being a dad

family, father's day By June 16, 2016 18 Comments

When Steve and I fell in love and got married {back when we had it all figured out} we knew we wanted to be parents–but we had no idea what parenting involved. We also had no idea our first son would be born with a disability. Life is crazy and parenting is hard. Really hard. I’m thankful I married a man who is an excellent father.

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He takes time to listen to our boys.

He respects their individuality.

He holds them and kisses them. I love that he is so affectionate.

He pushes them to try new things, explore and grow.

He gives good advice.

He shows them what it looks like to work hard.

He tucks them in each night and prays for them.

He lets them be imperfect.

He admits when he’s wrong.

He believes in them.

He loves them just as they are.

It’s beautiful to watch. We are so imperfect. We have our ups and downs, our normal and our crazy.

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This pic above was just normal moment–ordering sushi and the boys melting into their dad. I’m so glad I caught it with my iPhone.

Father’s Day is just a few days away. We’ll be celebrating with a few small gifts and a special meal. Steve, you are an amazing father. We love you!

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the man I married

family, father's day By May 17, 2016 9 Comments

In high school I made a list of qualities I wanted in a husband. I wish I still had it! I wanted him to be a surfer and to be handsome and strong. My high school self had a lot to learn about life, love and marriage {heck, I still have a lot to learn!}

I knew even way back then I wanted to marry a kind man, but I didn’t give a lot of thought to marrying a man who would be a good father. Thankfully, even in my youthful ignorance, I married a man who is an amazing dad. I’m thankful every day for the way he loves our boys.

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Here’s a current day list of {just a few of} Steve’s amazing qualities…

champion cuddler

lover of learning

musician who fills our home with music

humble enough to admit when he’s wrong

dedicated to lightsaber duels and nerf gun wars

patient while holding hands

expert pancake flipper

intentional to help the boys grow

laughs loudly and easily

bedtime storyteller {with all the different voices}

holds hands tightly

always ready to kiss and hug and listen

world traveler ready for the next adventure

handsome and strong

And hey, he even surfs {rarely, but still!}

Steve, you are the best daddy to our boys. I love you.

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Moments of motherhood

family, motherhood By April 15, 2016 2 Comments

Will you walk down memory lane with me? Looking back through these old photos has my heart melted into a puddle. Have you ever snapped a pic in what seems like a totally normal, mundane moment and then years later look back and think ‘OH MY GOSH I’m so glad I captured that!’ It’s the everyday, mundane moments that make life truly beautiful.

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Matthias loved dressing up as a toddler and preschooler. Every day he wore elaborate costumes and pretended to be a superhero or fireman. I loved watching him express himself then and love looking back and seeing how his passion for creativity and expression is still so much the same!

And David {above middle} learned to feed himself spoonfuls of yogurt and we CELEBRATED! Such a big accomplishment. And those sweet baby cheeks melt me.

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I’m somehow with two of the cuddliest kids in the world. They love to hold hands and snuggle up on the couch. They would happily snuggle up in our bed every night if we let them. I believe one can never have too many cuddles.

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Looking back on these pics I can see how much David has changed. He’s filled out–he’s not so skinny any more. He’s much sturdier health wise {thank you Lord!} and has a lot more opinions than he used to have. But oh my goodness, that little sparkle in his eye and his love of life hasn’t changed one bit. I love it!

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Owning our own business has been good and bad–but mostly good. There are nights Steve and I both have to work late, but we also have the ability to take time off when we need or want to. We’ve taken two weeks off to travel to England. When David had heart surgery when he was seven years old, we took a lot of time off to take care of him. We were able to from his hospital room or make calls after he fell asleep. I am thankful so thankful for that flexibility. I don’t take it for granted.

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Oh my gosh those frog rain boots were Matthias’ favorite for a couple years. We went through a few pairs! What is it about kids and boots–there is nothing cuter. Nothing.

Being a family isn’t made up of one huge success or one massive failure. Family is formed over days, months and years. It’s the day in, day out mundane stuff of life that creates a safe place to truly be yourself–and know that you’re loved no matter what. Every kiss, cuddle, tear wiped, lunch packed, homework packet signed and bedtime prayer bonds our hearts together. Being a mom is life giving and heart breaking. It’s so incredibly hard and so amazingly beautiful. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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looking for a wife

matthias By March 31, 2016 23 Comments

IMG_0921The other day Matthias said to me, Isn’t it crazy to think my wife is out there somewhere? I just haven’t met her yet. I wonder what she’s doing right now?”

At twelve years old, he regularly stops me in my tracks with this kind of insightful comment and perspective.

I asked him, “What are you looking for in a wife?”

He responded, “Well, first of all, I want her to love and respect David.”

Whoa.

There is a lot of heart and life experience and passion in that statement. Matthias has seen people open their arms to David and love him well. He’s also seen people awkwardly stare at David while they avoid eye contact.

Matthias unconditionally loves and accepts his brother–special needs and all. He wants to build a life with someone who has open heart and an open mind.

I believe Matthias is a better person because of his brother. I believe Matthias will make the world a better place because of his compassion and bravery. And I hope he finds an amazing wife who will be a trusted partner in this beautiful journey.

But it’s okay with me if we wait fifteen years or so to begin ring shopping.

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hello spring break

family, san luis obispo By March 28, 2016 3 Comments

We celebrated Easter yesterday–a beautiful mellow day celebrated with a church service, friends, delicious food and some down time. The boys are out of school this week and Auntie Ellen comes to town! Hooray for slow mornings and time for play.

It’s a brand new week, how about some hellos?
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Hello sunshine. We have had glorious weather the last few days! It feels like summer.

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Hello trying to figure out which setting on my camera is off. I had a lot of trouble getting the exposure right. Hmmm.

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Hello drawing. Matthias always brings his drawing supplies. He also really into the Percy Jackson series right now. I love seeing him draw and read.

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Hello Louis and Beasley hanging out under the table while we eat lunch. Look at those sweet faces.

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Hello smiles at lunch. David has had a big appetite the last few days. Maybe a growth spurt is coming?

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Hello wishing I hadn’t worn a sweater to the beach–it was way warmer than I expected.

Hello family. These are my guys and I love them.

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Hello bum ankle. David is still having trouble with his left foot/ankle. He’ll walk some but not as much as normal. And his gate is all off.

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Hello puppy love. Nothing better.

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Hello crashed out. David has been taking a few cat naps every day. Bigger appetite plus cat naps sounds like a growth spurt is coming!

Hello haircuts this week. Don’t you feel like keeping up with haircuts, dentist appointments, teacher conferences, etc is a full time job? It’s crazy!

Hello eating pizza and take out. We’ll have new countertops soon but until then the kitchen is out of commission.

Hello new designs to share with you tomorrow! I can’t wait to show you.

Hello Monday! It’s a brand new week with beauty to be found. What are you saying hello to this week?

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the most important thing

david, finding love, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 8, 2016 63 Comments

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We were nervous, but felt mostly ready to have our first baby. Toward the end of my pregnancy, we had tiny clothes, washed, folded and tucked into drawers. We had a crib with cozy, blue plaid bedding. We had a stroller and carseat ready to go. At my 38 week prenatal appointment, everything in our world was about to be turned upside down. We were most definitely not ready for what was about to happen.

Our routine visit began with an ultrasound. I could see the puzzled look on our doctor’s face. There were long pauses, note taking, comparing notes, checking and double checking, and then the question, “Are you sure we have the due date right? The baby’s measuring small. “

I was absolutely certain we had the due date correct. His words rung in my ears. I’d been careful to plan out the details as we prepared for our baby’s birth, but somehow I hadn’t worried about the right thing. Not that worrying would have changed one single thing. Something was wrong with our baby.

The next days were filled with a visit to the specialist, being admitted to the hospital, tears, worry and waiting. On July 4, 2002 our David was born. He was 4lbs, 2oz, had a full head of hair, a button nose, only two fingers on his left hand and a massive heart defect.

All of a sudden we had a lot of questions.

Will David survive?

Did I do something that caused this syndrome?

Will our friends and family accept our new baby?

Will we ever experience joy again?

We felt out of control. We were out of control.

On July 11, when David was seven days old, we sat down with a geneticist to discuss his diagnosis. We were new parents with broken hearts. We were at the beginning of one of the hardest parts of our journey. The geneticist could have shared meaningful statistics or current research to answer our questions. Instead he gave us deep wisdom into how to parent our new baby.

What did we do wrong?

What will David’s life look like?

How severely is our son affected by this syndrome?

Will David be okay? Are we going to be okay? What do we do next?

He calmly met our eyes. He spoke tender words with profound truth. “You’ll just have to get to know David to find out who he is.” He told us it was impossible to say how David’s life look. If we had a typical child, he couldn’t tell us how intelligent, creative, determined or successful he would be. His advice was to love our son, just the way he was, right at that moment.

Of all the questions, it really came down to one, foundational question.

“Will you love him as he is?”

We weren’t in control of the events leading up to David’s birth. We had no idea what the future held. But we were given the best, most important advice any parent can receive.

The most important advice any person can receive.

Love.

Love him just the way he is.

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In the midst of all the questions and worry, we had the one thing we needed most. Love. And amazingly, this tiny baby was about to teach us how to love more deeply and more purely than we ever imagined.

Sitting in a hospital waiting room, talking to a geneticist, we learned one of life’s most important lessons. And although we’ve grown a lot, it’s a lesson we’re still learning.

The most important thing is love.

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what a pity

david, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 3, 2016 84 Comments
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Last week at the grocery store I made eye contact with the woman behind me. She glanced at David with sad eyes, then looked back at me and shook her head. She saw his small hand with only two fingers. She heard him vocalizing sounds that didn’t form words. She could tell he had a disability.

Pity. That’s what she felt for David. Her face spoke a thousand words. I fought back the stinging tears and tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I turned around, pulled my shoulders back and stood up straighter. I looked at David and focused on the mischievous twinkle in his eye and the sweet smile on his lips. I took a moment and soaked him in.

If worth is measured by academic achievement and college degrees, we have a very sad situation.
If value is determined by dollars in your bank account or the car you drive, we have reason to worry.
If quality of life is based on athletic ability or the physical beauty, David is excluded.
But, if worth is determined by a loving God who knows you by name, then we have hope.
So much hope.
If value is measured belly laughs that begin in your toes, and pure joy that radiates from your soul, then we are rich.
If quality of life is based hugs and kisses and cuddles, then we certainly don’t need pity. We have everything we need.

Yes, David’s body is broken–he has a disability. There are many things in life he will never accomplish. But those things don’t determine his worth or value.
His heart is whole. His soul is strong and powerful. He freely gives and receives love. When I look at him, I feel no pity. When I look at him, I’m overcome with admiration. Then I take him in my arms and squeeze him as tightly as I can.
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the making of a family

family, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 1, 2016 6 Comments

Family doesn’t flourish or break in one moment.

It’s not defined by a perfect, smiling picture.

It isn’t shaken by a stressful morning of rushing and yelling.

Family is nurtured over months and years. It’s the process of growing together.
Family doesn’t require perfection, but depends on forgiveness.

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Family is bed head and a good cup of coffee

Family is a sink of dirty dishes after a pancake breakfast.

Family is silly texts and handwritten love notes.

Family is a hurt feelings followed by bear hugs.

Family is a cozy blanket, a cuddle on the couch and a good movie after a long day.

Family is an inside joke that lasts for years.

Family is staying by your side when you’re sick.

Family is sharing your toys and sharing your heart.
Family is an umbrella on a rainy day.

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Family is shaped by laughter and tears,
adventure and routine,
the magical and the mundane.
Family is the vulnerability of being known and the relief of being loved just the same.

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this little hand

david, finding love By February 23, 2016 22 Comments

This little hand was the first tangible sign that things were not as we expected.

This little hand, with only two little fingers, made my heart hurt and worry about the days ahead.

This little hand represented a syndrome and questions and the end of dreams I’d been dreaming for my tiny baby.

This little hand softly touches mine and reminds me true beauty comes from within.

This little hand is teaching me perfection isn’t the goal, love is the goal.

This little hand is connected to this little body. A body that runs and explores and cuddles close to mine.

This little body that has fought hard to overcome illness and disorder.

This little body holds the heart of my child. A heart that loves deeply. A heart that laughs with joy. A heart that doesn’t worry about tomorrow but finds beauty in this moment. A heart so big and powerful that it has helped heal my own. A heart that has taught me how to love better and more purely.

I wouldn’t change this little hand because it’s part of the story that has brought us to today.

And today holds amazing, wonderful things.

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a brother’s heart

family, matthias By February 17, 2016 57 Comments

When the boys were very little, maybe three and four years old, we tucked them into a side by side double stroller and set off with sippy cups and a diaper bag. As we walked along, Matthias saw someone staring at David, and he protectively put his arm around his brother. Steve and I exchanged a knowing glance. It was a small action with big meaning. Matthias was beginning to understand that his big brother needed looking after.

Months later, Matthias asked me, “Why do they stare?”, His green eyes full of innocence and righteous indignation. “They’ve never seen a child with only two fingers before. It’s unusual and they’re curious.” I tried to explain. My words sounded calm and rational, but inside their stares tore at my heart too. “He’s just David.” was Matthias’ perfect, childlike answer. “He’s my brother. He’s fine just the way he is.” In his unwavering acceptance of David, Matthias was beginning to grasp that his brother was different.
F3C41F14-26C7-4435-BA25-72AAC7B4E3A7Sometimes I wish Matthias didn’t know so much about how hard life can be. Having a brother with a disability means simple outings sometimes turn into complicated situations. He’s heard my voice shaking as we debate taking David to the emergency room. He’s had to be flexible too many times when plans get changed because his brother is sick or in the hospital.  And no one is as better at packing a bag with art supplies, books and snacks to wait out a long doctor visit.

And each time everything grinds to a halt to care for David, my heart hurts a little for Matthias. He assures me he’s fine. And I know Steve and I are intentional to make special time for him, too. But it’s hard. It’s imperfect. The stress that comes along with having a disabled brother affects Matthias, and it isn’t fair.a brother's heart lisa leonard1Thankfully he also sees the beautiful and amazing parts of this journey. Those long waits at the doctor’s office have given him time to nurture a passion for drawing and creativity. He has insights beyond his twelve years that will serve him well in life. He has compassion for others and cares for those who are hurting. Matthias adds stability to our family. We are better because of him. His life hasn’t been easy. Having a brother with a disability has shaped him and given him a bigger heart. As mothers, we want every good thing for our children.a brother's heart lisa leonardWhen I see my child struggle, it breaks my heart. But as I see those struggles produce a kinder heart that loves more deeply, I’m flooded with gratefulness. This journey has it’s twists and turns but I’m finding, step by step it’s taking our little family to beautiful places. We are stronger together.

Have you walked through a hard time with your child?

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