Picnics and planning and soccer...OH MY!

I've been M.I.A the past few weeks and I'm trying to get back in to my writing groove.

Between a whirlwind weekend girls trip to Indianapolis to celebrate my big 3-0, getting things in gear for planning Bandana Ball 2012, various doctors appointments for the boys (and me) and the start of fall sports -- life has been a little hectic lately.

This weekend, I'm hosting a Craniofacial Acceptance Month picnic in our neighborhood for Austin area families on behalf of CCA. I'm really looking forward to meeting some craniofacial families and also to simply spend time with the community who is interested in learning more about these very special kids. The very popular site "Free Fun in Austin" was gracious enough to let me write a guest post with more information! You can read that here.

Sunday is the boys' first soccer game. Ricky has been roped into being the head coach for their team...he has not played a day of soccer in his life...hopefully since it's 3 and 4 year olds, it won't really matter! This will be Aiden's very first go at organized (ha) sports and he is super excited to wear his brand spanking new shin-guards on the field. Ethan can't wait to have his little brother on the same team, and daddy as their coach!

Things continue to be very busy well into October. We are heading to Dallas next weekend for CCA's Links of Love golf tournament and friend's of ours are kicking off a new annual Oktoberfest event in nearby Lake Highlands the same weekend. So much fun!

The good news is: lots to do = lots to write about so stay tuned!

Ten Years Ago Tomorrow

Growing up, I remember hearing my parents discuss "where they were when" certain events happened - when Kennedy was shot, when Princess Diana married Prince Charles, when the Challenger exploded. I remember feeling so disconnected from them having not been a part of the same emotions that obviously left such an impression on their lives. As a child, I was still too naive and innocent to have been affected in that way by anything.

It wasn't until high school that I came to understand the fear, the emotion, the grief that accompanies tragedy. A well-liked boy on the football team was diagnosed suddenly with Leukemia and just as suddenly taken from those who loved him. He was the first person I knew that had died - besides elder family members I had distant memories of. I didn't know him well, but the fact that I had held conversations with him and walked along side him at school left an eerie absence in the hallways after he was gone. His wake and funeral was the first I attended as an "adult". I could barely glance in his open casket - the unspoken "why"s and heartache swallowed my heart, breaking it into a million pieces. I remember feeling embarrassed at how emotional I got, wondering if people would look my way and think I was overreacting, whisper "She doesn't even really know him. Not like I did".

On September 11, 2001 I had returned from my early morning college classes to my upstairs apartment in Louisville, KY that I  shared with two of my girlfriends. The TV was on, but likely not the news. Probably MTV or VH1. I had to print a paper for my afternoon class so I sat down at our computer, logged on to the internet. On MSN.com, there was an image of a building, a plane and smoke. I scanned over it, thinking it was an advertisement for the latest video game or action movie. And suddenly, the image was thrust into reality with a phone call. "Turn on the news - oh my God".

For the next several hours, my roommates and I alternated between pacing the floor calling loved ones, sitting motionless on the couch watching the drama unfold and swapping stories and theories laced with shock and fear. Pure confusion. Then fear. Then shock at the realization that we had just witnessed thousands of people lose their lives. I remember thinking how strange it was to be so far away from what was happening in NYC, but yet feeling so completely unsafe. War...terrorism...America under attack - I just wanted to be with my family. The emotions shook me to my core.

It didn't matter that I didn't personally know anybody who perished in the World Trade Center or on the planes. It didn't matter that I was hundreds of miles away. None of that mattered. Everybody was affected. Changed.

As the stories poured in, flooding the news the weeks after 9/11/01, I couldn't help but read every one, watch every piece. I spent hours on one website that listed every single person who died that day. I read their names out loud and grieved each life lost, prayed for their family and friends who now led very different lives.

Earlier this afternoon, I watched my kids run through the warm Texas sun and shivered at the thought of one day having to explain to them what happened on that fateful September day. They will most likely have memories of adults sharing "where we were" stories, and no doubt feel the same disconnect that I felt with my parents as they discussed the historical moments that impacted their early adult lives. I wish that Ethan and Aiden would never have to experience such tragedy firsthand, however I know this is unrealistic. So instead I pray that they will have the strength and courage to be able to process life's challenges and grow from them.

Tomorrow, I will be praying for all of America. I will continue to be thankful for the servicemen and women who put their lives on the line each and every day to protect the freedom that we so greatly enjoy. I will stand proud.

I will remember.

Keeping the faith through infertility

I shared a little bit in a post on the CCA Kids Blog about my family's decision to have another child. In a whirlwind of schedules and timing and appointments, Ricky and I chose to undergo an IUI process this month to help achieve our hopes of growing our family to five. Unfortunately, this month was unsuccessful.

Early this morning I began flipping through the calendar, readjusting our plan. I counted out the days until our next shot at IUI. I will be out of town, on a girls' trip with family to celebrate my 30th birthday. I'm disappointed, but honestly, I'm more relieved to have a month without calculations and stress. 

By now, I should be well aware of the fact that things don't always go as planned - that life isn't easy and it's definitely not in our control. But I was so sure that I would be finished having babies by 30. I'd be on to the part of my life where I would be focused on the future and relishing every moment of my kids' youth, soaking up every minute with the benefit of knowing that this was the final time I'd experience their milestones.

Instead, I mourn the fact that I may not ever experience them again and curse myself that I didn't go through each day with that possibility in the back of my mind. 

The emotions on this journey are very unclear. I am definitely at a crossroads. I feel like giving up one minute - surrendering in exhaustion to being a family of four. And in the next moment I'm confident that the empty room upstairs will one day be transformed into one of the nurseries I've imagined in my mind. 

I suppose this is another one of God's life lessons. It is yet another trial we face as a couple and one that has both tested and strengthened our relationship as husband and wife. As we exited the fertility office after our consultation appointment, I noticed an old man in the parking lot sitting in a rickety lawn chair under the shade of a tree. He was at the foot of his car and his cane was propped against his seat. At first, it struck me as odd. And then, a wave of emotion caught me. 

I imagined he was there in support of his wife who must have been seeing one of the doctor's in the same building as ours (but for different reasons, no doubt). Maybe she was very ill and this was one of several appointments he accompanied her to. Perhaps she assured him she could go it alone - grasping on to her independence - but he insisted on being there, always going along. She had probably agreed, I thought, but only under the condition that he stayed in the car. And so he brought his lawn chair and sat patiently - and stubbornly - under the shade of that very same tree each time.

As our car drove past this man,  I thought how lucky the woman was to have someone support her in that way. And I realized, in that instant, that no matter what the outcome of this process, and after all the seasons of our life have come and gone, Ricky will be there. He'll be that man sitting in the chair out by the car as I tackle life's next obstacle with as much bravery as I can muster. We'll get through everything. 

We'll get through this.


Beyond the Face is a Heart

Today's society is so very focused on image and so quick to pass judgement based on the way someone looks. Even now that I have a child with a rare syndrome - one that affects his life in many ways, but most notably with physical differences - I am not immune to it.  I sometimes get caught up in it all as I flip through the magazines at the grocery store checkout, rest my hand on my belly pooch, and curse myself for eating that pizza for lunch. We are accustomed to believing that being beautiful - on the outside - goes hand in hand with having a happy life.

But we all know deep down, that is simply not the case. Having a child who has been and will continue to be judged by his differences has added a new perspective to my life. I see things in a new light. We all struggle with acceptance from time to time. Accepting ourselves, learning to accept other's who are different from us.

September is Craniofacial Acceptance Month and I am asking everyone to help me spread the message about Aiden - about all kids, adults and families affected by craniofacial conditions - that "Beyond the Face is a Heart".

Take a minute to learn about what we've been through, how special Aiden is and how we hope other's can learn to see beyond his physical imperfections. Take a few minutes to talk with your kids about people who have birth defects. Help them to understand that it is so important to accept people for who they are not how they look. Teach them how hurtful it can be to stare, make mean comments or ridicule someone who is different from them.

I strongly believe that awareness plays a huge part in acceptance. Help me make an impact by sharing these links with your family and friends: