Sunday, December 4, 2011

Accidental Blessing

An accident is an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance, often with lack of intention or necessity. It implies a generally negative outcome which may have been avoided or prevented had circumstances leading up to the accident been recognized, and acted upon, prior to its occurrence.

This past week my co-worker was unfortunately in an accident. She escaped unharmed, but her car was not as lucky. Her experience can defined as an accident; she didn't intend to wreck her car and the person who hit her could have prevented it if they would have just waited to turn.

A little over 3 years ago, Joe & I received the outcome of what some were calling an accident too. Like my co-worker, we hadn't planned the event but unlike her car, the end result was definitely not a negative one, but instead the best unforeseen
blessing we could have ever been given. 

Ella turned 3 on November 26th, a Thanksgiving baby - something to truly be thankful for. Looking back at our journey I wonder where the time has gone and where this little person came from. Filled with spunk and sparkle she has changed our lives more than we ever could have imagined. Her personality has no end; she is funny, entertaining, witty, caring, sweet, strong, and more than anything - charismatic. She has the ability to win over a room without ever saying a word. 

Looking back I realize that all the fears I had when we first found out we were unexpectedly expecting were ridiculous. First I was unsure of being a parent and having the heavy responsibility of shaping another humans life. 
I think all first-time parents are fearful of their new life change and as much as people think they are prepared - there is no way to prepare for how a child will change your life, until you live it. All you can do is give it your all and hope for the best. Then I was terrified that she would be born with a cleft lip and palate - I had already failed at protecting her and she wasn't even born! Surgeries have come and gone and we barely remember them. Everyday life happens and all the fun, memorable things you experience together allows you to forget about those hard times. Besides, Ella has about 5 accidents per day (4 today)- so the scar from surgery was bound to happen sooner or later.

Looking back we were given an accidental blessing. Ella may have been a
n unforeseen and unplanned event, but in no way could she ever be considered an accident. She has brought so many great things to our lives - I just hope we will be able to give her as much as she has given us. 

Happy 3rd Birthday Monster & we love you

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Poop in a Cup

I started this blog to make sure I wrote down all the funny things Ella did each day, but have been doing a bad job at that lately. I swear there is a story for

On Saturday Ella was in desperate need of a bath, so I filled it up and plopped her in. Since she is contained, I have been using bath time to be super productive. Ella's room looked like a tornado had rolled through so I thought I would pick it up.

After she had been in the tub for quite some time she yelled, "Mom, I have to go potty." So I went into the bathroom and as I was reaching in to get her she shoved a cup in my face and said, "Here - I pooped in the tub." As I grabbed the cup and peered in I saw that it was filled with poop and water!
I shrieked, "Ella Marie Leschisin, what are you doing? That is very naughty. Why would you poop in the tub?" She replied, "I had to go potty mom, no big deal."

I emptied the contents of the cup into the toilet and sat her down to finish her business. I then set out to determine exactly what had happened and just how gross it was.

Mom: Did you accidentally poop in the tub and scoop it up with the cup?
Ella: No, I poop in the cup and I got some on my hands (makes a yucky face while wrinkling her nose.)
Mom: We definitely need to wash your hands.
Ella: Mom I had to go potty so I pooped in the cup and a little came out. No big deal.

The kid literally sat on a tiny cup, pooped and as she was lifting it out of the water, some escaped. Are you kidding me? I could never make this shit (literally) up!

This cup that she pooped in, well it's (was - it's tossed now) small to say the least. I couldn't be mad at her, I was impressed by her impeccable precision. I was laughing so hard because she looked at me as if I were dumb that I hadn't thought of her solution sooner.

What a creative thinker!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


No worries, this time I resisted the temptation to include the infamous David Bowie song - but only because I'm still not able to determine what the song is really all about. I will say that I did dig up my old post where I included music and I liked it. A lot.
Now that you have watched the fantastic Youtube video - let's move on.
Life in the Leschisin household has maybe slowed a bit, but that doesn't mean that things aren't constantly changing every day. For starters, I am able to officially refer to us as the Leschisin household since Joe & I tied the knot on September 17th. We were blessed with amazing weather and couldn't have asked for a better day!

While the wedding is a major event in our lives, the changes that Ella has been going through are what proves to be more surprising and continues to amaze me every day. Where to even begin?

We attended Cleft Clinic on October 14th. Our mindset going into the appointment was that we would be scheduling another surgery to correct the pulling on her lip and work on reshaping her nose. Of course that's not how the appointment really went. For the first time, our surgeon actually had an opinion and shared it and he prefers to not do surgery unless a medical necessity (speech plateaus, nasality, bone grafting, etc.) arises and he can piggyback on that. Since we have struggled with the topic a lot, I am good with not doing surgery anytime soon. However, I also think as her parents it's our job to do what is best for Ella in the long run. If she continues to mention that she doesn't like her lip & nose - we will think about a surgery before she starts school. For now it's back to the waiting game.

In exciting news Ella's Big Girl Check List continues to take no prisoners. We have conquered potty training, which means she not only gets to wear big girl princess undies, but is also the proud new owner of this {super sparkly & girly} bike. ----------------->

And that's not all folks - last night was her first night in a big girl bed. Yes I know you're all thinking "What, she's almost 3?"  For some reason my wild and crazy child has never tried to get out of her crib & I am not ashamed in the fact that I have delayed this day for as long as possible. As much as I thought it was going to be terrible, the transition has gone swell and at almost two nights in, I can't complain.

Perhaps the most exciting and beneficial transition for Ella is in regards to her speech development. When Ella turns 3 in November, we will no longer be able to utilize the services provided by Birth to 3 and our case is turned over to the Madison School District. I have been super nervous about whether or not we could expect continued therapy and if so, at what level of consistency & quality. Today was the meeting to review Ella's evaluation and much to my surprise it went fantastic.

After the therapist spent an hour with Ella they determined that while she is extremely intelligent and definitely doesn't struggle with language and communication, she does struggle with speech development. Therefore, she qualifies to be one of 12 kids to take part in a Phonology Clinic. The clinic focuses on building the intelligibility of speech and emphasizes the accuracy of sound patterns to promote speech clarity. Ella would attend half the day for 4 days/week for 6 weeks. She then would have 6 weeks off where we would practice and continue at home and then 6 more weeks on. The cycles continue until she no longer needs the help or she starts kindergarten.

While this is definitely going to be a major transition for us and Ella - it's something I am very excited for. It does seem a bit intense and I feel guilty for taking her out of daycare where she will most likely miss he friends and fun, but I strongly believe the consistency and focus will help us see some major improvements. Cross your fingers!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kids Will Be Kids

Today I received a text from my sister-in-law. It was a picture of my niece Paige and it looked like it hurt. She had fallen on the playground at school. She was battered, bumped and bruised. Paige was the first baby to enter my life, she made me an aunt (well her parents did but lets not get into that) and will always hold a special place in my heart. It broke my heart to see her in such pain.

At the same time, it also put things into perspective for me. When Ella was born we fretted about the inevitable surgeries she would face to repair her cleft and we worried about the scarring, both emotionally and physically. Taking a step back - those surgeries and scars may have happened even if she wasn't born with a cleft (the scenario is very likely if you know Ella).

Kids will be kids. They run. They fall. They cry. They scar. It's impossible to keep them safe all the time. As we contemplate another surgery I will think of today and remember that if it wasn't this - it would be something else. One thing you can predict about kids, they will always be unpredictable.

I hope Paige doesn't experience any long lasting scars from todays debacle. I hope she will return to school tomorrow and all of her friends will comfort her and she will know it's okay to go back out and run again. Most likely she will fall again, but the important part is to get back up. Every. Single. Time.

If not, she will always be a beautiful little girl to me and I have a ballerina Barbie going out in the mail tomorrow as bribery :D Love you Paige!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Conversation with a 2 Year Old

This past weekend Joe and I went to Las Vegas for a few days to celebrate our bachelor/bachelorette parties with friends, so we left Ella with Grandma & Grandpa for a bit. Whenever we are away from her for even a day it becomes very apparent that she is growing up right before our eyes.

Tonights conversation on the way home from daycare is a perfect example. It went something like this:
(Saw a lawn ornament in someone's yard by daycare)
Ella: why that not in my yard?
Mom: because you don't live there?
E: why?
M: because you live with mommy & daddy.
E: I not want to live with mommy & daddy.
M: that's not very nice. who will take care of you? who is going to feed you, bath you, change your diapers, etc?
E: Mac (our cat)
M: well we have a problem then because Mac can't open the fridge.
E: I open the fridge all by myself.
M: you have a point. who will change your diapers?
E: I will.
M: who will make your meals?
E: I put chicken nuggets in the oven.
M: why don't you want to live with mommy & daddy?
E: cause I not need you!
M: ouch

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It. Has. Happened.

On November 26th Ella will be 3 years old.

When we found out we were expecting our first baby - a girl to be born with a cleft lip and palate, we were terrified and began to prepare for the worst. Then Ella came and she was amazing. She was so beautiful, resilient and stronger than we could ever imagine.

Our first surgery to repair her lip was easy, as easy as handing over your 4 month old can be, but we didn't have any real issues with feeding or restraining her from touching her face. Our second surgery to repair her palate was pretty hard, but when looking at all the issues most cleft kids face, we felt blessed.

We didn't have weight gain issues. No hearing loss. Speech for the most part, was on track. Learning was never an issue, she was too smart for her own good and she definitely didn't have issues with projecting sound! We were defying all the things that most parents forewarn you about. How lucky!

Shortly after Ella was born, Joe's aunt Bonnie was kind enough to have her friend Lori send us a letter about her daughter Myah's journey. She too, was born with a cleft lip and palate and was really the only child/parent resource that we had at that time. She wrote about all of Myah's surgeries and what they experienced and for the most she made me feel like everything was going to be fine. However, she also said that when Myah was 3 years old (middle photo) she started to say she didn't like her "puffy lip." I remember feeling terribly sad when I read that. How can a 3 year old know what vanity is? How can they be self-conscious at such a young age?

I haven't seen that letter in over two years. Why would I need it? That would never happen to us. We defy odds. Ella is very confident. In fact, every morning after she is dressed she looks in the mirror, spins and says, "I bootiful."

Until now. Tonight while putting Ella to bed I noticed she was pulling on her lip. I asked if something was bothering her and she replied, "It won't come off." I didn't know what she meant so I asked once more. Again, she pulled on the extra flap of skin on her lip, an imperfection from her lip repair, and said "I don't like it on my lip."

Joe and I have been debating on when it's the right time to have another surgery for quite some time, so I asked if she wanted mommy & daddy to fix it and she said, "Yeah. And my silly nose too."

Worst. Feeling. Ever. I could have never been prepared for something like this. I couldn't believe Lori's story that Myah was noticing things at such a young age and yet, here we are.

Is Ella's cleft noticeable? Yes, of course! It's hard for Joe and I to see it, because we only see our beautiful little girl, but we know it's more obvious for other non-biased parties.

On one hand this makes our surgery decision much easier, but on the other hand it all goes back to my theory that you can try to raise your kids the best you can, but parenting is hard and there are no guarantees!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Best. Job. Ever.

Life is busy, but more importantly it's short and unfortunately sometimes I fall victim to just going with the flow and forgetting about what really matters.

This past Friday Ella decided she wanted to spend a week with Grandma and Grandpa and set off for a fun-filled vacation...leaving us in the dust. At first I thought it was a great opportunity for Joe and I to get stuff done; we have a lot of household projects to be completed, a wedding to be planned and it would be kind of nice to remember what a social life together is like - which is why we agreed to ship her off.

The first couple of days were fine. We kept busy by hitting up a good 'ole Wisconsin fish fry and then followed it with date night the next day. It was so nice to do things together and not have to worry about the logistics of lining up a babysitter.

Then Monday came, which is when we usually settle into our normal routine, and Ella's absence became glaringly obvious. We had no alarm clock to wake us up by screaming "Mom come get me" at the top of her lungs, we had all these tiny clothes but no one to wrestle them onto and we were both able to shower and still get to work on time. Nice, right?

Wrong. Turns out I hated not having Ella here to argue with in the morning. I have actually become extremely skilled in putting her hair up while moving around the entire house and I kind of like being late to work (the showering was nice though).

Here's the deal - sometimes handling Ella everyday is challenging and I get frustrated with her, but that's what makes it so much more rewarding. After not having her for a week I am reminded that being Ella's mom truly is the best.job.ever!

<---So happy to have my family back again.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


A confusing and difficult problem or question.

Or a word that describes my current state of mind when having to think about Ella's next step down this "path" of facial reconstruction. As most of you know, we had Ella's cleft lip repaired when she was 4 months old and her palate repaired at 10 months old.

I choose to say path surrounded by quotes because I would say this process has been anything but. From the time we found out Ella would be born with a cleft it has been our responsibility to prepare and educate ourselves, with very little guidance.

At my job I am expected to be the expert and provide my clients with a plan that will garner the most successful outcome. I guess I thought that since surgeons have to go through many more years of schooling than myself, that their job expectations would be the same. He would tell us what was best for Ella, lay out the risks and rewards and we would move forward with his recommendations - yet, here we are in the drivers seat.

Don't get me wrong, we love our surgeon and think he has done an amazing job on Ella's repair.
[BEFORE                                    |                                    AFTER]

However at this point he will not tell us that Ella needs a surgery and has said that as her parents it's our decision. To willingly put your child under the knife, especially after seeing them suffer in the past, is a very hard thing to ask a parent to do. I understand that everything surrounding her well-being is our decision, but it would be nice to know what others would do in our situation.

As her parents, we think she looks fantastic and barely see her lip (which I have talked about in the past)- however, I am not dumb and know that others see it very clearly. Her speech continues to get better every day, so how do we know when the time is right?

Do we wait and hope the kids don't pick on her? What if she looks back and is mad that we didn't do something sooner? Do we do it now/sometime soon and maybe need to go back in again, causing more unnecessary surgeries? Why can't people/surgeons make these decisions for me? Right or wrong - at least I could blame someone else for the outcome! 

I think the moral of the story is ….no matter what, parenting is HARD. When I first found out I was pregnant a very dear friend of mine said, "Congratulations - now you can f#ck 'em up in your own special way."

In times like these, i have to tell myself that no matter what decisions we make and how hard we try to make Ella's life perfect - she may hate us anyways, so we'll do our best and cross our fingers!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Who decides what "art" is?

This has been a big week for our Cleft Awareness Foundation and now that things are starting to settle back down I wanted to take a moment to look back on the positive that came from it all.

Currently we have a network of around 1,500 people built through Facebook. My goal is to offer news on a daily basis that for the most part includes: uplifting & inspirational stories, promotion of good causes, before/after photos, cleft resources, support, life conversation, etc. Thanks to New York Magazine, this past week took a different turn.

The magazine featured a contest where they asked designers, illustrators and cartoonists to give Lady Gaga a shocking new look that could top her recent meat dress. One artist, Tim Hensley, chose to draw her with a cleft lip to promote universal tolerance.

I have chose to not post the photo here, but when I initially saw it I was intrigued. I wanted to know more about the artist and why he chose to draw her in that manner. I assumed he had a cleft background and was an advocate for the cause.

I was hesitant to post the photo on the CA Facebook page, but felt it was important to get others feedback. Then the state of panic set in. Within 20 minutes there were 50+ comments and most were very angry. Some were even mad at me for sharing such an ignorant photo with a group that works so hard to move forward and change perceptions.

Since I was acting as a moderator I remained neutral and prayed that people knew I wasn't endorsing the magazine, artist or photo, but was simply letting others know it existed. Some people demanded that I take it down, some people were positive and hoped it was created with the right reasons and just "missed the mark."

After further examining the 100+ comments I found something very interesting. Almost ALL of the people who were born with clefts and chose to comment came across as strong, positive, tolerant, and dare I say, forgiving human beings.
I think that is the most amazing testament to the beautiful people, both inside and out, these cleft kids are!!

Many things transpired after that and it wasn't all pretty, but in the end we were able to get a major magazine to issue an apology:
After consulting with the artist Tim Hensley we've decided to take down his drawing and he is donating his fee to a cleft palate charity. We offer our sincere apologies to the community.

Through the help of other organizations we were able to get some real media coverage in Atlanta! To view the news clip click here.

This whole ordeal has been amazing; to witness not only the power of social media, but more importantly what can be accomplished through uniting and taking a stand. I am proud to be a cleft mommy and to be surrounded by such strong, beautiful people.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."  - Gandhi

Note: I am excited to get back to sharing positive and exciting news via our Foundation and I would NEVER want a career in Public Relations! That being said, I am still trying to reach out to the artist in hopes of learning more about why this image was created. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Funny Kid

Everyone always tells us how funny Ella is and we usually say something like, "Yeah, she thinks she's funny!" but the truth of the matter is - she is really, really funny. There are so many times I have to turn away when she is doing something naughty so that I don't laugh and encourage her.

Let's take today for example. This week is Spirit Week at daycare and today was crazy hat/hair day. Ella decided that she would partake in the hat portion, so we got dressed and of course had to take pictures. When I asked her to smile she began posing as if she had just walked off of the runway. I mean, yes I know those girls/posers that strike the same move whenever a camera appears, but that is not me - so where in the world is she learning this stuff. Ceases to amaze me.
(The first photo is definitely a product of "Naughty Aunty Merl.")
Then tonight as we sat down to eat dinner she proceeded to tell her daddy that she didn't like him, which was funny - but Joe didn't seem to think so. I guess... I didn't think it was so funny when she told me she was going to shop for a new mommy while I am gone traveling this week.

That dinner story really doesn't compare to yesterdays lunch though. We had decided to sit down to eat a quick lunch and Joe made himself a hotdog. Since we were out of ketchup he settled for mustard, but he decorated it exactly the same as the hot dog on the bottle, complete with zig zags and all. As he brought it over to show Ella she was amazed and when he showed her the bottle of mustard she said in awe, "Oh my God!" I wish I had it on video because her face and voice was amazing!

Not only is Ella funny, but she also has an amazing memory. A few weeks ago she went to Grandma & Grandpa Stevenson's on a Thursday afternoon after swimming lessons. This past Thursday when Ella got out of bed I asked if she was excited for swimming that day. Of course she said she was, but she followed it up with, "Grandma & Grandpa Bobs?" I tried to explain that she can't go to Grandma & Grandpa's every Thursday and in the middle of my sentence, before I could even finish - she looked at me and with a swirl of her pointer finger said, "Pack it up! Grandpa Bob pick me up." Her tone of voice was as if she was saying, "Woman - grab my bags!"

Monday, March 7, 2011

Baby Mine

When Ella came into this world I was overjoyed with excitement for this beautiful little girl, but at the same time felt a tad slighted by the uphill battle we would inevitably face.

For those that know me, you know I LOVE music and it has definitely helped to get me through some challenging times in life. From the day Ella was born I have sang her the same song every night before she goes to sleep. Initially it was something that I enjoyed and made me feel better, but now that Ella is getting older it's become something that we both love. Every night after we read our stories and tuck all of her friends into bed she asks, "Baby song?"

She is referring to Baby Mine from Dumbo. I don't remember watching this movie as a child
(I have no memory), but I do know as an adult I love it and it's pretty deep for a Disney film! 

I prefer this version (video unrelated) because in the word's of JL, "that Alison sure can sing!"
The lyrics of the song really are absolutely perfect for Ella:
"If they knew sweet little you
They'd end up loving you too."

Like me, Ella loves music too. She loves to sing and dance to almost anything. Lately she has started to sing along during our night time concerts! The first time it happened I could barely contain my laughter and continue to sing on. I mean, this isn't a typical nursery song that 2 year olds sing along to. It is so adorable that I decided I had to get it on tape and share.

I REALLY can't believe I am going to put my voice
online, but Ella is so sweet it's truly worth it.

Ella - always remember to "let those eyes sparkle and shine." ♥ momma 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Terrified of Growing Old

Let's be clear - I am old and I know & can admit that, but I am terrified in growing older because that means Ella will also be older and that scares me for many reasons.

We have tried to raise Ella with a lot of encouragement and positive attitude and so far it seems to have worked. Every morning after I fix her hair I say in the most excited tone - "WOW! You are such a beautiful little girl. Mom and Dad are SO lucky to have you!" In response she either spins in a circle as if she is a twirling princess or she immediately runs to our full-length mirror where she peers at herself proudly and smiles.

A few days ago, in relation to my fears of Ella entering elementary school, a co-worker of mine said, "You are so strong & so is Ella, are you really worried?" Despite our efforts, the reality is - she is still a little girl, protected by her parents and kids can be mean.

I follow a lot of cleft related news, including a group on Facebook called Cleft Lip & Palate for Young Adults. The other day the post was:
What are the positive sides of having a cleft. What are some positive things that have come from you being born with a cleft lip and/or palate?

I was so sad to see some of the responses. Some highlights include:
"I'm not sure if anything positive has come from it for me." - DR

"I just pretend to be strong... i'm not strong, i'm defensive and insecure." - SR

After reading their responses I felt sad and hopeless. I would like to believe that with a strong influence from their parents these girls would have had more confidence & could see the positive side of things- but, in life there is never a guarantee and maybe this has nothing to do with their parents.

I never realized how biased parents can be until a small child shares their uncensored truth. In my mind, Ella's lip and nose appear to be perfect - how could anyone detect something that was once a major defect? However there have been numerous times that small children will say, "What's wrong with her lip? Why does her lip pull up like that?" I appreciate their honesty & in reality, her nose is smashed and stretched, her lip pulls up and the extra flap of skin on her lip hides her imperfect teeth.

As we struggle with speech development and many more surgeries, the reality of teasing becomes all to real. I can only pray that we are able to raise a strong & confident woman.

Parenting is a lot pressure.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Where have you been?

I have heard that question a lot lately, in regards to my blog and the fact that I haven't wrote anything since November 2010 - yes, I realize it's 2011. I know I always say that I hate blogging, but I want you to know I have put a lot of thought into why it bothers me so much. Let me share a few reasons:
1. A blog is supposed to be a place where you can be open and honest and express your true thoughts and feelings.
Ahh, if it were only that easy. Trust me there are days that I wan't to be brutally honest and say, "If you don't like it, don't read it" but the headache of dealing with those truths just isn't worth it. So in the end, most of the time I overanalyze and edit based on what I think other people want to read vs. my real thoughts.
2. Due to the above, my blog is no longer witty and clever but has become nothing more than a journal - which was not my goal.

So - that all being said, I have decided to (DRUMROLL)....continue to blog! Ta da.
Despite the facts mentioned above - the most important thing to me is Ella and I started this blog so I can remember what a great kid I have and document all of the things she is doing. If that means I am just journaling, oh well - at least I will be able to look back to this point in her life and remember that she:

  • loves to "backpack" ride
  • chews gum like it's going out of style
  • asks for snacks and apple juice the second she wakes up
  • follows suit with "Grandpa Bob" and cheers for the Packers every chance she gets. Go Pack Go!
  • is growing up faster than I could have ever imagined