Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sigh...

It was time...as much as I loath to admit it, it was time. Today, my baby boy got his first haircut. As with most moms I know, I'm so happy and blessed to be watching him grow, but also so sad by how quickly his baby-ness is going away. I already miss it! This haircut has been getting more and more necessary as more and more people having been calling him a girl. Today, as we walked into the salon to get the trim, the woman who greeted us said, "Oh, look how beautiful she is!" That's when I knew...he really did need a haircut.

So here he is now...I still think he is pretty cute! (But definitely more kid-like, huh?)


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Evan To The Rescue!

So today we were having a bit of a tense homeschooling moment. You know the kind, where things are going badly, you don't really have time to finish, everyone is trying desperately to finish, nothing is going right, and nobody is willing to just call it a day. Erin was frustrated and crying, I was frustrated and trying to calm her down and, well, truthfully neither of us even knew where the toddler was. I was sitting at the table as Erin very loudly lamented her brother coloring on her Battle of Antietam card while she stormed back and forth from one room to another trying desperately to find a marker that worked. It just wasn't a good scene, you know? The kind where, as the parent, you want to go back and re-do it the right way to avoid the whole thing. Anyway, so there we are, both frustrated, she's yelling, I'm trying to breathe and Evan walks into the living room with chocolate all around his mouth and under his nose, carrying an open container of chocolate chips (which we keep on the 4th shelf UP in the pantry), happily munching away! Erin stops yelling..."Mom!" she says, "Mom! Look at Evan." Evan looks up with his sparkling blue eyes, his sly smile and, key to his superpowers, his dimples and says,"Er-nin want choc-ate chip?" He held up the container to her, "Er-nin want one?"

Erin and I looked at each other, sat down and munched some chocolate chips and laughed. Problem solved!

Thank you, Evan!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to the man who carries my hand, my heart and my spirit so gently on this journey called life; to the wonderful father of my children; to the man who has been with me to the absolute depths of hell and who never wavered in his support as, together, we clawed our way back to this world. Happy Birthday to the one person who will never forget where we have been and who always, always, has his eye on where we are headed; to the person who believes in me, provides for our family, and (more importantly) makes the best homemade ice cream and double chocolate chip cookies you have ever had.

Happy Birthday to my husband--thank you for being you!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Date Night

Tonight I thought the stars would not align. Erin and Megan are with Grammy and Grampy for the night and I had hoped to leave Evan with a friend for an hour-ish so that Chris and I could go out on a date--which we haven't done in a looooonnnnnnggg time. But then Evan didn't take a nap and the friend we were going to leave him with had to go to her office holiday party. Originally she was going to take him with her (not a big deal), but with him having not really napped and getting back late, it just wasn't a good situation for him. No problem, I called our babysitter, thinking that it wasn't like she had to put him to bed or anything--no dice, she had basketball and wouldn't be back until 6:15 or so. Her mom offered to take him, but as her husband wasn't home, she was the one that would have to go get her older daughter from basketball and I didn't want Evan to have to ride in a car all the way down to Orrington because then he would have fallen asleep in the car and not gone to bed tonight (other moms understand this, right?). So we finally decided to see if we could impose on my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, which we really didn't want to do because they have already agreed to help us out this coming Tuesday when neither of us can be home for a few hours due to a different conflict. We call them up and they agree to take Evan for a few hours. He can play at their house, "no problem" (which, given the mess he left there, was a pretty amazing offer on their part!).

Babysitter solved, we are off to dinner. Except we didn't take into account the HUGE hockey game tonight--UM vs UNH. Never have I seen that long a line of traffic trying to get over the bridge to campus! So even though we were only a mile or so from town, getting there was a trick. And once there, finding a place to park was even more of a trick (I had to go through a deep snowbank!). As we walked into the restaurant, we were fairly certain that it wasn't going to happen and we prepared ourselves to head back home, call date night a total failure and move on with our lives because clearly there would be a two hour wait for a table.

That was when the stars began to align. We got a table immediately AND it was next to the heater so I could dry my cold, wet feet (remember the snowbank mentioned above?). We got a wonderful meal, had a $10 coupon, and even enjoyed some fried ice cream. We went back to get Evan and he was happy as a clam, having spent the evening spreading cushions all over the house and feeding the rubber duckies some dry rice. Things worked out just fine!

And us? We got two full hours of uninterrupted conversation! Tomorrow the kids will be back and the holiday season will continue in full swing. The house will need to be cleaned, laundry done, plans made, errands run...but it will be done with a smile because tonight I got to remember a little more about this wonderful guy I am spending my life with--and that makes all the difference. Ahhhhhhh...we should do this more often!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sad Times

Everyone who reads this blog knows that my best friend from college is dying of cancer. Things have started to go downhill rapidly and she has weeks to live. At this point we are making the decision that probably the girls will not see their Auntie again, as we want them to remember her as the fun, energetic, playful Auntie and not the sick in bed Auntie. (We realize some people may not agree with this choice and it is certainly not set in stone by any stretch--we just have to do what feels right to us at this point.)

Tonight, at dinner, as I was telling the girls the latest update, Megan began to cry. I took her in my arms and we rocked for a while. She sobbed the tears of a child who cannot understand these hard facts of life, while I silently cried the tears of a mother unable to change reality for her child. "Mommy," she said through her tears, "I wish that when you went outside to say 'Hi' to the people who go to the sky that they could come back down and give you a hug. Just so you know they heard you."

Yes, my dear, I wish that too.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Trust

A friend of mine on Facebook just posted this quote and it really struck a chord with me as it described the shift has been taking place in our family over the past few years.
"It's more important to parent the children I have than to parent in order to get the children I want." - Diana Jenner
I look at this and see what it is that has (in the past) caused tension between me and my children--that is, my fear that if they don't do what I ask, they will turn out "badly" (whatever that may mean). I hadn't been taking the time to see who they are here and now...I had been trying to train them for some future goal. And now that I avoid that kind of thinking (and have for a while now), I can look back and see where the fear was ruling my parenting. I can see how far we have come and how much we value the relationship we have with our kids. I wouldn't trade my life with them for anything! I like that I'm at a point where I can take a deep breath and trust my child. Trust that building a certain thing out of legos is important at that moment; trust that not putting a hat on this one time won't hurt anyone; trust that they will learn what they need to know without me forcing it on them; trust that they will grow up to be the wonderful human beings they already are...only bigger.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Elephant's name is Sophia Anne

If you are having your holiday with a sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, parent, grandparent, neighbor or friend who has had a loss, it is there. Can you see it? You may be standing right on it, desperately trying to ignore it. But it is there--The Elephant In The Room. Those of us who have had losses are trying very hard not to look at it as well, least you all think we are crazy. Of course, the farther away from your loss you are, the more people think you are insane if you point it out. While you are dying to shout it out, you might just keep quiet and wait until someone asks. Oh that? Those pictures over there? Yes, that is my Elephant In The Room. I had a baby girl, and she died. If you are closer to your loss, the desire to set up a shrine in the middle of the dining room table with candles and flowers and blow horns around your Elephant is almost unbearable. THIS IS MY ELEPHANT! you'll want to yell, SOMEONE PLEASE LOOK AT MY ELEPHANT!

One of the most common questions/statements I get when I give talks about infant and pregnancy loss is something along the lines of, "Oh, I knew about [The Elephant] but I didn't want to mention it. I didn't want to upset anyone." My response is always the same--it isn't upsetting...at least not in the way you might think. Let's look at this. Thanksgiving dinner is coming and you notice that there is no candle or special memory card out for your cousin's Elephant. You say, "Would you like me to light a candle in honor of your Elephant?" There are two possible answers to this. A) "Oh thank you so much for thinking of our Elephant, but we prefer to light his/her candle later, with just the two of us." or B) "OH THANK YOU FOR REMEMBERING! I really wanted to light a candle but didn't want anyone to think I was forcing my grief onto you! I'm so happy you thought of my Elephant!"

See? Neither of those possible answers is upsetting at all. But the question--the question that you asked--brought The Elephant front and center. And the grieving family will thank you for it. Because here is the secret--one of the most treasured gifts you can ever give a grieving family is the sound of their Elephant's name. They want to know that their Elephant isn't just important to them, but to many. They want to know that their Elephant was real and had an impact beyond their own walls. They want to know their Elephant is remembered. And with one question, you gave them all of that. All of it.

Holidays are a challenge for everyone, no doubt. But a grieving family is eating their turkey, doing their shopping, buying gifts and trying to spread some cheer while silently remembering their Elephant. Please remember this when you are celebrating with them. It could make all the difference.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Planting Seeds...

This weekend was the annual ME/NH La Leche League Conference. I love this gathering of like-minded souls! It is so refreshing to be in a group of people who all support breastfeeding and natural family living. I go to this conference every year, I am often on the conference committee and I am usually a speaker as well. Two years ago, I gave a talk on Helping Families Cope with Loss. It was a talk designed to reach out to nurses, doulas, midwives and also family members who might be supporting someone who has lost a baby to early pregnancy loss or stillbirth. The talk was extremely well received and, despite the fact that I couldn't get through without crying, seemed to make people stop and think about what they say and do with families dealing with this kind of grief. This year, I gave the same talk and again, it was very well received. (And now, nearly 4 years out, I can give the talk without crying--though my voice still does crack at certain points.) After my talk, a woman came up to me to thank me for having the courage to tell my story again and again. She wanted me to know that she had come to this same talk two years ago and was so touched she immediately went home to call her daughter who was a nurse in Toronto, Canada. She gave her daughter all the information, websites and other resources I had shared with her. Within a month, her daughter was faced with a loss situation and, because of the information she had, was able to work with the family and help them see the beauty of their baby girl. That family stayed in touch with the woman's daughter because they were so thankful for her love and support during their loss and in the months and years that followed. They now have twins, this woman was telling me, and her daughter goes over to their house once a week to play with the babies, maybe make a meal...whatever she can to be helpful. Their relationship is so special and so important to them because of how it was created--though the bond of loss and the caring and dedication of one nurse who never left their side.

Now, I don't claim any of the responsibility for this relationship--clearly this woman's daughter is extremely loving and dedicated to her job--but I am so happy to have planted that seed. I'm so happy to have been able to help someone help this nurse find the tools she needed to be exactly what this family needed. Thank you, Sophie, for the love and strength you bring to our family--you did this. I wonder how many you touched at this year's conference.....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day Mountain Photo

I think the people I am around on a daily basis usually fall into three basic categories. There are the people who have had losses similar to ours that fully understand what we have gone through/are going through and who are there to support us no matter what. Then there are the people who have never had a loss and don't understand what our family is going through AND are still very compassionate and empathetic and are there to support us no matter what. And then there are the people who have never had a loss and, although they most likely don't mean to be, they simply aren't very supportive. (I understand that, most times, this is not because they are mean-hearted people...it is simply a true lack of understanding--and not in an ignorant way, either...I'm not trying to be mean here). In the first year or so after Sophie died, I had a lot of anger and bitterness towards that last group of people. I was judgmental and impatient with them and worked hard to avoid them at all costs. I fully acknowledge that, now, nearly 4 years out (which is an easier place to acknowledge things from than when you are so raw from such a loss).

Anyway, for a while after she died, I was getting lots of advice from people on how to move forward. Much of it was useful. Some of it, however, was in that they-didn't-mean-it-to-be-but-it-was-hurtful category. And the thing about that kind of advice is that when you are nursing a completely broken heart and soul, you are actually scared enough to take it. Maybe they are right, you'll say to yourself, maybe if I keep talking about her I will drive myself crazy. Maybe I do "need" to forget about her. And everything in your whole being will tell you the advice is wrong--that it is actually okay to include her in your life and in your family...but that nagging voice--that well-meaning person who told you to forget it and move on--will still be there. Always there. Looking back now, I can see that "advice" for what it was. And I can see that it came from some of the people in my world who are in that third category--the ones who simply don't get it and (hopefully) will never get it. And I can also look back at the me who was so angry and judgmental towards those people and think, I know you won't approve and that is okay. You have no way of understanding and we truly hope that is always true. We love you for what you bring to our life, but this grief journey is ours to take. It feels good to be in a more balanced place. With that in mind, there is something we have been waiting for nearly 2 years to do...and many will think we're nuts. We're okay with that!

When Erin was a toddler, we took her up Day Mountain in Acadia National Park. We had a great day! Two years later, we took the same picture of her sister and when we got them printed, we realized they were actually wearing the same vest for the same hike. So, of course, we had to take Evan up it this fall wearing the same vest! But there is more--I wanted to take an empty picture as well. Just a picture of the sign at the top so that I can put them all together in a frame and show off all four of my babies. Because there really are four, you know.




Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beer Maker Erin!

Man! Between my new job, travels, and life, this blog is getting the short end of the stick! Did you know I started a new job? It is at this store in downtown Bangor. This place is awesome--downstairs is homebrew, wine making, cheese making, and some local produce and dairy (raw milk, some cheese and yogurt). Upstairs is cloth diapers, baby wearing, nursing support and locally made baby stuff (booties, hats) and so much more! We are going to be offering regular classes in basic cloth diapering and baby wearing, and then additional things like gentle discipline, nutrition and simplicity parenting. It is going to be absolutely awesome and it IS absolutely awesome to be a part of this!

Today was my first day there with the kids--Erin and Evan came with me. Evan, obviously, is happy wherever I am and wherever he can find a sister to play with. Erin got a bit bored upstairs so she wandered downstairs to talk to Zeth and Asa (who work with the beer stuff). Asa was brewing up a huge batch of brew and Zeth taught Erin about different hops and let her taste some of the grains. Now she is all interested in beer making and fermentation and such! I've no doubt she'll be helping customers in no time! (Cuz I'm sure people will take beer advice from a 7-year-old, no problem!)

As we were leaving today, Erin said to me, "I really like Zeth, he is kind and friendly...and Asa...well, Asa is just cool!"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Not To Meat

So it wasn't a problem after all! The lady at the ticket counter told us to just tell our server we were vegetarian. So we did and got a nice meal of rice, beans, potato, bread, and grilled veggies. As a bonus, vegetarians get to use forks! Yes, there were silly comments, but in the end we did what was right for us. And our knight gave his ribbon of devotion to none other than the beautiful Princess Megan!

Thank you, Anette...I know how right you are. And seeing Erin use more and more of our values as she grows makes these moments of indecision few and far between.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

To Meat or Not To Meat

Dietary choices are a hot topic in our family, and I'll tell you why. We have been vegetarians for a long time now. While we have eaten occasional meals of sea food, we have not touched pork, beef or poultry. At home, this is easy and very few people question it. In fact, many of our friends and extended family members are also vegetarians. It is a very easily defined parameter in which to create a meal. In the past year, however, we have begun to introduce very small quantities of locally-raised meat into our diets. This, it turns out, is even harder to explain when we are out and about. At the vast majority of restaurants, it is easy--we order vegetarian. At most friends' houses, it is also easy to explain and we know who among our friends only serve local foods and who does not. When we are with friends who do not, we simply eat vegetarian fare. Simple. But for some, it isn't as simple anymore.

So what do you do when faced with the inevitable discussion about meat in general? Trying to explain that there IS a difference between store-bought meat and locally raised meat just makes us sound elitist. Understand that I'm not judging you for eating store-bought meat. Really! If you fully understand where your meat comes from and are okay with that--great! I don't happen to be okay with that for my family. You make your choices and I'll make mine. But, in the same way that I'm really, really, really, not judging you, I would hope for the same courtesy. Shrugging me off as snobby or just plain silly is annoying. But I digress...

Fast forward to tonight. We are going to a really cool medieval dinner theater. We will see jousting, sword play, horses, court jesters...and we'll have a genuine medieval meal (there is no menu...they just serve the dinner). Guess what? There weren't many vegetarian choices in the 1100's. Of course, as Erin pointed out, "If it is a REAL medieval experience, the meat HAS to be pasture raised and local. It HAS to be!" (She's right, of course, but I'm guessing this place isn't THAT authentic.) So I asked Chris what he would do (he isn't here with me) and he agreed it is a problem. I will fully acknowledge to anyone who wants me to that I don't believe it would hurt me. I know it would be safe and "fine" and all of that. But at what price? How deeply do I believe in the values I'm raising my kids with (answer: VERY deeply)? If I eat it, what do I tell them (values are only good at home when it is convenient?? Where do I draw the line (no store-bought meat except at dinner theaters? what about regular restaurants?)? What if they want to eat it? Erin can make her own choices, I've no doubt about that. She knows the facts and I trust her judgement. Megan is getting there...but I don't think I want her making a choice in the heat of the moment, you know? Evan is only 20 months old. I'll be making his decision, thank you very much.

What we will probably do is eat healthy food before we go and then fill up on the soup (tomato bisque) and cheese and bread. Because, when it comes down to it and I have a piece of meat on my fork...I really don't think I could put it in my mouth.

Are you a vegetarian? Do you eat local meat? Would you consider local meat occasionally? Am I nuts to think it isn't just about the meat but about how the meat was raised and where it came from? (Answer: no, I'm not nuts, but I guess I'm trying to argue away the "just this once" voice that is talking to me....I hate that voice!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crazy Times!

Sorry it has been so long since I have written. Our schedules have been quite crazy with visits, travels, getting kids to their activities, and now I'm starting a new job. Of course with all that going on, who has time to watch what the toddler is doing??



Don't call DHS just yet--I snapped the picture, got him down safely, and now the pantry door stays closed. He's fine, really!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It'll be okay....

I've been using this book of writing prompts for Erin. It has quotes from famous people and usually she likes what they say and enjoys writing her take on it. Lately though, she hasn't wanted to and has, instead, been finding her own quotes from the Lord of the Rings series (which is her current obsession...though obsession seems too mild a word right now!). Then today she didn't want to do her writing at all so I just let it go. She did, however, want to play this cool math game we have been doing (while sipping hot chocolate) and we finished off the day with her Arts and Kids which is a musical theater group she is part of on Tuesday and Thursday. As we were leaving that, I said to her, "Gosh! You are really working hard in there!"

"Yes, I am working hard," she said, "And I think the teachers know it too. Sometimes when they think I'm not looking, I see them throw gleeful glances my way."

Then when I got home tonight, she showed me a short story she had written about her life as a mid-evil peasant child and having to go fishing before breakfast and start the fire and all that stuff. (So much for skipping writing today!)

So while I've been spending a lot of time and energy lately on exactly how to homeschool this little piece of starlight that has landed in our family, it is clear to me that it hasn't bothered her at all. She's been too busy learning about cool stuff....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fear

I don't want to parent out of fear. That is such an obvious statement but yet so many of us do this every single day. What are you talking about?? (Thanks for asking!) What I mean is the little things we do or don't do, allow or don't allow because we are afraid of what the future will bring. I don't mean things like not letting our toddler play in a busy street--fear for a child's absolute safety in a dangerous situation is different. I mean things like prematurely weaning a child because of the fear that if you don't do that, "they will nurse forever." (Anyone ever met a nursing adult? Teen? Preteen?) Or when people say they don't want to co-sleep because they are afraid that the child will "never" sleep on their own. (Again...anyone know any co-sleeping teens?) This is all fear-based parenting. Fear of the future is affecting your ability to meet your child's need today. Now, people who know me know that I nurse until the child is done, I co-sleep until the child is done, I do all those non-mainstream things to meet my children's needs. So, like my last post, I ask you--when does this or should this stop? Why should I stop meeting certain needs out of fear for the future?

Why am I forcing Erin to learn a certain subject at a certain time? Answer: because I'm afraid that if I don't, she will be different/a failure/unhappy...whatever the fear is at the moment. I have never approached my parenting from that perspective and yet I'm struggling to get the fear out of our homeschooling. Because, honestly, this feels different to me. Nursing until the child weans feels absolutely natural to me. And perhaps for someone who has been unschooling all their lives it doesn't feel any different at all. Maybe to them it feels just as natural as I feel for letting my toddler nurse anytime, anywhere. (And I know there are people who are not comfortable with that.) But here I am, thinking 15 years down the road and scared that if she doesn't do her three days a week of "official" math, she will end up a total failure or in jail or worse. Way to jump to conclusions, huh?

So the question becomes, which has a better chance of creating a happy, successful, (law abiding) citizen? Forcing math or letting her learn her own way? Is it somewhere in the middle? I just don't know....

I do know that leaves me with the same basic question I posted before...but my point is that I am more aware, now, of how some of these choices have been made out of fear and I simply don't want to do that. So I won't--starting now. Wish me luck.

I feel compelled to note that today, Erin did a homeschool science class, played for several hours at a local playground with a big group of homeschool friends, went to chess club and did more work on her middle ages weaponry. So it isn't like our days are in complete limbo as I mull this stuff over....

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rambling Thoughts

What does it mean to be "authentically" happy? I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as we continue our homeschooling journey with Erin. People ask me how we do it and right now I say we do a mix of curriculum and unschooling. We use a math curriculum (a Montessori-based method with manipulatives and games and things) and we use a writing prompt book for her to keep a writing journal. All the other stuff--her book journal, her unit-based stuff, her fieldtrips, her extra-curricular classes..all of that is completely her choice. Now true UNschooling advocates say that what we are doing is not really unschooling because there are certain things she doesn't have a say in. We aren't living every moment of every day in a state of just "being." We aren't always in the present because sometimes we think about the future too. People who are advocates of what is called Radical Unschooling firmly believe that children learn so much if you just let them be--be in the moment, follow their present line of thinking, let them learn with what they are interested in when they are interested in it. And I believe them. I see Evan learning and living so much in every day. New words, new actions, new experiences...he is changing right before our eyes and watching it is a constant reminder of how kids do NOT have to be forced to learn and grow and mature. I did not teach him to walk...his natural desire to learn and test his little legs did that. I guided him, held his hand, applauded his efforts, comforted his bumps...but I didn't teach him.

So back to Erin.... At what point do you try to impose some level of standard on a child? Why do I trust Evan to learn what he wants when he wants it and not Erin? Should there ever be a point where you try to impose someone else's standards? (Unschooling advocates would argue that there should not be.) Example: Erin claims she "hates" math...when in fact it is simply because nothing up to this point has been the least bit challenging for her. Now that she is getting into parts that are making her think a bit, it is like pulling teeth to get her to try, try and try again. So should I force it? Get into a battle with her over it each time "math class" comes around? Should I let it go and try again in a few weeks? Should I let it go completely? Will she learn math simply by following her dreams? Does she even have to learn math? (And before you jump up and down yelling "YES! Of course she does!" I want to know what math she needs to learn that she wouldn't learn on her own if she wanted to know it--like she knows fractions pretty well from cooking, she is learning rhythm and music, she can add and subtract, likes grouping and is trying to figure out money...so does she specifically need to know about My Dear Aunt Sally in order to be happy in this life? And if it has to be forced on her, is it worth it?) How much of this is a result of thinking that was programmed into me from my own school experiences? How much time do I spend doing Geometry proofs now?? (Sorry, Mr. Luk!) What about that whole thing about trusting her to learn? Because she loves to learn stuff...just not necessarily the stuff that so many people and schools say she should be learning right now.

So then what about trusting her choices for how she spends her time? I mean, the day after we go to a library, you can just forget anything you wanted to accomplish--she will be reading all day. And I do mean ALL day. Is this a bad thing? Unschooling advocates say no--let her decide how she wants to spend her day. Me? I have a hard time seeing her sitting and doing nothing but reading. I mean, I wouldn't let her watch TV all day either--even educational TV--because you have to do more than just sit all the time. Am I right? Or am I imposing too many limits on her because she isn't matching my idea of what should be happening?

Just to be clear, I am NOT trying to train her for school right now. I am not interested in molding her to a public school model and forcing traits onto her that will make her successful if she ever decides to go to school. If she wants to go to school later in life, her desire to be there will be a big factor in helping her transition. I'm not worried about that. So what am I worried about? That is the question...what exactly do I want her to learn so badly that I'm willing to fight with her about it? Is it vital that she learn about polar regions? Or is it vital that she learn to sit and listen? Which one? Is it neither? What do I say to people who want to know what we are doing? And, on a more basic level, if we aren't doing "school" then how do we fill our days? Because cool, although seemingly random, science experiments and such can only take up so much time. Then what?

Add to this her need for a bit more structure in her life and you have one confused Mama! Her need for structure makes me want to schedule out her hours of the day so that she knows what is coming and what to expect...but if I plan a unit and she decides that isn't what she wants to do, then what?

So that's what I've been thinking about. I'd love your opinion on the subject...especially if you homeschool and especially if you unschool and even more especially if have unschooled for a number of years. I'm curious how it all works...because I'm definitely all about being in the "now" and being present with my kids. AND (not "but"), I worry about their future. What can I say--I'm a mom!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fieldtrip

Today Erin went on a geology fieldtrip with Chris. When they came home, Erin immediately began to sort through about 50 pounds of rocks that she had brought back. As she was doing that, Chris told me about her day spent rock-hopping the Maine coast with a bunch of geologists. "Did she learn anything?" I asked. He shrugged noncommittally, "I don't know, she was just going all day, not really stopping to listen." (Let's face it, she is 7 and she was with a bunch of professional geologists. *I* don't usually listen on those trips either!)

"Here, Mom!" Erin yelled as she took a beautiful black, white and red rock from the bag, "This one is for you! I liked it because of the feldspars in it. See? This is the feldspar and the white around it is because it cooled at a different temperature." (pause, pulling out another rock) "And look at this one--see the different color? Same mineral, different temperature. Oh, and I was able to identify some areas in the rocks today with different veins and tell which layers came first based on which veins were crossed over. I'm getting pretty good at that, I tell ya!"

Chris and I looked at each other..."Never mind," he said, "I guess she was listening!"

I think I may have lost this child to the geologists. Later, I taught Megan to say, "Whatever, Dad, they are just rocks!"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stepping Out

Sometimes I feel like I can't be completely honest about things I'm thinking about. I often think I'm being judged or criticized for carrying such a deep sadness over the loss of my baby girl. Most of the time, when I'm out there in the world, I am a completely normal, functioning mother of "three." I homeschool, get children to various activities, play games, cook, clean, do laundry, read books, bandage small cuts, take out splinters, kiss noses, wash faces...you get the idea. There is nothing really to hide. But, like most Babylost Mamas, I see so clearly what isn't here, sometimes I need to stop, take a deep breath and...well, and do what many women need to do when they have some issues...I need to talk about it. But to who? This is where I can't always be honest with people. Many, if not most, of my friends have so fully moved on they think it strange when I mention her name. When I turn to Chris, he most often looks as me with the same glassy eyes I have. He simply nods, I know what you are thinking, he might say, I'm thinking the same thing...and then he'll look away. Sometimes neither of us can bear the hurt we see in the other person's eyes.

This past weekend was special in that we got to spend two days with my sister-in-law and her beautiful children, my nearly 3yo niece and 11mo nephew. The kids had a blast, running around the yard, playing in the sandbox, sharing clothes...my girls LOVE their cousins and my niece? Well, she adores the girls. She gets out of the car and instantly wants to know where they are and then she will follow them everywhere (to the point that Erin begins to tire of her--"Doesn't she ever stop asking questions??" she'll say. It is one of those moments that I wish Erin remembered being nearly 3 and full of endless questions!) On Saturday, one of those perfect fall days that Maine is known for, we went down to Acadia to ride bikes on the carriage roads and play in a beautiful stream. On the way back, my niece wanted to ride in our car with Erin, Megan and Evan, so we quickly moved her carseat to our van and happily drove off, singing silly songs all the way.

Sounds perfect, doesn't it? There I was, driving down the road and in my car were four blond children, aged 7, 5, nearly 3, and 1. Three girls and a boy. Hum...anyone else thinking what I'm thinking??? I looked at Chris. He looked at me. But really, what was there to say?

This burden that we carry is ours to carry--ours alone. We get that. I would give anything to be able to look at my niece and not think about where I was when she was born (months from my baby girl, a week from a miscarriage--joy all around, basically...). I would love to be able to talk to my sister-in-law about any of it, but this sadness has permeated its way into that relationship as well. (And it isn't like I don't understand her points--would you want to be the one who has to announce her pregnancy just before your niece's memorial service? Would you want to be raising the child who so clearly fills this other gap in the family but who is so unbelievably perfect and special in her own right that it becomes almost necessary to build an invisible wall between the families? Think about the position all this has put her in! I do not envy her shoes at all!)

So, without the ability to just say her name, here Chris and I sit, just outside the world in which we so easily function most days, watching that which continues to pass us by. That missing chunk of our family that seems so invisible to everyone else, that chunk of our heart that I birthed on a cold day in January three years ago, this we will carry with us when we step back into our lives and continue to move forward. But sometimes, sometimes, when I'm deep into the regular world, I just want someone with me when I step out to weep.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Baby Is Growing Up

So tonight when Erin was in the shower, I heard her say, "YES! I can do it!" When I asked her what she was doing, she replied, "MOM! At the homeschool co-op on Friday, Seamus taught me that if you put one hand under your opposite arm and then flap your arm up and down, it makes funny noises. I can do it! Listen!"

Ahhh...her first armpit farts. I'm so very proud of my baby girl. (And people say homeschooled kids are unsocialized--HA!)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Today's Homeschooling Group

People often ask me what we do all day--is it really school? Well...probably not what most people think of as school, that's for sure. Today we went to a homeschool co-op meeting. We picked local corn, learned about local foods, ate a locally produced lunch. Then, we tromped down to the pond where the kids were instantly knee-deep in mud, catching water bugs and flinging mud-balls. They got cold, wet, dirty and, as you can see in the picture, completely filled with joy. Not bad for a day at school, huh?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Big Sister Part Two

I'm sorry to anyone who read my post the other day and thought that I was taking away anything from Erin or putting her down in any way. She, too, is a fantastic big sister. She does a lot for Evan and is very helpful to me when I need a few minutes to shower or make dinner or whatever else I need to do that would be easier to do without him. She loves him a ton and enjoys reading to him and playing on the bed with him. The difference is that she is definitely playing at his level and it is clearly NOT her level--but there is a 6 year age difference here, so this should be obvious! While Megan loves to build sand castles for him to knock down, Erin builds them only for him to knock down...does that make sense? Anyway, despite this (or maybe because of it?) Evan has two wonderful big sisters and he loves them both. Just yesterday when Erin sat down to do her spelling words, Evan joined her. "ABs" he said, "ABs" (meaning, he wants to write his ABCs).



So here they are, both intently doing their homeschool work for the day--one because she had to and one because he simply wanted to be just like his big sister. And really, who can blame him?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Big Sister

Megan is absolutely the best big sister I have ever known. Her patience and willingness to do the same thing over and over (and over) again with her baby brother is astounding. The kindness she shows him is tremendous and even when she gets frustrated or whiny at him, simply asking her what we can do to help usually fixes the problem. Now, I understand that Evan is lucky enough to have two big sisters and Erin does spend some time with him, but she is quick to abandon him to play with kids in the neighborhood or find a new friend at the beach--while Megan rarely does that. She loves building sand castles for him to knock down, she loves "reading" to him with all kinds of made up stories to go along with the pictures she knows so well. Her new favorite thing to do? Baseball--that thing I told you about the other day? They have been doing that every morning.

What does Megan get out of this deal? The undying love and complete devotion of one small toddler. And I mean complete devotion. Often "Megmeg" is the first word he says in the morning and he looks for her as soon as he is done nursing (assuming she isn't in bed with us already!) When she needs some time and space, she often has to ask us to literally detach the toddler from her shirt! It is not uncommon to find her playing with Legos or Lincoln Logs in a closet somewhere with the door shut. But all kids need their space, right?

All of this is the backdrop to the quote I'm about to share with you. See, Evan is learning to talk--a lot. So often words and phrases will be said and then Megan will say, "Evan...can you say [whatever it was]?" Usually this pretty sweet, like "Evan...can you say 'baseball'?" and will be rewarded with a toddler saying, "baaayball" Then Megan claps for him, he claps for himself and everyone laughs. Today Megan had Evan in the chair with her as she "read" to him from a lift-the-flap dinosaur book.

"Evan...can you say 'herbavore'?" "hbvowre" (I'm trying to spell toddler-speak here, not easy!)

"Evan...can you say, 'carnivore'?" "cnnvowre"

"Evan...can you say, 'flesh and blood'?" "feesh booood!"

Yeah! (clap clap!) Good job!

I'm so glad he has his big sister to teach him stuff!



Here they are together in their "Meguin" pjs (which is Megan and Penguin put together, in case you missed that)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

It's Her Birthday

Remember that friend I have who is dying of cancer? Today is her birthday. The fact that this is her last birthday is, at best, difficult to accept and, more aptly, so gut-wrenchingly unfair that I want to go to the top of the highest mountain and scream my objections to the universe until my face turns purple and I collapse in a heap of tears.

I can't wrap my brain around the very concept of her death, the whole idea of what the next few months will bring. I just don't know. I wish for very little pain and much peace for her, of course, but what about me? (I know, I know, this isn't about me...but in a way, it is...) Me? I'll still be here. Assuming I'm not killed in a random accident between now and then, I'll still be here. I'll be getting up every morning, breathing in and out all day, inhabiting my little space on this Earth...without her. How does that work, exactly? Will it affect my daily life? To be completely honest, probably not. My kids will still need to be fed, educated, hugged, kissed, etc. My husband will still need clean clothes, my dog will need his water dish refilled. My friend, who lives two hours away, has little to do with any of that stuff, you know? We no longer see each other on the daily or weekly basis that we used to when she lived closer. So in the abstract, my life will change very little.

But then there will be that moment. That moment that Evan does something really cute, or Erin says something funny or Megan draws yet another picture of Wally The Green Monster (Red Sox) and I'll pick up the phone...and she won't be around to call. What will I do then? I'm guessing that the first few times this happens, I'll simply sit down and cry--sob, really, and wish that things were different. I'll remember all the things I love about her, all the history we have together, all the love our family holds for her and I'll wish beyond possibility that things were different. Then I'll pick myself up, put the undialed phone down, and force myself back into my life. I'll move forward because, truth be told, that will be my only option. Oh, how I wish I weren't so well-versed in this routine.

Happy Birthday, my dear friend, I just don't know what else to say....

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Habits

I know it takes at least 2 weeks to start a new "habit" so I've been trying to be out running (or up exercising) by 7am every day. I went Sun, Mon, Tues and did yoga (to give my body a break) on Wed. Last night Evan was up a LOT and although he woke me to nurse at 5:40am, I just couldn't get myself out of bed (you know when your eyelids are closing as you are thinking, I should just get up). Now the thing is to try again and nail two weeks from tomorrow. That will mean running through a tropical storm on Saturday...which could be fun, don't you think?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The first day of school...not.

It happened today...the big yellow school bus rolled down our street and all the school-aged neighborhood kids got on. All except mine, that is. For a brief moment, Erin stood looking at it, wondering about her friends, but then we loaded her bike up into the car and she came with me on my morning run. As we were driving down the street behind the bus, I saw the moms all standing on the curb waving good-bye to their kids and, I admit it, I felt a little pang of jealousy. Just a small one. See, those moms kind of get a break for today. A chance to do their thing, a chance to go shopping alone or maybe spend one-on-one time with a younger sibling. A chance to not have to be 100% "on" for the whole day. And yes, I admit, I would like that.

But we have chosen a different life. So off Erin and I went for our morning run and then since it was so hot I took the kids to the lake for a swim and picnic lunch which we followed up with ice cream. Yes, it is a different life and yes, sometimes I think the grass is greener elsewhere, but today was a good day. I wouldn't trade it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Little Slugger

This morning Evan went out to the garage, picked up a ball and bat and wouldn't rest until Megan was "pitching" to him. He would nick the ball slightly with the bat, go get the ball and throw it back to us. Then he would clap for himself and say, "YEAH!" So should I: (A) just be amazed that my little guy is getting so big or (B) start planning my multi-million dollar retirement estate that he'll buy us when he signs his first major league contract?

Definitely B....

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Argh...bad day

Some days parenting SUCKS. Here I am, the mom of a baby who died and I know all to well the feeling of despair and wanting a living child more than anything...I remember thinking that I'd never be around to watch Sophie throw a tantrum in the grocery store (silly thing, but there you have it). And now, for some reason, our family is going through some major issues and the tantrums are coming on hard and fast and all I can think about is what my life would be like without kids. Which, when you are the mom of a kid that never got to be a kid, is an awful thing to think about! But here it is: Megan is whining non-stop, Evan is not sleeping at all (therefore, neither are we) and Erin has these completely unreasonable outbursts on a semi-regular basis. When I sit back and think about it, it is all very age-appropriate...but when it all comes together in a Perfect Storm of emotion, I admit, I sometimes don't handle it well.

Take Erin, for example. Today we have been telling the girls for HOURS that we are heading over to a friend's house after lunch to help them with a house project. We made it clear that we were ALL going (i.e. she doesn't have the option to stay home) but that she had choices once there. She could sit and read, she could play outside or she could help. About an hour before we had to go, I suggested that if she wanted to help dig, she needed clothes that could get dirty. She did nothing. 30 minutes ago I suggested that if she wanted a book, she should get that. She did nothing. (Meanwhile, of course, Megan is completely not listening and playing naked in a mud puddle, but that is a different issue) So now it is time to go and we are asking her to get in the car. As usual, when faced with an absolute, she flung herself on the floor and shouted, "I'M NOT GOING! I REFUSE!" Now, if I were a good parent (as I am most of the time) I would use empathy, help her not feel so stressed about the time limit, talk about making better choices next time and yaddy yaddy yaddy. But not today. Today I took the relationship-destroying, I'm-out-of-patience-you-will-do-as-I-say-RIGHT-NOW route. Not so helpful. Now she is crying, I'm yelling and I know (as I'm yelling) that I'm doing the wrong thing. I know this, deep deep down...I get it. And know what? I can't help it. Because sometimes, I'm just mad.

Megan is the same thing--she is 5, about to start school again, feeling a little disconnected from her surroundings. So when she gets into a fit about something, and starts to whine or whatever, we try to hold her, cuddle her, give her some extra attention. Lately, she has thrown fits over EVERY LITTLE THING. It is very, very trying. Even on good days. Last night I found myself arguing with her. Actually trying to make a point while she was flailing about on the floor. Again, not a great parenting moment...because let's face it...she probably didn't get my point.

So where does this leave me? I find myself with reasons for all of it--Chris has been working far too hard lately and classes start next week for him, so he's stressed about to his limit. We are having major issues with our girls playing too much with the kids in the neighborhood with whom we do not share many similar values. This means we are working very hard to keep them happy and entertained at home--which can be a challenge--or we try to go somewhere with them to keep them away from the house--also a challenge. Me? Well, I'm sleep deprived from Evan's needs (normal, nothing I can do about it) but there is so much more weighing on me. I'm supposed to start a job this fall and I'm not sure where to find an extra 20 hours a week for that, I'm not feeling prepared to home school this year (though I'm sure I am), and, to top it off, I have that good friend I told you about who is dying of cancer. She is nearing the point where more care will be necessary and it all just scares me and upsets me and makes me want to scream at everyone all the time. Who gets the brunt of that? Yup...my wonderful husband and my phenomenal, albeit occasionally annoying, children. My children, who in truth, could not be expected to handle this family stress any better than they are doing and who look to me to know how to handle set-backs. Know what, kids? This isn't how you handle set-backs. Find another role model while I go take a hot shower and wish there was a way to do today all over again...the right way.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Off On Vacation

Sorry I haven't posted a bunch here lately. I've got all kinds of ideas for posts rolling around in my head, but things here have been very busy and I haven't had a chance to really get them out and organized into coherent works. Now I'm busy packing up my family for our week out on Smuttynose Island (look up Isles of Shoals if you are interested). One week with my family and no phone or internet access...just some fun games, some good books and beautiful sunsets every night. A nice way to round out the summer. Maybe I'll have something deep and meaningful when I get back--or at least some good pictures!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

This One Is Gross--Sorry!

This morning Evan used the potty--really really. He had a bit of pee come out on the floor and then he said, "PEE!" and ran to the potty and peed in it. Not bad for a 17mo old! (Don't worry, I'm not even thinking of really "training" him right now!) Anyway, a bit later, Chris takes the kids swimming for a few hours. When they got home I was in the kitchen making lunch and Evan was just wandering around naked, munching on whatever he could find in the snack cabinet. Chris came inside and picked up the little guy and Evan began to tell us what he wanted for lunch (more blueberries). All of a sudden, we hear this splashy sound and I look down to figure out what Chris had just dropped that made a sound like that. You guessed it! Projectile poop from the little guy whose bum-bum was hanging over Chris's arm. It was on Erin's blankie (which is now in the wash and I'm hoping will dry before Erin knows it is missing!), all over the floor and (my favorite), the dog.

Then Megan said, "What's for lunch?" as she came into the kitchen.

Ahhhh the joys of parenthood! Definitely one of those times that you just have to laugh and know that, as Erin's science teacher often says, "It all comes down to pee and poop!"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Megan says...

So the other day Megan says to me, "Mommy, I'm sorry about this morning...I really fell off the end of my rope."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Portfolio Review

Today Erin's portfolio was reviewed by a certified teacher. All that is left is for us to send the letter she signed this morning with the form that says we intend to homeschool again and we'll be all set. Erin is officially in 2nd grade. Though the teacher looking through her stuff this morning was joking that we should do 5th grade with her--but I think we'll stick to second for now.

I remember this time last year--how apprehensive I was and how scary the whole homeschool "thing" seemed. I had schedules, unit plans, curriculum, joined homeschool groups and even turned the guest room of our house into a classroom. I have white boards here, a computer, bookshelves, educational posters, and a small classroom desk. It is beautiful...but as I was going through the portfolio with our certified teacher this morning, I realized how very little of our time was spent in this room, following those schedules or using that curriculum. Where were we? We were outside doing time lines in chalk on our street, we were at the library, we were building models and painting, reading and playing games. We were visiting museums, learning chess, going to theater classes and planting gardens. In short, we were living our life as it unfolded every day. It was awesome!

As I begin planning for next year, I have to laugh at the person I was a year ago. I smile when people ask me if we "school all year or take the summer off." Because life is our school. In June, I went to a curriculum sale, just to see what they had (and to have lunch with a friend and spend some time away from the kids...I admit!) and while there, I found a Usborne First Latin Dictionary. Erin spent most of the next two weeks labeling everything in our house in Latin. Yes, school was "out" and yes, we had finished her portfolio, but there she was, still learning and enjoying it. School is never "out" for us. There are days I count and days I don't for the purpose of reporting to the state, but school is never out.

This way is not for everyone--I have a dear friend who desperately needs the days planned out--and it may not be for us forever. But for now, it is great. Our goals this year are to incorporate more contact with the caring adults in her life. Time with grandparents, aunts and uncles and close friends are all on the docket. I'm excited to see what she will learn from them and what cool dynamic these unique relationships will bring to her life.

If you had asked me when she was born if I was going to homeschool, I would have laughed hysterically. Not me, I would have said, not my kid! Oh how things change!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Update

Some people have been asking for a quick update, so here you go. Erin finished up theater camp with her heart very much intact. We continued to pick her up early for the rest of the week and the director made a huge effort to head off problems before they started. The final performance was fantastic and Erin delivered her lines clearly and confidently. She is eager for more theater experience. In fact, having recently found out that the youth group is doing The Hobbit in the spring, she has set about trying to memorize the book. Because I'm sure that the play will be word-for-word out of the book...and if it isn't, I'm sure Erin will need to tell people exactly where things are different! (Now what director wouldn't want that kind of help??)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Theater Camp

Erin is doing a great camp right now--a theater camp that she is working very hard at. She plays several roles, including Nod, the pirate and in a different scene, she is one of the "extra" oysters. She loves the acting and the art class and the teachers. She is, however, having a hard time with some of her peers. "I can't describe it," she tells me, "They treat me like I'm different." Not all, mind you, but some. And here is the thing--she is different. She doesn't watch TV so she knows none of the same shows or characters the other kids do. (And the ones she does know probably seem kind of babyish to the other kids.) She doesn't have a cell phone or any video games. She loves hiking and biking and reading--things many her age won't admit to even doing, much less liking. What makes her really different, however, is our choice to homeschool. A choice that she has come to identify with very deeply and a choice that she continues to say she loves and "never" wants to do differently. She simply isn't used to be in a building all day with a regimented schedule (dance/movement from 9-10, acting class from 10-11:30, Art from 11:30-12:30, Lunch until 1, rehearsal from 1-3, closing workshop from 3-3:30). And she really isn't used to be judged based on what she is wearing, reading, or who she is hanging out with.

The result? She comes home in tears from being so tired and from not having gotten outside all day. She comes home upset because she wasn't able to get her favorite color marker ("The other kids formed a circle around the box and some of us couldn't get through.") She comes home not wanting to play the circle games because "the other kids don't give me a space in the circle." Last week it just built up and built up (with me knowing little about it because she was trying to maintain a happy attitude about it all) until Friday when she was sobbing all the way home. Saturday she wanted nothing to do with going anywhere (not even the Farmer's Market) and on Sunday we had to force her to go kayaking with us. Force her. Not cool.

By Sunday night, she was done. The idea of going back to camp on Monday was too much for her. At first I wanted to take the traditional Parental Responsibility route--you know the one, "You have made a commitment to the play and we have paid a lot of money for you to do this and you promised to see it through and blah blah blah..." but as I listened to my baby girl, I couldn't say those things to her. My child who talks like she is 15 and is really only 7, was in trouble and all the money or responsibility in the world was not going to help her unless I connected with her. I needed to be a safe place in her currently very scary and confusing world. "What do you want to do tomorrow?" I asked. She wanted to go through with the show, but didn't want to go to camp. We made a list of things that could get her through the week. But the next morning, she wanted to do none of them and was back to a sobbing mass. There was no way I was going to drag her to camp that day.

I had to go down there anyway because Megan is doing a program for younger kids at the same place. I took the opportunity to speak to the director who was shocked that any of this had taken place. "I know," I said, "Erin is very good at hiding it all. She does not want you to know anything is ever wrong." The director wrote me a note to give to Erin, inviting her to rehearsal that afternoon, just to talk. Erin accepted that invitation and ended up having a pretty good afternoon. I stayed just outside the room and she could see me the whole time. She went back again today and I was there all morning, going back and forth between her classes and Megan's class (with a 1/2 hour jaunt across the street to the museum with Evan). Daddy picked her up early this afternoon and now she is home with me. She didn't want to go for a swim up at Mud Pond (normally a favorite spot) and we are respecting her need to just be home. Tomorrow if she wants a half day again, we'll do that. Whatever she needs to get through the week with her heart intact.

Where am I going with this? A handful of people have said to me, "This wouldn't happen if she went to school." What they mean is that either she would 1) be immune to the teasing or 2) know how to cope better with these kids who are simply, "acting like kids." And I guess I'm so horrified by these comments I don't really know what to do. First, I don't WANT my kid "immune" to the teasing! I can't imagine living with the Erin who has been coming home from camp--the one who cries at the drop of a hat, the one who is so tired she can't think, the one who doesn't get to go outside and when she could, the one who simply doesn't want to go anywhere at all! If that is the price of "immunity" then no thank you. And as for the second reason--I have no words. Maybe these kids are acting like kids...but that should NOT be the way kids act! Blowing it off as if it is simply "reality" is stupid. It shouldn't be reality, and until more people realize that and change it, more kids will act like that and even more kids will be the victims of it. I have no intention of fixing the problem by throwing my kid into the middle of it and saying, "good luck!"

So back to the camp...today is Tuesday and she had a good day. Now that the teachers are aware of it, they are doing a great job heading off problems before they occur. Erin is getting more personal attention from the director and more pats on the back for her ideas. Tonight the girls are sleeping in a cooler basement, so hopefully they will sleep better and feel rested. We will work things out one day at a time until Friday when we will give her the biggest hug for holding herself together, being true to herself and her values, and doing a great job this week. Saturday we'll rest all day and Sunday I'm hoping for my baby girl back--heart and all.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Darn It

I just heard Erin yell at her brother, "DAMN IT, EVAN!" When I went outside to investigate and find out where she had learned that phrase, I found out she was actually yelling, "DAM IT, EVAN!" They were making a river down the driveway from the runoff and it was going the wrong way and she needed Evan's help to divert it.

So that's okay, right?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Boys and Girls

Perhaps this has happened to you--you are in a store or at a playground or whatever and someone makes a comment about your family structure, however your structure is. For example, my friend Karen who has two boys followed by a girl, often gets comments like, "Oh--you finally got a girl!" as if "getting" a girl was the whole point of having children in the first place. I often get the opposite; I "finally" got a boy. Usually I can just smile and nod--there is no need to point out that my "finally got" was actually four years, one stillbirth and two miscarriages later. We didn't finally get a boy, we finally got a living, breathing, healthy baby to add to our family. There is a big difference! Now, of course, sometimes...just sometimes...when the person saying it is particularly irritating or being snide, I'll tell them the whole truth. "At least you finally got a boy this time," they'll say. "Actually, since our last baby died, we were simply hoping for living this time." I know, it is petty and mean, but it shuts them up and, like I said, I only use that line when someone has really ticked me off.

Anyway, now that I "finally have a boy" people are always asking me about the differences between the girls and Evan. To be honest, I think most of the differences I have noticed thus far are due to different personalities and birth order. Erin was also a very high energy, excited, climbing, little bundle of trouble...but the difference there was that when she was this age, she was an only child. One kid, two parents. We didn't realize how easy we had it! Evan, on the other hand, is often found in something, on something or up something--is this because he is a boy or because, frankly, we aren't always paying attention? Who knows.

He does have a strong affinity for Daddy's lawn mower. He likes to climb on it and sit at the wheel. When I can't find Evan, I always check the garage--he's probably on the tractor! Is it because he's a boy? Does the Y chromosome carry some kind of tractor magnet on it? I have no idea. But he loves that tractor...almost as much as he loves pushing dolls in the pink baby stroller.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What's In A Name?

As you can imagine, pregnancy is a time of great joy and anticipation for most families. Is it a boy? A girl? Will she have his eyes? Will he have her hair? Couples pick out color schemes for the perfect nursery, buy clothes and cloth diapers and probably even a toy or two. Can you remember that time? Can you remember all the things you wanted to give your baby?

When your baby dies, you get to give them one thing--a name. I will never forget the conversation I had with my dear friend, Carol, when we were talking about this very thing. Carol found out that her daughter was not alive a few hours before she was born. Between the time they found out and the time she was born, Carol admitted to her husband that she didn't want to "use up" the name they had picked out. It was her absolute favorite name and, in that void between being a mom, not really knowing what it is to be a mom and hold your baby, and the knowledge that her baby was not alive...well, she was understandably confused about using the name. But her husband stood firm and told her that this baby was the same baby they had named when she was alive, and that was who she was*. There was no doubt about it, the baby who was born was fully their daughter--their beautiful and perfect baby girl. Her name is Charlotte.

Sophie got her name in a different way--see, I have always wanted a little girl named Kathryn. Not sure why, but every time I got to name a girl, we never ended up on Kathryn. Chris wasn't into the "K" names for a while (they are/were so popular!) and the middle names we had picked out didn't seem to fit. But when I found out I was pregnant for the third time, I said to Chris, "If this is a girl, we will name her Kathryn." There was no doubt about it. But, of course, that isn't how things went. As things got worse that weekend, the last thing on our mind was what to name her--we were thinking more how to save her. And then it happened--all that emergency stuff I don't really like to talk about. It was during all that that I have this one memory--a memory so strong that when I close my eyes and think about it, I can remember the room, where everyone was, who was there, what it smelled like...but I was lying on the table and in front of me there was a little white baby. She was in profile, like you might see in an ultrasound picture, but she wasn't fuzzy or anything--she was perfectly clear. And very white, surrounded by a blackness that blocked out everything but her brightness. I won't say I was talking to her, but we were definitely communicating. As I'm writing this, I realize how crazy it sounds and how strange it all must seem to someone who didn't experience it first hand. So I'll skip it all and tell you that after our "communication" she floated away and under her profile, in the same bright light, were the words, Sophia Anne.

When I awoke some time later, I knew she was gone. My husband was there, holding my hand and I looked at him and said, "We are going to name her Sophia Anne." He just nodded (as if you would ever argue with a woman who has been unconscious!)

Months went by and I could not shake the guilt I felt for not naming her Kathryn. I mean, after all, what made her any less worthy of the name? If she had lived, that would have been her name...so why could I not bring myself to use it in death? Carol, similarly, feels some sadness at not being able to really use the name Charlotte--I mean, she never gets to yell across a playground, "Come on Charlotte, let's get home for dinner." or "Charlotte! Clean your room!" So in her mind, she also didn't get to use it the way she wanted (no duh!) Friends of mine who are devout say that I didn't name Sophie, God did, in that "vision" I had. Maybe. Like I said, I know what I experienced and I know how crazy it all sounds...but maybe.

So what does it come down to? Basically that neither Carol or I got what we wanted (obviously) and we both wrestle with this. But we both had these baby girls and we both got to give them one thing--a name. Charlotte Amelia and Sophia Anne. Beautiful names for two beautiful girls.

Imagine my surprise today when Erin came home from her first day at Theater Camp and said she had two new best friends--Charlotte and Sophia. So I ask you--what's in a name?


* Carol, forgive me if I'm paraphrasing in a way that isn't exactly true to your story.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Table Manners



We have always suggested to the kids that "No Elbows On The Table" is good manners, but not sure how to break the news to Evan. Though I'm thinking in a few years he won't be able to bend like that.....and in fairness, those aren't his elbows.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Lists


Today the girls and I made a list--each day this summer we need to do:

Something Fun: This is self-explanatory

Something Kind: like to keep the house going--tidy a room, set the table, vacuum, put clothes away...things like that

Something Quiet: I said I put this on the list for Evan, but let's face it, it's for me too!

Something "Educational": which has a VERY broad definition, so that will be fun too, probably!

Anyway, today Erin was making our check-list, to make sure we hit everything. Something fun? We went to the playground. Something quiet? Erin read, Megan colored, I read and Evan napped. Something Educational? Erin wrote our list, Megan read a National Geographic Kids and the book I'm reading is very educational. Evan is always learning, so he kind of gets a free square here. We got to the part about something kind and Erin said, "I helped with the diapers." (This is true.) Megan said, "I'm helping make dinner!" (Also very true.) Evan was very cute, which we decided was kind to all of us. "Mom," Erin says, "what have you done kind today?" "Well, I washed the diapers, vacuumed the floor, made dinner, folded clothes, arranged a playdate for you two, filled up the pool...." "MOM!" she interrupted, "I'm only willing to write ONE thing, so pick ONE!"

Does this mean for the rest of the summer I can make the bed and call it good? I wonder.....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some pics

I wanted to put in some pictures of our trip--this one shows pretty well where we were--edge of the bay in the land of Thirty Thousand Islands. You can see why it is named that! Near as I can figure out, we were there looking at the interface between the pink rocks and the black rocks (see the bands on the island behind her?). We spent a lot of time sampling those two kinds of rocks....



Evan, of course, took careful notes!




Erin was ready to swim at all times!



Hey...a man has to eat, right?? Here is a picture of the black rocks we were looking at, with a nursing mom for scale (geologists like to have things for scale in their pictures!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Has this ever happened to you? (UPDATED--I forgot one part)

So today Chris needed to go back to one island he didn't get to yesterday because of the wind and rain (the "seas" were too high to land the boat). We loaded everyone up in the boat for one last adventure out here and headed out. The sun was shining, the winds were light and everyone had gotten a good amount of sleep the night before (except me, but let's face it, it would take a miracle for a Mama to get enough sleep, right?). Positive vibes were everywhere and it was going to be a beautiful day!

We get onto the island and begin exploring when BLAM--Erin falls on a rock and skins her knee pretty well. While Chris is running back to get the first aid kit, he nearly falls into the water on a loose rock. As I fix Erin up (this process involved duct tape even!), Chris begins to get his samples--then Megan yells, "I have to go poop!" (we are on an island of ROCK here). Chris puts down his hammer and helps her to a place that would do the least ecological damage (there was just enough soil to bury it--and no, I don't want to get into a debate about burying vs. carrying...we've researched this issue thoroughly and make our choices based on our surroundings). Erin decides her knee hurts too much so she goes back to the boat to wait while Chris begins to pound again on the sample. I'm in a small rock pool with Evan when both Chris and I hear, "HELP!" Chris drops his hammer and races to the boat on the other side of the island. I race to find Megan who was hanging from a rock, unable to get up or down. I help her and Chris comes back with Erin who has decided to come help. He goes to get his sample. As the girls are coming to join me, Chris is yelling at Chester because, you guessed it, he's over eating Megan's poop. Suddenly Megan yells, "MOM! EVAN!" I turn around and less than 5 feet from me is my toddler, face down in the knee-deep puddle, slipping and sputtering, unable to get his footing (don't call DHS, folks, I had turned my back for a millisecond--he wasn't really in danger of drowning). I jump over a rock and pull him out (he's fine!) while Megan falls and gets her ankle wedged between some rocks. Now Evan is crying because he is saturated and cold, Megan is crying because her ankle hurts, Erin is limping over rocks with duct tape on her knee and Chris STILL hasn't gotten his samples. I took Evan's clothes off and dried him off. While I'm attending to Megan, Erin is labeling samples for Chris (see? We ARE helpful!) and I turn to look at Evan and guess what? Yup...he's back in the big puddle, totally naked and happy as a clam. Guess what else? Yup, he pooped in it.

So THEN, Chris finished getting his samples (after, of course, cleaning the poop out of the water), we all went back to the boat, and we all lived happily ever after .

Until dinner time when the kids all started to whine. This was followed by packing time because we are headed home tomorrow...and, of course, packing means the arrival of Packing Man (who looks a lot like my husband, but he's focused on one thing and one thing ONLY)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Island Update

Summary:

Megan is Explorer Girl, sitting in the bow of the boat with her face in the wind and her blond curls blowing around. Landing on an island, she is first to jump out and point out the shapes of the rocks and find the best swimming hole.

Erin is Cautious Girl, sitting low in the boat so it won't rock too much, making sure the anchor is tightly wedged in the rocks before setting off and then laughing as she leaps from rock to rock, finding just the right place to collect treasures.

Evan is Daddy's Little Geologist, following him with "Dada, Dada, DADA!" and of course, his new favorite, "boatboat" (said as one word).

All are enjoying life on the island! I'll try to supplement this post tonight with pictures.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Geologists

So it turns out we have a weak internet signal from the "boathouse" which, near as I can figure out, is the red roofed building across the channel there. It is actually only a boathouse, with the main house being hidden behind some trees. It appears to be the only house on that island and their boathouse is bigger than our house...so I'm also guessing they have more money than we do. But thank you for the internet anyway!

The drive worked out. The first part went just as planned--Evan slept and the girls watched a video. The second part went very well too, except the brakes on the car began to fail and make a horrid grinding sound. I was driving and I'm not a very good driver with a trailer on the car, so I was getting nervous. After two hours, when we had to do a detour through a city because of an accident on the highway, I stopped and Chris had to take over again. He down-shifted his way through red lights and back onto the highway. We were a bit late stopping for dinner because of the detour, but the kids were fine. The traffic in Montreal was at a standstill, so we got off and went to a grocery store with a large yard on the side and had some dinner. The kids ran around in the grass and we changed them into pjs. By 9pm, all were asleep (despite the girls' desire to "for once in their lives" stay up until midnight--didn't happen, go figure!) We stopped at a hotel for the night.

Yesterday we got up and drove for a few hours with the brakes getting worse. We stopped for lunch and then went to a grocery in Parry Sound to get food for the week while Chris went and bought brake pads. Not sure when he'll go back into the marina to put those on, but it has to be done before we head home. Anyway, when we stopped for lunch, Evan had his first mishap of the trip, falling from a play structure onto some gravel. He's got a good case of "road rash" on his face...poor guy! We got here about 4pm yesterday and Chris went back for the second trip while the kids played happily out on the deck which overlooks the water. By 6:30 we were all fed and by 7:30 everyone was asleep--even Evan which is practically a miracle in itself.

Today we were honorary geologists and "helped" Chris with his work. Of course by help I usually mean things like asking a million questions while following close behind, stopping him to beg (over and over again) if someone could jump into the water from this rock or maybe this one, pointing out (over and over again) that maybe this rock is the kind he is looking for, or no, maybe this one, or no, this one, "over here, Daddy!!" "NO! Over here!" "No, wait, over HERE!" and, of course, finally, "Daddy, are we done yet??" (This is clearly the most helpful, so the girls did this one a lot!) Me? I kept the toddler from falling into the water. And yes, that is pretty much all I did and no, you cannot comment unless you have actually ever attempted this on islands that are sheer, algae-covered, rock faces down into the frigid water.

Of course, at one point while Chris changed Evan's diaper, because I am VERY helpful, I took the hammer and, in only a few minutes, got nearly twice as many rock samples as he had gotten all day! I even wrote random numbers on them with the sharpie marker (just like he does--though perhaps his numbers aren't random), drew arrows on them (just like he does--I'm not sure why he does this) and packed 'em all in the bucket with his other samples. See? I'm really a good geologist.

Now the kids are with him, walking on the other side of the island and I'm getting the house ready for bed. (Okay, I'm actually writing this blog post, but that is what he thinks I'm doing...well, he knows me pretty well and he probably doesn't think that at all!)

Seriously though, if this (island-hopping in a boat on bright sunny days on a beautiful lake while staying in a cute little cottage) is what my husband has been getting paid to do for the past three summers, I urge you all to get a job as a geologist...it's pretty cushy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We're Off

Tomorrow I'm getting in the car with a husband, a dog, and three kids and driving to Parry Sound, Ontario...14 hours away. Should be interesting! Chris has wanted to take us out to do field work with him for years, but it has been one thing or another every time. 2007...well, that was obvious why we didn't go. 2008 he went early, when Megan and Erin were still in school. He was actually in Ontario when I found out in June of 2008 that I was pregnant with Evan (which, after all our losses, was news that definitely brought about a bit of anxiety). Last year, with our trip to VA, we just couldn't swing much more time in the car with the kids, so he went without us again. Now here we are, our 4th summer here and finally, finally, we are all heading out there to "help".

14 hours.... Here's how we hope to break it all down: Tomorrow at noon, Megan will get out of school and we'll all head off. Evan will sleep for a good chunk and the girls can watch a video. Three hours later, we'll stop for bit and walk around, maybe play in a stream or something. The next three hours, everyone will need some entertainment. Grammy sent a box of cool things to do, so we'll probably break that out. I'll sit in the back and read to Evan, maybe play some card games with the girls, that kind of thing. At 6:30 or so, we'll stop for a late dinner (late for us, anyway) and put the kids in their pjs after a run around at a playground or something. After that, Chris and I can drive until we just can't drive anymore and then we'll stop at a hotel at 11 or 12 or even 1 if we can. Then the next morning we'll only have 3 or so hours to go!

That's the plan anyway...but as anyone traveling with kids knows...what will happen will happen. And we'll get there eventually, hopefully still happy and loving towards each other! And then we have a week on a beautiful lake with a boat and a rock hammer. Is there anything better than having a boat and a rock hammer? Really?

Yes, folks, this is why I married a geologist. I'll see you in a week!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Do you really reap what you sow?

I hope sow (threw that in for my Father-in-law)! There has been a LOT of sowing around here lately! We have a new back garden, complete with bean "hideouts" for the kids (obviously not very useful as hideouts just yet). Also squash, tomatoes, bush beans, some herbs and brussel sprouts (which I just learned is supposed to be brussels sprout...but that would mean there should be an apostrophe, wouldn't it??) Oh, and we started some raspberries too...but that will be a year or so before they get going. We'll put in a few more plants every year until we have two rows behind this garden.



We moved all the strawberries out of Sophie's garden and have a TON of peas coming up in our front garden (plus carrots, beets, cucumbers, squash and green garlic). We also put an asparagus patch in that center part this year. I've wanted to do this for years but kept putting it off due to my lack of patience and annoyance that it takes so long to get one established. (You don't have to tell me that if I had put one in three years ago when we moved here, I'd have an established patch by now...I already know this!)



And we replanted our side garden with basil. This garden is a cold frame in the winter and it has been giving us spinach and carrots since March! Now we have tomatoes, peas, beans and basil in there! Oh, and that far side is another asparagus patch...we like asparagus around here!



Hopefully we'll have a good crop this year. This, combined with our CSA delivery, should make for a very local summer and fall. We are also now members of a buying club that is helping us get local flour, crackers, and a few other things we often end up buying "from away." I think our dairy habit will be the only thing keeping us at our neighborhood grocery store. We drink a lot of milk and eat a lot of cheese. We are going to contact a local cheese maker we know and check out the price--if we can decrease how much cheese we eat, we might be able to afford getting that locally as well. Of course that is the other part of all this--I'm feeding a family of 5 on $80-$100 a week. As much as we want to get ourselves of the horrid, disastrous, industrial food chain that this country has created, the bottom line is that it is a LOT cheaper...orders of magnitude cheaper. I know, I know, it is subsidized and not "cheaper" when you put together all the costs of our tax dollars, the costs to our health, shipping costs and environmental costs...but at the cash register, when it is all added up, it is cheaper. And that is a major problem! (but a topic for a different blog...)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Homeschooling

People ask me all the time why we are homeschooling. Of course I have a ton of reasons that I could get into in great detail, but the simple reason is that homeschooling is the best fit for my family right now. I love what we are doing and I wouldn't have it any other way. Of course the bonus is that my child gets to do things that most schools would never allow her to do (probably with good reason!) Here is my 7-year-old using a power sander. Hey, you gotta learn some time, right?? I love this shot and I love that she is wearing her homeschooling shirt. Wake up, start learning--that's what homeschooling is all about.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Karen To The Rescue!

I know I've written about her before, but I have this friend, Karen. In addition to being my bestest parenting friend and confidant, she is also a Master Gardener--very useful for someone like me, with the absolute opposite of a "green thumb." Anyway, when Sophie died, we put in a garden for her--simple, a tree, a stone with a plaque, some flowers and, that fall, a handful of bulbs. Now, three years later, the phlox have completely taken over, filling over half of the space, the strawberries that I had thrown in so the girls would have something "from" their sister are completely covering the back half, and if someone had told me what a handful of forget-me-not seeds would do...well, I probably still would have put them in, but at least I would have been warned! Anyway, add to all that the fact that I couldn't really tell the weeds apart from some of the plants (I told you, I'm not a gardener!) and the fact that we have lots of clover on our lawn, and you can imagine what the garden looks like now.

Until today. When I went down to Augusta to attend a homeschool used curriculum sale, I met up with Karen for lunch as well. In her car, she had dozens of beautiful plants along with, I kid you not, two incredibly detailed drawings of Sophie's garden and the front of our house. The location of each plant was labeled so that even I could figure out where each thing went! I got home that afternoon and grabbed a shovel. Standing in Sophie's garden, I hesitated...what if I screwed it up? What if the phlox never bloomed again? What if moving all the bulbs around killed them and I never had color here again? What if I killed all the wonderful things Karen gave me? In the garden, shovel in hand, I called Karen. With the patience of a saint, she assured me I wasn't going to mess it up and even if I did, plants in general and bulbs specifically, are very forgiving. So I did it. We did it. Chris and I dug up virtually everything. We put bulbs around her plaque, moved all the strawberries to a different garden, planted a few annuals, and put in coral bells, hostas, and irises. We moved a few things I can't ID (but there are a lot of them in the garden!) and pulled out all the forget-me-nots (those I'm sure will come back again in the spring!).

Even better, we did all this in the pouring rain. Very fun. As we were digging, of course, Evan was getting soaked and muddy, Megan (wearing a princess dress) was riding up and down the driveway on her bike, going through puddles as fast as she could and Erin was fully enjoying her new Latin Dictionary by shouting words out the window to see if we knew what they were (not really!). What the neighbors must think, I can't even imagine!

Here is the new and improved garden.

I know it doesn't loot like much, but believe me, it will. Oh, and if you know what this is:
...let me know. I have a bunch of them and I'm not sure what to do with them all.

Thank you, Karen!