Thursday, April 7, 2016

sweet ainsleigh // hearing aid update // two years in


It's hard to believe we're almost two years into this journey. Ainsleigh was fit for her first hearing aid on May 12th, 2014. I looked back at old posts and couldn't believe the difference. Ainsleigh has hair now! I don't have to put a hat on her so she'll leave her hearing aid alone. She doesn't cry for appointments anymore! In fact, the audiologist said she does better than some kindergartners on her testing. And she goes into "the booth" every six months to have her hearing tested.






"The booth" is exactly what it sounds like. A small booth that Ainsleigh's speech therapist and I sit in with Ainsleigh while the audiologist sits at a control panel outside. There are various tests performed in the booth, but today Ainsleigh was having sounds played into her ears at various decibels to test if the hearing in her good ear has changed. (Thankfully it is still testing just as it was at birth.) They also play some sounds into her left - or deaf - ear to see if she has any response or reaction.

Ainsleigh is given a toy by the speech therapist, which she holds up to her hearing ear, and when she hears the sound she drops the toy in a bucket the speech therapist is holding. Every other time Ainsleigh has simply dropped the toy in the bucket, but this time when they played certain decibels - ones she has never responded to before - in her left ear she moved the toy to her left ear, indicating she heard the sound in that ear.

When the testing was completed the audiologist showed me the results. IF the results can be replicated when we return in six months we'll have learned something significant: Ainsleigh has more hearing in her left ear than we realized

Ainsleigh will still need her hearing aid, and she will still need all of the support and services we've built around her with the help of a fabulous team, but she might be able to hear on her left side. Not very well. Not all of the sounds she can hear in her right ear, but more than we initially thought.

How exciting is that?!?!?!

I cannot describe the feeling in the room when she moved the toy to her left ear and indicated she was hearing in that ear. It's so hard to know how much she can hear, and what is being referred to the other ear, but in this case it appears that she definitely was hearing decibels we didn't know she could in her left ear. It was so exciting for everyone, and I think we are all anxious to see what happens at her next appointment.

Two years ago I was so overwhelmed by the prospect of a hearing aid, and Ainsleigh wearing one all waking hours seemed like an absurd idea, but we've met that goal now, and Ainsleigh is hitting all of her speech and language milestones with ease. It took a lot of work, but if for some reason you are facing something similar I want to encourage you to stick with it.

Put the hearing aid in 3,000 times. Start with five minutes of hearing aid use at a time. Leave it out for two weeks if you're losing your mind, and your child is so frustrated they scream when you approach with the hearing aid. Give yourself a lot of grace. Don't assume every other parent is doing a better job than you are. If you have ever tossed a hearing aid across the room in complete frustration, I sympathize.

It's a hard road to walk, and it's really complicated and emotionally draining, but when your child uses a sign you didn't know they picked up, or leaves their hearing aid in for a nice long stretch, or does something completely unexpected with their speech development, all of the hours you put into working with them will feel like time well spent.

Ainsleigh sat up straight in my lap today, looked her speech therapist in the eye, and moved the toy to her left ear to indicate she heard sound in that ear. The hours of work, the weeks of putting a hat on her in an attempt to avoid putting her hearing aid back in every two seconds, the appointments and home visits, and even the month we took off last summer because we were moving and I was done with the hearing aid battle, all coalesced and led to that moment. It's hard and frustrating, but so worth it when your child begins to thrive.

When you do really well on your hearing tests, and surprise your mama and everyone in the room, you get your first cinnamon roll


Monday, April 4, 2016

from 2:00 on


This might be my favorite time of day. The kids are running around outside. The bread I baked today is cooling on the counter. There is a chicken slowly roasting in the oven for dinner. Tea is steeping so I can make iced tea for dinner. The kids have napped - or had rest time - and then we cuddled and read books for a while as they woke up.

This is my time to read for a few minutes. Or try to figure out what fixtures to select for the bathroom. Or which room to paint first. It would be an ideal time to clean up a little bit, but the house isn't too wrecked today, and the laundry is all caught up, so I'm writing instead. Most days I do something other than cleaning. A book always wins in this house. If the kids or I want a story it comes before (almost) everything else.

Music class resumed this morning. We're on our fifth ten week session. The kids love it, and we are now close enough to walk, so we're sticking with it for now, even though we've considered our latest session the last session the previous two times. Ainsleigh loves to walk to class, but today she DID not want to walk home. I don't usually bring a stroller, because she insists on walking, but I wish I had one today. She screamed at top volume the entire way home. Unless I was carrying her, which I didn't want to do too much of since she was the one who insisted we walk. My apologies to the neighbors - especially the one just down the hill who comments loudly on my parenting skills - for the late morning disturbance.

The kids are clambering all over the playhouse out back and roaring like lions. Their friendship is a wonderful blessing. Sometimes they fight like cats and dogs, but the majority of the time they play nicely together and enjoy each other's company.

I'm trying to decide what exactly to do in the main bathroom as we gear up for a major remodel. It will be late summer before we get in there and start working, but the choosing of fixtures, flooring and tile is beginning now. The tiles on the walls in both bathrooms have begun falling off. It's as if they simply can't hang on any longer. The house is 56 years old; that is a long time to keep things looking beautiful and well put together. The kids shriek as tiles and grout fall into their bathwater, which is amusing until I have to scrub the tub after every bath.

I am quite content, and quite sad, which is the strange emotional juxtaposition I carry within me every spring. The Charlotte rose is leafing out nicely. There was a moment - weeks actually - during the summer when we were sure it had not survived the move, but it is thriving now. We haven't planted the rest of Charlotte's flowers yet. I want the same flowers we had in the old house, and I am sad we likely won't have them planted and blooming before her birthday. For a moment I thought about snatching flowers from the old house for the vases I like to scatter around from April through May to remind me of her, but then remembered that grief often presents irrational acts as a good idea. Basically, grief can still make you behave in a crazy manner six years after the initial gut punch of an unexpected death.

Ainsleigh is now sitting next to me asking for her hearing aid and reading an old People magazine. Quality literature from a young age is very important to me. This is my cue to rejoin the kids in their world. Guns, dolls, Star Wars and lions from now until bedtime.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

spring - six years after


I'm restless. I'm grumpy. I don't want to do anything. Or be around anyone. I can't settle down to a task. I read a few pages, then put the book down to start a load of laundry. I tidy one room, then give up because it will just be messy again in a few minutes. It takes me days to realize it's the end of March, and that's really what's affecting me.

Easter is in a few days. It's early this year, but I'm still thrown. This is the downturn. The spiral into grief, the drop in all productivity. Suddenly it makes sense to watch The Bachelor, even though I haven't watched the show in years, and don't find the majority of it enjoyable. And it makes sense to listen to songs I haven't wanted to hear for years. And it makes sense to walk around in a rage storm because everything feels meaningless without her.

Every year I think it's going to be better. Every year I think maybe I'll make it to May before it becomes so hard to function, but it's like the first day of spring flips a switch in my brain and body.

6 years.

It's going to take me a while to wrap my mind around that. And maybe that's what the problem is: every year I'm floored by the number. I need time to process how another year without my firstborn has passed.

But there isn't time. There's laundry to do, and faces to wash, and meals to prepare, and preschool, and a house to paint, and projects to complete, and life happening. Just now both kids have pulled up chairs next to me to ask what I'm doing, and get involved.

It's good to have interruption and distraction, but sometimes I want four solid weeks to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and wait for the darkness to pass.

How are we doing fellow year six moms? How about you who are on the first year? Or the eighth? How is your grief today?

Monday, March 14, 2016

the resting place {community post 3}


In my previous community posts I wrote about how God has been asking me to step into community. Even though I drag my heels and whine about being an introvert He keeps pointing out people and situations and nudging me to invite and ask. And in the process He is teaching me how I can be in community and still have solo time.

As I was switching the laundry this afternoon I was thinking about the friend I had over this morning. This is a friend I don't have to be "on" with. Aren't those the best kind?! We just parent each other's kids, serve snacks, and putter around together until it's time for her to go. Today I felt like I gave her something she needed - a place to be on a hard day - and that was nice. I can do that. I like doing that.

I want people to feel like they can come over, kick their feet up, and be. I want a sign next to our door: we don't stand on ceremony here. (And I will probably feed you. I can't seem to stop myself)

I don't know how many times God is going to ask me to open my home, but in one year I've kept up a lot of friendships, and I've started some new ones. And I am now wondering how in the world I am going to manage "the big play date" this summer. Once a year, sometime during the summer, I invite all my mom friends over. Instead of having small groups, or one mama over, I throw out an invitation to everyone. The list this year is long. Like I may have to divide it into two days long. It's incredible how saying yes to God can lead someone like me - a real, true, need a break from my kids every day to be alone - introvert.

Is God asking you to do something that makes you uncomfortable? What are you afraid to try? I had people over on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday last week! With faith and a willing heart I believe you too can do your hard thing!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

It's never possible, but I always try


I really was going to write here more. I was going to dive in, take all of the posts out of my head, and off the scraps of paper that accumulate around the house like driftwood after an ocean rocking storm, but it never happened. And I think it might not happen until the kids are a little older. If ever.

Our family is in a nice slow routine of preschool, and playdates, and church, and dinners from scratch, and learning how to be. We're mostly introverts. We like books. We love walks in the rain. The house is coming along, though the projects are endless. The dog is slowing down noticeably. I can see our time with her waning.

I have shed so much anxiety this year, but I still hold some closely. I can drop B off at preschool without a backward glance, but this afternoon when Ainsleigh was being over dramatic about trying a piece of sour kiwi I tiptoed into her room mid-nap to check her breathing. Just to make sure. Just in case. No child of mine is going to die from a random sour kiwi incident. Ha! As if I have any control over anyone's life.

J is turning a large blue rain barrel into a strawberry growing device while the kids run around in the temporary sunshine. This being March the sun is on and off stage at lightning quick intervals. I just got drenched while walking the dog, which is why I am claiming a few solo minutes with a mug of hot tea.

And just like that, my time is up. Ainsleigh is on my lap, "reading to me." Her story is, "Abby, Elmo, Abby, Elmo ..." and she would like me to name all the characters in her book she doesn't recognize. So, it was good to catch up. I'll be back ... in five weeks, or months, or years.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

a perfectly timed phone call {community, post 2}


When we lived on Hazel Ave. there was a widow, Betty, who lived nearby that would stop and chat with us when we were working out in the front yard. If we walked by her house she would pop out to say hello, and once she even stopped in the middle of the road for a moment as she was driving by while I was watching Bennett jump in puddles, tiny Ainsleigh snuggled up in the Ergo.

I sensed her loneliness. I understood her grief. I wanted to connect, but aside from a Christmas basket drop off last year, and a few conversations, it never happened. We spoke often in the weeks leading up to our move. The weather was warm, and she would walk by most days. Just before we moved she dropped a letter through our mailbox asking for our forwarding address. I left a note with our information in her mailbox as we left the neighborhood for our new home.

Shortly after moving into our new house I decided to try keeping up a relationship with Betty. We wrote short letters back and forth for a couple months. Betty provided her number at the bottom of every letter, but I didn't call her because I am terrible on the phone. Just the thought of calling someone makes my stomach ache, never mind actually picking up the phone and dialing a number.

In one letter I invited her to our new home for lunch. After a long stretch of time passed she wrote back to say she had been ill. I was concerned enough after reading her letter I tried to call her, but she was busy, running out the door, or on her way somewhere, and asked me to call back.

I didn't call back for a month. I thought, she's too busy, she obviously doesn't need more people in her life, you thought she was lonely, but obviously she's fine, it would probably be awkward to have her over for a meal, you hardly know her ....

On a bitterly cold morning at the end of November I felt enough courage - and shame at how much time had passed - to call again. I was relieved when the call went to voicemail. I was grateful it was now up to Betty to decide if we were going to continue to communicate.

The following night I was lying on the couch after a long, exhausting day. I had been ill all day, the kids had been kids, and I had to keep up with them even though I didn't feel my best. I was wiped out. Phsyically and emotionally. I could feel the absence of Charlotte in the house as I stared at the lights on the freshly decorated Christmas tree. I was finishing a mug of tea, just about ready to kick my blanket off my feet and shuffle to bed (at 8:00! I was feeling really ill) when my phone rang.

It was Betty.

I stared at the phone for a moment before answering, my stomach jumping nervously. I almost didn't answer, afraid the conversation might be awkward, or strained, but I am so glad I chose to accept the call.

When Betty converses she shoots from one topic to another like a pinball, and it requires quite a bit of energy to keep up with her ricocheting thoughts. We talked about the kids, our new home, and a few other things before we began talking about grief. Betty spoke of her late husband for a while. She talked about what it was like when he died, and what the first year without him was like.

I held the nest necklace I had recently purchased ( a quiet way to keep all three of my children near me) in my hand and listened to her speak while the weight of my own grief descended on my shoulders. I touched the eggs inside the nest - one, two, three - then I took a deep breath and told her about Charlotte. I thought she knew the vague outline of what had happened to Charlotte, but she didn't even have an inkling. As I told her my story of grief she listened with sympathy and understanding.

Earlier in the evening I had been reading a storybook Bible to Ainsleigh on the couch. She squished in next to me, placed the Bible in my lap, patted the cover and said, "Bible,"  so I read to her. After every page she said, "more Bible," so I kept reading to her, page after page after page until her head dropped onto my shoulder and she began rubbing her eyes.

I was so sad all day, and that moment was like hope crystallized for me. It was like God saw me and knew I needed a reminder that while the month of December is really sad for me, it's also a really good season when we celebrate a pure light coming into our broken world.

And then Betty called and I again felt like God saw me. God is the greatest Comforter. We are to turn to Him when we feel broken and lost, and He will give us grace and peace. It might be through a little girl, or a widow, or a complete stranger, but He will give us what we need in every moment and situation.

I needed to talk about Charlotte that night. I didn't know I needed to until I put the phone down, but with each word that came out I felt a little more peace and calm enter my heart. I needed to pass her story on. I needed to talk about how hard the sixth Christmas is without her to someone who is trying to make it through a third Christmas without a loved one. And so God provided.

Isn't that amazing?

I left our old neighborhood feeling like I was escaping a place I didn't belong. Everyone was so well connected, and I felt so adrift. Some of that is definitely up to me. There were times I didn't cross the street when I could have. There were moments I could have tried harder to connect, but I didn't because I was worried I wouldn't fit in. A lot of people were close, and I chose to make friendships elsewhere, because I didn't feel welcome. 

But when I moved out of the neighborhood, a couple relationships stayed with me. I felt so certain I was on the outside I didn't realize being in the center isn't everything. Often one or two meaningful relationships are worth far more than five shallow ones. I have to be friends with people who will let me have the space to be me. Truly me. Emotionally shattered through most of December me. I lost the ability to be false when Charlotte died. I just don't have the energy. Life is far too short for pretense. 

You might not fit where you think you should fit, but there is a place for you, your heart, your spirit, your unique sense of humor, and your incredible, radiant self. Don't confuse someone else's place for yours. And don't expect all of you to match up perfectly with all of someone else. Yes you need the twenty-four hour friend, but you need the phone call every few weeks from the person who lives two miles away and sends the occasional letter just as much. 

Satan wants us to focus on where we don't fit in, but Jesus wants us to see, and know, how much we matter and where we belong. If you feel small, or left out, marginalized in any way, believe me, that is Satan. He likes it when you feel small, because it stirs up feelings of anger and jealousy. God likes it when you feel loved and cared for, because you are His child and He loves you immensely

Friday, December 4, 2015

{community, post 1}


God placed a need to be in community on my heart this year, and then he led me to a place where that need could begin to be filled. 

Our church is BIG. It's not mega-church big, but coming from fairly small churches I find it big, and a little intimidating. For years I wanted to get involved with a community group so we could get to know a few people well,  but I didn't know how to go about doing so.

When we moved to our new home in June it was empty aside from a fridge in the kitchen, and a washer and dryer in the utility room. We didn't ask for the washer or dryer in the contract, and ours were newer and in better shape, so we decided to get rid of them.

We were going to sell them on Craigslist, but then I thought it might be easier to call the church and see if anyone was in need. Within a couple days we had a new home lined up for the washer and dryer.

Two men I didn't know very well came to pick up the set and deliver it to its new home as a favor to the person who needed it. We chatted for a while in the driveway, then the subject of Saturday night church came up.

"We have a community group that meets Thursday nights. It's all West Salem families who attend Saturday night services," one of the men said. "Would you like to join us when we start up again in the fall?"

I said we would be very interested, we chatted a few moments more, and then they headed off to complete their delivery.

I was really excited to have a prayer I had been praying for a long time answered through a chance meeting via an abandoned washer and dryer.

And then we went to the first meeting when the group resumed this fall.

We were the only ones with young kids. We were the only ones who brought our kids to the group. And they did not behave. AT ALL.

Bennett and Ainsleigh were up and down the stairs, through the banisters and onto the back of the couch, and into everything. I was horrified by their behavior. The other members of the group were remarkably kind. One couple has five grown boys while another couple has four grown children, so they understand kids, but still we needed to make changes if we were going to attend.

Having kids is so humbling, isn't it?

One of our main issues was the time. 7:00 on a Thursday night is really, really late for our kids. Ainsleigh is in bed by 7:00 most nights, if not 6:00 or 6:30. Every group meeting the kids were bouncing off the walls because they were exhausted.

After weeks of trial and error, and a lot of frustration, and feeling like we should give up, we figured out a routine that works some of the time: a snack, a show on my phone, a baby gate for the stairs, a pacifier for Ainsleigh, and a willingness to bail if things get too crazy. There's also been some discussion about moving things to our home so the kids can go to bed while me meet. Everyone is willing to work around us, which is really nice and considerate.

It's been really good for us to get involved in a group and spend time in prayer and study with other couples from our church. It's also been really challenging. I admit, I often don't want to go, because I know it's going to be rough, but I always benefit from our meetings.

At the beginning of the year when I prayed for God to show me how to be in community I had no idea I would be part of a great community group at the end of the year. Sometimes an answer to prayer comes quietly and quickly, other times it comes slowly but with great force. This was one answer even I couldn't miss, or mistake for something else.

When I was worried about moving I asked God to be with me, and remind me that He had a plan for our family and would place us where He wanted us. With every sale that fell through, and with every challenge we faced I asked God to place us in the neighborhood and home He waned us to be in.

We've lived here a few months and I've been astonished by the number of people from our church and Bennett's preschool class (who don't attend our church) that surround us in all directions. But that's how God works. He astonishes. He amazes. And if we ask him to place His hands on our lives He'll send us where we need to be.

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