Monday, January 11, 2010

Any minute now...

Any minute now I'm going to hear one of my kids' cute little voices. "Do you know where my Mom is?" It never fails, and honestly, my hiding spot isn't that great. I work from home, so the best place to look is at my desk, but it's truly the last place they look, so it appears to be the best place to hide! So I'm here, gathering my thoughts and I know that any moment I'll be discovered... here on the couch.

So, it's a big week for me. For my family. My brother, whom I haven't seen in 15 years, is here, in Chicago, visiting me! 15 years is almost half of my life, I was really just a kid last time I saw him... and the circumstances weren't the best, to be honest... but time passes and people grow and change and well... here we are. Brad has been here since last night and other than work (he's here on business, but asked to be sent here so we could reunite) he'll be here for 2 weeks. I can't even express how awesome it is to sit next to him in the car, across from him at dinner, to tell him something funny that one of the kids did today. My big brother. Such a strange concept to wrap my head around. Most people are tortured by their older brothers growing up, but I have had the benefit of skipping all of the sibling angst and going right to the good stuff.

It's so funny, we started communicating again last March, and we've slowly gotten to know one another. It's been difficult due to our schedules and my inability to carry on a conversation without enormous distractions all around me, but suddenly he's here and I'm talking to him face to face and making him dinner in my home and I feel that gap closing. I am starting to feel like maybe he HAS always been here, in our lives. Those long years of absence are fading from the picture and I just see the two of us moving forward and becoming friends. Sharing our ups and downs the way that brothers and sisters who have grown up together do.

This is a big week for my family. My kids have gained an uncle (and a cousin!) that cares for them. They can now put a face with a name, and in time, when they're old enough, they will have the benefit of looking back on this experience to learn about forgiveness and starting over. At 34, I am just learning this lesson myself.

Looking forward to the next 2 weeks...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas letter 2009

December, 2009

Dear friends and family,

As the end of 2009 has drawn closer I have found myself thinking a lot about what I wanted to talk about in my letter. How do I even begin to summarize all that has happened? Do I gloss over the bad? List all of the fabulous things that have happened and ignore our trials? Do I just thank God for our health and express gratitude to our family and friends for getting us through this year? It’s weighed heavily on me and here is where I stand: this year has been such a colorful, twisting and oscillating balance of contrasts – Tremendous joy… heart wrenching pain. Blinding anger, the peace of acceptance. Fear… Faith – I am typically a glass is half full type of person, but sometimes the half-empty portion of the cup has something to teach us. To tell half the story would be such a disservice to the lessons we have learned about life, and love… and miracles.

Last year was one of surprises and new beginnings. Hope and anticipation. And more than a little excitement! We knew our new baby was going to be arriving soon and we couldn’t wait to meet him. We thought he might make it around Valentine’s Day, but our little stinker must have heard a voice we couldn’t because sure enough, my water broke a little after 7 PM on February 22nd, his Grandma Jan’s Birthday… and while we knew our little joint adventure was just beginning, we had no idea how rough the road ahead of us all would be. When Liam was born, it was a joyous moment… just under the radar at 11:44 PM! With Bill by my side cheering me on I was able to fulfill one of my dreams… to be the first person to lay hands on our baby and to lift him onto my chest. To look at my husband and know that he felt the same love for this little being we created.

I would be lying if I said that Liam’s cleft didn’t affect us in that moment. We all hope and pray that our babies will be born perfect and healthy and whole. We assume that because we are good people and follow the Golden Rule and get on our knees to pray at night - that God will spare us from these trials. That He will spare our children. Nothing really relieves the guilt that we feel as parents when these things happen, what could I have done, not done, have I been proud, have I taken too much for granted? So many questions that don’t have any clear answers, and no way to assuage the culpability we feel. “It could be worse. “ only goes so far.

They say time heals all wounds, and so I clung to that and I clung to my husband and I humbled myself and prayed for some peace. Our families rallied around us, supporting and loving us, our children met Liam for the first time and we learned so much from how they responded to him. They treated him like there was absolutely nothing wrong with him, and each identified with Liam in their own way. They have been protective and adoring of him… and as days passed by and we began to see a clear path before us, life became so much easier. Liam’s surgery in June went without a hitch, and he recovered in record speed… he was smiling and squealing by that afternoon! Our families continued to support us and by the middle of summer, our life had finally gotten back to some semblance of normality.

Fast forward to December, I can sit back and reflect on our year. It’s been hard. It’s been really hard, and full of unexpected twists and turns, but it’s been amazing, too. Isaac is growing up into a young man before our eyes. Overnight he grew 9 inches and his voice changed. He has been an immense help with anything we need, and to be honest, sometimes it has been more than his fair share. He has handled it all with grace and I’m proud to call him my son! Gabe got his first letter grade report card and I was pleasantly surprised to realize what a good student he is – straight A’s! He is always willing to keep Liam entertained, along with the rest of us. Van began to realize a lot of potential on his baseball team and while his Star Wars fascination hasn’t died down much, he is showing some interest in another area – art! He’s a fabulous artist and continually blows us away with his skill! Jack was his usual soccer star self this year and was, most games, a one-man soccer team. He’s also making some serious strides in reading and will be pleasant surprised to find a big stack of books under the tree for him this year! (and only one or two lumps of coal!) Logan’s first year in school is going really well and he seems to be well ahead of the other students with many of his academics. He continues to demonstrate his soft-heartedness unabashedly which makes him so easy to love! Hannah… oh, Hannah… my little shadow. She is never far from my elbow and most times it comes in very handy as she is always willing to help out whenever necessary and is absolutely obsessed with her baby brother. I think she considers Liam her living doll… and I don’t think he minds one bit!

And now Liam, our crawling, screeching, eating everything in sight, standing, cruising, clapping, high-fiving human wrecking ball… we didn’t know how many ways he would bless our lives. He never fails to bring a smile to our faces with his antics, and his tenacity (read: stubbornness) gives me hope that he will grow to be as strong as a parent can only hope for. Our little “Birthday Present” has enriched our lives beyond our wildest imaginations. He has taught us that we cannot take everything at face value. Situations that are frightening, times that seem uncertain and fear that threatens to eat you alive are just not so in the mind of a baby. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. That is all that matters to them. “With love, all things are possible.” We have loved him and have done everything we can to give him the best start possible. We have loved one another and have provided him with a healthy loving home to grow and flourish in.

We have loved one another… such a simple statement. Such a seemingly simple act, but in the face of uncertainty it can be difficult, sometimes impossible to put into practice. I can say with complete honesty, that God had a plan when he put Bill on my path. He has been my rock, my shoulder to cry on, my cheering section, my strength, my voice of reason, my sounding board, my therapist. He has been everything I could have ever asked for but never thought I could find. I wish I had a Bill for all of my friends! Bill, I could never have survived this without you. I can’t imagine my life without you, and I don’t want to. You are my everything.

And so dear friends, the message for this year is simple. Have Faith that God has a plan for you, even when it seems unlikely. And Love one another. Life will take you on a crazy journey… no one really knows what’s beyond the next turn, but we have Love and we have each other… and we will get through it together. God Bless you all!