Thursday, July 9, 2015

Happy Birthday, Lucy!

Whew!  *puff puff*  That's me, blowing the dust off.

It's been awhile!  And it was a while between the last couple, too - that's what happens as a completely physically dependent child gets older.  Around here, anyway; during the day, I'm the sole entertainment and care provider, so by the time night rolls around, all my creativity has been sucked into a sorta large six-year-old, and there's nothing left for my poor, neglected blog.

That's right, I said SIX!  Our little miss Lucy is hardly little anymore, and has officially moved into two-hand age tallying.  She will be starting kindergarten in the fall (she loved pre-K so much we had her complete two years' worth) is still full of sass, and can somehow show it even more!  She loves her dolls, is still favoring classic Disney movies over the fancy new animation, and continues to adore my cat-in-heat singing (we'll see how much longer that lasts!)  Daddy maintains his position as the apple of her eye, naturally.  Lucy is now fully bipap dependent, and while we are looking into traching, she's happy with her respiratory support.

When Lucy was diagnosed, and I'm sure I've said this before, I didn't cry.  I stood there, stone-faced, while a geneticist told me that my baby was going to die before she turned two years old, and I bounced Lucy in my arms, and I didn't cry.  I suppose I was in denial.  Oh, I bawled when she was hospitalized for testing - sat up nights rocking her as she slept, sobbing, praying, begging for it not to be anything serious, promising the world if it wasn't. But it was.

And I guess I just refused to accept that.  Refused to believe that any person on earth could tell me what would be with Lucy.  Because, news flash - no one can.  No one can tell you, with absolute certainty, what will happen to your baby - happen with their life - whether they're medically fragile or not.  They can guess what may be, they can predict what will probably be, but they can't tell you what will be.  God can do that, but He's imparted this beautiful gift called hope, so He's probably not going to share that information with you.

Lucy is proof that no one can tell us what will be.  And I have never once regretted being in denial.  I'm proud of it.  I deny that anyone can tell me how my child's life will play out.  Apparently, so does Lucy.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Amazing Momford's Magic Act

Did you watch Sesame Street before Elmo took over?  Then you might remember the Amazing Mumford the magician and his peanut butter sandwiches, and may have understood my punny blog post title.  If not, now you do.

I think parents, and by default, grandparents, end up learning a lot of "magic" when rearing children.  It's mutually beneficial for both parties to at least attempt to pull this magic out when disaster threatens.

When I see people out with little kids, I try to cut them slack if the kid is causing a ruckus, or if they're seemingly ignoring the child.  We all have our moments, and it's not like I've been following you around for an hour and saw the 45 minutes you were trying to contain your child, or were answering an endless stream of "why?"

So when I saw who I'm guessing was a grandmother and her granddaughter in the thrift store yesterday morning, and the grandma was snapping at the girl to be quiet, I tried not to judge.  Never mind that she told her to be quiet, to stop moving, to quit being naughty, and that she would get a spanking at even the hint of the girl (who was pretty well-behaved for a toddler in a thrift store) opening her mouth or making the slightest movement.  That grandma wanted to thrift in utter silence.  "Maybe the girl has been tearing it up all morning, and the grandma just needs a moment's peace," I thought.

Imagine my surprise (or lack thereof, I suppose, if I'm honest) when I heard a woman snapping at a child to be quiet this morning at the flea market, and I looked up and saw the same pair.  The toddler who had been through the thrift store the morning before, was now being walked through rows of dusty wooden Pepsi crates and yellowing doilies at the flea market.  And if she dared to make a sound or balk in any way, she was scolded.  

I couldn't help but think what a difference a bit of magic might make.  (Note: I said might.  Maybe it had been tried.  Maybe the rest of the day was spent swimming with bottlenose dolphins in a sea of ice cream and sprinkles, and the grandma needed half an hour of junking.  I don't know.  But for anyone who wants to jump down my throat for "judging," this is my disclaimer.)  My favorite magic trick is misdirection.

When Lucy was younger - closer to this girl's age - she was stronger.  And highly irrational.  I believe it's also known as the "terrible twos."  Anyway, I could go head to head with her over her tantrums, and she had the strength to scream and bawl it out (at a much lower decibel than most toddlers,) and I could stand by with a suction while she screamed her way through staring at the wall for being such a snot.  Good ol' regular parenting.  And when I wanted to do something that she maybe wouldn't have otherwise cared for, we made it a game; peekaboo at the fabric store, shaking water sprinkles off the veggies while making dinner.  When all else failed, and it was something that no fun could be extracted from, she got a diversion while I took care of the necessary (re: a video of her choosing.)

As she's gotten older, the irrational, short-tempered toddler has been replaced by a young girl who has anxiety issues.  They stem from identifiable sources, and are warranted, and we are trying to work through them.  As she's aged, she's also gotten weaker.  Crying rapidly - rapidly - turns into hyperventilating that she can't recover herself from, and quickly becomes an emergency for her.  The magic of misdirection has become crucial for Lucy, for her safety and well-being.  Calm discussion, or singing a favorite song works the best now that she's older... though she is still a huge fan of playing game and general silliness in stores and at home, because that's just who she is ;)

All this to say - just try some magic.  I know you're tired, and you want to possibly uproot your hair, and you just need to get these errands done, or you just want a moment to yourself.  But before you resort to snapping out threats or growling a punishment at your child... take a breath, stoop down, give them some REAL attention, and make it a game.  Find something pretty to marvel over.  Make airplane or monster truck noises with the cart.  Shake the red peppers you're washing like maracas.  Be your own little Mary Poppins.  I guarantee you, you will both come away from the experience feeling worlds better than if you had skipped over that time you could make your own magic, and acted on your frustration instead.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pointed Praying

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you.  - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  - Matthew 7:7

Living in the world of special needs families has, over time, made me a bit more cautious when speaking about what God has done for Lucy.  I know that there are victories that Lucy has had that come as a direct result of our prayers.  How do I share those, though, when there are so many families who have prayed just as fervently, or moreso, and their answer hasn't been the one they desperately wanted?  It seems so unfair.  And so I've become quieter about Lucy's blessings, thanking God privately, in the hopes that I would avoid hurting other faith-led families whose prayers weren't resulting in their hoped for outcome.

It seems that may have inadvertently led to the dwindling of my requests put before God.  Days are so full, and nights have been sleepless, and when I think to pray, it's lately been just to thank Him, and to pray in generalities - keep us safe and healthy, be with those less fortunate, etc.  In not taking the extra time to praise Him for the specific requests He fulfills, I've forgotten to make those pointed requests.  We live our lives doing what we can on our end to make sure life is running smoothly, but part of living in faith is remembering that we can't do it all, and God *wants* us to rely on him.  We won't know all the outcomes, and ultimately, it's out of our hands - that's what faith means.

Lucy still hasn't been tolerating much time off her bipap, and over the past few days, it's been down to quick breathing treatments, then back on.  Bath attempts have been disastrous, so we've been doing bed baths.  Yesterday, I was so hoping to get her in her tub for a good scrub and soak.  I took the time to pray, hard and specifically.  I prayed for her, and I prayed over the tub and drying area, which is where she always really starts to panic.

We did everything we could on our end, everything we always do - cranked up the heat in the house to the almost-passing-out temperature, chose loose-fitting clothes for fast dressing and brought them in the bathroom so we could dry and dress quickly.  Laid out towels and washcloths and soaps, ready to use.  We talked it up to Lucy, prayed with her, and brought her in to get her in the tub...

...and she did fantastic.  She was calm, and not just calm - happy.  We were able to get her whole bath done with no panic.  Then the tough part; getting her dried and dressed.  If Lucy feels even a hint of cold, she starts to hyperventilate.  If we take too long, she starts to fuss, and then hyperventilate.  We sang to her and toweled and lotioned and dressed, and though she was a bit testy at the end, by the time we got her into her room she was in good spirits, and we managed to get her bipap back on without incident.

It was miraculous.  There wasn't anything that we did that we don't do every single time, in an attempt to keep her calm... except the pointed prayers.  It was an obvious reminder that we can't do it all, and we shouldn't pretend that we can.  We are responsible for doing every logical thing we can to keep Lucy healthy and happy - utilize her machines, treatments, proper diet.  We are responsible for learning Lucy, reading her changes and moods and nuances in her behavior, and caring for her accordingly.  I can't just leave Lucy on her own all day every day, say a prayer for God to take care of her, and expect it to happen... but I can pray for Him to aid me, to guide me, and to lend His strength and power to the areas where I have none.

And the answers may not always be what I want to hear, what I want to see.  Part of having the whole "ask and you shall receive" thing work is asking for things that are in line with God's will for us.  God's will for us is for good, whether it's what we want for ourselves or not.  There are a million variables in life, and we can never predict how getting that thing we really wanted will affect us down the road.  God sees the whole picture.

"Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?"  - Matthew 7:9-11

We need to be willing to ask Him.  And I need to remember that.  And I need to remember that even if the response doesn't come the way I want it to, that doesn't mean He doesn't have our best interests in His heart.  For today, though, I'm praising Him for the answered prayer of a peaceful bath :)

After bath ritual is watching Frozen - Lucy chose Anna for the 
front, Elsa on the back :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Lives Matter - on the matter of living

"There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort."  - Jane Austen

Winter is mostly that, for us.  Lucy is not immunocompromised - her immunity works the same as anyone else's.  It's her physical ability to cope with the symptoms that is the problem.  Someone who can't cough and can't swallow is going to have a very hard time with all the junk that comes with a cold or flu.  So we keep her home, and we take extra precautions to minimize the potential for germs to enter our home.  Not all SMA families do what we do, and that's fine.  What we do works for us, and we don't expect it to be what's right for everyone.

Lucy's first major respiratory event happened when she was 3.  She lost consciousness briefly due to lack of oxygen.  It happened because she had secretions in her throat, and a breeze hit her in the face, and she sucked in and choked.  Now, there are some kids with SMA who deal with major episodes daily; they desat and turn blue, and their parents or nurse manage to get them cleared, and moments later they're acting like it never happened, while their caregiver stands shaking. 

Lucy is not one of those kids.

These events stay with Lucy, and since she is nonverbal, we have to do our best to talk to her about them, answer questions we think she may have, and not scare her additionally by saying something that might not have even been on her radar.  Physically, she recovered quickly from the early ones.  The one she experienced this fall, though... it has left a lasting mark on her.  She panics easily, and hyperventilates when we try to do anything that she feels may compromise her airway.  

We realized early on that Lucy loves routine, and is not a big fan of travel, or change in her routine.  She enjoys relaxed, controlled environments.  Of course, that can also depend on her mood and energy - sometimes she likes boisterousness and surprises :)  Overall, though, unless we can tell she's in one of those moods, we keep it calm for her.  Lately, her idea of calm enough is not leaving her room, reading stories, playing with some of her toys, and watching lots of movies.

And we let her.  We've learned that pushing too hard only results in setbacks and mistrust.  Lucy knows Lucy.  She knows how she is feeling, what she is thinking, and, as she ages, what her capabilities and desires are.  We can only hope to guess correctly, for the time being.  And that's not enough anymore.  So as she grows, we have to let her take more charge, and make more decisions, in the path her life is taking.

So far, she has chosen mostly this.

And that's okay.  It's okay for her, and it's okay for us.  And I hope that other special needs parents who have children with the same proclivities understand that it's okay for them, too.  It doesn't mean that your child is not living life.  It does not mean your child is miserable, deprived, a vegetable, or whatever else the masses would have you believe, because they choose to spend their time at home, or even in bed.  It means they're an individual, and that life of derring-do and record breaking isn't one that they want for themselves.  And that's okay.

Checking out Christmas lights in the living room at 3am on 
a sleepless night - this was quite an adventure for Lucy! She 
liked it for the first 10 minutes, and then wanted to go back 
to her room... so we did :)

We want Lucy to want to learn, obviously, and to do projects and communicate effectively.  Primarily, though, we want her to do things if she ENJOYS them.  I want her life to be full in that it's full of things that make her happy - not because we're checking off boxes on society's list of what a person with a handicap must achieve to be of value.

Currently that means we're full of Frozen stuff ;)

I refuse to measure the fullness of another person's life by a set of standards put forth by someone who is not that person.  If Lucy wanted to zip line, or snowboard, or surf, or rock climb, we'd figure out a way for her to try those things.  She doesn't - at least not for now.  And while I do encourage her to try things that I believe she'll enjoy, based on past experiences with her, I have learned that she will like what she likes.  I can't make her into anyone else.  I can watch other SMA kids do activities that will blow your mind, things you'd never think could be done with a wheelchair, a trach, a bipap, while immobile.  I can watch them and be happy for them, and think "Yeah!  They're getting to do what they want!  That's awesome!"  Because they're choosing to do those things, and it's fantastic that they can find a way to make it work.  The exclamations in my head are never "Wow, their life is full!  They're accomplishing so much!"  Because to me, living is not defined by activities - not if the fullness and accomplishments they provide aren't enjoyable to obtain, or the activities are ones that scare you, or make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.  Full living has happiness in it, and enjoyment, and it's helping others to feel happiness and enjoyment.  There is plenty of the scary, undesirable, and unfun that we as humans trudge through every day - why elect to subject yourself to it to meet someone else's definition of a full life?  To me, anyway, that's what makes a good life.  I can't define living for anyone else ;)

Pushing - we took her out at the end of November to get a tree.  Success!
So the next week, we went to the Christmas parade (above).  It was mostly enjoyed.
So after that, we hung around the house.  Cues come from Lucy.

For some kids, all of those events and activities are just want they want to be doing, what they enjoy - and for them, it makes life full.  That's wonderful for them!  But I hope that when I post pictures of Lucy hanging out, in her bed, doing the ordinary, unexciting things that she likes to do, you can look at it and think yeah!  She's happy!  She's doing what she loves!  She has such a full life!  Because for her, that's exactly what it is.

“After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”   LM Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea