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.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Walking For Dreams

Thank you for all the kind words of support and congratulations with our exciting baby news and Elena's Kindergarten news.  We are still so thankful for continuing to receive so much support for our family and all our highs and lows.  This is definitely an exciting season for us, and are very much looking forward to the next few months.  We are glad to share our journey with you.

It is, however, that time of year again when we are happy to share with you a place that is so special to us because of what our sweet Elena has been able to achieve while attending.  That special place is the Jackson Center for Conductive Education.  As most of you regular readers know, Elena has been attending the Jackson Center for nearly three years.  During that time, Elena has made great strides, quite literally.  When we began, she was so little and I felt very much still helpless.  I had found myself thrown into a new world, a world of medical jargon, therapeutic exercises, medications, gait trainers, standers, orthotics, disabilities and most of all, fear of the future.

While Elena was working her way through hours of weekly therapy, I was finding myself amidst a community of families who understood.  Many of them had been there, done that.  All of them had endured the heartbreak, grief, fear and uncertainty that comes with learning your child is different.  This community I found myself in offered me something I had been desperately needing, people who understood.  All the while I was being supported by this special community, Elena was learning, growing, improving and loving all her new little friends.  

Over the last three years, I have seen Elena achieve things I'm certain she would not have achieved in traditional therapy.  These loving people at the Jackson Center believe, truly believe, in every single child that comes through their doors.  They see beyond their disabilities to improve on their abilities, encouraging the children and their families every inch of the way.

Elena loves this place.  She squeals and shouts throughout her six hours weekly there.  She loves the games they play, interacting with her friends, even the difficult tasks, she does with a smile on her face.  It would be impossible for me to measure how much she has grown during this time.  All I can say is that Elena would not be where she is today, nor would I, without this special place.  We are so thankful for these wonderful people and having found such a wonderful place for our daughter to grow in her ability.

You may remember, we do a fundraiser for them each May called Walking for Dreams.  100% of the money we raise goes to the Jackson Center, directly helping Elena in her therapy.  A donation to this cause, no matter how big or small, helps give Elena and all her friends an opportunity for a better, more independent life.  You can donate to our team in one of two ways:

• Donate online at www.walkingfordreams.org.  Click on "Donate," Select "Individual Walker," then choose "Hinton, Elena.”

• You may mail a check to the Jackson Center  – Walking for Dreams.
Please be sure to include Elena's name in the memo line if you mail a check.
(802 Samuel Moore Pkwy., Mooresville, IN 46158)

As I mentioned above, our family continues to be so thankful for all of you who follow our story and support us either through this, your prayers or even just reading my blog.  I truly mean it when I say that this all would be incredibly more difficult without all of you!

I'll leave you with the Jackson Center video we contributed to for this past year that has some great footage of Elena "in action"!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Counting Down 'til August

A few weeks ago, in my post On the Mend, I mentioned hoping to share with you all some of the plans our family had been trying not to fret over.  I've kept my worrying and apprehension in check pretty well the last few weeks.  I'm hoping to keep that up for the remainder of the summer!

So, to share with you some bittersweet news....Elena will be a Kindergartner come August.  Cue the barrage of tears from Mom.  I mean, really, how is my sweet little baby ready for Kindergarten?  I actually still don't know.  Literally, you blink and your baby is off to school.  There has been SO MUCH apprehension over this for me in the last few months.  For sentimental reasons obviously, but also because our circumstances surrounding Kindergarten are a little more complicated.  We've had to make a lot of tough decisions for Elena's well-being in her nearly five years, and this definitely ranks up there.  I have wrestled often on whether we are making the right decisions for her and gosh, it has been hard.

For starters, my baby will be turning five just a month before school starts.  She'll be the youngest in her class.  She's grown to love her developmental preschool class, her peers, her teachers and now I have to pull her from that and put her into a new environment (which is tough for her).  Not only that, but Elena's been learning a communication system and working with a communication device.  I thought for sure we would have another year of learning this under our belts before we switched it all up on her, but I was mistaken.  It's hard to put her in an academic environment when we haven't been able to fully gauge the complete extent of what she knows.  She knows A LOT, but it's a matter of giving her the means to express what she knows and this just hasn't happened fully yet.  This has been the main reason for my concern, but after several looooooooong conversations with her teachers and therapists, we've all agreed (for lots of reasons I won't elaborate upon) that this is a good step for her.

This is me letting go of my apprehensions, of my worries, of my what ifs, and putting my trust in God and the people who love, care and serve Elena on a daily basis.  There's a million things I could drive myself crazy trying to control and seems I'm crazy enough without going that extra mile of control-freak Mom.  I'm excited to watch Elena grow in school, but good grief, the emotions of it all may zap me.  I mean, I tear up just thinking for three seconds about that first day of school in August!

As if that wasn't enough excitement for us to dwell upon for the next four months, we're shaking things up even more in the Hinton family.  We'll be welcoming a new little brother or sister (we are keeping the gender a surprise) for Laney & Cal at the end of August!  I'm five months in and am still not quite sure how all this is ever going to work, but it's happening so with it, I will roll!

Everyone is healthy and growing just fine.  I'm not exactly pumped about spending a hot summer, all summer, hugely pregnant (I am no dainty pregnant woman), but this little blessing should make it worthwhile.  So as we send our first off to Kindergarten, we'll be bringing a new little life into our family.  Lots of changes ahead, lots of emotions and lots of blessings for our family this summer!  Here's hoping for an Indiana summer of 75 degrees and no humidity, possible no?  :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Life's Not Fair

I’ve often quoted my Jesus Calling devotional before (I HIGHLY recommend if you want a quick minute long read of a morning) because it is seemingly always relevant to a life circumstance I’m facing or a friend is facing.  I start my day with it.  It helps me be more introspective, which I think is important.  I make a regular effort to search my heart for things that aren’t kind, honest or true to what I believe or how I want to live my life.  The devotional often gives me the perfect words for a friend or loved one who is on my heart that morning.  Anyway, it’s an excellent way to start your day. 

Speaking of, this morning (April 6th) was particularly appropriate.  I was talking with a friend the other day who is dealing with her fair share of life’s difficulties.  In our discussion, we both agreed that even though the stuff she is dealing with is the real deal and extremely tough, it’s life.  You know that thing that happens that can knock us to our knees?  Yeah, that thing.  That thing that brings us broken/hurtful relationships, illness, death, people we love with complicated issues, crummy jobs, you name the ailment, that’s it.  And though it’s all reallllllllly tough and typically reallllllllly complicated, I encouraged her in the midst of her difficulty to find something to be grateful for.  Even just the simplest of things.  Gratitude and thankfulness keep our hearts from becoming bitter and resentful, which always leads to more damage, both in our own lives and the lives of those we love.  As it said this morning (using the story of Adam & Eve being dissatisfied with all God’s gifts He had given them),

“When you focus on what you don’t have or on situation that displease you, your mind also becomes darkened.  You take for granted life, salvation, sunshine, flowers and countless other gifts from Me.  You look for what is wrong and refuse to enjoy life until that is “fixed”. 

It’s so easy to jump to this conclusion when something (ahem, life!) isn’t fair or something doesn’t work out the way we had hoped.  I think about my own situation and how wronged I felt (and sometimes still feel) when Elena was injured.  Gosh, it still gets me worked up.  But Chad and I both made a promise that we would NOT focus on ­the what happened and the aftermath of emotions.  We knew it would rob us of the ultimate blessing of it all….that she lived and every day I can kiss her and wrap her up in my arms.  Not to mention the infinite amount of blessings she has been to others and we have received as a result of what happened.  When you’re given a gift, it’s up to you how you will allow your heart to react….with gratitude and appreciation or bitterness and feeling gipped.  We are all selfish by nature, and it’s hard to fight against what we want sometimes, and who doesn’t want things to go their way all the time?!  But the fact is, life happens and it’s hurtful and most certainly unjust.  I keep reminding my friend (and myself quite frankly) that it’s how we react to the hurt, how we learn from it, how God uses it to grow us, that matters.  The best medicine for it?  Gratitude.  It’s against our human nature but I know firsthand, when you look at what you have, what you’ve been given, what is around you, and give thanks for it, your perspective changes.  And guess what, you’ll be thankful for it!

It’s a good reminder to us all, no matter what circumstance we are going through, no matter what injustice we are facing, try not to focus on what’s hurting, what’s missing but all that you DO have.  You may be surprised at what you find......