Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dear Me, Five Years Ago

Dear Tracey, five years ago,

Your life is about to change, more than you thought possible. You've had surgery and are on bed rest in an attempt to keep your babies growing inside of you for at least another two months, but hopefully longer. You're still amazingly positive about the whole thing but the universe has different plans for you and your babies. This is a fact you may not ever understand - but we'll get back to that in a minute. In the mean time, hold on. It's going to be a trip.

In the next few days your babies are going to be born - their little bodies fragile and clinging to life. Lucky for all of you their souls are strong and full of life.

The hours, days, weeks, and months after their birth are going to be some of the worst of your life. There is little to celebrate because your babies are fighting to live another day. The important thing is they will survive. All of you will survive.

You will be devastated. Utterly and completely gutted. You will believe life as you know it is over. Well let's just rip the bandaid off and tell you something shocking - it is. You are starting a new journey now. One you never wished for but the one you were born for.

I wish I could tell you it's all going to be ok and just leave it at that. Because you know what? It is going to be ok. It really is. But in the mean time there's going to be a lot of not ok times and you need to get through them. I would be lying if I said it was all easy, and you deserve the truth.

Here is the thing: Nothing I, or anyone else, tells you matters. Because you need to figure this out for yourself. My words are meaningless. You just need to live it, and do your best every day. You know what, forget that. Some days you won't even be able to do your best and that's ok too. Just do it. Keep on keeping on. Get out of bed in the morning and make sure your kids are safe - some days that's all you're going to be able to muster.

You will grieve. And grieve. And continue to grieve. And that will be a process for the rest of your life. You will never "get over" the boys' birth or the circumstances around it. But your heart will move to a more peaceful place. You will accept that this is the path your entire family was always meant to be on even if you don't fully understand why.  Some days acceptance will be harder than others but you will actively work on it.

You will need your old friends. You will need the new friends you would not have known outside of this journey, yet you now consider them some of your dearest. You will need a therapist. You will need wine. And chocolate. And coffee. And often in combination throughout the day.

Some days will be so much harder than you expected. Most days will be so much easier.

You will go through deep, dark periods of despair and anger before you start seeing the brightness. But your clouds will one day have silver linings.

Things that once seemed important will lose value. Things you never realized were actually important will become your focus. You will feel pride that you've been blessed with a set of eyes through which many people are unable to see the world.

You will grow. You will strengthen. You will become a better person. 

Go easy on yourself mama. It'll be a rough ride at times but worth it. They're worth it. They will amaze you minute by minute with their resilience and the miracle that they are and all they have survived. The five of you will motivate and inspire.

And if you only take one thing from this message, let it be this: You will be happy. HAPPY. Your kids will flourish and laugh far more than they ever feel sadness. Your marriage will be strong. You will find success in ways you didn't imagine. Disability will become a small part of your world and love and happiness will be the biggest. Believe me, even if that seems impossible now. After all, I am your older and wiser self.

Hang in there, you can do this. You really can.

Love,
Tracey


Monday, October 27, 2014

Renovation - Week 16

This past week in the house was huge...

Our first full week in the suite went great. A little crowded, but so fantastic to be "home".

The kitchen cupboards were installed and are even nicer than I'd hoped. And suddenly our kitchen looks so big!

All paint is on the walls, with only touch ups and baseboards remaining.

Tile is well underway which means more plumbing can be installed this week.

I said not many more pictures, and I will stay true to that - but here's one teaser of the bathroom tile.


There is so little left to be done but unfortunately we can't move upstairs until EVERYTHING is done because that is when the last coat goes on the hardwood floors. But we're so close. I'm hoping within two weeks?! Please keep your fingers and toes crossed we can wrap this up soon! My latest stress is when I'm ever going to get to hold a 5th birthday party - that technically should be happening next weekend and that's clearly not going to happen!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Renovation - Week 15

This past week saw a lot of paint, and prep for things like tile and kitchen install. The most important thing that happened this week, however, is this:



That is our mattress in the living room of our basement suite (kids are in the bedroom). The suite is not done - it still has quite a lot of finishing to do. But you know what, it's livable. Or at least so we thought until we tried to have a shower and there's no hot water in the shower (although there is in the bathroom and kitchen sinks?!). But you know, we'll survive until the plumber comes, hopefully very soon. In the mean time, we'll try to enjoy the adventure! Already it feels so good to be "home" even if home is a cramped, make shift set up for now.

This coming week is huge - probably one of the biggest since demolition and framing. Our kitchen is going in! And our bathrooms are being tiled! And all of the color is going on the walls! So exciting! On that note - you know what? There will be very few photos from here on in...better to wait for the big reveal in a few short weeks!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Kindie, Four Weeks In

We've successfully logged four weeks of kindergarten and the boys are thriving, to say the least.

Lots of friends, lots of fun, lots of learning.

You know what one of the hardest parts of having a twin in kindergarten is? When his name starts with "A" and your name starts with "N" so you have to wait a looooong time after him to be special helper. Thank goodness it was finally Nolan's turn today!

The boys IEP meeting was also this week and we feel really well supported. The beginning of kindergarten has come together in the best possible way and I am thankful for the great start they've had. They have a great team supporting them, yes. But if I can say (stating the obvious that I'm biased) it doesn't hurt that the boys are so darn lovable that they're melting hearts everywhere they go and people can't help but want to support them.




Think they're having any fun?

When I spent endless hours agonizing about how it would be sending my "special needs" kids to school, I had no idea just how special the experience would be.  Oh kindergarten, how we all love you!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Renovation - Week 14

I'm a bit late with the week 14 update, but given I was busy giving thanks, giving more thanks, and stuffing my face with turkey on three separate occasions, I was a little preoccupied.

Week 14 saw: downstairs paint completed, a good chunk of downstairs flooring installed, and upstairs hardwood completely installed and refinished (minus the final coat right before we move back in). Additionally, we got a whole ton of rain and the roof doesn't appear to be leaking, so thank goodness for that.

Filling:


Sanding:

Staining:


Painting:


And we have a spare bedroom:


With floors and paint!



This coming week will bring: downstairs (our portion) hopefully 100% complete, the suite hopefully 98% complete, upstairs trim and baseboards, and the start of upstairs paint. We're getting closer and closer...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fifteen

Fifteen years ago today, Jordan and I went on our first date. I still remember everything about that night. What we wore, what we ate, what we talked about. What young kids we were.

I saw him the day after, and the day after that, and more or less every day from then until now. It didn't take long for us to both realize how happy we were. Not just in the infatuated, honeymoon stage of a new relationship, but in the "I've found my person" way.

This is not an anniversary we celebrate. In fact, I can almost guarantee he's not going to know it passed until he reads this post. However, fifteen years was worth a mention. Because the wedding anniversary gets all the hoopla, but the truth is we put in five solid years before the marriage. Without those years to make sure we were "all in" I don't know if we'd have the foundation we built to prepare us for the sometimes challenging future we had ahead. I think it's safe to say we got it right, or have at least been constantly working to get it right for fifteen years and counting.

Today on Thanksgiving I have so much to be thankful for. None of it would be possible had I not met this guy and had our first date fifteen years ago today.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gratefulness Therapy™

Grateful.

Blessed.

Two words that I find are creeping into my vocabulary more and more regularly, and without any effort at all.

For a good part of the past almost-six years, I didn't feel grateful or blessed - I felt bitter. Bitter about all of the things I didn't have; the things I thought deserved to be rightfully mine but were stolen from me. Not material things like more money or a nicer car, but things like a healthy living baby, a healthy twin pregnancy, full term twins, life without disability, life without cancer. Things that other people around me had, and seemed to take for granted. Could I blame them? No. I took things like that for granted before too.

But then I eventually grew tired of being bitter and made a conscious effort to be grateful. What good was it doing me to be angry? None, whatsoever. So I decided to change that. I always knew how much I had in the grand scheme of things, it was just often over shadowed by what I didn't have. So I began "gratefulness therapy" (Should I trademark that phrase? I just came up with it and it's pretty brilliant.)

At first it wasn't exactly easy. Sure, I could say to myself "I have three healthy kids, a loving husband, a roof over my head and food to eat". That was easy. I knew that all along. But I wanted more than that. So I spent a little bit of time at the end of each day thinking about what happened that I could be thankful for. Often it was really mundane things that I'd otherwise overlook.

As time wore on, it became part of my routine. Not only did all of my blessings seem to show themselves to me more readily, but if something bad would happen, I would think to myself "Well at least [insert a silver lining] happened". Et voilĂ , before I realized it, thankfulness began to come naturally.

And I won't lie, it's a work in progress and I'm not always grateful. Some days really sucky things happen and I can't find a positive to save my life. But other days really sucky things happen and I do. For example, leaking roof? Yup, that sucks. But...at least we've got a roof. At least it leaked before the house was done. At least we've got a good roofer. At least nothing else went wrong. And on and on. I have learned to be grateful, even when something sucks. Because things are always going to suck so you've always got to find the blessings. And wow did you see how much I just said "sucks" in a post about thankfulness? I'm illustrating a point. You can think things "suck" all the time - or you can think you have a lot to be grateful for, sometimes in spite of the suck. It's really your choice.

So there you have it. I am grateful and I am blessed. Not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. And if I can do it, so can you. So if you're having trouble finding those blessings and things to be grateful for, do yourself a favor and take on a little bit of Gratefulness Therapy™ (See that? Trademarked. It's official). It works.

Happy Thanksgiving friends. Feel your blessings.

How can I not feel blessed by these people? One of my faves (from October 2010).

Monday, October 6, 2014

Renovation - Week 13

This week has been huge. In fact, given how close we are to the end, I think every week is going to be huge from here on in. FUN!

Let's back track a bit though, and re-visit the one nasty little outstanding item - the leak. Is it fixed? We're not sure. Is it stressful? Oh boy. Will it be fixed by our super keen and trustworthy roofer? Yes. Sadly we need more rain to give it another test as a hose just doesn't provide the volume or the surface area a good old fashioned west coast downpour can provide. Fingers crossed please.

In other news, although we planned to move back into our basement suite this past weekend, my sister talked us out of it. Basically her family has grown so attached to us that they weren't ready to part with us yet. So they begged for us to stay until upstairs is finished, and as much as we wanted to move home, we caved. What can we say, we're lovable!

No seriously, it was my sister who convinced us but not exactly for those reasons. Basically, she pointed out that we're NUTSO for moving into a one bedroom (not-quite-finished) basement suite when we could wait another week or two until our half of the basement is done. Although the two sides have no connecting door and therefore it's not like we could really utilize the entire space, at least we could move back and forth between the two. And for the sake of the kids and yet another transition, we would be in "our home" - not the tenants' home. So, our move home is prolonged a little bit more but at the rate things are moving it shouldn't be too much longer. Again, fingers crossed.

Anyway, now that the business is out of the way, back to the fun bits. In the past week:

The entire house has been primed and the ceilings and closets have been painted. Paint colors have been selected and while we are going with far less color than in the house previously there are still some bold choices!

Electrical is as done as possible considering we still haven't decided on a few light fixtures. But we're 90% there.

All of the doors have been hung, and many of the windows and doors have been trimmed.

Hardwood floors have been mostly installed and patched but all the original floors still need sanding and all of it needs stain. Oh my gosh is it going to look beautiful. And bright. And did I mention beautiful?

The pantry. Now with a door and trim.

Rio's (formerly our) bedroom - with a new entrance and closet

Our (formerly Rio's) bedroom - with a new closet and en suite

Old patching. Much splicing to ensure a match.

New hardwood - standing in what was our kitchen and is now our "den". (Not sure what to call the space yet but it'll have a big desk so we'll go with den for now).

More new hardwood - standing in what was formerly our sliding glass doors to the deck and is now the entrance to the kitchen and dining room. 

So much fun stuff this week, am I right?!

Next week will include the near completion of floors with the exception of the third and final coat of finish that they don't put on until the kitchen is installed.

Paint will be well underway, with our half of the basement likely done.

Floors in the basement (installed by my dear Jordan) will be bought with install starting on Jordan's next days off.

So much stuff getting accomplished every day now. Oh my gosh, we are really truly GETTING THERE!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Ramps, Ramps, and More Ramps

Last year, long before the official planning for the boys' kindergarten transition, I sat down with the principal to see what accessibility changes needed to happen at the school before the boys started. I was so impressed by his willingness to do whatever required to create a safe, inclusive environment for the boys, and I am pleased to say that has carried on through the start of school.

The only major thing "missing" from our school until now was one wheelchair ramp. Our school ground is tiered - on the upper level is the school itself and a large playground; on the middle level is a huge paved surface and more play structures; and on the lower level is the grass field and two kindergarten-specific playgrounds. There was a ramp from the upper level to the middle level, but not from the middle to the lower. Therefore, other than going out to the road and back through the parking lot there was no way to access the lower level besides stairs.

Our principal got to work on the problem right away and construction began on a ramp. We walked by every day as it was being built and the boys got to look out at the action from their preschool building across the field. It was so close to being finished - and then the teachers went on strike. So we left school for the summer with no maintenance workers allowed on the grounds to complete it.

As the summer wore on, the maintenance workers were back and I kept hearing from people that the ramp was done. However we weren't living in the neighborhood and so we didn't get to see it ourselves. Now that school is back in Asher gets to use it, but because I am driving the kids to school from my sister's and going in a different entrance to the school, I haven't walked by it yet. While it was being built I documented it in photos, but relied on Asher's EA to snap the very last and most important one:










That wasn't the only ramp, however. At the end of the school year the principal asked if I had any other concerns. Well, he was asking so why not give him my wish list, right?

First of all, the back door of the school (where we enter on most days when we're walking) had a pretty high transition to the concrete pad below. Not unmanageable but I'd have to wheelie Asher's chair to get him in. Secondly, the back gate to the school ground had a significant drop off from the road to the gravel path below. Again, not show stopping but took some effort for me to heave his chair up it at the end of the day. 

Fast forward to the start of school, and wasn't I pleased to see this back door with a little concrete transition....


And this back gate, with a full concrete pad poured from the road to the gravel.


Ramps, ramps, and more ramps - with access to every part of the school and school ground. Seriously, can I tell you how much I love this school and its staff? And can you blame me?!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

CP Awareness - and a Tale from the Vault

Today, October 1, is CP awareness day. As I've said in previous years, I feel like we make people aware every day by just living life to the fullest and showing the world CP isn't going to stop us. I have, however, started brainstorming for future years when the boys are older and we can get the whole school involved in the awareness day. Don't you worry, when the time comes it'll be something good, mark my words.

In the mean time, I've seen a really great infographic about CP - probably the best I've seen. Please, take a look here and educate yourself even more!

Nothing to do with CP awareness...just gratuitous cuteness!

Yesterday, the Monday Coffee Blog shared a post I wrote last year when the boys were in preschool and we'd walk Rio to school every day. I think it's a fitting post to bring back today, for "Tales from the Vault" because it's about being aware of your words and how even well intentioned comments and questions can be misunderstood if fallen upon the wrong ears.

You can see it here on the Monday Coffee Blog, or full text below.

Dear Mom on the School Ground,

Are you a mom? I’m not sure. I don’t know you, but I’m not sure what else to call you. “Dear Lady” sounded a bit harsh, so I’ll assume you’re a mom of someone, since you were at the school. I know some of the kids you were with, so maybe you’re a friend or family member of theirs.

You don’t know me either, but apparently you know my son. I know this because when his dad and sister wheeled him past you, I heard you ask the people you were with, “Does that little boy have Cerebral Palsy? I’ve been asking about him.”

According to your statement, you’ve seen him before and this is not the first time you’ve asked about him. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe you’re a busybody who likes to be in the know about everyone and everything. Or maybe you’re just a gossiper who wants the inside scoop about the only child in the school with a notable physical disability.

No, I really doubt you’re either of those things: that’s not the vibe that I got. I don’t think your question was gossipy or malicious, I think you were just interested. Maybe you even personally know someone with CP, and you’re trying to relate it to my son.

But whatever reason you had for asking about him, you were careless today. You thought that he and his family were out of earshot when you asked. You were sort of correct. They were. But you didn’t realize his mom and twin brother, also with Cerebral Palsy, were stumbling a few steps behind on a morning when walking was particularly difficult. Do you see how this might be a bit of a sensitive topic? Because we heard you loud and clear.

You didn’t intend for us to hear you; I saw the look on your face and the changed tone in your voice when you realized we did. You didn’t see the look on my face because I kept my head down and concentrated on not bursting into tears. Instead of breaking down, I took my stumbly little boy by the hand a little bit more firmly and moved past you quickly.

I know you weren’t trying to be mean, but the question you didn’t intend me to hear still hurt. It was, in fact, a milestone. Today was the first time I ever heard someone talking about my perfect boy and his disability. You see I’ve seen it before—the staring at him. But hearing it is a first. You weren’t talking to us, you were talking about us, and that never feels good.

So let this be a message to you, or anyone who makes an off-handed comment without enough regard for who might hear (come on, we know we’re all guilty of it). Be careful of what you say and of who might hear you. If you have a question or a comment about someone, ask them. Sure, it may have caught me off guard if you had said “Does your son have CP?” But had you asked kindly, I would have appreciated your interest. If you have a question that isn’t appropriate to ask directly to someone’s face, then you should be more careful about who may hear you when you’re asking it. It will come off as hurtful no matter how you intended it.

Although you were the first person I overheard, I know you won’t be the last. I know a child in a wheelchair is something that most people can’t stop themselves from staring at and talking about, so I’m just hoping for a bit of sensitivity. I know I need to work at growing a thicker skin, so it doesn’t bother me so much, but forgive me—I am just learning the ropes too.

Sincerely,
A Sensitive Mom