Photographs by Laurie @ Horizons Photography

November 5, 2017

Warrior child

Photo was taken last week


I was worried this afternoon.

In a gym with about 10 kids and two karate teachers, I listened as the sensei asked the kids to start the warm-up. First they had to do sprints, no biggy. Then they had to run sprints and touch the line, again no biggy, then he said I want you to run sprints and when you get to the line I want you to do 10 push ups... my gut twisted and I looked at Josh who was so focused that he didn't see my panicked look of concern. Lets just say Josh is not my 'co ordinated' kid; with a weaker right side and high muscle tone things like athletics don't come naturally to him. I quickly looked at my phone and tried to make it look like all was well but I was worried. Does he even know how to do a push-up? Does he have the arm strength to do this? I can see he's already winded from all the sprints, what if the warm-ups become the sticking point on what could be the perfect sport for him?

The kids lined up on the white line, they crouched and waited for the go signal. 20 eyes all set in one direction; I was only watching two of them and they were focused, clear, determined. I held my breath as the sensei yelled GO, and I watched as Josh sprinted past the younger kids, then past the tallest kid in the group, then as he slid to the first line I moved to the edge of my seat as quickly as he slid into the push-up position. One, then two, three, four... all ten perfect push-ups and before I could gasp for the breath I had been holding he was up and sprinting the next line to do it all again. I swear I was beaming, and my throat hurt from the lump that formed there. When he was done three sets he sprinted back to the start line; his smile said he knew what he'd done, and when he got to the line he looked at me with a shy "I'm too cool to want my Mom to show me how proud she is of me but I am still young enough to really care what she thinks" smile. I nodded at him and smiled in an"I'm proud of you but know that I can't jump up and run over there to give you a giant hug because you are nine and that would embarrass you' kind of way. It was a silent understanding that passed between us in that quick meeting of eyes, an acknowledgment that he has been aching for in every sport he tries. He wasn't last, he wasn't second to last, he was almost the first kid back to the line and he knew it.

As I sat on the sidelines watching him I saw the warrior child I have seen so many times in the hospital, or when facing something very serious or painful or scary. He had his "this means war" face on as he learned the punches and kicks and bows, where to place his feet, how to hold his arms, how to make a proper fist; and his attention to detail was noticed and commented on by his sensei who patted his back on the way out and then came over to chat with me about how great he was.

I was proud (to put it mildly). We have worked so hard, come so far together and while this was his success alone I have to admit I was just as anxious, just as out of breath, just as proud as he was. He has so longed to find a place to fit, a place to put his competitive side and not be crushed in defeat and today he rose to the occasion and he was shining.

For those of you who follow this blog (dwindling as it is because of my lack of writing lately) you will know that last spring this was something we were all praying for, a moment like this for him and I was very aware of all those prayers today when I sat on the sidelines watching God answer them.


October 9, 2017

Thanksgiving gift that keeps giving



Today in my memory app there were obviously a lot of posts about a special young man in my life, a sweet little Kaper who happens to be our Thanksgiving baby.  Each post went something like "I can't believe my baby is one already... WOW, Kaleb is already 2,  where have the years gone, Kaleb is no longer 3,4,5,6 and today, he's no longer 7. I shouldn't be surprised, each year I someone look at him and feel surprised that he's taller, older, more articulate, but that's life really right? The thing is, he's my baby, my youngest and last;  and it comes home with each year older he gets. There is something else that happens each year though, this amazing transformation of the baby, toddler, boy... a human who I have the absolute pleasure of watching emerge as a man. I watch him and feel so much pride in the person he's becoming. The kid who stops playing if someone is hurt and runs over to make sure they are okay, the kid who prays for peace when his friends are fighting, the kid who hurts when the world hurts, the kid who finds every bug, no matter how small and wants to bring it to me as a gift, a show of pride?, (maybe it's like a cat with a mouse? - still haven't figured this one out as I HATE BUGS) the kid who can be causing trouble while smiling at you and with sparkly eyes tell you how much he loves you so that it's impossible to be annoyed about the mess.  The kid who comes with me on a photoshoot as my assistant and manages to calm the clients, ease the tension they feel, find the perfects spots for shooting, and manages polite conversation like a pro.  This kid is going places, I just can't wait to see where.

Today as I reflected on his birth with him, I reminded him about how he was our gift from God for Thanksgiving; so that no matter what happens in life we will always remember to be thankful for the gifts we have been given and I was taken back 8 years ago to the moment when they took Kaleb out in the OR and put him close to my face, he sucked on my nose and my heart grew to  a size I thought impossible. The hole in his heart that they feared was there was pronounced healed and the pediatrician in the room looked at me and announced that he was a healthy baby boy. What a wonderful gift, what a beautiful memory. I don't have many memories from that day, I was pretty sick and some of my memories are mixed up or just stories that Tim has told me to fill in the blanks but those two memories are clear as day, I can still see the doctors eyes look into mine as he made his announcement and I can still see little Kaper's eyes as he sought me out, like he knew deep down that I was his Mama and that he was home.

There will never be a time when I don't wonder that they two amazing little people came from my body, there won't ever be a time when I don't realize how blessed I am that God is working in their lives and is there to help me raise them, there is never going to be a day that I breathe on this earth that I don't love them with everything in me, that I won't fight for them and pray for them and move heaven and earth to be the best mama I can be for them, even if it hurts.

Kaper,

I am so thankful for you, for your life, your heart, your passions, and joys, for the love that you show to each member of our family, for the wonderful conversations and bountiful snuggles. You cheer me, you encourage me, you take interest in me the way most children don't with their Moms. I am so fascinated by you, and genuinely interested in the person you are and will be. There is no way for you to know how much I love you until you have kids of your own one day but I do, so much. I want to wish you a happy birthday and to say thank you for the joy, the laughter, the love. You are truly a wonderful gift!

Happy Birthday! All of my love,

Mama xoxox

September 29, 2017

His decision

When the boys were babies we had a choice to make regarding whether or not we would have them baptized or dedicated; I had been raised that you had a believers baptism and when you were old enough to decide if you wanted to follow Jesus then you made that choice on your own; Tim was baptized as a baby and saw both sides as equally relevant so he didn't have a strong opinion either way, or at least he went with me on my preferred choice and together we stood before God and dedicated our boys to him, promised to raise them to know the Love of God and to understand his call to his followers. We took a lot of flack over our choice as it's not the typical 'anglican' way; we heard all the arguments and were even told that Josh wouldn't be so sick if we had gotten him baptized. However, I was sure of my convictions and we smiled at the nay sayers and did what we felt was right.

This past summer year and I have been reading the Bible together, as we worked our way through the New Testament this summer Josh was presented with baptism multiple times and he had a lot of questions about it; we had a lot of talks about the gift of Jesus and what it means to follow him. In early September the conversation again came up as we finished the Bible (and started it again as per Josh's request). As we chatted I asked him if he would like to think about getting baptized and again we had more talks about what that looks like, what it means. His biggest concern was that he didn't have enough faith yet. (Big smile here because if I had waited for enough faith I never would have been baptized). He said he wanted to think about it and I did the hardest thing a parent ever has to do, I sat back and let God work in him. I resisted the temptation MULTIPLE times to ask him about it, or talk to him; instead, I waited.

On Tuesday night Josh called me to his room to listen to a story he had on the audiobook. It was about a little girl who was running away from God, but he was pursuing her and using people to show his love to her. In the end of the story, she decided that she wanted to be a Christian. At the point of her decision, Josh jumped up and stopped the CD player with a big smile. I have to admit I was confused. I asked him what it was about this story he wanted to share with me and he replied 'I like that God loved her and she was running away but he kept showing her he loved her and then she chose to be a Christian" I smiled and agreed that it was a nice story and then I asked him. "Do you want to be a Christian Josh?" and he smiled so big it lit the room. "YES"! I want to be baptized and I want Daddy to it!".

I share this because I am so humbled as I am once again reminded that the Holy Spirit is working in my kids, he and Josh have been working together to come to this choice and I am so happy for him, and so thankful I didn't keep pestering him about it. When we started out by making a choice to dedicate over baptize it was so that this moment could come, where he made that choice on his own, not for Tim and I but for him and had I done what I really wanted to do (bug him about it consistently) he would have been doing it for me, or possibly not do it all just rebel against my harassment.

I am feeling really blessed as we head into this special celebration with Joshua. God is faithful.


September 8, 2017

Happy New Year!

Most people see January as the first month of a new year; rightly so I suppose since it is the new year after all. However, for me the new year traditions always come in September; maybe it's the years of starting school in september and always being told about fresh starts with a new teacher or new school etc. Whatever the reason I have never shaken the habit of seeing September as a place to rewind the things that need rewinding and starting fresh again, with new plans, new hopes, new goals. I always get my new agenda in September and when I see those crisp clean pages I feel a fresh beginning stretching out before me.

During the summer months I had time to think, time to refresh and what I found was a sense of lacking, a feeling of loss or complacency or maybe both. I couldn't figure it out, I was both sad and frustrated and I yearned for more but I couldn't tell you what that was.

The other day I watched a movie on Netflix and while I was watching it I was hit with a realization; it was a spiritual thing. My longing was for more joy, more closeness with God. My feelings of loss came from that lack of time spent with him; and my sadness was the missing of that closeness we had.

One of the things that became apparent quite quickly was that for me, writing is a way of sorting out feelings and thoughts, it helps unscatter my brain and figure out what is actually going on up there. So, here I sit. On the abyss of something absolutely wonderful that is to come. Starting to once again spend time each day, proper time, not just throwing prayers into the wind as I move from A to B. Time where I pray for my husband, for my kids, for my friends, for my church and for the world. Time where I share my thoughts and worries, fears and disapointments, hopes and dreams with the God of the Universe who made me for relationship with him. Already I am seeing him, like scales falling off my eyes I have begun to once again purposely look for the ways in which God is working in my life and the life of my kids and it's fun.

The other night Josh was praying for rain and cooler weather and I was quick to correct and tell him that God isn't Santa, you don't hand him a wish list and walk away... (which is true yes) but I quickly learned so much more about God and relationship when God gave Josh exactly what he had been praying for. It poured yesterday, I mean buckets, in between were sunny periods and then more rain, and it was cooler. When the kids got off the bus after school Josh was screaming "God answered my prayers!" and Kaleb was screaming "It's Josh's fault mama, God answered his prayers!' (When I say screaming I really mean it, the whole of the distillery district probably heard their proclamations of answered prayer. I laughed and we chatted about it, because here is what I learned.

1) God wants to hear from them, whatever they have to say, whatever their worries are, whatever their desires and while I need to help them learn I shouldn't try to control that budding relationship they have with Him.
2) God uses the littest prayers (like rain and cooler weather) to build a foundation of faith in the lives of his children.

I was so happy to see that rain yesterday, despite hating that it actually did rain, I was happy that God loves my kids so much that it matters to him that they believe in the power of prayer, and that they learn that their voices, their thoughts, matter to the God who made it all.

What a beautiful rain...
What a beautiful September...

Happy New Year.
L

June 12, 2017

opened the door and light came in...

Took a pie to his face at the carnival yesterday
Sometimes the answer is in the knowing. You wander around looking for a door in a dark hallway and keep stumbling into walls, hands in front of your face, you get tired, frustrated, scared, and usually bruised. Then, someone tells you, 'You are in a dark hallway' and suddenly you know that if you just walk straight ahead you will come to the door and find your way out. It's still dark, your hands are still in front of your face but you walk straight, feeling a little lower for the door handle and before you know it, you find the knob, turn, and light falls through the open door filling all the shadows and taking any fear away with it.

When the doctor told us that Josh was dealing with a depression it was like someone came along and whispered the answer in my ear, it was still dark and scary but I knew the path we were on and somehow that gave us the direction that we needed to take in order to help our son. The changes that have occurred have been significant. Last week the door opened and sunlight poured into that hall, gone are the shadows and darkness, there is so much light ahead.

Let me share what changed.

I won't lie to you when I heard the doctor tell me what was wrong I felt a lot of powerful emotions. I was scared, I was exhausted by what seemed like an insurmountable situation. I was so incredibly sad for Josh, and as a mother, I felt like I had somehow failed him. There were a number of things going on that has resulted in what is being called a 'circumstantial depression'. There was the new realization that his body has limits, and a deep sadness that came with that realization as he is navigating what that means for him now and in the life that he has planned out for himself. There were the kids at school who were being mean to him due to his limitations, tiredness, and honestly his anger at the feelings he was struggling with. Then there is the part where I come in. As a result of the stroke, Josh has ADHD (a rare kind that initiates in the central temporal lobe of his brain). He is on medication to help him focus and it has changed his life and ours as a result; however, it is a tricky medication because when the dose is wrong it messes with his seizure meds and he is at risk for break through seizures. I have noticed for a while now that his focus hasn't been the same as usual for a few months but if I am honest I didn't want to mess with his doses since I am terrified of him having more seizures and it took us so long to get the meds all sorted out for safe levels. I lowered his sugar intake drastically (much to his horror) and stopped all chocolate after lunch (again, this is a totally unwelcome change for Josh). The attention didn't get better and in fact, it was much worse. We would ask Josh to do the simplest things and it wouldn't get done, going anywhere with him was an exercise in frustration because he was more often than not in his own little world and would wander off, bump into people, or just generally drive us crazy with his total lack of focus in whatever activity we were doing. Tim, Kaleb and I were constantly annoyed and frustrated and I feel like we must have said 'Josh, pay attention' at least a thousand times a day. Josh's teacher also began having trouble getting him to accomplish his tasks at school which meant that at the end of the day when the kids were all done and playing games at their desks Josh was forced to continue his school work. All these things, all this negativity were his constant companions since January at least. It is no wonder that he internalized it all and began to slide a slippery slope into childhood depression. For my part I felt like the worst kind of Mom, and I had no idea how to make things better for him apart from a med change and a patience check every time I had to repeat instructions.

I began by saying sorry. That was the easy part; I sat him on my lap and I told him I was so desperately sorry for the part I played in the negative things in his life. His simple and easy forgiveness was a humbling experience. He seemed happier to know that I was promising to change, it was enough to know that I acknowledged his sadness. Then we talked. A LOT. We talked about the kids at school, we talked about praying for them and forgiving them, we talked about his limitations and how to engage them when he was feeling frustrated. It didn't change overnight and I literally prayed every time his name came to my mind. It was a simple prayer "I don't know how to help him, I can't do this for him but I know you love him so I need you to step in and do something for him". I was expecting God to give him a new friend, or change the hearts of the kids around him... but I wasn't expecting the answer I got.

I had a long talk with Josh one night about what happens at school and realized that it was really the afternoon recess that he struggled with the most since by then he was very tired and unable to keep up. We talked about not needing to play with the kids he knew, that he would be able to play with the kids who looked like they were doing something he would enjoy, or he could look around for a kid who was alone and ask that child if he wanted to play. Then we had a chat about how everyone has limits. Some people have a natural ability to do things like sports while others have a natural ability to do art or music or were naturally gifted in academics. We discussed that there were three main types of things in life.

1) There are some things that you will never be able to do. Sometimes you have NO SKILL or TALENT do something (and honestly you usually don't like doing that anyway so it doesn't matter) I for example can NOT do math. I hear a number and my brain freezes. No lie.

2) There are things that you are not naturally good at but you enjoy it. These are things that you need to work for, practice at, struggle with. I shared with him a story I once heard Ed Sheeran share about his music ability. He used to suck at it (really, he shared a recording of himself singing and it did suck) but he wanted it badly enough that he worked hard to make it happen and seriously, look at him now?!

3) There are some things that you have a gift in, things that come easily and readily for you, things that you do that some people can't.

I told Josh that while he was not naturally gifted at sports, he was good enough that if he practiced at what he enjoyed (baseball and a soccer goalie) he would become good, and only get better the more practice he put into it. Then I told him what I have known for a long time. He is naturally gifted at school. He's very smart, his teacher called him a math whiz and he's already ahead of his grade in math. He is also now at grade level in reading despite all therapists telling me that it would take him years to catch up because of the language center of his brain being affected by the stroke. By the time our chat was over I felt I had been lecturing him and he probably didn't hear most of what I had said... but the power to fix him was intoxicating and wanting to 'talk the problem better' was my way of making it go away. I finally said good night to him, gave him a kiss and silently prayed again that God would step in and do something for Josh.

The Saturday before last Tim and I had Josh to ourselves, we had errands to run so we took him with us and Josh was bored so he picked up Kaper's book which was left in the car and he was reading it. As we walked through the Man Depot and Sobey's Josh trudged along behind me... READING. I didn't make a big deal about it, in fact I didn't say much at all because I didn't want him to stop doing it. It was such a pleasure to see him actually choosing to read. When I tucked him into bed on Sunday night he mentioned a book that he had seen at school that he was hoping he would be able to get the next day, again I just nodded and smiled and didn't get too extreme afraid that it would put him off.

This is where I learned (again) that God answers prayers in ways that are best, not the way we may think is best, but what he KNOWS is best.

On Monday Josh came off the school bus holding up his new find, the first book in the Amulet series, he was beaming from ear to ear. His day, he said, had been fantastic. When I asked what made it fantastic he simply pointed to his borrowed book. He ran off to play and I went to make dinner. That night I had to ask him four times to turn out the light because he just couldn't put the book down. The next morning Josh told Tim 'this book has changed my life' and let me tell you something. It really has.

He has taken control back on the play ground. In the afternoon when he knows he's too tired to play he takes his book to a tree near the back of the school ground. A tree that he used to call his 'sad tree' and he sits there and reads. He no longer feels left out of that recess because of his limitations, he no longer worries about the kids telling him he can't play with them because when he's most tired he is making the empowered choice to not want to play with them. Since September Josh's Grandma has been keeping a tally of books that he has read, telling him that when he gets to 10 'proper size' books he will get $25. As of last week he was sitting at three books. Today the tally sits at 8 books. He did something last week I never thought I would see him do, he used his lego money to buy two books in the series, and thanks to some very generous people he is now the proud of owner of the entire Amulet series (book two is still enroute).

Yesterday I watched Josh from a distance while we were celebrating Little T's 175th. I was taking photos of the event so I saw him through the eyes of a photographer and not just his Mum. What I saw was a different child from the one living in our home for the last few months. He's engaged, where he was withdrawn, he's energized, where was exhasted, he's focused (in part due to med increase) and he smile was brighter than the hot sun we got to enjoy yesterday.

Sometimes the answer is in the knowing; knowing what the problem is that needs to be faced. Knowing the needs that need to be met. Knowing the probelm that needs to prayed for and the times when you need to hold, love, and nurture the problem; but sometimes God has a much better idea for how to work out a problem than we do and we need to step back and let him work. Josh will still have to learn to live with his limitations, he will still have to deal with his feelings, there is still work do but I was reminded this week of a few things, he is loved beyond measure by the God who created him and has a much bigger plan for him, by a God who knows how to help when I can't, and who is building him into a man who is ready for the future that He has in store for him. Knowing that, sometimes it's okay for me to step back and let God figure it out when I just can't. It's not my job to fix every problem the boys find themselves facing; it's my job to teach them to turn to God, and it's my job to pray for them daily, to seek his wisdom and guidence when it comes to the choices we make regarding them.

I also learned... I don't altogether suck at this mothering thing. Apparently I can't fix everything but I can hold them and love them, and sometimes that is all I am needed for. God has the rest.


May 30, 2017

Into battle



In true warrior fashion, Josh is going into battle today, a battle for understanding from his classmates.  He had to write a poem a few weeks ago called 'I wish' and in the verses he said that he wished the kids would understand about his heart and what that means for him as he plays and tries to keep up. A good friend of ours who is also a teacher offered to go with him to do a presentation on his heart and stroke, what happened to him but also how that affects his daily life. Today he will stand, vulnerable in front of his class and talk about these things in a hope to gain empathy from his classmates.

I could not be more proud.


I have had a lot of people telling me to pull him from school, suggesting that he should have a break. Here is my thinking on this... please bare with me.

Life sucks. Kids can be mean. The playground is a harsh terrain where kids find out what they are made of and where they learn to overcome. Josh is and has always been a kid who overcomes. What he is learning through this painful process are resilience and fortitude. He's also learning compassion, forgiveness, hope, and problem-solving.

Due to Josh's stroke, he has very poor problem-solving skills but during this process, he managed on his own to figure out that maybe if the kids understood where he was coming from they would have more empathy. For him to figure this out on his own, and to work towards doing that is no small feat for him. This morning we talked about this and I told him how proud I was of him for solving the problem and he said 'Im solving, it's not solved. We don't know yet if it will work.' He is right of course, and now is the time to pray that it works, that at least one or two kids have their eyes and hearts opened to his situation and find it within themselves to be more patient, more loving, more open to being a friend to him. This is my prayer.

All that being said, the past few days as I have struggled to understand this reality that Josh is now facing I have become aware of a few things. He isn't alone. God is with him on the playground, his brain is healing more and more every day, and my kid is one of the toughest, most resilient kids I have ever met. A friend wrote to me and said this: God needs soldiers and he is forming Josh right now. Josh is is in boot camp, the hardest part of training. He has brought your little man into an intimate relationship with him that is beyond what we can fathom, you've seen glimpses of this, let that be your comfort. Another friend wrote: He didn't bring him this far to leave him there. These words have offered me a great amount of comfort and hope for our little man as he does battle with this depression. I don't know what today's outcome will be, but I know that no matter what happens I am so incredibly proud of him for being willing to stand in front of kids who haven't been very kind and to share some of his most vulnerable feelings. It is kids like him that change the world.

We were never promised an easy life, I want God to have mercy on Josh, I want things to be easier for him, I want to see his joyful self back but I am also raising a child who is not my own but God's and God loves him so much more than I do (as impossible as that seems to be); he knows the big picture and he is even now forming Josh in the man he needs to be for the future he has planned for him. Through all of this, I have to hold onto the promises God has given me, that he will do (and has already done) the impossible for Josh.

I could go through a list of 'He will never's' that doctors and therapists have given me over the years but I prefer to list my own "He never list'

He never stops trying
He never lets someone tell him what he can't do
He never stands down in the face of adversity
He never lets fear stand in his way
He never stops trying to be the best he can be
He never quits

There is more to this kid than most will ever know, more to him than even I know and that I am blessed to be his mom is something that still leaves me awed.

So please, say some prayers today as Josh heads into this new battle with our friend. Pray that the kids hear him, understand him, have mercy in their hearts for him, and that if nothing else they respect him for doing what he is doing, such an incredibly courageous and brave stand he's making.

May 26, 2017

when the heart breaks it's not always physical



For the last six weeks, we have noticed some significant changes in Josh. He has become moody, angry, sad, and extremely tired. We have looked into all kinds of reasons, had many talks with him and yet it persists. His largest complaint is being too tired to keep up with the other kids at school, causing them to not want to play with him and leaving him to be alone through the recess times. It is enough to break your heart. It came to a head this week and I reached out to our neurology team to see if maybe the medicine he is on would cause the anger and moodiness that we are seeing, but they disagreed and told me to contact his cardiologist. So, on Wednesday morning I wrote an email to our cardio and explained what was going on. She called us in immediately (immediately in the hospital world was actually today at 8 am). My heart sunk, I won't lie. I was really looking forward to not seeing her for a year. However, that is life. Everything must be looked at through the lens of 'is his heart okay?'

So, today we went for the ECHO and EEG. After the tests, they paged the doctor and she came right over. Her news was both good and a bit sad. There has been no physical change in Josh's heart since his last ECHO. (GREAT NEWS!) Apparently, she had read my email and expected the ECHO to show that one of his two faulty valves was no longer functioning. So yes, this is good news!

Then we talked at length about how many kids with a heart like Josh's come to an age where they start to become aware of their body and the limitations that their body has. With Josh being the competitive type it would be compounded for him. As he begins to get excluded from things he enjoys because of his limitations (by the other kids, not by us or himself per say) she believes he is dealing with a form of depression, causing the anger, the sadness, the tiredness, the frustrations and explosions we are seeing. She thinks this is a mental health issue and not a physical one per say. This is the sad part of the meeting today. I am thrilled that his heart is okay for now, but I am so deeply saddened that he is struggling right. We have a meeting with a social work clinic to get him talking with someone about his feelings about his condition and his frustrations surrounding that.  She also suggested a psychologist.

I find myself relieved, but heartbroken at the same time. I hate seeing him suffer in any capacity, both physically and mentally. I just want to keep him home with me in my arms where I know he is loved and protected. Leaving him at the school, watching him trying to play basketball with kids who wouldn't pass the ball to him, kids who kept fighting over who 'had to take Josh on their team, watching the sadness on his face... if I am honest it made me want to grab him and take him home. Teaching him to face his limitations, to cope socially, to deal with the hurt feelings is harder than even watching him face the pain of open heart because at least with the physical pain you know that there is hydromorphone and that the pain will end.

L