Friday, August 29, 2014

seven months with a hearing aid {an update}

I've been struggling with Ainsleigh's hearing loss. Well, not so much the loss as the caring of the loss. Ainsleigh went through a phase where she absolutely would not leave her hearing aid on. I would spend one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon sitting on the floor with her and putting it in over and over and over. Then life happened, we got busy, we weren't at home as often, and I stopped putting it in.

For three weeks or so I didn't put Ainsleigh's hearing aid in at all. I thought about doing it, and I worried about the long term consequences, but I couldn't find the energy and patience to sit with her and force the issue. Plus the person who conducts our in-home visits was off in August (no funding) so I didn't have anyone calling to ask me how things were going.

Ainsleigh is doing so well I forget she can't hear. Then J calls her name from the doorway in the living room and I watch her swing her head frantically from side to side trying to find him and it hits me all over again what inability to localize actually means. It's not just a line on a form, or an explanation in her medical records. It's gently leaning forward, getting Ainsleigh's attention and showing her where to look. It's worry that she will be hit by a car someday because she's looking the wrong direction when she hears something before crossing a street. It is understanding, as our in-home counselor says, that just because we can't see Ainsleigh's disability doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

I forget that sometimes.

I am so overjoyed Ainsleigh is alive I forget to worry about her hearing loss. Who cares about an ear that fails to perform when her lungs, heart, kidneys and other major organs function as they should? And unilateral hearing loss is so tricky because speech delays don't show up until 18 months. Sometimes delays in other areas crop up, but so far Ainsleigh is hitting all of her milestones without issue.

First step three days shy of ten months!! 

Our in-home counselor said something the other day that hit me really hard, "I hope Ainsleigh's disability is never obvious or apparent, but if it becomes obvious you will want to ensure you've done everything you can for her."

The next day I put Ainsleigh's hearing aid in as soon as she woke up. And she left it in. Ainsleigh has been wearing her hearing aid most of the time she is awake and she's only taking it out two or three times a day.

And you can praise me for sticking with it, or her for being a little older, but the truth is that I've been leaning on Jesus for this one because I can't do it alone. It's too frustrating, overwhelming, and hard. I can't sit with Ainsleigh for an hour twice a day right now. There's too many other things going on.

It's early days, I'm not sure how tomorrow will go, or the next day, but right now Ainsleigh is wearing her hearing aid, which means I can stop worrying all. the. time. about how I'll feel if she shows delays in eight months.

In some ways I feel like we're starting over, but three weeks off really isn't that long. And thankfully life (and Jesus) leaves plenty of room for second (and third and fourth and fifth ...) chances.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

B is 3 (almost): digger party!

Try explaining to a 3 year old why their birthday party is happening before their actual birthday. You'll need about three days.

I felt really disorganized, but everything came together and he had a good time. We stuck to a family only party, because in our family that is nearly twenty people. Add in friends and we need a backyard extension.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

from the heart

I have been lower than low. I have been irritated with the kids and life in general. All I've wanted is books, chocolate and alone time, but being a full time mama means alone time (truly alone) is rare.

When I was thinking about what I wanted for my birthday earlier this month my dream (which I didn't tell anyone because it seemed so selfish) was a nice meal and a good book. But I didn't want to go out to eat. I wanted to have the meal in my car, which would be parked next to water, so I wouldn't have to deal with anyone - not even a waiter.

I don't know why it takes me so long to connect the dots in these situations, but while out walking with the kids today the reason for this particular low period hit me: Bennett's birthday.

His party is this Saturday - a little early because my parents are scooting off to Europe soon and I wanted to include them - and I always feel sad around his birthday. I just want to celebrate his life, and what a character he is, but every year I cry. And every year the ache that is missing Charlotte becomes a little more insistent in late August/early September.

I've stepped waaaay back from a lot of the grief stuff. I haven't reached out to anyone in a long time. I haven't gone to grief support meetings. I didn't participate in the August 19th Day of Hope. I didn't. I haven't. I can't. And I'm not sure why.

In many ways I am tired of being a mother to a dead child. There are moments I want to set it aside so I can live for a moment without the shadow of grief hanging over me. Is that terrible? I want to see the slide show of babies born at the birth center where Charlotte was born without feeling burning jealousy on top of incredible anger that she didn't live. I want to parent my living children without the specter of the better mother I would have been hovering in the back of my mind. All the time I say, I feel like I'm at capacity" and I think if Charlotte hadn't died I wouldn't be so full all the time, and life would be more manageable in general, but as J says, you can't know that.

J and I were talking the other night about how we are still affected by Charlotte's death. We are haunted, we are bruised, we are still seeking healing, even though strides have been made and we are years away from "that awful time."

I'm not wishing her away. I would never do that. I am longing to be someone else. I am wondering why I was called to live this life. But we all wonder that at some point, right? Faith is hard to maintain sometimes. Belief too. I think a stranger could look at me and see the world in my hands, but beyond the image lies the truth, and the truth is that I am far from whole and there is so much missing.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

fish fest // out and about with kids // meeting jeremy camp

On Friday night J said, "So, we've been invited to Fish Fest." (a big all day concert put on by a local Christian radio station - The Fish)

"We don't have tickets."

"No, our friends, they won tickets. And they invited us to go."

"It's tomorrow."

"I know, they have these VIP tickets. They won them, I guess. At an auction or something.

"It's going to be hot. What about the kids?"

"They're taking their two-year-old."

We thought for a moment.

"Let's do it," J said. "I don't want to be people who don't do things just because we have kids."

In the morning we packed up the kids and went to the park. This concert happens every summer in the Portland metro area. This year it just happened to be in Salem, and our friends just happened to win a four pack of tickets at a benefit for a local homeless shelter.

We were so lucky to have special tickets. We didn't have to wait in the very long line (it took almost three hours for them to get everyone through the gates) and were able to grab a spot in the one tented area. There's no way we would have lasted all day in the direct sun with kids.

It was a long day. A long, hot day. We had fun, but I don't know if we would go again. The venue was overcrowded (7,000 people or so in the field at Riverfront Park - they had to move the barriers back to accommodate everyone) and the food/water prices were - of course - a lot (no outside food allowed, but we brought food for B because he can't eat anything at a place like that).

How it looked when we arrived (this is the VIP area)

How it looked right after we met Jeremy Camp. We're standing at the outer barricade. Wall o' people.

It was a little bit like living in an anxiety dream for me (so many people! the heat! someone in front of us eating peanut butter candy!) but being able to sit in one place most of the time helped. It's nice to have a baby too. I sent J out to get food and water. "I'll just sit here with the kids ..."

We didn't know most of the early bands, and when a rock band came on we had to walk the kids to the other side of the venue because the volume was VERY LOUD when they came on and we were worried about Ainsleigh. Everything was delayed so the one singer we really wanted to see we didn't get to watch all the way through. But our tickets allowed us to meet him in person which was nice.

I'm not really into people. Does that make sense? J and I said, "Oh, that's fun, we got to meet Jeremy Camp," but it didn't make the event for us. And when our friends went to meet the band Mercy Me we passed because it was late and we wanted to get home. Jeremy was nice though! I really like his music. His first wife died of cancer shortly after they got married. The songs he wrote from that period of his life I really connected with after we lost Charlotte.

 It's really hard to get a good picture (quickly) with this many people (and kids). Here is our conversation about the above picture:
"Why is my face so fat, J?"
"I don't know why. That's your pregnancy face."
"What?! It's true."

The kids did really well considering the heat, the cramped conditions, and the fact that people would not sit down (even though they were asked to) so we couldn't see the stage. B only had one accident - how about that! - at the very end when he was exhausted.

I think the sheer exhaustion we all felt today is reason enough to avoid doing this again. J fell asleep on the living room floor this afternoon. We left early so we were home by 9:30 or so, which is when we normally go to bed, but sitting out in the heat and having to limit our water intake drained us (water was expensive and the lines were long. We had a really hard time staying hydrated.)

BUT! But, but, but, it is great to see that many people loving and worshiping the Lord. Sometimes being a Christian can feel a little lonely, like there aren't many people in the world who share my views and perspective. It was nice to be with people who love Jesus like I do. It's pretty incredible to see so many people praising God and lifting their voices to the heavens together.

Pat on the back for getting out with the kids, but I think we'll make it a one time experience.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

the last milestone

Toilet training.

Okay, maybe it's not the last milestone.

How about the last toddler milestone?

Or, the last milestone people care about?

Toilet training falls under that umbrella of topics people feel free to ask you about/comment on even though it's personal, individual, and should only matter to a handful of people (caregivers, grandparents, you know, the basics. Not the old lady in the store who has an opinion on everything).

Also under the umbrella:

- Why you are waiting so long to have children

- How you conceived the child(ren) you waited so long for

- How the child is sleeping

- How the child is eating

At least they cover all the basics, right?

I've been a little scared terrified to start toilet training. It just feels like such a big hurdle, but I've had two kids in diapers for nine plus months and that, friends, is long enough. We're only on day two, but B is doing well, and we are fully committed - no more diapers (except at night).

This evening I had to run out to Target to buy more toddler underwear. I bought a five pack a long time ago and thought it would be sufficient (HA!). I also didn't fully plan on toilet training this week. I wanted to try after our camping trip at the end of July, but I didn't want to push him because he's stubborn and if he thought I wanted it to happen he would be in diapers another year. But Monday morning I woke up and was like, we have incentives, we have a goal, we have underwear: it's on.

My treats. I've been drinking a ton of iced tea because I really am trying to kick the diet soda problem, and this is ideal need a soda territory for me 

So after dinner I asked J if he would watch the kids for me while I dashed to Target. B followed me out the door crying so I went back inside, packed a bag, had him go to the bathroom, then went to Target with him in tow.

I can see that it's going to take me forever to accomplish any errand now. It already takes me a good long while, but when you add in bathroom trips two errands could take all day. (When I go places on my own now, sans kids, I'm always the first one there, hands in pockets, shrugging my shoulders, I have no idea why I'm an hour early ...) We were about as far as one can be from the restrooms when B whispered, "I have to go potty."

I walked / jogged as fast as I could to the other side of the store, worried all the while that he would see "the big potty" and lose his mind. But he had no problem at all and we were soon back in the aisles buying half off Aden and Anais crib sheets.

Tomorrow we're trying the library. And I'll have Ainsleigh to deal with as well. Thankfully I have amazing friends, one of whom is going to meet me there so I don't have to try it solo. I have the best friends. I don't know how to live without my village.

good stuff

Potatoes, fresh from the garden, smothered in grass fed butter and Himalayan sea salt. Dig one out, cook it up, and EAT.

The dress I found Saturday while shopping with friends.

J watching the kids so I could go shopping without them.

Summer thunderstorms.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

a mama gone too soon

On July 24 a woman from a nearby town disappeared. The story received national attention. She was found dead Tuesday night. The cause of death? Suicide.

On Tuesday, before the official cause of death was released, I sent a text message to someone close to me:

Thank you for getting help so your kids didn't have to grow up without a mama.

A message I should have sent a long time ago, but didn't realize I needed to. I hadn't thought about the effort required to seek help, or what it must have been like to admit to being broken and sad.

I don't know why this woman, Jennifer, decided to end her life. I don't know what the last straw was, or what she was thinking, or feeling. What I do know is that she was a mother. And that she was so sad, or felt so hopeless, she made a choice to leave her boys.

Day after day as I tend to and snuggle my kids I wonder, how could anyone leave this behind?

I cannot fathom being that depressed, or stressed out, or overwhelmed, but a lot of moms are. We don't care for one another like we should. We don't push beyond the surface to the broken places that need the most attention. The rise of independent living, followed by the advent of social media, has led us to live in isolation, and rendered us incapable of remembering how to push aside the screens that dominate our time and ask, how are you? with an intense stare that does not waver until the truth spills out.

The truth may be good - and when it is so let's share in the joy with one another - but when the truth is hard ,or ugly, or painful let's hold one another up and face it together. No one is perfect. No one has it all together. You are not failing. You are the perfect mother to your children. They need you. They love you. They want you - only you - not your friend, or neighbor, or anyone else you view through a jealous lens.

Has anyone asked how you are recently? Have you asked someone how they are? Do you have someone in your life you can be completely honest with? Do you have a friend, or spouse, or mom, or sister who can see when you're hurting? Even when you insist you're fine do they know how to tell help is needed?

There have been moments when I have desperately needed my friends, my parents, my siblings, but it wasn't until Charlotte died that I learned how to raise the "help!" flag. There is no shame or condemnation in raising that flag and shouting until someone hears you.

We all need to hear we're doing a great job. We all need to know we would be missed. We all need to know we're loved. We all need to learn that it is okay to ask for help. And we need to be there for each other so that when a mama feels like dying is her best option there are hands reaching out to catch her before she falls.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

on birthdays and camping and skunks

Or maybe I should just call this one 'everything but the kitchen sink?'

When one doesn't blog for a while there is a whole lot to cover.

I've been blogging less for a variety of reasons. I've been thinking a lot about why I blog, and who it's for, and how much I want to share/should share about our lives.

I've never felt less compelled to blog - in the few years I've been doing it - than I do right now. I don't know if it's because life is so busy, or if it's the touch of depression I can never quite shake, or if it's something else entirely. I just feel weird about the whole thing right now, and I'm not sure why.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Birthdays always make me introspective and moody, so maybe that's it?


On to a completely different topic.

Last week we went camping with friends in the wilds East of Eugene. I just love where a forty-five minute drive from a large city can lead in Oregon. I would not recommend the campground we stayed at, but I highly recommend the swimming holes in the area (Fall Creek Reservoir).


When it comes to camping you either love it, or you don't. I think I like the idea of it more than the actual doing of it. It's really hard right now because of Ainsleigh's age and desire to put everything in her mouth.

This trip was fun because we were with friends, but it was a little too hot and buggy for my liking. The lake - one of the main reasons we picked the campground, wasn't safe for swimming (though a lot of people ignored the recommendation to avoid the water), but we found an awesome swimming hole.

And there were skunks. I hadn't seen a skunk up close and in person before this trip. Our skunk friend was not nearly as nervous around humans as he should have been. In fact, when J shone a flashlight on the skunk from 20 feet away it came at him instead of scurrying away. Thankfully nothing - and no one - was sprayed.

We spent a lot of time in the water. We ate a lot of junk food. We saw big bolts of lightening and fell asleep to the sound of rain on our tent - one of the best sounds in the world. And I left with the desire to pack up and do it all over again. Even though it was hot. Even though it's hard with kids. I think it's good for them - and me - to sit in the dirt for a few days.


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