Thursday, October 31, 2013

Josefina's Birthday: Our Miracle Girl Turns Seven!

Right out in our yard!
So we bid October goodbye again. Autumn has finally come to the Valley and the trees are "blooming." This one in our front yard has never looked better. There are glorious colors all around the neighborhood.

So much color
Of course, the daylight is shrinking. And for me, this stretch of time remains full of memories: mysterious and traumatic memories. I've written about these events before (see posts from Oct.& Nov. in 2011 and 2012).

One of them, of course, was the unexpected premature birth of Josefina on October 26, 2006. It was the beginning of her seven month stay in NICU and PICU, with the surgeries and the ups and downs and the waiting....

A few days ago, Josefina celebrated her seventh birthday. No, that's not a mistake: she is seven years old, as in "7". S-E-V-E-N. I'm talking about this child right here:

You still have to watch where you sit, or you might mistake her for a pillow!

She weighs 34 pounds and is barely three feet tall. She's a little tweety bird! If her voice were any higher pitched, only dogs would be able to hear it. She wears size 4T, and there are four year olds who are taller and heaver than she is. She climbs around like a monkey, and is quick to perch on my shoulders at every opportunity. My shoulders don't always feel up to it, but I try to bear up if I can... after all, she weighs almost nothing.

Don't worry, she was totally latched on, arms and legs. I was choking to death, but.... (just kidding!)

Its true that she got a very pretty haircut recently, which makes her look more mature. But gosh, she still fits into the Lamby costume that Eileen made for the kids when they were toddlers. Somewhere there's a picture of Lucia at age three practically bursting out this thing. Nobody has ever come close to wearing it at the age of seven.

Okay, I'll admit its bit tight, but still... she's a little lamby!

I'm beginning to suspect that Jojo might actually be a hobbit!

Seriously, she looks like a five year old who is on the small side. But she eats and digests normally. The doctor is not worried; all of this is still not unusual for a pre-mee with her circumstances. She is healthy and certainly has lots of energy (whew!). Mentally she ranges from preschooler to first grader. But she's coming along well. I pay a lot of attention to her, and I can tell she is going through a lot of development, even though its hard to believe since the "package" looks the same.

How old? I don't know. I'm pretty sure she still wears that outfit though!

Of course, she's bigger than her NICU days. Here is such a tiny little being, surrounded by what
Paul Hewson calls "science and the human heart." I often see her today and want to cry with
gratitude, to God and also to many people. Human beings can do so much good, if they choose.

Because I've been home so much in these years, I've spent a lot more time with her than I did with the other four during these early years of their development. I haven't replaced her mother (and, thank God, she's with her mother very much, even if sometimes its in the classroom). No one can "replace" a mother, who is so very different, in an essential way, from a father. Even when the father is the parent who is the "anchor" in the house (i.e. he's there every day, except when everyone goes out), he remains the father.

And he needs to come through and be the father, even in unusual circumstances and with disabilities. He doesn't have to be afraid of these limits; in fact, the children will learn some special things by being with him -- things that they may not have otherwise learned: things about flexibility, about their own important and active place in the family, about compassion.

But still, aren't fathers wrapped around the little fingers of their cute little daughters?

Somewhat, yes. But I don't pamper her all the time. Really, honestly, I don't! I can only be hoodwinked so far. I have three other daughters, so I have a little experience here. And I've learned a thing or two from Montessori about encouraging the child to grow without artificial praise, and disciplining her (whenever possible) by breaking down the problem and offering her possibilities to choose.

Of course, there's plenty of the old fashioned hollering. If we're leaving for Mass in two minutes: "put those socks on NOW!" Stuff like that. You all know how it is.

On the other hand, we sat for a couple of hours the other day with a globe and just talked about different countries and continents, and the North Pole and South Pole and the arc-a-tic kir-kul (Wait, wait, what kinds of sounds are made by "c"? You have a "c" and an "i" there...).

She's fascinated by geography and finding places, as she pipes away in her "helium-balloon" voice.

And so we celebrated here birthday and had lots of fun:

When it comes to opening her own presents, Jojo doesn't need any help.

But she's still thrilled by something like a pink ball (because its her ball).

But she also loves her new paint project set.

And then came Halloween. Here's Lucia, Teresa and Josefina in what I call "minimalist" Halloween costumes.

Josefina is a "Native American" girl. Most people thought she was Pocahontas. Even though
she fits into the "Lamby" costume, she didn't want to be a Lamby. So Mommy got creative
at the last minute, with the help of some feathers, a headband, and a dress she wears a lot.

Teresa, who turns 11 next month, is a "Cow Person" (LOL!) Hat, vest, and rope: all in stock; no purchase necessary.

Lucia (age 13) is taking French this year. So she put on a knitted beret, e voila! -- La Femme Francaise!
(Lucia is becoming a beautiful young lady. I'd love to write a blog about her, but she's shy... 

Well, that's a pretty good update as we enter the month of November. Don't tell me that the year has gone by "fast," because it has done no such thing. It has been some kind of wild and wacky year. A lot of things have happened, and we still have two months to go.

May the Lord show us the beauty of every moment.