On Tuesday Alexis will celebrate her 7th birthday! In honor of her, I’m posting the 7 biggest lessons she has taught me.

1. Mommy’s body isn’t going to bounce back as soon as baby leaves the tummy!

I gained about 60 pounds when I was pregnant with Alexis. I could make a thousand excuses, but the bottom line is that I really like pizza, and I like it even more when I am pregnant. I knew that I would have some weight to lose, but I wasn’t prepared for that first look in the mirror when I left the hospital. I really didn’t know that I would still look pregnant! So thanks Alexis!

2. Rejoice in your crazy, wild, head-strong, independent child!

By the time Alexis was walking and crawling, she was everywhere and into everything. Her favorite past-times were running her hands along shelves to watch everything fall off (especially books). If the stairway gate opened, she was going full speed to escape before it shut. She insisted on hanging upside down while she was being carried (usually I was in heels). When Alexis heard the word “no”, she thought you said, “You should do it again.”

Every time I see a parent struggling with a child like that, I snicker to myself. I thank God many times a day that she had that extra spark and spunk. We had no idea how bad she was going to need it. Parents, you may not think you can survive raising them…but let your worries subside long term, they can handle anything!

3. Prayer is powerful and miracles happen every day.

We may not always get what we pray for…that’s probably the hardest part. To us, (the people on earth) we will never know why some prayers are answered and others are not. I still can’t wrap my head around why bad things happen to children and families…why babies get hurt…why children die…why some people survive and others do not. But I do know that without the prayers that were said for Alexis, she wouldn’t be the person she is today. I also know that I wouldn’t have had the strength that I needed. So while we will never understand most things in this world…it is such an amazing thing to know that through any trial, there is always hope.

4. Patience, patience, and more patience…a little bit forward is a lot of progress.

I like to get things done, and get them done fast. If there is anything that has changed my attitude (at least sometimes) is watching Alexis recover. We didn’t know if she would wake up. We didn’t know if she would breathe on her own again. We didn’t know if she would talk, walk, or eat. Those were the big things.

Now we find hope in watching her toes twitch after 5 years of being still…

Talk about a change of pace. Learning patience, and knowing even if it is not a full step forward, at least you are moving forward.

5. There is always a way.

Sometimes we find ourselves in such a deep, dark hole that we fear there is no way out. We don’t have enough support, or money, or ideas…the way it looks from all the way down in that pit is that there is no way out. 

If you ever have that feeling…just squash it! Take a deep breath, and find another way. I don’t know how many times that we have heard that there is “no way” Alexis will do this or that. She always finds a way. It may not be quick and easy. It may not make sense to anyone else. There is a good chance that you will have to change course along the way. You may fall…get back up. Find a way.

6. Don’t judge a person by their cover.

Alexis is amazing when it comes to this. I’ve told stories before, but she can win over the hardest of hearts. It’s impossible for me to be more proud, then when I see her talking to a person who has 90% of their body burned, or missing a limb, or hooked up to machines and unable to talk back to her. She smiles, gives them pictures she has drawn, sometimes a hug. I wish we were all as blind to differences as Alexis is. Can you imagine the amazing world this would be?

7. Don’t miss a drop of life in each day

From the time she wakes up in the morning to the time her eyes finally close….she gets everything out of each day. She works hard and she plays hard. She expects everyone else in her life to give 110% of themselves too. If you are not living up to her standards, she lets you know…which is just what we need (sometimes anyways).

Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.