for a walk with him... and for the first time in his life (NO KIDDING)... we had a back and forth fully understanding and understandable conversation. We covered two topics on the entire outing and we talked. He asked questions, he waited for my reply, he considered my answers and he responded in kind. I am so full of hope and so fully aware of the blessing that this is. Label's it seems can sometimes be good things.

There is a down side... and this is something that will require patience and prayer... and prayer for patience...

Last night... Josh was still wide awake at almost 12am! This is a kid who typically goes to bed at 7pm  and often asks to go to bed. In fact three times this week he has asked to go to bed BEFORE his brother! Josh didn't start sleeping through the night until last November... almost a full 7 years of sleep deprivation... I am afraid that this new medicine is taking us back a step, and yet already I can see how much he needed/needs it. There is hope of course, hope that he will grow accustomed to this new medication, or that last night was a one off... if it's not I have a lot of sleepless nights ahead I suppose.

The end result of course is only that today (though I am totally worn out after sleeping (sort of) beside him for most of the night, I am more hopeful than ever about this man who has taught me so much. I find myself excited to see the changes and growth! :)


P.S. Coffee intake will go up... is that possible?

July 28, 2015

The Haughton Escape

This past week Tim and I were able to take the boys on a much needed holiday together. We drove south east to the Adirondack mountains and stayed at a small out of the way cabin on Star Lake. It was so quiet, so peaceful and though the city girl in me got itchy towards the end, now that we are back I can say that it was so restful and nice to get away.

On the first day of our adventure we hiked into the Ausible Chasm and took a river raft ride, and then with less than stellar wisdom we chose to climb Mt. Joe. Tim and I hadn't been planning this trip for long, and the only thing we read up on the Mountain was that it had a family friendly trail... my idea of family friendly is different. It was a proper mountain, the path which started in a nature hike sort of way quickly transitioned into a rock climbing, dirty adventure. We saw the red spotted newt, lots of various mushrooms and Tim spotted a snake, which when he went off trail a little to see ended up with him having a broken shoe. You see, in our enthusiasm to hike this family friendly trail we didn't stop to change shoes, Tim and I climbed this thing in our croc flip flops! Tim climbed the rest of the way in bare feet. As the mountain got steeper and the path gave way to a creek bed (full with water running through it) I soon gave in and carried my flip flops too. It was simply far less dangerous to do it without the slippy shoes. Kaleb loved the climb, Josh struggled but with some rests we managed to get all the way to the top. Of course, we all know that climbing down and can be just as dangerous (if not, more so). Josh doesn't like to watch where he is going and gave me a number of near heart attacks that caused me to hold his hand 90 percent of the way down. I joked that if we all reached the bottom without a broken bone then it would be a success. It was Tim who was out down fall... half way down Tim's foot slipped in the UNENDING mud and he broke a toe! Thankfully, he managed okay and we all made it safely (unless you consider Tim's toe) to the bottom where a lake sits waiting for you to jump in.

As we drove back that night with an exhausted Josh, we had to think about the fact that just a few short months ago this little man had a valve replaced. This kid did it, and though there was some complaining done by him and I on the way down it was more to laugh instead of cry. He was quick to tell me (numerous times) on the way down that he 'will not climb mountains when he's big' or 'he's not a mountain climber' and after each time we shared a giggle. The not so family friendly hike was while not 'fun' with all the anxious moments of waiting for one of them to fall off a cliff, was a moment to witness Josh accomplish something that I didn't think he would ever be able to do. I don't know if he understands how big a deal it is... and that just makes it that much better.

Kaleb discovered a love for fishing and spent time learning all about various animals... his big highlight came at the end of the trip, our last night to be exact when he was able to bring me home a huge 15 inch bass!

All in all, it was a really wonderful time away with my three favourite men... though I am glad to back in the land of bathtubs and laundry machines :D