Monday, December 31, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas

Another Christmas is in the books!  On Christmas Eve, I feel like I'm a high school student frantically finishing up a test, quickly marking the last few rectangles on my Scantron and hoping it turns out okay.  It's a great feeling, though, when you can just simply celebrate Christ's birth with your extended family.  No more shopping or baking or cleaning...just enjoying.  So here are some snapshots from our family's Christmas celebration.  

Two days before Christmas, we had the Olsons and Moores over at our house for some hot chocolate and goodies.  Calvin and his cousin, Nolan, enjoyed videos on the computer.  I love this picture!
The next day, we enjoyed Christmas Eve Mass at Little Flower, then headed over to the home of Perry's sister, Carolyn, for a fantastic meal and lots of unwrapping of presents.  

Here is my handsome little guy, Calvin.  I cannot believe how grown up he is.  I long for the days when he was a baby, but I truly LOVE this age.  He is so entertaining!
Perry was in charge of photo-taking on this night.  He didn't take many pictures...sorry!  Here is Calvin opening the present that sat under our tree for a LOOOOONG time.  He wanted to open that present so badly.  It's a Hot Wheels race track and garage that he has played with nonstop since we got home.

Grandpa Jim looks on while the gifts are opened. pictures of Natalie from that night!  Luckily, every Olson is armed with a camera at all times, so there are many pictures out there, just not on my computer at the moment.

So, that night, we packed up the van and headed north to Sherwood to celebrate Christmas Day with the Millers.  

That morning, Calvin discovered his new kitchen left behind by Mr. Claus.  He loved it, but the most coveted gift of all was a xylophone left for his cousin, Stella.  Typical.  

Ahhhh, Christmas morning in Sherwood.  It's hard for me to imagine not being there every year.  After a few minutes of playing with the "Santa toys," Calvin, Stella, and Harper ran in to Grandma and Papa's room, yelling and shining a flashlight in their faces.  They should know better than to try and sleep in on Christmas morning.

Finally!  A picture of Natalie, who made out like a bandit on always.  

My favorite gift for her is this beautiful little pearl necklace that was given to my mom when she was a little girl by her Aunt Elsie.  It fits Natalie's tiny little neck perfectly.  Natalie looks half asleep, but it's just because I always seem to get pictures of her with her eyes mid-blink.  No matter how many pictures I take, 80% of them turn out like this!

More gift opening with Daddy...

I love Harper's hair in this picture.  She is such a little sweetheart!

Play food for Calvin's kitchen set.  I now regret purchasing a set with 125 pieces.

Calvin's new nighttime buddy, Biscuit.  He's in love.

Harper and her daddy (my brother, Steve).

Apparently, my dad likes booze.  He's stocked up for a good two weeks now.  Just kidding, Dad.

Calvin ate approximately 16 pieces of banana bread before breakfast even began.

Cars...Calvin's one true love.

My favorite part of the day...Christmas Day breakfast.  My mom is the best cook in the world.  Seriously.

Post-unwrapping rest time.  Being in Sherwood is great because Daddy is with us ALL work and no refereeing.

That night, the kids were all about playing with the new kitchen set.  

Brother and sister, enjoying Christmas Day together.  Next year, we'll have a 9 month old to add to the pictures.  That seems so strange to me!  Life just keeps getting better every day.

Merry Christmas from the Olsons!  
Our Christmas tree, 2012.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mommy Guilt

I think every parent...mommies especially...wrestles with guilt.  It's the guilt of feeling you're not there enough for your child, or that you're not doing enough to educate your child, or that you're not providing your child with enough fun experiences.  Warranted or not, feeling this guilt is part of being a parent.

Beyond this typical guilt, I tackle many more fears of inadequacy...and I know I'm not alone.  Being the parent of a special needs child is not easy.  There have been many studies conducted regarding the divorce rates among parents of children with disabilities.  Some may be exaggerated, but there's no doubt that raising a special needs child is stressful on a marriage.  It can either drive you apart or bring you closer than you ever could have been before that child was born.  Luckily, Perry and I fall into the latter category.

It's easy to look at Natalie's beautiful smile and be so thankful that she has brought so many wonderful things into our lives.
What's not so easy is remembering the circumstances of her birth, and wondering if I could have done more to keep her inside for longer than 28 weeks.  
Maybe if I hadn't walked from the bed to the bathroom so much while on bed rest, the cervical stitch would have held longer.  Maybe I was the one who passed on the virus that caused her to get so deathly ill in the NICU.
And maybe I should have been more aware that the cervical stitch wasn't the cure for us after losing our first child.

Not to take away from the wonderful care Natalie received at Trinity by an amazing staff, but what if we had elected to have her in Minneapolis instead of Minot from the very beginning?  We would have had quicker access to the treatment that saved her life.  Would that have made a difference?

Then there's the guilt of watching your child go through surgery.  Natalie's NICU roommate in Minneapolis has just finished his 19th surgery in his six years of life.  NINETEEN!  Can you imagine what it must be like for Carter and his parents?  
I am so thankful for the beautiful little girl Natalie is today, but she deals with seizures and spasticity.  It's not easy to witness.

I often think about how different Natalie would look if she were able to walk and talk.  What would her voice sound like?  I CANNOT wait until the day we meet in heaven and I can see her as a child without any disabilities, and she can SEE me.  I want her life to be pain-free.
My current guilt is regarding having another child.  Will this take away from my time with her?  She always has to be my #1 priority in life.  I'm her primary caregiver and likely will be forever.  I'm glad she will have brothers who will be there if something ever happens to me or Perry, but the fact is, she is like a newborn, too.  I just have to keep my head up and believe that this is what is best for her, and we're lucky that we can even have children brought to full term now.  It has all happened for a reason.  

Okay, enough guilt for today.  I'll save the rest for another day!