Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye, 2016

I'm not one of those people who really enjoys New Year's Eve.  I hate staying up late.  And I prefer sweatpants and wine to a sequined party dress and heels.  But, I do appreciate the reflection the end of a year brings and the anticipation of what the new year will bring.  Boy, do I hope for a fresh new year.

To say 2016 has been a challenging one would be an understatement.  Sometimes I wonder if I will ever look back upon a year and say, meh....that one was easy?  Doubtful.  My post last year began with "good riddance", so my track record doesn't look good.  This past year did have some highs (hooray baby and vacations!) but when I think back upon it, there were a lot of valleys. 

We welcomed 2016 by hosting a memorial service for Chad's Mom, who passed away last December after a long battle with breast cancer.  Valley.  About a month and half later, we lost my beloved Grandma.  Valley.  Spring brought warmer weather and lots of planning.  We began preparing for Elena to enter Kindergarten in the fall and booking spots in summer camps and therapies.  Being pregnant with #3, I had lots of high hopes for a fun summer enjoying the last times of our little family of four.  Ha!  Planning is an exercise in uselessness. 

Calvin turned TWO in April, which seemed so big at the time, but now he's SUCH a little boy.  These days, I find myself missing the squishy-ness and inability to ask "why" to everything I say.  Ha!

Chad and I had a lovely vacation at the end of April to San Diego, then turned around and took the family to Florida to return Sharlene (Chad's Mom) to the place she loved the most.  It was beautiful and serene and really the last moments of peace for our family for awhile.

At the beginning of June, we suddenly learned our summer plans were moot and instead, Elena would be having emergency surgery on her right hip.  June and July were a literal whirlwind.  Somewhere in there Chad and I were able to escape one last time to California for a trip before Elena's surgery.  Then, somewhat unexpectedly, we lost Chad's Grandma.  Another devastating blow to our families.  After that, I can't really recount what happened, because 10 weeks felt like 10 minutes.  Elena had surgery and her 5th birthday (laid up in a hospital bed, no less).  I had a birthday a few weeks later.  For the record, I still have no idea how old I am.  It's like that birthday didn't exist, because I'm certain I'm 31, only to do the math realizing I'm actually 32.  Minor details, people. 

We celebrated my Dad's 70th birthday, Chad and my 7th anniversary, Elena began Kindergarten and BOOM, then we had a baby.  One of the few true peaks this year, our little Turner William completed our precious family.  And we've all been stressed and sleep deprived since! September was sleepless and October wasn't much better.  Though my parents took all of us to spend a week together in Florida...peak! 

I'm sure something happened in November and a lot happened in December, though it was all too quick for me to remember.  And folks, here we are on December 31st....looking forward to all the plans, surprises and fun a new year is sure to bring. 

I know it's simply a season of life, but I can say with certainty 2016 was one of the harder years of my life.  It was hard physically, being pregnant.  It was hard mentally, because well, kids.  It was hard emotionally with all the loss our family endured.  It's been hard on relationships.  It's been exhausting.  Life can really just beat the dickens out of you sometimes.  I'll be the first to admit adjusting from two to three kids has been incredibly difficult.  I'm more tired and beat down than I ever thought one could be.  The holidays were wonderful but left me feeling frustrated that my exhaustion leaves me missing the present.  It's been so easy for me to forget to be thankful for my beautiful family and the joy they bring and only focus on the difficulty of it all.  It's easy to fall into the trap. 

But my darling, ever so patient, husband is so good to remind me of all the beauty that is our life.  Our health, our home, our family, our friends, our kids that make us laugh and make us cry, the grace, the love, the promise that, through it all, we are never alone.  I'm so thankful to be rooted in that promise.

I don't know what 2017 will bring.  No doubt it will be full of peaks and valleys, though I'm hoping for more peaks.  Life is busy and messy but, my prayer is for hope, love and kindness in the midst of it all. 

Happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

So December happened and I've found myself here on Christmas Eve!  I just wanted to wish all of you who follow our family the merriest of Christmases.  It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season (myself included). But, I have had (brief!) peaceful moments to reflect upon the wonderful celebration that is Jesus' birth.  It's so much bigger than the tree, the baking, the shopping, the holiday traditions.  It's celebrating the day that the light pierced the darkness, the day that grace AND truth came into this world.  Hope arrived and the world is changed.

Merry Christmas to you all!  Enjoy making memories and celebrating with those you love the most!

The Hinton's

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hinton Status

It's been a long, good while since I've given any real update on the status of our family.  So, no deep thoughts here today folks, just thought I'd share a little bit about all three kiddos.

We'll start with the classic third kid...Turner or T-dawg, T-bug, T-bone as we lovingly refer to him around here.  This child is a dichotomy.  He's arguably the most content, sweet, smiley little thing, but at the same time I feel like he's been fussy and needy most his nearly four months.  He does go with the flow, as if he had a choice.  We're on the go almost always at least five out of the seven days a week, so he's in his car seat A LOT!  Of course, this means he's on an unpredictable schedule, which goes against every fiber of my being.  Schedule = Consistency = Predictability = Sleep = Good Life in my book.  Both Elena and Cal were rockstars in this category, Turner not so much.  Besides the schedule and lack of sleep, he's certainly the most expressive of our kiddos.  He smiles at ANYTHING.  It's great and so darn cute.  You may remember Cal "The Scowl" took every trick in the book to get him to smile.  Elena was so content but I had to use some good material for her too. Ha!  As far as tricks go, he's rolling all over the place, gives us the occasional giggle, and coos around the clock.  He's changing by the day and is just the cutest little thing.  I know a lot of people think he looks like Cal, and he does, but really he reminds me so much of Elena at that age.  His expressions, his eyes, his smile take me back to that short time we had with her then.  I'm starting to feel that familiar anxiety creep in like it did when Calvin was around this age.  Elena was injured six days before she was four months.  I remember with Cal, being so scared until that time period passed and I feel that familiar fear in my gut now as T starts to approach that age.  It's weird and unfounded, but I'll feel it for awhile longer (though it never really goes away).

Calvin is a two year old.  Some days he's great and fun and hilarious and other days he tests every fiber of my being.  Other than the emotional swings of toddler-hood, he's a pretty great kid.  He's sweet, funny, caring and polite.  He is my helper with both Elena and Turner and takes his role as brother very seriously.  He loves to read and has memorized several books on account of us reading them to him 5,278,902 times.  He loves puzzles, music, singing, dinosaurs, sports and school.  Pretty eclectic taste!  He requests Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" all. the. time. and demands Kidz Bop on all car rides (shoot me).  We often catch him singing songs to himself or sitting with a book "reading" out loud or to Elena.  "Gasketball", soccer, golf, football and "lollyball" are favorites around here, all of which make Dad beam with pride.  Though, it's the indoctrination of the IU Fight Song and the memorization of the entire IU Men's Basketball team that have Chad really happy.  Calvin will gladly tell you his favorite player is "Juwaaaaaaan", his cousin Sam like "OG" and Uncle Evvy likes "Thomas".  I think his head will explode when Chad takes him to his first IU game.

We moved him to a big boy bed back in October and he's *nearly* potty trained, though that's been one step forward, two steps back.  He goes to preschool two days a week and loves to hang with his best buddy Max.  Christmas has him allllll excited this year, which is exciting for us to watch.  And he's looking so grown up these days.  He's growing like a weed and never stops talking. I wish I would write down all the funny things he says and does.  I'll never tire of hearing him say "I'm losing my britches!" (when his pants are falling down)  Cal has a big heart and that has me proud.  Watching him grow is such a privilege.

Last, but not least, Elena!  It feels good to say that she's finally on the upswing again!  Having a child with special needs is a constant roller coaster.  Things will be good for awhile, then something pops up (perhaps like emergency hip surgery), enter crisis/setback mode, then usually things get ironed out again.  I'm praying that we stay on this track for a good long bit, because it's SO awesome to see her doing so well.  I can't express enough how much she loves school.  Anytime anyone asks her about it, she immediately smiles and starts to "tell" them all about it.  Chad and I just can tell that her little brain is soaking up all the input, academically, socially and therapeutically.  We are so encouraged by it all.  You may have seen the video I posted last week of her taking steps in therapy.  This is also a new "stride" (pun intended!) for her.  She must feel great with two new, stable hips under her because all she wants to do is stand and take off stepping.  It's so fun to watch.  She's really doing great on all fronts...visually, communicative skills, academically, physically....she continues to prove to us that there is so, so much more that is possible for her.

All of that said, it's a lot.  There's still so much to manage.  Our list of "shoulds" is a lot longer than what we are actually doing.  She needs a lot of support and we get a lot of "homework" in her therapies that we struggle to implement at home.  It really is a full time job.  With our schedule and three kids who all need me all day, the tasks are impossible.  But, it still feels good knowing all that she is doing, without me at my full devotion to all her needs.

Momlife is hard ya'll.  It feels somewhat better, to see all that my kids are and achieving, (do this!) written out when every day feels mostly like a failure.  Three kids is no joke.  It makes me almost cringe when people say to me what a great job I'm doing because, let me be real clear here....we are surviving.  That's it...there's little else to our day other than just making it to bedtime.  And when bedtime comes, I breathe on the couch for approximately 15-20 minutes before putting myself to bed.  I haven't seen 10pm (honestly, 9:30pm) in months.  I know I'm not alone, there's lots of you Mom's out there in the trenches with me.  But, it's's just a season (oh dear God, please let this just be a season!) and one magical day I won't clean up puke, poop or other bodily fluids.  I'll rise in the morning after a full and complete night's sleep.  I'll blissfully send all three kids to school and enjoy eight peaceful hours of nothing.  Maybe I'll even put on real jeans, curl my hair (let's be real here, actually shower), and look acceptable in public.  That day WILL come and it will be amazing.  But for now, it's not...ha!

Our life, in all it's chaos, is still pretty great.  I have three ridiculously, squeezably, cute kids who make me laugh (and cry), smile (and cry), and bring me so much joy (and cry).  We have so much to be thankful for this holiday season and always.  That's the Hinton's lately...and props to me for posting two weeks in a's a win!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Thanksgiving Challenge

I generally like to do a Thanksgiving post, because I think it's so so important to have a grateful spirit, not just one day a year, but all the time.  In our culture, this can be really difficult.  I know I am a few days early but I'm grateful for thirty minutes of Daniel Tiger this morning to keep my two year old occupied.  

This year I don't think Thanksgiving could have come at a better time considering everything that's happened in our world in the last few weeks and months.  Politics and politicians aside, I've found the behavior of the American people (all sides, all parties) to be the most disappointing.  And it's not just the subject of politics, it's friend to friend, family to family, neighbor to neighbor.  People just aren't kind anymore.  We live in a me, me, me world.  It's all about how I feel, what you did to me, how I've been slighted, how I wasn't treated fairly.  There's no respect of others, other's opinion, other's feelings.  We've forgotten that other people exist.  

I would like to think the perspective of my own "me world" changed five years ago when I found myself in the ER with my three month old baby, whose life was nearly taken.  I learned pretty quickly that life isn't fair.  Things don't always turn out the way we expect them to.  Sometimes we lose.  Sometimes justice does not prevail.  Sometimes it doesn't matter what you want or how you feel.  Sometimes things happen that leave you afraid and unsure of what lies ahead.  And I've learned that those are the moments when you choose to either shrivel or shine.  

You can shrivel into an angry, bitter, revengeful person.  Or you can choose to shine by humility, forgiveness, kindness, perspective.  It's in the moments that often leave you feeling crushed, confused and disoriented, where you pick your path.  It's not always an easy choice.  Sometimes it's easier to be angry and spew bitter words at others and into the world.  But you learn more, gain more and give more when you choose the other.  

In our world, there's far too many people who choose pride over humility.  There's far too many people who choose to shout, instead of listening.  There's far too many people who choose to be bitter and spiteful, instead of being kind and forgiving.  If we could all step outside of our feelings, opinions and circumstances for just a moment and realize that there is an entire world of people who also have feelings and difficulties, perhaps we could resolve some of the hurt.  When we pause to be thankful for what we do have and consider the needs of others, you may find that your hurt, problems, whatever, isn't so bad.  

In this week of Thanksgiving, I challenge you to identify one thing in your life that is a source of hurt, whether it's a relationship, circumstance, outcome or anything else, step outside your feelings for a moment, and choose humility, kindness, forgiveness.  Reflect gratitude for all you have been given.  Honor the source of all the gifts in your life.  Choose to shine.  

I am thankful for all of you, who continue to show love and support to our family.  It is entirely humbling to know how many of you care and still pray for our sweet girl.

I am also thankful for the gift of grace.  I always need it and I'm frequently reminded that I need to give it.  

Lastly, I'm thankful for this......  Just in case you don't believe in miracles

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Five Years Later

Every year as this date rolls around, that familiar pit in my stomach appears, the lump in my throat is constant, and I always feel like I'm on the verge of tears.  This year, five years after our lives forever changed in a millisecond, those feelings remain.  The last couple days the events of that day have been on replay in my mind.

And while the flashbacks are painful, I can't help but feel a little differently this year.  You may remember my post last year.  That was truly one of the scariest things I've ever done.  But by the time I realized that was what I need to do, God had already prepared me for the act itself.  My mind and my heart were freed from the heavy burden of anger that weighed my soul.  Forgiveness is such an amazing gift, whether you are giving or receiving it.  It frees your heart to feel other things like gratitude, love, humility, compassion, all things that reflect Jesus and what He did for us.  Extending forgiveness doesn't change the hurt of that day, the questions that remain or the difficulties Elena and our family face as a result, but it has allowed me to move forward and clear my heart of the anger and bitterness.

After a tragedy, one of the questions that you always hear is "Why?".  It's no different for me.  Do you know how many times I've thought, pleaded with God, for the answer to that question?  Do you know how mad at Him I've been at times for this to have happened to my child?  Faith can sometimes be a hard, hard thing.  It often fights against our human instincts to seek the tangible, get the answer.  But I know that's not always possible and without my faith, there would be no strength and there would be no hope.

For Chad and me, it's never been about the what happened, it's been about how we have wanted to respond to it.  I remember a conversation we had before even leaving the hospital that we didn't want what happened to make us fearful and bitter.  We both wanted to face whatever laid ahead together in a bold, positive, hopeful way.  I think that's where faith comes in.  I was able to commit to that, because I knew we wouldn't be walking it alone.  I knew that from the moment I called out to God on the drive to the hospital, He would be there walking with me, carrying me, fighting for me every step of the way.  And He has.  God has been so faithful.  During those dark, impossible times He wants us to lean into Him and redeem that pain with love, grace and forgiveness.

And my friends, five years later, I can look back and see those promises fulfilled.  I can see the beauty that is His plan, perfectly woven through the hurt.  It doesn't mean that life is easy.  There's still heartbreak.  I still grieve.  My hearts aches for the difficulty that Elena will always face.  But I know we have only begun to see the "immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine".  (Ephesians 3:20)

My sweet Elena is the happiest, most easy going, hardest working, precious little soul.  She is my love, my joy, my inspiration.  I know God has great plans for her life and her story.  It is the greatest privilege to be her Mom and to share her story with all of you.

Our chicken, October 31, 2011...the last picture I took of Laney girl.

 Four days later

Five years later, my happy girl


"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Learning to See

Hi sweet friends.  I'm alive.  We are adjusting.  Life (or three kids, rather) is busy.  I've had computer probs.  I know I'm neglecting the blog, but I'm trying!  I have sat down no less than 5 times to begin writing a post in the last few weeks, only to be called back on duty moments later.  So bear with me friends!  And a big thanks to PBS Kids for occupying Calvin long enough for me to crank this out, not to mention a rogue daytime nap for Turner...Hallelujah!

Apologies aside, I wanted to share with you about Elena's recent assessment by her vision specialist.  As you may remember, we have travelled to Pittsburgh several times in the last few years to see a doctor who is the best of the best on Elena's vision impairment, (Cortical Vision Impairment) CVI.

A quick, simple refresher on CVI:  People who have CVI can physically see, meaning the eyes (structures all intact) bring in the visual input, but the brain has difficulty interpreting this input.  Simply put, the eyes see, the brain has trouble telling you what you're seeing.  Therefore, we have to "teach" Elena's brain what she is seeing.

We hadn't been in a couple years.  With Elena starting Kindergarten and working on a communication device, we decided we needed to make time for a visit even with all that we have had going on the last few months.  And man, are these appointments ever worth it!  We always leave inspired, educated and honestly, emotional.

She assessed Elena's vision and noted some improvement from last time, which is great.  Elena still has a lot to work on, however.  To achieve more progress in her vision, she needs to accomplish some things that are pretty difficult for her.  It's all very complicated to explain, but we have great hope for her!  The best thing about these doctor appointments is that we leave with instructions on how to help Elena and what we can do to help her improve her vision.  We will be busy integrating these at a school and at home.  Just more to do :)

In leaving this latest appointment, I had a bit of an "Aha! Moment".  After all this time educating myself on Elena's vision impairment over the last five years, it had never occurred to me that Elena's visual world would never look like mine. (This likely should have been obvious.)  I always had in my mind that our efforts to "improve" Elena's vision was so that ultimately she could see the way that I see, which in hindsight seems so silly. For whatever reason in that appointment it clicked that all our efforts, all the hours of therapy, are to give Elena the tools to navigate HER world, not mine.  Sitting there, my mind reeled, processing that thought.  At that realization, I almost felt ashamed that I was just now figuring that out and had wanted her to experience life the way that I do.  Elena will never physically see the way that I do, or Chad does or her brothers do.  Her world will always look different as a result of her impairment, but what she needs from me is for my focus to be about teaching her what she does see and giving her the tools to interpret it.

Am I making sense?  I realize my sleep deprived thought processes can get a little jumbled these days!  For example, we're teaching/working on helping Elena to walk. (She's doing awesome, by the way!)  Now, it's pretty obvious that Elena will never walk like me, but she'll be walking no less.  It's the same with her vision.  We know at what level she can see.  We have hope that she will continue to make progress in interpreting what she sees, but what/how she sees things will never look the same as me.  She will always have to work at deciphering her visual world.  Whew, got that?! 

One of the blessings of having a child with special needs is all the perspective it gives you, and sometimes a new one pops up out of nowhere, like it did for me last week.  God made us all with different perspectives, outlooks, gifts and abilities.  Instead of always getting others to see, feel and do the same as us, wouldn't it do us all better to try and see OTHER perspectives and respect those, even if you find them totally unrelatable?  Sometimes it helps to get out of our own head, remove our own pride and selfishness and appreciate our differences.  At that moment in the doctor's office, I was so proud of Elena, how hard she works, all her gifts and what she teaches me every day.  I'm thankful to learn about her world, how she sees and interprets it.  It's totally foreign to me, but it teaches me so much.  There is so much VALUE in that.  

I'm so encouraged in this moment.  I have so much hope that we will be able to help Elena "see" her world.  I have so much hope in Elena's physical, cognitive and communicative abilities and all the progress we've seen her make.  I'll be honest, a lot of times it can be really difficult living our reality or even facing our reality, but a lot of times simply loving and accepting Elena the way she is, is just so darn beautiful and rewarding.  God continues to use her to stretch me, open my heart and teach me things I didn't know I needed to be taught.  I've said it before, Elena is joy.  And come on, you have to appreciate the irony of me "seeing" all this at an appointment where a doctor is teaching us to help Elena "see"!  You can't say that God doesn't have a sense of humor!   

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How Are We Doing?

You guys, I'm alive.  I may be in survival mode, but we all are alive.  The past three weeks have been, um, challenging.  There has been SO MUCH GOING ON (I feel the need to all caps this to prove the level of chaos) that literally only one sliver of a nostril is the only thing keeping me from drowning in the waters of this thing called life, currently.  So, yeah, three kids is HARD.

Ahhh, I have really enjoyed reminiscing about the ease that was only having one child (or two for that matter) the last few weeks, which obviously was the hardest.thing.ever. at the time.  Now, I know hard.  I've cried the last couple nights to Chad (who has been so full of grace for me and my hormonal-emotional, happy-one-minute-screaming-the-next state) that I'm giving myself a big, fat "F" for all things Momming of three Hinton children.  He, understanding my fragile state, wisely told me I was being too hard on myself, but I secretly think he agrees.

For starters, Elena has had a bit of a rough start to school.  Not her per se, she's loving every second, but we have had a bit of a struggle understanding her day and making sure her time between Kindergarten and Life Skills is benefiting her the most.  I have been fretting over this for weeks.  Then there's all her therapies, which as her self-proclaimed Therapy Guru, I am failing miserably.  I have ALWAYS been on top of everything, leading the charge, making sure everyone is on the same page and pushing her.  Well, I'm just not.  Then there's her need for some new equipment, some upcoming doctor appointments, and coordinating all of it is quite time consuming.

Then there's our always easy-going, sweet as can be, Calvin.  In the midst of potty training, bringing home a new family member, and (just today) falling out of his crib in the throes of a naptime fight (which literally has NEVER happened before), is testing whatever fumes are left in my patience tank.  He's two, and there's obviously some changes around here, but woah Mama.  Did you guys know it's nearly impossible to explain/rationalize/use common sense with a two year old?  Turns out, they don't care.  I'm hoping it's one of those "planting the seeds" metaphors, and that any day all our rules, pep talks and life lessons will sprout him into a blossoming 2 1/2 year old?  No?  Yeah, probably not.  F.

And then there's Turner, who is a newborn.  Besides keeping me up every 2.5-3 hours at night, wanting to be held all the time (in constant motion), and grunting/farting around the clock, he is pretty easy.  The problem is you throw a five year old, a two year old, and about 1,439 simultaneous life issues occurring at the same time into the mix, things can seem quite um,........overwhelming?!

So there you have it folks, the long answer to the question everyone asks a new mother.

"How are you guys doing?"

and my obviously reply,

"Oh good, just trying to find our groove." SEE ABOVE FOR WHAT I REALLY MEAN.

But really, I mean all that. Ha!  It's definitely a tough adjustment.  We DO have a lot going on, most of it, just poor all happening all at once.  I'm just not one for facades.  And I'm sorry to any of you about to have a third child or contemplating a third child, I'm sure yours will be different :)

Just like everything though, I know it's a season.  And even though this particular season has me drowning a bit, and maybe crying every day, we'll survive.  Our "groove" is coming.  We have much to be thankful for, as always.  Even though it can be isolating, I know I'm not the first Mom to walk this road.  I keep chugging the caffeine, praying for patience, and wine, there's always wine.

**On a different note:  I am, somewhat frantically, looking for help with the kids before Gramma Frey leaves us for the winter (ahhhhhh, no!!!).  I need help with getting Elena to the Jackson Center on Mondays from 11:30-4:30 and with the boys on Tuesdays from 2:30-5:30.  A college student (education, nursing, therapy, etc) would be ideal but not required.  If you know of anyone who may be able to help, please let me know.  Thanks friends!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Welcome Baby!

I'm incredibly sleep deprived so bear with me if this seems a little all over the place.  But I have a spare couple minutes and wanted to share with you all that we welcomed our perfect, little baby last week.  

Let me introduce to you, Turner William Hinton.  He was born last Wednesday, August 17th at 2:30pm.  He was 8lbs 13oz and 21in of total cuteness.  Everyone is healthy but all desperately need sleep!  

Elena and Calvin were so excited to meet their new baby brother.  Calvin was all giggles meeting Turner, Elena a little more subdued.  But for good reason.  Elena came down with a stomach bug Wednesday night (great timing, right?) and was so, so sick that night and all day Thursday.  Gramma Frey took good care of her and we are all so thankful that she seems to be the only one who got the bug.  

We are all adjusting to life as a family of five.  Our days have been fairly routine but our nights have been much more lively with little Turner.  He is quickly reminding Chad and me what life is like with a newborn.  Funny, how quickly you forget the power of sleep deprivation!  Elena, thank goodness, has been sleeping much better....not sure we could handle soothing two little ones all night long.  

Today, Elena is back at school and Cal is at preschool....which means Turner and I are going to go take a nap!  I can't think anymore!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

First Day Recap

Elena had a great first day of school!  Her bus was right on time.  Her outfit was adorable.  And Mom remembered everything needed to send!

It was a success until 2:30 when she was to get on the bus to go home.  I got the dreaded call from the teacher and I already knew.....she barfed.  Right before walking out to the bus, Elena threw up.  So, I headed over to the school to pick her up.  I felt terrible for her teachers and aides who had to clean up barf on the first day of school.

Her report for the day was great though.  She had fun, no tears and everything else went smoothly.

I did ok too!  Of course there were tears when I saw how big and adorable she looked in her first day outfit.  And when I wheeled her down to the bus.  And when she got on the bus.  And when the bus pulled out of the cul-de-sac.  And as I walked back into the house with just Calvin.  BUT!  I survived.  The phone was glued to my hip all day but I survived.

Now if we can just get through day 2 without any puke (at school)!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Anniversary, SCHOOL & Surgery update

Today is back to reality.  Not that the last four weeks haven't been reality, oh they've been real all right.  But today starts us back into our new routine.  Elena goes back the Jackson Center for therapies and tomorrow, gulp, she starts school.

Not only that, but today is Chad's and my 7th anniversary!  I was recently going back through some wedding pictures to switch out some frames here at home and gosh, looking at us SEVEN years ago, we were just babies.  So much life has happened in just seven years.  I just kept thinking how lucky, fortunate, blessed that I've done it all with Chad as my partner.  Marriage is a funny thing.  I'm certainly no ALL....but when I think back to our actual wedding day, it's such a blip in time.  It's funny that's what a girl dreams about, not the everything that comes after.  And as momentous as that day is, it's the life that happens afterwards that matters.  I knew I loved Chad with all my heart that day in August 2009, but I never could have known the partnership we would build together.  I never dreamed of the deep friendship, constant support of one another or how our love and respect of each other would deepen with time and life.  I'm thankful for him every day.  And man, what a life we are building together.  We are SO blessed!

And here we are about to welcome our third child (ahhh!).  I'm so (so, so, so, so, so) ready to be done being pregnant.  I love what a miracle it is, but man, is it hard on my body.  I'm so uncomfortable I can't even remember what it was like to feel good anymore.  I've done my best to stay healthy, working out all the way through 35 weeks, being active, but I'm hurting!  It officially feels like I've been pregnant for a hundred years and I have the body of an 80 year old.  So, needless to say, baby, I'm ready to meet you!

Then, there's my baby starting KINDERGARTEN tomorrow.  I mean, what?  I don't even feel like I've been able to process this.  I have a feeling I'll get her on the bus tomorrow and cry until 2:30 when she gets home.  I'm so excited for this step in her life.  It's going to give her such freedom and opportunity, but I, of course, just want to keep her all to myself forever and ever. That being said, she's going to do great.  Much better than me, but knowing my girl....this is going to be her time to shine.

This life milestone for her isn't without those familiar twinges of pain, however.  The reality of it is, she won't come bounding down off the bus, running to tell me all about her first day of school.  The friends she met, the things they did, who she sat with at lunch, who she played with at recess, all of that will be missing tomorrow.  For me, reading through the school supply list is even hard.  Markers, crayons, scissors, glue bottles...all items Elena can't use by herself, for a classroom she will have limited time in.  Elena will have two teachers, two classes, a Life Skills class and a regular curriculum class.  I know it's the best fit for her but just the word "Life Skills" is hard to say sometimes.   I've been intently praying for both her teachers, and especially her peers.  Peers are hard.  As she gets older, kids become just a little harsher, a little less interested in her, all of which is heart breaking.  There's been several times lately where I notice kids her age just staring at her.  And I know their little hearts and minds are innocent, but my heart wants them to being staring at her because my Elena is stunningly beautiful, not that she's "different".  I know how much she loves peer interaction and it breaks my heart at the thought of her being left out, being ignored or the worst, being stared at.  Oh my heart.

Yes, this will all be bittersweet.  There are crazy emotions swirling around (and crazy hormones, ya'll!).  Mama fears are real and hard and come at random times.  But, at the heart of it all there's God just whispering to my heart to "Be Still" and just like every other hurdle before this, He is in control.  His plan is bigger, better and more beautiful than my silly fears and anxieties.  The next few days and weeks will be a roller coaster, my goodness.

And to totally change the mood here to close out, I should probably update all you sweet people out there who have been praying for our girl and her trusty new hip!  She's doing great, making great strides in PT in the last week.  Her pain and sensitivity is decreasing, as she is getting back to her normal, happy, easy-going self.  We've struggled several nights in the last couple struugggggggggled.  Like, please give me a newborn who will no doubt sleep better than my five year old right now.  But, it's hard to say if it's behavioral or hip related.  All I know is that I'm sleeping terribly in my last few weeks of pregnancy, coupled with a five year old who is up literally all night, making me sleep deprived, before I'm going to be sleep deprived....Lord help me!  She gets some follow-up xrays tomorrow that will give us a better idea of how she's healing.  I'll keep you all posted.....and of course, share with you her FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL PICTURE!

Love you all for your prayers and support! xo

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Home Stretch

Hard to believe it's been two weeks since my last update.  It's bizarre, the weeks have flown by but the days have been L-O-N-G.  Our calendar, for the most part, has been clear, which is weird.  In the last five years, that's never been the case.  So, I guess it's nice to take a breather and not to be hustling to get out the door every day, all day.  But, it has made for some difficult days.  Like never-ending, what seem like 40 hour days.  However, this scenario is not likely to happen again, oh, for the next 15 years so I guess I won't complain too much.

Elena has been doing really well.  She has definitely had some good days and some bad days, but in the last week, it's becoming evident that she's on the mend finally.  She's happier, more interactive, less tired and can be moved around a lot easier.  We've been fighting some major reflux issues for whatever reason, but that's been the worst of it lately.  That, and the nights.  We get a good night (two or less wakes) about every four terrible (awake every 30 minutes) nights.  I mean a newborn may be easier than Elena has been at this point!  It's hard to figure out with Elena if it's reflux, her leg, or just wanting to make sure Mom and Dad stay close.  I tend to ALWAYS think it's the latter, but Daddy (whom Elena has wrapped tightly around his little finger!), usually disagrees with me, shocking I know!  This happened with the last surgery.  She got used to us running to her with every little peep and kept up that routine for like a year until something that I can't remember that we did to fix it.  I'm really looking forward to being awake all night for the next infinity.  Maybe the newborn will be like Cal and win all awards, ever, for sleeping?  Please?  God, help us!

Now that we are emerging from the post-surgery survival mode, I'm beginning to feel the anxieties of the beginning of the school year arising.  It's reallllllllllly scary sending your five year old to Kindergarten, especially with all the needs and accommodations that come with Elena.  The whole process is a lesson in lack of control, which of course, I hate.

Oh yeah, then I'm having a baby sometime in the next four weeks.  So there's that.  I do have the car seat washed, a set of white onesies set aside, newborn diapers ordered from Amazon and three swaddle blankets on the ready which means I'm pretty much ready.  It's hilariously opposite from the preparations of a first (or even second) time parent.  Poor third child.  I can say that because I am one.  I promise we'll figure out a name for him/her but for now, there's A LOT to do.

I do want to thank all of you who have been so thoughtful and kind to us the last couple weeks.  The meals, the prayers, the texts, the encouragement has all meant so much.  It has definitely made the surgery awful-ness, much more doable.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


We're home.

We got home last night about 8pm and I don't think I've ever been happier to be here.  My shower, my couch, my bed....Calvin!  We left the hospital yesterday morning at 9am and drove straight through.  Elena was the champ.  She never fussed one time.  We stopped twice to get her out, change diapers/dressings and move her leg around, popped her back in the car and off we went.  We have been amazed at how well she has done thus far.  Riding in a car seat 72 hours after a major orthopedic operation for 11 hours is unimaginable to me, but it was nothing for her...Chad and I complained more than she did!

Last night she woke up just once (hallelujah!) so we were all pretty darn well rested this morning.  We've been able to manage her pain with just Tylenol and overall, she's doing really well.  Granted, she's still "off", lethargic, painful to move around, her digestive system is a little awry and her little body is bruised and swollen but she is doing so much better than last time. And we are SO thankful.

We are so appreciative of all the messages, texts, prayers, meals and love we have received.  It has been such an encouragement to us.  It's definitely a crazy (and I mean cuh-ray-zeeeeee) season in our life but our support network has been amazing, and we are thankful for each one of you.

The last month of our lives has been so beautifully orchestrated.  Everything came together fairly easily for this all to happen and I totally recognize the blessing that is Dr. Nuzzo.  He was worth the trip all the way to New Jersey a hundred times over.  The fact that we were able to have an alternative to what 99.9% of orthopedic doctors would do to our little girl (that literally has a 100% failure rate over time and an up to 2 year recovery) makes all the difference.  We are so fortunate to have had the opportunity for him to fix our precious girl.  That being said, we won't stop praying that this was the LAST orthopedic surgery she'll have to face for a long, long time, if not ever.

For now, we'll be hunkered down here at home, enjoying a freed-up summer schedule with the sweetest little patient and adorable 2 year old.  That, and waiting for this other little babe to make his or her arrival AND give me that looooooong over due glass (or bottle) of wine. Cheers!

Here's Elena yesterday on our ride home, happy as can be!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Happy Birthday to Our Five Year Old!

What a fifth birthday.  While obviously not ideal, she had a really decent day.  We had some major vomiting issues over the night that we can pretty much chalk up to the anesthesia.  That curtailed this morning and we actually had an above-average-expectation day.  

Elena seemed comfortable and pain-free, except when we had to move her and the four needle sticks that it took this morning to get a blood draw.  Other than that, she napped on and off (as did we).  We read her some books, watched a couple shows and listened to her usual tunes.  Medication has been minimal and she even braved a brief PT session today.  

All of this reminds me of her incredible strength and resiliency.  This girl has endured far more than any five year old should.  She presses on through every challenge with her brave face and even a smile.  My heart aches that we have to put her through this but to see how she gets by is incredibly inspiring.  If only you could see her incision today or hear us describe what the doctor did to her and know that she was giggling today when we would flush the toilet, squeal when I read her Dr. Seuss or smile when Daddy was kissing on her; the trauma her body has taken is no match for her happy spirit.  
And today, of all days.  It's supposed to be a day where you have a Pinterest-worthy party, celebrate with her little girlfriends, eat cake, open presents, blow out candles.  But for me, it's a bittersweet day, one where I remember how perfectly healthy she was.  Where I dreamt of all that her life would hold, as all new parents do.  It certainly wasn't this.  Yes, today we always celebrate the blessing that she is in our lives, but I also grieve for what it was supposed to be and for what she has endured the last five years.  And what a reminder as here I sit, in another hospital room, comforting my birthday girl as she winces in pain with every movement.  

But my Elena, my precious five-year-old, Elena.  You my girl, are our light.  And even though we grieve for you, we thank God for the constant blessing that is your every breath.  You are brave, resilient, beautiful and exude joy.  From the moment I laid eyes on you, I was changed for the better.  I love you more than words can say and am so proud of you.  My sweet girl, happy birthday love.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Day 1 Down

This will be brief because I am exhausted.  Our day started at 4:30am and it has been incredibly long.

Surgery went well.  The doctor remained perplexed by Elena's case all the way up until he had her in the OR under anesthesia and could really examine her.  Fortunately, he was able to manipulate her enough for her not to have to have the more invasive procedure.  She had the same procedure she had on her left hip with a bit more extra, what he called "bone shaping".

Overall, she's done fairly well today.  She was pretty darn uncomfortable from about 5pm to 8pm, we think from pain and nausea.  We are hoping she can relax longer than the 20 minute increments she's been able to most the day.  Considering we are all running on little sleep, this would be a huge blessing to have a somewhat peaceful night.

Our hope for tomorrow is to be able to start her feeds again, with no vomiting and to be able to see her a little more comfortable than she was today.

Thanks to you all for the encouragement, prayers and messages.  Knowing Elena's team and our family has been covered in prayer has been such a comfort.  I say it all the time, but we could never get through this without the enormous support network we are blessed to have.

Chad and Emmalee

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Surgery Tomorrow

Just wanted to send out a quick update.  We made it to New Jersey safely and, though it was a long 11  hour drive, Elena was a road warrior!  Not one fuss out of our awesome girl.  We saw the doctor yesterday morning and he still wasn't sure upon examination what procedure she will have.  He thought it best to wait until he had her under anesthesia to really check the stability of her hip socket. Her surgery is first one tomorrow morning at 7:30am.  It's going to be an incredibly long day for us and an unimaginably difficult one for Elena, so your prayers are appreciated.  We feel very at peace with whatever procedure she has to have and have full confidence in Dr. Nuzzo.  We just hate that our precious five year old has to endure this.

We have had a fun couple of days with her and are glad to see her so happy.  And she has been SO HAPPY.  For her fifth birthday present, we took her to see The Lion King on Broadway in NYC yesterday, and needless to say, she loved it.  It was a special treat for our girl.  We are slowing things down a bit today in anticipation of tomorrow's exhaustion.

Thanks for all who are praying, sending encouraging words, love and even helping at home.  We couldn't make it without everyone's support!  And lastly, we miss Cal terribly but know he's loving all the attention from his grandparents.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

To Say There's A Lot Going On.....

You're going to hear me describe life as a blur, a whirlwind, straight chaos for the next few months.  So, my apologies.

The last three weeks have been just that.  In a matter of several days, we learned Elena needed surgery, scheduled surgery and ran all pre-op testing and approvals through.  Chad and I even managed to slip away to California for a few days, just a little calm before the storm.  But, it literally feels like I went to sleep on June 1st and woke up today, June 30th.  Something tells me I'll do the same tonight, and wake up July 31st.

First things first, Elena is doing great.  Which killllllllllllls us.  Like I think she's the happiest, silliest she's ever been.  She's doing awesome in all her therapies.  Her walking has been outstanding.  She's making new sounds, which impress us all, even her!  She's been eating (remember when I say eating, I mean just tastes of food) really well.  And, she's just so darn content, waking up squealing and going to bed squealing.  To know what lies ahead in the next week for her makes all of this, just heartbreaking.

I cry because she doesn't know what's coming.  I cry because all this progress and encouragement is going to stall, if not regress.  I cry because I remember how miserable she was last time.  I cry because all of this is outrageously unfair.  If I don't stop myself, it all becomes too much.

On top of all of this, we lost Chad's precious Grandma on Monday.  To say she was a big part of our family is an understatement.  Chad's family is very small, and very close and her loss, in addition to losing his Mom just months ago, has been tough to say the least.  She was so precious to all of us.  It's hard to imagine our family get-togethers without her there, running the show.  2016 is proving to be an unbelievably difficult year for us.  We have lost three integral parts of our family, Chad's Mom, my Grandma and now Chad's Grandma.  All three of these women have left gaping holes in our hearts, and we grieve every one of their losses in our lives.

And now we face another challenge in Elena's health.  I am doing all I can to keep my mind focused on the now and my heart trusting God in all this.  It's literally the only way I can fathom getting through everything.  I know each challenge in my life proves His faithfulness to me and helps polish my heart, refining me.  And I'm so thankful to have those promises and to know all of this isn't on my shoulders alone.  Without that knowledge, this would all be impossible and I no doubt would be maxed out with anxiety and fear.  Although I'm admittedly struggling, I do have peace and comfort that is keeping me afloat.

I feel all your prayers and am often overwhelmed by the support we have.  We are so appreciative to all of you who have reached out and offered help.  I have a very sweet friend who has graciously  set up a meal schedule for us, both after we return home from New Jersey and for when we have a baby in late August (uhhhh, sometimes I forget THAT IS happening).  I know several of you sweet people who read my blog have already reached out to me in that regard.  If you feel so inclined, you can contact my friend, Jenny (, as she is officially the "Meal Master"! :)  You can also contact me and I can get you in touch with her.

Thanks to all of you lovely people who follow our journey (all the ups and most typically downs!).  I feel like this is life.  All our situations and circumstances are different but it's all hard in it's own regard.  This is our life, not necessarily the one we dreamed, but our life nonetheless.  It's filled with far more blessings than challenges but needless to say, the challenges prove quite challenging!  I so appreciate each of you who hold us in your heart and love and support our girl through her difficulties.  We could never express how much it all means.  I'll be sure to keep you updated in the next few weeks.  Just bear with me.  There's a very good chance I'm going to be a ball of emotions!

The sweetest girl there ever was....

Saturday, June 11, 2016

It's Happening

Good news is, miraculously, in a matter of three days, we managed to get a surgery scheduled.  This is like seriously unprecedented.  Just the last time, it took like a thousand phone calls and follow up and like two weeks just to get assessed.  So, it's been so encouraging to us to have things already "work" out in a matter of days.  Prayers answered.

Her surgery is scheduled for July 8th, which is even more bittersweet because her 5th birthday happens to be July 9th.  Some birthday, huh?  Our precious little girl has endured so much in her five years, it just breaks my heart to add another one to the list, especially on her birthday.  We are relieved that things are set and we can address her hip before things get worse but using the word "bittersweet" just doesn't do what I'm feeling justice.  It's hard to describe heartbreak and gratitude in the same breath.

For now, we are doing what we can to keep her hip stable and save it from further damage.  This includes bracing her, increasing meds to keep her muscles relaxed and keeping her hip in an "in-the-socket position".  Currently, she is scheduled for a more invasive procedure than she received last time due to the severity of her dislocation.  This, obviously, adds to the uncertainty and stress.  We are fervently praying and asking everyone we know to pray that, upon her examination in New Jersey, that she won't end up needing the more invasive (ie more painful, more terrible) procedure.  I'd also like to ask you all to pray for me and baby.  It's an incredibly stressful time and I'm doing my best to remind myself that I can't be 110% right now, that my health and baby's health are vital to this all going as smoothly as possible.  I'll be 33-34 weeks pregnant at surgery, so prayers that baby and I remain healthy for all this are critical too.  Lastly, please pray for continuity and ease in getting all necessary insurance approvals and medical clearance taken care of in this short amount of time.  This can often be a nightmare and the WORST part of this situation.  So prayers for all this to be as smooth as possible are a necessity.

Thanks to all who have reached out, been praying and offered help in the last week.  We are doing our best to stay calm, plan accordingly and most of all, trust that all this sits firmly in God's hands.  So much of this is far beyond any control we want to place over the situation, and trusting Him is the only option.

"The way we deal with uncertainty says a lot about whether Jesus is ahead of us leading, or behind us just carrying our stuff." -Bob Goff

"Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved." -Psalm 55:22

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Lotta Good & A Lotta Prayer

We've hit the ground running this week.  The past two weeks have been such a nice reprieve.  We actually had play dates, and zoo dates, and let's do whatever we want days.  Which for us, never happens.  We were busy but good busy, not run around from appointment to appointment busy, which was a great change of pace.  This week, back to reality.  Summer schedule is in full swing.

I want to first say thank you to all the kind messages I received on my last post.  It was actually a really great response, which I appreciated.  Typically when I have any kind of "I'm struggling....this is stinks sometimes" posts, I (really, Chad) get flooded with concerned responses and people thinking I've gone off the deep end.  And while knowing that people love and are concerned for us is nice, that's not always the most helpful response.  I received several notes from wonderful people just saying, "me, too" (which fellow Traders Pointers can appreciate!).  I can't tell you how much I appreciate when people share their experiences with me and come along side me to tell me they struggle with similar things too....even if their life situation is totally different.  It makes me feel like I'm not out on crazy island, there's others there too! :)

So, thank you!  Thanks for understanding that this blog isn't about how grand life is or that I'm always Positive Polly and just want to share my ups.  To me, this is my life..the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.  No false pretenses here, folks.  You get me in all my honest, over sharing! :)

Another giant thank you is needed for all you wonderful people who continue to follow our family.  An amazing, nearly $5,000 was raised by all you generous folks for Elena's Walking for Dreams.  FIVE THHHHHH-OUSAND dollars!  Our family could never thank you all enough for your generosity in supporting Elena and the people who bring our family hope.  So a giant hug to all of you who donated on behalf of our girl.  You're all awesome.

Elena finished up her spring swimming program last weekend, which I explained was why we couldn't actually participate in the walking part of Walking for Dreams.  I promised you all a video of how much she loved swimming.  And of course, since I promised, Elena decided to only perform a fraction of the excitement when Dad pulled out his camera to capture it for me.  So, below is a video of a semi-excited Elena swimming.  You'll have to turn up the sound to hear her squeals and it's a little dark, but you'll get the idea.  Good news is, she starts swimming again today with her PT and OT from school for the summer.  She did this the past two summers and loves it equally as much.  We are so glad she is able to do things she loves!

And to round out these random thoughts I'm sharing with you today, I must end with a giant, huge, enormous prayer request.  My apologies in advance for the somewhat vague-ness of the following prayer request...I just don't have a ton of information right now so will be sharing with you as it becomes clear to us.

We suffered a major setback with Elena this week.  You may remember that she had to have surgery on her left hip back in November 2014.  It was pretty terrible.  But even though we had to travel to New Jersey for the surgery, it was way less terrible than the alternative surgery recommended to us.  Well, her right hip has suddenly...and I mean SUDDENLY....entered the we-need-surgery-immediately phase.  As you can imagine, surgery on your child is always dreadful and then you sprinkle in the fact that I'm having a baby in a little more than two months, Elena's to start Kindergarten exactly two months and the timing of all this just couldn't be more awful.....we need major prayers.  I've had my major Mom freak out already and have been praying fervently for peace, calm, peace, calm and more peace and calm.  These things are always a thousand moving parts and I just don't know how this one is going to turn out.  But, I know it's in my Father's hands and per usual He is in control (not me).  So just keep our baby girl on your prayer list.  Pray that her hip can "hang steady" and not worsen before we can figure all this out.  Pray for Chad and I to be calm in the midst of a thousand reasons to panic.  And pray for the doctors, insurance, travel details to all be worked out (this always tends to be the miraculous part).

As I said, we don't really have any other information besides her hip needs surgery and that there's one doctor in the world who we trust with it.  Everything else is up in the air.

We so appreciate all your love and prayers.  I'll let you know if/when things change.  In the meantime, I'll be alternating between phone calls and prayers.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

It's a Brutiful Day

You guys know I like to keep it real with you.  I like to assure every one around me that life ain't roses and butterflies all the time.  And if you pretend like it is, well newsflash, we ALL know better.  In our situation, there are a lot of days where I'm not ok with things.  I struggle.  I cry (this we all know, obviously).  I wish more than anything in the history of all wishes that things were different.  Well, last night (and today) was one of those nights.

Perhaps it was the sheer exhaustion of a day with a five year old and two year old.  Perhaps it was my lack of ability to decompress with a glass (or four...keeping it real ya'll) of wine these days.  Perhaps it's that today is Elena's last day of preschool forever and she's getting so tall, pretty and losing all her baby-ness.  Perhaps it's that I'm pregnant and hormonal and emotional and hot (warning, long summer ahead) and that my back hurts like the dickens all day every day and that I have a true love for run-on sentences....but man, I had to have a moment last night (and all day so far today!).

I just get so sad sometimes thinking about all that Elena has to sit by and watch around her.  And no, this doesn't mean I'm not incredibly aware and grateful for all we have been blessed with (which Chad was quick to point out already).  But, sometimes I can't help but just be overtaken by a profound sadness.

My sweet, happy girl sits in her stroller next to Mom while all the neighborhood kids play together and splash around in our oh, so awesome blow up pool.  It stings.  She can't fully participate in the Field Day activities at school (even though they do their very best to include her) because her stander can't roll through the grass or she can't lift her arms to carry something in the relay race.  The pictures of it are little daggers in my soul.  She can't hide and chase her Daddy through the house, giggling and squealing like her little brother does.  I love watching Cal do it, but watching Elena as this occurs breaks my heart.  She can't see the silly dance moves of her Mom and Dad to laugh at during our many all family dance parties. There are literally hundreds of moments each and every day that make my heart break.

Then there is the guilt.  The guilt that I should do more, give her more, engage her more, always more.  And the reality of just being a Mom with another two year old and eventually a newborn is crushing because I know there's less and less time for more of anything with her.  For most kids, that's ok.  But Elena requires more of everything, that's just the nature of a having a child with special needs.  I constantly fight myself internally on what I should be doing with her, what I need to be doing with her.  There's the guilt of what I do with Calvin that I can't do with her.  There are hundreds of these moments, too, each and every day.

When I have days where the sadness and guilt rise up in me, sometimes it's just too much.  My heart hurts for my best girl and my heart hurts for our family.  Everything will be more difficult.  Everything will require more.  Everything will likely have some element of sadness and guilt to it.  There's a fear of how we will do things in the future.  That's just the truth of the matter.

I know there's a whole other side to this.  A side of light and happiness and faith and blessings.  But, just to keep it real you guys, there's always this side too.  I don't always write about it.  I don't like these moments, days.  Honestly, I don't always feel it.  But, it is always there.  The heartbreak always lies there somewhere.  And blame it on the bevvy of reasons listed above, I'm feeling it.

As one of my faves, Glennon Melton of Momastery, says...."Life is brutiful.  It's brutal and beautiful woven so tightly together, they can't be separated."

Oh my heart, she's just the most beautiful girl I ever could imagine.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Walking for Dreams Update

Oh my goodness, every year I am SOOO humbled by each of you who lend your support and donate to the Jackson Center fundraiser, Walking for Dreams.  This year is no different.  I am touched by every single one of you and could never say thank you enough for supporting our girl.  I could never fully express what the Jackson Center has done for Elena and the progress she has achieved there.  Knowing that you all are behind her, cheering for her, well, there's just no words for it.  It literally means the world.  

I will give a disclaimer and let you know that we are unable to actually "walk" this year at the event.  But for good reason!  Elena has been participating in a swimming program through a local foundation on Sunday afternoons.  And when I say that she loves it, I mean she loves it more than anything we have ever seen her do before.  Chad and I had to make the executive decision to let her swim this weekend, since she only has a few sessions left.  Just to prove it to you all, we'll take a video of her in action this Sunday so you can see just how much this girl lets loose when she's in the water.  It's pretty great!

That being said, walking or not, the money still goes straight to Elena's therapies at the Jackson Center and we sincerely appreciate every cent!  Not only that, but to all of you who just lend your words of support and prayer to us, means just as much.  Our girl may never know fully how many people love her and cheer for her, but gosh, we do and it is everything.

To donate:

 Under Credit my Donation to, Select "Individual Walker", scroll through and select Hinton, Elena.

Or you can mail a check to the Jackson Center

802 Samuel Moore Pkway
Mooresville, IN 46158

(Just designate Elena Hinton in the memo section)

Love you all!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Coast to Coast

Man, it feels good to be back home again!  The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind.  We have literally been from coast to coast.  This week we are finally settling back into our normal routine.

Two weeks ago, Chad and I got a little break and spent several days in San Diego for a friend's wedding.  I realllllly needed a pause in my normal every day routine and it was great to spend some time without the kids.  We had a great time exploring the area and spent some quality time with our good friends who we only see a couple times a year.  What a great trip!

The Pacific!

A hike through Torrey Pines State Park was beeeeeeautiful!

We returned on Sunday, unpacked and repacked, leaving Wednesday for Florida.  It was a little more chaotic since we took the kids, which is always an adventure when flying.  But, we were going to celebrate Chad's Mom, Sharlene, who passed away in December.  May 5th was her birthday and we celebrated her life that day by returning her ashes to the most beautiful place that she loved.  All of Chad's family was able to be there and it was really special.

Sharlene had lived in Florida and being back there, (a place we had visited often) meant feeling a very palpable hole without her there.  We miss her dearly but were so privileged to not only get to honor her wishes, but remember her when she was full of life in the place she loved most, with the people she loved most.

Boat Babe

He now wants to drive everythinggggg.

The beautiful sandbar on a perfect day.

Our wild crew :)

The next couple weeks don't slow down any with the last day of school, Memorial Day weekend and lots to do in between.  I'm telling you, this summer is going to fly by!  Ahhh, time slow down!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all you Moms, Mom-to-be's, Heavenly Moms and Mom's of angel babies!  No matter how you are celebrating today, we all have someone we can thank in our life for influencing us in only the way that a mother can.

I'm thankful for my own Mom who is as selfless as they come.  She is my best friend and I could never make it as a Mom/human without her.  My heart breaks for her today as she has to endure her first Mother's Day without her own best friend, her Mom.  There is a gaping hole in my heart today thinking about my Granny.  I grieve, too, thinking about my dear Chad, who is without his Mom today.  My Mother-in-Law, Sharlene and my Granny have been on my mind, thinking about their contributions in my own life.  I'm so fortunate to have been surrounded by strong women who have no doubt helped shape me into who I am today.

Though certainly a bittersweet day this year, my heart is full thinking of my own sweet babies.  Elena and Cal have made my life more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.  I'm thinking of our tiniest blessing today, too.  This little life I'm carrying will change our lives come August and I couldn't be more thankful for my healthy pregnancy.  Being a Mom has definitely been the most challenging journey imaginable.  I think back to being pregnant with Elena, excited to start our family and giggle at my own naivete.  To think that being a Mom would be like the pictures we all see on social media or in the movies is the greatest joke of all.  No, this is hard.  It requires a patience level that is off the charts, responsibility I never could have imagined, a selflessness that made my 27-year-old self cringe, an iron stomach to endure the poop, pee, spit, vomit and every other bodily fluid that covers me and my house on a daily basis, and every other thing that smacks you upside the head the minute your baby enters this world.  But, I also could have never prepared my heart for the level of love you feel for your children, or how your heart instantly doubles in capacity when your second child is born, or how all the difficult things that come with being a Mom can melt away with a simple hug and an "I love you".  No, no picture could ever quite capture what being a Mom does to you.  But, I'm incredibly content with my imperfect, un-social media worthy life.

There's no one like your Mother.  I'm grateful for mine and I'm grateful to be one, today and every day.

Happy Mother's Day!

 And just to keep it real (what family pictures really look like, am I right Moms??!)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

He's T-W-O

And just like that, my best little guy is two.

This has been the best, happiest two years of my life.  There have been so many more highs than lows.  I've loved watching Elena grow and change.  And, seeing our Calvin enrich our family in ways we never could have anticipated has been the greatest joy.  You always hear parents try to explain that they love all their children the same, but appreciate them for the differences that they bring into the family dynamic.  I totally get it.

Calvin has opened parts of my heart that I didn't know existed.

When I was pregnant with Calvin, it was probably one of the most fearful times in my life.  We had been dealt an awful tragedy with Elena, one I was still trying to recover from.  My first parenting experience, what I had thought to expect, had been turned upside down.  I was afraid of what having another child would do to me, do to Elena, do to our family.  I was afraid I wouldn't be able to handle it, the responsibility of it all.  I was afraid of what I would feel towards a second, typical child.  Most of all, I was afraid of the relationship our little boy would have with his sister, who couldn't play with him or talk to him.  I prayed nearly every day of that pregnancy for a sweet, tender-hearted, compassionate, patient, happy child.

God went above and beyond whatever I could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) when He chose Calvin for our family.  Today, we are celebrating a sweet, tender-hearted, patient, easy-going, compassionate, helpful, sister-loving two year old who has brought us more joy than we could have ever imagined.

It has been a real blessing to be able to watch him bloom, experiencing the miracle of life right before our very eyes.  We were robbed of that experience with Elena, and haven't taken one second of it for granted.  Going through what we have with her, has made us much more cognizant of what to appreciate, and for that I am thankful.

I could write for pages about all the things about Calvin that bring me joy, but what brings me the most joy, without a doubt, is watching him with his sister.  From day one, this little guy was expected to be dragged along to every one of Elena's daily appointments.  As a result, he has been so well-adjusted and flexible.  Nothing phases him.  Not only that, but watching him try to play ball with Elena or offer her an apple slice from his lunch makes my heart burst into a million pieces.  Obviously this is all he knows, but he has such a gentle spirit with her, always has.  He loves to help me with her, like brushing her hair, bringing me her orthotics and shoes every morning for school, helping to put lotion on her after her bath or wanting to push her wheelchair.  She's the first person he asks about when I pick him up from preschool and loves announcing "Sissy 'cited" when she squeals with happiness.  This boy has a heart for his sister and seeing the way they love each other is pure joy.

Calvin loves seeing his friends at "school" and singing the Bible songs about "Gee-sus" he learns at church.  He thinks his cousin Sam is pretty much the greatest and constantly talks about his grandparents, uncles and neighborhood friends.  Right now, he loves all things "gat-ball" (basketball), golf and "bee-ball" (baseball).  He can work the same ABC puzzle over and over for hours, watch his "shows", and loves pointing out "semis, trucks, cars, trees and "skoo-busses".  We listen for airplanes, "copters" and "mowers" throughout the day.  He soaks in everything constantly with his little eyes and ears.  He's a non-stop chatterbox, always either talking or singing songs.  He's fiercely independent like his Daddy, which frustrates Daddy when trying to teach him how to hold a golf club!  Cal imitates anything...from me cleaning, to watering flowers, to mowing the grass, there's always a little shadow not far behind.  He keeps us laughing constantly with both his wild streaks and his old man ways.  He goes from running through the house like a mad-man to stopping everything and settling in on the couch to watch "Fortune" (Wheel of Fortune) and Jeopardy before bed.  He's a sleeping prodigy, often announcing he's ready for "sleepytown" and marches himself back to bed, which is a gift after all our issues with Elena's sleeping.

At two, he's a pretty great little guy, though his favorite sentences this week have been "No want to, no way" and "my turn" .  We're constantly working on sharing, understanding the word no and listening to mommy and daddy, but something tells me we'll be working on those for the next 15 years!  He hates brushing his teeth and has very little interest in the potty.  I'm hoping the personal hygiene preferences change soon!

Our little guy is full of personality.  He is everything I prayed for and more than I could fathom.  God is so faithful, even when I let fear and doubt lead.  I'm so honored to have the privilege to raise this little life and share him with the world.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Calvin Merrick.  You are so precious, so beautiful, so loved.