Friday, January 20, 2012

A joyful lesson

I have learned SO much about my children from others.  I was at Analiese's IEP meeting the other day and her speech therapist shared something with me.  At first I felt sad but the more I thought about it the happier I became.

Analiese was part of the 3rd grade chorus at school this fall.  She loved EVERY minute of it!!  For their Christmas performance Analiese really, yes REALLY, stole the show!  She was so very animated and full of expression, it was obvious that she loved singing!

I can't tell you how nervous I was when Analiese brought home the flyer about chorus.  At her other school the kids had to audition  to be a part of the chorus.  With Analiese's cleft her singing is not the clearest and I dreaded her being rejected.

As it turned out, her new school accepted ANYONE who wanted to be a part of the chorus!  I can't say enough about the music teacher.  She is one in a million!

Anyway, Analiese never missed a class and I am sure, even though I never was told, she gave 100% during the practices.

But, I digress.  During the IEP we were all commenting on how Analiese's speech issues do not deter her.  We all agreed that she is the most well adjusted, social child we know.  The speech therapist shared that the music teacher came to her and commented that she was so impressed that Analiese came to chorus and acted like she didn't have any speech issues.  Analiese sang her heart out and gave it all that she had.

Like I said, my first reaction was one of sadness.  It's not like I've been in denial about Analiese's speech issues but well, it's hard to put into words.  I guess I really didn't want to admit that Analiese COULD be held back because of her speech.

But, the more I thought about it, the prouder I became!  We have ALWAYS supported Analiese in her love of singing and song writing.  We have been blessed (and cursed) with performances after performances.

What I realized is that my little girl won't let a small thing like a cleft palate or speech issue deter her from enjoying her dream!!!  Not for the first time, I realized what a strong individual Analiese is.  God has truly blessed her with strength!

Analiese came from one of the worst beginnings I could ever imagine.  At two weeks she found herself at an orphanage that did not have heat or running water.  She shared a crib with 3 other children.  During the winter they all wore heavy snowsuits to bed so they could keep warm.  She had to use a "pot" to go to the bathroom in because they did not have working toilets.  I could go on and on.  But I won't because Analiese had SO much more than she did not have.

She had the love of the director and the wonderful Aunties who took care of the children in the orphanage.  Analiese is who she is in part because of those wonderful women who loved her in her first years.  They gave her the foundation for the rock-solid self esteem she has!

I know that God has a great plan for my youngest daughter.  She brings sunshine and love to EVERYONE!  It doesn't matter that she has a cleft-palate---it actually makes a positive difference that she is so challenged!

If you are one of the lucky, blessed, that have met Analiese you know exactly what I am writing about.  If you haven't had the fortune to meet her, I hope that one day your paths will cross.  You will be happier once she touches your life.

I guarantee it!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Analiese got her braces on today!  She only has them on the 3 top teeth.  They are the cutest braces I've ever seen!  They are so, so tiny.

A few months ago we started with the orthodontics for Analiese.  Her mouth began shifting and she could no longer use her obturator.  So, it was decided to move forward with the orthdonotic treatment.

A year or so ago, Analiese had 11 teeth removed to make room in her mouth.  So, when her teeth came in there was all kind of movement.  Some teeth were coming in sideways, some not at all because another tooth was under it.  What a mess!

To begin this phase of her treatment they removed some more teeth in the back, put in a palate expander (thank goodness not the kind I have to turn) and inserted a placement wire behind her bottom teeth to keep those teeth from moving.

Once that was in place the orthodontist wanted one more of her front teeth to come to put on the braces.  That tooth poked through over the holidays.  So, today we were good to go to have the braces put on.

It didn't take too long as the braces and wire were only placed on the 3 front teeth.  When more teeth come in more brackets will be placed and then connected to back molars.

Analiese isn't feeling much pain but that could change as her teeth move.  Of course she has such a high pain tolerance she might not tell me until it is unbearable for her (which would be over the top for most of us!).

I'm so excited that we are moving forward on Analiese's teeth.  She has begun to comment about how she would like to have pretty teeth like so-and-so and question when will ALL of her teeth will come in.

Getting these braces on means so much more to my little girl--it's a step toward having a "normal" mouth. I've promised her that one day she is going to LOVE her teeth as much as we love her!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Family Picture Wall

We have this wall in our "office"  on which I've always hung the girls school photos.  For awhile I had different sizes, colors and orientations of frames.  I never liked it.  So, I recently bought new matching frames.  Dave hung them and because they were larger than what I had, the FAMILY sign wasn't quite spaced correctly.  I still didn't like the wall.  

So, for Christmas I asked for some money so I could re-do the wall.  This is what I planned:

But the wall wasn't long enough to accommodate all of the photos.  So this is what I finally wound up with:

Another view:

Still another:

 I'm not finished adding  photos.  I want to put some vacation shots in the smaller frames.  I know I have some great beach pictures.   Right now they still have the factory photos.

I still really like the frames that the girls' school photos were in so I'm thinking of using them on a different wall.  Is it too much to have TWO family photo walls???

I'd love to hear your opinions!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An angel to watch over them

A young mother of one of our gymnasts passed away today.    She fought a very hard and courageous battle against colon cancer.   For 18 months she did everything possible to become one of the cancer survivors.  Unfortunately she has become another victim.

I simply cannot imagine how this woman prepared her children for her death.  All day I've gotten teary just thinking about the tremendous sadness she must have felt when she realized that she was going to have to leave her family.  What things did she do to ensure that even though she would not be physically present while they were growing up, she would always be a part of their lives?   Did she write letters to be given to them at the important times in their lives?  Did she make videos for them to watch when they turned 13 or got their drivers license?  What about the advice she wanted to share with her daughter?  How did she capture that to be given at just the right times?

I've thought about what is the better way for a young child to lose a parent; suddenly without warning or slowly over time?  Is it better to have the time to say goodbye and start the grieving even before their death or is it best to simply just lose them one day?

As a mother I'd like to have the time to create something for my children.  Whether it's a video to be shown on the day of the prom or a letter to be given graduation day I'd want that opportunity to share what I imagined I'd say at those events.  I wouldn't want my daughter to wonder what her  mother would say when she started going through puberty or my son to wonder if his mother would care if he got a motorcycle.  I'd want to be able to tell them when the event occurred.  I'd want to be able to provide them with my thoughts, my words and my feelings.  I'd want them to know that my feelings, my thoughts and my advice, directly from me.  I can only pray that when it is my time to go that I will have had a lifetime of shared memories with my children.

My sadness over this mother's death will fade but the insight I have gained will stay with me for a lifetime.  Good bye Julie and thank you for having touched my life.  I hope that as a part of the gym family I can somehow return the favor by somehow making a difference in your daughter's life.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A belated Christmas post

Our Christmas was wonderful this year.  Once again, ALL three girls sat on Santa's lap to tell him what they wanted to receive.  For Analiese she asked for a Fijit friend, Grace, a bell from his sleigh and Sarah wanted a Wii game.  They all must have found their way onto the "good" list because they each got what they some!

We did not travel at all over the break.  The weather was perfect (very warm) so we got to spend some time outside.  Sweet Grace had practice and only had a few days off.  Her schedule was reduced but she had to be at the gym everyday except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day!  Not that she minded, she is lost when she has too much down time!

The boys were able to spend a few days with us. It's always nice to have all of the kids together!  Dave and I have a great respect for the adults the boys are becoming.  William and Thomas are within a year of graduating from Tech and James is ready to commit to the Army so that he can get a commission when he graduates in a few years.

We LOVE having a full house and the girls love how much attention the boys give them!  Some day they will get together with their families and share the great memories of the holidays they had growing up!

Sarah chose a VERY grown- up dress this year.  Her Dad was not  happy but agreed that she looked quite beautiful!  Sarah received a laptop for Christmas and was quite excited to get rid of her very slow, very old desktop model.  She promptly pulled the dinosaur out of her room and set it up in the playroom for Analiese to use.

Grace also chose a more grown-up dress and couldn't wait to pose for her photo!  She is growing up so quickly.  Dave and I believe that she just might be a little older than her 10 years. It certainly wouldn't be the first time the Chinese were off on their "age guesstimate"!!  Grace was so thrilled to get the bell from Santa's sleigh.  She really did not want anything else but I did talk her into asking for some clothes for the gym!

Then of course my sweet, sweet Analiese!  Notice that she is now growing her hair out.  She also is growing up.  We have noticed such a maturity in the past year!  She continues to make an impression on everyone she meets.  She received a guitar and a karoake machine from Santa.  What excitement as she now can write a song, play it either on her keyboard or guitar and also sing it into her microphone.  How blessed we are to hear her excitement!!

As a family we couldn't be more blessed.  We are all healthy and Dave and I have good, stable jobs.  We thank God everyday for the things that we have and ask for his guidance to navigate the coming year.

Happy 2012 to each of you!

Friday, January 6, 2012

TOPS, HOPES and a Break-through--OH MY!!

Testing out of level 8
Yes, Grace is still excelling at gymnastics!  I think the last time I posted she had a cast on her leg.  It healed perfectly; no lasting problems.  Since then we've hurt a couple of more body parts, but thankfully nothing lasting.  The scariest one was her back.  She over extended on one of her "flippy-do's" ( I really must learn and REMEMBER all of the names of her new skills) and hurt her back.  It turned out to be one of her worst injuries.   We wound up at the orthopedist who put things very clearly:

"Think of a paperclip.  We've all bent one back and forth, back and forth, until it snapped.  Now it could have taken 15 bends but it snapped.  Grace could be on number 12.  If she doesn't slow down and take care and back off on the training... well, then we'll be having a more serious talk."

So, back off we did and now she is back to 100%!

After Grace's wonderful level 7 season she began training hard for her summer TOPs testing.  She tested 3 times and each time made a score high enough to qualify her for National Testing.  So, in October off she went to National Training Center in Texas.  There she just WOWED everyone!!  She did fabulous.  She needed a score of an 81 to make the TOPs National Team.  Grace walked away with a 91!!
So, in December she went back to Texas as a part of the TOPs National Team.  Unfortunately this was right in the middle of her back injury.  She was only at 1/4 of her abilities but still had a great time.  We are so proud of how she closed the TOPs part of her gymnastics journey.

Grace now is heading into what is termed HOPES.  That is a bridge between TOPs and Elite for 10-12 yr. olds.  Grace is scheduled for 3 National Qualifier meets this year.  If she qualifies she will be able to compete in the US VISA CLASSIC!!

Grace on bars being watched by Valeria Luikin 
This summer Grace was well on her way and had many of the required skills.  Then came a few injuries, falls and eventually fear---for the very first time in her gymnastics career!!  Of course we didn't know about her fear until well after it started.  I knew SOMETHING was wrong but just didn't know exactly what.

It didn't help that Grace is my "keep-everything-close-to-the-vest" kid and never told me anything.  But one day she and I were talking.  And the dam broke.  Everything that Grace had bottled up inside came tumbling out.  The fear of disappointing the people she loved, the fear of hurting herself doing gymnastics and the fear of not having her skills for the National Qualifiers.

It was WONDERFUL but heartbreaking.  I felt guilty that I didn't know how she felt, I felt wonderful that FINALLY Grace was telling me how she felt, I felt sad that she had carried around such a burden and I felt WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW???

Luckily we worked through it together.  We had a meeting with Grace's coach and she also celebrated the break-through!  Grace told us she wasn't sure she wanted to do the National Qualifiers.  She wanted time to think about.  We made a plan and agreed to come back in 2 weeks to discuss how she felt.

In the weeks that followed Grace became more animated, more talkative and lo and behold--got her skills back!!  Today she told her coach that she wanted to meet tomorrow because she had decided to go for the National Qualifier!!!
Grace receiving input from Valerie Luikin 
We aren't sure how she will do but the real victory lies in Grace getting rid of her burden and realizing that we are here to support her in whatever SHE wants to do.  She now talks so much more about the gym.  She will tell me specifics about how her training went instead of just"fine".  She has even called me twice to share some fantastic progress she has made!

This season is going to be so exciting.  Grace has already tested out of level 8 and will compete level 9 as well as the HOPES qualifier meets.  No matter what happens score wise, Grace has accomplished so much!  

Check back to see what happens.  Her first level 9 meet is on January 21st and her first HOPES qualifier is on February 10th in Orange, California.  

A new journey awaits and Grace is ready to jump in knowing that she has the support and encouragement, not pressure, of the people who love her the most!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


For many years I had not seen my mother.  Twelve years and 6 months to be exact.  It's a long story and one I'm not ready to share.  My mother had only met Sarah once; when Sarah was 11 months old.  Yes, Sarah is now 13 1/2 yrs old.  Mom never, yes NEVER,  met Grace and Analiese. Our relationship consisted of phone calls, photos and gifts on special occasions.

Until October.   That's when my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.  It had already spread to her liver when she was diagnosed.  Up to that point she had been battling emphysema.  We even finished our basement so she could come and live with us because of her breathing difficulties.  But that's all part of the story I'm not ready to share.

I was stunned, no, maybe surprised.  I don't know, I just wasn't expecting lung cancer.  My Mom had quit smoking years ago.  I thought that the emphysema was what eventually would be her demise.   Mom not only had lung cancer, she had small cell lung cancer which is very, very aggressive.

So, here I was faced with a very real, very serious situation.  How in the HELL do I deal with this???  Because of certain things, yes, it's part of that story again that I'm not ready to share,  I had already decided that I was NOT going to ever see her again.  But, there was a part of me who did not agree with that decision.  It was that same part of me that finished the basement, the same part of me that couldn't let go and walk away.

I don't know WHAT to name that PART of me.  All I know is that I talked to Dave and told him that I wanted, no needed, to go to Philadelphia to see my mother.  AND that I wanted our daughters to meet their grandmother and I wanted her to know them!

So a week before November we got in the car and drove to Philadelphia.  It was a VERY long drive (another story  for another time).  By the time of our trip my mother had already undergone one round of chemo.  We had hoped that she would have bounced back from that treatment and felt good enough to receive visitors at home.

Well cancer just doesn't care what you think.  What happened is that my mother was in the hospital due to complications from the chemo/cancer during our visit.  So, instead of driving to my childhood home, we drove to the hospital.

Once at the hospital I was a wreck.  I was so nervous, so afraid, so scared.  Yes, ALL part of the "story I'm not ready to share".  When we got to Mom's room, I was shocked, and so, so saddened.  The woman I was afraid to face was old and sick.

For so many reasons I am so glad that we made the trip to see my Mom.  She is fighting hard to beat the cancer and for that I support and applaud her.  My girls LOVE their grandmother and they SHOULD!  

My feelings are more mixed than they ever have been.  I have more sadness than ever.  THAT I chalk up to progress.  I honestly hope that the next trip I make back to Philadelphia is not for Mom's funeral.  I'd like to spend time with her outside of the hospital.  To talk. And maybe resolve some things.

Some day I'll be ready to share my story.  But not now.  And I certainly won't preach to all of you how important it is to reconnect or how short life is.

 Because, now, I need to pray for a miracle.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!!

I know, you all thought I'd given up this blog.  But I hadn't!  I took a forced break because I could NOT remember my log-in and password!

Seriously, when blogger co-mingled with Yahoo all of my accounts got screwed up.  Every time I tried to log in I was told that I didn't have a blog.  Then, when I requested a new password, I never received a response.  There was NO amount of emailing I could do to produce the needed information!

So, I basically resigned myself to having to start a new blog, which of course I did not want to!  So I just put the blog on the back burner.

Then just recently I tried to comment on a blog that I read.  Of course they needed my log-in.  So, I once again tried to log-in and BINGO it worked!!  So I promptly wrote down the magic information so I'd have it when I needed it.

Of course I have so much to catch you all up on.  So stay tuned for some up-dates.  There have been some changes in our lives and we've all seemed to adjust pretty well.

So, Happy 2012, I KNOW that it's going to be a great year.  I can already tell...