Out on a Limb

When climbing a tree, you stay close to the trunk. Climbing out towards the end of a limb is dangerous. The further you climb, the thinner the limb, the higher the chance it will break.

This is the origin of “going out on a limb.” We use this phrase to describe a precarious, unfamiliar, or vulnerable time, when we attempt to achieve something good. A time that will either make us or quite literally, break us.

Upon our son, Luke’s, birth, we could see his little left leg was different. It was not until a trip to Children’s Hospital for diagnosis, a referral to the Rubin Institute of Advanced Orthopedics at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, and countless hours of research before we knew the extent of the difference.

Fibular Hemimelia. A rare congenital limb disorder that affects 1 in 40,000 children yearly. So rare that our doctor at Children’s Hospital only sees a case a year, and could not help us. So rare, and for Luke, so progressed, that we will not know the full extent of his condition until he continues to grow.

Right now, Luke’s FH means his fibula is minuscule. His tibia is bowed and twisted. His femur is not growing the proper rate. It means missing bones in his foot, a turned ankle, and a knee that did not develop correctly.

For the past nine months, we have been out on a limb. Precariously inching towards an unknown future or course of treatment while vulnerably relying on the expertise of specialists and our own gut feelings to achieve the best outcome for our son.

But what I do know, is this journey out on the limb will make us. Definitely not break us.

Luke is strong and healthy. He showcases the goofiest, crinkliest smiles that bring laughter to all. His hazel eyes give off an old soul kind of feel like he is wise beyond his years. He stands so sturdy, so tall. His already impressive determination shows when he tries to follow his ever-running sister. And through astounding medical advancements, and God’s remarkable grace, Luke will walk, jump, skip, swim, ski, and whatever he puts his mind to.

Luke’s FH journey has pushed us from trunk to limb. Along the way, we’ve heard the cracking, and felt the bend under the weight of it. We’ve slipped and readjusted to find balance. We’ve closed our eyes and wished for the comfort of the trunk.

But when we gingerly lift our hands to push away the leaves, the anxiety and the unknown, that block sight, we are amazed. When we peel our focus away from what’s below and look around, we are amazed. And when we stop crawling to just sit and take it all in, we are amazed.

Because this view is so much more beautiful than the view from the trunk.

So happy April, and Limb Loss & Limb Difference Awareness Month! If you would, please join me in celebrating and lifting up in prayer, all those who are limb different.

And for anyone else who may also be out on a limb right now, may their views be beautiful!

Kelsey

Measure in Love

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.”

Be honest. Are you singing?

This iconic, theatre ballad we all know and love is best sung belted solo and attempting all parts and harmonies while doing the dishes at 8PM for the 80th time since 8AM. Don’t ask me how I know, I just do.

In all seriousness though, in case the “I did the dishes 80 times today” didn’t give it away, five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes was literally the length of today.

“How do you measure. Measure a year?”

Or in this particular case, a day. Because as today comes to a close, or at least turns to night, measuring what was and will still be accomplished is awfully difficult. What I know is yesterday blurred into today with another sleepless night. I changed a lot of diapers, wiped and sucked a lot of snot out of sick noses, checked a lot of temperatures, washed and boiled a lot of bottles, played a lot of dolls, read a lot of books, and gave a lot of kisses.

“In daylights, in sunsets. In midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles. In laughter, in strife”

I bet you’re really belting it, now.

But that’s pretty much it. My day started way before sunrise and I will see midnight with my sick babe. I drank way too much coffee while clocking miles around my house. I laughed at the good, and I cried at the strife. I didn’t get a pat on the back from the boss when I went above and beyond. There are no meeting notes or press releases. And I certainly did not get paid a hefty salary for an eight hour day plus overtime.

The daily call to selflessness through motherhood and the challenges that fill a day, are often immeasurable. This is why we can feel we accomplished everything, yet nothing. This is why when our dear husbands asks about our days and what we did, we look around at a loss for words. That is why we lean on fellow moms. That is why this is just a plain hard job.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do.”

So… “Measure in love.”

If we stop measuring our days by the immeasurable tasks that consume it or the tasks left undone, and start measuring in the amount of love within the walls of our homes, we would be amazed.

Because the love we have for our children, and the love we give is immense. It’s overwhelming. It’s unfathomable. It fills every second of every day. And it’s why we will wake up and do it all again tomorrow. And all the days after.

“Seasons of love.”

So whatever season of mothering you find yourself in today, do yourself a favor. Measure in love, and forget the rest.

XOXO

Kelsey

The Good

Friends, do you have a photo that evokes bottomless joy yet fills you with sadness? Have you ever dove into a memory that engulfs you with peace yet leaves you unsettled?

For me, this is that photo and memory.

This was moments after Luke’s birth. Everything was right with the world. But moments later, so much went wrong. A postpartum hemorrhage. A scary allergic reaction. An inability to breastfeed. A visit to Children’s Hospital. A rare diagnosis. A procedure for me the very same day. A month and a half long worth of mystery symptoms. An appointment in Baltimore with one of two doctors in the country who could help our son. A lot of tears. A lot of prayers. A lot of help. Exhaustion. Anxiety. Anger. This is where this photo takes me. And for close to three months now, I have simply been unable to look at it.

But today, I will look. I will to look at all the photos of my moments-old, beautiful son. Of his beaming father. Of his proud mother. Because when I look into Luke’s smiley eyes, I see just the good.

The good that is my son; the best good. The good that is giving my precious daughter a brother. The good that is watching my children love each other. The good that is family who drops everything at a moment’s notice for us. The good that is astounding medial advancements. The good that is prayers lifted in our name. The good that is a husband who goes above and beyond the vows he took three years ago. The good that is being a mother. The good that is God walking with us through it all.

I may never forget the struggles we encountered this summer. But I have come to learn that while struggles come and struggles go, the good always remains.

With a grateful heart

Kelsey

What It Means

My Dearest Husband,

As I sit on the couch with a heating pad under both legs to hopefully ease the sciatica pain, reach around my belly to type, stretch my swollen feet, and gnaw on yet another Tums, I still cannot help but smile. Despite the discomfort, our little boy is currently doing the worm in utero.  We are officially in the third trimester and he is so big, active, and strong. He loves cold water, your voice, and when I rock our daughter. And he is growing right on schedule which means ready or not, he is on his way.

I remember so vividly this time just a year and half ago, when we anxiously made preparations for our baby girl. By 28 weeks her nursery was almost complete, clothes washed and hung, name picked out, and prenatal appointments recorded in all wall and phone calendars. We spent every night wishing time would move a little faster and dreaming of our new life as parents. This time around, our baby boy’s nursery is still a storage room, clothes have yet to be bought, we still have not decided on a name, and I almost forgot my last doctor’s appointment. And tonight, as you were putting our little girl to sleep and I was boiling another round of binkies and treating another Mac N Cheese stain, I could not help but wish time would slow down a bit because this time around, we know what a new baby means.

It means sleepless months, and days that feel like years. Yet it means short years, and time that simply will not slow down. How that makes any sense still boggles my brain, but we know it to be true.

It means even less time to do things we enjoy like fishing, reading, catching a new movie, and traveling. Not that we have done much of that in the past 17 months, but you catch my drift. Yet it means the most precious of memories made during the simplest, daily tasks like early morning family cuddles, bath time, and evening walks around the neighborhood.

It means our conversations revolving around feedings, odd bowl movements, nap schedules, and baby chores, while completely forgetting to talk about ourselves for days. Yet it means not really minding because our kids are our whole world. And as it turns out, we are not as exciting as them.

It means more irrational fears and unadulterated anxiety about just about everything. From recommended weight gain to soft spots and from a random rash to a tiny fever, the worry will be constant. Yet it means feeling like Superman and Wonder Woman when we figure it all out.

It means not knowing what tomorrow will hold, and lying in bed at night wondering how to predict the future. Yet it means growing closer to our Savior every day because we rely on faith and prayer.

So hubby, we may not know exactly what our life will look like with 2 under 2, but I do know we have each other, more love for our children than we ever thought possible, and a pretty good track record thus far. So bring it on. And hey, at least the kids don’t outnumber us yet.

Much love,

Your Wife

 

Letting Go and Holding On

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As I sit down on my couch at 10:00 PM, I feel something sticky on my leg. Lo and behold, it is a half-melted, half-chewed, Gerber Yogurt Bite. I peel it off and instead of getting up to throw it in the trash, I toss it right on the floor. I have to run the vacuum for the thousandth time again this week tomorrow morning so what’s one more snack down there going to hurt?

Who am I? I hardly recognize myself these days. Once upon a time I would have never, ever tossed a piece of food on the floor. But here is how it all lays out. I don’t think I have actually sat down today except on…you know…the toilet; I have just spent the last hour boiling all the bottles, doing the dishes, putting all 150 books back on my daughters bookshelf, disinfecting the toys because I cannot put her in a bubble (believe me, I looked into it), and taking a very smelly diaper genie bag down three flights of stairs to the garbage; my husband is out of town so I cannot ask him to throw the snack away; and finally, it has been an exhausting week.

In shorter words, my friends, I think I have slowly began to understand the art of letting go.

The yogurt bite is really just a small example of what has truly transpired since becoming a first-time mom ten months ago. Ever since I can remember, maintaining control over what I can and cannot control has been a talent, if you will, of mine. But since Maisy was born, I have had to learn to let some things go. And though this new way of thinking by no means comes naturally, I think I have truly made strides.

If the above mentioned story was not proof enough, I have learned to let go of maintaining a clean and tidy home at all times. My child lives here. She spends her day exploring, learning, and playing. And most of all, she wants me by her side for all of it. So if I don’t dust every five days anymore, *gasp* I’m okay with it. *bigger gasp* I have learned to let go of my perfectly planned plans. Maisy has other plans. And though I put up a good fight, she normally wins. I have learned to let go of the small worries in life. The things that used to keep me up at night hardly cross my mind anymore. I have bigger fish to fry. I have learned to let go of some personal habits. Though I still make showering and coffee a priority, I cannot make any promises about my chipped nails, gray roots, and bags under my eyes that I am absolutely convinced will never disappear.

The most wonderful and beautiful outcome of this new outlook on life is that through learning to let go, I am in turn, able to hold on to much more.

I am able to hold on to precious and fleeting moments with my daughter much tighter and with more presence. I am able to hold on to watching her take new steps along her exciting journey. I am able to hold on to the things that fill my heart with more joy than I ever thought possible. I am able to hold on to all the ups and downs of motherhood and learn more about myself and what I am made of.

Don’t worry. I know the dusting still needs done, some plans need to be made and followed-through with, the small stresses of life need attending to, and I will seriously try to take care of those gray roots every once in a while. But when I kiss my babe goodnight, I know that she knows, I held on to her.

And that is everything.

Single Digit Thoughts

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*Warning: This post contains sappy feelings about love, marriage, and what-not.*

After 596 days, we made it to single digits! Next Saturday, James and I will get all dolled up, stand before God and loved ones, and become one. Our souls, tied in a knot, will withstand the trials of this world through grace, faith, love, and lots of prayer. A tremendous and awesome blessing!

A few days after the proposal, James and I developed a mantra we vowed to use throughout our engagement. We promised to remind one another that while we were planning for a wedding, we were more importantly planning for our marriage.

Unfortunately, the pressure to throw a perfect wedding, pick the most beautiful dress, tone the arm flab, invite the right crowd, create the most appropriate seating arrangement, choose the right party songs, make handmade decorations, and of course, stay under budget, while always maintaining that bridal glow, is really too much. No wonder we toss around labels like bridezilla and bridaldemia! How does one expect a relatively normal, usually nice, and naturally patient young woman to not lose it a bit, and neglect perspective? The expectations are overwhelming.

I wish I could look back on the past year and a half, puff out my chest, hold my chin high, and proclaim, “I adhered to our mantra and overcame it all!” But I didn’t. I often succumbed to the pressure and expectations. I was sometimes quick-tempered. Every so often, I lost patience. I cursed a little. I cried a good bit. And I wished time away.

Now, with October 24, 2015 listed in the 10-day weather forecast, I suddenly wish time would slow the heck down. I’m my own recipe of crazy, right? But before you begin whispering those dreadful bride labels, let me defend my crazy.

So many times throughout our very short lives, we repeatedly disregard the present and look to the next big thing. Stroll into your local department store. Red and green decorations are creeping into displays. Turn on the TV. Certain channels are advertising for holiday movie marathons. Listen to the radio; hosts are already promoting winter events. Christmas is two and a half months away, folks.

But by golly, we will spend the majority of these months pushing and shoving our way through door buster deals, recording every ABC Christmas movie, and clearing our calendars for social gatherings. We will spend an absurd amount of time and exert a ton of energy into preparing for a single day. And once the presents are ripped open, the meal is eaten, and the carols are sang, we will sit around the lit Christmas tree and feel a bit sad. How could it come and go so quickly we will ask? Luckily, we can assure ourselves Christmas comes around once a year. Weddings do not.

You have one wedding day. One dress. One party. One husband. One shot at creating an experience most girls dream of since childhood. I believe this is from where the all the pressure stems. Not from society, Hollywood, or Pinterest, but rather, from our experience in preparing in anticipation, then watching the best of times fly by in a single day. So in turn, you strive to make one day the best it can be.

Knowing I cannot speed up or slow down the clock, it would seem my best option is to savor, enjoy, and treasure every step from here to the “I do’s.” I will repeat the mantra, tack it on the wall, write it on my hand, whatever it takes. I will let the pressure of the past months fall away. I will relish in every special moment with family, friends, and my husband-to-be. And I will cherish it all. Then, when the time comes to sit around the tree and look back, I will not feel sad the wedding ended. But rather, grateful for the opportunity to have witnessed time give way to a new beginning. The beginning of our marriage.

So here’s to the coming single digit days, the big day, and every day after. Here’s to #Orangeisthenewharris!

With much gratitude.

Kelsey

Student Loans.

While lounging on my grandparent’s porch enjoying a piece of watermelon after a particularly long day at work, my very adorable and very curious three-year old cousin strolled over and asked, “Hey “Telsey” why you wearin’ pants?” *Disclaimer: I always wear pants and so does everyone in my family. She was referring of course to my dressy work pants that apparently looked as warm and uncomfortable as they felt on this hot summer’s eve.* “Well, sweetie I had to work today.” “Why?” I should have seen this one coming. “I have to go to work to make money.” “Why?” She’s relentless. “I have to make money to pay off my student loans.” *Disclaimer: Molly has NO idea what a loan is.* Instead of her customary response, she simply scrunched her little nose and with the cutest look of disgust, ended the boring conversation and walked away. I couldn’t help but smile. My feelings exactly.

Earlier that morning I had submitted my monthly dues to the United States government and just like every previous month, clicking the submit button on the payment page felt like a sucker punch to the gut. As was my habit, I quickly checked my bank account. Now I make other payments for a variety of credit cards, cell phone bills, and gym memberships, and I swear to the heavens that no other collection company withdrawals money faster than those who govern the land of the free. As usual, the substantial chunk of my hard-earned wages had vanished faster than you can say, “Great Lakes Borrowers Services.”

Nothing prepares you for paying for your college degree. Not even college prepares you for paying for college. No matter how many alumni and leadership scholarships you received, how many work study positions you held, or how many packs of ramen noodles you digested to save money, the price tag on a quality undergraduate diploma is outrageous. And from what I understand with my limited political and financial comprehension, it is only worsening for future collegiate bound hopefuls. My fiancé, if writing this blog, would take the next 4-8 paragraphs to explain how America got itself in this predicament and how we must dig ourselves out of it. Luckily for you, he’s not writing this blog.

As a forever optimist, I will simply use the rest of this post to impart my fellow indebted colleagues with a little motivation. May this simple sentenc offer the necessary incentive to keep working hard and to pay off the loans fully and on time.  Feel free to write it down, share it amongst friends, or recite it over and over again.

“They know where you live, and they will find you.”

Happy paying,

Kelsey

Eyes That See

I can still remember the moment I received my first pair of glasses. I looked in the mirror and saw a young girl with a blunt bob complete with thick bangs, top and bottom braces, newly pierced ears, and now purple metallic glasses. I was the epitome of style for a 7 year old in 2000. Not.  I was not familiar with this new found feeling of self-consciousness, and all the sudden, I was very aware of how I looked. And more detrimentally, I was very aware of how I wish I looked.

After a few years, my vision significantly worsened, and the eye doctor recommended I try contact lenses.  After one day of contacts, I never looked back (no pun intended).  Contacts did wonders for not only for my vision, but also for my confidence.  Life was good.

Until I turned nineteen. In my nineteenth year, the allergies I had always managed to keep at bay every spring evolved into a giant dust and pollen monster that took up residence in my poorly endowed eyes.  I spent countless hours in the Emergency Room with swollen eyelids; an ungodly amount of money on allergy specialists, medication, steroids, and injections; and many nights in tears because I simply could not stop scratching.  From the endless scratching, I fostered various infections and was often told I could not wear my contacts. Day after day, season after season, my eyes flamed on. There was no end in sight (again, no pun intended).  To complicate the situation, throughout my ongoing bout with the allergy monster, my eyesight continued to severely deteriorate.

Something needed to give. I was young. I was working two jobs. I was in the midst of planning a wedding. I refused to let my eyesight and allergies dominate my daily functions. So I talked with my doctors and chose to have corrective eye surgery. They promised me better vision. “20-Happy,” to be exact. They cannot promise perfect, “20- 20 vision” but they promised I would be happier than I was. That was all I needed to hear. I set the date and prepped for surgery day.

The very unpleasant procedure came and went. No need to delve further into that part of this story. I was wide awake, it was painful, and thanks to a talkative nurse, I knew every blessed move the doctor made including scraping off a layer of my cornea with a scalpel. That’s all you need to know and that is all I wish to recall at this time.

Today, almost 4 weeks after surgery, life is good. I cannot explain how thrilling it is to wake up in the morning and read my alarm clock; how fantastic it is to not have to crawl on my hands and knees and pat the ground for my fallen glasses; how wonderful it feels to rub my eyes and not lose my contact underneath my eyelid; or how improved my eye allergies are thus far. The world is clear and new, and so is my perspective.

I vow to use this gift of sight like never before. I vow to take time to look at the beauty and magnificence of the creation that surrounds us.  I also vow to open to my eyes up to the will of the Creator and the needs of His world. What good is sight or any other God-given abilities if we do not use them to serve him and our fellow man. I vow to open my eyes to a friend in need of a kind word, a stranger in need of a smile, a community in need of service, or a Church in need of discipleship. As Jesus once said,” Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” And with “20-Happy” vision, I vow to see.

Thanks for reading,

Kelsey

Surviving and Thriving as a Firstborn

Many moons ago, my mom presented the “There’s No One Like You” book series by Dr. Kevin Leman to my sisters and me. Through five books, Dr. Leman narrates the inherent traits, personality quirks, and a behavioral analysis of the first, middle, last, only, and adopted child, through the voice of a sweet mama bear who explains what makes each of her cubs “special” and “unique.”

Birth order is intriguing. And sure, there are exceptions to the norm and qualities differ from family to family. No person is the same and I’m not about to delve into a messy philosophical nature vs. nurture debate. However, the study of birth order and Dr. Leman’s books present one irrefutable conclusion: The firstborn is the best. Okay, fine. Settle down. What I meant is: Birth order matters and it affects behavior, relationships, job performance, and just about everything in between

Mindfulness of the undeniable features of the first, middle, and last child, and through 22 years’ worth of experiences and gained wisdom, I’ve developed a few tips on surviving and thriving as the oldest child, specifically of course, the oldest female child.

1. If your sibling needs to make a tough choice and you know for absolute certainty that if you just told them what you did in a similar situation, how you fared, and what they should do now, you would make their life so much easier and they should appreciate your true and tried solution, because gosh darned, they are lucky to have you, take a breath and tread lightly. With the purest of intentions, firstborns love to boss…ahem…I mean guide younger siblings. So go ahead, offer up a little advice. But ultimately, let them make the decision just as you did. You’ll sweat and worry as you watch them sink or swim, but fortunately, they have you as a lifeguard.

2. Your parents will parent your younger siblings differently, and the sooner you embrace this, the merrier your home will be. Let’s face it, you were the guinea pig, and for a little, it was just you. By the time the second or third child comes along, parents have learned a bit, relaxed a lot, and may try new techniques. For example, your parents may let your siblings pierce their ears at age eight though you waited painfully until age twelve. And you may find Fruity Pebbles in the cupboard while you long ago munched on Cheerios, begging for artificially flavored breakfasts. It’s best if you just compliment the earrings, pour yourself bowl of sugary cereal, and move on.

3. It is perfectly safe and quite healthy to let go of the reins every once and while, sit back and let the siblings plan something for the family. I understand you’re the natural planner and born leader and you take care of family arrangements, send reminders, and pay up front for everything, but let it go. Your siblings need to learn how to pick the perfect gift, plan a birthday party, and collaborate with others. By all means offer suggestions and do your part, but the siblings will appreciate your confidence in their ability to get the job done and not every gift, party, or collaborative idea, needs to be perfect. *Cue the perfectionist’s cringe*

4. Despite the kicking and screaming, you are indeed responsible for your younger siblings’ actions. I bet my bottom dollar you’ve heard many times, “Where do you think she/he learned that from?” or “Set a good example” or “Your siblings look up to you.” No wonder first-borns are over-achieving and ambitious. The fate of their younger siblings rest in their hands! In all honesty though, you do indeed set the stage, and your siblings take will be compared to you every step of the way. Raise the bar high and hold yourself accountable. It’s a grand responsibility but hey, responsibility is your thing, right?

5. Finally, learn something from your siblings. You may be the oldest, but contrary to popular belief, you do not know it all. Your siblings may not heed your golden advice, they may wear earrings before you and eat fruity pebbles, they may not jump to suggest an anniversary gift, and they may do most of the looking-up-to, but they are also the best of friends one can find, and come hell or high water, they’re there. So take the weight of the world off your shoulders, first-borns, you have someone to help carry it.

Thanks for reading,
Kelsey