Tuesday, June 7, 2016

knowing when it's time for the next stage

I was so certain we were done having children when Ainsleigh was born I didn't hang on to anything - toys, clothes, necessities.

Then I thought I might have made the wrong decision. I thought about having one more. I semi-planned when that would happen for our family, but when the time came I wasn't ready.

After two years of back and forth I finally feel at peace with our decision to stop with three. Around Charlotte's birthday the intense need to have a baby always hangs around, but I've learned that it will dissipate; that it's one particular newborn I want to hold.

This morning the kids played outside together while I cleaned up the house and readied us for the library. They're friends. They enjoy one another, and a lot of the time they get along. Part of me wanted to stay in the baby stage because it's so sweet and because I didn't know anything different, but this stage is pretty great too. I just love the people Bennett and Ainsleigh are becoming. I enjoy spending time with them and watching them grow.

When I was waffling about if we should have more I didn't know that I would enjoy Bennett at 4 as much as I enjoyed him when he was first born. I'll always miss those magical newborn days. Especially Bennett's. I felt like I earned those days. Having a newborn to hold after a year and a half of intense grieving was like welcoming the sun after a long difficult winter.

A year ago I wanted the certainty I possess now. I wanted to know our family was complete - or as complete as it's going to be this side of heaven. I was frustrated with my inability to commit to having another baby. (I'm going to pause now and acknowledge that this is a luxury. I know this is not the experience of every mother. I'm sorry if your heart longs for more children, but for whatever reason you can't add to your family.) I didn't understand why I couldn't settle into a decision. Every time I thought I landed on the right answer I would change my mind.

When you've spent years having children, or trying to have children, or working on building your family it's hard to decide that part of your life is finished. When people ask about our family size I always say, "If Charlotte hadn't died we probably would have more." I like the idea of having a larger family, but I think raising two is what I will be best at. I'm pretty sure I don't have the patience for four, even though I like the idea of that many kids.

And then there's the fact that I know I do not want to experience another pregnancy. Pregnancy is traumatic and emotionally wrenching for me. Birth is horrendous. It's like living in a PTSD cloud for ten months followed by a 12 hour PTSD hurricane that literally does not feel survivable.

While I feel at peace with my decision I also feel guilty. If I'm dictating the size of our family am I trusting God enough? Is my inability to get through a pregnancy with grace and composure due to a lack of faith? If I just prayed more would I have the patience to have four babies?

But then I remember Ainsleigh's birth. I sat on a birthing ball in the shower for hours with the lights off and tears streaming down my face. I prayed the entire time, and while I felt God's presence the fear was still present as well. God didn't take my fear away, but he assured me I was not alone in that room even though I was the only one physically there.

I think my challenge now is moving the story of my life forward. My life is not just about what happened to me when Charlotte died, or when my other babies were born, or their early days. Maybe what's changed is that I'm finally ready to move the story forward and see what else God has planned for my life. Maybe I couldn't have the peace and certainty I longed for until I was ready to let go and let God turn the page and write the next chapter.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

one year! {house-a-versary}

How's that for a made up word?! 

Our first year in this house has flown by. The kids are WAY bigger and the projects list is WAY longer than expected, but we got a lot accomplished this year.

Hollow core interior doors - out, solid core interior doors - in.

Shed with storage loft built.

Fence built.

Too many arbor vitae to count ripped out of the back and side yards.

Fruit garden planted. Vegetable garden on waiting list.

New heating/ac system installed.

New blinds.

Some interior painting done. I hate painting. I asked Jon if I could go down to the park by the river and find someone to finish the painting. His response was less than enthusiastic. My goal is to have all the walls painted by the end of the summer, but I am having a hard time finding the motivation to do it!

And the list goes on.

In August we tackle the first bathroom renovation.

Jon and I spent this morning cleaning out the family room. We hauled out boxes of trash and things we don't need. Last week Bennett and I cleaned out his room. I thought it was atrocious, but he just has a lot of collections, so once we sorted, cleaned and got rid of a small box of toys his room was in great shape. And it only took us 30 minutes to accomplish the task! 

I really wanted to be better about the clutter issue in this house, and I feel like I've done a pretty good job. Our last house was so full of stuff I thought we might have to stay there forever because we wouldn't be able to sort through the drifts of unnecessary items that had piled up in every corner and closet.

Cleaning the house out a few times a year is the only way for me to keep the clutter under control. We did a challenge with friends in January where we had to get rid of one item on the 1st, 2 on the 2nd, etc., which cleared a lot out, and now that it's summer I'm doing another pass through and getting rid of clothes that no longer fit the kids as well as reams of preschool projects.

I don't want to open a closet and have 3,000 things fall out, and I want to know where everything is, so my goal is to clean out every space every 6 or months. Except for the bookshelves. That clutter I just can't contain. We have 3 little free libraries in our neighborhood, which is just making the situation worse. Although I have asked the kids to trade books when we go so that's helped some!

The kids are already out in the little pool we set up at the bottom of their slide. It's going to be another really hot day here in the Valley. Since we had a productive morning I think I'll go join them!

Friday, June 3, 2016

preschool - year one {community, post 4}

We made it through Bennett's first year of preschool! Remember when he was a tiny little baby?! He was 4 on September 9th, just a few days past the cut-off date, so we decided to put him in the 3's class even though he would be the oldest. General consensus is that this is best for boys, and he had a really successful year so I'm going to agree.

Our plan is to keep him in the private school at our church until he finishes kindergarten. We'll homeschool for first grade, see how we both like it, then move on from there. Bennett is already refusing to go to the 4's class, but I'm hoping he'll go without a fight if we don't talk about it all summer.

But when we were discussing it, when I was trying to work him over to my side long before he was ready, I mentioned how God took care of him this year. He put him in a class with a really awesome teacher where he made good friends and had a great time. Bennett agreed with me, but said he still wasn't going to the next class. Whatever. What it made me realize is that God's placement of Bennett in that class was a placement for me too.

When you see the same people twice a day two times a week you tend to make some conversation with them, even if you're an introvert like me. I connected with quite a few moms whose kids were in Bennett's class, and once I was brave enough to add them on Facebook and invite them over, I realized we had more in common than just our kids.

Through my kids I'm seeing so many instances of God placing people in my life to connect with. I've been striving to live in community, to parent with the people around me instead of noticing all of the things we do differently, and through preschool as well as other activities like music class I am meeting a wide array of moms.

I think living in community is both easier and harder today than it's ever been. Easier because connecting on Facebook or tossing off a quick text message is so much easier than trying to fit a phone call in. Harder because we are getting really good at hiding behind our screens and letting feeds we quickly scroll through while the baby is nursing or the toddler is occupied in the sand box control and dictate our feelings and thoughts on everything. As I've worked to do the hard thing (example - invite people over even though our house will be in a state of remodeling for the next I don't know how many years) I've realized how important it is to step out from behind the comfortable barrier my phone and laptop create to connect and learn from others.

Last week at music class I was talking to a fellow mom who I know-ish. We're in class together, our children attend the same private school, we go to the same church, and yet we've never talked for more than a minute. Our sons are different ages, we go to different services, and Mrs. D is adamant about zero social talking in music class, so there have been quick nods across the church foyer and a hello or good-bye tossed out at the end of music class, but we've never chatted. Last week Jon was at class with us, and he was caught up talking to a father in the class, so I struck up a conversation with this mom about education options and what their plan is while our kids rolled down the grassy hill outside class. When it was time to leave we talked about exchanging contact information.

"You can always find me on Facebook!" I called out as she walked away.

She turned back around, "Actually, I'm not on Facebook."

"Good for you!!" I said.

We walked home, I loaded Ainsleigh into the car, and we headed out grocery shopping. As I drove I was like, "Oh! I should have connected her with this other mom at our church who is doing the same program ..."

When I got home I looked up all of the information I needed and then I called the mom from music class to pass it on. Her number was listed incorrectly so I had to e-mail her, but I attempted a phone call even though I was worried I would come across as over enthusiastic/strange! And as I connected her with this other mom I know I had a WOW moment.

A couple years ago I didn't feel like I fit in at our church. A couple years ago I felt like I didn't fit in in our neighborhood. A few years ago I was finding my footing as a mom and I felt really lost - don't we all!? - but over a year after I began praying about living and being in community I feel more connected and involved than I dreamed possible.

God is so good at listening to what my heart needs and helping me grow. He moved us to this neighborhood. He directed us to our church. He opened some doors while he shut some others. And now we're here. Connected. Walking through life with a lot of people. Experiencing really good moments, very hard moments, and the everyday moments that 90% of life is made up of.

Do you feel like you are living in community? Do you want to live in community? Is there anyone you need to connect with today? Are you feeling lonely? Can I pray for you? Can we pray together about living in community and connecting with others so that we can all feel a little less alone and lost?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

76 books!

That's how many I've read (so far) this year. I've always wanted to keep track of how many books I read, but I'm so lazy I've never managed it. I think I was always too intense about it; trying to track pages read, along with books. Instead of writing out all the details I'm sticking with just the titles this year. And I'm not tracking online. A simple notebook I received for Christmas with a pencil tucked inside is all I'm using.

So out of 75 books what are my top recommendations?

1. Love Does by Bob Goff

I read quite a few chapters of this out loud to Jon when we were driving home from visiting family in Seattle. Apparently reading out loud does not make me car sick, but if I read to myself we'll have to pull over every few miles, or bring a stack of plastic bags. When I was younger I could read for hours in the car. I remember my Dad frantically searching through romance books with typically lurid book covers in a grocery store somewhere in the middle of America, desperately trying to find me something appropriate to read since I had burned through all of the library books I brought on the trip. Many, many years, and three pregnancies, later I can't even stomach watching my kids on a merry go round. Love Does is funny, inspiring, faith based without being preachy, and full of innovative parenting ideas. I've gifted it twice to people going through really difficult circumstances, because I've decided handing out books about grief to people going through grief can be construed as senseless. The grief books can be helpful when some time has gone by, but in the beginning it's best to aim for hesitant laughter.

This book solidified a lot of the shaky opinions about education I've been carting around since Bennett was born. It also made it easier for me to develop a schooling plan for the next few years, although I reserve the right to change that plan at any moment! I didn't agree with everything in this book, but it confirmed a lot of my thoughts on education, so I really enjoyed that.

3. My Father's Dragon / Elmer and the Dragon / The Dragons of Blueland by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Bennett and I blazed through this trilogy. We could not stop reading! Read this to your 5-year-old, assign it to your 9-year-old, enjoy it yourself. It's a well written adventure story without much danger or scary moments, but plenty of action to keep one engaged and laughing.

Absolutely fascinating. I really enjoyed reading about the behind the scenes workers who make The White House run smoothly. One fun fact: the staff has the few hours between the Swearing-In Ceremony and the end of the Inaugural Ball to move the outgoing President out and the incoming President in! How's that for an intense work day?!

5. Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne

Frank is one of the best characters I've met in a long time. I want to read this book again so I can further enjoy him. The story was pretty good, the plot moved well, but Frank made this book come alive.

6. Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig

I admit, I was reluctant to select this at the library. I wasn't sure I would like it, even though I love Ivan Doig, but I was desperate for something to read so I put it in my bag. I am so glad I did. I LOVED this story. I loved the main character Donal, and his quasi-uncle Herman the German. Doig is a masterful storyteller. Last Bus to Wisdom is compelling and beautiful. I loved it.

7. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A beautiful, moving book about what it is like to die at a young age with miles of unused potential locked within you. Kalanithi's wrestling with who he is as a terminally ill person and doctor is so well explored I wanted to share the book with everyone I know when I finished reading. I recommend reading this along with Being Mortal by Atul Gawande to gain a new understanding of death, dying, and how to approach it with grace. (Sneak preview: we're doing it all wrong).

I was unexpectedly fascinated by this nonfiction book on the history of forensics. I learned a lot, and enjoyed sharing bits and pieces with Jonathan.

9. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

A novel based off real life events that does an excellent job exposing how difficult it was to be a single woman in 1914 without beating one over the head. Snappy dialogue, fun characters I want to be friends with, and a fast paced plot that kept me reading late into the night landed this one on my top ten list (so far, it's a precarious honor).

I bought this book in Friday Harbor when we were celebrating our 10 year anniversary in late May. I'm so glad I spotted it and grabbed it just before we left the bookstore. It is the most honest, real, funny, truthful book about parenting I've read in a long time. If you are in the middle of the early years parenting slog read this book and feel embraced. It's really good on the follow your dreams front as well, but the parenting theme was what stood out to me on my first read through.

11. A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle

I am so in love with this book I'm not sure I can talk about it. I felt so understood as a person, mother and writer when I read it. And even though L'Engle was writing years ago her thoughts on how to live during a tumultuous political era apply to today's political experience in America so well it's uncanny. History really does repeat itself. There are around 3,000 quotes I want to memorize from this book, but it would be easier if you just read it.  I'm still waiting for everyone I know to read it so we can discuss!

There's more, so many more!, but a top 11 is sufficient for now. I'm in the middle of a memoir/biography kick right now - I really enjoyed The Mockingbird Next Door - but next week I might be more into fiction. I am finding great joy in walking the biography stacks (solo, no children pulling on my leg or trying to bail out of the stroller and head for the kids' section) at the library right now. I love wandering, hand on spines, trying to find the next interesting life I want to read about.

I have quite a few books on my 'meh' list, but that's not really something you want to read about, right? It makes Jon laugh when I toss a 300 page book across the room and say, "That was terrible!" Once I've committed to a book I can't stop reading it, unless it's really, really terrible. I'm always hopeful that the author can pull it together in the end, but that's usually not the case.

What are you reading right now? What books have you loved/hated this year?

If you enjoy getting book recommendations from me I'm back to posting regularly on my book related Instagram - @ angelasbookshelf

the start of summer

I've been dreading summer. I loved having a couple days during the week when Bennett was at preschool and it was just Ainsleigh and I at home - or running errands, because it's so much easier with one!

I also don't really like summer. It's so hot! But this first week has been a lot of fun, and I think Bennett is really enjoying being home with me. We went to a really fun indoor play place today. It was hot yesterday, it's supposed to be blazing this weekend, but today it rained, so instead of meeting my mom at the park like we planned we went to this indoor play place.

It was PERFECT. Reasonably priced, clean, age appropriate, nut free, outside food allowed, and no time limits imposed. And the big play sets were NICE. Wood, not plastic, with no tubes. I absolutely hate large play places. My anxiety skyrockets when I can't see the kids. I despise climbing up and crawling through those stinky plastic behemoths to find my crying children when they inevitably panic about being unable to get out. We'll definitely return to this place when the weather turns again. It's called Clubhouse Adventures and I highly recommend it if you live in the Valley.

We have a couple small trips planned this summer, but for the most part this will be a stay at home summer. Jon and I went on a nice vacation for our ten year anniversary, so we'll have to dial back on our other trips. I need to write about that trip! It was amazing. I am now obsessed with the San Juan Islands. Everyone needs to make a trip up there. It's simply gorgeous and a nice place to relax. We had a great time touring the island, and we had quite the experience on a whale spotting tour.

The kids are tired, and their noses are running, so it's early bedtime for them, which means more reading time for me. I ended May with 76 books read. Maybe I'll hit 200 this year?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

sweet ainsleigh // hearing aid update // two years in

It's hard to believe we're almost two years into this journey. Ainsleigh was fit for her first hearing aid on May 12th, 2014. I looked back at old posts and couldn't believe the difference. Ainsleigh has hair now! I don't have to put a hat on her so she'll leave her hearing aid alone. She doesn't cry for appointments anymore! In fact, the audiologist said she does better than some kindergartners on her testing. And she goes into "the booth" every six months to have her hearing tested.

"The booth" is exactly what it sounds like. A small booth that Ainsleigh's speech therapist and I sit in with Ainsleigh while the audiologist sits at a control panel outside. There are various tests performed in the booth, but today Ainsleigh was having sounds played into her ears at various decibels to test if the hearing in her good ear has changed. (Thankfully it is still testing just as it was at birth.) They also play some sounds into her left - or deaf - ear to see if she has any response or reaction.

Ainsleigh is given a toy by the speech therapist, which she holds up to her hearing ear, and when she hears the sound she drops the toy in a bucket the speech therapist is holding. Every other time Ainsleigh has simply dropped the toy in the bucket, but this time when they played certain decibels - ones she has never responded to before - in her left ear she moved the toy to her left ear, indicating she heard the sound in that ear.

When the testing was completed the audiologist showed me the results. IF the results can be replicated when we return in six months we'll have learned something significant: Ainsleigh has more hearing in her left ear than we realized

Ainsleigh will still need her hearing aid, and she will still need all of the support and services we've built around her with the help of a fabulous team, but she might be able to hear on her left side. Not very well. Not all of the sounds she can hear in her right ear, but more than we initially thought.

How exciting is that?!?!?!

I cannot describe the feeling in the room when she moved the toy to her left ear and indicated she was hearing in that ear. It's so hard to know how much she can hear, and what is being referred to the other ear, but in this case it appears that she definitely was hearing decibels we didn't know she could in her left ear. It was so exciting for everyone, and I think we are all anxious to see what happens at her next appointment.

Two years ago I was so overwhelmed by the prospect of a hearing aid, and Ainsleigh wearing one all waking hours seemed like an absurd idea, but we've met that goal now, and Ainsleigh is hitting all of her speech and language milestones with ease. It took a lot of work, but if for some reason you are facing something similar I want to encourage you to stick with it.

Put the hearing aid in 3,000 times. Start with five minutes of hearing aid use at a time. Leave it out for two weeks if you're losing your mind, and your child is so frustrated they scream when you approach with the hearing aid. Give yourself a lot of grace. Don't assume every other parent is doing a better job than you are. If you have ever tossed a hearing aid across the room in complete frustration, I sympathize.

It's a hard road to walk, and it's really complicated and emotionally draining, but when your child uses a sign you didn't know they picked up, or leaves their hearing aid in for a nice long stretch, or does something completely unexpected with their speech development, all of the hours you put into working with them will feel like time well spent.

Ainsleigh sat up straight in my lap today, looked her speech therapist in the eye, and moved the toy to her left ear to indicate she heard sound in that ear. The hours of work, the weeks of putting a hat on her in an attempt to avoid putting her hearing aid back in every two seconds, the appointments and home visits, and even the month we took off last summer because we were moving and I was done with the hearing aid battle, all coalesced and led to that moment. It's hard and frustrating, but so worth it when your child begins to thrive.

When you do really well on your hearing tests, and surprise your mama and everyone in the room, you get your first cinnamon roll

Monday, April 4, 2016

from 2:00 on

This might be my favorite time of day. The kids are running around outside. The bread I baked today is cooling on the counter. There is a chicken slowly roasting in the oven for dinner. Tea is steeping so I can make iced tea for dinner. The kids have napped - or had rest time - and then we cuddled and read books for a while as they woke up.

This is my time to read for a few minutes. Or try to figure out what fixtures to select for the bathroom. Or which room to paint first. It would be an ideal time to clean up a little bit, but the house isn't too wrecked today, and the laundry is all caught up, so I'm writing instead. Most days I do something other than cleaning. A book always wins in this house. If the kids or I want a story it comes before (almost) everything else.

Music class resumed this morning. We're on our fifth ten week session. The kids love it, and we are now close enough to walk, so we're sticking with it for now, even though we've considered our latest session the last session the previous two times. Ainsleigh loves to walk to class, but today she DID not want to walk home. I don't usually bring a stroller, because she insists on walking, but I wish I had one today. She screamed at top volume the entire way home. Unless I was carrying her, which I didn't want to do too much of since she was the one who insisted we walk. My apologies to the neighbors - especially the one just down the hill who comments loudly on my parenting skills - for the late morning disturbance.

The kids are clambering all over the playhouse out back and roaring like lions. Their friendship is a wonderful blessing. Sometimes they fight like cats and dogs, but the majority of the time they play nicely together and enjoy each other's company.

I'm trying to decide what exactly to do in the main bathroom as we gear up for a major remodel. It will be late summer before we get in there and start working, but the choosing of fixtures, flooring and tile is beginning now. The tiles on the walls in both bathrooms have begun falling off. It's as if they simply can't hang on any longer. The house is 56 years old; that is a long time to keep things looking beautiful and well put together. The kids shriek as tiles and grout fall into their bathwater, which is amusing until I have to scrub the tub after every bath.

I am quite content, and quite sad, which is the strange emotional juxtaposition I carry within me every spring. The Charlotte rose is leafing out nicely. There was a moment - weeks actually - during the summer when we were sure it had not survived the move, but it is thriving now. We haven't planted the rest of Charlotte's flowers yet. I want the same flowers we had in the old house, and I am sad we likely won't have them planted and blooming before her birthday. For a moment I thought about snatching flowers from the old house for the vases I like to scatter around from April through May to remind me of her, but then remembered that grief often presents irrational acts as a good idea. Basically, grief can still make you behave in a crazy manner six years after the initial gut punch of an unexpected death.

Ainsleigh is now sitting next to me asking for her hearing aid and reading an old People magazine. Quality literature from a young age is very important to me. This is my cue to rejoin the kids in their world. Guns, dolls, Star Wars and lions from now until bedtime.


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