Friday, January 29, 2010

Learning and Growing

I have this little pouch of parenting quotes. I use it as my breath when I'm at the end of my rope. As I count to ten, I reach in and pull out a little tidbit of wisdom that will hopefully keep me together as I, like many of you, struggle to be both human and adult in my child's world.

Today, Erin was finishing up her volcano unit. Understand that Erin has already made a model of Hawaii by tracing an elevation map and cutting that out in layers of cardboard and gluing it together then painting it, made paintings of different plate boundaries (convergent, divergent, transform), a volcano model to put vinegar and baking soda in, done coloring pages, and read tons of books on this subject. It is amazing what she has done, truly. But today she had to finish one thing to give to someone to complete the project and she just wasn't into it. Didn't want to do it. But she had to if she wanted to give it to this particular person. I did not want to nag her about it and I didn't want to force it, but I also didn't want her to go back on her word. I wasn't sure how to help. Finally we decided that we could print out some things and she could use some ready-made stuff and it would be finished faster. I was feeling disappointed because it wasn't really her best effort, but I reached into the bag and pulled out, "Be patient...your child is still learning and growing."

Erin is not yet 7. She has done some amazing stuff this year and worked really hard on many projects. She built a model of Hawaii, for crying out loud! I took a deep breath and let it out. So what if this one thing isn't exactly the way we had envisioned it. She is still learning and growing...and I'm being patient.

(Oh, and next week?? She wants to build a model of DNA. I'm not kidding!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is it working?

I just wanted to update people on something we have been working on. For over a month now, Erin has been on a diet that has had absolutely NO artificial colors in it. None. This has been a lot harder than it sounds for a kid who goes to as many activities as she does--most of which serve snack and provide juice for the kids. We manage by making sure she has her own juice box and snack when she goes somewhere and so far, she hasn't felt too different. It was a huge challenge at Christmas with all the cookie decorating and gingerbread house making, but we got through it.

Anyway, the point is that lately, Erin has had a TON more patience and self-control. She was doing an activity today that resulted in some frustration--but instead of throwing her pencil or book (which could very likely have happened in the past), she simply said, "ARGH! Mommy, this is very frustrating! Can you please help me?" I was so proud.

Is it the artificial colors or is she simply outgrowing her perfectionist stage and gaining self-control in the process? I'm not sure. But I've done a lot of research on the artificial color debate and I'm convinced it is not something we should be putting into our bodies. Maybe it is working, maybe not...but for now, for us, we will continue to keep them away from her.

(One should note that as I'm typing, I'm hearing shouts of "IT'S NOT FAIR" coming from the basement. I guess as much as you can have self-control, it isn't always easy to be the big sister!)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Bad" Habits

I don't like it when people tell me that something I'm doing with or for my child is a bad "habit" to get them into. Case in point--nursing them to sleep. I have always nursed my children to sleep. Always. And know what? My 6.5 year old no longer nurses to sleep...she weaned, all by herself and all on her own time. No tears, no fighting, it just happened. "Breaking" that habit was easy-peesy...because she was ready to give it up.

My point? Instead of the word habit, which implies something bad that will be hard to give up, use the word phase. Erin and Megan have gone through many phases in their short lives--independence phases, picky-eating phases, potty-learning get the point. Phases are expected times in a child's development. So expected, in fact, that you can look them up in parenting books or on-line child development sites. And most information tells you the same thing--that it is "just a phase" and your child will outgrow whatever it is. So there you have it. Is nursing to sleep a phase? Yes. I'm pretty sure Evan won't do it forever. He'll probably wean in the next 1-3 years...and that is such a short, short time in the grand scheme of things!

Many people get so frustrated with their kids for doing things that kids do. I know I have certainly had my moments of frustration over the messy room or disheveled closet. What happens if, at any given moment, you make the assumption that your child is doing the best he/she can to get their needs met at that moment? I can tell you...if you do it right, your whole perspective changes. My child's room is messy...that is true. But the mess was created during their day-long attempt to create the world's biggest blanket fortress EVER. They were doing the best they could at that and not, in anyway, meeting my need for order and neatness. But by looking at it from their viewpoint, my life got a lot easier. And, I'm sure, this blanket fortress phase will not last through college!

The way I see it, I have two choices. I can get frustrated at Evan for needing me at night and force him to "get over it" earlier than would be healthy for him, or I can not get upset at him for doing something that babies do, which is to nurse. Because this phase won't last forever. It really is, "just a phase" and I know how brokenhearted I'll be when it is over. Because you know what?? The good phases don't last forever either. Let's try to remember that.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Here We Go Again

...and now it is the 23rd, the sun has risen again, and I will begin the 4th year of living without her. And, do you know what? I'm okay. Really.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sophia Anne

Here we are again--January 22nd. Her candles are lit, her tree lights are on, her cake is cooling. Oh how I wish she were here. This year feels different, though, as if the grief which is so much a part of who I am, has softened and begun to mold itself into my smiles as well as into my tears. It is no longer the rock against which I am constantly fighting--it is more fluid, warmer almost. Maybe I'm approaching the "acceptance" stage of grief--not that I think grief comes in specific stages anymore than I think people have a right to tell you how to grieve. But things are different this year .

Chris and I were talking last night and he said that he remembered that time three years ago--how it was a Sunday night and we were all piecing together what was happening and that there was a growing consensus that it was not going to end well, for me or for her (I have no memory of this). I asked him, "Then why didn't we stop everything and birth her then?? Why did we hold on? We were going to lose her anyway, so why didn't I get to hold her and say good bye? Why didn't my baby have the right to die in my arms??" The answer? "We still had hope." Looking back, obviously, we had foolish hope. We didn't realize quite how bad things were and at every decision we made the choice to keep her in a little longer--just to give her a chance. If I could go back, without the ability to save her, accepting the end result as it happened, the one thing I would wish for is for her to have seen me just once. To have died in my arms and not my womb. To have heard how much we loved her. To have a hand print, a foot print, a lock of hair...anything. But I don't. Three years has taught me that I can't change that and acceptance has taught me that I don't need it...not really. It would be amazing to have had that experience, but I'm still her mother and I still love her without it.

So what do I have? I have the most amazing husband in the whole world. He is loving, kind, patient and oh so forgiving of me and my shortcomings. The years we have been together have been incredible and I know that I would never have made it through the death of our child without him holding my hand so softly and cradling my heart so tenderly. I could never imagine my life without him.

I have a daughter who shows me every day how to learn and love and laugh. A daughter who loves chess and crossword puzzles and puns. A daughter who has given my mother her ultimate wish--that I struggle to parent a child just like me.

I have another daughter who makes me giggle non-stop. One who taught me humility from day one and who showed me the meaning of patience and parenting with the heart. A little girl who is growing and changing so quickly, I can't seem to catch my breath.

I have a son--a precious son who would never have been. What a gift. What an amazing, toddling, smiling, laughing, climbing, hugging, loving, GIFT.

And, of course, I have an angel baby--the one who has taught me the most about love and acceptance. Sophie, happy birthday little one. Thank you for helping me see the gifts I've always had and the one you helped bring to us. We miss you.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Week Ahead

I'm hurting right now...hurting because of my short temper with my kids today, hurting because I can see how much they are hurting and hurting because I'm powerless to stop it. This week is coming. Coming on hard and fast. I've been watching it approach and ignoring it—there is no way this year could be as bad as the previous years. It has been THREE YEARS—three. I have a new baby now, and he is so amazing. Yet the sadness that seeps into me every year is wrapping itself around my family right now.

And the tears. You know how tears sit in your throat and stay there for a while? Like they are waiting to crawl into your eyes at any minute? That is how I feel. Every minute I'm breathing deep, to prevent them from coming. Over everything—Erin's behavior, Evan fussing, Megan needing a binky...everything. Just typing this is making them come again. I have little tolerance.

People are reaching out—comments like, “I know this week is hard for you” and “we are thinking of you” are starting to show up. A few cards, emails. People who really care. Care, yes, but unable to stop this flood of grief. Plug up this hole in my family and the hole in my heart. Oh, I miss her so. The little person she would be right now. Can you see her? When you close your eyes, can you see her dimples? Her tiny earlobes? The way her chin sticks out when she is being stubborn persistent? I can. I see her so clearly in the sparkling lights of her tree. I see her in the clear, cold winter sky. I see her in her baby brother's amazing, milky-sweet breath. She's there—she's really there. But oh so clearly NOT here.

Now I know there are people reading this and judging me—the ones who think I should be over it, that it isn't healthy to feel this way and that I really, truly need help moving on. I accept that. And to them I will say that I'm sorry you can't see her the way I can. Despite (or because of?) the sadness that she wraps us in this time of year, she is beautiful. As the salty tears run down my cheeks and her shining tree lights up my window, I know I wouldn't trade her for anything. Feel free to “move on” without me. I'm going to sit here with my baby girl for a while.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Stone Age

Are we that old?? Today, Karen and I met at the Maine State Museum in Augusta--we had a great time with the kids as they checked out the trains and the nature stuff. It was great. Upstairs, they had this exhibit that showed houses and household chores and such through time. When they reached the 70's, there was this pretend living room set up with a 8mm film running (which my in-laws have hours of film on!), plastic swivel chairs and the most horrid wallpaper you can imagine. On the coffee table in the corner was a phone--a dial phone. Karen and I laughed as we remembered not only the dial phones, but the times gone by when you only had to dial the last four digits of a local phone number. Anyway, Erin comes over and wants to know how to work it. She was trying to push the holes, you see. So there I was, showing Erin how to put her finger in the hole, spin it until you run into the metal thing and then let go and let it rotate back to place. She dialed our number a few times because she thought it was cool. Megan gave it a try as well, but decided "the new way" was better. I just sighed at the fact that I spent a good 15 minutes today teaching my kids how to dial a phone and they asked, "Is this really how you used to do it??" Yes, that is how we did it...way back when.

Friday, January 15, 2010


So the other day we were driving to some activity and we ended up behind a bucket loader scooping snow into a dump truck. Megan asked me what they were doing and I explained that they have to physically remove the snow piles so that there is room to plow the next storm. "Where do they put the dump truck full of snow?" she asked.

"I'm not sure," I responded. "I know they used to dump it in the river, but they don't do that anymore."

"Why not?" she asked, "The snow would melt, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, it would melt, but all the sand, salt and other junk on the road would also end up in the river and that would really mess up the river's ecosystem."

"Yeah, that would mess up the river's system...just like when Daddy tries to put the diapers away and he really messes with that system. I understand."

I'm not making this up!

(In case people don't know, we use cloth diapers. Here is the system--the Fuzzi Bunz in our stash are both old style and new style. The old style sizes are much smaller than the new style of the same size (for example, a new style small is much larger than an old style small). SO--to accommodate different insert requirements, we use the new style smalls AND the old style mediums with one insert during the day. At night, we use the new style mediums with double inserts. The new style and old style can be differentiated by the shape of the front flaps and the daytime and night time inserts are clearly different as well. The one-size FBs have their own inserts and need to be treated separately. See?? It really isn't that hard! Of course FBs are now made in China so we will no longer be buying them. Sigh.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Good Friends

So today some friends of ours came over with their wonderful and energetic twin 5-year-old girls. Needless to say, our girls were THRILLED and the house was quite loud for the day. Evan wasn't sure what to make of it, but when the girls all went sledding with Chris and Doug, he got time to hang out with Julia and try to take her glasses. What more could a guy ask for?

Doug and Julia are fantastic people. When Chris was first visiting U.Maine as a PhD possibility, he was introduced to Julia who was already a student here. After a few minutes, they realized they knew each other from a summer at field camp back in college. When we moved here, a friendship was forged--sledding parties, backyard cook outs, name it. When Doug and Julia finished up their work at U.Maine, we were all excited when they were offered a job at UM Farmington. Although 2 hours away, at least still in Maine and we could visit often. When their twin girls were born, Julia took a year off and she and I worked out a schedule where I would drive to see her every other week and she drove to see me every other week. This way we saw each other twice a month, but only drove the distance once. It worked out very well.

Now, as schedules have changed, we don't see them very often. Their girls are in a pre-K program, they are both working and teaching, my kids are older and busy as well. It doesn't seem to work out like it did when kids were young and more packable! But we often think about them and we know we will have to find the time to get together. Sometimes on the way back from a camping trip we stop at their house and usually they come here around the first of the year. This summer, due to the weather, we didn't go camping as much as we normally do. And this holiday season, due to the weather, they weren't able to come spend the night, either.

But they did come today and the girls whooped it up! All this information is background for what came next. Doug and Julia have never lost a child. They have never suffered a pregnancy loss of any kind. When Sophie died, Julia was always there to lend an ear--I didn't lean on her very much given the distance between us, but she was there. I guess I just never thought of her in that way--given that she had never had a loss, I didn't want to seem like I was rubbing my loss in her face. I didn't want to waste any of the precious time we had together talking about something that would make her uncomfortable. But know what? It never made her uncomfortable. Sad, yes. But never uncomfortable. She knew of family members that had miscarriages and other losses and she saw what it could do to a person. She wanted to make sure I was comfortable talking to her about it. Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn't. Either way was fine.

Today we were exchanging gifts and she had put a card in the bag--I didn't know what it was given that we had already gotten a Christmas card from them. Inside the card it said, "As you come to the close of a season of family and celebration, please know that your loss isn't forgotten. We are thinking of all of you."

I nearly cried right then and there--but I knew if the tears came, it was going to be hard to stop them. I was so, so, so touched--deep deep down--that these wonderful people, who we don't see that often and who have so little personal experience with loss, would take the time to remember.

Take the time to remember. That is all any of us want. We don't want you to understand, we don't want you to feel our sadness, we don't want you to throw a ticker-tape parade in our child's name. We want you to take the time to remember. It took Julia 30 seconds to write that...30 seconds to stop and think about the fact that we are missing someone. And that 30 seconds has made my whole month easier. Thank you, Julia, from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Christmas Fun

I can't seem to get as many pictures up as I want--here are some of our family enjoying many of the wonderful gifts we got. In addition to the ones below, the girls got a new monkey bar set in the playroom basement--that has been a BIG hit! Now we have a swing, rings AND monkey bars! It makes the long winters here in Maine a bit easier on the mommy! Thank you to all for a wonderful holiday!

Evan got his own bowl--that's couscous he is eating, Cathy!

I'm sorry, did I say, "eating?" That's couscous he is managing to get all over the can't see the dog happily licking the floor beneath.

Both girls got snowshoes (thanks, Grammy and Grampy!) and have been out in the woods much of this past week. We had a marvelous time in the snow storm!

Here is our family at a waterfall in Acadia. We just wanted to get out for the day and enjoy the view.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I think I fixed it...anyone who has been sending me emails saying they couldn't comment on my blog should try now--especially if your initials are AK, KV or CH. THANKS!

Happy New Year, everyone!!!