Sunday, October 28, 2012

open eyes and ears

Yep.  Took a few photos this week.

So, there was a fuss created, mostly south of the border, with Ann Coulter's careless use of the word retard.  Yeah, I said it.  And I don't care for the word at all.  In fact, it bothers us a great deal when we hear it.  Unfortunately, the word is still used to describe our girls in both professional and casual conversation... and it hurts when we hear someone use it as an insult or when they are frustrated with their stapler.  I think you get it.

There were some creative responses to Ann Coulter's comments, most moving was this one.

I know we can't change everything.  We can only hope that a media stir as such was created will remind us to show grace, create understanding and promote awareness.

For now, we'll keep on doing what we're doing.  Hopefully, the sale of thesauruses will increase as people search for new describing words.

* * *

The other day, Janneke took to exploring the garage, making sure the Sprinter fit.  Pretty nice bat cave, eh, kid?

The birthday parties were a lot of fun for all.  Soph wanted hers at home, all organized by her - games that had prizes and dressing up.  Em asked Uncle Harvey and Aunt Carol for another farm party, complete with an obstacle course, hayride, and hot dogs over a fire .  Lots of good memories...

Today, Ralph showed me a great list of 10 resolutions for mental health (via this link with John Piper).  Here they are for you:

1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.


2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligencewhich, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end.
I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death when he said: "There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing."
3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities.
I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.
4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.
5. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

6. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person [or cows]. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.
7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder."

8. I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.
9. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

10. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

I think I'll print that list out and stick it on the fridge.

Peace for your week.

Oh, a lesson learned: Don't serve cake on a hayride.

And a special thanks to Nancy and Doug Roorda for raking our leaves each year.  Such a treat - and such a huge help.

Monday, October 22, 2012

birthdays and more

Today, we celebrated Emily's birthday - and last week, we celebrated Sophia and Ralph's birthdays.  Sophia hosted a party on Saturday, complete with gummy worm ice cubes, Ralph ate cake with a school of kids, and Em's got some mysterious plans for later this week.  I'm about birthdayed-out, but we are so thankful to mark another year.  And here's to many more birthdays, D.V.

In some ways, it feels like the last few weeks have been a bit blurry.  I experienced more back trouble again -which leads to more reflection and more frustration.  Probably both are good for my character over time, but I am not a patient patient.  Thankfully, I am able again to lift and manage the girls without extra help.  Here's hoping the back doesn't bail again.

I was distracted from my back issues by helping coach Sophia in cross country running.  Although I was no longer able to run with the team, I loved the chance to forget about my pain and watch the kids improve at their ability to run.  We finished with a cross country meet this past Friday, and I was so proud of those kids for finishing!  It was an amazing feeling to watch Sophia cross that finish line, knowing she completed her first race.  Check out the story here.

Rachel and Janneke are doing well these past few days.  A few weeks ago, we met with a specialist that is known to be a "puzzle solver."  He was a great person to meet who knew we didn't want to waste time with unnecessary questions or tests.  We learned that he was unable to offer any new advice or tests; so far, our girls continue to be undiagnosed.  I was impressed by his follow-up through email, and he made himself accessible to questions we had after the appointment.  Specialists like him are great to work with - I can hope that we meet more doctors like him in the future.  

Admittedly, it is a bit discouraging when we hear that there are no tests known that could help us better understand our girls.  I know that any new label or diagnosis wouldn't necessarily change our daily care for the girls, but when there is a diagnosis, many of the concerns and worries are validated - or named. Some parents talk about feeling a sense of peace when they can name the syndrome, instead of constantly listing all the anomalies.  As my friend Fraser put it - you "regurgitate" the list at every appointment.  That is tiresome.

There are weeks when we feel extra sensitive to the looks, questions, or comments made about our girls.  Funny how some days you can just brush that off - and other days, you can't shake the look someone gave you or the strange thing someone said.  Such is life.

I haven't taken as many photos in the last few weeks, yet I can recall the determination on Rachel's face last week as Aunt Jean, Aunt Alida, cousin Marg, and I toured Rachel's school and watched Rachel figure out a cause-and-effect music program with her teacher.

I can recall the joy on Janneke's face as she experimented with putting her nose in the water during her water therapy class.

I can also recall the tenderness in soon-to-be-six-years-old Kalan's eyes as he walked alongside Rachel in her chair during a hike yesterday.  He gently put his hand on hers and talked about how he'd like to see Rachel visit Grade 1 at Beacon sometime soon.

I love the chirps Janneke makes as we get closer to the children's centre for her preschool program.  She is learning to anticipate the time she has with new friends.

I love the songs Rachel sings as she sits alongside Emily at the piano after supper.  Emily plays a great Canon in D, and Rachel makes up her own words.  It's pretty cool.

I know that all of us have stuff to deal with - whether it's physical pain, job loss, a sudden change in health, an unexpected diagnosis, people who can disappoint you.....  and yet, it's still a daily decision to choose to find the joy in the moment.

That's what I'm trying to do.  Choose joy.


And as an afterthought: an interesting video.  It's 14:07 minutes of time not wasted:  ESPN (yes, the sports network) - Down's Syndrome - a father's honesty - and the same running stroller I used for Rachel's five years of running....

Monday, October 8, 2012

happy thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgivin', y'all.

That's Janneke sporting her new bandana bib.  The hat was Soph's idea.

Yep, today is Canadian Thanksgiving, and we are thankful...

Thankful for a deck that extends from the girls' room, allowing us to bring the girls to the fresh air without much difficulty.

Thankful for all the expressions and experiences we can have with our girls.  Here, Rachel is tolerating a pumpkin muffin baking moment.  She was not crazy about the blender, but I had to laugh at her puzzled expression when she stared into the bowl after I blended all the ingredients.

Thankful for trips and for homecomings.  

Soph, Em and Ralph had a chance to travel to Minneapolis this weekend for a family wedding.  Emily knows she has a special connection with Jeremy -they were born in the same hospital in MN, and he was one of her first visitors after her birth.  Congratulations, Jeremy and Lyndsey!

2003: Emily celebrating Jeremy's birthday with dear Rocky... two favourites for J at the time.

2012: with his forever friend Lyndsey (thank you, Sarah Rekard, for the photo)

Em, Soph, and Ralph had a wonderful weekend with family, celebrating with the family as well as taking in the city and the trips down memory lane for Ralph. Though there were people and events he couldn't meet, it was another good MN memory.

One of the places Ralph took the girls was the Mississippi River - where Ralph and I often took Emily in those early days.  Our first house was just off the river, and we have fond memories of hanging out riverside.  Oh... how time has passed!

And of course, homecoming is sweet... so sweet.  I was home in Ontario with Rachel and Janneke for the weekend.  Boy, is it quiet in the house without Em and Soph around! (Rhoda saved us for a few hours by bringing Caleb and Nella -and Grandpa and Grandma- for a lunch visit on Saturday.)  This weekend reminded me of how thankful we are for the therapy and stimulation Em and Soph provide their sisters just by being themselves.  

So, I didn't make turkey for the family, but I suspect that the girls didn't suffer, having shared a milkshake with their dad in the Mall of America. 

Sweet thanksgiving.

Peace for your week.