Trust the Process

When we’re parenting it’s easy to get stuck in a moment, to think this or that characteristic about our child may never change. Our picky eater will die of adult-onset malnutrition. Our hot-tempered toddler will have no friends. Our hygiene resistant tween will never find love.

But here’s the good news we often forget: Most of us were picky-eating, hot-tempered, hygiene-resistant kids. We played games, flirted with too many boys, and wasted hours at the pool. But look at us now! Grown-ups with jobs! We’re feeding our children, putting money in the bank. We actually make good choices 80% of the time (give or take a few misguided relational connections and various fad diets).

I’m learning to trust the process of growing up that got us from there to here and not freak out while we’re in the still-forming middle of it all.

 

The Eye of the Tiger

The school nurse called me the day before the all-school walk around the neighborhood (a fundraising event), “Do you think Claire will be up to it?” Claire is new at this school and with a diagnosis like cerebral palsy and the way her purple brace and slight limp sort of draw some attention to her physical limitations, I expect these kinds of questions. I’m thankful for the way she is being cared for and considered.

But this is the image of Claire as she was crossing the finish line and heard the lyrics of one of her favorite Katy Perry songs blasting from the music teacher’s sound system set up next to the piles of water bottles and fruits. Not even the last member of her class to come in.

So I’m glad I said, as I have so many times before, “Yes. Yes, I think she’s up to it.”

 

 

Are We There Yet?!

Dan and I moved our family to Omaha two years ago knowing we weren’t sure exactly where in the city we wanted to land. Happily, we were able to find a great rental near his parents. We could not have survived the difficult transitions of those two years without their help with childcare and general life support. It’s been a gift.

As Dan has settled into a job he loves (Yay, Flywheel!) and I’m wrapping up the last year of my MFA program, we felt ready to start putting down some roots of our own. It’s not that we haven’t already been doing that to some degree, but we’re ready to settle into a neighborhood that we can call home while the kids are growing up. Jesse will be ready for high school this time next year. We’ve been comfortable in Dan’s old neighborhood in the burbs, but we didn’t feel like it was exactly where we wanted to be for the long term. And the thing is, the longer you keep talking about someday, the longer the doing gets displaced by the talking. Meanwhile, everyone is growing and changing and BAM! we’re parenting a house full of teenagers. (Within three years that’s us: 3/4 of our offspring will be teenagers.)

Dan teaches rock band in hipster-cool Benson and works as a Happiness Engineer in Omaha’s Downtown. Between these areas is Midtown and we’ve kind of fallen in love with its bungalows, restaurants, and tree-lined streets. We like a neighborhood feel where the skyline (even our small one) is just over the treetops and a short drive away. One afternoon last fall Jesse played on the football field at Central High School and we just saw ourselves there, felt like it was our place. We’d been looking for that feeling.

So after the dust settled on his new job, we started looking for housing in the Dundee area and found a sweet little town home to rent. I should emphasize the small in that sentence because we’re definitely downsizing, but we’re excited about the idea of paring down to the things we love or need (Hello, minimalists, I see you!) and finding creative ways to make our space work for us.

All of that is coming. But today I’m still sitting in a half-furnished house in a neighborhood I’m leaving. And as we sort through the toys we love and the things we need and try to keep them separate from everything else, we’re losing track of which pile is which. We’re eating meals on the couch. We’re sleeping in rooms that feel more like garages. And it has just reminded me again how tough it is to actually transition. It’s that place between here and there. Both places are good. It’s just that things feel better when you’re in one place or the other. The only really fun part of a road trip is the snacks, and at some point even that isn’t enough.

But Twizzlers and Diet Coke do help. As well as pizza delivery and ready-to-pack boxes. There are ways to ease the transition and part of that is trying to make good preparations for the coming adventures. Keeping the goal in mind helps more than anything. Here’s to transition: the long flat land between where you are and where you’re going!

 

This is Good Work: Claire Update

Claire is in the middle of lots of good, hard work right now. Her hour-long physical therapy sessions start with several minutes of stretching. We’ve surgically lengthened her hamstring and Achilles tendons and still there is a daily fight against her body’s natural tone that pulls and tightens muscles in her leg (and arm, but that’s another day’s battle). We noticed she wasn’t being able to pinpoint where her pain was coming from and realized this is probably yet another issue with the way CP works on a body: the brain-to-appendage connection is damaged, so messages just don’t get where they are supposed to go at the right times.

After stretching, the games begin. She plays washers or Don’t Spill the Beans or dominoes, all of them just fronts for the real work that her therapist is doing with the way she asks Claire to stand or lean. Squaring hips, stretching flexors, and bearing weight. The funny thing is how often I’m surprised by what her body can’t do because of how well she compensates in daily life. Her therapist was the one to notice the way she didn’t extend her left (troublesome) leg behind her in her stride. When asked to isolate those hip and butt muscles in an exercise, she barely has any strength in them at all. To walk, she has figured out how to over-use and contort the muscles that respond to her. It isn’t always pretty, but it gets the job done. In therapy, the PT does a kind of deconstruction, finds the holes and the manipulations, and addresses them head on.

Most sessions include extended time on the treadmill. There is usefulness in the quick repetition required of her muscles when the ground is moving under her feet. The therapist adjusts speeds and inclines to find a spot that produces the best gait. We work from there.

At the end of her time, she usually gets to choose a fun activity. The indoor zip line is a favorite. Another is a contraption called a Pedalo. By the time we leave, she’s feeling good but tired. At home we try to follow a routine of daily stretches and strength exercises. Sometimes I try to sneak a stretch in while we’re standing in line at a restaurant or store. That doesn’t always go over well.

One of the tough things this go-around is how much more aware of other people she seems to be. She’s worn a brace off and on for years, but it’s been several since she’s worn it daily.This time, though, she isn’t as likely to want to run in with me at the store or take the dog for a walk, and it isn’t because she isn’t able. “I just feel like everybody is looking at me.” I remember feeling that way when I was 11 and probably no one actually was. In her case, they usually are.

So she works. Strengthens the parts that are weak, stretches the parts that are tight, coaxes the non-responsive parts into action. It’s good, hard work. I’m incredibly proud. Sad, some days, that it has to be her this way. Sad, some days, that I’m filling my Instagram feed with filtered shots from the Rehabilitation room at Children’s Hospital instead of a beach vacation. But thankful, every day, that she’s mine. Thankful for what she’s taught me about what it really takes to be important and special (hint: none of the things I would have told you before Claire). Thankful that when I think of Claire, the analogy of Christ and the Church as a head and a body makes more sense in a practical way for someone still being surprised by how tough and how great this faith community thing can be. This isn’t perfect. It sometimes looks awkward. But the beauty isn’t in an elegant, flawless product. The beauty is in the trying. The beauty is in the being. The beauty is in the work.

 

Day One of the Longest Four Weeks Ever: A Family Update

Claire had a tendon lengthening surgery on Friday. The goal of the surgery is to release some of the tightness in her left leg (an effect of cerebral palsy) so she can have better balance and mobility. We’re very excited about that prospect. We’re not as excited about four weeks in a hip-to-toe cast.

So far Claire is, per her feisty usual, recovering well. She’s already putting weight on the leg and tooling around with a walker and in a wheelchair. It’s just the logistics of a cast that big that is tough. Going to the bathroom, for example, is an unbelievably complicated task fraught with many dangers.

We’re also still working to manage pain and comfort levels. She’s got a pretty high pain tolerance but she’s also used to sleeping on her tummy, something that seems nearly impossible in this monstrosity. So we use pillows and stuffed animals and try to make it work.

The first two nights I felt like I had a newborn again (something I’m obviously too old to try because it made me ridiculously emotional). I went to bed dreading how soon I’d be awakened by Ada to tell me Claire had to go to the bathroom. Just like the good old days. But then yesterday Dan let me have an uninterrupted nap and last night Claire slept all night without pain meds or getting up to pee. So this morning I think we’re going to make it.

We still have to figure out the logistics of school. Luckily, Grandma Cheri is one of her teachers and can help with the technical work of the restroom. And Claire has been practicing her wheelchair moves. One big plus of all of this is the extra weight-bearing and exercise her left hand is getting with the walker and the wheelchair. That’s one thing she probably wouldn’t have done on her own and it should really help the weakness in her left arm because it’s forced to be a strong link instead of a weak one.

So that’s where we are, friends: hanging in there! Thankful for an opportunity to see Claire get stronger even if in the meantime we’re forced to stay a little closer to home and depend on each other a little more than normal. All good things.

“August is the Sunday of Summer”

So, here we are in the Sunday of Summer (a phrase I heard on the radio this week), and we’re definitely treating it as a chance to make some seasonal changes around here. A little catch-up on the White House II?

Another move! But this time it’s just up the street and around the corner. We can almost see Grandpa’s house from our new front porch. We’d like to buy our own little corner of Omaha someday and we thought a cheaper rental might get us to that goal a little quicker. All three girls will be piling into one bedroom and the extra music equipment has to be in storage for a while, but we think we can do it.

New school! Well, a new program for me. I start in the very first MFA program at Creighton University on Tuesday. My focus will be in poetry. Since I was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship, my schedule is going to be opened way up (in terms of work – the kids will still need me occasionally). I almost can’t believe it. Of course, the goal of the program is for me to create a publishable, book-length work, so I have a lot of writing to do.

A new job! This one is Dan’s. He is a good, good man, people. You know what’s expensive? Living. Dan is the best musician I know and he was doing everything he could to make the money we needed based on that skill. It just wasn’t happening. So he did the noble thing and suited up with the Geek Squad. I’m so so proud and grateful. There are a lot of good stories attached to his procurement of this job but the bottom line is that he has secured a steady income AND benefits for our family in this season. Kids only need braces once, you know, so it won’t be forever.

I guess sometimes Sunday night is the worst time of the week, but it doesn’t have to be if you’re looking forward to Monday. When you expect Monday to be good, Sunday is great!

So, what’s new with you?

 

Our Yankee Doodle Dandy

Jesse was born at 9:00 a.m. on the Fourth of July, a true Yankee Doodle, to a small crowd of adoring fans. But the cheering hasn’t seemed to spoil him like you’d expect. Instead, he returns the favor.

Dandy (noun): someone or something of exceptional or first-rate quality. In this photo captured at last night’s College Homerun Derby (televised on ESPN tonight), Jesse is the only fan in sight on his feet cheering for the batter who just hit a ball over the yellow line. A player he didn’t know, from a team he didn’t call his own, in a sport he really doesn’t follow. But he was there, it was happening, and Jesse cheered.

Maybe everyone else had grown tired of cheering – six competitors had been swinging for the fences for several rounds. We’d seen a lot of homeruns by that time. Maybe we’d glutted ourselves on the simulated spectacle of what happens rarely in a real game. Maybe we were busy with our cotton candy or plastic-flavored cheese sauce. Maybe Jesse was the only one who recognized that hitting a tiny white ball over 400 feet with only a small aluminum stick – under any circumstances – is worthy of celebration.

Probably he’s the only one who got it right. And that’s just one reason why he’s a dandy on the fourth of July.