Friday, May 30, 2014

you need to take care of yourself

Nothing like a trip to the dentist to let ya know you're falling apart.

It's not too bad (the guy in the chair next door, whew, that was bad. I heard root canal, nerve problems, take the tooth out, leave the tooth in, major work, don't chew or bite or use that tooth ...) but it's enough to remind me I am not being careful with myself.

Our bodies tell us how we're doing, right? All the little things add up eventually in our bones, teeth and hair.

I usually sail in and out of the dentist chair, but this time I have two problems

a) a tiny cavity: not a big deal, BUT I rarely get cavities. I have been eating way too much sugar and this is the obvious result.

b) apparantly I have been "stress grinding teeth while asleep which has led to some enamel loss on a few teeth." Now that's a problem.

My dentist said, "what's been going on the past year and a half?!

I said, "a lot."

I meant, "let's take it back four years, to the dead baby. After the dead baby came a second pregnancy (stressful) followed by birth (stressful) and the anxiety of keeping that child alive (stressful) combined with little sleep (stressful). After that I had a third pregnancy (very stressful, it was a girl) followed by birth (stressful) and the anxiety of keeping two children healthy, alive and thriving every day (stressful). One child has major food issues/allergies/intolerances (stressful) while the other child is deaf in one ear (stressful). AND I HAVEN'T SLEPT IN FOUR YEARS!"

So, I need to cut the stress a little bit. I need to stop worrying, relax, pray for peace, do some yoga or something, and center myself. I need to stop eating so much sugar, quit drinking diet soda (I am failing quite well in that area!) and take care of myself a little better over all.

I always come out of May feeling a little bit like I've put my body through fifteen years of neglect in three weeks, but this year it's hitting particularly hard because

a) I know I'm not eating well

b) So. much. weight. still hanging on after Ainsleigh's pregnancy

c) stress grinding 

Seriously. Stress grinding.

I'm not going to make any major changes because

a) that never works 

b) that's too daunting

but I am going to make one change and then work forwards from there.

Change #1: eat a better breakfast.

We'll see how that goes.

Monday, May 26, 2014

let's make this house a home

September will mark six years in our first house. I love this little house. I go on and on about wanting a bigger kitchen and second bathroom, but I love the arches, the old floors, the tiny closets (for their charm, not their size) and the location.

I've been putting a lot of energy into our house, while J pours his efforts into the yard and house. I love that every room holds something J built or crafted: shelves in the kitchen and bathroom, a closet system upstairs, a bookshelf, a chart to mark the kids' growth ...

The backyard has come a long ways. When we moved in there was a tree near that car of B's. A HUGE one that was very diseased. After a giant branch fell during a storm and damaged the fence our first year here we had it taken down. Beyond the tree was dirt. J planted grass, built the woodshed, garden shed, patio and raised beds and last summer we received a play set (off to the side, not pictured) so the backyard is pretty much done. The bamboo is looking sad right now, but the tall stalks will leaf out soon, J will cut all the low hanging stalks, and we'll have shade over the patio table J built last year (still in storage) 

We spent the first years here trying to settle on who would be where, but now that we've moved rooms four times we have the best configuration for our family. Now that our room is permanently upstairs I've been working on cleaning it out and making it nice.

I had six - or maybe even eight - of these photographs in the living room when we first moved in. Now they're upstairs by the bookcase.

My mother's day present. We've had the letters for years, from our wedding, but J made a sign for me so that I could do something with them.

J is restoring the original screen door. I've been asking for this since we found it in the basement when we moved in. I am really excited to have a screen door this summer!

Another J project. He built this from scrap wood last weekend because I was complaining about my cutting boards and how I don't have anywhere to store them.

Now that our room is almost done I want to focus on the living room. I found a great map that I want to buy for the huge wall in the living room that I've always wrestled with. It's pricey so I have to wait a little while, but my birthday is at the end of the summer.

I want to buy a clock as well. I found one in the clearance section at Target, but it was so cheaply made the hands stuck together and would cease moving. It was useless, I had to throw it away. I don't like shopping for house stuff so making the living room nice may take a while.

Every summer J takes on a huge project. This year it's really awful. We have to paint the house! "At least the weather side," J says, hands on hips, serious face on. "It's in bad shape, must be done." I thought we were going to paint it the same color, but J broached the idea of doing something else so I'm beginning to think about paint colors and what would look nice in our neighborhood.

The first step is discovering if there is lead paint beneath the current paint that is on the house. Oh guys, this is going to be a massive project. And of course I've muttered, "can't we just hire someone?" a time or two, but J will not do that when we are capable of doing it ourselves. And this summer I don't have the pregnancy excuse so I'll be out there scraping away and learning all about how to paint a house. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

kitchen 1939 & other variations

Yesterday I was making bread for Bennett and trying to come up with a clever name for the kitchen. Thinking up a name gave my mind something to think about other than the bread I've made twenty or more times.

I got as far as kitchen 1939, or something of that variation, which seemed on the verge; like it could be a nice blog or small cafe if someone polished it a little. I landed on the idea of using 1939 somehow because that's when the house was built. Well, that's when I say it was built. J says 1940, but I think I dug out the deed last time we had this discussion and I'm sure it said 1939. Though most of the time I say 1940 just so I don't have to argue the point.

Now that I've read back over this, kitchen 1939 doesn't seem all that clever, or original, or difficult to come up with. I'm not good with names. (I did well with the kids, in my opinion, but I had help with that.) We'll never have a cute moniker for our house so I probably shouldn't try to shoulder the kitchen with one.

All that aside, you can see what's been occupying my time: cooking, children, all the basics. B is in a stage to beat all the ones that came before. The food refusals are epic, the tantrums are epic, the opinions and demands are epic. Everything has been raised a notch, or five.

I am not responding well. I need more patience. I need to be calmer. I need to make the bread and love the child and be kind, but some days that feels like a lot, so I slap the bread together, I snap at the child (though I always love him) and my words are far from kind.

One of my constant prayers is to show Jesus to my kids through my words and actions. Some days, lately all the days, that is more difficult than others. Last night's sermon was amazing and very convicting. It made me think about what my role on Earth is and how important it is and how there are people I love who aren't going to heaven. That has been sitting heavy on my heart.

I write about kitchens and kids and life and love, but at the base of it all is Jesus. My strength and hope come from Him and He extends grace to my weary heart even when I yell at the kids. Or J. Or myself.

The important things are so few.

That's what I need to remember in the chaos of our simple, but busy days.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

ainsleigh girl

We are one week into life with Ainsleigh and her hearing aid. There are subtle differences in her behavior. She is more attentive. She interacts and follows conversations a little better. Some things haven't changed. Anytime Ainsleigh hears a noise she turns to the right. That won't change. She'll never be able to localize a sound, or noise, or voice properly.

Last week I went to the ear, nose, throat doctor we initially saw three months ago. It was a very frustrating appointment. The first thing he said was, "Oh, you decided to aid her." And I heard it as being a negative, but it was the day after Charlotte's birthday and my mood was wonky so maybe he didn't mean it that way. He also mentioned wanting to do an MRI at 18 months, even though we had shelved the idea of an MRI (or so I thought) at our initial consult.

On Monday afternoon our teacher, or therapist, or whatever she is called (I don't actually know her title) from the ESD that we are working with came by for a home visit. We are working with the ESD audiologist so we get home visits and early intervention care as well. Title aside it's nice to have someone I can talk to about Ainsleigh's hearing loss and medical care who is knowledgeable and available. And she works with Ainsleigh on her developmental milestones which is important and may be neccessary.

When I told her how upset I was about the appointment, and how I was questioning our decision to "aid" Ainsleigh she presented me with two questions.

1. If you take the hearing aid off - which is fine, it's your choice - and she has delays in the future how will you feel?

2. If you leave the hearing aid on and continue working with her and there are delays in the future how will you feel?

Well when she put it that way I remembered why we chose to get a hearing aid for Ainsleigh in the first place. We are trying to be proactive about her hearing even though we can't know or predict if it will have a negative impact on her life - speech, development, learning etc. That's pretty hard to do. Babies with unilateral hearing loss don't show delays until 18 months or later. And if Ainsleigh starts struggling at age five I want to look back and know I did everything possible for her now.

It is a bit of a struggle. Ainsleigh doesn't want to leave her hearing aid on. It tastes yummy, she likes the texture, so she pops it out and puts it in her mouth. It's very stressful to discover an expensive medical device on the floor, or in Ainsleigh's mouth ten times a day an hour so we've started putting a hat on her. The hat allows her to roll around and play without the hearing aid slipping off her ear and thunking the floor over and over, and it gives me a little break from putting it back in and reminding her not to touch it.

The hat was recommended to us by our teacher and it's worked really well. Unfortunately it's warming up outside and a hat, even a thin cotton one, can make Ainsleigh too hot. (If you see Ainsleigh in an aviator cap and onesie in 95 degree weather this summer assume we haven't convinced her to leave the hearing aid alone.) We ordered a sweet girly hat a few days ago, but for now Ainsleigh is swanning around in one I pulled out of Bennett's keepsake box.

I feel like we're making the best decision for Ainsleigh. As best we can with the limited knowledge and information we have. I'm learning how to manage her hearing aid and the intricacies and annoyances of it. Ainsleigh is on track with language and speech development. I hope she continues to do well and thrive, of course, and I think having a hearing aid could help. It certainly doesn't hurt.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Return to Zero - still processing

I never really woke up yesterday. I walked around in a post-watching Return to Zero traumatic haze of patchy remembered moments. I was sad and tired. Oh so tired. I am, apparently, too old and sleep deprived to stay out until almost midnight eating cookies, chatting and watching a movie.

(Although the cookies were amazing. I bit into one and nearly fell over with joy because I forgot how amazing chocolate and peanut butter are together. Plus the cookie had eggs which made it fluffy and my life is sorely lacking fluffy food because of Bennett's egg allergy.)

One thing Return to Zero brought up for me is, well, I'm not sure I should write about it. I may have written about it before, but I can't remember. There are topics I will always be a little scared to write about because of people and blogs who may use my words against me. But you can't make everyone happy, right? And you certainly can't make everyone see things from your point of view.

So here it is:

I was a little jealous of Maggie and Aaron in Return to Zero because they had a stillbirth. There is a tiny corner of my heart that boils with anger at the fact that Charlotte died shortly after an out of hospital birth. Probably because I feel like it lands the blame squarely on my shoulders. Probably because I know people attribute her death to that. If Charlotte had to die why couldn't it have been in a way that left me inculpable?

Now I know that experiencing a stillbirth does not mean one does not feel guilt. I'm not trying to say that. And I'm not saying stillbirth is worse, or better, or anything else like that. It's just different than my loss, and I've always thought that it might have made Charlotte's death easier for me to explain.

I don't mention the out of hospital part now unless someone continues asking questions and leaves me little room to skirt around it. As far as we know Charlotte didn't die because we chose to birth out of hospital, but I know there will always be questions and judgement around that decision.

In previous posts I've written about coming to peace with the why (brave questions). I've wrestled with my guilt, I've beat my head against the blame wall, and I've sat in the valley of why for many, many months. Most of the time I'm past that part of my grief. I've been able to set down a lot of the guilt. But I still wish Charlotte's death didn't have that mark of shame.

So that's the space watching Return to Zero put me in. One of memory, but also one of regrets and wishes.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Return to Zero

Return to Zero is real, honest, and brave.

I loved it.

It was hard to watch, but it captured what it's like to lose a baby. I'm so glad they didn't shy away from showing the birth and how difficult it was.

I watched with friends who have lost babies. We all have different stories, and none of our babies were stillborn, but we each were able to say, "I remember that," or "that happened to me."

I know what happened to my friends. I've heard their stories. Watching the movie together last night gave us the space to talk about it again. We go over and over what happened to us because it's devastating and traumatic and we will spend the rest of our lives processing it. I'm grateful for the doors Return to Zero is opening and the avenues of conversation it is creating. I really appreciated the understanding and explanation of miscarriage as a devastating loss.

The movie showed the universality of loss: the well meaning comments from friends and family that hurt more than help, how difficult the holidays are, the leaf on the door of the hospital room that so many of us have seen, and the stress of loss on a marriage.

Even though Charlotte died just after birth I remember the silence of her birth. The tiny sounds she made, never quite a cry. The subsequent pregnancies and births were so difficult and watching Maggie and Aaron wait for their second baby to cry I felt my stomach curl in with latent anxiety.

Watching Return to Zero I felt understood. Even though our marriage didn't struggle like theirs, even though we were faithful to each other, I still felt connected to Maggie and Aaron. I felt like they were telling my story. Minnie Driver did an excellent job. The scene where her milk came in ... the birth scenes ... incredible. She is a wonderful actress with immense talent.

I hope people who haven't lost babies watch Return to Zero. It's insightful, wise and honest. Yes, it's sad, but it depicts a devastating reality far too many parents experience.

Did you watch?

What did you think?

Friday, May 16, 2014


I didn't cry this year.

I didn't cry, and I didn't make cookie dough.

Are we really making and breaking traditions so rapidly?

Although, crying on your dead daughter's birthday is more of a right, or expectation, than a tradition.

The cookie dough is less upsetting. I didn't need it. I ate plenty of other things chocolate and full of useless calories. When I went to make the cookie dough I realized we don't stock most of the ingredients in our house anymore. I had thought about that briefly when I bought chocolate chips, but the thought only made it as far as, I should get brown sugar too, before getting lost in the chaos that is grocery shopping with kids.

Tuesday night Ainsleigh was sick. I think she ate too much at dinner, her belly not quite used to solid foods. She threw up over and over and over. It was really awful. I was in a state about it, of course. Mad at myself, worried, generally emotional. My irrational fear that J, Bennett or Ains will die expands and takes over my rational brain in May.

I stood in the shower with her, because it was easier than cleaning both of us up over and over. About the third time we put a onesie on only to have to remove it two seconds later J said, are we going to give up on clothes now?

The night before Charlotte's birthday I stood in the shower with my sad, throwing up Ainsleigh, who would drift off in the warm water in between bouts of sickness. I thought I would cry. Bennett was asleep. J was occupied with video games. The shower was running so it wouldn't be obvious I had been crying. I was holding in my arms the very thing I had longed for four years ago when I sat in that same spot and watched the last of the birth blood weep from my legs and swirl into warm bath water. I wasn't holding the person I wanted, but the thing, the idea of what is supposed to happen at the end of a pregnancy, yes, that was present. 

I have no idea how one marks the fourth anniversary of the worst day of their life without crying, but there it is: I didn't cry.

This evening I went to a movie with friends: Moms' Night Out. It was exactly what I needed. I laughed until I cried, and I cried a bit too. I highly recommend it. Tomorrow night I'm getting together with friends to watch Return to Zero. Are you going to watch it? Are we ready for this one? I'm not sure I am, but I want to support the movie so I'm going to watch it. With a box of Kleenex in my hands.

RETURN TO ZERO - Official Trailer from Sean Hanish on Vimeo.

I have a grief hangover and I am so, so tired, but life keeps clicking on.

Ains is kicking me and saying, "mama, mama, mama," so I should probably try to settle her before she wakes Bennett.

I can't believe it's been four years. That I'm here, still writing, still trying to figure this grief thing out, still wondering what happened and why. That I have two living children. That through strength and faith and trust I've lived four years without one of my babies. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Charlotte's Day 2014

OMSI, cupcakes, a park with a creek, and a stop by the mill for flour. A day to be together and remember Charlotte.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

the 13th is hard too

Easter Sunday, 2010

I felt held today.

I felt your prayers.

I opened cards and read e-mails with thankfulness and gratitude. 

Thank you for remembering that tomorrow we should have a little girl bouncing around the house excited to be four and reveling in a day all about her.

It's still all about her, just not in the way we imagined.

I was patient with the kids today. I was kind. Way, way more than yesterday. I know that was you and the prayers you rained over our house and family.

I couldn't have spoken or acted with such kindness today without Jesus on my side.

I don't feel well. I can't stomach much food. I am nauseated, shaky - that might be the fault of the diet pepsi I've been drinking all day - and focused on the nervous feeling deep inside that something horrible is coming and I am helpless to stop it.

May 13th is hard in a different way. May 13, 2010 was my last innocent day. My last happy, joyfully expectant, thrilled to be in labor day.

Mother's Day, 2010 - with my nephew

The nursery was ready.

We set up the co-sleeper.

It was the last day before grief tore into our lives and ripped everything we thought we knew and understood about life and faith and hope and statistics to pieces.

I miss that girl, that May 13th me. I hate that girl too. I hate her surety that everything is going to work out, that the cards are aligned and will fall where she expects.

This doesn't get easier. The day to day does, but the birthday that isn't really a birthday that we call Charlotte's day because it's a confusing mix of birth and death is always difficult.

I wish Charlotte's birthday was more than a day to get through.

Every time I look at the clock I think

x more hours 

at this time I was ...

Then I think about my theme for this year. Or maybe goal is a better word.

Find the joy. 

Four years ago at 7:40 pm Charlotte was alive.

Find the joy!

She lived.

Not very long, but she lived.

Monday, May 12, 2014

tired, overwhelmed and weary // ainsleigh's first hearing aid

This mama needs some prayers tonight. I was not a kind mama today. I was not kind, or patient, or my usual self.

I forget how hard the stretch from Mother's Day through her birthday is. I know it's hard, I remember I don't like it, but the details always escape me.

My stomach hurts. I feel nervous all the time, like I'm waiting for something bad to happen, like something is coming and it's going to hurt. I haven't thrown up from the stress of it this year. Yet. Progress!

My jaw hurts because I clench it and press my teeth together. All day. I don't want the kids to see me cry. I think there are times when it is healthy. More often I have to keep it together so I don't upset or scare B.

This was not a good week to have Ainsleigh's hearing aid placed, but we didn't have much say in the matter. I was trying to learn about her hearing aid and our responsibilities with it this afternoon, but I know I wasn't all there. I'm really overwhelmed by everything right now.

Ainsleigh had a horrible day. Asking her to go through the fitting and tuning process was really too much. She is picking up on my stress and throwing it back at me. It's a terrible cycle, one that is entirely my fault.

We're all exhausted and wrung out.

Today was a big milestone for Ainsleigh. We'll see if her hearing aid makes any noticeable difference.

Stop touching me!

The therapist who works with us at home tried so hard to keep Ainsleigh distracted and happy


A brief break

Daddy makes everything better

Ainsleigh is my driven, determined, strong, busy girl. This afternoon I placed Ainsleigh in the car seat, but didn't buckle her in. When I left the room she somehow got herself out of the seat and down on the floor with Bennett.

AND! On Mother's Day she started calling me mama. Over and over and over. I'm so proud of her for getting through today. Now we just have to get through tomorrow and Wednesday. Hopefully by Thursday we'll all be on a more even keel.


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