Photographs by Laurie @ Horizons Photography

October 27, 2011

Extraordinary

“The hard part is trying to answer the questions Walker raises in my mind every time I pick him up, What is the value of a life like his — a life lived in the twilight and often in pain? What is the cost of his life to those around him? … If Walker is so insubstantial, why does he feel so important? What is he trying to show me?”  -excerpt from Ian Brown’s Memoir “ The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son“



Wouldn't it be easy if we could read minds? If we could see the inner spirit of the person standing in front of us? Maybe we would see that they have trouble with their knee, that it causes sleepless nights, painful mornings and the occasional missed walk with friends. We might look and see someone who is hurting, someone who wants something, anything to fill a void in their lives. We might look past the normal exterior and see a personal locked inside themselves, 'disabled', 'abnormal', 'challenged'? It is so frustrating to see how mean people can be. It is so hard to look at someone 'able bodied' and see with cruel irony that they are actually the 'abnormal', 'disabled' and 'challenged' ones. How can you look with anything but wonder at the miracles that make up special needs kids. Each one has fought the odds, at great cost and often pain, to be here today. They have faced so much more than we can imagine or would want to take on personally, they have the strength to continue on when it seems hopeless and to work harder than anyone else to achieve even the most basic things.

I watch the kids and Josh and I feel a lump growing in my throat because once upon a time I would have missed the wonder that these kids represent, I would have seen only the awkwardness, I would have struggled with what to say, I would have been the challenged one. My heart aches that I have to admit that, that it takes my own son to teach me such a valuable lesson on life. 

I can see the strange glances Josh gets, the ones that people don't think anyone can see but always follow after Josh has struggled with a word, or when that word has come out sounding funny. When he won't answer them, or when he only repeats what they have said. The look that says 'how old is that child?' or worse 'poor thing'. 

As the Mum of a special kid who happens to struggle can I tell you... we see the looks, we have a keen eye for anything negative towards our children and one small act of thoughtlessness causes us pain. I can only hope that I can teach my kids to love a person for who they are, how they treat you and not by the level of 'ability' or 'normalcy' they may or may not have.



While on the subject - my son is normal, and so are the kids he goes to school with, and so are all the other 'special needs kids' in the world, they are ALL normal, in fact, they are extraordinary, and miracles who have climbed higher, cried harder and felt more and still manage to smile. We could all do to take some lessons from those 'abnormal' kids.

powerful hug

Given recent posts... this video particularly spoke to my heart and brought a lump to my throat... so touching.

inside the shell

"If you have to judge people, judge them based on what they can do, not on what they cannot.  Judge them based on who they are, not who they aren't.  Otherwise, you're judging based on your own shortcomings."
-- Anonymous



I have been reading a lot this week about disabilities in kids, and one common theme... no matter the 'disability' there is a mind beneath the shell that understands, feels and hopes and dreams. The more we move into the digital age the more we are learning about the inner workings of the mind and the amazing things that are happening there. On 60 minutes this past Sunday they did a show about Steve Jobs and as a segment to the show they talked about how the ipad is now being used to help kids speak using apps. They are discovering a whole variety of talents and feelings and thoughts that have for years been locked behind the wall of autism or other 'disabilities'.

The whole discussion has made me think really hard about the concept of communicating, and how those who cannot put words to their thoughts are thought of as 'less' or 'stupid'. If a person from China comes to Canada for the first time with no english and cannot speak english people tend to talk loudly to them, or assume that they are stupid because they can't communicate to them. As 'communicators' we think of ourselves as above those who cannot communicate.

I remember the fear I felt when I arrived in Austria, the terror that someone would try to speak to me in German, knowing that I couldn't understand them, or talk to them. It got worse when I did understand them and still couldn't put together a grammatically correct sentence to save my life. I knew what I wanted to say, I had opinions and sometimes words of advice, but because I could not properly communicate I was disregarded. Is it not the same thing for a child who cannot talk?

I have been guilty of this myself, I assume Josh won't know something because he can't speak, I tend to do more for him because he can't communicate to me that he can do it. I am shocked when he says something that makes me realize that he remembers something or knows something that I wouldn't have dreamed he knew. At times I have actually asked Tim 'how did he know that?', as if in some way he is stupid because he can't put words to his thoughts.

Do I wish with all my heart that Josh could talk to me the way that other kids talk to their parents? Do I wish he could go to the play ground and play with the other kids normally without fear that they might try to talk to him? Do I wish he didn't struggle so much with forming words and certainly sentences? Of course, but have I overlooked his mind? Have I overlooked his thoughts and feelings, subconsciously thinking he was 'less'? God forgive me but I have.

Plant a seed

A group of friends and I have started a project of sorts where we ask tough questions of the companies whose products we consume. Coffee for example, the farmers who grow the beans and do all the hard work are often the poorest and yet the companies like Tim Hortons and Starbucks are making millions off of those same beans. So, we ask the companies about their practices, we don't yell and scream or rant and demand, we simply ask 'how will you change things to make it better?'.

I wrote to Tim Hortons and got a standard response that is seen on the website which speaks about a wonderful sounding partnership with the farmers and a new plan to implement a new strategy about fair payment of farmers, better health care etc, but when I delved further into when they plan to actually implement that plan I did not receive a reply. Second Cup offers fair trade, but not all the coffee they sell is actually fair trade, in fact only one brand is and it's not often brewed. We took October to take a look at the coffee industry, and now that November is approaching we are going to delve into the world of chocolate.

So far, in my reading, the chocolate world is much worse than the coffee world and not a whole lot is being done to change that. Nestle for example is not fair trade at all, and cadbury's sells dairy milk bars that are fair trade but they have not yet hit the stands in Canada and a date has not yet been set (or at least that I have been able to discover). I would love to stand corrected here if you know better?

As the year progresses we will look at all different companies, writing emails (really easy in this high tech age) and asking simple questions. Some write back, some don't. Some respond with rhetoric written by their PR department and others sound more like politicians trying to circle the actual questions. However, by asking the questions we are putting it on their radar that people care, and maybe if enough people care then one day the companies will care more too.

What do we do with the information we gather? I don't know yet, I still get a coffee from Tim Hortons on Sunday mornings, but I will also continue to question them about that new 'plan' they have yet to implement and maybe one day soon they will actually do something about it. As consumers of their products we have the right to know what it is we are buying and how our purchase is affecting the people at ground level, the farmers or pickers or sewers. In some cases they are simply children being paid well under the legal limit and should be in school not a factory.

We can't change the world with a question, but we can plant a seed. 

October 26, 2011

Smiles

Christmas smiles



Don't forget to write to me if you are interested in joining me in collecting toys for the Starlight foundation this Christmas! They will pick them up from the location of my choosing so depending on how many we can get we will either find a larger space or simply have them come here. They have also said that any toy over $20 with a receipt will get a tax deductible credit.
This is a really worthy cause, do think about it.


a letter to Josh



Dear Josh,

I wanted to write to you and tell you how incredibly proud I am of you, of the steps you have been making and the effort you are making. I love you so much! The sound of your voice brings a smile to my heart and a fresh joy fills me with me hope. The gains you have made over the past month of school have been impressive, and you seem so happy with the way your life is going right now. Seeing you happy makes me happy in a way you won't understand until you have your own children. I didn't understand it until I had you and your brother.

When you snuggle up to me for a hug it has the power to make my day brighter, your smile offers me sunshine and warmth on a cloudy day. There is no one in the world like you. You are so incredibly strong and wonderful and the more time I spend with you the further I fall in love with you.

Even the antics you get up to, the trouble, the artistic work you leave in our home, the temper tantrums, the fights with Kaleb... it is fun knowing you. It is fun to watch you grow and mature and make the steps of being kind and compassionate.

I look forward to many many years of loving you and getting to know you better. You are a fantastic young boy and I have no doubts that you will grow into an amazing young man.

I love you JaJa,
Mummy

October 25, 2011

The wife



I have been wondering lately about the role that I play as a wife, more specifcally the role of a pastors wife. What does it mean? What does it entail? I have seen other pastors wives through out my life and they all seem to have it all together, very spiritual women who stand by their men in heroic ways. If I were to compare myself to them I would have to say that I fail. (Please, this is not meant to garner emails or comments it's merely a look at my role in life).

My thoughts have revolved around my role as a woman who chose to marry a Pastor, knowing all that it entailed or would entail in life. Tim made sure I was well aware of what would be expected of me before we said 'I do' and I happily signed on. It's a role that I love, he's a man that I respect as a Pastor but more importantly as a husband. If I were to stop the comparisons I would find that God chose me for this role, and that he has a plan for me within this particular role. No comparisons needed.

I have discovered that what I love about being not just a wife but a pastors wife, is the chance that I have to 'promote' him so to speak ( I come from a PR family). He is a talented man, one who was called from medicine to be a pastor, one who loves what he does and one who is changing lives every day. This is someone that I am partnered with in life, someone I can proudly call friend and husband and it's an honour to tell you and others about his God given call.

I watch him minister to people, I see him struggle through a sermon and I am so excited by what the future has for us. Will it lead to riches? Not the kind that matter here on earth, but I see him building the kingdom and in my heart I can already see in my mind the day that he stands before the throne and hears God say to him 'well done my good and faithful servant.'

To be the wife at his side, cheering for him, praying for him is a pleasure and a joy. My role as a pastors wife is not a job, it's not what I do or do not do for a church, but rather what I can do for him, as his wife. Are there expectations for me? Probably, but anyone who knows me probably also knows that I am not the typical 'pastors wife'. I don't fall into the pattern very easily. My talents are not politics and service, and my ministry is less than expected I fear, certainly less than what I have seen as examples before me. Earlier I mentioned that I was a failure by comparison. However, when broken right down to the root of the issue, I am merely a wife, a wife of a very wonderful man that I love passionately.

The only person I need to look to to measure myself against is my Mom, and the way she has loved and supported my Dad for the past 40 years. So the question is, is there really a difference between a PR wife, a plumbers wife or yes a pastors wife? I say no, a wife, any wife is her husbands partner, his greatest fan, his advocate, his friend and his confident. It doesn't or shouldn't matter what his job choice is. 

Yes - a post about a husbands job as a husband should follow... and might, but since I am a wife this will have to do for now.

Time bomb


The trouble with allergies is they can strike when you least expect it... one minute everything is fine and the next you are dealing with hives, vomit and in the worse cases with swelling of faces and airwaves. It's scary, like knowing there is a time bomb living with you that could leave you devastated and you have no idea who is holding the detonator or when they will choose to use it. It starts with a hive, then more, then puffiness around the eyes and if we are lucky it stops there, but more often than not it moves to his lungs, causing vomiting, wheezing and other signs of respiratory distress. All these things are common with food allergies, Kaleb certainly isn't the first kid with severe allergies, in our circle we know about 4 kids with various allergies. No, he's not alone, but he is our baby and so with every attack we fear, with every hive or wheeze we get a hitch in our breath and we watch closely, Epi at the ready. In some ways it's a waiting game, and until we know what all his allergies are (in February) every time we give him something to eat, we have to wonder.

A staple in our home is the meds that will keep Kaleb alive should anything get through the wall defense we have set up. Unfortunately we can't get it all and for some reason we are now in the throws of yet another attack, though admittedly this is not a full on anaphylactic attack. My heart just can't stand to see him suffer, to watch him lie on the couch with no energy, no will to get up, for him to look at me with that desperate look in his eyes begging me to make it all better.

We have been blessed with two wonderful boys, but they are both determined to remind us regularly how blessed we are and what a gift they are.

One day I hope that we can find some miracle drugs for Kaleb, a shot or something, that will cure him of his allergies, or at least take away the life threatening attacks. I have so many hopes as a Mum that I never would have had on my radar just 4 years ago. It seems so surreal to me that 6 years ago I was in Europe and my biggest problem was a broken relationship with a guy what wasn't right for me anyway, and the issue of where to move to next. I think back on that time fondly because what bliss it would be to only have to worry about what country in the world I want to move to next? I was so young and silly back then, I am almost embarrassed by it.

While I say that I have to think about where I am now, and I should make it clear that I would change NOTHING. I am so happy with the way things turned out, and there would never be a part of me that wished for something else or regretted the path that has led me to this person I am becoming. While not perfect I am being sculpted and I can't wait to see the outcome!

October 20, 2011

Christmas Smile

What is justice? What is caring for the sick, the orphans, the outcast? These are things on my mind today. I have been getting more and more involved in charities, most of which are about kids and medical issues for obvious reasons. Today I got an email from the Starlight Foundation offering a toy for the kids in our family to help make Christmas a happier day for them. The thing is, we don't need it but how many kids this year will sit around the world in a hospital, with nurses checking in, poking them, doctors hurting them in an effort to make them well? How many parents will forgo Christmas decorations in their homes for a small tree at hospital bedside. Life really sucks sometimes and Christmas is a tough season for so many, and a toy won't make the problems go away, it won't change the situation for those kids, it won't take the pain away, but for a moment on Christmas morning it might help change a moment, it might bring a smile to the faces of a family who so desperately need to smile.

When Josh was in the hospital last time they had a 'treasure box' and when he had really painful procedures they would bring in the box and allow him to pick out a little toy from it. The smile that Josh gave when his eyes saw that box actually made you believe he'd forgotten the pain he'd just endured. It was special, and it gave us a warm feeling to see him his toothy grin through the tears. Kids are so easily pleased, so easy to make smile, so willing to be strong and happy.

On Christmas morning we have the power to make a child smile through tears, to forget for a moment that they should be at home, sitting under the tree with their family around them. We can give them a reprieve of sorts from the draining and difficult life of the hospital.

Christmas, to me, is not about the toys or the stockings or Santa. It is a celebration of the birth of my King, it's the day that we were given the most important gift of all time. The more I learn about Christ, the more Christmas means to me, and the more I am thankful for the blessings that I have received in my life so far. I can't make a child well this Christmas, I can't make a parents heart hurt less, I can't even make my own son well, but I can make someone smile. I can ease a burden from a parent who is struggling to pay the bills because they are staying in a hotel to be near their child, or not able to work because they need to be a full time care giver. I can make a difference to someone on Christmas morning, and so can you.

I am writing this today because I want to ask you to help me this year, I want you to help me make a difference to a child in a hospital somewhere. I am going to be collecting toys for the Starlight Foundation, they asked if I wanted one and I said no, but then I thought what if I do something else? What if I give back to a foundation who wants to do so much to help us? We don't need help this year, but there are kids who do.

So here it is... if you want to help me in this venture please write to me
( horizonsphotographs@gmail.com ) and let me know that you can donate a toy and we will figure out how and where to collect them, and I will make sure that Starlight gets them!

Thank you for your help... and thanks for make a kid somewhere smile.

October 19, 2011

Hope given, Hope recieved!

 

Josh's teacher has been talking for a few weeks now about his great love of numbers and his ability to count, I have been in doubt until this morning when he started to count the apples on the tree he made last week. This is the video I took. This is my reason to today for a thankful heart. The process is slow but this gives me great hope for the future! 

My heart is thankful today because:
 Joshua

1) he can say number 1 - 9
2) he can say them in order
3) he can say Mummy
4) he can say I love you
5) he can say new words almost daily
6) he can say some two word combos
7) he can even say a few three word combos
8) he mostly asks for things with words now
9) he can tell me to stop it when I am teasing him
10) he's my son

October 18, 2011

Thankful ~ another reminder.



I saw this today... the words that struck me were 'this is a difficult situation, but we don't need to be miserable'... great reminder to keep checking my attitude and always, always remember to be thankful because I have much to be thankful for.

October 16, 2011

Blog Action Day


Today is Blog action day. What does that mean? It means that Bloggers around the world will be taking time away from their regular posts to write about a common topic, this year food, to have a disscussion about something important to us. To open lines of commnication surrounding certain topics. Today we talk about food, we can talk about famine, childhood obesity, food in the schools, whatever the issue, so long as it's important to us.

Tim and I have enjoyed cooking together as a couple since we first began dating, we would pick out a menu, make a list and head down to the St. Lawrence market on Front street and buy fresh ingredients to create the meal of our choice. We have tried many things ranging from ravioli to beef wellington and many things in between. The ravioli was a dismal failure and took so much time that by the end of the experience we were so tired we couldn't even talk, not a fantastic dating experience but ultimately a fun way to learn more about each other.

We also enjoy watching shows like Hell's Kitchen, Master Chef and more recently Kitchen Nightmares on Netflix. Quickly becoming our favorite chef is of course Gordon Ramsey. He is straight forward, simple, and honest. Watching him is always good for a laugh and some fun. He's crude, he's rude but he tells it how it is.

As I watched an episode recently of Kitchen nightmares I was stunned by how some people use and waste food, one restaurant for example was making food for hundreds and then throwing out 60% of it. Total waste. The sad fact is that people on the whole waste food, the bounty we have is taken for granted and we are throwing food in the bin faster than we can eat it. We buy fresh produce and then we toss it when it turns before we can eat it. I admit to being guilty of this.

This past month Tim and I have been on a mission to eat all the food without needing to waste it. Some days it requires some creative cooking, and some days it means eating something we don't necessarily feel like eating; the result however is a keener awareness of what we are eating, what we are buying and in the end it is not only keeping us accountable but it's allowing us to save money that we can use for a better purpose (like a date day with the boys).

I would like to challenge you. Look in  your cupboards and fridge, use up what you  have there before heading out to the shops for more food. Think of the hungry in our country, and in countries around the world and be thankful for that full fridge and show your thankfulness by eating it instead of tossing it in a week.

October 14, 2011

Modern Art

do you remember playing with the Atari? Using the huge remote to blast little lines out of ship to kill the space invaders? All in black and white of course! I remember my parents rented a machine for us for a weekend, it was a special occasion although which one I can't remember. My Mom had all these strict rules about it, we could only be on it for a certain amount of time per day, we had to share and take turns and a number of other rules that had to be adhered to before we signed any rental agreement. My sister, Dad and I promised to abide by said rules, she signed the forms and we went home with the latest in technology. (.. yes I realize that I have dated myself in this post but I should add that I was VERY young at this time - hence the lack of clear memory :) Anyway, we got home, figured out how to hook it all up and sat down to play space invaders, Karen and Dad played, Dad and I played, Karen and I played, then Dad asked Mom to try and though she attempted to argue she lost and was soon planted on the couch in front of the game, where she remained for the entire weekend! No more rules, she played for hours! She loved that game!!

I got side tracked by the story, but the point is that I grew up needing to rent the Atari while Josh is 3.5 and knows the ipad intimately. He can work anything on that thing! This week he found out how to work the camera mode and now I have a budding photographer in my midst!! I also have a kid who knows exactly how to find netflix and the shows he likes, which makes life both simple and complicated for me.

This week Josh drew a perfect 6, and a great rocket ship, all on the ipad... (yup, if a 3.5 year old can work an ipad then the company has to know it's done something right!) My mind is blown away by the leaps we have made since I was a little girl watching my Mom play with the Atari! I can't even imagine the leaps that will be made in the boy's lives.

Portrait of his Mummy - by Joshua Haughton

'Six' - by Joshua Haughton

Red Rocket Ship - by Joshua Haughton

Car - by Joshua Haughton

Self portrait - by Joshua Haughton

October 12, 2011

Words

This is a photo circulating around facebook this month. It is child abuse awareness month and this particular photo struck me as so incredible powerful. Words can do so much more damage and yet most of us do not think about this before we speak. We talk to our loved ones in arguments without thinking, our anger rules our words and we don't even mean them but out they come, their poison spreading and cutting worse than any physical damage, worse than physical blow. Using words and tone can cut a person to the quick, can hurt them for years to come. It is the things we say to people that will be remembered, be it words of love or words meant to hurt. A tone demeaning tone from a wife can emasculate a man, a negative response to a child about an achievement they are proud of can dampen their willingness to try again, an unloving response to a husband can him feeling disrespected or loved and can crack the seams of a marriage. Words and tone can turn even the most healthy relationships into unhealthy, hurtful, damaging places that no longer offer solace and a place to hide and feel safe and love, into places where we feel the lowest and most alone. Yelling at a child in frustration, telling them that their picture isn't good enough, their efforts not enough, or that they are someone less than we wanted them to be, that is child abuse. It's not just children though is it? Words from a friend, a lover, a parent to an adult, they hold power too. I still remember things said to me about my lack of breast feeding Josh, (even though I had wanted too and couldn't because of medical issues) made me feel like a bad mother, I remember every word told to me by friends and loved ones about carrying a child with a heart defect, that somehow it must have been something I did in the past that caused this to happen. Making it my fault that my child was sick. Though in truth I knew this was not true, I had done all that I could to be healthy during pregnancy, I still had the voices in my head, and those voices are powerful. It took a long time to realize that I was believing a lie.

I have seen marriages fall apart because words were spoken, tones used, that cause gaping holes and wounds unrecoverable. I have seen children grow into adults with no self esteem because words from their parents still haunt them, I have seen broken people, all over the world struggling with things that were once spoken to them in hateful ways, or worse, in indifferent ways. There is nothing worse than receiving difference from someone you love. I have been at the receiving end of that and I have seen the damaging affects of that.

When I think of my life with Tim, when I think back over our years together I think of the things he says and I can honestly say that his words are always of love, always filled with a deep respect of me, and because of that I know that I am loved, I can trust him because his actions match his words. Do we fight? Of course, what two people who live together and have two children don't? The difference is that we do everything we can to make our words and actions count. We do our best to let the other person know that we love each other, and we do our best to show respect to each other. Do we fail sometimes? Sadly yes we do, but we have a lot of good things to counter act the words we sometimes utter. However, there is always always room to improve. I have used words of frustration with my kids when they are throwing the twentieth freak out of the day, anger and pure frustration causes me to yell, and that just isn't the best reaction for an adult, so this Blog post is for me as much as it's for the readers. It is a reminder to use my words wisely to guard my words well because the last thing I want to do is hurt someone I love because I have given in to frustration, or used a tone that is demeaning and disrespectful. It's also a reminder to apologize for my bad behaviour when I slip up. So that they know immediately that I was wrong, not them, that I was not truthful, that I didn't mean it. It won't take the sting out of the words but hopefully a day at a time my actions will prove to them that I do love them, that I believe in them, that I think they are the best things to happen to me.

My challenge this week and every week in the future is stop and think about what I say, before I say it, and to let each of them men in house know that I love them, respect them and think they can do ANYTHING that they set their minds and hearts on. I want to be the kind of woman who says what she means, and above all to give them men in this house the respect they each deserve and need.

Words don't just hold the power to damage, they also hold the power to heal, saying sorry, honoring someone with words, saying you are proud of someone, telling someone you love them, pointing out the areas that you think are special about them... those words have power too. Let that be the weapon we wield to destroy the negatives that the people we love hear in their lives.

October 9, 2011

my heart walking...

Canadian Thanksgiving... what a fantastic holiday! A day set aside to thank God for the blessings in your life, for the bounty, and for the little things that we don't normally consider. Two years ago today I was planning on celebrating Thanksgiving with family, and then the plan was to head into the hospital on the Monday to have a C-section. I had pre-eclampsia with Kaleb, and I continued to get sicker as the pregnancy continued so they decided that I would have to forgo the hopes of a normal labour and again submit myself to a surgery. On the Friday of the Thanksgiving weekend I went in for more tests and by then was so sick that they decided that the baby wouldn't wait until Monday, he would need to come out that night. So on Friday October 9th, 3.5 weeks before the due date, at 6pm Kaleb came into our world. My best guess is that he wanted to be at Thanksgiving celebrations too as we were home in time to eat turkey with the family on Sunday night. Our world hasn't been the same since, we have so much to be thankful for, so much to celebrate this Thanksgiving. My ten things for Project Thankful Heart today are all in celebration of his birth two years ago.

Someone once said that if you have kids it's like having your heart walk around outside your body and when these two boys entered my world I understood what that meant. I have written to you all week about the sweet little child that is our youngest son. The baby in the family, the the fun, the sly, the mischievous little man we call Kaleb. As we celebrate thanksgiving today we do so with hearts full of our little man, and the wonder that he brings to our lives.

Happy Birthday my sweet son, you have made our family complete, you have made our lives shine with your smile and sweet ways. We love you more than we would have thought possible, and every day that love just grows! Enjoy your special day little man!

Love, Mummy xoxox

October 8, 2011

Kaleb celebrates his birthday with friends!







Off to the Park!

At 4 am I was awakened by my sweet Kaleb by one yell, a bit of a cry and then silence. I waited in the dark to see if he would cry more, but thankfully he went back to sleep. I however, was awake and awake I remain. So now I am sitting here, an hour later Blogging. In five hours our house will be full of kids here to celebrate the birth of my second child. Kaleb turns two on Sunday!

Yesterday afternoon after a botched attempt at a nap Kaleb and I went for a walk to the park, Josh was with Daddy so I had Kaleb all to myself, and he had me. We walked along the street looking at the things that only a kid could find so amusing, the light pole, the fire hydrant, the bushes, the flowers, and of course the trees. He had to touch everything, look at everything and stop to inspect things for at least 5 minutes each. Our progress was painfully slow but thoroughly enjoyable. When we got to the park he went up and down the slide, watched the kids in the school playground, raced in and amongst the trees, and didn't stop smiling once. When recess was over and the school playground emptied we made our way past our little park to the big one. He raced ahead of me, and there he spend twenty minutes racing around the giant slides, up and down the ramps, and through the sand from one end of the park to the next. At that point he spotted a whole host of pigeons in the baseball diamond and off he went. He ran in circles laughing and yelling fly ('fy') at the top of his lungs and laughing, laughing so hard that I was surprised he could still run. Every once and awhile he would look over to me, as if to see if I was having as much fun as he was, and I was.

On the way home, though normally independent and not wanting to walk and hold hands, he reached out for mine and held it most of the way home. Looking at me and chatting away in gibberish about the fun he just had. His eyes were lit up, his smile contagious and his giggle impossibly cute. I fell in love with him all over again.

October 6, 2011

Why?

Why? It's a loaded question right? I mean, it could be about anything, and it can at times it can lead you to answers that discourage you or lift you up, anger you or thrill you. It's a question that can lead to more and more questions and at times drive you crazy.

Joshua is officially in the 'why?' stage, it began with the occasional 'why?' a few months ago but last night it began officially.

'Time for bed'
'Why?'
'because you need to sleep'
'Why?'
'because you are tired'
'Why?'
'because you got up too early'
'Why?'
'because you want to drive your mother nuts'
'Why?
'I don't know, you tell me'...

This morning it began again when I said no to a cookie... It's fun stage isn't it? The thing is though, I was thinking about the why stage and relating it to my own life and Christian journey. I realized that I am in the why stage, that I am still a preschooler in my Faith walk.

'Time to rest in me Laurie'
'Why?'
'because you need rest'
'Why?'
'because you are tired'
'why?'
'because you are doing to much'
'Why?'
'because you don't trust me to do it for you'
'Why?
'I don't know, you tell me'...

Last night as I was praying over the ten things that I am thankful for I was reminded of this, that though I try, the reality is that I do not trust him to work things out. The little things, the 'silly' stuff that matters to us but not in the grand scheme of things. I have been trying to do it because I kept thinking he was too busy worrying about the big things, Josh's heart, Kaleb's breathing, Joshua's speech troubles. I wanted him to be focusing on those things, not needing to worry of the small incidentals of my life. I have been carrying the load, and I am tired. The sad thing is, that by nut allowing him in to all the areas in my life, big and small, I have said in essence that he can't handle it. I have put limits on a limitless God.

Thank God for his grace.

October 5, 2011

Project Thankful Heart

We are heading into Thanksgiving this weekend and as I approach this holiday I am forcing myself to think of all the things that I have to be thankful for. Last year my project was to smile at random strangers and see if I couldn't improve their day by just a little bit. It's been an interesting experience, one that I should probably spend more time Blogging about because the reactions have ranged from sad to touching and sometimes just funny. Kaleb is the master in this particular study, and he always gets good results! This year, while I will still continue with Project Smile I will also be expanding my horizons and starting Project Thankful heart.

Here is the premise. Everyday I will think of ten things that I have to be thankful for, and before I close my eyes on the day I will take the time to say thank you to God for those things. I will Blog about some, and others I will simply do in the privacy of my relationship with God, but I won't miss a day.

My biggest reasons of course for thanksgiving are my boys and my husband, my parents and my in-laws and the friends who have held us up in prayer countless times. They are the obvious yes, but they are not the only things and my project will be more creative than the obvious. I want to stretch myself to see past the normality, the things I take for granted, and I want to say thank you.

Today, my ten things are the simple things in life that we do every day, things that I am blessed because I have them, because I can do them. I have two working legs, and those legs allow me to move freely around my home, my community and they are also the most taken granted for part of my body. I can run around the backyard with the boys because I can run, I can walk to the store because I can walk, I can kneel down to talk to the kids because I can bend.

I can type, I can eat, I can write, I can take photographs, I can brush my teeth and hair, I can caress my children because I have working hands.

I can hear Kaleb giggle, and Josh trying new words out, I can hear my husband tell me he loves me because I can hear.

I can see the smile on Josh's face when his brother hugs him, I can see the dangers in the path of both kids, I can see the light in Kaleb's eyes when he makes me laugh, I can see the tender looks Tim gives me because I have eyes that see.

I can breathe the fresh crisp fall air, because I have lungs that work.

I can pump blood throughout my body because my heart is working well.

I can feel pain because my body has nerves that work.

I can eat, anything, because my body can tolerate food without causing me to be sick.

I can smell the ocean, smell the shampoo on skin of my sons, smell the earth after the rain, smell the dinner cooking, because I have the gift of scent.

I can enjoy the little things in life because I have been given a working body that works well together, that until now has been taken for granted and treated harshly at times. I have a body that allows me freedom, it does not trap me in anyway. Not all of us are so lucky.

Project Thankful Heart has begun... want to join me?

(I was informed that I needed to add coffee to this first list or I would be in trouble... so, to avoid future issues I will add coffee under the thankful for smell (coffee smells divine), and also under the heading hands, because I can hold the cup, under the heading eyes because I can see the wonder of that dark liquid, and then again in the thankful my body because I have a mouth that I can use to drink, a tongue in which I can taste, and a brain that needs the dark drug to function.)

October 4, 2011

Sweet child of mine

Today was the first day that Kaleb and I really got to spend some good quality time together while Josh was in school, his nap was shorter which meant I could drop Josh off a touch early which meant that I was home for a full hour before needing to head back. We played with the light switch (great fun I assure you), and we enjoyed cuddles, tickles and games of 1.2.3 (free to Kaleb) where I swing him in the air and on three he gets plunked onto the couch. It was totally enjoyable, so amusing, so fun!

Kaleb is a joy to be with, he's funny, he's sweet, he's sensitive and he is so charming. This little man is going to break some hearts one day I am afraid. He's the one that will give up his favorite toy if it will stop his brother from crying, he's the one who will wrap his arms around me for a long hug if we have been separated for any amount of time, or sometimes for no reason at all. He's the one who will work to make me laugh and then grin and giggle when he succeeds, and he's the one that will curl up in my lap at any available chance, stick him thumb in his mouth and snuggle for as long as I will let him.

I talk a lot about Josh in the Blog, I spend a lot of time sharing his struggles with you and the ups and downs of living with a child with a heart defect. I don't share enough about the joys of parenting my youngest child. He has a way about him that is so sweet and kind and loving that when you see him your heart melts. His eyes light up with new discoveries, and his dramatic pauses are meant to spark delight in the viewer. He will not pass a stranger on the street without saying 'hi' and waving, nor will he leave a room (even the empty house) without first waving and saying 'bye'. He is my social guy, he's the one most like me in many ways. I see in him what I was like as a child, the funny faces, the drama, the love, and the wonder of being completely loved.

Today as I was playing with him it dawned on me that I don't do this enough, not just spend alone time playing with just him, but posting about him. The things he does, the delights he sees, the fun he shares with us as a family.

Just the other day when we went to get Josh from school he walked into the school entrance, greeted everyone like he was the king, then when Josh came bursting out of his class room Kaleb ran over, threw his arms around his big brother and said 'hi' with a huge smile. He made Josh's face light up brighter than the sun, and everyone in the room who saw it was beaming too. He would do anything his brother asked of him (except give up Tiggy of course), and he would do it with a smile. He gets up from the table and helps me clear it, and he laughs when he shuts the dishwasher door and I tell him what a big helper he is.

He is also stubborn, feisty, and has a temper when pushed, he likes to use the word no but should you use it on him he becomes a beast, but at the end of the day when he curls up in your lap, smelling sweet and clean from his shampoo, his damp hair and warm skin pressed up against your chest, his thumb secured in his mouth and Tiggy cuddled up in his arms, there is no room for doubt that he is one of the most special people I know, one of the sweetest and my heart fills with so much love and joy and pride because he is my son.

Book Review

I just read a book called the 'Son of Hamas' and was so fascinated by the tale that I just had to Blog about it. Here is a guy born into a culture of hate and greed and killing and to watch him transform, despite the dire circumstances of prison, torture, blood and despite being surrounded by death he allowed his mind to be opened, allowed his heart to be touched and now speaks words of love to a generation so desperately in need of love.

The story takes us through the history of the conflict in the Middle East, takes us back through the tragedies, back through the horror and he gives us a version that strikes me as much closer to the truth than any I have heard to date. He speaks of the errors made from both sides, about the hate that fuels the conflict and how there will be no end unless compassion and love have a chance to breathe. My heart was touched because in what seemed so hopeless a situation he ultimately put his trust in God alone, and gave everything up in order to live by the standards set not by his culture, not by his upbringing and not even by Allah but by those set by Jesus. Love your enemies. Such a simple message, such a profound story of courage and hope.

If you get the chance to read this book I would highly recommend it. I have to admit it took a while to read it, I had to fit it into a tight schedule, but it was a thought provoking and emotion book written by a brave and thoughtful, insightful man. I can only hope and pray that people read this and begin to live out it's message. Change cannot happen if people close their minds, change cannot happen if we choose to ignore the most basic of commandments, to love our neighbours, whoever they may be. Love your enemies.

October 3, 2011

How did I miss the whisper?

This morning I was grumbling about Josh's lack of communication, I was praying for some kind of break through, some new words, some hope and generally just feeling sorry for myself. It was a rough morning, he's been so used to just chilling on the couch watching movies while he recovered, longer in fact because as his heart failed his stamina left him as well. So for months he's been pretty lazy, and I have allowed it. This weekend however we have begun to crack the whip a little bit, sensing that he has a little more energy we have pushed him to play rather than watch TV. Basically he's been spoiled for the last number of months and now we are in the process of re establishing the rules of the house. (Not easy for him I guess) The result this morning led to four time outs by 10am, not a great start to a day.

At 10 I put Kaleb down for his nap and Josh and I sat on the couch for a cuddle, both of us were exhausted, and I chatted with him about the new 'rules'. Then we played for a while and then he watched an episode of Diego so I could sleep. (YES, I know... the hypocrisy is disgusting!). When Diego (or was it Dora?) ended we made lunch and headed to school. I continued to pray during the drive that God would help him, help his speech, I continued to feel sorry for myself.

When I went back to get Josh from school the teacher said that the theme this week is apples, and he had apples for snack and painted apples. So, when we got in the car I asked him about apples, and he said 'eat apples' a few times, pointing to his mouth. I asked him if he liked the apples and he said 'good'. Then he and his brother started to get into it and I got involved in traffic issues and the short 'coversation ended'. When I was getting out of the car Josh looked at me and said 'apples, paint' and I smiled, I had not asked about painting the apples so this was information he was offering me, he was telling me about his day. I helped him out the car and we chatted about apples as we walked into the house.

When I pulled out his art work from his backpack I found a picture of a male face, I asked if this was Josh or Daddy and he said 'Daddy', then we went together and put it on the fridge. When Daddy came home I asked him to ask Josh who the picture on the fridge was and after doing so Josh turned to him and, pointing he said 'you' 'daddy'. Tim and I looked at each other in amazement, he had never used a pro-noun before!

After Josh went to bed I sat down to catch up on edits and emails and found myself on facebook instead, I saw a link to a video called Thankful. A man walks into his bedroom, ready for bed, and prays 'Lord, I am at the end of my rope, show me what I can be thankful for' and promptly falls asleep. The next morning he gets up and words accompany his day, 'you can move, you have water, lots of it, you have food to eat, you  have never known hunger, you have clothes to wear, shelter, money to buy a morning coffee, you have a car, you have a job, you have friends, you have family who love you, you have a bed to sleep in'. The day winds up with this man sitting in the same position as the previous night, whispering the same prayer. "Lord, I am at the end of my rope, show me what I can be thankful for'.

It clicked. God has been giving me answers to my questions, one's I hadn't known I had asked yet. He's telling me what I have to be thankful for, and I have been so full of self pity that I have been missing it, whispering the same prayers over and over.

As thanksgiving approaches (Canadian Thanksgiving) I am stunned by this particular reality, how can I hear Josh using two words together, once on the weekend I heard four words strung together, today a pro-noun and an offer of communication about his day, how can I hear all of this and not hear God's whisper 'You have a two beautiful sons, you have a loving and devoted husband, you have a family who loves you, you have a home, you have a car, you have food to eat, you have clean water, lots of it, you have a school to take Josh where he'll get the help he needs, you have money to buy a coffee, you have a job you love, you have a family that loves you and friends that care about you, you have a bed to sleep on tonight...'? How in the world did I miss it?

Wall of Silence

For the last two weeks I have been taking Josh to school four afternoons a week. He loves it, he gets there and has big smiles and when I pick him up he always happy and seems to have had a good day, these are reasons for me to be happy right? One would think I would be over the moon that he is adjusting so well; instead I have been stressed, my shoulders so tight that I can't move my neck, and for two weeks I blamed it all on the traffic. (Which is definitely a part but certainly not the whole of the problem), so what's up?

On Thursday last week one of the mothers and I were waiting to pick the kids up, Kaleb was playing with some cars and put one in his mouth and the other mother said 'oh, no honey that's dirty.'. Now, if you know Kaleb you know how futile this is, everything goes in his mouth and there have been much worse things than a hot-wheel that he's been clinging to for the entire day. I smiled at the Mother and told her that I had given up on trying to get him to stop that habit, then we started talking about the difference in the kids. I told her how Kaleb was an 'everything in the mouth' kid and that Josh had never been interested in putting things in his mouth. She turned to me and said that her son never put anything in his mouth either and that her therapist told her that it wasn't normal, then she said 'that's why we are here right, at this school, they aren't normal'.

I laughed it off in the moment, but all the way home I kept thinking, 'Josh is normal lady, don't know what your problem is'. My shoulders hit an all time high in the tightness area, my neck became stiffer. I think this was about the time I identified problem number two, seeing all those kids who have very obvious disabilities, is to have the denial taken away from me about Josh's special needs. There are kids with all kinds of special needs, and most of them are much further along than Josh in the whole communication area. I see him fitting in so well there, I see all these kids who have special needs and I have to include Josh in the mix. I had thought I was over the denial part, I had thought I understood that he had these needs, and I had thought I was okay with that. The reality is altogether different though. I see him and I start to see where he is lacking, I start to see him as one of a whole, and no longer the only 'normal' child in the room.

Please note here... I am not trying to be politically incorrect, I do know that what I am saying sounds offensive to those of you who have kids with disabilities, it's not my intention to be anything more than honest about my struggles through this new transition. Facing Josh's communication issues have been in many ways harder than facing his heart issues. The heart issues we have numbers on, statistics, we know that a doctor is on top of it, that even though it is horrible and painful, that it is something that can be dealt with, and hopefully one day it won't rule his life the way it has been for the last 3.5 years. His speech problems though, that is something that is so vague, so unsure, so unknown. There is no doctor saying they know what is wrong and can fix it, there is no one to tell me what is wrong even. It's just there, an unknown. Was it because he was born early? Was it all the medications he received? Was it all the anesthetics? Was it the stroke? Is he just delayed because of all the months spent on his back in the hospital rather than developing like a normal child? We don't know. We are literally facing a wall of silence and sometimes I find myself banging my head against that wall.

Yes, things are improving, he is coming along very slowly, but there is no room anymore to doubt that there is a problem. All the people who kept saying 'once he starts talking he'll not stop, and it'll be in full sentences...' well, they were wrong and everyday I have to try to figure out what Josh is trying to say to me about the simplest things that most parents enjoy. What is he thinking? What did he do at school today? Who is his friend? What do you want to drink? What is your favorite colour? Food? Drink? Pair of socks... and I don't know when or if he will ever communicate with me, because no one knows the answer to that question.

There is no way to explain, to a person who is in the check out line asking Josh how old he is, that he can't answer them. No way to tell the kids in the park that he can't answer the question 'what's your name'?. No way to tell the waiter that he can't tell you what his brothers name is. Every time someone tries to talk to Josh I feel my defenses rise, waiting, always waiting for someone to judge. He has no visible disabilities, so they expect him to talk like every other 3.5 year old, when he doesn't you know they are wondering.

No, my child is not normal, he has serious health problems that have left him with serious speech delays. The past two weeks I have been forced to really see him that way, to really stop denying that it might just 'fix' itself. That is a hard hard thing to face when the one thing I want most in the world is to hear the thoughts of my first born.

October 1, 2011

A feeling like no other...

One of the greatest things about doing something you are passionate about is knowing a sense of freedom in your work. A long time ago I sat in a dark room creating images on paper, using chemicals to produce art, it was a feeling like none other, it gave me a way to create things that I saw in my mind but could not draw or paint with my hands. Instead, I could use my eyes and my mind to create what I saw. Art in all it's forms is freedom for so many. Until the day someone put a camera in my hand I felt frustrated and without an outlet. I can't draw, I can't paint, I can't sing, I can't dance, thus my creative spirit turned to acting as it's outlet. I auditioned and got into a school of the arts, only to move to another city before I had a chance to really develop my skills. I still studied drama but the classes were nothing like I had been used to at the school of the arts I attended and I became bored with it.

I didn't pick that art form up again until I was in Austria, and there it was given a chance to be enjoyed and for a short time I once again had an outlet. You see, as much as I had loved shooting photos with my camera, I had no dark room, and photography became an expense I could not afford.

Then came the digital age, photography once again became accessible to me. I still remember my parents coming for a visit to Austria and bringing me a digital camera. That gift, though they don't know it, re sparked my passion and gave me a chance to create again. The freedom I had once known returned in a way that even acting could never do for me. We went to Venice, it was my first trip with my new camera and what a fabulous place for a photographer. The old city, the crumbling buildings, the canals and water logged streets, not to mention the stunning glass in every store front. It was all candy for the eyes and my camera and I ate with relish.

After that my camera and I were never parted (well, except for the time I went snowboarding and fell down a ravine and lost it in a snowbank - but that's another story and the camera got replaced quickly enough).

Today I did a shoot that reminded me why I love family photography, the kids were amazing, the family a joy to work with. The minute I showed up at their door I felt welcomed and felt like I had met new friends. I snapped pictures for over an hour but it seemed life five minutes. I could have shot all day, I love having new models, new locations to work out, lighting to figure out and ultimately I love sitting down at the end of the day and going through the shots, finessing them in the editing suites.

I started my day off in a not so great mood, I had been sick yesterday, got little sleep last night and was woken very early this morning. The drive to the shoot was in dark clouds and they matched my mood and then I began to shoot and the sun came out and just like the sun that was now shining my spirits lifted and I knew that this is what I am supposed to be doing, this is something I can feel proud of, this is something that I find passion in and ultimately therein lies freedom, just to be me.

anger

We all struggle with anger sometimes, maybe there is someone at work who gets under our skin, maybe it's an injustice carried out against you, maybe it's just a perceived wrong done to us, whatever it is we have to struggle with anger. I remember once when I was really angry with someone a friend and mentor said to me 'remember to keep it righteous'. That's hard, often even if the anger comes from a totally deserved place it slides quickly into being an unhealthy anger. A husband cheats on his wife, she's the wronged party and has every right to be angry, then she uses that anger to hurt him, turn the kids against him, his friends... you get the idea. She was righteous in her anger but her reactions to the anger are not righteous.

I have found myself angry many times in the last few years, mad in general mostly, stressed out and frustrated, but there have been moments, sometimes people who have instilled genuine righteous anger in me. These moments, mostly based in hurt if I am honest, or pure frustration, lead me to anger, and I have never coped well with with that particular feeling. I hate confrontation, I struggle with sharing 'unhappy' feelings with people, especially when I know that it will have an emotional impact on one or both parties. Usually this causes me to remain silent, which for an extrovert leads to bottled anger, ready to explode at any moment. When the top goes, look out because an emotional response is about to rain down.

Now, I realize this is totally an unhealthy response to anger, were I normal, I would simply go to the person or source of those unwanted feelings and simply tell them that I was hurt, or angered by their actions, slighted, annoyed, utterly incredulous at the things people do or say and their reasons for doing them. However, I am not that person so I sit with the anger. So, how do I change? How do I allow my anger to come out in a more healthy and righteous way? In a way that won't hurt people, in a way that allows me the freedom of honesty without the burden of emotional angst? I wish I had answers to these questions because there have been nights that I have lost sleep, my gut churning in anger, my frustration so palpable it takes on a life of it's own; in these moments I have conversations in my head with the people involved, the ones who have gone too far, said too much, not said enough or just flat out hurt me, and I tell them what I think, how I feel. The anger does not subside though because I know that those words will never reach the ears of the one who needs to hear it and it leaves me, drained and pumped up all at once.

Now, all this being said. I believe that anger can be a beautiful and healthy thing, standing up for yourself, not allowing people to treat you poorly, or bully you, that is important. I believe in grace, but grace is not grace without wrath.  There are times when anger is called for, when it's healthy, when it's normal. The trick is to handle the emotion with gentle hands, with kid gloves so to speak, and carefully tread through the mine field of anger making sure that you don't lash out, that you don't use revenge, that you don't 'sin' in your anger. This is where I have much to learn...