Tuesday, June 23, 2015

on mothering

The house is quiet. J is at the other end, down past the kitchen, which is where I expect the house to end, but stretching beyond is more house: the fourth bedroom, or in our case family room, a bathroom, and the utility/mud room. Ainsleigh is asleep. B is curled up next to me. Awake, but quiet. He asked to start out in our bed. I said no, but after thirty-five minutes of listening to him playing in the hall I told him he could come in so he doesn't wake Ainsleigh up (for the second time this evening).

It's been a long, hot day. June is typically a cool, rainy month here, but this year it's hot, more like August than June. The kids get up so early we often hit 1-2:00 in the afternoon and don't know what to do. This afternoon I took the kids to the park, which was miserable for me, but B really wanted to go and I'm trying to make his requests matter.

I read something once about how a day is not just mine, how it's the kids too. That idea lodged itself in my mind. I haven't been able to shake it loose. When I get frustrated, when I yell at the kids, when I stare at the toys strewn on every surface and feel like I just want my house back I tell myself, "it's their day too. It's their house too. It's their life too."

Yesterday B wanted to paint. He wandered into the bathroom I was cleaning with paint all over his hands. I said, "Buddy! Really all over your hands?!" And then I stopped. I listened to what he was saying: "Look Mama, look at the color I made in my hands! With paint! I mixed it in my hands! Now come, come with me, I'm going to add another color ..." And instead of getting frustrated with him for painting his hands I let myself be excited with him. I put down my cleaning supplies and followed him to the dining room so he could show me what he was working on.

It's really hard for me to do that.

Do you ever feel like being a mother isn't your best you? Or like it brings out the worst in you? Like all of your selfishness, and how easily you get frustrated, and how you like your world a certain way and when it gets disrupted you get a little shouty rises to the top, and so a lot of days you're short, or exhausted, or snappy with the kids ....

I spend a lot of my time thinking I should be better. More. Kinder. Calmer.

I worry that my kids won't remember the park days. Or the paint on their hands. Or playing store in their play house. I worry that they'll remember me getting frustrated with them for pulling the hall runner into the living room to hide under.

I feel like I should be better at mothering than I am because I buried my first child. Shouldn't losing an experience so important - the tenderness of raising a first born without an overhanging shadow of grief and loss - and the fact that I had a chance of missing out on mothering a live child automatically make me a better mother?

I honestly thought it worked that way. I thought the overwhelming gratitude would make me different, would alter the way I parent my living children somehow. Like the valves of frustration and selfishness in my heart would permanently shut down when B and Ains were born, and be replaced by a gushing well of gratitude.

I am grateful. But I'm also human. And some days I'm more human than others.

I want to love my kids well. I want them to have happy days. I want them to know they are loved just as much when they put their dishes in the sink without being asked to as when they spill paint all over the floor I just scrubbed.

I've been trying to say yes more. Like tonight. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to read a book and be by myself for a while, but B wanted to be with me. So I said yes, and within moments he was asleep next to me. It's hard to be so needed all the time, especially since I don't feel like I'm meeting everyone's needs very well, but saying yes now will lead to benefits when B and Ains are 10, 12, 15, 18 ...

No one told me parenting would be this difficult, and emotionally taxing. They said I would lose sleep. They said it would go quickly. They said it would be fun. They said it would make me cry. But no one told me how overwhelming it is to be one of a pair responsible for building a child up and creating a home of love, encouragement, and reliant faith.

That's why we have Jesus though, right? To help ease the burden, to show us how to love, to be an example of parenthood that we can use to help shape how we interact with our children. Even when I fail in loving my kids well there is opportunity for growth and enrichment because they get to hear me say sorry, and ask for their forgiveness.

I'm not a perfect mother, but I am the perfect mother for them. B and Ains were always meant to be mine. I hope I treat that concept with as much reverence as it deserves. I hope to do better this summer. I want to engage more, say yes more, and be kinder. In September B will be 4, and in October Ains will be 2! These fast moving years are sweet; I don't want to waste them, or miss out on fun because I'm too busy ordering my world. Their days matter as much as mine does. Their time is important. They are helping me become a better mother as they love me with full, forgiving hearts. They are teaching me how they need to be loved. 

Losing the opportunity to raise Charlotte did not make me a perfect mother to my living children, but it did teach me how to find joy in the chaos. Even when my hall rug is in the living room, and every dish from the lower drawers are strewn across the kitchen floor, and the bathroom faucet is running even though no one is in the bathroom, and there are sticky, red, strawberry scented hand prints on doorways and windows there is no where I would rather be. I hope my kids know that. I hope they know they are my joy, and that I'll always love them. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

We're home!!

There are boxes everywhere. Some rooms are put together. Others are in more of a fluid state. J hasn't installed the oven yet so I'm cooking all stove top meals, or using the BBQ. Our realtor brought us a HUGE basket of fruit so that's been a large part of our diet the last few days.

I like the house more than I thought I would. The brick in the dining room/kitchen is growing on me. The size of the rooms are wonderful. I love how spacious the house feels even though it's less square footage than we originally had in mind. The family bathroom is more problematic than we thought it would be, but we have two full bathrooms so we can make it work for us until J can do a full renovation (not the original plan, but it needs done).

The house is in a state, and it will be for a while as we fix things up, but there's nothing we HAVE to do - aside from the oven - so I'm ready to throw open the doors and show everyone our new house. I'm going back and forth on whether or not we should have an official housewarming party. I think I would really enjoy it, and I don't care about the fact that it won't be perfect (this is a new development. Six years ago I would have cared), but I don't know if it's too much effort. Maybe we should just have people come over whenever ... more of an ongoing housewarming thing. Last Saturday turned into an unofficial party. A lot of our family was there, kids were tearing all around the house and yard, it was a lot of fun, but I was also moving and directing so there wasn't a lot of time to chat.

When we were looking for houses J went on and on about "the lot." I was about ready to kill him, and I kept pushing for a smaller lot because we saw houses that would work if only the lot was bigger, but J really wanted a large lot, and then he found this house, and I agreed to look at it even though it was an older ranch (two things I wanted to avoid) and guess what? Having a large lot is GREAT. I love how much room the kids have to run, how there's a bit of side yard between us and our neighbors, and how there's a secret little corner the kids can make into a fort. And I can see the yard from the kitchen/dining area so I can be in the house while the kids are outside without worrying.

My view from the kitchen - Ainsleigh is swinging, B is playing with the water table way off to the side

The "secret spot" also known as the place where the last owner kept yard debris

And the ranch house layout is actually pretty great in this house. I really like the one level layout, and having the second bathroom and fourth bedroom on the other side of the house provides a fabulous space for guests to use.

It's perfect. Just perfect. And lovely. And home.

Come visit!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

halfway there

If all goes according to plan - which it may not! - we move in two weeks. I can't believe how quickly the time is passing, but my parents house is so busy it shouldn't be that surprising.

I've been on emotional overload for about a month now, so I'm ready to move to our new house and settle in even though I'll miss the great arrangement my mom and I have going (I cook, she cleans up, it's perfect!).

I feel so scattered, and like I can't find anything. It will be nice to move, sort through everything, pare our belongings down, and fall in love with our new house.

We have a LOT of projects to do. Most of them don't have to be done, but J can't stop himself from improving a house. He's been working on my parents' house while we're here, and they hardly have things that need done because their house was built in 2009.

On Saturday J and I celebrated our anniversary a little early with a movie bonanza. We went to Pitch Perfect 2 (terrible) and the new Avengers movie (not as bad as I was expecting), and then we ended with a nice dinner. The theater near my parents' house is really nice, with the most comfortable reclining theater chairs I've experienced. It was a wonderful break.

It was nice to have a day without the kids. Bennett had a fever for five days, then Ainsleigh did, and the past couple days Miss A has been so whiny and clingy I don't know what to do with her. She was so miserable today I finally gave her pain reliever, and she was happier than she has been in a while within a few minutes. She must have a molar coming in, it's the only explanation I can come up with! I wish I had thought to give her something earlier, but we so rarely give the kids traditional medicine I often don't have it on hand, and I often forget it's even an option.

I'm starting to feel a little bit excited about the new house. I wish it was cute and charming like our previous house, but I'm willing to give up charm for a space that works better for us. I had this idea of what we would end up with, and it's been a little difficult to come around to seeing this as the best option, but at the end of the day we will have a house that works for us, and we'll be way below our top price, which is wonderful!

We're gearing up for a few busy, hot days here. My sister has a routine surgery tomorrow, but it may not be routine for her, so we're praying it goes smoothly and without complication. My mom and I will be on kid duty, which means we'll have three extra little ones here for a couple days. This weekend is supposed to be in the 90s, which is WAY, WAY too hot for early June. I hope it isn't that hot when we move!

Way back in January we said, "Maybe this year is the year we move. Let's pray about it." and six months later our Hazel house is sold, and we're preparing to buy our second home. Believing that God is placing us where He wants us helps me be excited about our new house. Who knows why God has put us in that neighborhood! Who knows what will happen, and who we will meet, and how we will be changed! 

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.


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.


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.


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