“Mom! They are just regular hands!!”


(Below is a quote on the power of touch from a man named Jacques Lusseyran, who lost his sight at 8 years old.  I love these thoughts so much!)

“Unlike eyes, they (his hands) were in earnest, and from whatever direction they approached an object they covered it, tested its resistance, leaned against the mass of it and recorded every irregularity of its surface.

Movement of the fingers was terribly important, and had to be uninterrupted because objects do not stand at a given point, fixed there, confined in one form.

They are alive…even the stones.

What is more, they vibrate and tremble.  Yet there was something still more important than movement, and that was pressure.  If I put my hand on the table without pressing it, I knew the table was there, but knew nothing about it. To find out, my fingers had to bear down, and the amazing thing is that the pressure was answered by the table at once.

Being blind, I thought I should have to go out to meet things, but I found that they came to meet me instead.  I have never had to go more than halfway, and the universe became the accomplice of all my wishes.  Touching the tomatoes in the garden, and really touching them, touching the walls of the house, the materials of the curtains or a clod of earth is surely seeing them as fully as eyes can see. But it is more than seeing them, it is tuning in on them and allowing the current they hold to connect with one’s own, like electricity. To put it differently, this means an end of living in front of things and a beginning of living with them.” 

When Ella was a toddler, she would have an extremely negative reaction if anyone ever tried to touch her hands without first asking/and or warning her.   In her 3-year-old Early Intervention play group, other innocent kids would crawl up to her and grab her hands while she sat there playing and she would recoil, almost as if she had been hurt, although I knew she never had been.   It finally occurred to me what might be going on.

It had to feel at least a little similar to being poked in the eye!  For her hands were (and always will be) her eyes to the world around her.  I couldn’t blame her then, for freaking out whenever this happened, and I worked hard to try to educate people to ask her first if they could hold/shake/touch her hands.  It always amazed me after that how excited she would be to have physical contact with another person, as long as she knew it was coming.  Makes perfect sense to me!

Fast Forward to a couple of weeks ago, when Ella and Chase asked me to take them to the annual Book Fair at their Elementary school one evening.  Erik was out of town that week, so I had to decide if I wanted to take on the challenge of taking all 4 of them to this event without any backup.  Anyone who follows me on Instagram or any of my Facebook friends will completely understand when I say our 3.5 year old, Noah, has had his fair share of challenging moments lately.  *I can almost hear all of your heads nodding in agreement!*  But, the kids begged like kids do, so I put on my big girl pants and we headed out to check out the books that were so sweetly printed on each of their Wish Lists.  Each child had already raised their hands and repeated the Pledge that we like to reiterate whenever we head out into “the public.”  There were promises of good behavior from them and corresponding threats of punishments for anything but from me :)

I love the school that our kids attend.  The staff is amazing and friendly and they have always gone over and above to make sure Ella has the tools she needs to be successful and stay on the same level as her peers, academically and socially.  It’s just a place where you feel completely warm and welcome as you walk into the doors.

I am so intrigued by the different reactions Ella always gets from fellow students at a school event like that.  You have the kids that will pass us in the hall and completely ignore us and Ella, even though I know they know who we are.  Or they will just say hi to Chase and not to Ella.  You have the kids that will pass by and smile at us, as I hear them whisper to their parents, “That’s Ella!” but they never actually speak to her directly.  Then you have the kids that come right up and say, “Hi Ella!  It’s (insert their name here)” so Ella can respond with an appropriate reaction now that she knows who is speaking to her.  It’s always so interesting to me.  Most times I will let her know who is passing us (if I know them) so she has an opportunity to say hello first!  And almost everyone responds to her happily if she calls them out by name first.

So…the Book Fair was mad insane.  It was the first evening and it looked like close to our entire neighborhood, along with many others, had come out to snatch up their favorite titles.  Chase was pushing Lexi in a stroller, I had Noah in one hand (so he didn’t run and/or knock entire shelves of books on the floor), and Ella was holding my other elbow while walking with her cane.  We had not walked 10 steps into the gym yet when this happened.

A tiny, little dark-haired kindergartener was with his family in the checkout line when he caught sight of us and immediately made a beeline over to our crew.  He stood, wide-eyed and borderline star struck, right in front of Ella and just smiled a mile wide.  Like, get a cheek cramp type of big smile.  I mean, I could see ALL of his pearly white teeth.  He just stood there.  Seemingly speechless.  (Or so I thought!)

I was just about to say, “Hi, sweetie.  What’s your name?”  when he interrupted me and said, “ELLA!  Oh, Ella.  I mean, Ella, it’s really YOU!”  I was trying to muffle my giddy laughter because honestly, I had never seen anything so precious in my entire life, but I didn’t want him to think I was laughing at him.  Ella stood there and half-smiled and had this look on her face like, “Ummm…yeah.  It’s really me!”  but she didn’t say anything to him.  I could already tell by her rigid body that this kid was inadvertently making her uncomfortable.  So, I did what I always do and asked him to tell us his name, so Ella would know who he was.  He proceeded to say his first, middle and last name so lightning fast that I didn’t catch one syllable of it, and then he continued on.  “Ella!  Oh, Ella!  I have been wanting to tell you this for so long.  You are SO PRETTY, Ella, and I just wanted to tell you and I’ve been waiting so long to see you in person.”  So now I’ve decided he is just like one of those hilarious, fast talking kids that you see on The Ellen Show or something that literally could not by more funny or sincere.  I told him how sweet that was to say and then I stood there, kind of loving watching him swoon over my big girl.  Ella quietly said, “thank you” but her body language was kind of screaming “Ok, you can go away now!!”

He went on.  “You really are just SO pretty and I think you’re just awesome and I really just wanted to ask you one question.”

Ella stood quiet…and then mumbled, “Ok” (with a little prompting from me).

He said, “Welllll, I just wanted to ask…(pause)…if I could take a look at your hands.”

(I am thinking ‘Oh sweet Jesus’ this is not going to go over well.  And I was right.  At first.)  Ella was completely weird-ed out by that request and actually took two big steps backward and tucked her cane in her armpit and hid both of her hands behind her back.

Big smile continued without missing a beat.

“I mean, I know you read Braille and you use your hands to see and wow… just…WOW…” He just stood there, not fazed one bit by Ella’s less than stellar reaction.

I always stress appropriate body language and behavior in public, but I could tell she just didn’t understand why someone would ask her that.  I bent down to her face and she said that exact thing, “Mom, why would he ask me that?” and I told her I thought he was very sincerely interested in her but that it was up to her if she wanted to do it or not. It was ok with me either way.  Then I whispered in her ear, “But honey, I honestly believe he thinks you are a Superhero or something!”  She beamed a little smile then, and in a completely ‘un-Ella’ type of move, she walked a couple of steps forward towards him, handed me her cane, and held both of her hands out, palms up, for the young man to take in.

He looked down at them for a few seconds, then got HUGE eyes and turned around towards the line and yells (really SUPER loud)…

I mean, he was totally dumbfounded.  I sincerely thought he was planning to see like an Iron Man arm or Robot fingers or something like that.  He just couldn’t get over the fact that her hands seemed pretty much normal.

Then he looked back at Ella and said, “Well, thanks so much Ella,  You made my night.  You’re so pretty and awesome and thanks so much for showing me your regular hands.”

At this point, I was very proud that Ella decided on her own that it would be ok to show him, as well as the fact that I had not lost Noah or Chase during the exchange, as both of them had been trying to abandon us to go run around with friends and neighbors.  Ella leaned over to me after he walked away and had this grin on her face as she said, “You really think he thought I was a Super Hero?  That’s so silly.  He was kind of funny though.  But I am just a regular kid!  And my hands are just regular hands, too.  Don’t you agree, Mom?”

Well, that was clearly a loaded question for me.  My answer to her in that moment at the Book Fair was “Of course they are, Ella.  Just like everyone else” and we went on our way and bought some books and then shared sundaes together at the Ice Cream Social.

But, babe.

Oh, my big girl.

As your mommy, I have to admit that I often stand, smiley and starstruck, while watching you explore the world with your “regular” hands.  But honey, I have to believe in my heart they are so far from regular.  They might appear to be just like anyone else’s hands…but this mama thinks they are truly super special.

Why, you might ask?

Well, they were the first slender fingers to ever wrap around my pinkie  as the cozy reality set in that I was a FOR REAL mommy for the first time!  (Finally!! )

They were the first hands I held as you reached out for me when you were newborn, wondering where I was, even though I was always right there by your side.  The first hands I stroked and kissed while whispering, “I’m here, baby.  Your mommy’s right here.”

They were the first little hands that covered your prosthetic eyes to play peek-a-boo with us, even when we never thought that would be something we could enjoy together.

They were the first hands I slipped mini marshmallows into as we tried to encourage you to walk independently and let go of your walker.  The first hands we got so excited to see clapping wildly as you used those fingers to point to each body part when you were young.

And once we added other sets of little hands to our family, we began to see how you used your “regular” hands to see EVERYthing, READ everything you could and explore as much of the world as we could get in front of you.  Watching your entire face light up as you made a physical connection with something that us sighted people completely take for granted on a daily basis was…(for lack of a better term) eye-opening for us!

Fingers don’t carry judgement.

Hands simply don’t hold the ability to give a harsh critique that our eyes often can.

When you go through life only seeing what you hear and what you feel at the end of your fingertips, you are bound to come across a few fascinated folks who are amazed by it.  And as you grow into a beautiful young lady, I see the way your life is helping others to realize that they too desire to see the world more like your “regular hands” do.  Feel beauty the special way you do.

And even though this mommy only has two hands to my children’s eight…I will always have room in my hand for yours, girl.

Whether you are having a Superhero or just a regular type of day :)

You can check your Wand at the door

This question was recently posed to a group of special needs parents in an online forum that we all belong to ~
“If you had a magic wand that could “cure” your child’s disability, would you use it?”
For those of you new to our story, our first child, Ella, was born with a rare congenital condition called Bilateral Anophthalmia, which is the absence of globes (eyeballs) on both sides. There was nothing but small clumps of skin and cysts in her eye sockets upon birth, and this was only determined after two Doctors had to use a small tool to carefully pry her little fused eyelids open, as we sat closely watching in disbelief. It was also discovered through MRI that her optic nerve was barely there, almost completely atrophied to the point of never being viable.

There was a Resident in the NICU (at the Univ of Michigan) that held my hand and told us that even if someone figured out how to do a total eye transplant someday in the future…you would need a working optic nerve to attach it to. He encouraged us, just days after Ella’s birth, to live for the present moment instead of living in a state of holding out hope that her condition would ever change in her lifetime. (His name was Rock. He had short, buzzed, bright red hair. His hands were warm and his eyes only spoke truth. Some things you just never forget.)
If this question had been posed to me after we first received Ella’s diagnosis, having just enjoyed several blissful months of first time pregnancy after the heart wrenching loss of 4 miscarriages before her, I have to admit that I probably would have said yes. (Let’s not forget the NICU Dr. who had just moments before said, “my deepest sympathies on your tragedy” before revealing to us that Ella would never see. Yes, that really happened.)
So, yes. I probably would have screamed it. “YES!”
I’m 100% certain that I would have wanted that diagnosis to magically disappear in that moment. I thought I was entitled to be handed a perfect baby (and what does THAT even mean? I know, I know) after all I had already been through. Yes, entitled. I think (ok, I know) that is how I felt. I would have gladly used the wand to wave it all away so I didn’t have to ever experience that kind of raw pain, helplessness or fear of the unknown ever again.
Fast forward 8.5 years & Ella is currently enjoying 2nd grade in the Gen Ed class of our local elementary school. She is reading Braille like a Boss, exploring the world with her long, white cane, loves Taylor Swift & One Direction, keeps active with swimming & gymnastics, loves to eat noodles & chocolate (not together) and when she is in the right mood, has a sense of humor that rivals a seasoned comedian.
Does she have her share of challenges? Yes. Do I know that most simple life tasks are more difficult for someone who cannot see? Yes. Is it heart breaking to watch your own child struggle at all? With anything life throws at them? Of course.
But today…my answer to that same question would be “no.”  I am not saying it’s “simply no”, because there is really nothing simple about it. But it remains the same. It’s a no for me.
I’m not screaming it. (notice the small n?) I’m not saying a lot of thought did not go into my answer. I’m just gently whispering it. And I’m even sporting a slight smile on my face.
And I would like to tell you why.
You see, this is the simple part for me.
My pregnancy with Ella really had been a complete dream come true. I found it hard to complain about the constant nausea I had, weight gain, or any aches and pains. After seeing and hearing the heartbeats of two different babies via Ultrasound – only to lose them both…and then lose two more heartbeats before experiencing an unexplainable bout of infertility, I felt I had fought the hard battle already. I had done things I never thought I could do to myself and there I was…finally experiencing a healthy pregnancy. (So, yes, we did not know about Ella’s condition until she came out)
I was determined to soak in every beautiful and precious minute of it. At night time, lying in our bed with my hand on my ever-growing belly, I knew that the Creator of the universe – the one who made the heavens and the earth – was personally creating my unborn child. Way before we knew that Ella would be born without eyes, I believed that the same God that hangs the stars in the night sky was at work on His latest masterpiece – my baby! He wove together all of her tiny parts, put all her hairs in place, and heard every beat of her heart. When Ella was born, I remembered reading somewhere that when God knits, he DOES NOT make mistakes. He neither misses nor adds an extra stitch. I wish I could remember where I read that because it so helped to change my heart.
The same heart that has lovingly come to accept that Ella is truly a one of a kind original. (Just like ALL children are! Including the two brothers and one little sissy we have been blessed to give Ella over the years.) I am able to rest assured that she was created just for us – and that we continue to be the chosen ones that are able to care for her best, love her best and give her what she needs in this life. Best. Or God wouldn’t have picked us. Is it always a piece of cake? No. (notice the big N there) Do I believe I am the person that I am today because I was given Ella? Yes. She has opened my eyes to so many things in this life that I might have never even noticed.

But you won’t catch me agreeing with the popular sentiment that “God only gives special kids to special people.” Many people told me that and I just politely shook my head. If you get right down to it, there is absolutely nothing extra special about Erik or myself. You’re sweet if you think otherwise, but we are really no more capable than anyone else. We just chose all those years ago to trust that God knew what He was doing. And isn’t it wonderful that we get to keep making that choice every day? We could have never forecasted all the amazing ways that Ella – and later her siblings – would mold our hearts, minds and the change the way we view the world.
I wrote this in an old blog post, about those precious days after Ella’s birth:
‘Later, in my hospital room, as the reality of Ella’s condition finally set in, I realized that if it was not for our faith in a sovereign God – I easily could have seen our situation as a tragedy. It was a great loss. Loss of dreams…loss of the bliss that is supposed to surround the birth of your first child…loss of having our prayers for a healthy baby answered. It certainly could have been seen as a great misfortune. However, as deep as my flesh was grieving that day, my heart was slowly finding peace. I knew that even though it might have seemed that God had not answered our prayers; that our requests and what we had received were not matching up…He had indeed been listening to us. He just had higher plans in mind. As difficult as it was, we were willing to trust Him to find out what those plans were.’
So much of life is just as simple as making the right choice, even if it is the one that is so very, very hard. I will never be able to repay the person who shared a gentle reminder with me one afternoon, as I sat on a park bench with baby Ella cooing in her stroller, my eyes red and blurry from weeping over what had just happened in a bookstore. I had gotten up the courage to take Ella out for a bit, to read her some books at the bookstore and then buy her a couple of touchy/feely ones. The cashier had started talking about her perfect new grandchild and then came around the counter just to look in the stroller. She literally let out a gasp at the shock of looking into the face of a baby that had no eyes staring back at her. It was too much. It hurt so deep. I let the flood gates open freely. This kind stranger sat with me and told me “This beautiful life is all your daughter knows. She will never know any different. Her world can be as bright and bold as YOU help make it.”
I remember being most upset by the fact that our first child might never truly enjoy a big part of our lives, as my husband worked (and still does!) for a minor league baseball team. I wrote once about after meeting Erik and falling in love with a fellow sports lover, I would dream of one day taking our kids to the ballpark in the summer. Sitting them on my lap and teaching them the difference between a knuckle ball and a slider. Watching them marvel as a home run is lifted out of the playing field. It was a nice dream. And a pretty realistic one for us. However, after Ella was born, I recalled one afternoon soon after we returned home from the hospital. It was the first time I realized that she would never see the difference between a knuckle ball and a slider. Never witness a home run sail over the fence in center field. Ella would never see one single strikeout. Never watch a player stealing a base. I remember aching at the death of my dream. I remember feeling as if my heart broke a little that day.
But then I remembered that stranger’s advice & decided to take her in a baby sling to her first game that summer she was born. I would risk the stares of strangers and all the questions I might be asked and just do it. Even though the crowd noise was way too overwhelming for her, and continued to be for years to come…I never gave up on taking her down to the ballpark. It was such a part of our lives and I just hoped she would learn to somehow enjoy it. Or just endure it! (For more on the sweet way Ella has come to love baseball, check out this story I wrote a few years ago)
I also never gave up on taking her to a weekly special needs playgroup when she was 2. Even though most afternoons I left there crying hot tears after Ella had had a meltdown for no apparent reason, or another child had tried to touch her, or she had crawled into something and hit her head. It became perfectly evident to me just how different she was than other children. It wasn’t easy. It was actually painfully hard for such an emotional person like myself.

But no truly great thing in life comes real easy, does it?!?
Time doesn’t exactly heal all wounds, like some think. But it sure has helped for me. Seeing Ella grow into an independent young(ish) lady, watching her interact with good friends she has made, seeing her with her “typical” siblings (who treat her exactly like they treat each other!), watching her learn Braille and listening to her amazing singing voice just get better and better as she grows. I do believe the best is still yet to come as well. What a great thought!!

And, really, what would our lives be like without Ella’s hilarious prosthetic eye jokes? Like the time I asked her to “keep an eye” on her younger brother while I ran upstairs for a second and she responded with, “Sure. Which one? The right or the left?” Or that other time when she asked me what it was like when I first laid eyes on her Daddy…only to have me begin to tell her…and then interrupt me to let me know that she will be able to literally lay her eyes on her husband someday. And then she burst into a fit of giggles on the couch.
Will she be able hop in a car & go drive somewhere like her brothers and sister will someday? No. Will she get made fun of sometime in the future for being different and will it crush her spirit (and mine) like we have never known? Most definitely. (I am not looking forward to things like that) Will being a blind teen and eventually adult pose some problems for her that she otherwise might not have? I am sure of it.
In all honesty – and despite all past, present and future struggles – the truth is that I love our special girl for exactly who she was created to be. I think especially of all the ways she has strengthened (and tested) our marriage, my empathy for others and countless other things I just might never have had the pleasure to truly “see” in this world. I see the ways having a special needs sister is molding the tender souls of her little brothers. (and hopefully her baby sis as well!)
Oh. And I just asked Ella what her answer would be if someone asked her the same question about herself. She twisted her body up kind of funny like she does sometimes when she is asked a difficult question, thought about it for a minute, and then said this:
“Well…if my disability was something I thought was really bad, I might. But mine doesn’t even affect me. So, it’s a no!”
Bright and bold life?  Check.  😊

ella with cane

The check-out line at Target with child(ren) (or the swirling vortex of Hell)

Hi there!  It’s me :)  And I am so glad to be back!!

Earlier today, I realized that I have only blogged three posts since Chase turned 5 – and he turns SIX on Friday!!  Seriously, what?!?

It’s not like I haven’t had the urge to write.  I get that on an almost daily basis.  I’ve just been allowing my time to be taken up by more important matters such as attempting to Shepard my little (bigish) flock.  We have created a total of four of the short people now, so that spells major shenanigans.  All sorts of them.  Since it’s already late and many, many things like homework, dinner making, dishes, floor mopping, baths, bedtime stories and goodnight kissing have been going on for what seem like hours –  this post will be what I wish our Noah was ALL the time instead of just SOME of the time – short & sweet.  Here is just one teeny example of what my life is currently like with a toddler.  (and in this case, I speak of our 2 year old, toe-headed challenge named above).  I say “challenge” with the utmost respect I believe it deserves.  The kid is owning us like no other Ib child has before.  Doesn’t he just give off a “you have no idea what I am capable of” sort of vibe??

image(11)Told you.  Ok, so here is my story from this afternoon.  I have fully recovered (thanks for asking) as of now, though, with a little help from my friend Char.  (You know her, yes?  Char Donay?)  *wink, wink*

Can it be considered a “proud mommy moment” when you choose to buckle your toddler all snug back in their car seat and take them back home after a short trip to Target…when all you really wanted to do was leave him sitting right inside the door with a little sign attached to his Cars jacket that read, “She threw her hands up and said ‘I’m OUT.’ Want a crack at me?”
I feel like I should really commend myself for doing the right thing today, friends, cuz Noah did not make it an easy decision. He started off by very loudly and over-dramatically demanding that he walk, taking every single pair of women’s boots he could reach off the shelves and tossing them into a pile like a bonfire, attempting to open numerous bottles of blue nail polish, plucking every greeting card on his level out of its rightful sleeve (my OCD was off.the.chain) and juggling 3 loaves of bread before smashing one of them with his tennis shoe.

Why didn’t I put him in the cart, you ask? Because Lexi’s baby sling takes up almost the whole thing, so the front portion was all the room I had. (and he is usually pretty good at stores!) Well, I was right sweaty by the time we reached the dreaded check out counter. What is it, exactly, about all those glittering packs of fruit snacks, gum, cheap toys, batteries and hand sanitizer that turns mostly normal toddlers into rage-filled, greedy little SOB’s? And why is it that Target has, like, 20 check out counters and red shirts roaming as far as the eye can see, but only UNO lanes “lit up?”  Oh, right.  To give your toddler ample time to let you know what he NEEDS.  (And not in a nice tone of voice, either, I might add.)  He took at least 17 packs of batteries off the shelf, scattered them all over the floor and screamed, “Batt-a-YEES! No No need Batt-a-YEES!” I looked at him with “those eyes” (I inherited those from my Mama) and smiled and said, “Not today, buddy” while trying to finish getting my stuff onto the belt. In one hot second, he was bolting towards the open double doors to the parking lot, as if someone was standing out there, beckoning him with a free pack of batt-a-yees. I ran and caught him, bringing him back very much against his will, to finish my transaction.

I heard the lady behind me in line say, “It’s kind of precious that he just wants batteries and not toys, tho, huh?” And in perfect Noah timing, he was all “how’s this for precious?” and smacked me, open palm, right across the left cheek. While wincing and fighting tears and still holding him on my hip, I made the mistake of looking away to see how much I owed the poor Target lady when he decided to grab the zipper of my windbreaker.  In one fell swoop, he zipped it right to the top, taking a large chunk of my neck skin with it. Do you know how easy it is to swipe your debit card while both wrestling a smug toddler and having half your neck pinched in a zipper? I’ll tell ya. It’s not. It’s hard.  Precious lady behind us looked on in horror now, like she was thinking, “Damn…I spoke too soon.”  Um…yeah.  Thanks.

So, I deposited a teary-eyed Noah into the front of the cart, unzipped my neck, swiped my card, fought back tears AGAIN, held my head high and pushed my circus (and all the bags hanging off my wrists) out to the van. When I was strapping him in, he smiled at me with that lazy eye lid and his bleach blonde hair and said, “No No sorry, mommy.” And I felt a sense of pride for like, 2 seconds before he began screaming for fruit snacks and for me to put on the Minion movie for the 12 minute ride home.  Like, NOW!  Sigh…

But…I guess I will keep him because it’s the right thing to do and it’s like in the Bible and stuff and yada, yada, yada.   Char, where you at, girl?!?  #momprobs

Putting it in Perspective

Mommy LexiI posted this photo on my Instagram this morning, along with the caption “A favorite perk of my job.”  And it is.  It so totally is.  Being a mom who is able to stay home with her kids is ALL I ever wanted to be growing up.  (for my VI friends, the picture is of me with my Lexi baby laying on my chest, fast asleep with a tiny smile on her face)

I looked again and realized how serene and peaceful this photo seemed.

Then I got giddy.

Giddy with laughter because what I did not capture in this shot, is my 5.5 and 2 year old boys just beyond that couch…half naked, dragging their plastic hockey sticks across my beautiful wood floors, screaming at the tops of their little lungs, “GOOOOOOAL!” or “YESSSS!” or “MOM!  Watch us!  No, NOW!  Watch us NOW!!!  Mom!  Mom!  Mom! Mom! MOOOOOOOM!”  It was actually bordering on full volume madness when I snapped that sweet pic.

Let the summer begin!  Chase finished up preschool yesterday.  Ella still has one week of school left.  After that, the madness gets all kinds of real.

But you know what?  I’m looking forward to it.  (Yeah, I said it.  I know.  Check my temp, right?!?)  But I wasn’t the other day.  The other day, I was super stressed about it.  I was sitting at the kitchen table, feeding Lexi a bottle and watching the boys play soccer in the backyard.  I was having one of those moments I have where the anxiety creeps in and I start to wonder how I am going to manage being alone with ALL four of them ALL week long this summer.  (For those of you new to our story, we have Ella, who turns 8 in a month and was born completely blind, Chase (5.5), Noah (2) and Lexi (3 months).

They are young, needy, LOUD, crazy, wonderful, beautiful, insane, completely hysterical, maddening, inspirational, loving, caring, mostly non-listening short people who we ourselves created!

To say they can be a handful is putting it oh, so very lightly.  So, I was getting anxious about my first summer with four of them.  And all of the unrest that would surely ensue.

I checked Facebook on my phone while sitting there, and the first post I read came from a fellow mom friend of mine.  She just had to start back to work at her full-time job after being on maternity leave to welcome their third child.  She talked about how much she would love to be able to stay home with her kids, how difficult it was leaving them at daycare/or with a sitter, how her heart broke each and every morning when they asked if she could stay home and play with them.  That even though having several kids can be downright exhausting, she would gladly suffer through all the difficult moments to be there for all of the BIG moments she was missing, on a daily basis, having to work outside of the home.

Oh, the perspective.  It smacked me right upside my fat head.  Thank you, friend, for shifting my focus for me.  Through your words, I was reminded of just how GOOD I truly have it.  Nah, forget good.  How EXCELLENT I truly have it.  I’m livin’ the dream!  (Even if some nights the dream includes a necessary glass of wine (or 2) after bedtime while having lost the ability to speak to the husband due to the sheer fact that if another person, short or tall, asks you a question, your head might indeed spontaneously combust.)

All of those top of the lung screams of “Mom!  Mom!  Mom!  Mom!” can get a little wearing…until you realize that the ONLY one they are calling for…is ME.  They want ME to look at them.  ME to watch their wood floor scraping hockey game.  ME to kiss their boo-boo’s when they get hurt.  ME to watch them read a new Braille book.  ME to make them breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Everyday.  (Don’t forget 100 snacks in between)  It’s ME they scream for when another short person is doing them an injustice.  It’s ME they run to and MY lap they need to sit on during a thunderstorm.  It’s ME that they have come into this room to ask for popcorn 3x while I have been writing this one paragraph.  It’s ME that they can’t wait to tell that they just learned how to make their armpit fart.  ME that they can’t wait to tell that they hugged another shortie all on their own after an argument, without ME even having to tell them to.  It’s ME they want to ask all the important life questions to.  For example (and these were just from yesterday) “Why does asparagus make your pee green?”  or “Do you think bugs have sleepovers” or (after reading a bible story) “When God created everything, I mean, Disney World was already there, right?”…and on and on and on.  (It’s also ME they think has all the answers – they will learn later how much stuff I actually make up just to hush their sweet little mouths for one ever-loving moment)

I GET TO STAY HOME WITH THEM.  I don’t have to miss any moments.  (I’m also there for all the moments and if you are a parent, you are feelin’ me right now)  I get to nuzzle in their baby necks and take in that sweet smell that only lasts for a short time.  And I can do this any time I feel like it!  (whether they want to or not.  I mean, I am in charge after all!)

I posted this quote from another friend recently and I want to re-post it here.  I love it that much.  It’s just the way I feel.

“Motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done on a daily basis. It turns me inside out a million times a day. And yet, it’s the most fantastic endeavor. The rough makes the smooth so very satisfying way down deep.” – A.M. 

I know, right?!?  So, this summer I’ll be constantly working on keeping my focus in check.  Remembering daily that I am doing the most important work.  Taking several deep, cleansing breaths when I have heard, “I don’t know what to do” for the 20th time that day.  Living more in the moments.  Loving them NOW while I still have them all home with me.  Remembering that it is still ME that they want to be home with.  (most of the time) And last, but certainly not least, attempting daily to be a law-abiding citizen who doesn’t have their neighbors calling child protective services for any reason :)

Hey!  No one said this motherhood thing was a walk in the park.  Which is exactly what the boys have asked me if we can do, like, 10x while writing these last few sentences.  Guess it’s time to get back to work!

God Bless all you parents out there.  We can do hard things!  And therefore, we can do summers!  And if you get discouraged (like tomorrow) call me, and we can talk strategy.  Or time-out tips.  Or I can ask YOU for answers to their one million questions for that day!! Better yet, you can come over to answer them while I take a nap.  Now, that’s more like it! :)  But who are we kidding?  You know I won’t answer the phone.  I’ll be too busy going to the bathroom with the door open, getting stage fright from a line of bath toy Minions that are all staring at me.  #momprobs

*My next post will include more pictures – Promise!  Especially of this one.  The happiest baby I know!


She’s here!!

We welcomed Ib baby #4 into our family just a tiny bit early (3 weeks) on the morning of February 21st, 2014!  We think she is simply perfect & would love to introduce you to…

Lexi Grace 2 weeksLexi Grace Ibsen

5 lbs 12 oz – 19.5 inches long

She is a sweet soul and right now is not doing much but eating well and snoozing, which is just what she needs!!  More pictures to come later when her and Noah are napping and the big kiddos are at school. Thanks again for sticking with me even though I have not posted in so long.  I am working on some posts to share soon about my new journey as a mother of FOUR!!

Love, Jill :)


Holiday Blessings!

4 Ib kids 2013Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Love, the entire Ib crew :)

Ella (7), Chase (5) and Noah (19 mo)

Oh…and in case you didn’t hear…we are expecting another GIRL sometime over the next few months!!  We are all so excited!!

ps:  Yes, this is our Christmas card.  This mama just did not get around to ordering the actual thing this year!!  Love and Peace to you all :)

Giving them back

Today, our middle little guy turns 5 years old.  I could never put into words how much I am in love with this kid :)  Happy #5 Chase Gregory!!  You are wild, energetic, smart, hilarious, kind and loving.  We are so proud of who you are becoming, little man!

Chase 5Today is also special to us because some good friends had their first little boy 3 years ago (Happy #3 Noah S.!) and our Mud Hens/Walleye family grew by one little guy this morning as well!! (Welcome to the world, Owen L.!) :)

So much to celebrate!  So much happiness today!  So much to be thankful for :)

Yet as I stood in the kitchen today, wrapping presents for Chase to open later tonight…my heart was heavy for another family who will never wrap another gift for their high school son ever again.  A young man from the community I grew up in, my parents still live in and my mom still works in, (Bedford, MI.) was involved in a serious car accident yesterday morning.  This boy (also a son, brother, athlete, student, friend, etc) made it through multiple surgeries throughout the night…only to be declared as having no brain activity this afternoon.

I stood there, wrapping gifts covered in soccer, baseballs and footballs…while his two parents stood in a hospital, making the heart wrenching decision to take their son off of life support.  I just cannot even imagine.  I want to reach out to those parents I’ve never met and wrap them in a loving hug today.  I don’t know if they are people of Faith.  I don’t know if they have the peace that passes all understanding in their hearts today…even in their unimaginable grief and pain.  I can only hope…and pray that they do, and keep praying for strength and peace for their entire family today.

All of this truly reminded me of how extremely fragile our life on this earth really is.  How we, as Christians, say all the time that are children belong to God…but do we really let Him have them?  Do we?  Truly, in the spiritual way we are commanded to in the Bible?

My mom always reminded me of this when we were growing up.  That she just had us kids for a time while we were here on earth…but that we truly always belonged to God first off.  I always had a hard time picturing that when I was young.  But now, as a mother myself, I know and feel the truth of those words on my own.  (Thanks, mom!  I love you)

I’m the first to admit that I like to control things.  It’s just in my nature.  And let me also be the first to admit that I have prayed over my children many times, knowing full well that they belong to God first…and then to Erik and I.

But giving them over to Him on a daily basis?

Giving up that “control?”

In everyday life situations?

Man, I still struggle with that.  Big time.

But I don’t want to anymore.  Our children are 7, 5, 17 months and I am 20 weeks pregnant with our fourth child.  I love them all so much that I could never truly articulate it properly.  I think most parents feel that way about their kids.

But God loves them MORE.  I believe that with my whole heart. He knew them before they existed and He knows all the plans for their lives.  Isn’t that such a wonderful thing to think about?!?

I want to rest in the fact that I can give all my worries, fears and burdens about our kids over to Him…because He tells us to!! 1 Peter 5:7 reads, “Cast all of your cares/anxiety upon Him because He cares for you.”

Today has helped me to realize that I want to work harder to give my own children (all 3.5 of them!) back to Him on an everyday basis.

They’re already HIS, anyway :)


We have been kind of…um, well…busy lately!

Noah BBWell, hi there.  It’s been a little while.  But we are still here!I

And we sure have had an eventful little summer!  Looks like I am going to have to re-write some of my “about me” pages on here!

Baby Ib #4…coming early 2014!!  We are turning our Ib 5 into the Ib 6 – and we all kind of like the sound of that.  Very much :)  More to come on this big ole news soon :)

The Pledge

Our 4.5 year old son, Chase, plays soccer on a team at our local YMCA.  It’s a preschool league, so all the kids are between 3-5 years old.  Which means a lot of the time the games closely resemble herding cats around tiny colored balls, but whatever.  It’s precious, really.  And Chase absolutely loves it.

They have one half hour practice a week and games on Saturday mornings.  But my favorite part is right before the games when the Referee lines all the shorties up together and they repeat The Pledge.  I’m pretty sure its some sort of National YMCA thing, but it goes something like, “I pledge, before God, to be good sports…blah, blah, blah…” (I can’t remember the rest)  And I mist up every time over the sheer cuteness of it all.

What I cannot believe, is how closely the kids actually pay attention to this part.  Like lining up in a group and repeating something must make it truly super important.  (Kind of like wiping yourself after you go potty.  It’s not optional, people.  Not. An. Option.)  So all of this got me thinking…

With this week being officially summer in the Ib household (meaning ALL kids are finally out of school), I realized that this Pledge business was genius.  Since I am a stay at home mom of three, and the 4 of us are going to spend a lot of time together this summer while Erik is working, I decided we’d try out a Pledge.  Especially when we are about to walk out the door and enter “the public.”  (As in, “Don’t you dare do that!  We are out in the public!”)

The other day, the kids wanted to hit up our local Farmers Market.  I lined them up by the back door, right hands were raised and we began.  (Since Noah just turned one, he only raises his hands when music is on, or when he wants more to eat.  But as you can plainly see, his expression says, “I’m all ears, Ma.  Shoot.”)

The Pledge

Me: “Ok, guys,” I began.  “Get those hands up high.  The higher they are the more important all this becomes, right?”  (Wink, wink.)

Ella: “What does the height of our hands have to do with anything?”  (smarty pants)

Chase: “My arm is tired.”

Me:  “Ok – Laser focus, kids.  Repeat after me, please.  I, state your name…”

Ella:  “I, Ella Elizabeth…”

Chase:  “I, state your name…”

Ella:  “No, Chase! You have to actually state your name not just say the words state your name.”

Chase:  “This is hard.”

Me:  “Nonsense.  You guys got this.  Now repeat.  I, state your name, pledge before God (oh, yeah.  I got God involved too.  He’s a game changer) to do my best to not act the fool as we leave this house and enter ‘the public’. This includes, but is not limited to, the following…”

Below are some of the highlights we touched on in our own special version of The Ib Pledge.

1.) We will not forget the words of The Pledge while we are in the foyer, still putting our shoes on, or the second our feet hit the concrete of the garage.  Don’t tell me the garage makes you forget things.  It’s not a mind warp in there.  Give me some credit, man.

2.) We will not argue while out in ‘the public’ – but if we must, it most certainly will not revolve around a discussion of our imaginary friends and which ones may or may not be joining us for dinner later and the seating arrangements for said dinner.  If you resort to fisticuffs over people who don’t even exist, I may lose my mind.  Save it for more important topics.  Like how many days are in a week.  Or who is a better singer – Mommy or Taylor Swift?  Go.

3.) We will not go one knuckle deep, digging and clawing in our own nostrils.  What did they ever do to you to deserve that treatment, anyway?  We will ask mommy for a tissue and not scream with hands in the air that blowing our nose into said tissue will make you less smart.  That’s not your brains coming out, babe, I can almost promise you that one.

4.) We will not flop like Dwyane Wade in an NBA final game when we get “too tired to keep walking” and then sit there, picking mulch out of our sandals right when we are trying to cross the street.  This makes Mommy sweaty.

5.) We will refrain from asking for a snack and/or drink every 3.5 seconds.  That’s why we ate before we left.  (Feeling a little salty now that you didn’t finish your lunch, huh?)  And no, you will not perish in the wind if your mouth is not full of fruit snacks at least once an hour.  I can definitely promise you this one.

6.) Chase, I’m eyeballing you now, buddy.  Repeat.  I will not walk directly in front of Ella’s cane, acting like I’m playing double dutch as she uses it for constant contact in a back and forth motion.  If she trips you and you fall while doing this, it’s gonna be reeeeaallly tough for us to feel bad for you.  We’re just keeping it real, kid.  Mess with the blind kid at  your own risk, ok?  She’s crafty.

7.) We will ALL try to go to the bathroom when Mommy asks us to, even if we think we don’t have to.  We are usually wrong.  And while hitting as many public restrooms as possible while we are out sounds positively dreamy to this germaphobe (gag), we have actual tasks we need to accomplish today.

8.) If we happen to find ourselves roaming the aisles at Target, we will refrain from yelling, “I need that!” and pointing at things with a super sweet, sad, begging face.  But mommy feels you this time, kids.  She needs (ok, wants) many things in that magical place, as well.  But that doesn’t make it right.  Let’s not get all crazy.

9.) Chase, another one with your name on it, pal.  Repeat.  I will refrain from begging Mommy to “ride me piggyback” when I can clearly see your hands are full with Noah in one arm and your other hand walking sighted guide with Ella.  Play it back in your own mind pal, and you’ll realize you tend to have really bad timing.  Keep repeating.  I will also try not to walk directly in front of carts or strollers, so the wheels knock my sandals off and I feel the need to whine for 5 minutes before we can move on.  It was only cute once.  Actually it wasn’t even that cute then.

10.)  Ella…listen up, sister…repeat.  I promise to have more patience when I feel like we have been standing in one spot for too long, or a song I don’t like comes on the radio, or it takes Mommy longer than I think it should to come up with an explanation for one of my insanely hard life questions.  I understand that mommy’s brain does not work as fast as mine and that I am probably already smarter than her at (almost) 7.  I realize we might be getting spotty cell service at the moment, so Google takes longer to upload.  Between Mommy and Google, I know I will get my answers.  I will cut her some slack while she searches.  I also promise not to boss Chase around so much.  I understand that I am half Mommy, so most of this is out of my direct control, but I will try.  It probably won’t work, but it’s such a nice thought, isn’t it?!?

11.)  Noah…well, you know…let’s just try to keep it together, ok?  Smile, coo, drool, smile.  Repeat.  Piece of cake.  You got this.

Chase:  “This is crazy!  Are we done yet?  My arm is going to fall off!”

Ella:  “Did Mommy say we were done yet?  Take off your skirt and stop complaining!  Oh…wow…sorry, mom…maybe you should add one about us NOT repeating certain things YOU say.”

Chase:  “Can I have some fruit snacks?”

Sweet.Mother!!  Alright.  Get your butts in the car, yo.  The Public is waiting…