Tuesday, May 12, 2015

the best mother's day I've had // the perfect gift


I didn't cry on Mother's Day. Not one tear.

I felt sad. I noticed the missing one.

But I didn't cry.

That feels amazing since every other Mother's Day I have cried all. day. long.

Here we are in the middle of moving, and J found time to MAKE me a Mother's Day gift that was absolutely perfect, and incorporated all of my babies.


Mother's Day is always hard because it's so close to Charlotte's birthday, but looking at that line of photos all day helped somehow.


(Look at Charlotte's rose blooming outside the dining room windows. It's on fire this year, blooms everywhere)

On Mother's Day we packed, and packed, and packed, and then we walked to lunch. We sat outside, and for a while we were the only ones there since we went early on a Sunday, so we chased the kids around a bit to keep them busy, and J jumped out from behind a stairwell and surprised me to pieces.

It was bittersweet - as every day without her is - but the tide seems to have turned a bit this year because it was a little more sweet than bitter.

Two more days until Charlotte's fifth birthday. The kids and I baked a Charlotte cake for Thursday this afternoon. After they made a complete mess of the kitchen they scampered off to the living room to play while I cleaned up. They are the best of friends, which makes my heart sing and ache all at the same time because I want them to have a big sister to play with. Ainsleigh especially. I love my big sisters. Just when I felt the sadness crashing in I heard giggling from the living room. I peeked in to see Bennett blowing raspberries on Ainsleigh's tummy. She laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and he said, "Oh, Ains, is that funny? Do you like that? Isn't this fun??" And there it was again: the bitter edged out by the sweet.


* One of J's goals after we move and get settled is to open an Etsy shop. He came up with this photo idea the night before he gave it to me. His creativity and inventiveness impress me. I can't wait for others to have a chance to own a piece he hand crafted *

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

on year five


As if the grief wasn't bad enough I now have a serious case of, 'I'm terrible at this dead baby gig," going on.

So many seem to be sailing past the anniversaries. A lot of you seem to be doing fine. I know that can't be true, some of us are just more vocal than others, but I wish I had the ability to bear it with a little more grace.

This morning I stood in my friend's kitchen eating these horrible, processed store bought donuts I've been craving for a month. "I'm grief eating," I told her. And let me tell you, the friends in that house are two of a rare handful who get to see that side of me because I know they'll pull up a chair and eat a donut with me and there won't be any platitudes or expectations.

And then, later on, I said, "I feel like everyone else is coping better than me. Like I'm more of a mess than anyone else. It's been five years, why can't I just get it together?" I see snippets of lives online, and in real life, and I'm awed at how put together people seem. It's like I can't stay quiet about how sad I am, even though I've promised myself I will cope beautifully and calmly with late April, Mother's Day, Charlotte's birthday. It never works. The calm doesn't last. I fall to pieces. Every. single. year.

I said a variation of those words to a different friend last night and she said, "Well, that (losing a child) is the most difficult thing that can happen to you. You won't move past it."

But I keep trying. I expect it to be easier. I wonder how you all are doing, and how hard it's been for you, and what you do with the sadness. Do you eat donuts, or are you processing your grief in a healthier way?

Is year five easier than year one?

Yes. Obviously.

But it's awful in its own way.

My brain snatches two sentences from the endless book of grief and sends them through my mind over and over: I miss her. I want her back. I miss her. I miss her. I want her back ... 

That alone is enough to make me sit up in bed at night wild eyed with insomnia. And then the flashbacks come crashing in and I end up pacing the house at 4 am, nervously checking that all the doors are locked and all my people are safe.

And I know you go through this too. I know we who have lost experience incredible fear, longing, and rage when the anniversary comes. I know it, but I can't always see it, so I end up feeling alone. And I hate feeling alone because after Charlotte died I felt absolutely, terrifyingly alone, even though I was surrounded by people.

The surreality of burying a child is always at the back of my mind, but there is something about the anniversary of Charlotte's birth and death that makes me realize anew how awful it is that I have outlived one of my babies. 

So I eat everything. I wander from room to room. The laundry piles up. The kids watch too much television. I cry when asked what I want to eat for dinner. I cry when people are nice to me. I clutch the first card I receive with joy because the person who sent it remembered, and I am so scared people will forget that Charlotte lived as the years between her being here and her being gone expand.

In nine days I should be yelling, "Happy birthday!" when my five year old wakes up and comes out to the kitchen for breakfast. We would watch the video from the day she was born and talk about how excited we were to meet her. There wouldn't be tears, or sadness, or pain, just joy and excitement and too much sugar. FIVE. That's such a big number. I can't believe I should have a five year old. I wonder, as I do every year, just who she would be, what would make her laugh, what would make her eyes dance, or spark with anger. I don't know her, and that, more than anything, breaks my heart because as mothers our desire is to truly know our children so that we may love them better.

I miss her. 

That's it. 

Every year.

That is the root and the core and the bottom line:


I miss her.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

this is a hard time of year for us ... but there's good news


We've been saying, "this is a hard time of year for us ..." so often lately I feel like we should have t-shirts made so we can just point at the shirts when people are puzzled by our behavior.

One grief side effect that annoys me to pieces is that making decisions is really hard for me from mid-April to mid-May. The other day when J asked if I wanted anything for dinner since he was going to the store I started to cry because I was so overwhelmed at the prospect of picking something to eat.


Throw in moving, and all of the things that go with it, and trying to find a house to buy, and I've spent a lot of time the last few days feeling overwhelmed and crying.

BUT

the good, fabulous, great news is that we put an offer on a house and it was accepted!!! 

It's been a huge adjustment for me to wrap my mind around the house since it is not what we originally planned to buy. We put our poor agent through quite an ordeal this weekend, but after a lot of back and forth we decided to proceed with the purchase. It's not the super, amazing dream home I wanted, but it's a step towards it, and it will absolutely work for our family for the next five or so years.

I cannot believe we are buying another five year home, but after going over and over numbers and what we want we decided that it made the most sense to do that, and then prepare to build.

The house is dated, but in great shape (our agent said, "this house is built like a bomb shelter!) so we can fix up a few things, or just live in a dated home for a few years. The biggest downside is that the kitchen is nowhere near what I would like, but J is going to add an oven (the only oven is original and it hardly works) and add a bar on the other side of it so I can have more counter space. When we first toured the home I said, "Look at this interesting microwave in the brick wall here." And then our agent said, "that's your oven," to which I said, "WHAT???!!!" But J and our agent are master builders and sorted that particular problem out within a few minutes.


The more I think about the house the more excited I get so I really hope the process goes smoothly. It's a 4 bed, 2 bath home, and it's about 400 square feet bigger than the one we are currently in so I think it will really work for us.

AND 

I managed not to cry in front of our real estate agent yesterday, which was a huge effort, but I'm really trying to tone down the crying in public around Charlotte's birthday this year.

We got a house, guys!! The end of this HUGE process is in sight! I'll still have to move in with my parents for a little while, but not nearly as long as we feared.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

setting records


This is the longest I've been away from here. One whole month! At least I think this is the longest.

Our house is under contract (yay, but still stressful!) so we've been looking to buy. I'm beginning to wonder if our real estate agent may fire us for being picky, and dragging him out to look at houses every other evening at dinner time. We're tired. The kids are tired. At this point a tent seems like it might be fine (kidding).

And we're two and a half weeks away from Charlotte's birthday so it's all the emotions all at once here.

We've been eating terribly and reading too many books. It's not the ideal way to handle stress, but at least the kids see a healthy option alongside a very unhealthy one.

Ainsleigh is a FORCE. Oh my lands, we are in over our heads with that one. She's on the table, and climbing the walls, and stuffing towels down the sink drain, and doing her best to age me ten years in twelve months. She is wearing her hearing aid full time now (I almost can't believe it) and her speech is taking off.

Bennett is ... Bennett. He is busy, and bright, and focused on correctness. The other day my mother-in-law said, "let's put on your shoes, Bennett." He looked at the sandals in her hand and replied, "Actually those are sandals, not shoes." His favorite phrase is: "You were wrong!!" He loves books, music, guns, tanks, running, and jumping. 

This is beginning to feel like a yearly Christmas letter so I'm going to quit before it gets really boring. I'm sad and overwhelmed right now - and Charlotte's birthday is just around the corner - so I doubt I'll be away for a month again. I just wanted to get something down tonight since it's been so long.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end"


Our sweet Hazel house goes on the market tomorrow.

I am alternating between - YAY! - and - WAIT!.

The house looks really good, and I am proud of all of us for hanging on through the last couple months. I can't believe J - who works FULL time - knocked out a kitchen remodel in three months. Not to mention all of the other projects we tackled. These last three months we've learned something really important: do projects immediately! Don't wait until you're getting ready to move out!

Even though we are ready to move it is hard to leave. A few days ago I walked down to the Capitol with the kids. I love being able to meander downtown from our house. I will miss my long walks with the kids. Where we are looking to move is further out from the city. More housing developments. Fewer walking opportunities. This evening we went to a nearby restaurant and ran into neighbors. We know a lot of people on our block, and they know us and our kids. We've found a place here, and it's hard to think about giving it up, but when we think about the next five (or even ten years) what we want is elsewhere.

We moved here in 2008. It was our first home. All three of our babies grew in my belly here. They didn't all come home to this house, but there is a connection between them and these walls all the same. It's just hard to go. It's a hard time of year, and it's a hard place to be in: ready for change and yet feeling like so much of my heart is here.

And we're staying in the same town! Can you imagine if we were moving to a different city? Or state? J would have to peel me off the house. Drag me from the state kicking and screaming. I love Oregon something fierce. I would not leave her willingly.

In my state of anxiety I think I've told our real estate agent at least twice - maybe three times - that the rose, the one in the front yard, has to be excluded, it has to come with us, it's the only exclusion, but it must be in the contract, it's IMPORTANT.

I'm not sure how to separate leaving here from leaving Charlotte. The flowers in our yard that remind me of Charlotte and her birth month are already beginning to bloom. It's throwing me off balance. My equilibrium shatters when I look out the front window and see the lilies about to bloom, or when I clip lilacs for the table. I put vases of lilacs all over the house in May. They ease the ache, and they remind me of her. What are they doing blooming at the end of March?!

Setting a jar of lilacs on the table this evening made me want to text our agent with frantic anxiety: I need ALL the flowers that remind me of Charlotte. Every last one. Wait a minute - I need this house. I need the backyard where I labored with her. I need the nursery I decorated for her. I need the memories to come with me, and I am afraid if I leave here I'll lose something. She's not here, there's so little of her left, and if I accidentally lose something I will never be able to recover it. So pack it all up. Every flower. Every blade of grass. Every room. Figure out how to flat pack it, and we'll take it all with us.

But that would be insane, and I'm really trying to present a calm facade through all of this so ... never mind. Never mind. But if you could flat pack every last thing that reminded you of your lost one because doing so would guarantee you would never lose a memory - not even a wisp of one - you know you would do it without hesitation, or even much thought.

This weekend my pastor preached on the concept of two cities: the city of man and the city of God. He talked about being rooted, and how if one is rooted in the city of man life will be disappointing, hope will be hard to find, and perspective all but lost.

During this process I have to stay firmly rooted in the city of God, or else I will lose my focus and forget that all of this is temporary. This house, these walls, the next house, the last place, bricks, and chimneys, and kitchens, and lawns. It. is. all. temporary. I have a forever home.

John 14:3 - And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you will be also.

And in that forever home, Charlotte waits. God waits. LIFE waits - eternal, incredible, beautiful, pain free life.

Isaiah 25:8 - He will swallow up death forever; / and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces / and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, / for the Lord has spoken.

John 16:22 - So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Hope, friends. It's pouring forth from those verses. It's Holy Week. We need hope to carry us through the darkness to the breathtaking Sunday dawn.

Easter is one of my most favorite days because one can run around shouting the spectacular news that Jesus is ALIVE, He is RISEN, and people will accept it without too many sideways glances simply because it's Easter and there's so much joy floating around even the hardest heart jumps a bit in response. And really we should run around like that all day, every day, but sometimes that can be so hard to do.

I think I'm preaching to myself more than you here, but still, listen:

have hope

be brave

focus on the promise of forever

be rooted in the right city

Every little thing is going to be all right.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I just don't have time


For you

Or me 

Or friends 

Or anything beyond THE HOUSE

I am so over this process and we are nowhere near the end of it!

We want this house to be in great shape for the next owners, so we (and our families!) are putting a lot of time and effort into making it nice. For example: J built new garage doors with his dad on Sunday because the old ones weren't built with pressure treated wood and were rotting from the ground up. Could we have left them? Sure. But who wants to move into a house with rotting garage doors? So there's big projects and little projects and in between all of that there is 

illness (so. much. illness)

church

music class

trying to find a new house

preschool registration (oh my heart, really?)

sleep deprivation (our kids just cannot get the sleep thing down)

etc.

etc.

etc.

I have not seen my best girls in ages and I'm just about going to die from the missing.

I need a pedicure, and a movie night, and at least three consecutive nights where I don't have to wake up AT ALL.

And, of course, buried beneath all the busy is the coming of spring. The weather this year is so unseasonably warm it's like we're getting an extra dose of spring, which is enjoyable because I can take the kids out every day, but it's also absolute torture because the lead in to May is going to feel loooong this year with flowers already blooming and the sun constantly shining. 

It feels awful - really awful - to prepare to leave this house. We've outgrown out, it's definitely not the best fit for us anymore,  but I still love it, and a lot of life happened to us here.

I'm just an emotional mess right now, and I'm stress eating, and stress shopping like you wouldn't believe. I don't know why I'm surprised by the falling apart. I don't cope well with change at all, and this is a big change. The kids aren't coping very well either, which is making a challenging time even more so. Have you ever moved with little ones? What helped them through the process?

I haven't been writing lately because of a lack of time, but also because I feel like I'm stuck on the same subject: the house! the house! 

This is just a season, but it's a really intense one, and I'm already looking forward to the end. The post-Charlotte me just isn't as capable as the pre-Charlotte me, and the last time we moved was long before she joined our family.

I'm falling asleep as I type this, but I wanted to sit down and write something tonight because it's been so long, and I have a lot on my mind.

Send some encouraging words my way, friends. The days have been hard lately.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I need something to grow me


Yesterday afternoon I lifted Bennett onto the counter for a late afternoon snack.

"Would you like just jam on your bread?" I asked him as I opened the fridge.

He was squatting on the edge of the counter, peering into the depths of the fridge.

"No!" he exclaimed. Then he slowly stood up from his crouched position and pointed his finger in the air, "I need something to grow me!"

I laughed. "Yes, you do. I'll put sunflower butter on as well."

Apparantly all of my lectures on eating lots of good food because it will help him grow are making an impact! 

I too need "something to grow me."

We haven't been going to church. The kids have been sick, and on the Saturday evenings they are well we are exhausted and/or working.

I haven't been reading my devotions. I was doing really well with the She Read Truth plans, and then I tried the "Bible in a Year" plan. It was too much too fast, and instead of going back to the easier (for me) plans I gave up. I gave in to reading other things, or doing household tasks during the kids quiet time instead of reading the Bible. I know I need to go back to spending time in the Word daily, but carving that time out is difficult to do because there is always something else that needs to be done - or let's be honest - that I want to do

And I can tell. I see it in my attitude. I see it in my interactions with my family. I see it in my feelings of inadequacy, and the sense that I'm not doing anything meaningful with my days. All of the cooking, cleaning, and picking up after children can easily make life feel like the movie Groundhog Day.

It's hard to find glory in the everyday work of raising children, but trust me friends, it is there. My pastor once said that there will be consequences - that we may even be facing them now - of aborting so many infants, of ending so many lives by choice because God has a plan for every. single. life. It may feel like we are not contributing to this world because we stay home with our children, but we don't know who God has given us to raise. We do not know who they will become or what they will do with their lives. We must grow so they can grow. I must grow so they can grow.

What I need from the Bible is the following reminders:

You are enough.

Do not be afraid.

Both truths are there over and over again, but I have to seek them out every single day so I don't forget. I've been so overwhelmed by life details lately, and I feel a little guilty about that because my hard is so much easier than others, but no matter what feels like too much the Bible promises carrying the burden without help isn't necessary.

It's time to get back in the Word. It's time to go back to the cross. Easter is coming. I need to prepare my heart. And after Easter, Charlotte's season. I want to enter spring with my heart full of reminders that God has a plan, and that He is in control of my life. Starting today I'm going to go back to the Word, back to the cross and put my hands on something that grows me.

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