Wednesday, April 30, 2014

toddler fashion: summer shoes

Summer shoes: what you call the toddler's new sandals so he'll feel delight when sliding the handcrafted shoes on (instead of screaming, "I want my brown shoes!!")

The color is not what we expected, but the owner of SoulPath Shoes has been open to our communication and criticism. Since shipping to Canada is expensive exchanging is not a feasible option, but a discounted pair of shoes was offered.  I think we'll have to say yes to that offer, don't you?

Image from SoulPath Shoes

A slow shuffle to the sandwich shop was the inaugural trip for these shoes. (It was either go for a walk or break the TV because B has discovered Blue's Clues.) B did really well in the shoes. The fit is a little big because we want them to last all summer, but he didn't trip or stumble.

I'm never I'm probably not going to put my little ones in flip-flops, and J has very strong opinions about shoes, so these were a great discovery. They are a little spendy, but we'll save them for baby A, and they're not much more than full price Keens.

 To visit SoulPath Shoes click HERE

*I'm not getting paid or receiving any incentives for this post. I just want to share these great shoes with you*

Saturday, April 26, 2014

goodnight babies

It's been a long day. The last few have been epic. The kids are really sick. J has been gone a lot.

J is the voice of reason. My anchor. I freak out when B coughs so hard he struggles to breathe. J calmly turns on the shower and takes care of things.

Today was hard. I'm tired. J worked a rare hospital shift. I was reminded of his on call days, although those were over before we had babies. He worked call at two hospitals when we were early married. I hated the pagers and their 3 am wake up calls, but the money was good.

I was singing to the kids tonight. Made up lyrics. All three of us falling asleep on the couch.

Goodnight babies
Goodnight babies
I love you Ainsleigh
I love you Bennett
I'm so lucky to have you
I was so sad before you came
You are light
I love you so
Goodnight babies ...

Then I cried because I am exhausted and because the grief is just below the surface of the everyday right now.

And then J came home and I forgot Ainsleigh's name while telling him about the day. The only name that came to mind was Charlotte.

I can hear the drip, drip, drip of the humidifier. It mixes with the sound of the rain outside. No one is coughing right now. Or crying. Or burning with fever. All is temporarily well.

Goodnight babies.

Monday, April 21, 2014

my bookshelf

I love books. I read a lot, but I've always done a poor job keeping track of what I read. Even Goodreads requires too much effort from me. I really am that lazy.

A few days ago I was thinking about how many book photos I have to post to Instagram. I didn't want to overwhelm my feed with them so I created a second account - @angelasbookshelf - and have just started posting over there about what I'm reading. I'm adding a tiny review - a few words - to each post as well.

There will be books from every genre and age level. If it's a book and it sounds good I'll give it a try. And sometimes when it isn't good I read all the way through because I want authors to have time to redeem themselves. J thinks that's odd, but I'm a fast reader.

If you're interested, follow along! (@angelasbookshelf)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

easter after loss

Easter is complex. It leaves me feeling broken and makes me long for heaven.

Easter is important. For me it's not about bunnies, or baskets, or candy. My kids have no idea Easter baskets or bunnies exist. There will be time to introduce those things. For now we are focusing on teaching about Jesus and the hope of the resurrection.

Easter reminds me that God knows the pain and grief of watching a child suffer and die. He sent his Son to die for us so that we may live forever in heaven. I believe that. I absolutely 100% believe that. I believe that there is nothing we can do to turn God away from us. He loves us unconditionally. Even when there is fury in our hearts because He chose not to breathe life back into our lost ones.

We went to Easter service last night. It was strange to celebrate on Saturday instead of Sunday, but joy and hope were still present. The time of celebration doesn't take away from the meaning of Easter.

I want to share one thing with you that was stated last night. I'm not going to say it as well because our pastor has a wonderful way with words, but I'll do my best to distill it: God loves you. You don't have to earn his love, or work hard to be in his favor. There is nothing you can do that will turn Him away from you. He is always going to love you.

It's hard to feel that love after you've been through a time of darkness, or walked in a valley that seemed endless. Maybe you are in that valley now. I feel like I've been spending all of my time since Charlotte died in the valley or on a mountaintop. Right now I'm in a valley.

Easter is the beginning of my grief season. Easter comes, then Mother's Day, then Charlotte's birthday and by May 15th I am so relieved to be on the other side of May 14th I just want to lie still and breathe a while; revel in the fact that I survived.

Easter is hard because it's meant to be. Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter are about death and accusations. It is not meant to be taken lightly, though modern tradition has made it so. Easter reminds me of what we have to look forward to. It forces me to pause and be thankful for the cross and the ultimate sacrifice that was enacted upon it.

I have faith because I choose to. I have not stepped into this life of belief blindly. If you have read here for any length of time you know my struggle with faith. It is hard to believe in a loving God when your arms and heart are empty and aching. It was hard to reach a place of acceptance and understanding about God's choice to number Charlotte's days as oneFor a long time my choice to believe was based in selfishness. When it was difficult to believe I continued to believe simply because I couldn't let go of the idea of heaven and seeing Charlotte again.

I clung to Isaiah 65:17-20 when my faith was at its weakest.

17 "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered,nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20 "Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 

While I still cling to those verses I have other reasons now for believing and living a life of faith. It's hard to let go and put my trust in God. It is hard to wholly believe that He has a plan for my life and is placing me where I am meant to go. Easter reminds me that He has this chaotic world in His hands, just as He did when He watched His Son die on a cross.

I really want you to know that God loves you. I want you to know that I understand how hard Easter can be when your heart is heavy. I want you to know that if you don't believe I don't think less of you. I just want you to have the hope of heaven and of seeing your baby again as I do. I want you to know that if you are struggling, or if you have lost your faith God is waiting for you. When you are ready, all you have to do is accept His outstretched hand. He loves you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

unexpected goodbye: the decision to make it FREE

It's always felt a little strange to put a price on the book I wrote for those navigating the waters of infant loss and stillbirth. Any time someone contacted me, I sent it to them. If I was asked for a resource, I sent it. It never felt right to ask for money. And all the money I received from it has been used to donate to places like Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, or to help grow the infant loss ministry at our church I am part of. I know you don't need an accounting of what I have done with the little bit I have made from it, but I want to be transparent and honest about what my journey with this book has been like.

I am working on a second book. A much longer, more detailed, very personal memoir. IF I ever finish it it will be for sale, but that book is an entirely different creature. I want Unexpected Goodbye to reach as many people as possible. I think the best way for that to happen is to offer it for free. Now, if you want to download a copy you'll have to purchase it from Amazon. That is the best and easiest way for me to manage things and protect myself.

Unexpected Goodbye is my heart on the page. It's the words I wish someone had told me after Charlotte died. Please share it. Please pass on the link. And please remember that it is my work. Please give credit where it is due. I put hours of work into Unexpected Goodbye. I spent two years writing and revising the book. It is one of the ways I honor and remember Charlotte. If one person benefits from Unexpected Goodbye it validates my sweet girl and her short life on this Earth.

You can find Unexpected Goodbye at the top of the blog or just click HERE.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

making the hours pass

I've been able to blog with a little more regularity now that Ainsleigh will settle in the crib for a few hours at night. She's usually ready to be held by 9, but I put her to bed at 6 so that gives me enough time to get a few things done.

Today was a long day. Bennett asked for J no less than five times before noon. Every car that drove by prompted him to ask, "Daddy home?"

At 2:00 I finally tossed both kids in the bath. My sister provided me with the brilliant idea of using the Bumbo in the bath during that awkward too big for the newborn bath, not quite ready to sit up in the big tub stage. It worked perfectly, even with Ainsleigh's attempts to dive into the water. It didn't tip and she didn't fall out. I was right there, of course, with a hand near, or on her, at all times.

Yes, that duck is the temperature gauge from the water birth I didn't have with Miss A. The hospital graciously lets you take it home with you. Here is a memento of your failure - thanks! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

lilacs, lavender, lilies

I cut lilacs from the front garden this afternoon and put them in vases around the house. Lilacs, lavender, lilies, and columbines all grow in our yard. And they all remind me of Charlotte.

Red columbines sitting in a glass vase on the beside table next to condolence cards and a medicinal smelling bag filled with ace bandages and breast pads. Overflowing vases of lilacs on the first Charlotte's Day; a memorial that should have been a birthday. The lavender my midwife photographed on the morning Charlotte was born. The lilies that bloomed just after she died. Calla lilies, like the ones we had at our wedding.

Flowers from the yard. Flowers that were mostly planted and thriving when we moved in. Within the stunning beauty of the countless varieties that can bloom, petals quietly fluttering in the wind, I see Charlotte. Of course she comes to mind. Flowers blossom for such a short time, it's hardly a revolutionary thought.

And for some reason I can put flowers in vases all over the house if they come from the yard, but a bouquet from the florist with certain blooms can send me reeling. In my mind there is a distinction there, one I cannot fathom or understand.. Trauma and memories have rendered this distinction within my brain, and so, it is. I am not sure anything can change it. Expect, perhaps, time. Time has a marvelous capacity to erase and erode. Even when we don't want it to.

Monday, April 14, 2014

little writing space

My response to spring in all its sunny glory is to organize small pockets of the house and feel irritated by everything. I am lucky to be married to someone who doesn't mind that I am focused on inconsequential projects that take up a lot of time.

Today I put a little effort into fixing up my writing space. I do a lot of writing when spring hits, so I finally put up new pictures and organized my tiny area. I have one more picture from our Hawaii trip that I want to add, but B broke the frame a while ago and I haven't bought a new one. We're on our sixth year of living in this house and this is the first time I've put anything on the walls upstairs.

Home decor is not my strong suit, but I am slowly working on making the house look a little nicer. I feel like it has so much potential - little cottage built in 1939 - but I don't have the skills to make the house sing.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014


A few days ago we had our first hearing aid fitting appointment for Ainsleigh. We ordered her a tiny pink hearing aid, which will be available in a few weeks, and had her first mold taken. The molds are a pain in the behind, but it is the less permanent option, and right now we don't feel willing to make a choice for her that can't be reversed. Because she is small and growing we will have molds taken every two months or so, but soon enough that won't be necessary.

We went to an amazing seminar put on by the educational service district here. I like working with the ESD - hey, it's free (well, we pay for it with taxes) but there are some definite disadvantages (way, way, way overextended staff). The seminar from a renowned speech pathologist was a definite bonus, however. J and I learned a lot.

One of the most striking things I took away was the fact that from birth until 4 or 5 years old children are learning to listen while from 5 on (school age essentially) children are listening to learn. Our job is to provide Ainsleigh with a very solid listening foundation which will hopefully minimize any issues that may come up in a school environment. For example: One of Ainsleigh's challenges is her inability to focus in on one speaker in a crowded, noisy room. This makes classroom life very difficult.

Children with unilateral hearing loss often become overwhelmed by noise and then withdraw and don't hear anything. They retreat because straining to listen all the time is stressful. Hopefully we can work with her on asking for help, recognizing signs of fatigue, and knowing it's okay to take breaks.

Whenever I look at the big picture I feel a little overwhelmed, so I remind myself that people often don't know children with unilateral hearing loss are partially deaf. I think Ainsleigh is going to be fine, but we are striving to provide her with tools now so that we can (hopefully) avoid some of the common issues that arise.

I realize this post may not be interesting to very many, but it's helpful for me to document what we are learning and how we hope to proceed. I may forget everything by tomorrow. I was so tired this afternoon I told my mom and sister, "Bennett is in changing J's diaper." when asked where they were.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

little changes and a big habit

We are slowly changing over to a healthier lifestyle. I say slowly because J does lots of research and tries to gently coax me along while I kick my feet and demand more sugar. A lot of our diet changes have come about because of Bennett's allergies. There are many things he cannot have, and I'm not going to make two dinners, so I cater to his needs.

By far my worst habit is diet soda. I'm careful with it. I don't have unlimited amounts, but after I have a baby I give in to the craving for a while and drink a can a day. I'm trying to quit right now - well, quit having it in the house at least - because I know it's terrible for me. Of course quitting at this time of year may not be the best idea (I'm so weak and sad!) but the thought of aspartame poisoning is fairly frightening. (For those who don't drink soda, who are able to say, "Oh, I don't like soda," I want to be you. I also would like to be one of those people who, "doesn't really care for sweets.")

I gave up hot chocolate every morning a couple months ago. I didn't want to, but I did. The calories, the sugar and the fact that it bothered Ainsleigh's stomach all contributed to that. I've been slower to give up diet soda.

I have to admit, this is like the ultimate confession for me. I write about a lot of personal things, but I always hate copping to my love for diet soda because I know how bad it is.

If I was left to my own devices I would eat the worst kinds of food. Well, if I was left to my own devices and stripped of the knowledge J pours out. Some of the changes we've made - butter, real butter!, avocado oil, mineral rich salt - have been easy, but others - easing up on the diet soda love - have been hard.

I'm not giving diet soda up entirely. When I hit the movies with my girls you better believe I'll have a bucket of soda and gallon of popcorn (even at 10pm) clutched in my hands, but I am going to stop buying it (once I finish off the two liter J brought home with pizza tonight - it was free, people!)

This post is a way for me to stay accountable. I can talk myself into just about anything at the grocery store, but if this post is in the back of my mind I won't put the soda into the cart. I'll think, "I said I wouldn't do it, but now I am, so I have to tell, and I don't want to do that," and the soda will go back on the shelf.

It's way too easy to think, "today is hard, I'll have a soda!" I'm really trying to switch over to, "today is hard, talk to Jesus." It's not easy, and there needs to be room for grace, but I want to find comfort in my relationships instead of food, and this feels like a good place to start.

Monday, April 7, 2014

six weeks

Hey there, year four. I don't like you.

I really wanted to focus on the good this year.

How long we had Charlotte.

How exciting it is that she is in heaven waiting for us.

But I can't control the way I feel. Not when it comes to this at least.

The flashbacks make it too hard.

We're six weeks out from Charlotte's birthday.

Six weeks.

How can life feel so hard already? And why can't I control it?

On Thursday night we went to a seminar for parents of children with hearing loss. It was a really good seminar, we learned a lot about how to help Ainsleigh. At the end, in a flurry of introductions and conversations, a woman said, "I can see you're expecting." I didn't respond, because what I had to say wouldn't have been kind. When we left the room J said, "be a duck, let it roll off your back," but of course I haven't been able to do that.

Because I can feel myself letting everything go. I can feel myself not caring. I try to do something other than care for the kids and house, but at the end of the day all I want to do is put my feet up, not work out.

It's getting warmer out. It's the perfect weather for walking. But I have that swimming through syrup everything is overwhelming feeling going on and most days - to be completely honest - the thought of getting everyone dressed and out for a walk is too much.

I was in great shape when we were in Hawaii, a year and a half ago. I want to get back there, but I don't have the motivation right now. I've had three babies in four years and my body is done. I usually bounce back quicker than this, but this time I'm not being very careful. (Lately I've been thinking about grace and comfort and food, and how God is my comfort not food, but my thoughts on that are half-formed at best.)

What it all boils down to is this:

I feel bad. About everything.

I hate spring.

I want to love it, but I can't.

I don't want the kids to grow up with bad memories of spring. I'm trying. Although right now my trying looks a lot like yelling because the house is a mess again. I can't control how I feel so I try to control everything and everyone around me, which doesn't work for anyone. We played outside for hours today. I hope they remember that I tried to engage, that I did my best to be present.

I wish I could say, four years in, okay, that's fine. I'm just going to do the grief thing gracefully and calmly this year" and have it be true.

I feel pathetic, and so very sad. At least I have enough clarity and hindsight to know that this is not as bad as the first year. I feel like there's hope in recognizing that.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

my people

We spent the weekend at a big house on the Deschutes River with my family. This is on the other side of the mountain, about three hours from here, in central Oregon.

We had a lot of fun this weekend even though the weather wasn't great (and one of my sisters didn't come). One day we had hail, snow, rain and sunshine. My mom said,"if you don't like the weather wait two minutes." She wasn't exaggerating.

Have we talked about my family before? There's a few of us.

I have -

a sister - she was adopted into our family when she was 12, but I was young enough that I don't have memories without her present. I still forget she's adopted sometimes. She's just my oldest sister. Married, parent to three girls.

a sister - three years older than me. Married, parent to a boy and two girls.

a brother - eighteen months younger than me (or maybe sixteen. I can never remember). Married, parent to a boy.

Then there's me of course. Married, parent to a boy and two girls.

So my parents have four kids and ten grandchildren, with five of those three and under. It's a busy crowd.

And we all get along. Though they may not be happy with the following candid shot:

We all have interesting stories. We've all lived a few years.

My brother is a veteran. He's been to Iraq twice. His stories are not mine to tell, but one night when we stayed up late chatting - my brother, his wife, J, me - I remembered what it was like when he was overseas. Charlotte died while he was over there, so those emotions are blended into the larger picture. 

Every time the phone rang at an odd hour my stomach turned inside out. If I had any artistic skills I could paint a picture of where I was when my dad called to tell me my brother was injured. Minimally injured, but the incident was bad. Others were not okay. That memory is still vivid in my mind.

I think if I called my brother a hero he would brush it off. Laugh. Make a joke. But he sacrificed a lot to serve our country. This weekend I was reminded why my sister named her son after our brother. We admire him.

Our family has seen its share of sorrow. And some days it feels like we have been asked to carry more than most. But in the sorrow we still have each other. When my sister-in-law's mother died we were there for her as best we could. At the funeral we circled around her as if to say, "we'll be your people now." And when Charlotte died three months later they circled around me.

We're not perfect. We do disagree some. But it's nice to have a good relationship with the people I grew up with. Even if they have photographic evidence of that embarrassing high school stage when I was very hardcore (read sarcasm) and a punk (read a little annoying) with purple hair and questionable clothes. I am so glad my teen years occurred before the rise of social media.


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