Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My gift to my family this Christmas

I'm currently reading "For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker and it's really resonating with me.

If you haven't read this book yet, do yourself a favor and grab a copy. It's a really great read about finding grace in a world of really high standards. It's about Jesus' redeeming gift of grace and salvation, it's about motherhood, it's about womanhood. It's just about life. And it's really funny. And, honestly, for me, has been a bit life changing. 

This is the part that spoke like a dagger straight into my heart, the part where she talks about the differences between "spicy" and "sweet" families.

"We are spicy people. We love obnoxious humor and sarcasm and are very, very loud. The lot of us suffers from Enormous Feelings, which makes us a passionate, emotional bunch. Our permanent default setting is exclamation marks!! We don't really "do gentle." We don't actually know what that means."


After first checking around over my shoulder to make sure she didn't have a video monitoring my family, I stopped in my tracks and took in her statement. FINALLY. Someone understood my family dynamic. That is us, in a nutshell. (Those of you who know us well are nodding your heads vigorously right now.) I cannot begin to explain the enormous sense of relief I felt in realizing that there are other families like us.

 I would love to blame it all on Bodie and the ridiculous amount of crap that has been hurled at our family in the last 9 years, but really, I can't. It's just how we are. It's how God made us, Dusk, me, Sierra and (definitely) Bodie. 

Jen goes on to talk about extending grace to ourselves, in this whole parenting experience, and that, in the end, if her children's childhoods are "mostly good," she will have been successful as a parent.

Her entire chapter, "Hope for Spicy Families" and later "Dear Kids" (bring tissue for that chapter - it's amazeballs and has all the feels) really hit home for me. They made me realize how much of effort and energy I expend daily in trying to reign in my "spicy" family to make it "sweet," as though that is my goal in life.

But what if it's not?

What if God made my family to be spicy? And the best us is a spicy version of ourselves, not a mellowed out version that looks like someone else's family? 

What if, in trying to tone us down, I'm not giving God room to let the talents and gifts HE has given my children to shine through? If I'm so busy comparing them to the inordinately well behaved kiddos in the family sitting next to us in the restaurant, or playing so nicely with one another at school, I'm not taking the time to look at who MY KIDS are. I might be missing their wonderful quirkiness, their love of life, their excitability (oh for the love, their excitability - it is off the charts, folks). 

I might miss Sierra's curious nature and oh, my heavens, risk taking personality.
NOTHING scares this kid. That is probably my favorite trait of hers. She is ALWAYS up for new adventures. 

And well, I probably wouldn't miss Bodie's off the charts excitement about things, because, let's face it, I'm pretty sure you can feel his excitement 10 states away.
But, I might be a little better equipped to deal with the other end of his excitement.
I call this one "When you inherited mommy's competitive gene…but your skills don't quite back up said competitive gene yet." 

I guess my point is this. In this crazy world of social media showing us how perfect everyone else's family is, maybe we can give our own families some grace to be who God designed them to be - spiciness and all.

I know I can't be the only one in this boat. I'm not certain my kids will get out of childhood remembering it as "mostly good" (there's not much I can do about everything that has come our way), but if I can get sort of close to mostly good, I'll take it. 
I'm not sure that was Jen Hatmaker's point in that chapter. But, for me, it was the point God wanted me to hear. And the gift I'm giving my family this Christmas. To take a step back and love the spiciness. Discipline where it's needed, yes, but not so much that I miss the chance to shepherd the talents He has given us. 

So, Jen, thanks for the Christmas gift. I know two kids who will really appreciate it.


Monday, November 23, 2015

The Dreams you dare to dream

Here's the thing about raising a medically fragile child. It's hard, some days downright impossible, to try to imagine the future.  When Bodie was a tiny newborn lying in a hospital bed, recovering from open-heart surgery, and having so many complications, I couldn't see past the next 24 hours, let alone the weeks and months after that. Even once he ultimately did come home and started to thrive, even then, I didn't let myself look too far down the road. I don't think I ever bought clothes bigger than the size Bodie was currently wearing until he was close to 2 years old. It's hard to explain why. I'm sure it was just how my mind dealt with such a staggering medical condition. 

I never dared to dream of things like walking, and running, and going to preschool, let alone graduating and starting kindergarten some day. And, to a degree, I still don't think much beyond the stage we're at, which, right now, is a pretty sweet stage.

So, to hit another milestone tonight was pretty sweet. This was one Dusk and I never even imagined. But here we are.

Our little dude lost his first tooth tonight.
I get it, it's just a tooth. It's not that big a deal. Every kid goes through this. And I know I do have a penchant for dramatizing things. But, peeps, this IS a big deal. It's a childhood milestone. And one, by all accounts, we never knew if we'd even get. 

So yeah, tonight was a pretty big deal in the Bennett household.

And, I might add, this kid pulled that sucker after only having it loose for a couple of weeks. I think Sierra's first tooth took months to come out - she was so scared of it. But not Bodie. This dude wiggled and wiggled, and took a few balls and lego boxes to his face unwittingly in the past week. And finished it off tonight. 
(A big huge thank you to Gigi Nancy and Popo Bill for the adorable tooth fairy pillow and the "Night before the Tooth Fairy" book!)


And so are we.

And, as an aside, losing a tooth when you're on aspirin is a whole nother Oprah. He kept asking me when it was going to stop bleeding. I just kept saying "I don't know, bud. Soon, I think…I hope?" 

Friday, November 20, 2015

On Moving On...

When I was in 7th grade, my best friend Lynetta moved away. (At least I think that was her name – I’m sure my 7th grade self would be super ticked that the 39 year old version of me can’t even remember the “super duper important” girl’s name.) At the time, it felt like the world was ending. But then again, most everything feels like the world is ending when you’re in 7th grade. But I digress. It really did feel like my world was ending. 

Of course it wasn’t.

But here I find myself, 25 years later, feeling like my world is ending again. Because my best friend is moving again.

Being left behind kinda stinks. 

(But lest I get totally caught in 7th grade drama, let me preface this by saying that my bestie, Faith is amazeballs. Completely and totally. She has one of those incredibly dynamic and engaging personalities. So I am 100,000% certain that she has lots of people who would say that she is their best friend. And I totally don’t want to offend them or detract from the specialness of their friendships. And I have other best friends too – like Bonnie, my bestie since 5th grade (except for the aforementioned 7th grade detour – we’ll call those the “dark years”) and Valerie (who moved clear across the country from me a few years back and is the reason we go to South Carolina every couple of years). But right now, Faith is where it’s at. Totally my bestie.)

She’s amazing. The kind of friend where you can talk and laugh for hours and still leave wanting more. The kind of friend where you can try on clothes together and shop for hats and jewelry together with. The kind of friend you can text at the last minute and ask her to grab your kids from school – and then invite the whole family for dinner when she drops them off. 
And it’s not just her. 
Her eldest daughter is Sierra’s best friend. And her son is one of Bodie’s good buddies. And our husbands love to spend time together, too! I mean, peeps, WHEN does that happen in life?!? It’s sort of like magic struck with our families. The kinda magic where NO ONE wants to leave when we have dinners together. Well, I mean, not “magic” – I mean, God specifically ordained for our families to cross paths. And fireworks kinda happened when we did.

Our girls met the week before kindergarten started. 
And before long, we were all fast friends. Since then, we have carpooled together, we have had spontaneous play dates and more dinners than I can count. We have vacationed together. We have rejoiced in one another’s joys (the birth of their sweet baby girl last year) and held each other’s hands through the hardships (our fire, Bodie’s surgeries, Dusk’s cardiac arrest…ok, well, really they’ve just held our hands. But honestly, it’s hard to compete with the crap that’s been thrown at our family!). We’ve walked through life the past 3 years together, binding our families. To find this kind of closeness with another family in this huge metropolis of LA is truly a rare find.

But their family has been called to a new mission field, in another part of the country.

I am so so so excited for them. I am 100,000% certain this is the absolute best move for their family. I know God has called them and they have willingly heard his call. I am so thrilled for them and this new adventure they’re about to embark on. I am so blessed to have role models in my life who hear God’s call and willingly answer. I know they must be scared – change is never easy. But after the change comes the good part, where they will settle into a new community, and a new group of people will shake their heads at their good luck in finding such an incredible family. 

But the hole they will be leaving behind is immeasurable. Big big BIG shoes to fill. In our lives. In our children’s lives. In our church. In our school. In our community. 

So, if you’re the praying kind, we could all use some prayers right about now. Pray for a smooth transition for this amazing family. Pray for open hearts and arms in their new community. And pray for us, those of us left behind trying to fill their void. We live in LA, which is such a transient city, so you’d think we’d be pretty good at this leaving game by now, but even so, sometimes it still stings. And there are a few that are REALLY hard to let go of. That would be this family. 

They’re leaving next week. I’ve done a really good job at pretending it’s not happening, at just going about life as usual. But when you get this close, it’s hard. I’m starting to actually have to envision what our lives, church and school will be like without this family and my heart is pretty heavy. And pray for Sierra – her best friend is leaving her. It’s hard for us adults to lose our best friends. But we’ve had a lifetime of learning to cope behind us. She has only 8 years. She’s struggling. Pray for peace for her little heart. Pray for friendships with the friends still at school to be strengthened, and for new friends to cross her path. 
Because this one's really hard to let go.

And, if you’re lucky enough to have a bestie who lives locally, who you can grab coffee with or drop in spontaneously on; if you’ve been blessed with those kind of friends in your life, with that special kind of magic, grab them and do dinner with them tonight.  Take them out to Starbucks. Hug them tight. And thank your lucky stars for the blessing of friendship. 


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hitting our Stride

We're wrapping up our second week of school, and I have to say, things have gone exceptionally well so far. As in, this is the first year we have not been in the mad back to school mood that usually takes a month to adjust out of. 

Sure, we've had our moments - like this morning, when it was school picture day and the kids had to be there 30 minutes early for the sibling pics - 
(so, not only did they have to be at school earlier than usual, but they actually had to look good, which meant the morning was pretty hectic - but I think they turned out pretty cute!), but on the whole, I'd say this is the smoothest start to school we've had. 

Not sure why, but I suspect it's at least partly due to my focus on slowing down, which has meant more time to decompress for all of us. 

I've made several small changes, but probably the two biggest have been:

1) having a fairly consistent bedtime of 7:45 for the kids. 
We used to do 8:30, and there would be nights that Bodie would still be wandering the house at 11pm because he couldn't fall asleep. Their therapist suggested that we were missing our window to get them to bed and that we needed to get them in bed earlier. She was totally right. Since we've moved their bedtime forward, I can count on one hand the number of nights Bodie has come out more than once. It's been so great.

2) instituting a "siesta time" 
(a brilliant concept one of my dearest friends, Valerie, introduce me to). 
 During the first 30 minutes after we get home from school, the kids and I all separate and do our own thing. Sometimes we're all in the same room, but the one rule is that we don't interact with each other. The way I figure it, they've been around people all day, expected to behave well, and they need a minute to themselves, to gather their thoughts and recharge. And, heck, I NEED it. I'm an introvert and it's the only way I recharge. Turns out they're the same way. Who knew.
Bodie usually plays with kinetic sand during siesta time. Sierra reads or does a craft - or sometimes starts on her homework. 

So we're plugging along. School is going well. Really, really well. Sierra is LOVING her new third grade class, and Bodie couldn't possibly love kindergarten more. They come home with huge smiles every single day. It's been such a relief. 

Sierra is now in band, and is playing the clarinet. She loves it and is learning so much!

Bodie has started speech therapy, to work on projecting his voice better (an after effect of his paralyzed vocal cord from his first surgery) and a few articulation issues Boston picked up on. We're already seeing improvement, which is fantastic.

He's also doing soccer at school (and is SO excited about it), and we started him in gymnastics, to help with strength and endurance. And oh, my, this kid could not possibly be more obsessed with gymnastics. 
That face…I mean. He held that position for almost 10 seconds (and then did it several more times!) and was so unbelievably proud. 
Gymnastics has been the best fit for him. We're so happy.

And he had a cardiology appointment yesterday, which went incredibly well. 
I've been noticing more sweatiness and slightly lower oxygen sats lately, so I was concerned. But his echo was beautiful, with great function and no valve regurgitation. So we're just watching it (and hoping it's just due to our recent bout of crazy hot and humid weather)! We got to go down on his Sildenafil, which was great news. 
The best news? After almost a year sitting at the same weight, we made some changes, including adding a can of Pediasure to his diet - and he has gained a whopping 3 POUNDS since June!!! That was music to my ears!

We celebrated by grabbing our flu shots (and matching bandaids!) and heading to soccer practice.
Because that's just how the Bennetts roll. 

Hope your back to school is going as smoothly as ours!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A new era

These two kiddos headed back to school today.
For the FIRST time ever, they are AT THE SAME SCHOOL!

After a very stressful evening last night (let's just say a certain someone had just a little bit of anxiety about starting kindergarten today!), today went off beautifully!
(this may be what happens when you spend your summer listening to the entire Little House on the Prairie series!)
Sierra was super excited to start back to THIRD grade!!! 
She was most excited to see all of her besties again, especially Anna! 

And Bodie…let's just say he knocked my socks off. I was expecting a hard time separating from me (one of B's trademark personality traits), a super hard time focusing, a lot of nervousness and anxiety from him, etc. 

But I got NONE of that! Instead, I got a super duper excited little boy, who walked in like a boss, put on that name tag... and totally owned it.
We got him settled into his room, and then I asked him if he wanted to go with me to get Sierra settled into her new room. His response? "No, I don't think so. I want to stay here and play." I so did not expect that! WOW! NO separation anxiety whatsoever (on his part at least - and I was too stunned to be sad!). Suffice it to say, this kid was READY. 

It really helped that he absolutely adores his teacher. 
 And that he's sitting right next to his best friend, Anika. 
I mean, seriously, how cute are these two? They have BIG plans for a future together - it's totally hilarious to hear them talk about it. 

I'm pretty sure, as long as he has Ani by his side, this kid thinks he can do anything (and he's probably right)!
In a fun coincidence, Ani was dressed exactly the same as Sierra, even down to matching shoes!
When I picked up the kids after school, they were bubbling over about how much they loved their new teachers, and their new classes. Bodie said it was his "best day ever" and that he wishes he could do it again. And his teacher said he did GREAT (so well behaved she almost forgot he was there - I'm 100% certain we've never heard that about Bodie! Ha!). What a blessing!

We feel so grateful today - grateful that Bodie has gotten to this point (no small feat by any measure of calculation), is starting kindergarten, and is doing so in an incredibly loving and caring environment - the same environment that has nurtured Sierra through an incredible amount of trauma these past few years. This school has been a shelter in the storm for Sierra - and we are so grateful to see Bodie welcomed with such open arms.

Here is to a very, very good year ahead.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

An anniversary

2 years ago, today, we took handed off our sweet boy who looked like this…
And hours later, were given back a boy who looked like this…
And so began a tumultuous recovery from what should have been his "final" open-heart surgery for the foreseeable future. A year that included an additional open-heart surgery 3 days later, a pacemaker site infection 5 ½ weeks after that, repeated hospital stays, a 6-week course of iv antibiotics and 2 cardiac catheterizations before he was finally thriving. Not the result we expected from his Fontan.

But even so, we celebrate Bodie's "Fontanniversary." Because the Fontan was the final planned step to get him to where he is today. Because we always knew it was coming, from the moment we found out about his special heart when I was 17 weeks pregnant. Because it was a journey to get to it. Because we thank God that Bodie was a candidate for the Fontan, that he thrived in spite of a year of struggling post-Fontan, and that his body is tolerating the Fontan circulation so well now.

And because way too many of his friends haven't made it this far. Friends like sweet Joshua, who would have turned 5 tomorrow, but lost his battle with HLHS way way too early; and gorgeous Hayden, who went to be with Jesus unexpectedly following his Glenn surgery 3 years ago today. 

And because other friends have had their Fontan, and have struggled. Friends who are struggling across the country right now. Friends like Xavier and Hughes. And friends who struggle just to get to their Fontan and may not be eligible once they get there. Friends like Tyler and Michael.

We celebrate every step in Bodie's journey. Because we know we cannot take any of them for granted. And we don't.

Today, we celebrate Bodie's Fontanniversary. 
With a big, fat ice cream sundae after dinner at Soup Plantation (which, thankfully he was swayed toward, after initially choosing McDonald's!) 
Which was only after the fresh baked cookies they brought us when they heard what we were celebrating.

Bodie, we love you SO SO MUCH. And we will always be here to support you and love you, wherever this CHD journey takes you.
And we are so proud of you (even if you did embarrass the crap out of your mama yesterday when you yelled "I have LIIIIIIIIIICE!" at the top of your lungs as a war cry as you cannonballed into the public swimming pool!) 
Thanks for keeping us on our toes! 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Wide, open spaces

The kids and I are wrapping up a whirlwind trip to Boston and South Carolina. This trip has been wonderful, challenging, and, more than anything, eye-opening.
Bodie's evaluation at Boston was both reassuring and overwhelming. We're choosing not to share the details of his results here, both because we'd like to try to keep some things private - and because, quite frankly, we're still processing it all. In a nutshell, Bodie looks really good for what he has been through. But frankly, he still has a ways to go. Kindergarten, and to a degree, probably all formal schooling, will be a challenge for him - for us all. But Boston gave us a lot of recommendations for ways we can make his transition smoother, and come alongside him. (That said, fellow heart moms, if you'd like to know the specifics of what we've seen with Bodie, and what we learned in Boston, feel free to email me at - I am more than happy to share what we can to make your journeys with your heart warriors a little easier.)

But the aha moments for us didn't stop at the clinic in Boston. They have continued down the coast to South Carolina, in long car rides, over bottles of wine with one of the wisest women I'm privileged to call my friend and "closest thing to a sister I have," Valerie (more on that in a separate blogpost!). 

Probably my biggest takeaway from this trip is how much both of our kids, but especially Bodie, need time to decompress. I have seen huge differences in the kids when they are given some time to themselves, to stop and process things. 
I have been running our family at a breakneck speed for as long as I can remember. I say "I" and not "we," because it truly is all me. Dusk has been asking me to slow down for almost as long as I have been running - and I always say "I don't have time to slow down - later" over my shoulder. 

Our son was born with a massive heart defect. 
I slowed down because I was forced to, but picked right back up THE SECOND things leveled out.
Our house burned down. 
I sped up.
Dusk had a heart attack. 
He slowed down. But not me. 

After his heart attack, Dusk sat me down and told me I NEEDED to slow down. That he wasn't sure why God was asking our family to slow down, but that He most definitely was. It took a heart attack for Dusk to understand that and slow down. 
I remember Dusk saying 
"It took a heart attack for me to slow down. WHAT will it take for you to slow down???"

I think we just found the answer.
It took a trip across the country.
It took two days of tests and a 2 hour conversation with a doctor telling me how deeply my son is struggling.
It took observing my children 24/7.
It took hugs and snuggles and lazy days. 
It took breaking up more backseat fights that I can count.
It took a long, hard look at myself. 

But I get the message.

Our family needs a slower pace of life. Wide, open spaces to just BE. 
Less over scheduling. Less activities. Less trips out of town (if you know us, you know the kids and I are out of town at least once, if not 2-3 weekends a month, even during the school year). Since school got out in mid-June, we have been home 1 weekend

We live in a big city. Right now, we can't give our kids wide-open spaces, room to run. But we CAN give them wide-open spaces in our schedule. Space to be. Space to read the Bible, and draw closer to one another and to God. Space to play. Space to decompress. Space to stop running from whatever it is we're running from.

So, when we fly back this week, we'll be embarking on a new adventure for the Bennetts. One that, to be honest, is uncomfortable for me. I'm used to going nonstop, but we won't be. I don't even know how to say "no," but I'll have to learn. We don't know exactly what it will look like yet, but we know for sure we won't be taking family trips out of town for quite awhile. We'll be working on readying our family for the school year ahead, on carving out space for our sweet boy to do what he needs to do, how he needs to do it, to heal emotionally from everything he has been through. 

This a space God has been calling our family to for some time. It's just that, for the first time, I'm finally hearing it. I cannot wait to see what God will teach us through this. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Thoughts on Boston

Bodie is currently on his second morning of testing here in Boston, and in between the appointments, the kids and I have been having a ball here in Boston, doing just about every big touristy thing we can! Yesterday alone, we walked over 9 miles! Needless to say, we will be dragging ourselves onto the plane to South Carolina this afternoon!

Lots more on our Boston experience later (when I can wrestle the laptop away from Sierra!), but a few initial thoughts on Boston:

1. This city is beautiful. I mean, absolutely gorgeous. The history, the landscape, everything is breathtaking. I understand why people come here for school or a job and never leave.

2. The people of Boston are amazingly nice. I did not expect that, to be honest (not sure why, I just didn't - maybe because you hear about the "hospitality of the south" more than the northeast?). They have so much pride in their city (kind of the polar opposite of Los Angeles, where the cool thing is to complain about it!). The excitement at the Red Sox game last night was palatable - it was impossible not to be giddy with everyone else! And everyone who helped us (the servers at restaurants, cashiers at stores, etc.) Were so so nice and accommodating - they Really went out of our way to make sure we were happy and taken care of. And people actually let you in traffic (I know, crazy, right??? I'm used to LA, where you risk life and limb just trying to merge!)!

3. Ok, guys, notwithstanding points 1 and 2 above, would it kill you to have street signs??? I'm not afraid of traffic (thanks to years of LA traffic), but it is freaking impossible to drive in Boston. Even WITH GPS and my maps app, I still got lost multiple times. My GPS would be telling me to turn, but there'd be no street sign to confirm that I was in fact turning onto the street I was supposed to be turning onto! Ha!

4. "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." <- clearly spoken with the City of Boston in mind. Enough said.

All things considered, we have loved Boston and it has for sure been one of the highlights in an already great summer!

Friday, July 24, 2015

The scars you don't see

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” 
― Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

We were at the fair yesterday, me and the kids - and I grabbed Bodie's hand to try to keep him from running away from me. I looked down at his little hand, seeing the light glinting off his little hands and wrists. And once again I saw the faint lines on his wrists, a nonchalant reminder of so, so many hospital stays.
An untrained eye probably wouldn't even look for them, let alone know what they were if they saw them. But a parent who has been there knows. A parent who has held tiny hands connected to tubes and wires. I see the tiny lines. And I remember the cuts that made them. The cuts that brought life-saving drugs into my child's body, time and time again.

They're cut-down lines. At least I think that's the term (or maybe not - but I heard it somewhere in reference to his lines). Whatever it's called, it's where iv's and lines have been placed and removed. Bodie has them in his wrists, in his groin, in his neck. Heck, probably other places I've never thought to look. But his wrists are the most prominent. 

Everyone knows about Bodie's central incision scar, and his chest tubes (those honestly are worse than the central incision!) and pacemaker scar. And, thanks to consistent use of doTERRA essential oils and good ole fashioned time, they're looking pretty darn awesome.

But it occurred to me as I looked at his wrists that he has so many other scars that aren't so obvious. The  tiny marks on his wrists, neck, shoulder and groin. The ones on the inside - where his heart has been broken and mended, where it has been cauterized chasing an arrhythmia that wouldn't be caught. The ones on his mind, on his soul. The ones we can't see, but we're trying fervently to help him heal. Nothing like going in blind, right? 
So.Many.Scars on Such.A.Little.Body. 

We leave tomorrow morning for Boston, to take the next step in working on healing some of the scars we can't see. 

Tonight at dinner, we talked about it. And Bodie looked all over his body, trying to find more scars. And we talked about what scars are - just proof of something he has battled, something he BEAT
We'll take that any day. 

And besides, chicks dig scars
Thank goodness for that.