Friday, January 30, 2015

I am greedy with her words

I often wonder what Addison would tell me if she could.

Would she tell me that she loves the crunch of her boots on the hardened snow? Would she whisper glee at sliding around the house in her stocking feet? At twirling around the room to music? Would she clearly articulate that when it's cold she really wants to wear the PINK scarf to protect the harsh winter wind from tickling her throat?
Perhaps Addison could share the secret hiding behind those almond shaped blue eyes sparkling with joy and tell me what it is that makes her tick. Perhaps she could fill in the gaps of everything that happens at school and why she loves it so. Perhaps she could tell me EXACTLY the things that I do that truly frustrate her.
Maybe Addison could string her words together eloquently and confess to me why she pushes her brothers-- or why she wants to run away? Maybe Addison could explain why she needs to snack EVERY minute of EVERY day.

There used to be a time when Addison's vocabulary was so limited that she mostly whined. She is smart. She knows what she wants. But at that time she didn't have the ability to communicate it. So she whined and whined and whined and whined until I thought we just weren't going to make it.

Now her vocabulary has expanded a hundredfold. She is able to tell me basic needs and wants, and this makes me so happy. She has come so far! The whining has decreased from every minute of every day to just when she is supremely frustrated...which happens maybe once a day.

Yesterday I heard a 5 year old excitedly talking about this, that, and the other thing. This didn't make me sad or resentful that Addison couldn't babble on like that. No, it made me wonder.

What would she say if she could talk like that? If it was easy for her? If the beauty of her heart was translated into words?
Would she clasp my hands tight, lean in toward me and softly tell me that she loves me? Would she lecture me on all the things I am doing "wrong"? Would she tell me her favorite things? Would she explain how it is that she has no fear of strangers or dangerous situations? Would she share the secret behind the Addison smile and giggle?

Oh, she can say and "Wuv" and "NO" and "cute skirt"...but there are so many holes in between that I have to fill in for her that I often wonder if I'm filling correctly.

As her brow wrinkles in concentration and her rosebud lips open to impact her Addison wisdom (or request for ice cream), I am so proud of her words. I am thrilled by her communication. Seriously I can't believe how far she has come. Just now I asked her if she needed anything before her nap and she said "new sleeper" because her old sleeper had gotten wet. This information sharing makes me so happy and makes life SO much easier for both of us.
But I can't help but wonder what else she is thinking. What else is still to come from those sweet lips in the next few years.

I have stopped saying "Oh it's too bad she'll never do this" and started saying instead "I can't wait for her to show us this when she's ready."

A conversation with my daughter. Heart to heart...perhaps over a cup of coffee...Sharing our hopes and dreams. Conversing about our days in detail. Asking each other questions about things interesting us right then in life.

I dream of this. And I wonder...what will she say?

She'll probably start with, "Hey mom, why are we drinking coffee instead of eating ice cream?"

Today I bundled up all of the children to go outside and play in the softly falling snow. Addison said "ready" and put on her own boots, snowpants, and jacket. She said "sled" and "again" and "inside" when she started getting cold. She said "MY chocolate" as I handed out sippy cups of hot (lukewarm) chocolate.
Even though she communicated with me, there were so many gaps there. But as I stared at her rosy cheeks wet with fresh snowflakes, I realized something.

Addison has this gift. A gift of communicating so many things WITHOUT words.

While we were sledding, she couldn't say "Hey mom! I really love to sled! Thanks for taking the ten million hours to get us all ready to go outside!" But her shout of glee as she slid down the hill and beaming smile as she asked to do it "again" were enough. They said it all and more.

When I finished peeling back her layers of wet snow clothes and brushed an errant hair out of her eyes, she couldn't say "I really love how you work so hard to take care of me. Thanks for always being there for me." But she leaned in and wrapped her arms around me. Her soft body melded into mine and her blonde head rested on my shoulder. She sighed and simply held on. No words. And yet she said everything.
I thought about how greedy I am about Addison's improvements. She couldn't say a word? IT WAS SO HARD! She said a few words? IT'S NOT ENOUGH I NEED MORE. She said a lot more words? SHE'S STILL WHINING TOO MUCH. She said her basic wants and needs? I NEED MORE. I NEED TO FILL IN THE GAPS.

I am greedy. It's never enough.

In one sense, I want it for HER. I want her to alleviate all frustrations and communicate effortlessly. But really? I think she is quite happy with her speech right now. She LOVES to be able to tell us what she wants and needs. So this greediness? It's all me.

Her speech isn't where I "dreamed it to be"? I have to sit around and wonder what else is there? I have to peel back the layers of her mind and MAKE HER TELL ME EVERYTHING?

It's not about me. It's about Addison.

So as I placed her lunch in front of her and listened to her sweet "thank you" and "water please" and "more dippo". I didn't wonder what else she wanted to say but couldn't. I simply accepted her words for the miracle that they were.

And I realized-- they are enough.

She is enough.
This doesn't mean we stop working for improvements, because we keep working with Addison every day for her to meet her very highest potential. But every step of the way whatever that potential is, whatever her progress-- however far or little. She is enough.

As I just tucked her in for nap and placed a warm kiss on her forehead, she smiled at me. A smile so full of meaning and love that I knew so many things without her having to say a word.

I was struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for a daughter who can tell me what she needs and wants. And for her tell me the rest without having to use words at all.

pssst don't forget to enter My Giveaway if you would like to win a free Amazon gift card

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Eating I Mean Making Chocolate Cake With Addison

 A number of people have mentioned to me that after they finished my book, Motherhood Unexpected, they wanted to eat chocolate cake in the worst way. Now I'm not going to give anything away...but chocolate cake does find its way into the last few chapters in a rather memorable fashion. Chocolate cake made by Mother and daughter.

Knowing this, my PR rep told me I should do a blog post photo op of Addison and I making chocolate cake together. Genius! I could already picture it! It reminded me of my favorite part of my book, it was an activity for me to do with Addison, aaaand CHOCOLATE! Need I say more?

I pictured a Pioneer Woman type of spread. Luscious chocolate cake with swirls of rich frosting lopping over the sides-- mixed with love and frosted by tiny Addison hands working diligently alongside me. In my mind this blog post was going to be Pinterest perfection. I would post my favorite recipe and inspire millions! Okay...a few dozen. But whatever. (This Pioneer Woman fantasy might have taken things a bit too far.)

And to be fair-- things started beautifully. Here is my little helper all dolled up in her new apron from Grandma along with some of her kitchen tools that she got for Christmas.
But before I knew Pinterest photo shoot turned into this:
Obviously you're going to want to run and Pin this as soon as possible. I'll wait.

Oh...back so soon?

So where did my dream post go wrong?

The mixing of the cake went fine. No issues there.
 My helper stood and helped so patiently (Side note: Yes, I do realize now that the Pioneer Woman no doubt CLEANS her kitchen before her photo shoots. This post was truly doomed from the start.)
 She even stole a few licks of the beater-- like a pro!
 Such a big helper!
Waiting with her oven mitts for the timer to ring. (I was pretending to have long flowing red hair...and a few dozen ranch hands to feed for dinner)

 It was when we began frosting that my fantasy quickly went from Pioneer Woman to "will we all make it out of this experience alive?"

I will let these next 3 pictures speak for themselves...
So there you have it.

Warm, fuzzy feelings

Mother/daughter chocolate cake making. 

Go read my book. Go eat chocolate cake (I would suggest using a fork...)

I'm sure this post was EXACTLY the vibe my PR rep was going for....of course...

To read more about Motherhood Unexpected around the web:

Thank you so much to all of you who have already bought/read it! I am so grateful for all of you! For those who are already tired of hearing about it...I spent soooooo many hours on this labor of love that I have to speak about it longer than 30 seconds. HAVE TO. I hope you can forgive me...eventually. 

Meanwhile...I have a rather substantial cake mess to go clean up. I kept calling for my ranch hands, but no one came. Weird!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Motherhood Unexpected is HERE

It is done. It is here.

Motherhood Unexpected is available on Amazon.

I wanted to have it available today because today is my sister Bekka's birthday. Her unique motherhood experience has inspired me so much and has taught me truly how unexpected all of our motherhoods can be. Happy Birthday Bekka! I love you.

What is this book about? I'm so glad you asked....

All Claire wants is to be a mother, but her perfectly planned birth ends with a surprise. Forced to question everything that she has ever believed, she struggles through new motherhood. How can God still be good when nothing about this is even remotely good?
Meanwhile, Claire's teenage sister Felicity goes too far with the wrong kind of guy. Faced with a life-altering decision, she can't help but wonder, "why me?"
Julie counsels her daughters as they deal with the complications of sex, disability, broken expectations, and jealousy. However, a deeply buried secret won't leave her alone, causing her to have her own doubts.
Three women face circumstances that leave them broken and desperate. Will they find peace with the unexpected before it's too late?
And what are people saying about it?
"Motherhood Unexpected is an engrossing read engaging the secular and sacred aspects of motherhood. This book will allow you to breathe a sigh of relief that you are human, and point you in the direction of God." --Gillian Marchenko, author of Sun Shine Down
"Tackling life's toughest issues, this riveting page-turner answers the questions we all ask when the unexpected happens. Eloquent and humorous, this novel will captivate readers at every level." --Patti Rice, blogger at A Perfect Lily
"Humor, grace, and wisdom in abundance are threaded throughout Motherhood Unexpected. I laughed as well as cried while reading. As someone who has experienced multiple pregnancy losses, I know that Deanna has captured the heart of a mother's longing as well as her love." --Jessica Fisher, blogger at Life as and author of On the Road to Joyful Motherhood

Motherhood Unexpected is my very real journey through the concept "Is God good even when He gives you a child with a disability?" along with something I love-- a suspenseful story full of fun characters.

My prayer is that this book encourages many women struggling through unexpected motherhood. Looking back now, I can confidently say that my unexpected motherhood is one of the most beautiful things ever gifted to me.

Thank you for your encouragement, love, and prayers. A girl couldn't ask for a better support system.

Edit: Kindle version is now up! The Preview might still look a bit strange (it will take a few days for it to catch up to the adjustments), but the download is good. Thank you for your patience!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Personality And Down Syndrome

I want to take a minute to talk about personality and Down syndrome.

Once upon a time, when I received the diagnosis, I honestly and truly thought that this meant that my daughter would have NO personality. That every part of her would be exactly like every other person with Down syndrome-- that she wouldn't be a unique little girl with moods and skills all her own.

I was wrong.

Lately I have been watching baby/toddler Addison emerge into this beautiful little girl FULL of personality.
 She has a sassy side,
a cranky side,
 a mischievous side,
 and a "pretend to cooperate" side.
 Watch out because she will steal your phone. Her finger will swipe through your pictures like a pro. And don't worry-- she will only call China once or twice a week.
 When she was a baby, she used to make these extremely dramatic faces.
That expressiveness has grown with her. Usually when chocolate or ice cream is involved, this dramatic side is intensified.
This involves stealing chocolate from the pantry when Mom thinks she is eating her clementine snack super quietly. (and then laughing about it...she seriously has the best laugh ever. I dare you to hear it and not laugh too.)
She LOVES to read. To imaginary audiences, into the mirror, to her baby brother-- she is always reading. Recently we discovered that she is well on her way to REAL reading. I cannot wait to see the joy she will get from reading books as she grows.
 She also has this incredibly sweet side. If you are lying down, she will come tuck a blanket so gently around you.
She gives hugs and kisses with the best of them...
...right before she pushes you. Sigh. She pushes those she loves, but STILL. We are working on this. (As you can tell, she is super torn up about her pushing problem)
I guess what I'm trying to do is show you instead of just telling you-- individuals with Down syndrome have personality. (Probably more than you know what to do with!) I am just so in love with Addison's big personality-- her likes, her dislikes, her love of dance. 

I wish I had known this when I got her diagnosis. This is a big reason why I still blog-- to give others this advantage of an inside look into Down syndrome that I didn't have.

And I keep discovering new things every day-- for example: not only does she have great personality, she has skills! Her own set of unique skills! (another thing I had no idea would be part of life with Down syndrome)

Lately she has been getting up from naptime wearing an entirely different outfit than the one I put her down in. Here's the thing-- her new outfits are almost always matching (and oftentimes, cute combinations of her clothes that I didn't think of trying). She also loves to wear jewelry (sometimes for only ten seconds before she takes it off...but oftentimes she begs me for it). And if I put her in an outfit she doesn't like (aka isn't cute), she can get quite upset with me until I change her. I have now gotten to the point where I ask her to choose between several outfit options before I dress her. She always picks/makes the cutest combinations (see pictures above).

Fashionista????? We shall see. (-:

I asked her if we could go shopping together so she could help me pick out clothes. She said "No".

I'm going to work on changing her mind.

I was worried that we wouldn't have a normal mother/daughter relationship. That there would be no camaraderie between us. That she would be boring.

 I LOVE that I was so wrong. So very, very wrong.
She's the very best mother a daughter could ask for.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Just Being

I sit on the couch, leaning into my husband's strong arm and resting my head on his shoulder. I hold in my left hand a cup of steaming coffee. Well, steaming enough to count as steaming, not so steaming as to burn my legs if a child chose that moment to leap into my lap and spill it all over me (again).
As I slowly sip the coffee and converse with my husband, I watch our children. Our 3 beautiful children are all playing so peacefully in front of us. Eli climbs the steps of the red and blue toddler slide. Carter lies on his belly playing intently with a half a dozen matchbox cars. Addison sits off to the side reading a book.
My heart is full. It is fuller than full. It is overrunning with so much gratitude for my little family that I am overwhelmed with the strength of this emotion. Just a week earlier, I was frustrated from the change in schedules due to the holiday's demands. I was exhausted from children who were determined to not cooperate. I felt buried by the responsibility of 3 children. 3! It is so many-- so much. And they will only increase in neediness as they grow. What did we do?
But now as I watch my children play so wondrously on top of my new(ish) stylish gray Living Room rug, I feel nothing but joy for our 3 children. A big responsibility? Yes. Worth it? Yup.

My days as mother often blend into each other with a sort of dizzying sameness. Yet not at all boring. I am in love with Eli's impish smile and tiny voice. I am in love with Carter's communication and his big boy behavior. I am in love with Addison's giggle and constant ability to surprise me.
Yesterday we realized that she could read our names. Not only read them-- but also say the beginning letter.

"E Eli"

"C Carter"

"A Addison"

and on through Mommy, Daddy, and Papa

I am embarrassed to admit how blown away I was by this. If I was SO surprised, did this mean that I secretly thought that she couldn't do this? That she wasn't capable of reading so soon? I then felt guilty  because I hadn't been working on this with her-- at all. I'm sure she learned this at school. But then I took my embarrassment and guilt and just gave into the pride of my little girl-- the one who is constantly surprising me. There was a time that I looked 20 years ahead and was immediately sad and scared for her future. Now I'm convinced that I can't see into her future any more than I can see into the future of her brothers.
The world is her "O Oyster".

I have so much to learn about Down syndrome. I have so much to learn about Addison.

All of these things swirl together in my mind as I lean against my partner-in-crime on this soft, used-to-be white couch and drink delicious coffee. Gratitude, joy, remembrance of frustration, embarrassment, guilt, pride, confidence, desire to learn more-- motherhood is a constant whirlwind of emotions that takes me on the ride of my life.
Another Christmas down. Everyone is another year older. (Except me...of course) We start a new year-- a blank slate.

It seems that many are choosing one word for their new year. Last year, my word was no doubt "SURVIVE!" I did not pick it. It picked me.

This year I think I want my word to be "Be".

Simply "Be still and know that I am God".

Resting in the moments bursting with gratitude and just being in them. No rush to the next big thing-- to a more well rested time-- to a more successful moment. Just being.

Not wishing away the mess of craft and snack time to get to nap time, but rather facing the mess head-on and enjoying it as much as the children do. Being.
The moments are imperfect-- sticky, too long and yet super short, frustrating, exhilarating, messy, lonely, and sweet. Yet they are my moments, God's gifts to me, and therein lies their perfection.
I think it's easier to be hit with these moments of overflowing gratitude when I'm not making myself a constantly moving target.


And I don't think I could have handpicked a better crew to just be with. With the gratitude comes an awareness of God's goodness to me. These 3 are definitely my good.

p.s. in case you missed it...I explained a bit more about my soon-to-be released book in my last post.