Monday, February 28, 2011

{30 by 30}

I turn twenty five this week. Twenty five.

A couple months ago J & I were talking about my upcoming birthday, and he warned me about the life-questioning that would soon settle in. He was very sincere, but it all just sounded a little too cliche; you know, all that "what am I doing with my life?" and "who am I?" business. C'mon.

Well folks, here I am: wondering who I am and what I'm doing with my life and where this is all going. My quarter-life crisis, if you will.

The first half of my twenties was fantastic: I lived in Atlanta, had an awesome job as a youth pastor, was in several of my closest friends' weddings. I met a guy, fell in love, had the perfect wedding, had a beautiful baby. I finished my associates degree, I sang at some pretty big worship events, I visited my first national park.

Now that I'm staring down the barrel at the last half of my twenties, I decided I wanted to make a list of things to accomplish by the big 3-0. I debated whether or not to share it, then I thought...oh, what the heck. Some of them are silly, some are a little personal, some are admittedly challenging, but this is The List. I know that checking these items off in no way assures that I will magically be transformed into the person I want to be or that my existence will somehow be more meaningful. I just know that life is getting crazier by the day, and if I don't write things down, they just might get lost in the shuffle.

So ladies and gentlemen, I present you with my list (in no particular order).

1. Read Lord of the Rings. I just need to.

2. Run a marathon. I know. So does everybody.

3. Learn how to change a tire. 

4. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Mainly because I just want to drive my brother's MG.

5. Go to the Johnny Appleseed Festival. As unbelievable as this may sound, I grew up in Fort Wayne and managed to never go. It's one of the biggest things Fort Wayne has, and I have never been. Time to change that.

6. Make a quilt. A real one. I've made blankets, but I want to make a real-deal quilt. I think I'll make one for Avram's bed as he graduates to a bigger bed.

7. Plant a vegetable garden. One of my favorite childhood memories is helping my dad with the garden, and I can't wait for our little family to have one of our own.

8. Learn how to can veggies. Obviously closely related to item #7. With produce prices on the the rise, I want to help our family make as much of our own food as possible. I really want to teach our kids where food comes from and how precious of a gift it really is.

9.Get a bicycle. Ok, so I had one. How it ceased to exist is a funny story for another time. We're really looking forward to family bike rides in the next few years, so having my own bicycle is pretty essential.

10. Get paid to do something. As in, you know, a job. I've never been more clueless as to what I want to "do," but I am understanding more and more that I will never be defined by my occupation. Regardless, I want to bring home some bacon. No idea what that means yet, but I want to at least have an idea in the next five years.

11. Get my bachelor's degree. This is probably the most challenging one of all, considering Avram won't be in school all day until I'm 30. Also because I have no idea what I will major in. Regardless, it's on the list.

12. Learn how to crochet. I'm a knitting machine. Apparently crocheting is easier than knitting. I'd like to see for myself.

13. Take a photography class/learn how to use a real camera. This one also includes purchasing a nicer camera. I love our little Canon Powershot, but as Avram gets older and we have more tiny people running around, I really want to be able to capture as much as I can. I have no idea what I'm doing right now; I just push buttons and keep taking pictures until it looks, um, alright.

14. Read the Bible. A lot of people make it their goal to read the entire Bible in a year. I think that's great and all, but that's a lot of serious reading for one year. I read the whole Bible in a summer once, and I remembered zilch. If you're flying through the Bible that fast, how much are you really absorbing? Maybe it works for some people. I want to take the next five years and read the whole sucker; I want to take my time and eat up every word.

15. Go kayaking. I've been canoeing, whitewater rafting, paddle-boating...time to give kayaking a shot.

16. Go cross-country skiing. ...why not?

17. Buy my own power tools. I just need to own a drill. And a really sweet staple gun. And a saw. And a nail gun. And...

18. Finish the American Film Institute Top 100 Movies. J & I started the list about three years ago, and we're more than halfway done. It will probably take us another two years to finish. Then, we'll probably start all over again. They're that good.

19. Start assembling a real wardrobe. I need to start putting together a grown-up's closet. Preferrably one that does not include sweatpants purchased in the kids' section. Or any items that I wore in high school. Or anything from Forever 21. I honestly think this will be the second hardest item on the list, because I'm tiny. And not a whole lot of adult stores carrying clothes for tiny people. But I shall not yield.

20. Take a trip with just my husband. Our five year anniversary will be in 2013, and I'm hoping we can take a real trip together. Not just somewhere for the weekend (which we will undoubtably do), but a real trip together.

21. Use my passport. Between the ages of 10 and 20, I traveled to more foreign countries than many people do in their entire lifetime. Israel, Northern Ireland, Haiti, Scotland, Germany, France, Switzerland. Want to know how many times I've left the country since I turned 20? ZERO. This could also go with item #20, because Jason has never been out of the country, and I'm excited to take him somewhere. Even if it's Canada.

22. Record my dad telling stories. Being a good storyteller is very important in our family, and my dad is a real show off. He can tell a story like no one else. Jason has pointed out that Paul & I will let my dad tell a story we've all heard at least a dozen times just to hear him tell it.  I wish we had recordings of my grandpa telling stories, because sometimes I would love to hear his voice again. I really want to start a project of recording my dad telling stories about my grandpa, his childhood, my brother & me as someday, maybe our grandkids or great-grandkids can hear what a great storyteller he was.

23. Take a trip with my mom. My mom is one of my favorite people to hang out with. And no one deserves a vacation more than she does. One of my favorite childhood vacations was when my mom and I went to Florida together, and I hope we can travel somewhere together in the next five years.

24. Have an article published in a magazine. Dreaming big here, people.

25. Have another baby (or two).  Yep.


26. Brown County

27. Sleeping Bear Dunes

28. Glacier National Park

29. Jenn in Nebraska. Jenn, one of my BFFs, moved to Lincoln, Nebraska this year. I visited her when she lived in Detroit, in New Hampshire, and in Pennsylvannia, so it just makes sense!

30. Move back to Fort Wayne. Hopefully this will be the first item checked off. If you would have asked me ten years ago if I wanted to live in Fort Wayne, I probably would have laughed. And rolled my eyes. Now, there's nowhere else we would rather live, and I'm willing to do just about anything to make sure it happens.

There are a lot of things I want to do in the next five years that are not on this list, but these are things I really want to see happen. Maybe they will, maybe they won't.

What matters the most is that I have my little family, that we're all healthy, that we're happy: and so far we've got those things, so my road to 30 is off to a pretty good start.

Friday, February 18, 2011

{mary poppins & therapy balls}

We are heading back to Fort Wayne this weekend, so our morning has been filled with bag-packing, trash-emptying, refrigerator-cleaning, and don't-forget-this-reminders. I definitely do not have packing a family of three down to an art; somehow despite my best efforts to simplify we always depart with a car full of junk we probably won't need.

Amidst all the hustle and bustle around here, there have been countless tiny celebrations the last few days. Avram is back in Physical Therapy and has officially kicked off Occupational Therapy. I have to admit, I love our physical therapists, but OT is so much fun.

For one, our therapist comes with this huge duffel bag full of toys, like she's Mary Poppins or something. It's a never ending supply of bright, blinking, noisy things to bash together and chew on and throw across the room. Also, Ave gets to use a neon green therapy ball. It. Is. Awesome. He bounces on it, rolls on it, smacks it...don't even get me started on how fun it is to roll it back and forth with him. When he sees it bouncing his direction he just throws his head back with giggles, wild with abandon. The babe is in love.

Possibly the best part about Occupational Therapy is that it hardly feels like therapy. It's more like guided play time. Physical Therapy is work, man. I mean, it's Baby Boot Camp for crying out loud. He has to roll and do sit ups and all these fancy balancing exercises. Tough stuff, kids.

It has been so encouraging the last few days to see the results of just one week of the Big Guy being back in therapy. Other people might not notice, but he seems like a different baby every week. J & I can see so many changes in him: how he holds his toys, how he uses his arms, the way he reacts to things, how much confidence he has, how strong he is getting. I mean, just five months ago he was this Slug Baby, unable to even hold his head up. Now he's rolling all over the place, sitting up on his own, getting into all kinds of trouble.

I think I'm finally get God's drift in all this. I've fought and questioned Him every step of the way: from helmets to therapy to medicine...but He has yet to fail us, yet to let us down. If I am learning anything through all of this, it is definitely that I do not always know what is best.  With each new path He takes us down, I am seeing His wisdom, I am learning to trust Him. There are so many of the right people in Avram's life right now, so many hands on the banks of the river. We are where we are supposed to be for this moment.

We need a good year, and it is certainly shaping up to be just that.

Friday, February 11, 2011

{shouts of joy}

I may need to work on my reactions.

Two days ago, Ave used his right hand instead of his left hand. For the first time.

I yelled, "Good job!!!!"

Yesterday, the little booger took a piece of cereal in his fingers, brought it up to his mouth, and ate it. All by himself.

I shouted, "YES!" and then burst into tears.

Both times, the buddy's eyes widened like a spooked little owl, and he spent a couple seconds deciding if he was going to cry or laugh. Luckily he chose the latter, and we had quite the gigglefest afterwords. Regardless, I probably need to tone down my excitement over new accomplishments, at least as far as my volume is concerned.

Otherwise, the next time he starts to try something new he'll probably stop and think,

"Well, I really want to crawl over there and gnaw on that shoe. But if I do, that crazy lady will probably get all worked up and make a big scene about it. I should probably just stay here."

Avram, redecorating the living room for me

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

{we survived}

What. A. Week.

I have to admit that I ate my words.

Last Monday I scoffed at the weather reports that this blizzard would be one of the worst in Chicago's history. Yeah. Psh. Right.

On Tuesday, my husband was sitting in his car for 11 hours on Lake Shore Drive, trapped by 70mph winds, 24 inches of snow, and hundreds of abandoned vehicles.

Our poor car was in there, somewhere.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Jason was one of the thousands of motorists forced to finally abandon their cars on Lake Shore. He left school at 3pm, as soon as he was allowed to leave; which was, of course, the exact same time the blizzard hit Chicago. He called me at 5pm to say it would be a couple hours. He called at 7:30pm to say two more hours. He called at 8:30pm to say he was probably spending the night in his car.

Once, J got out of his car to scrape the ice off his windshield. When he got back in the car, he discovered that he had sand in his hair and on his face. The wind was rocking the car back and forth hard enough that he actually thought it was going to tip over. The lake had 20-foot waves, threatening to flood Lake Shore Drive.The snow piled up until was level with the car windows. Scary stuff, people.

After 11 hours in his car, two and a half hours on public transit, and half an hour walking a mile in the snow to our apartment, J got home at 4:15am.

We finally got a hold of 311 on Wednesday night, and were told that our car was "either in the parking lot at Wilson or somewhere on the Fullerton ramp." Helpful. J finally found our poor little Toyota in the parking lot at Foster: covered in two inches of ice and the engine packed full of snow.

As is the case in many natural (and unnatural) disasters, mankind's best was brought out: J found himself amazed by the selflessness and compassion of strangers. Two different families let them use their cell phone, strangers walked up and down the road passing out bottled water and granola bars. He spoke highest of the firefighters who spent hour after hour outside in the wind and freezing temperatures: carrying those requiring medical attention away on snowmobiles, helping people push their cars, knocking on each car window to offer their assistance.

And, unfortunately, as is also the case in disasters, it brought out the worst in some. We couldn't believe when the city came out saying that it was the motorists' fault for getting stuck out there: especially when it was the city buses that caused the back-ups in the first place. Witnessing the corruption and inefficiency of the public school system over the last three years has been pretty disheartening, but then seeing the city so quick to place the blame on its own citizens was just very, very sad.

All that to say, I have had to set aside my frustration with the city this week and try to apply that cheesy, over-used Ghandi quote about being the change you want to see in the world and all that gushy stuff. If I'm going to criticize the way Chicago's public officials handled Snowmageddon, I need to reevaluate how I react to the bad, the negative, the tiny disasters.

I can be pretty quick to shuffle off the blame, to point fingers, to look for the easy way out. This week was a good reminder to our little family that showing grace and kindness is always, always the road to choose, that there is goodness left in mankind.

Oh, and that keeping a blanket or two in the car is a very, very good idea.

Our street, post-Snowmageddon

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

{state of the beers address}

Well, we are all hunkered down for the Blizzard of the Century here: flashlights powered, shelves and fridge stocked, medicines refilled and blankets on the ready. The grocery store was out of shovels last night, so my ever-industrious husband made one out of a storage tub lid, duct tape, and broom. Bring it on, Snowmageddon '11.

While I'm sitting here waiting for our apartment to be transformed into an igloo, I thought I would offer a quick update to let everyone know that we are still alive up here. It's been a much-too exciting start to the new year (nothing says "Happy New Year" like meeting your out-of-pocket maximum less than two weeks in to January), so we've just sort of been lying low lately. You know, watching re-runs of The Office and eating a lot of frozen pizza.

I took Ave for a check-up with his neurologist last week. This man is nearly impossible to book an appointment with. After Ave's seizures we really needed to get in to see him, but his next available appointment in the city was in April. Seriously?

So, we had to drive an hour and a half, in the snow, to the south suburbs last Thursday to see Dr.Taco. He was sporting his usual attire: fluorescent green Hawaiian shirt, slicked back mullet, Mickey Mouse stethoscope. All in all, he had nothing but encouraging things to say. He said that Avram is more than likely to outgrow the seizures than to keep having them; at some point they should stop. We are going to stay on the Keppra (which is, ironically, the same medicine my dad takes. They're anti-seizure med buds now.) for a year and then wean him off to see what happens. I can't say I'm a big fan of trial-and-error medicine when it comes to my baby, but they're the pros. Neurology is not one of my leisurely hobbies so I guess my job here is to trust.

I also learned that I should say he has "Cortical Dysgenesis" instead of "Schizencephaly." Tomatoes, tomah-toes.

Not only does he have the Keppra, but they also gave us a prescription for an emergency rectal dose of a medicine to stop seizures. Chalk that up for another thing to freak out potential babysitters.

"Ok, here is a list of all 10 signs his shunt may be malfunctioning. If you think that's happening, call us right away. If you can't reach us, call the Neurosurgery On-Call Pager. If you can't reach them, go to the Emergency Room. If he has a seizure lasting 5 minutes or longer, put this up his rear-end. Then, call the Neurology On-Call Pager. If you can't reach them, call this number for the Children's Hospital. If you can't reach them, go to the Emergency Room. Here are the instructions for his medicine, which he needs to take between 7-7:30pm tonight. And just in case, here are the numbers for his Pediatrician, Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Neurologist, Neurosurgeon, and Ophthalmologist."

So whooo wants to babysit?

I wonder what parents normally leave with the sitter. What, like the Poison Control number?

Anyways. Back to the update.

We took Avram to see Dr.Rob Bell for his nine-month check up on Saturday, and that appointment also went swimmingly well. I'm just crazy about this pediatrician. I mean, the guy had on a watch made from Legos. And he rides his bike to work everyday.  And he makes the most fantastically corny jokes. So endearing.

Our little man is now 31 inches tall and weighs 22 and half pounds, putting him in the 94th% for height and 85th% for weight. Thatta boy.

The appointment went like almost exactly like all our appointments with the pediatrician have gone: the doctor comes in, sits down, and just talks with us for half an hour. Avram pulls out his Frank Sinatra routine and babbles and smiles the whole time, just charming everybody half to death; then Dr.Rob Bell makes jokes about him being malnourished.That's usually Avram's cue to spit up all over the floor, but we managed to skip that scene this month.

Then, the nurse came in to give him his shots. She took one look at him and said,

"Wow, he's got a lot of stripes on. He looks like he should be in prison."


People say the most bizarre things.

Probably the most exciting news I have to share is that the little man started sitting up all by himself this month. He has officially graduated from Slug Baby status. He gets so pleased with himself while he's sitting that he does these terrific little bounces and starts flapping his arms up and down, like he's about to take flight. He's becoming a professional roller as well, and when he gets stuck underneath a chair or against the couch he finds it absolutely hi-larious.

I really needed something good to happen this month, and something very, very good has happened.

Anyways. All that to say, we are doing just fine. Jason is successfully making connections to find a job back in our hometown for this fall, I'm planning on scouring our apartment of all things unnecessary in preparation for (hopefully) moving this summer. The Lord has been kind enough to put the perfect doctors along the banks of the river for us here in Chicago, but I think in the long run having family close by is a infinitely more important than having the right doctors close by. We just need to be back around our family. And I mean, let's be honest, who else is going to babysit?

The big sitter, nine months old