Elyse has been a balm. A balm to my memories and my worry. She has taught me what it can be like in the first year of life and shown me just how much trouble a mobile, precocious baby can get into. And today we celebrated one year with her.

As I thought about today and what our last year has been, I've realized that Elyse has changed me. Lauren changed me by forcing me into a place of honesty and openness and trust in the Lord. Elyse has changed me by softening the hard, broken edges that Lauren's first year gave me and rubbed them smooth like sea glass. While those qualities are still a big part of who I am, I feel like I'm gentler with them and the rest of my life has formed smoothly around them. 

Elyse has filled our lives with love and affection. She gives out hugs and cuddles on her terms but screams with joy when she sees any of us and beelines into Lauren's room every morning to spend time with her big sister. Lauren loves having a little playmate around but gets frustrated that Elyse always wants to play with her but doesn't understand that you don't play by eating all of your toys. Lauren smoothers Elyse with hugs which drives Elyse crazy in return because the hugs aren't on her terms. I love watching the two of them together and I do everything I can to ensure that I help them build a strong relationship that doesn't have competition but only support for one another. 

Elyse laughs so hard, especially when Matt gives her tickles. She is incredibly smart and loves to do things that make us laugh. She is fast, loves climbing and has a serious affinity for toilet paper, bunny rabbits and toys that make music. Elyse loves dancing, pushing buttons on our home phone, eating the remote control and using Austin like a pillow. She has a huge number of people that she feels safe with and looks forward to seeing. She refuses to leave an open dishwasher alone and loves being sung to. 

This year with Elyse has moved us further away from our time with Lauren and living in constant worry and fear. I feel like, on her birthday, she has given me the best gift of all by overlaying the harshness of my memories with Lauren with the softness of the memories that we have created this year. 

So thank you Elyse. We gave you the middle name Hope because we knew that would be what you brought to us. Thank you for making us a boring, normal family. We love you so much and you have made our little family complete. We would not be the same without you. 



Just this morning I looked at Elyse and saw a glimpse of her outside of babyhood. That glimpse of her as a toddler, as her baby fat melts off and she loses her chubby little cheeks and fluffy, blow about hair. While there are things about toddlerhood that I look forward to (like hopefully she will stop eating dirt and mud by the handful), I know that there are many baby things that I will miss. 

Ever since she was born, she has fit perfectly into my arms. From 6 pounds to almost 20, it is like my arms just adjust so that I can always cuddle her close. And I love holding her in the evenings and she feeds and then curls into me before going to bed. Her warm little tummy and perfectly smooth skin, the feeling of her chest rising and falling in a gentle rhythm as she gives herself over to her dreams, and the small little smile that always crosses her face in that moment of surrender - each of these things is a tangible momento of the seconds, minutes and hours spent with her like this. I love holding her close and breathing in the scent of her hair and her head while resting my lips on her forehead. I love hearing the soft grunts and coos that she makes and watching her crane her neck back into a position that looks uncomfortable but apparently is the most comfortable position in the world to her. 

And I live for that moment when I shift her in my arms, her arms and legs relaxed and hanging completely trusting as I bring her to her bed and kiss her just under her jaw, in a place that is pillowy soft and warm from our cuddles. 

Every night I whisper to her that I love her and, even though she might not even know what that means right now, that is the thing that makes being a mother so amazing. we give our love without needing our love to be returned. It is returned, in a most amazing way, but it is also given with crying and whining and demands on our time, energy and patience. 

Sometimes when I tell Lauren that I love her, she tells me, "I love you too, Mommy." Yet other times she tells me, "I know." The first few times, that made me ache to hear back confirmation of her love, but know I think that the times that she acknowledges my love are actually more important. There may be times in Lauren and Elyse's lives where they don't particularly love me and those times may be long or short, frequent or intermittent, but I don't ever want there to be a time when they aren't absolutely certain of my love for them. They might not fully understand how I can always love them until they themselves are mothers, but I don't need them to understand how I do it, I just want them to know that I do. 



Our life has fallen into a rhythm that keeps us busy every day and has days flying past. Matt is studying full time for his CFA exam (on top of working full time) and I am on mom duty. We are both in survival mode and that is why the blog has been pushed to the back burner. By the time that the evening comes, the photo editing and writing seems like a daunting task. That and our lives are kind of boring now. Our girls are healthy (Praise the Lord), our days are filled with naps (and trying to get kids to nap) and our nights are filled with exhausted moments together. I do have some things to write about over the next few weeks including a new ALCAPA baby (not mine!) and some special events that we have shared together.

PS - When I saw Lauren in the garden like this and asked her why she had taken her shoes off, I was informed that it was so that they wouldn't get dirty. Toddler logic at work.



Lauren has had a rough winter. It seems like she has managed to catch every bug out there. She seems to be on a two week virus cycle and it has been exhausting. I've also noticed that she has begun to grunt when she's breathing, especially when she is sitting or lying down trying to relax. This has set off alarm bells in my head because that was a symptom of heart failure that we didn't catch before. However, when she's not knocked down with a cold, she is running around acting like a fool with no other signs of difficulty. But it remains a bit of a question as to why she is grunting when she breathes and we don't really have an answer yet. 

When I am cuddling with Lauren after we've finished reading some books and I'm tucking her in, I like to whisper to her. I tell her that I love her and talk about our day a bit. However, I noticed that she wasn't responding like she used to. Since she's a bit of a "threenager" I chalked it up to an attitude. And then it happened a few nights in a row so I started to whisper her name. Sure enough, if I whispered quietly, I would get no response but if I was a bit louder, she would respond right away. Time for a hearing check. 

It was confirmed that she has lost some hearing in her left ear (the side I'm usually lying on) but they are hopeful that it is just temporary due to her winter of grossness. We will go back in a few months to check again but for now, Lauren's just talking a bit louder than she used to. I guess she has lost a bit of a sense of her own volume (which always seems to be set to a high setting anyways). 

On going to the pediatrician and mentioning all of these things, he is now sending her on to see an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to check out her tonsils. While this won't help her breathing, it would likely stop her from being sick so much, cut down on her snoring (she gives Matt a run for his money) and help her to hear better. And I think that, since she is often trying to hear when she is sitting down, she might even be grunting just to pause her breathing in an effort to hear better. Who knows? But he listened to her heart and her lungs and all of that seems to be okay. Phew. As long as that's okay, this is no big deal.



So last week it came - Lauren's report from the hospital assessment of where she is cognitively, physically and verbally and all other -ly. I had been dreading having this package arrive since I knew how rattled I was after the appointment. But along with that set of papers, another package arrived.

Lauren was at daycare but I suspected what was inside and I'm not going to lie, I shed a small tear. As soon as she got home, Lauren tore into the package and found that there were not one, but two, new magic wands!! I guess that someone in the hospital saw the blog post and worked their own magic to make Lauren's dreams come true. So thank you, Children's Hospital Heart Centre, for being Lauren's very own beep-bop-boop (aka fairy godmother).

And Elyse is feeling pretty magical these days as well.



Some of the things that I've been capturing with my lettering are quotes that are said in our house. They aren't wise words that will help get you through life... though some of them may function as life lessons for the girls. Enjoy.



I'm sure many of your out there have caught these colds that have been going around and half of us in this house managed to catch it as well. Lauren got it first (along with a side order of pink eye) and was knocked right out for three days. Normally, a cold takes her down for maybe an afternoon of movies and cuddles, if I'm lucky. But this one had us homebound. Then, just as she was getting better, I got it. I spent every non-kid minute I could curled up in bed in the fetal position for six days. Lauren couldn't beat the cough though and when I took her to the doctor, there was, what we will lovingly call a touch of pneumonia, which seems to be well on its way out the door now. So it has been a busy few weeks.

On top of that, Elyse has figured out how to stand up (all the time) and walk along furniture. She also spent one week cutting four teeth (that was not her happiest week) but now she has an adorable toothy grin and she enjoys grinding her new teeth together (and the sound makes me gag).

Needless to say, we haven't been up to much. Lots of Big Hero 6 and Tinkerbell around here. Things just keep ticking along.



After Lauren was in the hospital for her second surgery, she went down for a post op xray and came back with a magic wand.

That wand became her constant companion before she even knew what it was.

Now that she has started to love Cinderella and her Beep-Bop-Boo (aka Fairy Godmother), she calls the wand her magic. And last week as we were driving to the hospital for testing, it broke.

Because Lauren was on ECMO for an extended period of time (longer than just the surgery), she goes for testing every 18 months. Last time, it shook me and this time was no different. Lauren got knocked back developmentally and physically with her time in the hospital and she made great gains before her first session of testing, but her tests just showed that she was still behind. But I knew she was still behind. This time, Lauren is out of all of the developmental programs because she has caught up, but her tests on Wednesday won't show that. The way that the day goes is that she has to sit for an hour and answer a barrage of questions for a speech and language assessment and then go straight into an hour of testing for fine motor skills with another half an hour for gross motor skills. Simple math: Two and a half hours. Now add in Lauren and you've got a recipe for disaster. She did really well for the first 35 minutes of the speech assessment and then she spotted a teddy bear and it was all over. All she wanted to do was take the bear blanket and tuck the teddy bear in so he could sleep and then she wanted to feed it. There was no bringing her back from that. She wanted to play and there was no stopping her. When she went into the fine motor assessment, her frustration level was so high that she didn't show her full abilities. When Lauren feels like she is being challenged or being told what to do, if you use a louder voice and stay standing up, there is no way that she is going change her mind and do what you want. But if you get down to her level and use a soft, kind voice, usually she will change her tune and be on your side. Well, that wasn't the way that the testing woman approached it at all. So the stress level continued to go up and Lauren fell further and further apart while I did all I could to hold myself from following her lead into a sobbing mess.

And at the end of all of that I was told that, while they don't have any concerns, the written report will show her as being significantly lower than she is just because she stopped wanting to participate in the tests which were not set up for a three year old.

I walked out of there and had a good cry. Tests like that are so hard because, instead of showing what your child is capable of, they often highlight what they are unable to do. And no one wants to hear that about their child.

Lauren is funny and kind. She is active, charming and vibrant. She loves to be a helper and run as fast as she can. She is polite, caring and loving. Her imagination is always going but she loves to sit down for a book. She loves to feel beautiful and smart and capable and she is all of these things. For her testing, the only words I heard were difficult and lack of attention. But as a teacher, having seen kids just like mine, I knew that if I could take her for a quick breath of fresh air or let her run around for a few minutes, she would be able to come back and do so much more. No, my kid can't sit down and focus on only the tasks given to her for two and a half hours, but neither can I.

Are there still things that she can improve on? Sure. But for this time where she doesn't have therapy appointments every other week, I'm just going to let her be a kid. I'm not going to sit down with her and work on lacing beads onto string just for the sake of lacing. When she wants to lace, she will lace, but for now, she wants to run and I, for one, won't be stopping her any time soon.

PS - If anyone knows where they sell wands like that, I would love to get Lauren another magic to replace the one that broke. She still has lots of magic that she needs to do.



"Lauren, how old are you?"

"I'm 3 olds."

Three years old! Where did it go?! Lauren has had a rough few weeks as we tried to take her off one of her medications but she's back on it now so, while she looks sad to be three here, now she's loving it. 

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