Friday, November 28, 2008


One year ago today, a beautiful little girl named Mary Carol grew angels wings inside her mom's stomach and "flew" to Heaven.

Mary Carol, your parents and sister miss you very much. Thank you for watching over them and for helping your sister, Hailey, fill your mommy and daddy's hearts with love.

We miss you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

20,000 Hits

Today, I received my 20,000 hit. I don't know who it was, but it was someone who searched on the words: sensory processing disorder in Medworm.

He or she got to learn about Grace:

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Peaceful Words of Wisdom

I know that we all have our personal faith perspectives, but having been raised Catholic, Saint Therese's wisdom has always calmed me. From the time I was little girl, I would visit my grandparents in Rugby, ND. Their church was Saint Therese, and inspired my confirmation name of Therese. My mom sent me her prayer a few days ago, and I thought I'd share it with you all, too.

Saint Therese's Prayer

May today there be peace within.

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content knowing you are a child of God.

Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.

Friday, November 21, 2008


I've been tagged by Denise at A Woman With Hobbit Feet.

Here's what I have to do...
1) Choose the 4th picture folder on my computer
2) Choose the 4th picture
3) Explain the picture
4) Tag 4 other people

This is Meghan and Grace trick or treating in their grandparents' neighborhood in the back of a wagon attached to the lawn tractor.

Here's my photo:

I tag:

Susanna at I Find Myself a Mother
Laura at Ordinary Miracles
Jen at Yodeling Elkos
Jen at Against All Odds

Happy Birthday Mom!

I hope you have a great birthday.


Monday, November 17, 2008

"Money Bags"

For about the last year, Gracie has been a little obsessed with collecting money. At first, she didn't understand the amounts of coins versus dollars. She was pleased when I'd give her a penny.

Soon, she figured out that if we were in the cashier line at McDonald's, she could find coins that had rolled under the cash register. Her height was perfectly in line with seeing directly under the register. Often, Gracie would place them into the Ronald McDonald House collection containers, but a few times, she kept them. Other times, she'd grab a coin or two off of my dresser. Most of her money came in the form of a few dollars at a time in birthday cards. Eventually, she ended up with $36 and some change. Honestly, I don't know how much change she has because she tosses it around like confetti in her room.

With Gracie being in first grade now, she is suddenly learning the value of each coin along with the concept that each item in the store has a unique cost. On a recent trip to Target last week, she hung out in the "dollar aisle" carefully examining each item for its worthiness of her purchase. She was disappointed that she had forgotten to bring her purse along with its stash of cash.

So yesterday, I said, "Gracie, I need to go to Target. Do you want to come with me?"

Her face lit up as she replied, "Yes! I need to get my purse, Mom. Wait for me! I need to go get it. I hope those cute little Santa hats are still in the dollar aisle."

A few minutes later, she emerged with one of my old purses. Inside, she shoved her Disney Princess wallet.

"Okay, Mom. I'm ready to go."

We drove to Target, and as she held my hand, she merrily skipped along swinging my old purse. Very conveniently (tongue in cheek), Target places the dollar aisle at the front of the store. In bee line fashion, she sought out what she called the "cutest little Santa hat and mittens" for her precious Danny Kitty loved one. She shrieked with glee and placed them in the shopping cart.

After I finished my shopping, we went to the check out line. I approached the cashier, and said, "My daughter is making her first purchase with her own money." I smiled a large smile, and the cashier responded perfectly. She treated Gracie with the utmost respect, and made it a special experience.

"That will be $2.11, Miss."

"Mommy! Can you help me hold my wallet?"


Grace plucked two dollars out of the wallet, and placed them in the cashier's hand.

I reminded, "Gracie, she said two dollars and eleven cents. So if you give her only two dollars, that isn't enough money to pay for what you are buying. Why don't you give her one more dollar? Then, that will pay for the 11 cents you still owe. Don't worry though, she will give you some change back since you only owe 11 cents."

"Oh. Okay, Mom." She handed over another dollar, and received 89 cents in return.

It was Grace's first consumer purchase. She seemed a bit perplexed, and a little overly concerned with what to do with her coins since her wallet didn't have a change holder. I helped her drop the coins down into the bottom of the purse. She clutched her purse and shopping bag, and grinned from ear-to-ear as I checked out. I couldn't help but smile along with her.

She may have debited her stash of cash, but she made a very large deposit in my heart. Way to grow up Gracie. Mama loves you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Really, Really Rosa

So, what do you think of the pink?

Gracie really likes it, and I quote her, "Mom, that is really, really rosa."

Rosa is the word for pink in German.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Laternenacht 2008

As we left the minivan, Meghan exclaimed, "No Grandma! I can do it." Meghan's 4-year old independent self wouldn't allow for Grandma to help her out of the van. I smiled at her indignant response, and so did Grandma Kathy.

As the girls found the side walk, they both asked for their lanterns. We reassured them that they would be able to carry them once we got inside the gym, where the singing program would take place. Suddenly, Meghan took off running down the sidewalk. The pom pons on her pink hat bounced in cadence with her steps.

"Meggie! Please don't get too far ahead. There are a lot of people and cars around here. We don't want to lose you," I shouted. Gracie ran after Meghan. As she skipped along, her long blond hair shook in the light of the street lamps.

It was Laternenacht at the girls' school, which is a politically correct version of Martinstag, a German holiday celebrating Saint Martin and his good deeds. Laternenacht is a big deal for these grade schoolers. They had been preparing with their teachers for weeks by making lanterns and practicing the traditional German songs such as Laterne, Laterne.

This year, we arrived early enough to find a spot near the front of the gym. We camped out, and gave each of the girls their lanterns. The folded accordion-style paper of the girls' lantern lights glowed. They were traditional style German lanterns in the shape of a ball. Two round metal wires held each ball together. (A big thank you goes to Zoe and Sam, who gave them to Grace and Meghan as gifts.)

Soon afterward, the singing program began. A few volunteers played guitars and a blurry overhead projector showed everyone the words to the songs. The children, very obviously, knew all of the words and melodies by heart. Grace and Meghan sang their little hearts out, and when the entirely auf Deutsch program was finished, they quickly stood up and put their coats on.

Laterne, Laterne

Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne!
Brenne auf, mein Licht! Brenne auf, mein Licht, aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht.

After a short 20 minute sing along, we all went outside for the lantern procession. It was a crisp fall evening, and leaves crunched under our feet. I held Meghan's hand, and she would periodically whine that she wanted to be carried. Charlie eventually put her on his shoulders for a ride. Grace proudly carried her lantern, but eventually ended up skipping and hopping along. Her lantern fell off its perch a few times, but was no less for a little wear and tear.

It was our second Laternenacht but will be one of many we'll attend in the coming years. Time is speeding up as my girls go full speed into their school years. I soaked in the memories as I'm sure I'll eventually reflect on nights like Laternenacht as some of the best of my life.

We reached the end of the procession and piled back into the mini-van. We decided to get some ice cream as a treat and then put the kids to bed. Ah to be a kid again...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just When I Think She Understands

Just when I think Gracie understands about Alpha-1, she blind sides me with her youth and immaturity. All of her misunderstanding is completely age appropriate, but leaves me feeling a bit unsettled. Perhaps she stirs up my own denial? I have a hard time remembering that kids need order and not confusion in their lives. Grace's ability to create her own order is quite strong especially since she is innately a worrier. I wonder when or if she'll begin to worry about Alpha-1. Anyway...

Tonight, we attended our local Alpha-1 support group meeting. Grace has always been the kind of kid who asks me questions...questions about anything...and I do mean anything. Tonight was no exception.

"Maaaaahhhhhhmmmmmmm," Grace whispered with a drawn out exhale.

"What honey?"

As she pointed to a teenage boy sitting in a wheel chair at the back of the room, she said, "What is wrong with him?"

"Oh honey! That is just Michael. He is sitting in his mom's wheel chair. Michael pushes his mom in that chair."

"Which one is his mom?"

As I pointed to his mom, I said, "Over there in the yellow and green jacket..."

Grace responded, "What is wrong with her then?"

"She has Alpha-1 just like you, Gracie. Her lungs are pretty sick, and she gets very tired if she walks too far. Michael pushes his mom in her wheel chair so she can come to our Alpha Friends meetings. Isn't that nice he does that for his mom?"

As those words came out of my mouth, I was multitasking. Inside, I was thinking about all the little conversations I've had with her about Alpha-1. I know that each conversation doesn't add up to much unless you string them all together for a larger result. I guess I had misjudged her ability to understand what I had explained. This is the hard part of being a parent to a child with Alpha-1. There is no book of rules or carefully detailed explanations...just me and my mixed up assessments of what she can and can not handle. I know that there are no right or wrong answers. I know that I am probably one of the best people who can judge what she can and can not handle, but yes, I make mistakes or make errors in judgement.

"Uh huh Mommy. That's nice," she replied. Her expression said more than her words though. Worry washed over her.

"I don't have sick lungs," she replied flatly.

"We are going to take care of you Gracie even if you get sick lungs, but most people with Alpha-1 get sick lungs when they are adults. You have a long time before you are an adult, and hopefully the doctors will find something to fix sick lungs before then."

"I don't want sick lungs, Mom."

"I know Grace. I don't want you or Meghan to ever have sick lungs, but we don't know what will happen. Let's remember to be happy that you have good lungs and a good liver now. Okay?"

"I guess so, Mom."

Insert heart pains stabbing Mom Jen's mommy heart here.

Tomorrow, hope will return to me. I have moments of weakness and denial though. It is so hard to not be able to make Alpha-1 just pack its suit case and hit the road. I can't take a light saber and stab it out of existence. I can't banish it from our lives. I can't control it or how it will make Grace and Meghan's life different. All I can do is hope and pray and banish my fears. My fears do no good. My fears need to fly into the fray...where they can't hurt me or my girls.

I'm off to call on the angels to whisper their soothing, healing melodies while I sleep.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

November is Prematurity Awareness Month.

A little more than 6 years ago, I learned that my first baby would be born too soon at 34 weeks gestation. My precious cargo, Grace Ann, entered this world early because of my preeclampsia. She was my biggest baby weighing in at 3 pounds, 14.5 ounces, and 17 1/2 inches long. She had difficulty breathing, eating, and growing. To this day, Grace still deals with issues related to her prematurity, but nonetheless is doing well in first grade. Can she really be 6 already? Wow! I'm eternally grateful for Grace and the wonderful neonatal care she received.

A little more than 4 years ago, I learned that my second baby would be born extremely too early at 27 weeks gestation. My tiny peanut, Meghan Rose, was born a preemie because I developed preeclampsia yet again. She was unbelievably small to me weighing in at just 725 grams, aka 1 pound, 9.5 ounces, and 13 inches long. She was called a micropreemie, and proved herself to be a fighter every scary step of the way. Today, she is in kindergarten, and keeping up with her classmates even though she is still very tiny. We're happy she is growing, albeit ever so slowly, but she is happy and quite the character...ever so feisty like she was in her incubator.

Every day 1 in 8 babies born in the U.S. arrives too soon. Premature birth can happen to any pregnant woman. It is a serious, common, and costly problem. The March of Dimes is leading the campaign to reduce premature birth by supporting research and by educating the public and health care providers.

In tribute to the miracle baby survivors of preeclampsia, please consider donating to the March of Dimes. I would be so proud if you could. Grace & Meghan thank you too.

Jen, mom of Grace & Meghan

Writer's Block

Experiencing some writer's block lately...

Soon, I'll feel like writing again.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


I say this quote today, and it really spoke to me:

"Falling down isn't failure. Failing to get back up again is."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Historic Day

Both Grace and Meghan came home talking about Barack Obama. They must have discussed the election in school today.

I'm sure when I wake them up in the morning, that they will be pleased with the election results. I know I am.

This mama is for Obama.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Rake, rake, rake

Peering out the front window
Yellow, orange, and brown leaves blowing

Rake, rake, rake

Your child sized hands clasp the handle
Working hard at being a big kid

Rake, rake, rake

Holding the handle awkwardly
Barely moving any leaves

Rake, rake, rake

Heaving sighs
Wiping your brow

Rake, rake, rake

But helping and learning
Morphing in front of my eyes

Rake, rake, rake

Giving me tears of joy
Knowing your childhood time is flying by

Grow, grow, growing mama's love for you

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Two Fairies

I hadn't seen them for two days. The car door opened, and Meghan seemed to erupt from inside. Her long blond locks twisted with the breeze, and her size 9s jumped up and down with glee.

"Hi Mommy!"

Grace emerged next, as Meghan sprinted toward me at our front door. Gracie seemed more subdued, but she smiled a wide grin. She shouted, "Hi Mom! When does trick or treat start? In like twenty minutes?" Why she likes to think that 20 minutes is a long time, I'm not quite sure, but it is so endearing. I giggled as Meghan squeezed her spindly arms around my thighs to hug me as I held the door open.

"Grace, it starts in about an hour and a half."

"Okay Mom. When can we get our costumes on?" It was the day...Halloween Day, which to the girls is code for mass quantities of candy. It is also a day of reflection for me as I've watched them grow up so quickly in the last 4-6 years. Very soon, they'll be telling me that they are too old for trick or treat.

It was a surprisingly warm fall day here in Wisconsin with a high of 71. That alone was reason to celebrate, and this year, the girls wouldn't need to be bundled up like Ralphie's brother, Randy, in A Christmas Story.

As the sun began to set, the girls' excitement oozed from every pore, and it was hard to contain their enthusiasm in the boundaries of our house and yard. They scarfed down pizza and bread sticks in a hurry, and readied themselves with light-up glowing jewelery and plastic pumpkin candy buckets.

As I slid their costumes over their heads, wriggled and squiggled them into warm tights, and kissed each cheek, they nearly hovered off the ground in their anticipation. Their fairy costumes of Silver Mist and Barbie Mariposa were complete.

The start time arrived, and they bolted out the front door. Darkness had set, but the sound of the leaves blowing around the neighborhood added to the ambiance of the night. Princesses, goblins, ghosts, and pirates scampered from house to house. Grace and Meghan's fairy costumes blended right in with the rest. Parents stood on the sidewalk waiting to escort their dressed up children, and my heart fell even more in love with my girls.

My nieces and nephew joined us for the evening, and with the five of them combined, it very much reminded me of my time with my siblings. How quickly that passed! Chloe wore the same costume her mama, Kristen, did when we were kids. I could go on and on, but pictures reveal more than I could ever write of my reflections on last night.