Photographs by Laurie @ Horizons Photography

January 31, 2013

5 very long short years



At 8:50 pm, on January 31st 2008, (5 long short years ago) I lay in the OR while Josh was taken over 5 weeks too early. They called it fetal distress and couldn't wait for nature to take it's course. As the rolled the gurney out of the room where Tim sat signing consent papers they told us to prepare for his death. 'He will most likely not survive the birth' were the last things I heard before leaving Tim's side. I was terrified. Josh was my first child, I was not a mother yet in my soul but I loved that little baby and I had grown used to his kicking and rolling around. We didn't labour through our progression to mother and child. We didn't bond when they took him from me, blue and tiny, he didn't cry. The nurse quickly held him up so that I could catch a glimpse of him before taking him to another room to prep him for the seemingly hundreds of tubes, wires, needles that would remain in every available spot on his tiny body for weeks to come. There was no holding him, no congratulations, you have a boy. Tim didn't cut the cord. Instead They emptied my womb and then they emptied the room. Tim and I were taken to the recovery room, I shook violently and my blood pressure was through the roof. Most of that night five long short years ago is a foggy nightmare, the only night mare I really wish I could remember more clearly. I saw him once that night, a number of hours later when he was all set to go through the tunnel to Sick Kids. Tim went with Josh and I was taken to my room alone. I was terrified. What if he died and I wasn't there? What if he was already gone and they were too scared of my reaction to tell me to my face. I cried almost all night.

Minutes of life, turned to hours, then days, weeks, months and now here we sit. Five beautiful years later with a wonderful, smart, funny, charming little man who told me today about his great dream last night about riding a roller-coaster through the city, and how much fun it was, he even imitated the screams of delight for me.

I found it funny that on a day that we celebrate his life, he has a dream about a roller coaster. That is the epitome of what life with Josh has been. Five years of slow climbs up the hills, and then fast and terrifying swoops down the rails, arms flown high, screams of fear mixed with moments of triumphant delight.

I look back on that night five years ago and it seems like yesterday in many ways, but if I look closer it's been the longest five years of my life. He was everything I needed, everything I wanted and sometimes my living proof of God's loving, sovereign hand in my life and yet before him I had no idea I needed any of it. I have said this before, but he's one of the greatest blessings in my life and I didn't know I wanted it until he was there, that cold, stormy January night.

Today as he danced out of school, awed that his whole class would sing happy  birthday to him, or when he was (much to my delight) that he wanted Swiss Chalet for his birthday dinner, and cake of course, when he told me for the first time about his dreams, or shared that he wanted to be a hockey player when he grows up... well, I get all girly and weepy because I feel they he was giving me a gift for his birthday.

I have always been awed by Joshua's strength, his courage and his intensity, he's taught me more about courage and resilience than any other person I know. Today, today he taught me that sometimes our prayers are answered yes, but not yet. Sometimes the yes is broken into a thousand little parts that when put together make up on giant YES! Today I saw that these last five long short years have been a thousand parts leading up to a yes. God will heal him, he's already started and he's not done yet.

I don't think I need to explain the long and the short of the last five years. They just were, long to wade through and short to look back on.

Never, ever, say never to Josh, and don't bet that God can't pull off miracles!

January 29, 2013

self critque: and why it's okay

As a Mum, or Dad as the case may be; our best hopes for our children is for them to grow up safe, knowing that they are loved and with a healthy self esteem. It seems easy enough when you spell it out in black and white on a screen but the reality is as daunting to me as doing a PhD in Bio Chemistry, or Physics or anything else Science or math related. I heard just the other day that as parents we will make mistakes, but our kids will still think we are superheroes  and while that is a cute sentiment it doesn't negate that some of our mistakes, or sometimes just a zealous approach to parenting may cause harm with, or without our knowledge. I am a fairly new Mum, certainly no expert; but already I can see the goofs I have made and in some cases the results.

Some people read this Blog and hear my honesty and say that I am too hard on myself. Let me first start by clarifying something. I am by no means too hard on myself, but I do endeavor to be as honest as possible so that as we journey together through the years you can know me, and I in turn can discover more of myself. Looking at myself harshly at times; at my flaws, my sins, my mistakes, also allows me the opportunity to see the blessings of grace, the beauty of forgiveness and the wonder of change and growth. How is it possible to know success if we don't first know failure?

Making mistakes while raising kids is one of those things filed under 'inevidable', mistakes happen and more often than not they will happen many many times before we get it right, if that ever happens at all.

One of the biggest mistakes I have made and discovered is this: In a desire to help Josh I have spoken to literally hundreds of therapists, doctors, friends, family... anyone who may know something, who may have a fresh outlook or idea. My mistake? I did it all in front of Joshua, forgetting for the most part that while he can't speak well, he certainly understands me when I say "he can't talk, understand, speak..." In my pursuit to help Josh I have discovered that I have hindered him. With all the talk about what he can't do I have been telling him(though indirectly), 'you can't do it' and the result  is that he believes that lie. My fear is that I have inadvertently failed (so far) at one of the most basic of jobs we have as parents, to raise them up to have a healthy self-esteem. The great part, the part that eases the guilt I feel in the dead of night when I realize what I am doing to my son, is that I have time to counteract those actions. I can be proactive, I can change. I can stop talking to therapists in front of him, I can keep conversations with Tim or other family and friends (regarding Josh's needs) out of his hearing range. All hope is not lost, I can slowly help him build back the confidence that he's losing.

As parents, to any child (not just a child with special needs) we forget that they are all seeing creatures. When I am hurt or sad or scared my guys pick up on it and become anxious; just as when I doubt their ability, they too doubt their ability. Just the other day Tim was trying to get Josh to put on his own coat (something I have taken to doing for him to save time) and he said "I can't" so Tim said that he could do it, and they had a little chat about not saying "I can't" etc. Josh turned to Tim and said 'Mummy can do it'. It was just another example of how I (in this case, in an effort to make my own life simpler) am teaching my son that he 'can't'. How often have I preached at him that there is no such thing as 'I can't' and yet my actions have not been living up to my words. I have been called to account by a five year old.

Am I being too hard on myself? No I don't think so. If we are not always looking at our lives and at what we can change for the better then we will cease to grow, we will cease to change, we will cease to move in any direction whatsoever. As parents, our willingness to look honestly at the mistakes we are making along the way is our greatest hope of achieving our best hopes for our kids. That they will grow up knowing they are loved, that they will be self reliant which will lead them safely into their future, and that they will mature into confident young men and women.

get ready



Next month is February, and that to this Blog means that it's CHD awareness month. For the past few years I have devoted every February to raising awareness about CHD, it's affects on the patient, the family, what needs to be done, what's being done and anything else that has anything to do with congenital heart defects. I have been doing fresh research and I have to say there is some cool stuff happening in the world of heart science! What I am sadly aware of though, is the serious lack of 'Canadian' Support that CHD is receiving. You don't get a lot of info (new at least) from anything Canadian, not the government, not the researchers, not the doctors or news media. This is an old lament (see last February blogs to see the frustrations I faced trying to raise awareness last year). This year I am starting fresh. I have been gearing up and getting re-energized for a new awareness month. As a 'Heart Mum' it's now become my job (especially if no one else is going to do it) to be a voice for the kids who have CHD, and for those who will be born with it. You can view my page on this blog that is devoted to congenital heart defects for more facts and figures but please, come back through out february to hear and learn more! 

All that being said, if you are a heart parent, a patient or a health care provider who wants to share your story,  contact me and I will make room for your post on the blog for this important issue! 

January 20, 2013

IF

As a parent of any child, we want what is best for them. We want to help them achieve all the things that we know they are capable of and we want to see them happy. We want them to do what they are passionate about and we want to see them healthy. Today the passage that we talked about in church was in Mark where a young boy is filled with a deaf and mute evil spirit whom Jesus rescues him from. As I sat listening to the sermon I couldn't help but hear the the conversation between Jesus and the Father...

Mark Chapter 9:

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

As I sat listening to the sermon I thought about all the times I have gone to Jesus on behalf of my sons (Joshua particularly for healing). I have long wrestled with the notion that I may not have enough faith, or maybe I am just asking in the wrong way, or maybe I have harbored secret doubts that have prevented God from healing Joshua. These are things that in my head I know can't stop God from moving, from working, but my heart sometimes doubts. 

As I sat in church this morning I heard this story with fresh ears. The Father uses the word 'if' (verse 22), it's a word I have found myself using regularly in my prayers for Josh. I don't know if I doubt that God CAN do it, but rather that he 'WILL' do it. Two very different things. What struck me though, what Tim pointed out in the sermon, was that Jesus didn't say to the father 'come back when you have more faith' instead he healed his son. What an incredible notion! How freeing to hear those words! To know that my doubts, worries and failures are not being held against Josh. I can pray and ask for healing, I can even express doubt and use a word like 'if' and God will work regardless. What I really need to pray, what I really need to be asking, is what the father in this story was praying and asking. 

"Lord, help me overcome my unbelief"


January 19, 2013

Boys!


 As a woman who was raised with only a sister there are things that come as a surprise to me; and the surprises come on an almost daily basis. Who knew that 'poop' could be an always entertaining conversation around the dinner table? Or, that 'potty time' could turn into quality time of discussing the size of their 'poop'? Burps, another favorite topic and endless reason for laughter (second only to Farts) are simply becoming a way of life here in the Haughton House. Fingers held up to look like guns and little voices saying 'I'm gonna shoot you' are another source of endless fun and always end in a round of giggles when someone 'dies' of a mortal 'gun' wound. Swords, pirates, cars, buzz light-year lasers, flying, jumping from the couch to the floor, from bed to bed or from the dining room chairs and of course the ever popular game of 'superhero vs. bad guy' to which Josh always seems to be the good guy and Kaper always the bad guy. The biggest thing I have noticed with boys is the word 'competition'. It's always a race, always about winning, always... and I really mean ALWAYS, about who is going to get there first, finish their food first, get into the car first, get to school first, get their coats on first, get into their shoes first, get onto the potty first, get into the bath first, and of course who has the biggest poop or longest pee. Nothing happens in this house that doesn't end with someone saying "I WIN!" and jumping up and down with glee.

There are of course the negative sides of raising boys, the endless streams of tears when one boy takes another boys toy, or when a sword is wielded a little too hard, a jump from the couch is landed wrong or in the worst case scenario one boy lands on the other. There are the towers built that the other 'crashes' or the Lego house that the other decimates when pretending to be a bad guy bent on destruction. There are fists that get flung when someone is tired or angry with the other for some unknown wrong they have committed or of course the reason could simply be that one kid (or both) are tired and just grumpy (or in Kapers case it could just be hunger). The reason doesn't  necessarily matter, boys are physical in a way that girls just aren't. Boys throw a fist first and ask questions later (if ever).

A few weeks ago Tim had a Sunday off from St. Paul's so we made the choice to go to his new church (Little T) for a Sunday service. At the end of the service we were introduced to the parish as the new rector and his family. As you can imagine, when the service ended there were a lot of people who wanted to say hello. We stood in the center isle greeting people and chatting and the entire time I had to literally hold both boys by the scruffs of their necks to break up the fighting. At one point Josh had Kaleb by the back of his pants and was pulling his pants down! One man, who witnessed me admonishing Joshua to behave whispered in my ear 'if it matters, Kaleb threw the first punch, Josh was defending'. I was mortified! 'YUP, here's your new senior pastor and his boys and the Pastor's wife who can't contain them!'

These things should not come as surprises I realize, I had friends who were boys growing up. I saw fist fights, I saw races and competitions and all the other things I have mentioned above. I heard the boys in class making farting noises with their arm pits and of course I heard the often repeated 'whoever smelt it dealt it'. Yet, no matter what I saw when I was younger I still find that when it happens in my home I find myself wondering how I created such monsters; then I pray that somehow, some way, I will find a way to raise them into men that can be seen in public. (you can pray with me for that if you feel so inclined!)

However, I should mention that the law of brotherhood is not always 'beat him until he cries or bleeds'. Today, after fighting over who would get into the car first, Kaleb turned to Josh and said 'go away Josh' to which Joshua smiled and said 'I can't go away, I love you'. If one of them gets hurt the other is always concerned, if one of them is crying about something they don't like, the other is there to protect them and inform me that 'he doesn't like that Mummy'. If one is in trouble, the other tries to make me laugh or stop the time out etc. They are truly the best of friends even when at times when it seems they are the worst of enemies.

Shakespeare says 'for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother' and as I watch these two little guys growing up and learning how to be a friend to the other I find that there is no truer quote. They shed blood together, (real or imagined) and their bond is only made tighter. Rue the day that someone messes with one of these two because the other will be a force to be reckoned with.

January 18, 2013

DISGUSTED

Every so often a good rant is in order... I try to keep them to a minimum but it's been a while since I have written one therefore, I feel that I have earned some leeway from my readers... :)

I am noticing a very disturbing trend with social media, and online news that I just have to make a comment on. In a world where we can sit safely behind our computers and type whatever the heck we want without any threat to self we have become a society of 'haters' (for lack of a better word). How many online news articles have you read lately where the 'comments' section is filled with the disgustingly stupid opinions of the ignorant readers? Everyone has an opinion, no one seems to have the facts, nor grace, mercy, or as is most cases, brains. Am I being too harsh? Good, I am sick to death of hearing the racist, the rude, the ignorant comments of a nation that is supposed to be 'tolerant'. I think the reality is that we say we are 'tolerant' when on the streets, but the true check of our tolerance should be done when we are safely behind our computers, smartphones, ipads, androids, blackberry etc...

Twitter? What could be a great tool is being used to crucify people! Add a hashtag (#) to Lance Armstrong for example and see the truth of what we are really like when we believe we are safe. Am I sad that Lance let himself down? Let us down? Yes. Do I think he was brave to finally come forward and say the truth... YES I DO! Especially in a day and age when he must have known what would happen to him in the media. Everyone has an opinion, yet everyone seems to have forgotten their own mistakes, their own lies, the things in their own lives that remain hidden to the unseen eye. Is Lance the only guy in the world to cheat? Is he the only guy in the world to lie? Is he the only guy in the world who hid something from someone? No of course not! So why are we so shocked and horrified that he is actually (dare I say this?) a sinner??

-Insert shocked face here-

Let's return to Twitter for a moment. Today @CP24 (the local Toronto news) tweeted that a 15 year old boy who was shot at 2:30 this afternoon died at the hospital not very long after arriving. It's horrible news! He's a kid, regardless of his affiliations and regardless of his mistakes. No news is out as of yet about what really went down in that apartment complex, no news about how he was involved (not that it would matter - he's still a kid who died too young with parents who loved him). One of the comments made on Twitter regarding this tragedy? 

"Another aspiring rapper gone too soon!"

I am not joking, this racist, disgusting comment was made about a young boy who was shot multiple times and died just hours ago in a Toronto hospital. How is it that we as a society claim to be more 'tolerant', more understanding, more 'civilized' than any other time in history and yet this sort of thing is still happening? Why, as a reader of news should I be forced to see the comments of these ignorant biased jackasses?! 


January 15, 2013

Changing up the lens




I entitled this Blog 'Through the lens of Motherhood" for a few reasons. 1) I am a photographer by trade so I view a lot of life through a lens of a camera. I look for things in life that have beauty, even the ugly can be seen as beautiful if you look at it correctly. A broken down old barn, a dirty canal in Venice, a rusted out old truck, an old and broken window are all things that through the right lens can be made into something of beauty. Looking at people and objects or nature through a lens allows you to see things that you wouldn't normally see, it gives you a chance to see something dirty and old become new and fresh, maybe even something you might actually hang on your wall.

I have tried to take that act of 'looking through a lens' into my life as a mum as well. The daily grind can be just that if you are looking at it with unseeing eyes, but if you put the right lens on you can see beauty at every turn. I see the boys differently, I see my husband differently and more importantly I see God differently.

Through the lens of motherhood I see the love of God, the love I feel for my boys, though not nearly as great as God's love for me, is unconditional and allows me to see God through a new lens. Today as I watched Josh playing with Kaleb I reflected on my love for them and I was struck again by how my heart has grown since knowing these two fast growing little men. The smallest accomplishments are something I rejoice in, their failures or setbacks are things I want to encourage them at, when they make a mistake I correct them  and get them to try again and when they are 'naughty' (for lack of a better word) I set about teaching them a better way. It made me think about God's judgement, and how so often it is said that God's judgement is contradictory of His love. Yet, as I watched these two kids I realized that if I didn't care, if I didn't love them so much I wouldn't care how they turned out. If they ended up violent or addicts or mean or... well, anything negative, it wouldn't matter to me at all because I would only care if I loved them.

When I see God lovingly correcting me or teaching me, I often stop and realize that he must love me a great deal to care enough to want me to change and grow into someone more beautiful.

The same can be said of the difficult times of suffering in our lives, we can look at it and see all the negative things that have happened and we can dwell there, or we can slip on a new lens and see all the ways that God is loving us through the trials of life. On Sunday we heard a sermon about mountain top experiences and living in the valley, and while the views in on the peaks are stunning; as someone who once lived in a valley I can promise you that there is beauty there as well. We can look up to see the majestic mountains, we can see the green of the grass and smell the wild flowers. Valley's don't have to be a place of darkness.

This is a random post, I realize that, but in an endeavor to share my thoughts with you I sometimes ramble. My hope for you today is that you find a new lens, or take a fresh look at the one you already have on. Life is beautiful, even when it hurts and everywhere you look there is evidence of God's infinite love for you.






January 14, 2013

Potty training... WOW



Last year you may remember that the blog turned into 'the toilet diaries' as I made repeated attempts to potty train Josh. It was a year long saga (from his third birthday to almost his fourth) and tale of woe that ended triumphantly when I discovered that it was ME who was needing the training and not Josh at all. When I became consistent so did my little man Josh and though the battle was long and hard I did in fact win the war. Since this is still so fresh in my mind you will (maybe) have some empathy for me when I tell you that Kaleb is three and though I had heard repeated 'he's not trained yet' comments made to me I just couldn't seem to muster the energy I believed it would take to get our self proclaimed 'baby' to use the potty on a consistent basis. I did ask repeatedly, 'do you want to learn to use the potty?' to which the answer was always a loud 'NO!' (I have learned not to ask a question if I have a designed answer in mind). I told him constantly that he was a big boy, to which he would respond 'I am not a big boy! I am a baby!'. So, the diapers continued and I enjoyed my year of potty training peace.

However, the cloud that hung over me knowing that I would eventually need to train him remained and on Tuesday while Kaleb was having his nap I mustered up as much courage as possible and prepared for battle. When he woke up I went upstairs and took him out of his diaper, then I put him in underwear and told him (I didn't ask) that he was a big boy and was GOING to use the potty. We had four accidents that day, 2 the next and none since. Our little man, the stubborn one, the kid who I thought would give me issue over this is now using the potty without any trouble! Unreal right?! I know that Tim and I are still reeling in shock.

The biggest difference between Josh and Kaleb? Why did Josh take so long and Kaleb next to no time at all? I honestly believe it was my approach to it this time. I didn't give him a choice. I threw out the diapers, I used proper underwear (no pull ups) and the most important thing was that I left it totally up to him. I refused to get into a power struggle with him. I told him that he had to keep his pants dry and reminded him (frequently) to tell Mummy if he needed to pee or poo. Not that I am a master of potty training or anything but whatever works right?! I had a few moms asking me about Kaleb's success and after reading so much online stuff about taking the kid every 40 minutes or so to 'try' I figured I would write a post about Kaleb and how giving him the control actually took next to no time at all. Were there any messes? YUP, but after trying the other methods with Josh with no great results (he's trained but it took forever) I figured maybe another voice should be out there on the internet giving Moms other options. Not once did I tell Kaleb to try to pee, not once did I take him to the potty (unless he had an accident - to which we made a big deal about how gross his dirty underwear was and then how nice his clean underwear was).

So now it's out there... just a second thought on potty training.

January 8, 2013

If you had know me when...



If you had known me in you my younger years and then met me today you would probably not recognize me. I was an angry and rebellious kid looking to cause trouble when possible; most of which only ended up hurting me. To see me then and find out that I am now a Pastor's wife makes many people laugh. One man was quoted as saying 'God certainly has a sense of humor!'. The truth is, that while in the thick of my rebellion and against myself, God and anyone else in authority over me I was never far from the calls of His still and quiet voice. I look back now through a lens of God's love and what I see are the thousands of times he came in to rescue me, the way he took care of me and how he guided me straight to his waiting arms. Now that I am here, and facing being a Senior Pastors wife I would be remiss to not tell you how that terrifies me! Too many times I have been called 'Atypical' and 'non traditional' in my approach to my 'role'. This has led me to a serious question... one that I am hoping I will get some responses to... What is a 'typical' pastors wife look like? What is a traditional pastors wife doing that it is so traditional? Is the generation changing things or are they still looking for this type of woman?

Seriously at a loss here and would love your input as I make steps to support my husband in his new role.

Thanks!
L

and the year begins...

What an interesting week it's turning into. Holidays are over, the kids are returning to school and I am once again finding that the time I thought I would have when they returned is going too fast to get a thing done. Blogging has taken a hit this year and I have to wonder how I managed it last year with Kaleb home all week and driving Josh to and from school in downtown Toronto? This January & February we are blessed to have Josh in TWO therapy sessions a week!! This is FANTASTIC news but it comes at a cost of time. Time for Kaleb, who seems to somehow always manage to get placed second to Josh's medical concerns and time for me to accomplish things I need to get done. I was spoiled this past two weeks with Tim home, my house was clean, the kids were fed properly and I met all my deadlines. Today I sat down and began to mark up my calendar with all the things that need to get done and as I sat writing on almost every square I had to sigh and take a larger sip of my coffee...

I remember once when I was a teenager thinking that I would want to be a stay at home Mom because then I wouldn't have to work. I look back on that now and cringe. What planet was I on?!?! From morning until night, no breaks and still not enough time to do all that needs and wants to get done. Even now as I write this I am scared to look at anything but the computer because the guilt will set in about all the things I still need to finish before the boys get home. Somehow the older they get, the more independent they become the more there seems to be to do.

The thing is though... and I have thought long and hard about this. What would it look like if I was working full time out side the home and not just part time as a photographer? I think my mornings are crazy now? I think my house is messy now? I can imagine coming home from work around five, having two hungry kids who need my attention because I haven't been there all day and who need to have a meal made for them, I would have a still messy house that would have to wait until the kids were in bed, I would have a non existent blog and life in general would be exhausting. As I started pondering this I realized how incredibly heroic Moms who are working full time outside the home are. I thought of my own Mom who worked through out my childhood and yet still managed to get it all done. I had to take a moment to stand up and say WOW to these women, kudos my friends you are amazing!

I also had to say a prayer of thanks that God has made it possible for me to be home with my guys, that it's possible for me to take Josh to all his many appointments without paying consequences at work. To make it possible for me to have snuggle time with Kaper after his nap, or see Josh's face light up when he teases me during lunch. Through out the last five years of motherhood I have sat many times to reflect on the blessings in my life and today is just one more of those days. The dishes from breakfast are still on the counter, the boys pj's are still on the floor and none of the beds are made but at the end of the day I am blessed to be here to do it for them.

Have a great Tuesday!
L