Who knew a date to the symphony during my junior year of high school would lead to such a beautiful life. After 20 years of marriage, 4 children, and a whole lot of ups and downs, Ryan and I might just be starting to figure things out.
When I started having children, I was very fortunate to be able to stay home with them. While that hasn't always been easy for me (I have a working girl's brain) it was something I always envisioned myself doing when children came into our lives. As a mom, I have been far from perfect. I'm the first to admit that. I'm not a master chef or baker. I don't have all my scrapbooks up to date. In fact, my youngest doesn't even have a baby book. And, I've always regretted I didn't read to my kids more (It hurt my voice / throat after a few pages).
But, there were a few areas that were priorities to me. Over the years I've tried to make a consistent effort to be present for my children and yet, give them space and independence to grow. I've tried to teach important values and spiritual truths through casual conversation, interactions, and by example. I've tried to be a model for service, philanthropy, and learning how to manage responsibility. And because we focus on balance, we've also tried to have a good measure of downtime and fun.
Now, let me introduce you to my life's work.
Alexis (16), aka Lexie, is our oldest daughter. She is a beautiful soul inside and out. She is grounded, spiritual, a talented dancer, a photographer, a fashion guru, and has an artistic eye for anything creative or beautiful. However she can't throw tumbling tricks to save her life. Believe me, I've paid for 4 years of tumbling and she still can't throw a back hand spring. But, when you're good at everything else and breathtakingly beautiful, you have to have at least one flaw. Oh, and did I mention she is self confident and funny. She too thinks her tumbling skills are humorous.
Jackson is now 14. When I look back at all he and I have been through, I think we've lived through enough for two life times. Jackson has a rare chromosome duplication (7q11.23 duplication), currently less than one of 500 in the world. The duplication mirrors autism. Since his birth, we've been involved with specialists, medications, therapies, and have traveled near and far for treatment. Jackson has intense struggles in building relationships, regulating emotions, and verbalizing feelings. He also is trying to manage ADHD, anxiety, and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. While Jackson's world is full of challenges he also excels at organizing his room, keeping track of dates and family memories, he connects to music and the latest hit on the radio, he enjoys the beach and building in the sand, camping, exploring in the woods surrounding our home, and those silly ghost hunting type shows. Jackson is a key member of our family because we all have a chance to serve him and help him achieve successes in this life. And in return, we have an appreciation for the simple pleasures of life that a family can enjoy. Our hearts melt every time we have positive interactions and happy moments with Jackson.
Collin is 11 and enjoying 5th grade. He is the unassuming, handsome type. While he may present himself to the world as shy and more reserved, he has a wicked ability to tease and take in everything around him. Collin loves basketball and just started playing with a competition team. He also enjoys hip hop, playing with his Kendama (Japanese toy that has a string, wood post, and ball), the game - Magic, and Dr. Who. Because of birth order, Collin has endured much in his short life. Even though he is younger, he's been an advocate and care taker for Jackson and has had to learn to acquiesce more than he should in order for Jackson to maintain a sense of calm. We love Collin and his giving spirit. He is a pillar of strength and a source of much joy.
Isabella, aka Izzy, just turned 8 and was baptized into our church this year. Izzy has a tender heart and is a very spiritual young soul. She is thoughtful, giving, artistic, a great piano player, spunky, funny, and adores her cat, Mrs. Fox. She started dancing with a competition dance team this year and loves every minute; especially Hip Hop. Izzy is in a French Immersion program in school. She can always get us laughing with made up words in a french accent. We are so happy this ray of sunshine is in our family. Her bright light often lifts our spirits and adds warmth to our sometimes stressed out household.
So, that's us. We're pretty down to earth and for the most part, a typical family. The extra DNA that is a part of our family keeps things real. While our challenges can be overwhelming at times, we know they are helping to make us stronger, more compassionate, and more unified. We're all in this together and know that we all want to be together as a family forever.