hello cousins, hello long weekend

family, hello monday By February 20, 2017 2 Comments

My brother is in town this weekend with his wife and twin daughters. We love when they come to visit! We ate out at some of our favorite places, showed them the workshop, watched a movie and ate waaaay too many peanut butter m&ms. Yum.

They are leaving town today and we are enjoying an extra weekend day before we jump back into the routine. How about some hellos?
Hello cousins. We are so thankful to have wonderful cousins.

Hello beanie. David really rocks the beanie.

Hello tools lined up in a row.

Hello catching a moment to read while we give them the workshop tour.

Hello having fun together.

Hello rain and rain and more rain. And wind. California doesn’t know what’s happening! Several trees in our neighborhood have fallen down, there’s been flooding and mudslides–it’s crazy!

Hello new beginnings. Matthias is trying something new this week. New things are so hard and so good.

Hello napping. Aren’t naps a beautiful thing? Love them.

Hello searching thrift stores for vintage floral paintings. They’re hard to find!

Hello new computer. It’s awesome except change is hard for me. I’m not used to this computer so it’s an adjustment.

Hello taking David off diary to see if that helps with his tummy pain. Fingers and toes crossed.

Hello designing new jewelry. I CANNOT wait to share it with you!

Hello brand new, beautiful week. Good things are ahead! What are you saying hello to this week?

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We Need Each Other

david, matthias, the meaning behind By February 1, 2017 38 Comments

I have been surprised to find many times, instead of me teaching my kids, it’s my kids teaching me.

When Matthias was in first grade, David’s 1st-3rd grade special needs class would walk over to Matthias’ classroom for reading time, language arts and special projects. Mainstreaming created a space for students with special needs to learn beside their typical peers. In this environment every child benefits and grows.

While Steve and I love mainstreaming and having special needs kids working with typical peers, we were concerned for Matthias. He had just begun first grade and was adjusting to a full day at school. We didn’t want him to have to explain why his brother had only two fingers on his left hand or why his brother couldn’t speak with words. We didn’t want Matthias to feel he was in the spotlight. We wanted Matthias to have his own space at school. We explained our concerns to David’s teacher and we all agreed it would be best to have David work on skills such as kicking a ball or sorting colored blocks, while the other special needs student mainstreamed into Matthias’ classroom.

A couple months into the school year, David was playing in the small playground next to the larger playground. Matthias spotted David and his aide over on the little playground.

“Oh my gosh!” Matthias yelled as he ran over to the chain link fence separating the two playgrounds.

“David, DAVID! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!” he yelled, waving and calling to David.

As David and his aide made their way toward the Matthias, Matthias turned and called his friends over.

“You guys, come here! Quick! I want you to meet my brother.” Matthias said.

Matthias was joined at the chain link fence by three or four friends. On the other side of the fence stood David and his aide.

“This is my brother!” Matthias said with pride. “When David was in my mom’s tummy his instructions got mixed up. That is why he only has two fingers on his left hand. That is why he is so small. That is why he can’t talk. But isn’t he AWESOME?!”

Matthias’ friends nodded with smiles.

“Bye David!” they all yelled as they ran back to their game.

When I arrived at the school that afternoon David’s aide recounted the whole story to me. I could feel the lump in my throat as she described how excited Matthias was to see David and introduce him to his friends.

I felt tears filling up my eyes as I realized I didn’t need to worry about Matthias. I didn’t need to create a safe place where he could be himself without having to explain about his brother with special needs. Not only was Matthias capable of explaining David’s special needs to his peers, he was proud of his brother. He loved his brother. He wanted to be near his brother. Matthias is better because of David and David is better because of Matthias.

{The Cross Bar Birthstone Necklace represents stability and strength}

We need each other. Together we have stability. Together we are stronger.
Family is messy and imperfect. Family is the foundation that keeps us on solid ground. Family is love. And love is everything.

Matthias has taught me so much about what it means to LOVE with your whole heart.
These two are better together.

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Hello Harry Potter World

adventures, hello monday, matthias By January 23, 2017 1 Comment

Matthias turned thirteen, THIRTEEN last week. Hello thirteen! To celebrate we went to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, Hollywood. We had so much fun! I was impressed with the whole experience. The buildings are straight out of the movies and the interactive wands are so cool!

It’s Monday and time to jump into a brand new week. Ready or not, here we go! How about some hellos?

Hello Harry Potter and Hogsmead. We’re huge fans. Are you?

Hello wands–so many to choose from.

Hello climbing and laughing and celebrating.

Hello super amazing train conductor who taught Matthias the Ravenclaw handshake. The staff at the park was incredible.

Hello wand ceremony. Matthias got picked by a very special wand. The wand said Matthias was creative, smart, brave and friendly to all. The wand is so right!

Hello feeling like I need at least one more day to be ready for Monday.

Hello grocery shopping.

Hello watercoloring and writing. I’m in full on creative mode over here.

Hello rain and rain and lots more rain. I haven’t seen this much rain since I was in college. My car got stuck at a flash flood in an intersection. It was nuts!

Hello being a mom to two TEENAGE boys. How can it be?

Hello bulletproof coffee. It’s strange but we love it! Have you tried it?

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

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hello thirteen!

hello monday, matthias By January 16, 2017 3 Comments

Impossible but TRUE! Matthias turned thirteen years old yesterday. I am so proud of him. Matthias is insightful, kind, artistic, hard working, passionate, articulate and full of opinions. He keeps us on our toes! He adds balance and silliness to our family. Matthias we love you so very, very much! Happy birthday bud.

Here’s pics from Matthias’ 9th Ninjago birthday.
When Matthias turned eight we had an art party.
And way back when Matthias turned three and we had a Thomas the Train party.

Matthias is saying hello to thirteen. How about some hellos for a new week?

Hello celebrating at Harry Potter World, Universal Studios. Pics to share soon.

Hello feeling surprised how grown up Matthias is at thirteen! I love it.

Hello one week into Whole30 but bending the rules slightly for a few bites of cupcake.

Hello trying new recipes and eating lots of delicious food.

Hello DISHES. Oh my gosh, so many dishes. I guess that’s what happens when we cook more.

Hello missing diary. I love creamy coffee and cereal with milk. Comfort foods.

Hello feeling sad lately. I’m not sure exactly why–it’s hard to pinpoint. I’m trying to find a balance between feeling my feelings and not completely unraveling. I think it might be partly Whole30 detox and partly just stuff of life.

Hello walking and resting and downtime. These things are good for my soul.

Hello lots and lots of rain and sunshine in between. We are so grateful for the rain.

Hello brand new week with beauty to be found. What are you saying hello to this week?

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I Love You Body and Soul

david, finding beauty By September 13, 2016 43 Comments

At the cellular level, every bit of David’s body has been affected by a chromosomal abnormality. It isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The coordinates on the map are incorrectly labeled. The recipe has all the ingredients but in the wrong amounts. The computer coding has a typo and the program won’t run correctly. When David was born we saw his left hand had only two fingers. It was the first indication David had a genetic disorder. His body is broken, imperfect, flawed. His soul on the other hand, is intact and whole. We are two parts, body and soul. His soul resides in a body that simply doesn’t cooperate because it can’t. His soul fights every day to live fully.

body and soul lisa leonard

Before David was born, before I was married even, I taught with kids in wheelchairs, kids with g-tubes, kids who were non-verbal, kids with autism. I worked with special needs kids, or I should say, I worked with typical kids trapped inside bodies with special needs. Every day they arrived at school at 8:30am, every day they left at 2:40pm and in between we lived life together; learning, growing and connecting. I knew each of my students well. I knew their physical needs and quirks, their preferences and personalities. I knew their souls and they knew mine.

When two people truly connect on a soul level it’s a kind of miracle. It’s much deeper than a physical connection. It takes time and energy. It takes patience and quiet. It’s a soul to soul, heart to heart connection. It’s the way an expectant mother bonds with her child before he’s born. It’s the way we can’t stop thinking about a friend–so we call up her up only to find out she really needed words of encouragement at that very moment. It’s a deep knowing cultivated over time. I can’t explain it, but if you’ve experienced it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

We may be tempted to say the body doesn’t matter. The body is broken—who cares?! It’s the soul that truly makes us who we are. And yes, in part, this is true. But the body does matter. The body carries the soul. The body breathes and speaks and sings and moves. The body is the outward representation of the soul. The body works on our behalf to make our soul known. A soul needs a body and a body needs a soul. So we care for our bodies. We walk and run and try to eat healthy food. We brush our teeth and see doctors and have surgery to repair a heart defect. We buy clothes that fit and have our hair trimmed. We honor the soul by caring for the body.

Yesterday David worked on feeding himself. He carefully lifted a spoonful of lemon yogurt to his mouth, took a bite and placed the spoon back into the bowl. He isn’t able to scoop up another bite, so I do that part for him. Again and again, I fill the spoon, again and again he lifts it to his mouth and places it back into the bowl. Over months and years of working on this skill David continues to improve.

And we celebrate! Because David’s amazing, stubborn, beautiful soul is winning over a body that doesn’t work right. We celebrate because it’s a HUGE accomplishment. No, eating a spoonful of yogurt isn’t a huge accomplishment for most 14-year-old boys, but for this kiddo, who lives inside a body that doesn’t cooperate, it’s massive. It deserves shouts of delights and high-fives.

While my hands are clapping and I cheer for his success, a tear slips down my cheek. This sucks. I hate that my son has to fight moment by moment to live a full life with a body that fights against him. I hate that he has to work harder than most kids to communicate and eat and walk and sometimes just to breath. I hate that he sees seven different medical specialists. I hate that he’s had multiple surgeries and will likely have many more. I hate there are times he comes up beside me and takes my hand, looks at me with an intent gaze while he stomps his foot, hoping I’ll know what he wants. I offer him a snack and see the frustration cross his face. He stomps more and pulls on my arm. I offer him a cuddle and he pushes me away. I hate that he can’t tell me what he wants and I hate that sometimes I can’t read his soul well enough to guess.

But that soul. I love that soul. And I love that broken, imperfect, adorable body that holds his beautiful soul. A love that is deeper because our souls have struggled and grieved and found hope together.

i love you body and soul lisa leonard 2

Today I will put this necklace around my neck as a reminder of the love between his soul and mine. He is part of my tribe. He is my safe place and my love. I will do my best to care for his physical needs with patience and tenderness. I’ll help him scoop up spoonfuls of food again and again. I’ll help him put on his pants and button his shirt. I’ll cuddle him and kiss him. In return he will smile at me making my heart do flip flops. He will take my hand and show me what he wants. He will teach me how to be grateful. He will teach me to notice the beauty all around me. He will move through the day with bravery and determination. He will inspire others and spread joy to all who know him.

His soul knows mine and my soul knows his. And at the end of the day, we are both souls living inside imperfect, broken bodies. Not just David, but me as well. And someday I know it won’t be this hard. Someday all with be made right and our bodies will be made whole. Someday heaven will come. Today we find beauty in this moment, hope for tomorrow and a deep love between our souls.

Have you experienced a soul connection?

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Honoring the Pain

david, hope, the meaning behind By August 30, 2016 60 Comments

David was four days old and asleep inside his little bed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit {NICU}. An adorable blue plaid baby quilt my sister made was draped over the side and a paper tag with David’s name written in cute, happy lettering was taped to the edge. His weight had dropped since birth a few days earlier and he was down to 3 pounds, 12 ounces. We had been told he had a rare genetic disorder but a million questions loomed in the air. We were in shock. We’d been expecting a healthy baby and everything had gone wrong. Both Steve and I were walking around in a daze. Steve sat near David and I stepped outside the NICU with a folder of bills and the checkbook. Even in crisis, real life demands to be lived. Bills have to be paid. Cars need gas. Clothes have to be washed, dried and folded. Well, maybe they don’t have to be folded. It’s surreal to do normal, everyday tasks while you’re world is crumbling around you. I remember clearly, sitting in the lobby right outside the NICU, opening the folder to pay bills and thinking, “This is so strange. Who cares about the gas bill? My baby was born with two fingers on his left hand.”

As I wrote the first check and tucked inside the envelope, our friends Josh and Maggie walked into the lobby. In the early years of our marriage they were our upstairs neighbors, worked in ministry with us and were some of our closest friends. They spent time with us during hospital stay. They brought groceries and arranged meals. On this afternoon, when our tiny David was only a few days old they sat down with me on the uncomfortable lobby couch and said nothing. They just sat, no words. I set the bills aside, buried my head in my hands and began to sob. The tears came from a bottomless well inside me. As I gave into the grief I wondered if I would ever stop crying. I held the pain in all its unbearable heaviness.  They sat with me, their arms around me and cried with me. They were powerless to change the situation but they stepped inside the darkness with me. I wasn’t alone.

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Pain demands to be felt. It won’t be rushed. It won’t be pushed away or minimized. There is no set timeline for grief. There is no bible verse or life truth that can lessen pain’s grip. No matter how much we may try to push it away or pretend it isn’t there, it manifests itself. There are no tricks or tips to lessening the agony. Pain is moving through darkness, one tiny step at a time with faith that eventually a ray of light will break through. We honor our pain with tears and time. We honor our pain by acknowledging its heaviness and hurt. We honor it by recognizing loss and the hole it leaves behind.

love and loss rings lisa leonard

We honor pain by allowing it to wash over us like a tidal wave, and in its own time it recedes a bit. That first ray of light breaking through the darkness is fresh air and we breath it in as deeply as we can. We breath in hope. And hope is the balm that soothes the pain. Just as we can’t expedite pain, hope also won’t be rushed. It comes in its own time. It comes as we honor the pain.

When Josh and Maggie cried with me they honored my pain. They honored our tiny baby David and the difficult road ahead of him. They honored broken hearts and lost dreams. They didn’t minimize the journey before us with advice or easy answers. They loved him exactly as he was—a whole soul inside a broken body. And they breathed in deeply with us as the first ray of light broke through the darkness.

Are you honoring the pain of a difficult situation right now? Are you walking with someone through pain?

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ocean walk in cambria

adventures, family By August 25, 2016 3 Comments

For my birthday I got to choose our weekend activity. So I asked for lunch and a walk in Cambria. We ate at Moonstone Bar and Grill {excellent burgers!} and then took our time walking. It was simple and beautiful and I loved it!

ocean walk in cambria-01 ocean walk in cambria-02 I’m biased but I think my boys are the cutest.

ocean walk in cambria-03 ocean walk in cambria-04 ocean walk in cambria-05 Leaning in for a kiss.

ocean walk in cambria-06 ocean walk in cambria-07 Sweet pup.

ocean walk in cambria-08 Purple wildflowers and blue ocean.

ocean walk in cambria-09 Matthias took a turn pushing David in the jogger. He ran a bit and took some sharp turns. David loved it!

ocean walk in cambria-10Steve got me these adorable yellow shoes for my birthday.

It was a really good day. I felt loved and celebrated and thankful. I look forward to seeing what my 42nd year holds!

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hello lavender fields

family, hello monday By July 11, 2016 3 Comments

On our last full day in the South of France we drove to lavender fields. We’d heard they were breath-taking and we weren’t disappointed. There were row after row, field after field, mile after mile of lavender fields. I’ve never seen anything like it! The color was vibrant and it smelled amazing. Only one small problem–lots of bees! But we didn’t let that stop us.

It’s Monday, a brand new week with beauty to be found. How about some hellos?
hello lavendar fields-02 Hello adventure. I’m thankful we were able to travel as a family to France. It wasn’t easy, particularly because of David’s special needs,but we made some amazing memories.

hello lavendar fields-04 Hello lavendar. I could have brought back a suitcase full of lavender.

hello lavendar fields-05 Hello being carried. David refused to walk so Steve helped him out. Such a good daddy.

hello lavendar fields-06Hello cutie. He’s starting 7th grade in the fall. I think our trip changed him and gave him some new perspectives.

hello lavendar fields-01Hello family. Hello going through ups and downs with these people. I’m thankful we are learning and growing together.

Hello sunburn. I’ve been walking and hiking and my shoulders are red. It’s a good reminder to use more sunscreen than I think I need!

Hello appetite. David has been eating so much! Maybe he’s getting ready for a growth spurt?

Hello Get Smart. We watched it for family movie night last night and we were all cracking up!

Hello meetings this week. Summer meetings always catch me by surprise. I get into relax-no-schedule mode.

Hello cherries. One of my favorite summer fruits.

Hello new book. I’m enjoying it and love her honesty. Warning, she uses language and covers some sensitive topics.

Hello to you! What are you saying hello to this week?

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hello birthday!

david, family By July 4, 2016 1 Comment

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We spent the weekend with cousins and had so much fun. David officially turns 14 today {although we celebrated last night}. So much to celebrate! How about some hellos?

Hello birthday boy! Fourteen sounds like an absolutely crazy number in this context.

Hello saying goodbye to cousins. It’s been wonderful to talk, laugh and be silly.

Hello Instax Share printer. I printed the above pics from my cell phone. We are loving it.

Hello getting back into a routine after France and family time.

Hello pics to edit and share. There was so much beauty in France!

Hello sister time. I’m craving some {without the kids so we can finish sentences uninterrupted!}

Hello looking for a new book to read.

Hello new noisy toys from David’s birthday.

Hello lazy morning and summer days. Some of my favorite things.

Hello last day of the S A L E.

Hello to you! What are you saying hello to this week?

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David turns 14!

david By July 1, 2016 28 Comments

David you’re turning fourteen. I can hardly believe it! It seems like just yesterday we were holding our tiny baby and wondering what life would hold for you, for us and for our family. In those early days there were many tears.

We couldn’t imagine the joy waiting for us.
We couldn’t imagine the things you would teach us.
We couldn’t imagine the way our hearts would grow and change.
david's turning 14-2-01

In Paris, you took your dad’s hand and led him up the steps to the Sacre Coeur Cathedral. Your determination gives you power. Without words you speak your mind and reveal your heart. You are learning and changing. Your world is expanding every day. And watching your world expand makes my heart want to burst. I am so proud of you!

david's turning 14-01

Your smile lights up the room. It chases away shadows and replaces them with hope.

You share your love without reservation. Many times people have told me that when you put your arms around their neck they felt loved and seen. You have a sense for who needs encouragement and boldly meet them there. People respond to you. It’s beautiful to watch.

You make music. The little tunes you tap out flow our of your soul and fill the room. You are passionate about music–I love to watch you concentrate. You don’t just hear the music, you feel it too.

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You’re turning fourteen.
You are small in size but you’re a big presence.
You make the world a better place.
You show us that life isn’t easy but it’s beautiful.
You make every day a celebration.
You make every activity an adventure.
You inspire me to greet each day with joy and an open heart.

david's turning 14-3-01
David I am honored to be your mom. I love you from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. Happy birthday!

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