Sunday, May 19, 2019

year nine


It is 5 days post Charlotte's birthday. I haven't had a moment to sit down and write before now. I'm not even sure I wanted to. But this is the space where I did most of my grieving so it feels odd to let Charlotte's birthday pass without some mention.

 I was doing SO well - flying high the week before her birthday, feeling like I was doing GREAT. Even the day of wasn't so bad. I didn't even cry. Not on Mother's Day, not on the day after, not on her birthday, the 14th. That was a first.

Then the 15th came and I deflated. I have wanted to spend the last five days flat on the floor with zero interactions or disruptions. I don't want to see anyone. I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't understand why I have to feed the kids three meals and two snacks every day. Basic tasks feel insurmountable.

This morning before church I stretched out on the bed after breakfast even though I knew it was a bad idea.

Get up, I implored. Get up, get dressed, you just have to sit through church and then you can be done with the outside world for the day.

(The good news is I have been here before and I know these deep draggy feelings of inertia and inability don't last forever. That it's okay to sit with them for a week, or even two. That if the feelings last I know where to turn and how to ask for help because I've crossed that vast divide a time or two before.)

I got up. I got dressed. I got the kids ready. We made it to church.

And the pastor led off with dead baby talk. I kid you not. I just about ran out of there. He was preaching on "hitting bottom" and his jumping off reference was a couple who got a divorce after their baby died from SIDS.

I thought I was going to cry, but I didn't. I thought I was going to walk out, but I didn't. I heard a voice say, you need to hear this, so I sat through the uncomfortable moment and forced myself to listen to the pastor's words.

He talked about how often marriages don't survive child loss, which made me think about the friend who complimented our marriage on Charlotte's birthday last year. I suppose it is some kind of Jesus wrought miracle that we're still walking together and almost celebrating thirteen years married. It has not been easy. I will never claim I have enjoyed being a couple who has lost a child, but staying with each other despite burying Charlotte is some kind of testimony and we can be proud of ourselves for letting Jesus in and asking Him to hold us together.

Nine years after Charlotte was born and died I yelled at my kids a lot on her birthday. I said "sorry, Mama is sad and the sad is coming out as frustration" over and over and over. Next year Harper will be old enough I want to go somewhere with Jonathan - just the two of us - on her birthday. I think that will be better for everyone. 10 is next - and that is a big number. Ten years - a decade! - is a lot of years to live without someone you expected to get to know deeply and well as you watched them grow and change.

I'm not sad really, more exhausted; like I can't believe after all this time there are still feelings and words I can barely stand to express or hear or note. I mean, talk to me this time of year, ask me how I am, and you probably won't notice a thing, or get much information, but if you ask me to write you a letter about how I am feeling and faring you will get an entirely different story. I am not able to express myself well with spoken words, but give me the opportunity to write and I can tell you exactly how it feels to "celebrate" the birth day of a dead child.

It's painful and hard and I am surprised that today there is still anger about the fact that she's gone. I thought the anger had left, but it appears there is still some well below the surface that can be called forth by a well timed sermon.

But even though I am angry and hurting I believe God is good. God is working all the painful circumstances we experience for His purposes and His goal is never to harm the ones He loves. Nine years later I still believe in Him and His goodness. Nine years later I am mostly healed. It's not okay that Charlotte died. I am not over it. I will never be past or over or done with the grief. But most days I can be satisfied with the place where God has asked me to be at this time in my life and the children He has given me to raise and love on Earth.

Happy belated birth day sweet Charlotte girl. You are loved and missed. I see the place in our family where you should be. I wish often that you were here. I imagine who you would be and what you would enjoy. I know you are in a beautiful place, that you lack nothing. That knowledge provides comfort and peace. I hope you know that even though our lives have continued on without you there is still a deep ache when I think about the life I didn't get to live with you. You are so, so missed, sweet girl. Love, Mama

Friday, April 12, 2019

bad attitudes and sibling squabbles


It's 9:45 on Friday morning and the house is QUIET. Harper is napping, the others are out of the house ... I'm basically alone!

One of the biggest homeschooling challenges for me is the constant presence of people. Quiet time to myself is rare, but being an introvert I crave space and quiet.

I was going to sit and read, but I'm having a terrible time finding a book with content I feel comfortable reading. New fiction is often chock full of things I don't want in my brain. I read a lot of non-fiction, but I can't read just non-fiction because that wears my brain out.

I need to start on my get out and walk goal today. The weather has been so horrible - we have pockets of flooding around town because the skies have been weeping endlessly - but being from here I was born to walk in the rain and not mind. That's the general mindset at least. I'm more of a whiner. And I hate feeling the slightest bit uncomfortable.

The weather is wearing on everyone. The kids have been fighting like mad lately. Any tips on what to do about that? They've always been mostly friendly with each other, but lately there's been a lot of strife. I need to find new strategies to deploy when they begin bickering. Yelling, "Jesus put you in this family! He gave you your siblings! Love one another!" isn't working.

My capacity to stay calm goes up in flames after a long day. Or even a long morning. I'm working on gentle speech - and I do feel I'm yelling less - but when the fighting starts all calm vanishes.

Yesterday the making dinner hour was so stressful I nearly ran away screaming. There are days I want to put dinner on the table and let the family have at it while I eat in a quiet room behind a closed door. Harper broke a glass water bottle I didn't realize was in the baby drawer. And in the midst of a sibling scuffle Ains had a fairly hefty board dropped on her eye (the platform of the helper tower actually) which resulted in copious tears and ice packs. By the time Jon came home from work I was completely overdone and grumpy. Lately each day is something to get through; a test of endurance. I think we'd all fare better if I didn't feel that way. Oh attitudes - they always need improving, don't they?

I'm going to jump off now. Harper just woke and it's not raining so I'm going to walk before I lose my motivation.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

5 things I want to do


A friend snapped a photo of me talking to Harper during swim lessons today.



She sent it to me with an uplifting message about how I'm a great mom. I was like, that's so sweet! But I don't love my hair and profile shots are the worst and I hope no one sees it ...

And then I shared it on Instagram. Because if people look at me and see how much I love my children that's a good great thing.

I read through Girl, Stop Apologizing (which was so-so) recently and Rachel Hollis talks a lot about goals. When I thought about what I really want to accomplish personally I kept coming back to: spend more time on myself.

As I've thought about that more over the last few weeks I've realized there are concrete things I can and want to do for myself.

1. Get my hair cut every 6 weeks. Why do I wait 6 months to get my hair cut? I love having it done!

2. Take care of my skin. I'm in my 30s. I need to find a good skin care regime that's non-toxic and easy. Unless drinking water and washing my face with water is enough. If that's the case: done!

3. Walk at least 3x a week. And I mean really walk. Taking three kids and a dog around the neighborhood raises my heart rate because it's super stressful, but it is not what I would call a productive walk. I'm not going to do yoga or run or swim or bike, but I need to get in shape and I can walk.

4. Learn how to put on makeup. I'll probably wear it twice a year, but knowing how to put it on seems like something I could learn. I have never worn makeup and I can't see myself spending a lot of time on this one, but it's way out of my comfort zone so I'm adding it in. Please tell me there's a super simple way to do this.

5. Stay off sugar. It's spring. I just want to eat everything and cry. We've done really well keeping added cane sugar out of our daily lives. It's been almost a year and I want to stick with it. Finding the motivation when I feel sad is really hard.

5 things - that seems possible! Send all tips and tricks my way. I'm going to need help - especially with that fourth one - and accountability.

Wait - I posted this on Facebook and then realized I missed something huge.

So # 6 - which should be # 1: be consistent about spending time in the Bible. I really, really need to get back in this habit!!


Thursday, February 28, 2019

on speaking up


Yesterday morning I wrote e-mails to state and city representatives while the big kids played in the snow and Harper watched and smacked the sliding glass door.

There is a bill being fast tracked this week regarding vaccines and medical freedom so I wrote a strongly worded e-mail about that to the members of the house health committee.

There is a hearing today and I live in the capital city so I'm trying to get brave and go. I'll have to bring all three kids, which is so difficult, but the wording and purpose of this bill is extremely concerning and vocal opponents need to be present.

After sending off those e-mails I wrote to the city librarian about the changes being made at the library.

The reference desk has been eradicated. Books are being culled at an alarming rate. Shelves are emptying, cut down to half their content.

As an avid reader and educator I'm appalled by the drive to promote popular reading materials (like bestsellers) over a strong core collection and specialized librarians.

It's so easy to get mad and stay mad about issues like this, but I'm finding it healthier to say my piece and give it to God.

He is in control.

I don't have to attempt to control or influence outcomes to make myself feel happy or safe.

Even if this bill passes we will be protected by God and so will our children.

Even if the library collection is reduced I will find a way to get my children books and materials. (I understand this is a privileged statement and that's why I'm fighting for a strong core collection at our library. Everyone should have access to free books.)

I went through a protest all the things phase in high school and early college. My convictions weren't strong, but it was different enough from what the majority of my classmates were doing to capture my attention.

Now my convictions are strong, but my time is limited. I might not be able to attend the hearing, but I can carve out twenty minutes to draft and send an e-mail. And then I can enjoy the rest of my day with the kids knowing I've said something; I haven't stayed quiet.

It's been a process to learn how to trust and live life with open hands, but I'm so glad I don't have to worry or be fearful of the outcome of today's hearing or whatever news tomorrow brings. Praise God for His hand on our lives.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2.19.19


On Saturday I had a post to write about a bereavement training speaking event and watching Tangled with my family. The first time I watched the movie was after Charlotte died and it was really hard to watch because I wanted my daughter back. Saturday I watched it surrounded by my children and I couldn't believe how much has changed in nine years.

Sunday we attended a small remembrance service for my grandmother followed by a dinner. On Monday I was ready to catch up on housework and laundry and prep for the homeschool week and finally write that post when we got our first call for a Safe Families placement (a non-governmental organization that provides temporary respite care to overwhelmed parents).

There were three young kids who needed a place to stay. Jonathan was home, only one night was needed and my solo time with six kids would be minimal so we said yes.

Now my brain feels tangled.

Guys, it was so intense and overwhelming.

My emotions were at the tip- top after Saturday and Sunday's events and then we were hit with that placement and we were running our feet off with six kids 7 and under.

Last night I slept on a mattress in Harper's room with three young kids in cribs and on mattresses all around me. We couldn't settle them any other way so I rocked the youngest and began singing. The older two knew 'Jesus Loves the Little Children' and 'Jesus Loves Me.' We sang round after round as they tried to sleep in unfamiliar surroundings.

Eventually they all slept. I got up a couple times during the night for back pats and soothing words, but for most of the night they slept.

There is so much pain in this world, but there's so much joy too. There's the pain of Charlotte's death and the joy of my living children. There's the sorrow of my grandmother's death and the joy of knowing she's in heaven. There's the sadness of broken families and the joy that comes in the dark when everything feels scary but little voices still sing about the love of Jesus. My hope is that even if they don't know Him they know His love and felt it in our home.

This morning I prayed, out loud, Jesus be near! as I felt overwhelmed and under prepared. He was. He is. I'm so thankful He loves us.


Thursday, February 14, 2019

cookies, jeggings, dreams


When Jon called at 7:15 this morning I thought, "He's going to surprise me with a day away!!!!!" completely ignoring the fact that I have a baby who has never taken a bottle in her life on my hands.

I was quickly brought back to reality when he asked if I'd seen his prison access badge on the dresser.

Oh. Not a day away. Reality and more reality. I still had to feed the kids and take them to swimming lessons and stay awake all day. The bright spot in the mundane is that tomorrow Ainsleigh doesn't have preschool so we can stay home all day!

I have a commitment on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. I keep praying, "Lord, help me not be an introverted monster Sunday evening when I hit the being with people wall."

I've also taken up sugar again for a couple days because it's Valentine's Day, I wanted sugar cookies and my Saturday engagement involves speaking about Charlotte.

I haven't done that in a long time. I'm hoping I manage more than, "I'm so tired ..." I bought these high waisted jeggings at Target that should help see me through. I was so mad that I couldn't find the leggings I wanted in my size, but there were oodles of jeggings. I came home, pulled them on and up to my neck and bam! jeggings convert.

This winter I am continually trying to find clothes I can wear as pajamas and clothing. Jeggings to bed followed  by skirt over jeggings in the morning equals a semi-put together mama who has put forth minimal effort.

I hear you can wear jeggings or leggings as pants, but I'm not there yet. I'm cold all. the. time. I need layers between me and the world.

We put the kids to bed early so we can watch a movie. I made a Valentine's Day treasure hunt for the kids and we had a good dinner together followed by a board game, but when Jon suggested early to bed for the big kids I said, Yes! Go, children! I love you, but go!

It's not a day away, but it is a small window of hopefully uninterrupted time. I'm going to enjoy it - and my cookies too. 


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

when you can't fix it


Ainsleigh had a field trip today. My attitude was not great. It hasn't been great for a few days. We're reading the Little House series right now and I'm realizing I would've died. I hate the cold. I don't have the wherewithal to make it through a long winter.

Why is February so hard? Every year I'm like, oh yeah, I hate you. You are a terrible month.

I had to do shuffling and hustling to make the morning work because Ainsleigh was determined to have me go with her on the field trip, which was to a pizza place.

We toured the kitchens, stood in the walk-in refrigerator, toured the blacklight mini-golf course, which was dark and full of skeletons - super fun with a group of preschoolers- and then ate pizza, which Ainsleigh doesn't eat. And then Ainsleigh cried (more on that in a minute) and we left early. 

It was the lamest field trip. I can usually get into things and make them educational and find the fun, but this was just silly.

When I first saw the field trip slip I said, "Oh great, a food one. "

The teacher overheard and said, "But we did it with Bennett!"

Yes, we sent a pizza he could eat, and it was all fine, but the work of doing that and figuring out how to keep it warm is so difficult and annoying.

Lately the kids haven't wanted pizza. When Jon and I get it for things like the Super Bowl the kids have us make something for them that they love like chips and cheese with a smoothie.

Days before the field trip I asked Ainsleigh if she wanted Jon to make her a pizza to try. It's been a long time since we've attempted one and I thought she might like it. She said no, we agreed on the special foods she would take, all was well.

Until she sat down with all of her friends and didn't have pizza.

I felt horrible.

She cried.

We left.

Truth is, she could probably have pizza, but she's been wheat and cow dairy free her whole life. We also don't let her have sugar because it gives her unpleasant symptoms and most commercial pizza sauces have sugar.

Much of our current diet was forced on us by Bennett's food allergies, but we do make some of our decisions based on health. 

That's why Jon and I cut cane sugar out. That's why we don't eat pasta. That's why we eat grass fed cheese and butter. That's why we don't drink cow milk.

If we want something like pizza we have it, but we don't let the kids because we're pretty sure it would make Bennett sick and we want them to have the best nutritional start in life possible. Most of the time we make sure they have something they really enjoy eating if we're treating ourselves to pizza or something like that. I didn't eat pizza today because I didn't want Ainsleigh to feel left out and we had a cheat day Sunday.

It didn't work. She still felt left out.

As we were driving home all I wanted to do was stop somewhere and buy her something. I didn't want to get her a food treat, but I wanted to erase her tears with a small trinket or a coloring book or a new shirt.

I clearly heard a voice telling me to keep driving, to resist the urge to use money to ease her pain.

As we drove over the bridge I asked Ainsleigh, "Do you want to see Grandad and Sasa?" (My in-laws were at the house watching the other kids.)

She smiled and nodded and I again heard the voice, "Let people be her comfort."

Not food.

Not material goods.

People who love her and will hug her and chase the tears away.

When Jon got home and asked Ainsleigh how the field trip was she said it was wonderful!

As the kids danced to music in the living room after dinner I unloaded the full story, including my feelings of sadness and frustration. He reminded me that I gave her the opportunity to have what everyone else was having- well a modified version - but she refused.

I said she obviously didn't know how it would feel until she was sitting there, but I don't know if that's true.

We're the family with snacks in our bags. We're the ones who say no thank you when cake is passed at parties. We're the ones who have treats for the kids in our pockets.

I have no idea what life will look like for them in five or ten years. I can't imagine them leaving the house and following our food rules. Probably they won't. Hopefully they don't have to. (We're entering another healing phase with Bennett. It's hard, but we've seen a lot of progress so we're all willing to keep going.)

I don't know what they'll eat when they leave our home, but I hope they'll have enough experience to know what fixes the hard days: prayer, love, hugs, people who know you and want the best for you. There's nothing wrong with buying something when you feel sad, or eating a cookie because you had a bad day, but I don't want that to be their first response. Find a friend, then get a cookie together.

Yesterday I lost my mind at the library with the kids and wanted to buy cookies at the store afterwards. I passed the section twice, but went home without them because the kids were watching. They knew I was frustrated and I didn't want them to see me put something I told them I'm only eating on special occasions in the cart because I was having a bad day. Plus they can't have them and they probably really wanted a cookie because mama was cranky. Again.

I have no idea if we're doing the right thing, but we are trying so hard. I hope the kids know how much we love them.

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