Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Girl Just Wants to Have Fun

Our little girl is 8 and this year she really wanted a big birthday party. I tried to talk her into an experience, something small with just her best friend and family but she really wanted a party. As she and I planned together, I could tell the most important thing to her was a good time for as many friends as she could get to come. She invited all the kids in her class, the girl she sits next to on the bus, her church friends and her Girl Scout troop. I was both embarrassed and amused at how many kids she wanted to invite.  I said, "let's do a charity rather than gifts" and she immediately piped up, "what about clean water for Africa?" She wanted dancing and so our brains together came up with neon colors and an 80s dance party!

I got glow-in-the-dark paraphernalia, some 80s decorations, and we had some great music and lights thanks to our friend David and a beautiful cake set up from my dear friend Chas at Mommy Bakes.

My parents came. . . my Dad wore a tux.

 As we were cleaning up, BJ said, "if you didn't have fun tonight, it was your own fault." So our little girl got her wish, and we raised money for Watering Malawi, enough to buy a treadle pump to water a garden.

We are so grateful for Anna Cate and her desire to have fun in life and share her sweet spirit with her friends and her generosity with children on the other side of the world. Here are a lot of pictures from our 80s party. I think the style is coming back because these kids sure had access to a lot of authentic looking 1984 style!  I compiled the pictures of Anna Cate's friends of all ages who helped us celebrate, making the evening and her birthday wishes such a success. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Blessings in the Broken Arm Ordeal

On Thursday afternoon, I felt like I had my act together.  I rushed home after school, threw a pre-made dinner into the crock pot,  changed into my work out clothes, packed swim bags for both the girls and headed to Miss Diana's to sweep the girls off to the gym. It was an exciting day. . . Molly's first time to do pool play at 5:30. I dropped her off at 4:25, went to a spinning class and about 5 minutes before I was going to change her into a bathing suit so she could swim while Anna Cate did swim team practice and I could do a strength work out, I heard my name called over the loud speaker.  

She was tumbling on the alligator mats and tried to do a cartwheel and she fell on her arm wrong. At first, I said, " are you sure you just don't want to go swimming?"  She couldn't bend it, and after her Dad got to the gym we took her the ER where we learned it was broken, a compound supracondylar fracture and needed surgery that evening. 
So she was taken by ambulance to Richmond where they have pediatric orthopedic surgeons more qualified to do the surgery. She said she wanted me to go with her in the ambulance and then on the way down she said, "I picked you because I didn't want Daddy to get fired if you drove his truck." She looked up at the rail on the top and said, "this is sort of like riding a train; it's kind of fun  . . . not the broken arm part."
In the Emergency Room in Richmond, we were met by many surgeons and residents, and the only time she cried was when they cut her new shirt.  By midnight, she was awaiting surgery. Below, she meets with the chief resident who performed her surgery. They were able to put three pins in without opening her up. She will get a hard cast on Wednesday. 
 The nurse called me to tell me surgery had begun, and that she didn't cry at all when we left her and chatted with the doctors about Disney princesses. She was in a room in the pediatric floor around 3am. 

 A few hours later, she had jello and a popsicle for breakfast, but was too worn out to enjoy it. 
 We received fabulous care, which makes me ponder and appreciate health care, the very reason I went back to work when Anna Cate was 2. 

 Integrity is embodied in the health field where nurses and doctors mix precision with compassion in such awe-inspiring ways. One doctor just became a mother herself 6 months ago, and when she came to check on her I gave her a sticker to give to Molly in my sleep-deprived delirium.  Then I thought, this doctor doesn't have time to give my kid a sticker, but she actually thanked me for letting me give her the sticker. We noticed the stuffed animals she was given at both hospitals went into surgery with her also got bandaged on their left arm.
 Daddy figured out how to get FROZEN on her phone and I figured out how to sleep with her.  She has told us Daddy is better at taking care of her, and Mommy is better at cuddling. I think that means he's a doer and I'm a sloth. 

Less than 24 hours later, we were on our way home. 
 Home to rest.

 Anna Cate spent Thursday night with her aunt and uncle, Greg and Sarah and our best friend Norah picked her up from Miss Diana's Friday afternoon. So when she came home, she was still really unnerved.  Her teacher emailed me that Anna Cate was concerned about Molly all day and used her free writing time to process it. Mrs. Rigby wanted me to know what a special, thoughtful, daughter/sister we had in Anna Cate. 

 When Anna Cate saw Molly struggle, she couldn't contain her tears. Soon Molly fussed, "stop crying, I am the one who broke my arm," and before the evening was over, the sisters were catching up. Anna Cate had a lot of questions and Molly loved sharing. 
I think Anna Cate was just worried that this would change Molly, but it hasn't. The experience just showcased Molly's spirit, her humor and her tenacity.  The ordeal also illustrated Anna Cate's tender-heartedness, love for family and desire to take care of people. She has been a compassionate nurse and sister.  

I have a very sweet kid who can be tough, and a very tough kid who can be sweet.  Opportunities like these force me to notice the blessings and if I spend my energy on that, I focus less on the trauma. Similarly, we've also been overwhelmed with kind words, thoughts, prayers and acts from our friends and family. 

A visit from friends made Molly's day. Lindsey brought lunch and playmates as well as her nurse expertise.
Molly couldn't even walk by herself, but seeing her friends play reminded her how to be a kid and these boys were so gentle and sweet.
Owen and Ethan gave her a great "side ways" hug.

We received a beautiful and delicious edible arrangement from my dear Aunt.


And a gorgeous bouquet from my dear friend Dorinda. 

 Molly received presents from Miss Diana and her gang and Sarah and Anna Cate got her balloons and toys. We have friends helping out this week and her Baba brought Carl's ice cream tonight.  Luckily, Molly has figured out how important her right arm is.

One of the first people she wanted to call from the Emergency Room was Miss Diana to tell her she broke her arm. Later I found out that Miss Diana was at a church meeting at Judy's home. Ironically, we were at a meeting together about six years ago at the the same Judy's home, and I did not know Diana very well, when she told a story about earlier that week she had been with a kid who she cared for when he was in the Emergency Room.  I distinctly remember thinking, "wow that's a caring day care provider" but it sounds a little unique.  On the night that Molly was in the ER, Diana told a group of ladies, "I need to keep my phone on to get check ups on Molly."  So years later from a similar story with a different child, Diana is now a part of our lives as part of our family. It is sort of a full circle story because if I didn't have to work outside the home, I would never know this kind of love that Diana has for my children and our life would miss out. 

 Likewise, while I'm not happy that Molly had this horrible little accident, I've received clear insight to the character of my children, the blessings of good health care, the depth of my friends' generosity and care for my family. The smallest acts of outreach have been meaningful, and as I've learned so many times in life, I notice the blessings outweigh the concerns.  

So I could focus on how this messed up my perfectly planned evening, or the planned trip to Tennessee Molly and I had this week to go to a dear friend's wedding and leave her for her first trip by herself at Nana & Daddy Doug's. . .  but even if life is meant to be perfectly planned, it certainly doesn't always follows those plans. The only thing that keep me appreciating whatever comes is my attitude, not the change of plans.  The intentions help  me live, but the accidents or the unplanned occurrences provide blessings as well. I think the key is to not attach myself or my happiness to what I had planned, to let it go and go with the flow.  Much easier said than done for me. 

As I told Molly as she went into surgery, I am so sorry this happened to you but it gives you the chance to show people how brave you are. I am not thankful she broke her arm or that we have this annoying road of recovery, but I'm thankful for the bravery and for all we've reminded of: how wonderful BJ is at taking care of his girls (all of us), how tough and funny Molly is, how precious and kind Anna Cate is and the value of true friends.  We received so many messages, phone calls and text messages as well as acts; they all have meant so much to us. Thank you. 

“To banish the Hideous Damsel's darkness is to sterilize one's chance at the evolution she brings.” 
― Elizabeth LesserBroken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

We are going to be ok. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Little Girls

Molly's 4th birthday was Sunday.  I distinctly remember when Anna Cate turned 4, my dear friend Annie said something about how 4 is sort of a signature passage out of toddlerhood.  In a way, it is heart breaking because I've so enjoyed my children being young. It isn't always easy, but it is always, always precious. I have yelled and laughed, cussed and cried, so maybe it is not always precious, but it is sacred.  Having healthy, beautiful little girls has been such a treasure stop in my life. They aren't perfect, and they won't ever be, but being the mom of little girls has been defining and delightful as well as challenging and exhausting.

A few things I want to remember about the 3 year old Molly:

She starts her prayers at dinner every night, exactly the same:

"Dear God, thank you for this wonderful day and this wonderful world" and then she proceeds with her daily thoughts.. . .

She loves to rub my neck.

She looks at her big sister with such love and guidance. I'm so thankful that Anna Cate is so worthy of that love and direction.

She is so pleasant to be around.  In fact, she is hilarious.  To quote my Dad, "she is one of the greatest characters of Western Civilization." Regretfully, there were times when I wasn't even sure if I liked Molly, but I just adore her spunk and personality. She is cunning and kind all in the same little package, and I am just so thankful she is my kid.

She wanted an Izzy party at the bounce place in town. It wouldn't have been my first choice for a party because I like entertaining in my home, BUT it was a blast and all the kids seemed to have fun, especially Molly.

The only decoration or original party decor was the cake and cake pops made by my friend Chas at Mommy Bakes. 

 But more important than theme or decorations were the presence of family and friends to enjoy themselves and celebrate our girl.

 Anna Cate was a great helper.

So while I celebrate my girls' birthdays, I find myself a little sad that this phase of having little kids might be over.  

My Mom was here this weekend and we celebrated her birthday along with Molly's with lots of fun, and the "icing on the cake" was that we have had three snow days to enjoy each other. 

We enjoyed an afternoon at a fancy little tea room in downtown Fredericksburg.
 I do love having girls and doing girly things.
Because we had a snow day, we took her the airport and I witnessed a tearful goodbye.

After we dropped her off, rather than turn around to come back home I decided to into DC to visit a Smithsonian. I told the kids we were going on an adventure and since they were getting older we can do things like this. 
Thanks to Siri and GPS,  we found our way to The American History museum. 
That hand gesture above was Anna Cate trying to show she is thinking. 

Anna Cate is fascinated with the Civil Rights movement in our country. The fact that black people were enslaved or treated badly baffles her and it is bitter sweet to watch her learn about the dark sides of history as well as the heroes who fought to overcome injustice. She soaked up everything she could in this little corner of the Smithsonian which exhibited the tales of The Emancipation Proclamation, the 1963 March on Washington and a few things in between. 
 Molly liked the escalators, the pictures. . .
 and pretending she knew how to read. 
 I teach World History now, but I love revisiting my first love in my field, American History.  It is such a story of heroes, of a country made great by many, but whose stories we relate to in the tales of individuals like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and many others. There was another exhibit about the Holocaust and when Anna Cate asked what it was I said sort of under my breath but to her, "oh honey, I don't want to tell you about yet another dark side of human history. Let's go look at the First Ladies' dresses."  Life presents so many metaphors. 

The little unplanned excursion would not have happened with babies.  So while I will treasure the memories and the times I had those little, little girls, I know I will enjoy them as little "big girls" as well. 

Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

~Kahlil Gibran