Sunday, November 16, 2014

FFFN: Making a Gratitude Board

This past Friday we created a Gratitude Board for the dining area.

First we took an old 2' x 3' bulletin board that wasn't being used and painted the frame black. We ordered a "Give Thanks" wall art sticker, and bought some thumbtacks. (Total cost ~$10.)

We hung the board on the wall Thursday night.

ALL DAY Friday the kids were trying to figure out what we were doing for Friday Family Fun Night.

On the way home from work on Friday, Isaac and I stopped to pick up our Thanksgiving platter from the Clay Cafe.


Once home, we ate some dinner and got to work on our FFFN project. We explained it to the kids and they LOVED the idea. We cut pieces of plain scrapbook paper and glued it onto some pieces of patterned scrapbook paper. 




The kids made up some "rules" to go with the gratitude board. They agreed that we should leave it up for all of next year and that everyone should write two things they are thankful for every day. Oh, and they agreed that they won't repeat anything. Which means that Esther-Faith can only be thankful for the dog one time.


It was late when we finished, so Esther-Faith went to bed while Isaac made himself some popcorn (an almost nightly occurrence since the braces came off) and watched a movie ("Elf"). Tim and I decorated a Christmas tree and sat by the fire for a while.


The next morning there was a little bit of sibling discord. One wanted something the other didn't want to share (in this case it was the dog). There were some not nice happenings (perhaps a bit of arm twisting and a hit or two). After talking to the kids, we had them talk to each other (sometimes, that is the BEST consequence--slowing down long enough to actually listen to each other, and listen to the reasons they are making the choices they are making) and then they decided to write something they were grateful for about each other.




They love each other so very much, but with the cold that is making its way through the house, early morning grumpiness, and not having eaten breakfast yet (even though they could smell the Amish Cinnamon Bread in the oven), they sometimes find it hard to remember WHY it is they love each other.

The Gratitude Board is helping.


© 2014 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

FFFN

When we first became parents, and for many, many years since we have upheld a weekly tradition of Friday Family Fun Night (FFFN). Over the years we've done everything from attend the symphony to lay in the yard and find animal shapes in the clouds.

When Isaiah first went to the residential treatment center, we really tried to keep it up. Honestly, though, it was difficult. We found ourselves skipping a week or just putting on a movie so we didn't have to acknowledge what was missing.

Lately, though, we've put forth a renewed effort to return to the more meaningful FFFN actvities. We've starting the planning on Monday--like we used to. We've started turning off the screens--like we used to. We've started laughing a lot more, having more meaningful conversations, and experiencing things together. Isaiah was even able to earn a community pass a few weeks ago to join us.

Last week, we went apple picking.

This week, we created a unique platter for the Thanksgiving table.

We're already all thinking about what we're going to do next week.

It's nice. Not always easy, but it's nice. It feels right. It feels good. It feels hopeful.














"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
--2 Corinthians 6:18




© 2014 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Pictures to prove it

Isaac, Esther-Faith, and I came to the library tonight with different things we were hoping to accomplish. Esther-Faith has a Girl Scouts meeting. Isaac has some homework to do, he's looking for some skateboarding books, and he took a side trip to the chocolate shoppe three stores down for some caramel popcorn. I brought the laptop hoping to cull some pictures.

I have culled some pictures. Isaac and I have marveled at a few truly amazing and dramatic photos that Tim took. In awe of his ability and eye to capture a moment.

But I realized, in the more than 6000 pictures I have yet to go through, we've done a lot of living. It has been hard work to not let the crisis overwhelm the happy moments. We have made very difficult decisions and worked tirelessly to not let our lives be consumed by what we are dealing with.

And we haven't done it alone. These last 10 months we have been surrounded by family and friends and strangers who became friends. We have learned a lot. Cried a lot. Loved a lot. And lost a lot.

And we've had some amazing experiences as well as some simple, everyday moments that in retrospect are lasting memories.

We have lived. A lot.

We had a pet turtle for two days. We saw a rattlesnake. We sat through hours and hours (and hours) of soccer. We have danced (I promise, I'll write about the recital). We have had hours (and hours) of therapy. We have gardened and picked and canned. We have visited family, celebrated milestones, and had surgeries.

In the midst of prolonged crisis, we have lived. And loved. And laughed.

On January 1 of this year, we anticipated 2014 going a little bit differently than it has. "A year of milestones," we predicted. Tim turning 40. Isaiah turning 18. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of our last first date. New school for Isaac. New soccer team. Ballet and tap. And so much more.

That all changed on January 9.

Actually, everything changed. Our lives were upended, and we couldn't see a way out.

Yet, here we are. Having lived a lot in the last 10 months.

And we have the pictures to prove it.


Drawing. Always drawing something.

Hiking the woods where the Hunger Games was filmed.
Dupont National Forest.

Isaac winning a scholarship for a years
worth of dance classes. 

Soaking up every minute on stage.

She has TOTALLY mastered photo bombing her brother.

#stopit

Dance recital.
(I promise, the post is coming soon.)

This child is 18 years old. An adult.
I'm the parent of an adult.
Who still resides in residential treatment.
And I still feel broken.

Some of my favorite moments are sitting on the
sidelines watching this kid play soccer.



© 2014 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.

Monday, October 27, 2014

On the transition from "my child" to "my adult child"

Years ago, I wrote this... And every time I've gone back to read it, I have shed tears. Especially lately. I haven't even been able to read it all the way through.

Isaiah turns 18 years old today.

The celebration will be subdued. It will be at the residential treatment center. It will be short. We received two incident reports over the weekend regarding his behavior--one of which could still include criminal charges.

This is not how we anticipated celebrating such a milestone birthday with him. At all. It is not how we envisioned ushering in an era of being the parents of an adult.

I was telling Tim how awful I'm feeling about this, and he said, "You're right, these were not our plans for his birthday, but our plan was to be his parents, no matter what. This is just the 'what.'"

We miss our son. We desperately want him to care enough about his own future to make different choices. We are praying for the day that he is able to see himself as we see him: WORTH IT.

In the meantime, we will plan the most special celebration we can. At a facility we never intended on needing. We will take a pot of jambalaya and an applesauce cake. We will wrap up the center-appropriate presents.

We will surround him with love.

June, 2004

November, 2006

September, 2009

February, 2011

May, 2013

October, 2013


August, 2014


© 2014 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Math, Spina Bifida, and other variables



For three mornings in a row, we have gone to Esther-Faith's room to wake her up only to find her awake and sitting at her new-to-her desk. Until we moved that desk into her room, she never initiated math homework. Yesterday, she had an old math textbook and a sketch notebook out and she was concentrating hard, knees pulled up to her chest, in her "Hello Kitty" pajamas. I sat down on her new-to-her bed. "Whatcha doing, Esther-Faith?" I asked sipping my coffee. "Just trying to catch up," she answered without lifting her eyes from the page.



It caught me off guard.

Catch up? On what? With whom?

Does she know? How can she know?

She IS behind in math. Very behind. It has never bothered her. I can't tell if it bothers her now. I just watched her copy numbers from the textbook to the notebook--the pages already full of sketches of ballerinas.



Math was not my strongest subject either. I don't care if she never takes calculus. But how does she know she's behind? That she needs to catch up? Has she picked up on that from us? From the extra work we do every night? The flashcards? From the other kids? Or is she just feeling frustrated in math class every day?



It doesn't matter. She gets up early to study math.

I hate that she knows.

I wonder what else she knows.

Here's what I know...

I love her exactly the way she is right now. Today. Just as much as I loved the adorable three-year-old with the head full of curls, I love snuggling under her covers and reading the books together that I loved at her age. I love talking to her about how to be strong. To be fair. To be gentle. To be fierce. I love that I don't even have to tell her some of the stuff that I tell her. She just knows.




I love that she has decided to volunteer at the animal shelter. Petting cats. Brushing dogs. Taking pictures. She doesn't know why, but she is passionate about taking care of animals that don't have homes. If she had her way, they would all have homes at her home.

I love that.



I love that I learn something new from her every day. I went for a walk along the river across from the dance studio during Isaac's lesson last night. I took pictures of animals along the walk and then went home and asked her what they were. She knew every single one. I want her to know she is really, really smart even if she doesn't quite get math.



She loves movies and video games, but she is just as happy with a pile of legos or markers and a sketch pad. Maybe more happy. I love that my boss (a graphic designer) sent home some professional markers for Esther-Faith, and now she has decided she wants to be a graphic designer, too. I love that there are hundreds of virtual and literal pages of drawings on my ipad and in my house. Of ballerinas and dogs and picnics and camping and people and the solar system and animals and so much more.



I love that she is unapologetically who she is. She isn't afraid to BE who she already IS and strive to be who SHE wants to BE. She loves who she wants to love. She has prayed for her brother every night since he left home. She only sees the good in people. She is just as beautiful inside as she is outside. And she is gorgeous on the outside. She has never let her crutches or her braces or her wheelchair or her diagnosis define her. She will be whatever she decides she wants to be. Because she is strong and independent and confident and smart. She is not Spina Bifida. Or hydrocephalus. Or NVLD. Or any other label that you might think fits her because she learns differently or walks differently or dances differently or engages differently. She is not her diagnosis. She is not disabled.

Don't ever tell her she is those things.

She is not. I know it. And she knows it.

She is Esther-Faith.






© 2014 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Walk, Run, and Roll: October 11

Join us next Saturday for the annual Walk, Run, and Roll to benefit COSBA!

Then HennHouse will be there, and we'd love to have you join us in raising money and awareness for Spina Bifida. And, we'd love even more to have you join us after the race at the HennHouse for some BBQ.

More info: centralohiospinabifidaalliance.blogspot.com
October 11, 2014
9 a.m. race time
McNamara Park

Register now: speedysneakersracing.com/2014wrr.aspx (search for team Esther-Faith)





© 2013 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Big birthdays...

I have eaten at maybe two or three restaurants in my life that qualify as "four diamond" or "five star" or whatever. You know the kind... the best of the best. Like the chef is creating a special meal just for you. And they grow the basil and the sage in a garden out back.

In 2004 Tim took me to New Orleans to celebrate my graduation from business school with my MBA in cause marketing. We (quite literally) ate our way through that city. It was before children (we actually met the boys the day before we left... so technically, we felt like parents even though they weren't "legally" ours yet--we talked about them the whole time).

During that vacation in 2004 we ate at a restaurant called Bacco. I couldn't tell you where it was or how to get there (and frankly, it might be gone now due to the hurricane), but it was the kind of place where they put your napkin on your lap for you and bring you a tasting menu so that you can make sure you get what you want.

I had the most tender pork loin in the history of braised meats. It had a prune reduction sauce and was served with potatoes that could have only been grown in the palm of someones hand with the most care possible.

My mouth is watering remembering that meal from 10 years ago. It was that good.

And tonight, we ate at LaSalle grill in South Bend, Indiana. We made reservations. They pulled out my chair for me. They greeted us at the door by name. And they didn't care at all that we were grossly underdressed (we're in town for a soccer tournament. I didn't pack dress clothes. We're lucky we all have enough clothes for both days. I only packed three pair of shoes.).



We had two waiters. Our food was set in front of us at exactly the same moment with precision and grace. They brought us new silverware for each course. They made our food to order.

It was amazing.

We eat at a place like this about every ten years.

But tonight, we were celebrating Tim's 40th birthday.

He couldn't decide between the antelope (not a misprint) and the duck. So, even though I don't eat much meat, I ordered the one he didn't. Because it is his birthday, and he usually eats my food anyway. I ended up with duck. It was the most delicious and tender and decadent meal I've eaten in, well, ten years.




It didn't matter that Isaac was wearing a soccer uniform and Esther-Faith was wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt with leopard print leggings. Or that Tim had on a Germany national team shirt while I was wearing a USMNT jersey.

We were treated like royalty.

Even though the kids kicked each other under the table. Esther-Faith stuck her fingers in Isaac's water (to annoy him), and Isaac simulated vomiting when I ordered the duck. Nevermind the 100 crayola markers and the fact that Isaac eats everything with his fingers. (Including picking the croutons off my Caesar salad.)  Isaac laid his head on the table at one point. I asked him to sit up straight 738 times. Esther-Faith tickled his leg under the table. I think she wrote on the table cloth (we're used to going to places with paper tablecloths.)



I could have sat there all night.

They would have let us.

We even ordered dessert. (We almost never order dessert.) Tim had three scoops of homemade, single-batch, craft ice cream (ginger snap, cinnamon, and maple syrup). They brought it to the table with a candle in it. Isaac had molten chocolate cake with peanut ice cream and candied almonds. I had keoke coffee.



Tim and I held hands across the table. We talked about how much we both miss my dad. (Today is his birthday, too. He would have been 63. Since the first year we were dating until he died, Tim and my dad celebrated together. In fact, Tim has picked out a hanging flower basket to give my mom because he misses my dad so much.)

We talked about some big decisions we have to make with regards to our oldest. We talked about how well Isaac is doing. About how awesome Esther-Faith is (in general). We talked about the last 20 years that we've been together (almost 20... The 20th anniversary of our first date is November 4). We talked about the next 20 years. We talked about how much we have in common with his parents. We talked about a courageously and beautifully honest email my mom sent us this week. We looked at each other's eyes. We talked about the love reflected back from each other.

It was rare and amazing and delicious and luxurious and sophisticated and every other amazingly descriptive adjective you can think of...

It was one of the most enjoyable evenings we've had in a long time. Sure, we missed Isaiah. Especially later as we we took a driving tour of the University of Notre Dame and we passed the track stadium.





But, as we have so many times in the last eight months, we took a minute to miss Isaiah, and we refocused our energy on the moment. Honestly, if it weren't for "the moment," we would be so lost in the pain of our lives. In the pain of Isaiah's life.

But today, we experienced an incredible meal and some amazing family time. We were able to focus on the here and the now. A 40th birthday. A BIG win in the tournament (a 16-point win). A GREAT start to the school year. A new 504 plan (for which Isaac was able to advocate for himself). New opportunities. New cities. New experiences.

Tonight was amazing.

Well worth the money.

Worth the time.

I guess, family is always worth it all.

Even when it hurts. Especially when there are celebrations to be had.

I hope we don't wait another 10 years for an evening like tonight.

And I hope I remember to pack a dress and heels and makeup next time.





© 2014 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.