Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let's Get Messy!

This morning, the weather was indecisive. One second, the clouds began to form an ominous cover over the sun; and the next second, the sun prevailed, and brightened up the whole sky. I decided not to risk it, and skip the pool today. I have been watching a friend's kid this week, so it's been 3 against 1 since Monday (with a sleepover last night). Getting all three girls fed, pottied (or diapered), sunscreened, and suited up for swimming takes nearly 30 minutes from start to finish. I was not about to risk a full-out melt-down from Annabelle over not being able to go swimming because the weather decided to rear its ugly head, and rain on our parade at the last minute.
Instead of swimming, we spent time in the air conditioning, making a huge mess of the dining room. And it was FUN! I recently bought a huge bag of baking soda for $3 at BJ's, so I knew that I had plenty of that on hand. I searched for activities to do with baking soda, and found some very fun ideas. Armed with my supplies, I got to work setting up for Annabelle and her friend, Bella. Set-up was a breeze, and I was ready for them within five minutes.

For each kid you will need:
Jelly roll pan for your work area
Desired amount of baking soda (if I had to guess, I'd say I used about 1/2 cup for each girl)
Plastic utensils
Food coloring (optional, but extra fun)
Dixie cups for each color desired
Pipette, straw, or eye dropper
An art smock (I used my old t-shirts)

I started off by letting the girls explore with the baking soda in the pan. They used a fork to draw patterns and designs, and tried to ball the fine powder up like snow balls. When they started showing signs of losing interest, I introduced the next part of the activity.

I gave them each three Dixie cups with a few drops of food coloring, and filled half-way with vinegar. In hindsight, I used way too much food coloring. Annabelle is currently sporting bright purple hands. Oops! Next, I demonstrated how to use a straw to drip the vinegar over the baking soda.

Then Annabelle got creative. Instead of dripping the vinegar onto the baking soda, she took a fistful of baking soda, and dumped it into a cup of vinegar. She was thrilled with her discovery.
The next hour was spent stirring, pouring, and smearing the mixtures. While the jelly roll pans contained most of the mess, I still had my work cut out for me.
But it was worth it.

I loved allowing Annabelle to be a little scientist, and make her own discoveries and observations. When we do activities like this, I give her ideas and suggestions, but allow her to control the situation. What if I had stopped her from dumping the fistful of baking soda into the vinegar because that's just not what we're doing right now? What if I had decided that food coloring was too messy? What if I had decided the whole activity was too messy? She would have missed out on so much fun and discovery.

Don't be afraid to get messy. Kids are washable. Clothes are replaceable. You only get one chance at today, so make memories of fun and exploration.
Oh, and it never rained.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Though she be but little...

She is fierce!
When friends hear about Hazel's achondroplasia, I get a variety of reactions - from curiosity, to sorrow, and everything in between. I know it's only natural to  feel sorry. But you don't have to. In fact, I implore you not to feel sorry. To feel sorry for her, is to suggest that something is wrong with her. I want to tell you this: nothing is wrong with Hazel. Her bones just grow differently than yours or mine. She is not sick. She is not in pain. She will do wonderful things. And guess what? She will also fail in life. Because she is human.
When we got the official word of Hazel's diagnosis, we were not in shock. We were not in denial. We had already done our research, and come to the conclusion on our own, that she probably had a form of dwarfism, and it was most likely achondroplasia. But that's not to say that we never felt the emotions any parent goes through when hearing such news. We were lucky enough to go through the emotions in the weeks leading up to her diagnosis.
The most prominent stage I went through was denial. I had the "this kind of stuff only happens to other people" thoughts. I even felt crazy for thinking my child had achondroplasia. I tried convincing myself that she was just short, and would eventually even out. When I looked at pictures of her big sister, Annabelle as a newborn, I thought Annabelle looked different. Not Hazel. Annabelle was long and thin, with skinny little arms and legs, and long fingers. But Annabelle looked more like other babies. Hazel has always been more plump, with short limbs.
But I never felt soul-crushing sorrow, because I know these two truths: God made Hazel; and God doesn't make mistakes. Psalm 139:13-18 tells us this:
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.
Wow! That passage is filled with such beautiful truths. I pray that both of my girls cling to these truths, and hold onto the promises of God.
I know that when God created Hazel, and chose to make her different, he did so for a purpose. I am so excited to see what that purpose will be.
But for now, I just know that Hazel it little and loving it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


After the brutally cold Winter we endured, I refuse to allow myself to be a couch potato this Summer. It has been way too cold, for way too long, to waste time watching PBS Kids all day.
So I made a list for my oldest. With the help of some suggestions from friends, I came up with a long list of fun activities to do before Summer is over. Having a preschooler can be a challenge, but the busier she is, the less trouble she gets into. Annabelle is excited to check off each task on our list: from learning to swim, to writing to missionaries, we will never be bored.
After making my list, I wrote down the things we can do inside (build a book fort, bake a treat and deliver it to a friend) on index cards, and put them into a bucket. I then wrote the words "It's raining, it's pouring, but today won't be boring". This is our Rainy Day Bucket. We can use the ideas when the weather is too rainy or just plain miserable to go outside.
My list also includes activities that can be accomplished in an afternoon: "make lunch for a friend", and "make homemade ice cream", as well as activities that will take much of the Summer to accomplish: "learn to pedal a bike", and "count to 30".
Some of the activities involve meeting with friends: "try a dish from another country", and "play date at Jumpin' Jacks", while others allow for one-on-one time between us: "build a book fort", and "learn to write my name".
Some of our activities are educational, and others are just plain fun.
No matter what activity we choose to check off the list in a given day, I'm sure this Summer will be one to remember.
Added bonus: most of the activities are free, or almost free.
What are some of your favorite things to do in the Summer? What do you hope to accomplish this Summer?
I encourage you all to make Summer Fun Lists (even if you don't have kids). Feel free to share them below.
As always, thanks for reading and sharing.

Friday, June 6, 2014


The most common question I am asked is this: "How did you find out about Hazel's condition?"
In retrospect, there were several occasions that pointed to achondroplasia. As mentioned in my first post, her large head size was noted at my 20-week ultrasound, and we noticed at birth that her arms and legs were short. But we thought it was "just Hazel". We figured she hadn't grown into her body yet; babies spend 9 months all scrunched up in the womb, so maybe her arms and legs hadn't fully stretched out yet.
As time went on, Hazel fell lower and lower on the growth charts. When Hazel was three months, we started doing some research. One of my image searches directed me to Chelly's blog: A Is For Adelaide. When I first scrolled by the image of little Adelaide, I had to do a double-take. I thought it was Hazel!
This was too weird. How could Hazel look more like this little girl, whom we have never met, than like her own big sister? The nose. The forehead. The arms and legs. And that belly! All of these characteristic of achondroplastic children.
I loved reading Chelly's blog.
I contacted her, and she immediately responded back. She was so reassuring and sweet.
Weeks went by, and it was finally time for Hazel's 4-month checkup. We entered the pediatrician's office armed with a manila folder, containing growth charts. The appointment was the most nerve-wracking appointment I had ever been to. I began to have second thoughts
What if I'm wrong?
What if I look like a crazy person, who thinks something is wrong with my child, when she's perfectly fine?
What if the doctor doesn't think anything is wrong, but there is something wrong, and...?
What if?
The nurse called us back, and took Hazel's vitals before weighing and measuring her. When she left the examining room, we whipped out the charts, and mentally plotted her growth on both the average height chart, and the achondroplasia chart.
When the doctor came in, she was cheery as usual. That's what I like about her. She has an "it's all good" vibe about her. A very good trait for a pediatrician, dealing with nervous parents all day.
Wait. I'm one of those nervous parents.
She sat at the computer, and pulled up Hazel's charts, along with her newest stats. She mentioned things like blood work and hormonal imbalances.
Blood work?! They want to take my baby's blood? They will have to get through me first.
When she paused to take a breath, Tad jumped right in.
"Will these tests include testing for achondroplasia?"
By the end of the appointment, we were given a stack of papers. Blood work orders, and a list of both local blood-draw locations and orthopedists.
After a few weeks of going back and forth, we finally decided to take Hazel to AI DuPont Hospital. Her appointment felt like it was ages away. In the meantime, she got her blood drawn, and all blood work came back normal.
Sigh of relief.
Then we wait. Wait for the day to come when we would enter the doors of DuPont, and meet with the geneticist regarding our precious baby's condition.
The day finally came. Loading up the car, I felt like I was in a dream. Is this really my life? Is this really my kid? Achondroplasia? Really?
Then the what-ifs returned.
A quick stop for coffee, and we were on the road.
As I entered the building, my nerves eased up. The hospital was so open and bright. "Welcome" was sprawled across the wall in several languages. And there was even a coffee shop right in the entrance. The building was abuzz with parents pulling wagons full of happy children, and a joyful staff that was more than happy to help.
We were directed back to radiology, so Hazel could get x-rays taken. I sat with our oldest, Annabelle in the waiting room, while Tad took Hazel into the room. When they emerged, Hazel was happy and oblivious to what had just happened.
Another walk down a hallway to wait for our appointment with Dr. Boeber.
We were about to meet with a world-renowned geneticist.
He greeted us in the waiting room, and lead us to a meeting room. A long table, surrounded by four office chairs sat in the middle of the room. It wasn't the cold doctor's office I had envisioned. There was no examining table, with a roll of crinkly paper sprawled across it. Instead, just the meeting table and chairs. it was so much more welcoming than I expected.
Dr. Bober immediately gave us the news of Hazel's diagnosis. Achondroplasia.
We spent the next 90 minutes talking about the condition, and what to expect over the next few years. We discussed risks and complications, and how to care for her. We discussed what her future might look like.
In the midst of the whirlwind of information being thrown at us, Dr. Bober gave us a sense of normalcy. She, like any other person, will have her share of struggles. She will have her victories. She will get sick, and get better. She will have dreams and goals.
Hazel is just like any other person. She's just little.
Hazel is little and loving it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hazel Autumn

November 29th. 3am. I did not wet the bed. My water broke. My world is about to change in ways I would never imagine. The day before was an unusual Thanksgiving Day. I was hoping to have given birth already, so I had enjoyed my Thanksgiving feast in the weeks prior. Tad and I enjoyed a turkey chicken dinner at home, along with our oldest, Annabelle. Later that evening, we ventured out to people-watch, and kick off the Christmas shopping season. I was hoping against all hope that I would somehow magically induce labor by walking all over Wal-Mart and Target. All I got was hungry. We pulled into the hospital parking lot shortly after 6am, after enjoying a small breakfast. It was too early, I was too anxious, to eat. Twelve hours later, Hazel was still cozied up inside, not wanting to make her grand entrance until she was good and ready. Her grand entrance finally arrived around 8pm. After a few pushes, the doctor instructed me to stop pushing. Stop pushing? Are you kidding me? I have waited too long to stop pushing. I want to meet my baby girl. The cord was wrapped around her neck. I was paralyzed with fear. Don't cough. Don't sneeze. Don't tense up. Don't breathe! I was afraid that any wrong move would tighten the cord. I prayed. The cord was clamped, cut, and loosened from her neck. My sweet baby was placed on my chest, and I was flooded with emotions. She was perfect in every way. 7 pounds, 15 ounces. 18 inches long. Beautiful. A full head of reddish hair. She was silent. No screams. No cries. Nothing. My heart raced. A lump the size of a basketball formed in my throat. Why isn't she screaming? Why is she purplish? Why are they taking her away? After what felt like an eternity of back-thumping, suctioning, and oxygen, tiny gurgle sounds came from her. Hazel Autumn. I was heartbroken when they had to take her back to the nursery immediately, rather than being bundled up to cozy up to my chest. Hours later into the evening, my squeaky clean, chubby, perfect bundle was delivered to my room. Hazel Autumn. I looked at her. Her button nose. Her chubby thighs. Her chubby arms. Her large head. "I forget how short babies' arms and legs can be," I remember commenting to Tad. Also, "She's a full pound heavier than her sister was. And a few inches shorter." We would later find out just why she was so short. Why her limbs were so disproportionate compared to the rest of her body. Why her head was large. We would later find out that Hazel has Achondroplasia. Dwarfism. Hazel is little and loving it.