Monday, November 28, 2016

Giving Tuesday and my sordid past.

I have a confession to make. I have lived in four different houses now that all belong to a Homeowners' Association -- four houses over eleven years. So maybe that 11 is the important number here...I have um, paid HOA dues for 11 years. And yet -- I am grimacing because this is the confession part -- I have never been to an HOA meeting. Never.

I know. I know. The first HOA made me mad. We were barely moved in before we were doing things wrong. We failed to roll the garbage can up fast enough the week Little Red was born. Oh I am sorry, I was busy having a baby. So I wasn't that interested in their meetings.

Outside our first HOA home....

But the second house was going to be different. I was determined to be an active member. I was looking forward to meeting my neighbors through the meetings. I was eager. But we were barely moved in when Mason had his very big, super horrible, mostly terrible surgery that involved more than 13 incisions, a full leg cast, and setbacks for my very independent 13 year old who all of a sudden couldn't be. Three months of casting, followed by intense therapy, TWO subsequent leg breaks before Christmas and I couldn't even remember the name of our neighborhood most days, much less attend an HOA meeting and offer anything valuable. 

Mason's surgical recovery -- in our second HOA home.

To be fair, the third HOA never had a meeting that we knew of in the year we lived in the house. So it wasn't completely my fault.

But having said all of that, you might understand my trepidation when the welcoming neighbors to our new home reminded us that the previous owner had been the HOA President. Ah, wow. Oh that is fabulous, all came out of my mouth. But I was biting my tongue not to confess my entire sordid HOA past and beg them to love us anyway.

A few days later, the first episode of Speechless aired. Oh please tell me you have been watching! In the first episode, the family moves to a new neighborhood with the promise of THE right school for J.J. who has Cerebral Palsy. One of the subplots of the episode revolves around the sister and the dad trying to set the stage for the neighbors....they are trying to cut themselves off basically from friendship because they will, in their words, always have the worst yard, the worst-kept house and will never be a part of neighborhood socials.

Oh boy did it resonate. I was cheering. I was asking for copies of the show so that I could just send them in my absence to all future HOA meetings. And though I was laughing at their antics, in my heart I was applauding a show that spoke to my darkest fears and innermost feelings and screamed with the voice of Minnie Driver that I am not alone. Even if it is exaggerated. Even if there is an entire comedic side -- the issues are real. And that one episode provided a stamp of validation that I didn't even realize I needed.

Tonight I am writing because one of my favorite organizations is responsible for ensuring that Speechless gets the issues right. Cerebral Palsy Foundation works alongside the writers, the actors, and the entire team to ensure the show is covering issues that really affect families whose lives are colored by Cerebral Palsy. It is more than entertainment -- it is education, it is advocacy and it is a glimpse into our world and into our lives.

So on this Giving Tuesday, I am asking you to support a mission to change the way the world sees Cerebral Palsy. For every dollar you give to CPF, they will match it up to $100,000.  So your one dollar becomes TWO!  Will you join the work to help provide medical interventions, access to critical information, and a new vision for people with disabilities?

And in the meantime, I will be over here secretly thrilled that now, every time I have to demand access for my boys, my children say "Ooh, Mom, you went all Minnie Driver on them!" It sounds so much better than "Ooh Mom, you went a little crazy there." Right?

Between moving from our third HOA home to our fourth....

Thanks, dear ones! I'm so grateful to y'all that I might try to make an HOA meeting this year....or you know, maybe not! 😉

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Monday, November 21, 2016

I'm here, I'm here!!

Mercy, there is a lot of dust gathering on this page. Did you think I had left and was never coming back? Honestly.

There are reasons of course -- it wasn't that there haven't been things to say, I have no fewer than three drafts in my inbox proving otherwise. No, that isn't it. I have things to say but between speaking engagements -- which have been such an honor and a privilege -- from Colorado to Florida and even a hop over to Israel!! -- and a home-renovation and subsequent move, coupled with this stupid awful very bad election season, I have just been too tired to formulate cohesive sentences. Or at least too tired to coordinate cohesive sentences that weren't full of whiny frustrated emotions and adding to an already over-political newsfeed. So rather than hit "publish" on any drafts, I decided that perhaps the season called for being a "Thumper" know, if you have nothing good to say, then say nothing.

But I missed you. And I have things to say. And honestly, I can hardly process life without typing it out and sharing -- and here I am, back with my fingers poised on the keyboard in anticipation of letting the sharing begin.


First, moving is hard. I am a seasoned-expert in moving, and really as such would assume that I am just so good at it that I make it look easy. Nope. Not even a little bit. Four kids. Two adults. And two dogs.  We accumulate a ton of stuff. A. Ton. Of. Stuff. And moving is hard. Renovating a house even harder.

Kitchen before.

Kitchen almost done.

Kitchen after renovation BEFORE move-in!

I actually hired a lady to help me organize. I told her I needed her to pack Little Red's room and help me organize it in the new house - Cate has great storage space in the new house and I want to ensure we maximize it!

The lady quit after a day. She said she couldn't go up all my stairs. (I'm sorry...I assumed she wouldn't be in the business of organizing if she wasn't up to some stairs....) I felt so mad at myself for seeking help and trusting her. And then, then, she criticized my parenting -- "This child has too many toys. I would never give a child so many toys."

I was sad and mad and overwhelmed.

I was sad someone would pass judgement on our parenting without even knowing how awesome my kids are. (And come on, I have FOUR does appear Cate has more toys than most toys stores but that is because she inherited ALL the triplets' stuff too!)

I felt mad that she would accept a job and then quit before she had really made a dent in the project.

And I was completely overwhelmed because without her help, I knew the majority of the move would fall to me -- hubby was busy at work, big kids busy at college, and that left me.

Foyer before.

Foyer after.

My sweet friends, however, saw a sweaty, overwhelmed friend and stepped in.

Paige came over one Sunday afternoon and worked to pack breakable pottery pieces and help me move them safely to the new house. She gave up her whole afternoon for me.

My friend's sister, NeNe came to discuss staging my house for sell and ended up staying to help me organize and move and then unpacked enough to surprise my kids and husband with a semi-settled home when they came in to the new house! (You bet that NeNe is no longer just the sister of my friend....I adore her!)

My Bible Study group came and moved the kids' closets and our pantry just so I wouldn't have to. How dear is that? They loaded their cars and moved clothes like a machine getting the kids' closets put away!

Family room -- with actual ROOM for Benjamin to drive around!

And still....I spent five hours there last Wednesday and again today trying to get the last bits packed up and out of that house. I swear our junk is multiplying in our absence. Cate used her first day of Thanksgiving break boxing and loading and unloading.

We aren't completely finished. The garage has boxes that we will have to move. But the house is empty tonight and clean and ready to go on the market. Sometimes being an adult is hard and requires tackling the ugly dirty sweaty jobs in order to make things better. And this move is doing just that -- the new house is more accessible, more use-able for our family. We have space for visitors -- something very important to me. And we have room for a certain Little Red to run and play and throw softballs!

A street in Jerusalem. My very favorite!

And sometimes being an adult means amazing friends who walk beside you, wonderful opportunities to share our story, and incredible experiences that make being 40-something the absolute best!

Happy Thanksgiving, dear ones! I won't be gone too long this time, I promise.

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Seasons of life and laps.

We are in the middle of several different "seasons" over here -- you know there is the "moving-triplets-back-to-college-season" combined with the "First-time-as-a-middle-schooler-season" for Little Red; but we are also in a "Renovate-a-house-so-we-can-move-the-family-three miles-down-the -road-season"; and because finally (finally finally finally) we have approval from the Dept. of Rehab Services, we are in a "Hire-Benjamin-a-Personal-Care-Attendant-season".

So basically what I am saying is: I am tired and would really just prefer the "crisp-temperatures-pumpkin-spice-everything-season"!


Today, I was organizing the garage (remember the moving season?) and stumbled upon some DVDs where we had converted old videos. I decided to just peek for a minute....that may have turned into several hours.

Oh how I enjoyed myself. See, I am the photographer for the family. If you have spent a minute with me, then we have a photo of the occasion. I love pictures. I carry my camera every where. Every. Where. I am known as my children's paparazzi and I really love that title!

But despite the fact that I apparently enjoyed filming my children singing Christmas carols for four or five years in a row (I have a stack of DVDs to prove it!), I am not that big on videography. As a result, most of the video-taping that occurred in the triplets' younger years was done by Wade or one of my brothers.

This is important. Because it means that unlike photos, when you look at the old videos, I am there. I am probably not front and center, but I am definitely in the frame.

So today, as I scrolled through the goldmine of memories, one thing became abundantly clear: My Benjamin spent his pre-wheelchair years in my lap.

Opening birthdays gifts when the trio turned 3.

Christmas morning for us (Daddy was on-call on actual Christmas so we worked it out for Santa to come a day early, in case that date stamp is bothering you!) And yes those are my footie-pajamas -- we lived in Minnesota, y'all -- and my camera strapped to my arm as if to prove my point.

Our first introduction to adaptive software! We are working with our therapists to use some neat computers!

You won't see that in the real photos (as opposed to these shots of the video screen!). I was mainly taking those -- so Benjamin is not in my lap. And so maybe that has blurred my recollections. Because honestly, I don't remember it that way.

I know that his lap-dwelling ended when he was five and started driving his own wheels.

I know that often I had to sit in such a way that all three were able to be in my "lap" -- believe me, a corner of an edge of a knee TOTALLY counts as lap time if you are a triplet and want to SHARE EVERYTHING! And that I do remember vividly.

But I had forgotten that my Benjamin -- my boy who always wanted to cuddle, snuggle and be hugged -- had spent those early years with me.

It makes sense then that today,  as we interviewed potential Personal Care Attendants for him,  we would both feel conflicted, torn, and a bit sad.

It's not the first time we have hired a PCA. But the first time we were heading in to major spine surgery and knew we needed someone who could lift him with ease. We hired our dear Zack and thanked God for him!

But today, our second time to hire an attendant, we are in a different place. We don't need a PCA because of any pending surgeries (Thank goodness!) but rather, today we are hiring an attendant because Benjamin is ready to achieve greater independence. And by greater independence, I mean, independence from me.


I know it is time. Just as the wheelchair opened his world and ripped away barriers when he was five, so will hiring his own staff to care for his daily needs.  Just as his triplet siblings have moved apart from me into their college dorms, this hiring of caregivers is necessary for Benjamin to grow into adulthood.

Benjamin is ready to get out of my lap.

I better get my camera ready. And the tissues.

Carol - The Blessings Counter