Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fall Fun

Today I thought I'd post something a little more lighthearted.... Here are some pictures of Megan and Evan playing in the leaves. Megan ran back and forth with her arms full of leaves and dumped them on Evan's head. Evan was delighted with this and if I had known my camera had video capabilities, I would have been able to capture his magical giggles.

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Monday, October 26, 2009


There is this intersection that I drive through often--the intersection of Center St. and Fourth St. Center St., as the name suggests, is a main thoroughfare through town. Although the speed limit is 35, people are rarely doing 35. Fourth St. is a neighborhood street that has the unique property of going straight through from one side of town to the other with almost no stop signs...except one--the one at Center St. As you can imagine, sometimes people get into a groove driving across town and, because there are no stop signs at previous intersections, they don't see the one at the Center St. intersection and they plow through--sometimes safely, sometimes not. Once in 2004, I was hit as I drove along Center St. Someone ran the stop sign and smashed the whole side of my car. I was not hurt, but the back door had to be replaced, the axle was bent, I needed new tires.... I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences. And now, as I approach that intersection, every time I see someone coming down 4th St., I flinch. I feel my hands tighten on the wheel, I ride the brakes...basically I tense up. Most people would not blame me for this. I've been hit before and I've seen others hit in the same way. It is not a safe intersection, though hundreds, if not thousands, of people drive by it safely every single day.

Can you see where I'm going with this?

I'm not saying this so that the people who have never been hit and who have no fear will suddenly be fearful--that is the last thing I want. I'm not saying it to be the doomsday person with the big "abandon hope all ye who drive past this intersection!" sign. I'm not saying it just to be negative and I'm not trying to take away the joy of the people who drive past there daily, be-bopping along to their car stereo. I'm telling you so that you can understand my perspective. I have been hit driving past that intersection and it scared me. It is really that simple, don't you think?

So for all the home.birthing mamas out there who might have been upset by my last post or who might have been shocked at the fact that I freaked and sobbed to find out that my nephew was born at home, I'm sorry. In another life, I know I would be a home.birthing advocate. I know this. I love the idea of low or no intervention births, I firmly believe in a baby's need to be skin-to-skin with its mother and not in some nursery somewhere, and I believe with all my heart in the ability of a woman's body to give birth. But at this particular intersection, there is too much at stake for me to drive by without flinching. I hope people can understand this.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I never saw it coming...

You know that feeling when you turn around and realize that a runaway train missed you by a hair? You didn't even know you were in danger until it was over. You are safe on the sidewalk and your whole family is safe and everything is you turn around and start to sob and shake and all you can imagine is what would have happened "if."

I feel that way right now. I'm shaking and sobbing and can't believe I never even knew the runaway train was heading my way. My sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful little baby boy today--8lbs, 3oz--and both are doing very well. But the part that caught me off guard is that she birthed him at home. Don't get me wrong, I am not against home.birthing necessarily...but the fact of the matter is that the life I live puts me in the unique perspective of knowing far more people who have had home.births go tragically wrong than people who have gotten healthy, live babies this way. I know, I know, I'm such a downer and a party pooper and everything else--and you're right. But the bottom line is that as badly as I wish people could understand my perspective on this, I would never, never, ever wish this perspective on any other human being--least of all my sister-in-law and my handsome new nephew.

Welcome to the world, Jack Peter Doyle, I'm so, SO happy that you arrived safely. Thank you!

(And just for the record, I'm not "for" hospital births for low-risk women. I think the US needs a substantial improvement in its support of and for birthing centers close to or attached to hospitals--just in case--but that still allow women the freedom of laboring how they want, with or without interventions, etc. So please don't think I'm all about making birth a medical event.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Just for fun

Today I thought I'd post a few pictures of my wonderful kiddos. Here is Megan feeding her baby brother and then a picture of what the baby brother looks like when he is fed by a 4 year old. (In fairness to Megan, we have pictures of her being fed by a 2-year-old Erin and Megan definitely got more food into Evan's mouth than Erin ever got into her mouth. See, Melissa, there is SO much to look forward to!)

Also included are some of our pictures from a hike last week. It was wonderfully chilly and such a beautiful fall day--it was nice to get out.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Today's Concert

Today we went to a children's concert with Megan's school. Red Grammar, the singer, was great. He was doing this birthday song and as he ran through all the months, he was asking people to raise their hands if their birthday was during that month. When he called out January, Erin raised her hand, quickly put it down and looked at me. "Mom," she said, "I know my birthday isn't in January, but Sophie can't raise her hand. Is it okay that I did? I'm not trying to lie and say that is my birthday."

I nearly cried. Because normally when I hear the month of January, my whole body wants to jump up and down and yell, "I HAD A BABY THEN, I HAD A BABY THEN!" I want people to know about the little girl I never got to keep. And usually--usually--I'm very alone in this reaction. But not today. Today, my oldest baby girl, the first one I did get to keep, had that same feeling. She wanted, more than anything, to yell, "I HAD A SISTER! I HAD A SISTER!"

And I loved her even more for that. The whole audience thought she got her birthday wrong (because she also raised her hand for February), but I know better. She didn't get her birthday wrong, she got her sister's birthday right. It totally made my day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

His Kitchen

When my husband makes dinner (which is more often than I do), he seems to know how to do it to minimize the mess. Perhaps this is because he also does the dishes--in fact he does just about everything that has to do with the kitchen--but somehow he has learned over the years how to cook wonderful, healthy, homemade meals while only getting two spoons dirty. I have not learned this. I am not even close to learning this. Tonight I made Pink Macaroni and Cheese (which is regular mac and cheese but with beets in it). So there was a casserole dish that it all was baked in, the pot that cooked the macaroni, the pot that cooked the cheese sauce, the pot for the beets, the cutting board for the beets, the cheese grater, and a plethora of knives, stirring spoons and measuring things (which is another thing my husband doesn't use--he seems to know how much a teaspoon is just by looking). So poor Chris comes home from work and is grateful beyond words that dinner is ready and waiting. And because he loves me, he doesn't even comment that it looks like a tornado ran through his kitchen.

Which is fine, because I never say a thing when he does the laundry.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Just a phase??

My oldest daughter is 6.5 (and never let her hear you say she is just 6--she is 6.5). She is very energetic, curious, intelligent, and fun. She is also very anxious and terrified of any kind of change--and sometimes this is the part that comes to the surface when she is tired or stressed, as she has been lately. This makes parenting such a hard, hard journey. I can see how she is hurting deep inside and I can see how badly she just needs to curl up with her blankie and have someone take care of her...but because of her age and desire for independence, most of the time she simply refuses. And she refuses loudly, rudely, and unkindly to those around her--lashing out with grunts and growls and anger. We are trying to weather this storm as we weathered tantrums, teething, illness, bedwetting...but this one seems to be lasting longer for some reason. Maybe it is because I'm so tired and stressed about it all, but I find myself scared, truly scared, that she isn't going to grow up to be a kind person.

Since she was a baby, people have commented on two things--her blond hair and her vocabulary/intelligence. She began speaking in 3 and 4 words sentences at about 13-14 months. She had books memorized by about 15 months (we have her on video "reading" to us) and she hasn't looked back. Now, as a 6.5 year old, she is reading at about a 5-6th grade level, she is doing multiplication and division in her head, and she is truly energized by fun learning activities (building models and things like that). But this has resulted in a child who thinks that the only way to get attention and be successful is to be just that--either the prettiest one there or the smartest one there. And, because people continue to comment on her fancy dresses or academic abilities, I'm not sure how to change this. Because truly--really truly--I don't care how smart she is. I just don't care (perhaps someone out there with a child who is struggling academically would disagree with me on this). I want her to be kind.

And I know that kindness is there, I've seen it. I've seen her stick up for the shy kid in her class when others were picking on her. I've seen her let others have a turn on the swings first. I've seen her tuck her sister into bed when she is tired. I've seen this--I know it is there. But I can't seem to get it to come out when she is stressed and tired and going through change (no duh, right??). I know I'm asking a lot from her when I ask her to stop and take a breath. I know this. But when I see her react with such anger when she reaches the end of her rope, I worry. Because I'm her mother and that is what mothers do. Has anyone else been through this? How old is your child now? Are they adults? And honestly, tell me, are they in jail? If not, that would make me feel much better as I work so hard at loving every little bit of her for yet another day. Because that is the trick, isn't it? To love every little bit of her no matter what that little bit is throwing at you--sometimes literally.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stamped at birth

I have a very close friend who is dying. She is my age, she has terminal cancer and there is nothing more anyone can do for her. Let me be clear here--I am NOT okay with this. I talk to her on the phone and I tell her I'm behind her and I accept her decision to stop chemo and not be sick for the time she has left...but really I'm not okay with this and I don't want to accept this. Clearly this is her choice and intellectually I completely accept what she has decided and obviously I am behind her every step of the way for however many steps she has left. I guess what I mean is that I'm not okay with the crap the universe is throwing at her. Where should I register my complaint?

Because here is the thing--would any of us like it if we were born with stamps on us that said how many minutes, hours, days or years we would get to be here? Would we, for example, love a child less who we knew was going to die? I was in the OR two weeks ago to witness the c-section delivery of a baby who we thought would get minutes and, instead, she got days. Some would call this sad, but it was nothing short of a miracle. What love she got for those days! What if, when I met my dying friend back in college, I knew that she would die at age 36? Would that have changed our relationship? Would we have done more? Would I now care less about her?

I'm a firm believer in living every day as if it is your last. Tuck your kids in with enough love to last a lifetime because who knows when you'll get that chance again. But believing in this is one thing--living it everyday? I try so hard, I really do. But the reality is that I have three living children who are in three different places at any given time in the day. I have homeschooling stuff to plan, laundry to do, meals to prepare...and that doesn't even count the volunteer work I do that takes up considerable amounts of my "free" time. I admit to getting overwhelmed at times--don't we all. But here is the other thing--I have gained the ability to step outside myself, look at what I am doing and pull myself back down. This morning I had a list of things that "had" to get done with Erin. She began to fight it and I began to fight her. When the dust settled and the smoke had cleared, you know what? I decided that tomorrow is another day and so we decided to huddle over the chess board instead of fight over math. Some people would see this as a "waste" of a homeschool day and point out that now I'm off my schedule. But know what? If, Universe Forbid, Erin's stamp reads "6years, 245 days" then I will have no regrets.

My dear friend may only have a year or so left. 365 days. 52 weekends. And, sadly, all I can think about is the regrets. The times we "should have" done something cooler or more interesting. The times we didn't get together because one of us didn't want to drive or something came up with my kids. The times I wasn't as supportive as I should have been...those times I could have pulled myself back down and refocused on what was really important--our friendship. So for all the times I said, "It's a duck!" I'm sorry. Truly sorry. Perhaps it really was a swan*.

*sorry, this is an inside joke! And also put that picture on my list, please.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Putting this "out there"

So now that I'm officially blogging, I'm terribly nervous. Suddenly, everything that I have to say (that my friends tell me is so important to get "out there") seems either completely meaningless or simply a repeat of what you could find on any number of other blogs. I don't want my blog to be a story about how I fill my days or cute pictures of my kids (though I will include those occasionally). I want it to be an active discussion about trying to live a simple life with kids. But that isn't the only thing now is it? Because I have had a loss. People who know me know what I am referring to and know how deeply it has changed me.

And now we are at the part I'm afraid of. The death of my baby girl changed me so profoundly that many people simply don't understand it or don't think they need to. Some people think I'm just crazy. They think my baby girl isn''t worth all the energy I put into remembering her or including her in my life. Keep in mind that most people who think this way aren't doing it to be mean--they honestly believe that it would be best for me to "move on" and "stop dwelling." They can't see that what I do is not is integrating her into our lives. It is trying to make sense out of a senseless loss. It is acknowledging that there is, indeed, a huge, gaping hole between my 4-year-old and my 8-month-old. There really is.

Please understand, I don't want this blog to be all about Sophie, because she isn't all there is to me or to my family. But nor can this blog be just about my living kids, because that isn't all there is to me either. Everything I will say on this blog is being said through the veil of a loss--whether it sounds like it or not--and that could very well upset people who would rather I just stopped living that life. Because I can't. That simple.

So there you have it. This is what I'm putting out there.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My husband is a geologist....

So I've been wanting to start a blog for a while (everyone is doing it, you know!) but I haven't been able to come up with a title. I wanted something that would incorporate the things that have become the biggest parts of my life--that is my family, my kids, living simply, and living with loss. While hiking the other day, Chris and I tried a dozen different titles to try to get the "play on words" just right ("theholefamily" or "theholisticfamily") but nothing seemed to work exactly the way I wanted it or incorporate everything I wanted it to.

Later, after the kids were in bed, we tried a few different titles but they were all taken or not quite right. After a while we gave up and decided to sleep on it so Chris left the room. A few minutes later he returned....
"You are going to hate this one," he said when he came back in, "How about, 'Geode'" Yes, I'm married to a geologist. But think about it--a geode is very simple in its appearance and it is absolutely beautiful inside. And yet, to make it as beautiful as it is, it needs this big, gaping hole in the middle. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it worked well for our family. So here is my blog--The Family Geode.
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