Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Upside of Having A Special Needs Child

To most people looking in, having a disabled child seems hard, sad, difficult, exhausting, disappointing, etc. Well, they would be right. BUT, there are some wonderful blessings that come from Della being in our family. She has taught us so many things with some of the more obvious being: unconditional love, gratitude, long-suffering, patience, meekness, innocence, sacrifice, faith, hope, and charity. Some of the not so obvious things we've learned include wants vs. needs, the ins and outs of insurance, the miracle that our bodies are (chemistry, biology, metabolic, genetics, brain function, the complexity of seemingly simple actions like walking, etc.), time management (still learning this one), and finding joy in simple things. Sometimes I feel bad for those who don't have a child like Della. How do people learn and grow and make needed changes without serious motivation? I had no idea what life was about until I had her. I thought I had the basics down, but I really feel like Della helped me to gain a more accurate perspective about life and happiness.

There isn't a day (an hour?) that goes by that I don't think about Della. What will her future be like? How will we take care of her as adult? Will she learn to walk or talk? When will children stop inviting her to birthday parties? Will the youth at church include her in activities (or not)? Will we be able to serve missions for our church when we retire? What will happen to her if we die first? The list goes on. However there are some perks that come with Della. I thought I would name a few here starting with the more trivial and ending with the most important.

Handicapped parking. Need I say more?

Muscles and exercise. Della is getting bigger and my arms now look sculpted by a personal trainer. Della is also my exercise and this is how I have lost 35 lbs.

Front of the line pass at Disneyland. Della says "Waiting in line is for suckers!"

Special Events. There are a lot of opportunities for special needs children and their families to get special access at events, meet celebrities, and other unique opportunities. Next year we hope to go to the Houston Rodeo's Lil' Rustlers Rodeo where special needs children can try different rodeo events with the pro's. Plus, they get to ride a horse around Reliant Stadium. Who wouldn't want to do that?!?

No sassiness or talking back. At least for now.

I can dress her however I want. Read cute.

We are hilarious to her...
Most people really are nice. So many people don't get to experience the kindness that exists in the world. An elderly man helped me to load Della onto a tram despite his own physical ailments. A few of the doctors and many of the nurses and therapists we've worked with have shed tears of true sadness as well as true joy. Some of them have become close friends. Or meeting another mother whose child also has a disability and even if our children are completely different, sometimes you make eye contact and you realize that you have found someone who understands and who knows. Nothing like crying with a stranger in the middle of Target!

No worries about teenage pregnancy, illicit drug use, etc. Della probably won't know about tragedy, the meanness, or the unhappiness that most of us experience in this life.

I am way stronger than I thought. I can do hard things.

We are blessed with a special love for Della. I don't love her more than Archer, but I do love her in a different way. Della is the cutest, sweetest, most perfect child to me. I love her so much that it is hard to leave her and it is this love that helps to overcome any feelings of exhaustion, frustration, and keeps me going. Everything she does is funny. At every meal, whenever she is done eating, Della throws all leftover food onto the floor. All of it must be out of her sight including her plate and cup. It makes a HUGE mess after every meal. But it is so funny to Chad, Archer, and me. We are teaching her not to do this but we have to hide our laughter because it negates our efforts. I am laughing to myself right now just thinking about it. I just now went downstairs and took a picture of where she sits. This is after breakfast and lunch for just today...

My son will be a more compassionate person...

Have you ever met a family that has a severely handicapped child and their other "normal" kids are jerks? Me neither. I am not saying that those families don't exist nor am I saying my son is perfect. But, I can already see differences in his perspective when compared with other children. This makes me both happy and sad. I don't think we have to worry about Archer ending up in jail for robbing a bank. Don't quote me on that though.

As her mom and dad, we will always be Della's favorite...

She has "made it."
In our church, we believe that all children are innocent until they reach the age of accountability (when they can choose for themselves between right and wrong). This is why we wait until children turn 8 years-old to baptize them instead of performing this saving and necessary ordinance when they are infants. Della may not ever reach that age mentally speaking. If she ever voiced her desire to baptized and if we felt she understood what that meant, of course we would not deny her this opportunity. But, if she never fully reaches this "age of accountability" then we believe that when she dies, she will go to heaven, just as an innocent child who dies before they turn 8. Talk about motivation! Suddenly earning my place beside her is very important to me.

Archer! What Happened To Your Face!?!

Archer walks out of his room Tuesday morning and his nose has a big scab on it...
Me: Archer! What happened to your face!?!
Archer: What?
Me: Your nose is all scabbed over!
Archer: It is?
Me: Yes, it looks like a rug burn.
Archer: What is a rug burn?
Me: (I explain what rug burn is.)
Archer: No I don't think it was that.
Me: Then how did your nose get hurt? It happened after you went to bed because it wasn't there when we tucked you in last night.
Archer: I'm not really sure.

We have taught Archer that if he ever gets separated from us, to find an adult, preferably a "worker" (store employee) or a policeman, and to tell them that he is lost. He has taken this lesson to heart, perhaps even a little too much. If he can't find us for longer than 30 seconds, he immediately will tell someone he is lost. We recently went to a church picnic and I told Archer to stay in the playground area while I went and got us all some food. I pointed out 3 or 4 adults that he knew and told him to ask one of them for help if he needed it. I had been in the food line for maybe 5 minutes when my cell phone starts ringing. I didn't recognize the number and since I was about to load up on food, I didn't answer it. The mystery number called me 4 more times. I rushed to put my food down so I could answer it...
Me: (breathlessly) Hello?
Lady: Hello, Mrs. Calder?
Me: Yes, that's me.
Lady: My name is Carol and I have your lost son.
Me: Archer?
Carol: Yes, I am with him. I am sure you have been frantic looking for him.
Me: Uhhh....yeah....frantic...
Carol: Well we are standing over by the food table so why don't you come and meet us.
Me: I am at the food table.
Carol: You are?
I look around and see Archer standing next to "Carol" about 50 feet away.

He recently got "lost" at the Antique Rose Emporium. I had just taken a picture of him and less than 3 minutes later I hear a man yelling "Is there a Caitlin Calder here!" I look up, slightly shocked that someone is screaming my name, and I see a man who clearly works there standing with Archer about 20 yards away. Seriously! I already feel bad that I ignored my son's whereabouts long enough for him to feel lost plus I feel like whoever he has turned to for help is thinking I am the worst parent!

This happened again on Friday night at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. I am eating dinner and a woman wearing a "Staff" t-shirt comes up to Chad and me holding Archer's hand. Of course I know what is going on...
Staff Lady: Is this your son?
Me: Yes it is.
Staff Lady: (into walkie-talkie or whatever it's called) All units, we have found the child's mother I repeat we have found the child's mother.

She looked at me like I was some kind of jerk mom eating a piece of pizza while her son is lost and the entire staff is looking for him. Nice. I did find out later from a friend that Archer had bumped into her before reporting his status as missing...
Archer: Hey, I know you.
Jami: Yes, I am Carter's mom.
Archer: Oh, hi! Can I have a dollar?
Jami: No.

So not only does my child have unexplained injuries, he is also begging for money whenever he gets lost. Does he think that if he hasn't seen his parents in the last 2 minutes he is now on his own and must fend for himself in the world? Where would he get that idea?

"Life Imitating Art" or "Della Looks Like Edward Scissorhands"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Okie Dokie Artichokie

Step One...

Step Two...

Step Three...I didn't want to post a picture of me eating an artichoke with butter dripping down my face. I am sure you wouldn't want to see it anyway.

Spring lasts about 2 weeks in Houston, 4 if you are lucky. Here are some flowers in our yard...

We have a lot of sweet peas...

This is the picture that a seller on Amazon used for the daylily "Little Grapette."

Here is what mine look like. I am not sure what went wrong...

Front yard: 2 Knockout Roses, Sweet Pea Rose, 2 kinds of Salvia, Sweet Peas, 3 kinds of Delphinium, 2 kinds of Cosmos, Chinese Fringe Bush, Grapette Daylilies, Blue Phlox, Pink Jasmine, and 50 Drumstick Allium plants (I doubled my order on accident). Coming up but not flowering: Purple Coneflower, Bachelor's Buttons, Zinnias, Pentas, Penstemon, and Ox-Eye Daisy.

Sweet Pea Rose...I can't put it in the ground yet because some kind of fungus that causes leaf-spot has killed a lot of my plants. So when it gets hotter, and the fungus dies off, we will plant it. Like you really wanted to know.

This rose has a fancy French name that I don't remember and can't pronounce anyway...
We planted some Texas Bluebonnets...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Nana Bee's Visit

My mom, AKA Nana Bee (I don't know where Archer came up with that one), was able to visit us here in the Promised Land (that's Texas for the uninformed). We had a great time visiting with her for almost 2 weeks and it was hard to say goodbye. Having Nana here seemed like the perfect time to visit Brenham which is a city about an hour north of Houston. We had even more incentive to visit after checking Brenham's Wildflower Watch which informed us that the season was in "peak" mode. It was so beautiful! We planned on getting out of the car to take pictures of ourselves amongst the flowers like this...
...but Della said she just wanted to go home (that is code for she started losing it). It's OK though- we were still able to stop at the Blue Bell ice cream factory. Turns out it was closed for tours since it was Good Friday but the gift shop was open! We got ourselves some awesome paper hats...

Della's hat promptly blew off...

Whatever Archer does is hilarious to Della...

I like the lady smoking a cigarette in the background of this picture. I guess we won't be using this one for the Christmas card...

We stopped at The Antique Rose Emporium (where found 4 rose bushes to bring home)...

This is a picture of Della at the Rose Emporium which she thought was lame. Can you tell?

For those of you who don't know, my mom is an accomplished seamstress. So I thought it would be a great idea to take advantage of her skills and have her teach me how to sew. I picked out some cute fabric and what I thought was a simple dress pattern for Della (the pattern was by "Simplicity" so that means it's easy...right?). I didn't look at the pattern with a "sewer's eye" and failed to notice some important details listed on the back of the pattern like "gathered sleeve", or "zipper", or "a bunch of bias tape". The dress was complicated and even my mom thought that certain elements were hard. Who knew a toddler sized arm hole could be so tiny?!? Anyway- we finished it...

Ta Da!

Don't be surprised if you see Della wearing this when she is 10 years old. In the words of Charlotte the spider, it is my "magnum opus" and Della will be sporting this dress for a very long time. And since she can't talk she can't refuse to wear it!

Thanks for visiting Nana Bee!