July 27, 2015 § 8 Comments
We dropped Anne off at overnight camp yesterday. It’s an amazing camp for kids with TBI. They provide a one-to-one counselor to camper ratio so that kids with disabilities can experience the independence and fun of a typical camp. Anne loves it.
As much as we cherish a break from caring for her, we miss her person while she’s gone. Kate struggled to go to sleep last night without her sister, “She talks me to sleep, Momma. I miss Anne.” So we send Anne letters and pray for God’s protection.
Eric wrote Anne the most beautiful letter. Here’s an excerpt…
…God has always taken care of you and he always will. He took care of you when you were in the hospital and could not speak or move, and He is with you now. God healed you because He has giant-sized plans for you. We are so thankful that you can talk to us and bless us with your kindness, love and even your wit.
Anne, you are such a blessing to our family because you love us so unconditionally. You are quick to forgive, have a short memory for wrongs, never hold grudges, and are quick to show us love. God gave you a special joy in your heart, and it is infectious. Keep sharing that joy you feel with others….
Eric beautifully summarized what I have been feeling all summer. Even though it is physically difficult to care for Anne – and will only get harder as we both get older – to be loved by Anne is other-worldly. It’s a taste of heaven – a holy encounter. Her love is lavish and unfiltered, uninhibited and free. The sheer weight of her love is staggering. Words can’t describe it.
I thank God for every squeal of delight and unsolicited, “I love you, Momma.” This is God’s special gift for me and Eric. God supplies our every need in this difficult but joy-filled journey. Thank you, Jesus, for our little Anne :)
June 19, 2015 § 7 Comments
This morning marks the first time ever (for our “new Anne”) that she has gotten out of her bed all by herself! She was bored and impatient waiting for me to come up to get her – so she got out of bed, scooted herself over to her bookshelf and started to play. This is what I found when I came upstairs this morning!
I was THRILLED! This mess represents desire, determination, motor planning, independent thinking, and courage with a bit of mischievousness. These are new qualities that we are seeing in Anne this summer. She seems to be restless – like her brain is craving new challenges and stimuli. This is a good sign of growth and progress – but it is also challenging for the whole family! We feel like we’re cleaning up after Anne ALL. THE. TIME.
Fifteen minutes later, Anne’s room looked like this:
I’m happy to clean up after Anne if it means she’s making progress… But she does keep us busy!
Next week, Anne begins three weeks of intensive TheraSuit therapy. This could not come at a better time as she is ready to be challenged! If you think of us, please pray for energy for both me and Anne as we tackle the taxing schedule of intensive therapy. Thank you for your support and prayers and for sharing in the joy of Anne’s long-term recovery!
April 12, 2015 § 13 Comments
Tomorrow marks five years since the car accident which left Anne with a traumatic brain injury. Five years with our new Anne. Five years without the old Anne.
We’ve lived through so much heartache and pain. We’ve all grieved – each at our own pace and in our way – and we’ve come through to the other side.
We are a family marked by disability. We park in handicapped parking spaces and work together to lift Anne’s wheel chair in and out of our van. Each child can assist Anne in walking to and from the kitchen table and help her get comfortable in bed. Her little sister helps Anne bathe and brush her teeth. And Anne’s older brother carries her up the stairs and comforts her when she’s angry or scared.
We live at a different pace. Anne’s therapy schedule only allows one extracurricular activity per child per semester. Sometimes I feel like the world races by us like a time-lapse video – while we’re stuck in our slo-mo world. Each frame of our lives is affected by Anne’s brain injury.
Recently I was telling a friend that there will always be a part of me that will remain sad. Sad for the life that Anne will never live – sad for the milestones that she will never reach – sad that I will never see the old gleam in her eyes – sad for what we’ve lost. But our sadness does not minimize the gratitude we have for Anne’s life and progress.
We are thankful for her quick wit and crooked smile. Thankful for her simple faith and deep love of people. Sometimes I hold her in my lap and am overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to be her mom. I feel so privileged – so honored to be Anne’s mom. She is a jewel and she’s mine!
So tomorrow we will celebrate Anne’s five-year milestone. We will thank God for her life. We will thank God for her progress. We will cherish her day and push our worries for the future aside. Anne is alive! And that is something worth celebrating :)
January 22, 2015 § 8 Comments
Right now, I am sitting in the waiting room of a therapy center located an hour away from my home. I’ve been here every day for the last three weeks. Anne is finishing up another round of TheraSuit Intensive Therapy. I’ve been juggling my job, Anne’s therapy and normal mom duties. I’m done.
Each day in this waiting room is full of adventure. I’m here for hours every day. Kids with walkers, canes and scooters move past me, and typically they are crying. The same therapists deal with screaming kids every day – patiently pushing them past their comfort zones. There’s something refreshing about being around special needs kids. There is no pretense. What you see is what you get…
They are kind and compassionate. They have grit and determination. When they’re mad, they yell. When they’re happy, they squeal. It’s so simple – and real.
Anne is doing fantastic during therapy. Her strength, energy and balance have all improved since the last session. She cries, yells and squeals just like every other kid in therapy. She’s a mess. But she’s a good mess :)
Therapy will end in another hour or so, and Anne and I will start the hour-plus commute home. Tomorrow is the last day, and I can’t wait!
Sometimes I wonder if all the therapy is worth it. I wonder how much to push – how much time to sacrifice. But then I look at the progress…
Look at the difference between these two videos. The first is of Anne last year. Look at how wobbly and weak Anne’s legs are. The therapist is giving maximum assistance, holding Anne with one hand and moving Anne’s cane with the other. The second video was taken today. Anne is with the same therapist, but she is so much stronger!! Anne is able to manage the cane independently and the therapist is holding her lightly for balance/safety. The difference is amazing.
I guess we’ll keep taking one day at a time – resting in God’s strength to get through today and trusting in His faithfulness to provide the strength for tomorrow :)
July 27, 2014 § 11 Comments
We dropped Anne off at Camp TBI this afternoon. I can’t believe I actually left my precious Anne at camp. One part of me is desperately sad, and the other part of me is beyond excited.
She’s in a cabin with four other girls and their counselors. She’ll get to do activities like horseback riding, swimming, biking, arts & crafts, music – just normal camp stuff – but all made accessible to kids with disabilities. It’s a fantastic facility. I think Anne will have a great week!!
Please pray for Anne to have FUN and to not miss us too much. I don’t want her to be sad. I just want her to make new friends, feel loved and have fun. Thank you!
Bye Anne! We’ll see you on Friday!!!
June 6, 2014 § 6 Comments
I have a special needs child. There. I said it.
Before our accident, I didn’t know any other family with a special needs child. I was blissfully ignorant of this hidden world in which I now find myself.
The first secret is that there are a ton of special needs children! Just visit any reputable pediatric therapy center, and it will be PACKED. There are so many families struggling in this secret world. It makes me realize how miraculous a healthy child is!
The second secret is that even though our government goes to extremes to make our country accessible to the disabled (and I’m grateful), accessibility is still a huge challenge for our family. For example, a simple trip to the pool is difficult for us. In my limited experience, pools are sometimes not wheelchair friendly, so I have to carry Anne into the pool area. Doing regular life is difficult – especially running errands. Lifting Anne and her wheelchair in and out of the van is part of my normal life routine. But I’ve found that I only have the energy for one outing a day with Anne. So grocery shopping, back to school shopping and general “running around” has to be spaced out.
The third secret is that even though there are tons of special needs families, it is still incredibly isolating to have a special needs child. The world goes by at lightning speed and leaves us in the dust. In many ways, this is painful – and if I’m not careful, I can lean a little towards self-pity. Seeing pictures of families enjoying vacations to the beach or amusement parks twinges a little. Watching families bustle about without the physical limitations of a disabled child makes me long for an easier life. It’s times like this that I cling to the fourth secret of having a special needs child…
The fourth secret is the best. I am still surprised at how much joy Anne brings our family and others. The time I get to spend with Anne is beautifully rewarding. She’s a treasure, and everyone who spends time with her comes away better for it.
Recently, someone asked Eric to describe his relationship with his children. He said, “My oldest thrives academically so I share my love of technology with him. My youngest is gifted athletically, so I share my love of running with her. My middle daughter (Anne) struggles with most everything, yet she teaches me the most about life.” Anne is our glue. I can’t imagine life with her any other way.
February 25, 2014 § 11 Comments
Lately I’ve been finding myself especially grateful for Anne’s words.
A friend of mine graciously stayed with our kids recently so Eric and I could go out to celebrate my birthday (yes, Happy Birthday to me :). When we got home, my friend said, “I had no idea Anne talked herself to sleep!” It’s true. I actually have never considered how strange this is!
Sometimes she talks to Kate; sometimes she talks to herself, but every night she giggles and sighs and in the quiet darkness, she is lulled to sleep by the sound of her own voice. It reminds me that her voice is a gift.
It was the first part of her brain to switch back “on” after the accident. She barely had the ability to move her right index finger, but she could talk. Her eyes were fixed, un-moving, but she could talk. Even now, her vocabulary, sentence structure, reasoning and conversation skills are her strength and she daily uses this gift to bless others.
Lately, Anne has been even more discouraged about her physical disability. She wants independence so badly. She also struggles with watching her independent family carry on their independent lives around her. She complains, “Why can’t I walk? I’m tired of this stupid brain injury. When will it go away, Mama? Why doesn’t anyone pay attention to me? Nobody loves me.”
I’m so grateful that Anne is able to communicate her deepest needs and longings to us. The beauty of Anne’s ability to utter words is that she is also able to absorb words. And she absorbs them deeply, so my answers to her, the words I speak to her, have power. So before I answer her, I pray. I need God’s words, not my words.
Anne. Listen to me. God has given you a gift. A very important gift. He has given you the gift of words. Everyday I watch you bring joy to others through your words. You will have to fight to overcome your brain injury for a very long time. But God uses your brain injury to bring joy to others. You are a treasure.
The word, “treasure,” was the word Anne needed to hear. She repeats it daily. “I am a treasure, mama. God thinks I’m treasure.”
Words. They are so important. Lately, I’ve been praying for God to show me how to use my words more effectively for Him. I recently shared Anne’s story with Kat Lee, the founder of the Inspired to Action podcast. If you’ve never heard me talk about the gory details of the accident, I share that story along with how God’s presence was so palpable both during and after the accident. I also talk about Anne’s gift of words and ways to help moms of special needs kids. It’s so easy for me to be careless with my words! But I pray that my words in this podcast reflect God’s goodness and faithfulness.