We Need Each Other

david, matthias, the meaning behind By February 1, 2017 40 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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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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a brother’s heart

family, matthias By February 17, 2016 71 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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Risky, Messy Love

family, finding love, Louis and Beasley, matthias By January 19, 2016 11 Comments

louis and beasley lisa leonard-01

The other day, as I was driving the boys to school, Matthias told me he loves our new pugs so much it makes him sad.

I asked him what he meant, and he explained, “I feel so much love for them—but what if they get hurt or sick or worse, die? I would be so sad. Just the thought of it makes my heart heavy.”

I sighed and nodded. I knew exactly what he meant. I feel those same feelings and worry every day. Not just for our dogs {I mean, I love those doggies!} but even more so having children, committing to a husband, sharing life with sisters who are dear to my heart, it’s amazing and it’s terrifying.

louis and beasley lisa leonard2-01

Love is vulnerable.

Love is a risk.

Love is messy. Always.

Love isn’t safe.

If we love deeply and honestly, we’ll most likely get hurt.

But if we protect our hearts and keep them safe, we miss out on, well, the best of what life brings.

Because love is imperfect, we’re imperfect—flawed in all of our good intentions, living in bodies that will eventually fail us.

It’s heart-breaking.

But it’s also breath-taking.

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Love makes the journey not only bearable, but beautiful.

Love may break our hearts but it also heals them.

Love eases our pain and comforts our souls in a way that’s impossible to understand.

To be loved is everything.

And so, these two sweet dogs have walked into our lives, made them sweeter and unexpectedly, they’re teaching us about love and life. And that is no small thing.

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celebrating Matthias {twelve!}

adventures, matthias By January 15, 2016 2 Comments

Today is Matthias’ official birthday. Earlier this week we celebrated at Disneyland with his cousins, Torie and Lexie. We’re pretty much all about Star Wars right now. So fun! Matthias is twelve–I keep trying to make myself believe it. It’s cliche but the time goes so quickly!

Matthias, you are such a blessing to our family. You make us better. You teach us to see the world creatively. You help us understand David. You’re an old soul with keen insights beyond your years. I adore you!

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Happy birthday, Matthias! We have so many reasons to celebrate you–and your birthday is a perfect opportunity! I can’t wait to have new adventures with you this year. And may the force be with you.

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how we created the ‘cross of light’ ornament {matthias remarkable imagination}

christmas, inspiration, matthias By November 18, 2015 3 Comments

Months ago, I was working on our Christmas ornaments and I asked Matthias if he would like to design one. At eleven years old he draws and sketches all the time–I mean, he literally carries his drawing pad and pencil case everywhere. And this is nothing new–he’s been drawing since he was three or four years old. I thought an ornament would be such a fun gift for aunties, uncles and grandparents. I asked him to draw whatever he wanted and planned to create the ornament from his drawing. Take a look at what he came up with!

*Also, scroll down to the bottom to see our ornament special happening today!*

matthias cross of light ornament2-02

Matthias drew the cross himself, then from his drawing, together, we created the ‘cross of light’ ornament. It turned out so well!

matthias cross of light ornament2-03

I asked Matthias why he wanted to draw a cross for the ornament and he said, Christmas is about Jesus and the cross symbolizes Jesus. Beautiful!

matthias cross of light ornament2-04

The ‘cross of light’ ornament is finished with a sheet red ribbon and can be personalized on the back with a name or the year.

matthias cross of light ornament2-05

I love having Matthias use his talents and creativity to be part of the business. He loves to draw and sketch. This was a perfect opportunity to use his artwork in a new and different way. He inspires me!

matthias cross of light ornament2-06

All ornaments are buy two get one FREE today! Enter code ‘happytree’ at checkout. Yay! They’re the perfect gift for each kiddo, teachers and dear friends.

You can find the ‘cross of light’ ornament here. Click here to see all the 2015 ornaments.

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art projects and letting it be imperfect

DIY, matthias By July 18, 2014 7 Comments

If you have been following along for a while, you know Matthias loves art. He is constantly drawing, sketching, planning and making lists. I love his creativity and I want to nurture it.

Meg did this awesome continuous line tutorial and I was so inspired! Watch her video too! I jumped into this project with Matthias and half way through ended up screaming at him. Ugh–what was supposed to fun went all wrong. I can’t even remember what made me so mad. I quickly apologized to him and was was forgiving. It took me a little longer to forgive myself. Being a mother is a process of growing, grieving, grace and forgiveness!

Isn’t his owl awesome?

I decided to try the same concept with a heart theme. You know I love hearts.

Next time we do an art project together I’m determined to stay patient. Sigh. Life is so imperfect–but there is beauty.

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first day of school

david, matthias By August 24, 2012 20 Comments

These pictures were an attempt to document the boys’ first day of school. Um, yeah getting the three of us to look good in a photo was an impossible task–but these pics made me laugh out loud. And I figure, this is us and pretty much captures our crazy. And I love that.

David is offically an ‘upper grader’ now. He’s hanging with the big kids. I’m a nervous wreck! But it’s going to be great. Matthias loves his third grade teacher. It’s a new year. A fresh start.

We are so excited, how about you?

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