Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to ALL...



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And to all, a Good Night!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Repeat of an older post

This is a repeat of a post I put up last year around this time, but people have asked me to post it again. The holidays are so so so very trying for people who have had a loss of any kind, but especially for those who are mourning the loss of a child and especially for those who would be celebrating their baby's first holiday. Think about it...have you recently walked into a mall and NOT seen a store with a cute Baby's First Christmas outfit/doll/bib/ornament/whatever? Believe me, they are EVERYWHERE this time of year and even if you can walk by and not blink, there are many who simply can't. Please be gentle with them.
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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. My Elephant's name is Sophia Anne....

Monday, December 12, 2011

The dream

I had a dream the other night. I was sitting at the dining room table, talking to Amy. In the dream, I knew she was a ghost...that I was sitting talking to a ghost. But for some reason, this seemed totally normal to me. We talked for a long time about nothing--kind of like the weekly or even daily conversations I miss so very much. We talked about the weather, about her work (how a ghost still had a job, I have no idea, but there you have it!), about what movie we wanted to go see...just regular stuff. When she had to go, we hugged good bye and, this is the part that seems strange to me, I could totally feel her in my embrace. I felt her arms around me and I felt her body in my arms. I woke up then, at about 2:30 in the morning, and felt this tremendous, overwhelming sadness. Every fiber in my body was aching with grief and I simply began to sob. There, with the light of the nearly full moon streaming right onto me in the bed, I shook with sorrow. Chris woke up and had some trouble figuring out what was wrong. I felt stupid telling him I was sobbing over a loss that not only happened nearly a year ago but that we also had so very much time to prepare for--it wasn't like we didn't know ahead of time that she was going to die. But there it was--the cold hard truth was in that moment, I missed her so much it just exploded from me. Some dream, huh?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

FL Pictures:


LEGOLAND! This is a new attraction in FL and the kids and I had a blast. While the minifigure above is a person in a costume, the lion below and all the other figures, etc. throughout the park are 100% Legos. Erin was very impressed. I liked the mini-cities they had and it was fun watching the girls figure out which moving things were Lego robots and whether or not they were using light sensors or direction programing, etc. Looks like Lego Club is working for them!



On our family version of Black Friday, we celebrate Buy Nothing Day...this year we went to the beach! And while we didn't hit the box stores or the malls, I will admit we did buy something: 5 ice cream cones at the end of the day.







Of course then there was actual Thanksgiving itself--lots of family, good food and (new to my kids, thanks to my brother) FOOTBALL! (I have few pictures of this as I am not really into it myself....) But I do have a good picture of a little swimmer taking a bit of a snack break!

Clearly, I have a lot to be thankful for!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sigh...

So I've spent a chunk of time over the past few weeks putting together a new Unschooling group for our area. Today was our first meeting--a potluck lunch at our house. Megan met a new little girl, Rose, who is almost exactly her age (2ish weeks younger) and they played awesomely for several hours today. Before that, I had gotten up, showered, fed everyone, done two loads of laundry, put some dishes away, packed up a backpack for Evan to take with him when a friend of our offered to take him to the playground with some other 2-3yo this morning, prepared lunch for the potluck, took advantage of the time without the toddler to play a game of blockus with Megan before everyone came, helped Erin who was typing her report into Google Translator so she could turn it in in Latin (she likes to do things like this)...in other words, it was a typical morning.

The potluck was great, the kids played and played, we got some talking time in (between being interrupted by the kids!) and everything was fine. Everyone left, I was cleaning up, playing with Evan, doing more laundry, helping the kids with their math, building things with Legos, responding to a few emails...again, typical.

Chris, who had a dinner thing tonight, came home for one hour (one very short hour) so I could take a quick break before doing dinner and bedtime (my "break" was, of course, trying to get a sitter, answering phones and responding to one more email before managing to lie down quietly for 15 minutes). In that hour, he played a game of hide-and-go-seek with the kids. As he was leaving again, Megan burst into tears because she really, really didn't want Daddy to leave again. Why?? Because "Mommy is boring...."

Thanks, kid!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Heartbroken for her

So there is this woman who was in my prenatal yoga class. I think I've only seen her a few times (maybe twice) because I alternate between a Thursday evening class and a Saturday AM class, due to my constantly messed up schedule. Anyway, because of whatever reasons, I've only seen her a few times and spoken with her even less frequently than that.

Last week, her baby girl was born 8 weeks early...with a tumor on her liver...and little hope...she died less than 24 hours later. And now this mom, who I really don't know at all, is all I can think about.

She is home now, surrounded by family and friends as she makes her first, tentative steps on this path of grief that will last the rest of her life. Her milk is pouring forth for nobody, her stomach that last week was round and full of life is empty and sagging with nothing to show for it. Her friends are asking each other, "What can we do to help??" and there is no good answer. In my minds eye, I can see this woman curled up in fetal position on her floor or bed, sobbing in a way that few people can understand. Sobbing to the point of literally breaking in half...at least that is what it feels like. I can picture all of this and I just wish there was something, anything, I could do to ease her pain. But it is her pain, and her family's pain, and she will carry it because she has no other option.

In a few weeks, I will call her up. I will tell her who I am and what I do and how I can help. I will give her resources and introduce her to others on this same path and I will assure her she is not alone. None of that will help, obviously, as none of it will bring back her little girl. None of it. And as I sit here typing, pushed back from the computer a bit to accommodate my own bulging belly, I am reminded of that dark hole I was in just 4.5 years ago and how long and hard my husband and I had to work to claw ourselves back into the light. We are here now, in the light of day, breathing in and out, raising our living children, enjoying the energy of living and working to trust that our new baby will be okay. Usually...but right now, today, I'm feeling heartbroken for the woman 4.5 years behind me on this path. Nothing is worse than the dark hole that is back there...nothing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yes, you can.

I find it amusing when people tell me, "I would love to homeschool, but I just couldn't! We would just fight all the time!" or "I could never make her do the work!" or something along those lines. I should also say I find it amusing how often I hear this comment. I never know what to say. Because the truth is there are days, plenty of days, when I think that very same thing. Really. But all the other days make up for it. All the other days of biking and skiing and gardening and hanging out with friends, going on trips, catching frogs, kayaking, playing in the mud, launching rockets...all these things I get to do with my kids because I homeschool. I truthfully can't imagine a time when I would have to squeeze in a trip to Fort Knox between schools and camps and life.

I was thinking about this today when I got this quote from the unschooling blog I subscribe to: When you know how you want to be, the next step is to make conscious decisions in a "getting warm" or "getting cold" kind of way. Not all steps will be forward, but if the majority of steps are in your chosen direction, there y'go!

The people who tell me they "wish" they could homeschool but "just can't" are missing out on that first step. The one where you look at how you want to be and just start walking in that direction. Give it a shot, make one change today and see where it gets you. I often tell parents who come to me for help that if you have to fight with your kids, it isn't worth it. Whatever point you are trying to get across is being lost in the struggle. Power struggles end when the one with the power gives up the struggle...and know what? I'm not always good at this. Just the other day, I got into a power struggle with Erin over something stupid. When did it end? When I gave up the power and took a deep breath. Think you can't "make" your child do work? Take a deep breath. Go for a bike ride instead. Try tomorrow or the next day or the next month or not at all...take a step towards being the parent you want to be. Get a little warmer each time. Yes, there will absolutely be times when you "get colder" on your journey. You will *gasp* yell at your kids and get annoyed by their fighting and the messy house and the often endless questions/comments/judgements from friends and family. But those times will begin to get few and far between and the resulting feelings of contentment and joy will permeate most of what you do together. It is pretty awesome to feel such peace with your kids and such joy from daily living.

We've been homeschooling for three years now so we are by no means experts at this, but we are experienced enough that newcomers ask us questions. My answer is always the same--I wouldn't trade it for anything, I tell them, and I can't give it up now, because I'm still just beginning the journey!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Deep Breath

I guess it has been a while since I have posted. We are kinda in the middle of LIFE right now. I'm homeschooling the kids, getting more and more pregnant, and (what was that other thing??) oh yeah, packing up EVERYTHING and moving. Argh.

Things are moving forward and we are all trying to go with the flow--the emotions of moving (excitement and sadness), the problems of living in a very cluttered, half-packed house where you can't find ANYTHING, while still trying to maintain some kind of rhythm to our days.

The baby is doing fine--I had an ultrasound yesterday that showed a very healthy little one. Still, for some reason, I couldn't shake the guilt (was it guilt??) that I woke up with the other night. See, I woke in the middle of the night having a bit of a panic attack. I couldn't figure out why I was so happy and at peace with this pregnancy. Babies die, don't you know?? What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks was wrong with me that I was floating along in this blissful ignorance carrying this baby when all along, I knew, truly knew, that there is a chance this baby could not make it! How could that be? What was going on?? Should I be panicking? (Obviously not, which I recognized in the light of the morning, but in the middle of the night, it was harder to stop!) I thought of all the things that could still go wrong. I thought of all the babies I know who were born at 25 or 26 weeks and didn't make it. I thought of the moms I know whose babies died full-term of cord accidents. I thought of Sophie and how my body just shut down and she was such a tragic result of that. And as I laid there in the middle of the night with tears streaming down my cheeks, the baby started to somersault and kick and wiggle. "I'm alive!" s/he seemed to be saying, "don't count me out! Right here and right now, I'm fine!" I drifted back to a fitful sleep, waking tired and cranky the next morning. It has been about a week now since that happened, and I'm doing fine again. When those thoughts hit me, I (try to) just say, "Thank you, brain, for that idea, and now I'm going to put it aside and think of something else." Because yes, there is a possibility this baby could die. There is a possibility I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I refuse to parent out of fear and I cannot make choices for this baby out of fear. Deep breath....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quote of the day...

Today we were deciding what to do for our volcano unit. Megan has been interested in learning about volcanoes lately, so we decided we'd do a unit on them. The girls want to make an educational video for some friends of ours, so we immediately began to break up the parts. Erin will be doing a "lecture" on plate tectonics and where volcanoes are found. Megan will be talking about the different kinds of volcanoes and how they erupt. Erin goes into the office to write out her part. A while later, she comes back with a page of notes, several diagrams and a description of what her character will do on the video. "Oh, there is one little thing, Mom, just for the action part of the video...is there a safe way to set me on fire??"

Now, if I was a radical unschooler, truly supporting all of my child's dreams and aspirations to the ends of the Earth, I would have told her we could research that. Somehow, though, my mothering instinct kicked in. "No...probably not," I said. (For the record, we are going to see how to make it LOOK like she is on fire with some special effects--that's as far as I'm willing to go on this one!)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Prenatal Yoga

I took a prenatal yoga class when I was pregnant with Evan. I did pretty well, too, until some point in my third trimester. We were all sitting in a well supported seated mountain pose and the teacher began to talk us through a guided meditation. During that, she asked us to bring a circle of light from our hearts and surround our babies with it. Then she said to take this heart connection and send our babies an intention, to talk to them and send them warm feelings of love and connectedness. How horrible is it that I couldn't do it?? I maintained my composure through the end of class, but that was about it. I spent the next chunk of my life sitting in the car in the parking lot, sobbing and rubbing my well-rounded belly, thinking about this little being growing in me that I was too scared to even "wrap in a circle of light" for fear that I might grow too attached and potentially crushed again. I never dared, not even for a second, to believe (truly believe) that he would make it into this world alive. I did not go back to that class. I made up something about schedule conflicts and never looked back. I never told the teacher why, either.

Fast forward to today. I went to my first prenatal yoga class for this pregnancy. Now, aside from the fact that it made me feel very old (everyone else there was on their first baby while I'm on my 5th!), it felt very different from the previous class. It is in the same location with the same teacher, but I am in a completely different place. When we were doing the meditation at the end and she again asked us to wrap our babies in the light from our hearts, I did so. And know what I found? Joy! I can't believe we are so fortunate to have this little one entering our lives and I feel happy to be in a place that I can say that I really, truly believe that this baby will be born alive. This baby will grace our family in a few short months and either give Evan a brother to destroy the house with or give me one more chance to hold a baby girl in my arms. Both possibilities bring me so much excitement that I am actually looking forward to this winter. It has been a long time since I have felt that joy and excitement and I welcome it back into my life. I can't wait to meet you, Little One!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We Did It!

The kids and I have been studying the book My Side of the Mountain. It is a a fictional account of a 12-year-old boy who runs away to the mountains and survives quite well. The girls have loved the book and are making a lapbook in addition to doing some hunting for edible plants, building shelters outside, etc. One piece of the survival puzzle that has eluded us, however, was the flint and steel fire. We simply haven't been able to get it started. We have lots and lots and lots of sparks, but we haven't been able to get anything to flame, until TODAY! (For the record, if you are going to use cattail fluff as tinder, be prepared for it to flame very HOT, very FAST!)


(Don't worry, we managed to get the magnifying glass out before it melted. Erin had been trying to use that to start the fire...lots of smoke, but no flame. We tried!)

Now we can move on to our next unit without regret. Though, as we discussed today, if it were a wet, soggy day, the odds of us getting fire started with flint and steel in the wilderness are slim to none. Oh well....

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Conversation

My mother-in-law keeps a folder of funny things my kids say. When Erin was two, we had hordes of the one-liners she came up with. With Megan, we had fewer, simply because we forgot to write them down. Now with Evan, I hardly have time to register what he said, much less record it for posterity. However, this morning as the girls were off at a watercolor class and I had Evan in the car by myself, we had the following conversation (I'm writing it down for you, Pam!):

Evan (after we drove over a bridge being repaired) "Was there an excavator?"
"No, I didn't see an excavator."
"Oh. What were the other tools there?"
"I don't know, Sweetie, I didn't look hard and I don't know the names of a lot of construction tools."
"Oh, that is sad."
"It is sad that I don't know the names?"
"Yes, Mommy, that is just sad."
(I paused here, letting it soak in that my 2-year-old is disappointed in me and my knowledge of construction vehicles.)
There comes a giggle from the back...I look in the mirror and see a smiling boy who says, "Don't worry, Mommy, I'm just trying to push your buttons on!"

Thanks, kid.

First Day of Not School

Every year it happens...the big yellow school bus comes down my street and swallows up most of the kids in the neighborhood. Not mine, though...not mine. And, like all homeschooling moms I know, there are definitely mixed feelings about this! As I watched the other moms standing at the end of their driveways waving goodbye to their kids, a part of me is so very jealous of their chance to go back inside, sit with a cup of coffee, read the paper...perhaps even take an uninterrupted shower! Oh, it all sounds so wonderfully peaceful to me! (I recognize I'm totally romanticizing it--these moms also have houses to clean, meals to prepare, errands to run and a few still have younger kids at home, so I know I'm living in dreamland to think they quietly go back to their house and live in peace until the bus comes back!)

At any rate, like many moms out and about during the summer, I've been asked in the past few weeks about whether or not I'm looking forward to the kids being back in school. I read the funnies and get a giggle out of the comic-strip stay-at-home moms who sit in their lawn chairs with a cold drink as the school bus pulls out. But our family isn't like that. We have chosen a different path. I truly treasure the time I have with my kids and I don't want to give it up if I don't have to. Yes, my kids fight, they whine, they create a mess like you wouldn't believe...they do all those things! But I love it--I truly do (though not necessarily at 5:30pm when dinner isn't ready and Daddy isn't home--I am human, after all!) And so we enter another school year alone on our street but truly happy in our hearts as we do what is right for our kids and our family. Yes, there will be days when I wish they would get on that bus, I won't deny it! There will be times I'll call my my husband and beg him to come home NOW. There will be times that kids won't want to do school and times I don't want to teach them anything. But there will be so many more times that they will be proud of what they have done and excited about a project. There will be new friends and swimming lessons and karate classes. There will be adventures to Boston and trips to the ocean and perhaps even a ski trip or two...oh yeah, and there will be a new sibling to learn about and take care of. Our year will be wonderful! So good bye, big yellow school bus, I'm sorry, but once again, you simply can't have my kids. I'm not done with them yet!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Phone Call

Normally, today, I'd have a very important phone call to make to wish my best friend a Happy Birthday. I'd call her up, we'd chat, she'd tell me that she had lunch with her mom or maybe went shopping. She never made a big deal out of her birthday (as most of us stop doing when we get older!), but if the timing worked out, maybe I'd be the one having lunch with her--we'd meet up at whatever restaurant struck our fancy that day and talk about absolutely nothing. In the days that she lived up here, I'd probably show up at her apartment with a cake or something and we'd eat ice cream together--no big deal, but something to honor the day. Once, in college, because we had moved into our dorms on her birthday weekend and then started classes the next day, her birthday flew by completely unrecognized...so I threw her a surprise party in October. She was definitely surprised!

Instead, I find myself sitting here having just finished a wonderful walk/run with my oldest kiddo (discussing all the mushrooms we found in the woods--her current interest). In a little while, we will head out to visit my in-laws because tomorrow is my FIL's birthday. We'll have a picnic and laugh and eat cupcakes. In short, I'm sure I'll have a perfectly nice day. But it certainly won't be the day I wish it could be...because one phone call will be missing. One very important phone call.

Happy Birthday, Amy.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Weaning

Evan is weaning. Now, this should be a pretty obvious statement, given that the child is two-and-a-half and many people are shocked that he's still nursing at all. But nursing has been such a huge part of my relationship with each of my children that I feel sad to see it end, even when it is clear that it is time and he is outgrowing the need and all that. You see, Evan is the first comfort-nurser I have ever had wean and it is with a tear in my eye that I watch the end of this phase of our relationship.

Erin was never a comfort nurser. She nursed for food...period. When she was an infant, she nursed every 2-3 hours during the day and every 6-8 hours at night. As a toddler, I was her morning nourishment (followed by "real" breakfast), her mid afternoon snack and her bedtime fill-up. If she bumped her head or some other toddler emergency that required comfort, she never asked to nurse, she simply curled up with her blankie or with a book in our laps. When I was pregnant with her sister, she weaned fairly quickly as my milk supply decreased and by the time I only had colostrum in days before and just after her sister's birth, she literally looked at me and said, "Mama no milk, Erin want yogurt," and walked away. That was it. She never asked again and never accepted if I offered.

Megan was a HUGE comfort nurser. She nursed every 20-30 minutes through most of the first year of her life (in between bouts of crying!). As a toddler, practically every jolt brought her to my lap with requests for "ishy" (that was her word for it!). Unfortunately for Megan, weaning was not a fun time for her. Just shy of her second birthday, I nursed her to sleep before calling my friend Amy to come babysit for us. I was having pretty severe abdominal pains, you see, and because I was pregnant, I needed to go to the ER and get help. Amy brought me to the ER and I spent the next several days on pretty heavy medication, the following week in ICU and by the time I was home after losing Sophie, Megan was weaned. I tried to get her back when my milk came in, but she wasn't interested. I was crushed. Completely crushed.

So here I am with my third nursling and my second comfort-nurser. Before he turned two, we nursed all the time--"I want mama!" he would demand. For some reason, when he turned two, he stopped needing it so much. I switched to a "don't offer, don't refuse" type policy to try to ease into the weaning process. When I found we were pregnant again, one of the symptoms was that Evan just didn't seem to want to nurse anymore. More and more often he was permitting Chris to put him to bed. He was taking naps in the car or not at all, skipping that nursing session. In the past month or so we have come to a point where he hardly asks at all. With the exception of today, he hasn't asked to nurse in over a week (maybe two?).

Today was different. He was SO tired and in desperate need of a real nap. I have been watching two other children this week and all the activity has really made it hard for him to keep up. He was in full melt-down mode on the floor when I picked him up and hugged him. He looked at me with tears running down his face. "I want mama," he said quietly into my shoulder. I kicked the other children out of the house, told them I needed 15 minutes of quiet, and curled up in the rocking chair with Evan. He latched on gladly and when I asked him, "Is there any mama in there?" he shook his head no, but continued to nurse contentedly. He fell asleep within minutes and I just rocked him, admiring the dirt on his cheeks, the marker on his face, the bits of chocolate on his shirt. I looked at his hands curled into his blankie and his very dirty toes sticking out from under it. He looks so much bigger than he used to when he was nursing every day, so much older. I know our nursing relationship is almost over. I know that, now, every time I pick him up to nurse him could be the last time. Maybe it was today. And while a part of me will lavish the next few months of complete freedom before another nursling arrives, a part of me is sad to see these last remnants of my baby boy fade into memory.

So we move forward into the next chapter of raising this amazing little man who climbs trees, crashes cars and charms the hearts of all who meet him. Who knows what it will bring, but I'm so excited to be along for the ride!



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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Y Chromosome

We are some of those people who never find out if it is a boy or a girl before birth. We like the surprise. When I was pregnant with Evan, however, I knew instinctively that he was a boy. I don't know if I "knew" because I really knew or if I "knew" because I so desperately needed him to be a boy (and therefore have the whole pregnancy so completely different from my pregnancy with Sophie that nothing could go wrong). Whichever it was, I knew he was a boy before he was born. We have had almost two and a half glorious years of watching our wonderful little man learn and grow...and now the Y chromosome seems to be kicking in. Here was our day yesterday--and the first is just a story because I didn't have a camera.

Yesterday I was doing laundry at the house we just bought (our washing machine is dead and the tenants haven't moved in there yet, so it works well). The kids were playing in the back yard, really enjoying finding their little secret spots. Megan yells, "Mom...Evan is climbing a tree!" I didn't really think much of it as he has never gotten very high. Then Erin yells, "Mom...I think he needs help getting down." As I began to walk down the hill, Erin yells, "MOM! Evan needs help!" I ran down there to find my toddler about 20 feet up in the air, sitting on a branch, hugging the trunk and looking very pleased with himself. I tried to climb up to him, but the branches of this tree were only about a 1-2 inch diameter and couldn't hold me. Calmly, I asked him to stay where he was and asked Erin to run next door to our good friend's house and see if she could come over with a ladder and her phone (in case I needed to call 911). She comes back with a ladder and as we put the ladder up against the tree (challenging with all the branches) Evan begins to climb higher! He was saying, "NO! I no want to come down! No! No! No!" At this point, I'm getting nervous. Laura begins to climb the ladder (she's much taller than me so has a better reach) and is talking to Evan. "Hey Evan! Can you put your foot on this branch?" Eager to show off his skills, Evan says, "Of course!" and does it. Good job, Laura! So, long story short, Laura gets him down and now we know which trees need their lower branches trimmed so only older kids can get up them.

You would think we were done for the day, but you'd be wrong. Here is what happens when a toddler climbs into an idling car as your husband is fixing the exhaust system:






Chris and I were there in about a millisecond, and as I pulled my completely unharmed toddler out of the car he was a bit shaky as he said (with almost disbelief in his voice), "Mama...I crashed the car!" Um...yeah, Little Man, you did.

Evan fell asleep very early last night, apparently exhausted from his day. As I watched him snooze in his fire engine bed, no doubt dreaming about tomorrow's adventures, I was simply thankful he still had all his limbs.

*Before you all go calling DHHS, know that everyone is totally fine and safe and I've talked to other moms of boys and not one is surprised at all by these antics. Today, Evan will be on a leash!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This summer...

I almost dialed her phone number the other day. I don't know why. Obviously her answering machine isn't there anymore, but I just wanted to pretend to hear her voice. It has been nearly 6 months since Amy passed, and for six months, I haven't called her, gotten an email from her, met her for lunch, had her babysit, or just gone down there to hang out. And I simply can't believe what a change it is for me, for our family. I mean, it isn't like I saw her so often that it is a huge shift in my daily life, but yet her presence is just missing. Gone. It is so hard to describe that shift.

I've had some tough moments where I just want to cry and scream at the universe--moments where I have sat down at the keyboard with tears in my eyes and written out a long and very blabbery email to another friend from college. There are moments, I tell her, when I just can't believe how utterly alone I feel without Amy. I mean, I am surrounded by family and good friends, but without being able to call her, without being able to just hear her voice, the voice that has been there without fail for nearly 20 years...well, it is a challenge. And this other friend always writes back full of empathy and with all the caring of someone who knew from the beginning that my relationship with Amy was special...and yet, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, she or anyone else can do.

So while I haven't been much of a blogger lately, because we have been buying a house, dealing with the first trimester-yuckies, having summer fun and basically being really busy, this is what has been on my mind. How much I can still hear her voice in my head, how much I would give to go sit in her apartment again, how much I want to do another day in Boston with her, how much I just want to call her up and hear her say, "Hey!" the way she always did. Summer of 2011...my first summer without Amy. I miss her.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Part 2 is here....

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that the last Harry Potter movie comes out this week. Normally, I'm super, super excited about these things (what can I say?? I love Harry Potter!) but this one is different. You see, the other person in my life with a Harry Potter obsession to rival my own, was Amy. She and I raced each other through the books (she always won!) and then spent hours discussing the possibilities. With each book, we would reread the previous ones, in order, just to make sure we didn't miss anything. We discussed character development, wand lore, what kind of wand we thought would choose us, love affairs among the characters, how I wanted a house elf and we joked about how she would make a great house elf (she LOVED cleaning other people's houses...truly!)...the list goes on. We both just really enjoyed a good book, and Harry Potter gave us that. So of course we always saw the movies together. Even when she moved away, we would meet in Waterville (the halfway point) and spend the afternoon having lunch and going to see the movie. The last movie, although I saw it first with my husband, Amy and I saw together at the movie theater not far from her hospice house. After we saw it, I immediately wrote to the producers to see if we could be granted one last wish--to see a sneak peak of the last part so that Amy and I could be together and see it before she died. They never wrote back.

So here it is...the movie that last November seemed so far away...and I have to go see it without Amy. A good friend has already offered to go with me and I may take her up on it. Why? Because she asked me by saying, "I know this is a loaded question, but would you like to go see the last Harry Potter film with me?" Here is someone who already knew the hugely conflicting emotions I have about going to see this movie and she was fully acknowledging them upfront. I felt truly comforted by not having to explain my hesitation to her. She already knew. (Incidentally, this person is the mom of the little girl, Sophie, to whom I did not sing Happy Birthday a few weeks ago. She was understanding then, too!)

Anyway, I'll probably go at some point this weekend...maybe alone, maybe with a friend. Because Amy would never, ever expect other people to stop living their life just because she isn't here to live with them. So I'll get the super big popcorn, a large root beer and a pack of tissues, because I'll probably cry during the movie. And not because of the character development, either.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Surprise!

In the months (and, yes, admittedly *years*) after Sophie died, I was so acutely and painfully aware of other people's pregnancies. After Evan was born, it got better, yes, but not completely. Why? Because no matter what I had, we were missing something--someone--in our family. We were a family with four children, but not. So when people I knew became pregnant, I would flinch, just a bit, because a part of me just wanted that so much...even though I didn't necessarily really want it, you know? It doesn't make sense, but there you have it. My point is that I am so, so, so very aware of what being pregnant (or not) can do to friendships, especially those formed through the bonds of loss. Nobody who has had a loss ever begrudges the pregnancy or healthy baby of anyone else--nobody. It isn't a grudge so much as a pang of jealousy--sometimes a BIG PANG, depending on when your loss was. And when I am the one announcing something, I am so hugely saddened by the fact that my happiness could possibly cause someone else pain. Because I have been in those shoes. I have walked that road. It hurts so much and I can't stand the fact that I might be putting someone else through that.

AND, at the same time I am feeling apprehensive and saddened by what this news might do to others, I am feeling so much joy. After Evan was born, we gave away most of the baby gear, got rid of clothes as he out grew them and basically closed-up shop. We were done...or so we thought. And now, after a few weeks of wondering if things were okay, we found out today that they are 100% perfect!


And so, we embark on this journey yet again. There is fear, yes, but I don't feel the same gut-wrenching anxiety I had when I was pregnant with Evan. I have too much faith in this baby now, and (while it may sound crazy) I believe Amy had a hand in bringing this little surprise bean down to us. I will forever be grateful to her for this last opportunity to mother a little miracle.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th!

Thirteen years ago today, I married my best friend. How lucky am I?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Clamp

Imagine going through life with a clamp on your heart--squeezing, slowly, tightly, thoroughly. Imagine waking up and being able to feel your heavy heart trying to beat but struggling because of the clamp--but yet, still there, trying desperately to get you through the day. Imagine your arms hooked up to an IV of fluid that creates a constant ache in your muscles. A constant, physical hurt that is just there day after day after day. Imagine your same body size with 100--no, 1,000--extra pounds to carry through the day. Breathing is labored from the weight, your arms ache from that fluid, your heart is working overtime, just to get you through the day. Are you picturing this?

Now imagine someone walked by and saw you hooked up to all of this, struggling to maintain composure with your children, crying while you do your laundry, completely unable to explain it all to your loving husband...and they said, "Oh, you'll be okay. Everything happens for a reason. It was meant to be."

Wouldn't you want to smack them? Just a little???

Please--don't ever say that to a Babylost Mama--especially as due dates, birthdays, or other anniversaries are coming up. They are struggling. Hard. Instead, maybe say, "I know [this date] is coming and I can't imagine what you are feeling. How can I help?" Or maybe invite her living children over so she can have a few hours of peace. Maybe find a way for her and her husband to have a date. These are all helpful--really, really, really helpful. But don't, for goodness sake, say it was meant to be. The death of her baby wasn't meant to be--it sucks. Quite simply, it SUCKS. Thank you for listening to my little PSA.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Sophie...

I've become accustomed to the fact that there are three Sophies in our homeschool world. One of them has become very good friends with Megan, a friendship that I'm sure will only grow stronger in the coming months as we begin our homeschooling journey with Megan. I will never forget my time early last year getting to know this family. Their older child's name is [W] and their youngest child's name is [K]--names that I used all the time when I wanted to talk to them. But Sophie? yeah...that one I just couldn't bring myself to say. I would call her "sweetie" or "kiddo" when I needed to refer to her or talk to her directly. After a few meetings like this, her mother (fairly) assumed that I simply didn't remember Sophie's name, so she told me, "This one's name is Sophie." (Yeah, I knew that.) I explained my situation and why I had a hard time and she was so unbelievably understanding and wonderful about it. She let me take my time, get to know her kids and waited until I truly felt okay calling this beautiful little girl by her name--which I do easily now, with no problems at all.

Today we went to a birthday party for Sophie. (Though I should note that even as close as we have become in the past year, I could not bring myself to write down, "Sophie's Birthday" on my calendar. I wrote, "party @ [M family]'s residence.") I hadn't really thought much about what would happen at the party...until it did. We all gathered in the living room and began to sing, "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Sophie, happy birthday to you!" Right when I got to the part about "happy birthday dear Sophie..." I began to tear up. I became so suddenly aware of the fact that I will never, truly, get to sing that song to my little girl and how unbelievably unfair that fact is. Wiping my eyes on Megan's dress as she sat cuddled in my lap, I couldn't finish the song. Here it is, more than 4 years after our loss and I still tear up over this seemingly easy, unrelated incident. Of course there are other little girls in the world named Sophie and of course they have birthdays. Duh. But know what? It might be a while until I can sing Happy Birthday to any of them. My apologies to all the Sophies in the world.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Don't Say That

So I'm out at dinner the other night and a parent says to me, "We sent our kids to regular school for the socialization." And now I'm thinking several things...first, why on Earth would you say that to a homeschooler?? Why would you make such an incredibly loaded statement like that to someone you KNOW has decided to keep their kids home? Second, I'm thinking of all the reasons I don't want peers socializing my children. Third, I'm thinking that if that is really the reason you sent your kids to school, it isn't a very good reason. Finally, of course, I'm thinking of all the things I could say but won't because I'm too nice a person.

Such as a sarcastic, "Yeah...socialization is good, but Chris and I prefer to raise our kids in a box with no interaction." Or perhaps a kind, "Oh, are your children puppies? I didn't know!"

I won't go into all the complex reasons why socialization shouldn't happen at school (good place to practice it, lousy place to learn it) but please know that there isn't a homeschooling parent in the world who hasn't heard this a million times and hates it. And there isn't a homeschooling parent in the world who hasn't researched this substantially and made a well-informed choice that works for their family. We aren't judging you for your choice, so please give us the same courtesy.

Overall, Chris was very impressed with my restraint. Let me know what you would have said....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Home Alone

So yesterday I had to leave Erin home alone for the very first time in her life. Here's the story:

Yesterday morning, Erin, Evan and I went looking for frog eggs. On the way, we stopped at the really tiny post office about 1.2 miles from our house to mail a package to my mom. The package was going to cost $15 to mail, so I went to pay with a credit card. The internet was down so the woman at the counter couldn't swipe my card and I didn't have the cash to cover it. So she put a sticky note on my package with my phone number and said she would call me when the internet was back up and I could go back and it would be all set.

Erin and Evan and I went out on our frog hunt...found nothing. (Not that I can blame the frogs, it was 44-deg and raining. I'd still be buried under leaves too, if I could be!) Anyway, then we went home and as I was getting lunch, Evan begins to fall asleep on the living room floor. Because he has a fairly small window of opportunity for a nap, I quickly got him into bed. When I came out from nursing him, I noticed the answering machine light was flashing and, you guessed it, I had to go back to the post office to mail that box.

I looked at Erin. "I've got to go mail this box, Sweetie, will you be okay?"
She hesitated..."No, I think I want to go with you."
"I can't take you because Evan is asleep and I need you to stay here with him. I'll be 10 minutes, tops."
"Okay, I'm fine. Wait. What do I do if the house catches on fire?"
"Get your brother and get out."
"That's it?"
"Get your brother and get out. Go to [neighbor's house] and call 911. Get your brother and get out."
"Got it. Get my brother, get blankie and get out."
"No...get your brother and get out!"
"Okay, okay!"
"I'll be 10 minutes."

I left, thinking about how my baby girl was growing up. I got to the PO, mailed the box and came out to see that my tire was absolutely flat. Not hey I could still drive a little flat, but oh look, I'm driving on the rim flat. Thinking fast, I brought the car 100ft to a friend's house (so it wasn't on the side of the road) and went to ask her for a ride home. I couldn't find her, so I got my cell phone thinking I would call Chris, have him bike to get the car while I walked home. My phone, however, was nearly out of battery. SOOOOO...I used the last bit of battery to call Erin and tell her I was going to be late and not to panic, and I started hoofing it home. I went as fast as I could, but with all of it, (the getting there, the mailing, the moving the car, the trying to find my friend, the phone call...) I was gone about 30 or 35 minutes.

When I got home, I burst in the door sweaty and out of breath from my speed walk home and say, "I'm hooommmmeee" (you know in that calling, singing voice). I walked over to her saying I was sorry and was she worried and she looked up from her book and said, "What? Were you gone?"

Um...yeah.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Willows

Today is another important birthday that I cannot let pass unmentioned. Willows, who died shortly after he was born, would be four years old today and he is so very sadly missed.

Just before Sophie's first birthday, I was running the monthly meeting for the support group I had started, and this woman walks in. She was about my age and, when she began to share her story, I realized how much we had in common. We talked a bit after the meeting and it turned out she lived only a few miles down the road from me. Within the month we were hanging out fairly regularly and it didn't take long for us to become very close friends. Her husband and my husband get along famously and her second child, a baby girl, is only two weeks younger than Evan. Our families love playing together, going on adventures together, and generally hanging out together.

Today, I got an email about how she was feeling with this being his birthday...and do you know what? She is sad, yes, that she doesn't hold her son in her arms today. She is missing him and what he would have been, of course. But what worries her the most is this: She writes, people are still remembering, but I'm afraid someday they won't and that's what gives me pangs of pain. And I want to shout out to the world, YES!!! THAT IS IT! Babylost parents learn to hold their pain close and carefully...with the passage of time. We all do it. But our biggest fear is that everyone else will forget. It happens slowly, over time. Year one, 10 people call and a bunch send cards. Year two, 5 call and three send a card. Year three, 5 cards...maybe. Year four? Yeah.... You get the idea. I threw a birthday party for Sophie this year--we invited as many friends as we could and had a big dinner and cake and ice cream. Why? Just because of this very fear. I can handle the idea that my baby died. I can handle the fact that she will never ride a bike or tease her baby brother. I can even handle (most days) the painful hole in our family that will never be filled. What I can't handle is that other people will forget her or forget what she is for our family. That part hurts more than all the rest. So yes, my dear, dear friend, I know exactly what you mean. And I'm here to tell you that whatever happens, wherever life takes us, I will always, always, remember Willows and all that he is to you and your family. I am so grateful to him for introducing us and May 15th will forever be his day. Happy Birthday, Willows!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Charlotte

Today is the 8th birthday of a little girl, Charlotte, who brought me to her mother, Carol, who oh-so tenderly and gently helped me pick up the pieces of my life after Sophie died. Charlotte's story arrived in my mailbox the day I got out of the hospital in 2007. I couldn't believe what I was reading...here was this story of a woman who had gone through the unthinkable torture of losing a child--and she made it. There she was, years later, writing it all down, sharing her story, getting up every day, breathing in and out all day long, caring for her living children...I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't imagine ever being in a place where a normal life even seemed possible. Within minutes of reading her story, I was writing a letter to the editor of the magazine and within a few days, Carol was writing to me. I was in awe of this woman--truly.

In the past few years, I've visited her a few times in her western MA home, I've met her incredible husband and her wonderful children. I've seen all her photos of Charlotte and I've cried with her many times. I can't even begin to explain how much this relationship has meant to me over the years, especially as I recognize the beauty and joy in my own 8yo and know how much Carol is missing hers. So today is Charlotte's day. Happy Birthday to the heart and spirit that started it all--you have no idea how many you have touched with your light.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What is a mother?

Chris asked me the other day what it meant to be a mother. I had no idea what he meant. "Do you mean like the definition? As in, one who gives birth." No, he meant more in the what does it mean to you kind of way. Strangely, though, I still didn't know quite how to answer him. The truth is this--I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was one. That may seem silly given that clearly we made the choice to become parents willingly. What I mean is that I spent much of my early adult life planning to be a biology teacher. In high school, I knew that was what I wanted to be. In college, that was the direction I took and, despite (or because of) a small detour to get a master's degree in paleobiology, I became a biology teacher. It was fine. And I do mean that--I met some great people, enjoyed my job, had some fantastic students (and some not-so-fantastic ones!) and generally got very good reviews for what I was doing. It was fine.

Then I had a baby...and suddenly "fine" wasn't what I wanted. This little person, this tiny little being who had landed in our family, needed so much more than fine! Unfortunately, I was stuck--I was the main income for our family and I was also the health insurance. While we knew we could figure out a way to live on very little salary, we didn't feel okay giving up health insurance with a new little one. So back to work I went. I had the summer off, but the following year, I had to go back. That year, things got bad on so many levels that I simply had to quit. We spent many months that year figuring things out. And we did. When the school year ended in 2004, I walked out and never went back. I have never, not even on my worst days, thought of going back (okay, maybe on my worst days I dream of having a career that pays actual cash...). Then Megan was born, then Sophie was born, then Evan was born...and here I am.

So this is what I do. This is what I have given up everything to do. When people ask my husband what he does, he says he is a geologist. What do I do? I'm a mom. A homeschooling, breastfeeding, cloth diaper washing, gentle discipline practicing MOM. It is what I was actually meant to be. The biology teacher thing was just a little aside that helped pay the bills while I was warming up to do this and to be this.

Today the dental hygienist told me she was simply in awe at how beautiful, cooperative, kind and just plain nice our kids were. So while I'm still a little sad I didn't get the convertible I wanted for Mother's Day, I do have something better. I have wonderful kids and an amazing husband who supports my dreams. Probably this still doesn't answer his question...but I guess if I didn't get my convertible, he doesn't get his answer.


Happy (late) Mother's Day to all the wonderful moms out there--whether you get to hold your children in your arms or just in your hearts, you are all amazing to me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

She's Six!

Six years ago, today, I did something pretty cool...




Don't you think so?



So here we are, six years later and I still think she's pretty cool! My little Goose, what would we do without her?! I don't think there is much to say that I haven't already said. Her energy, love, compassion, curiosity, and just plain fantastic-ness make every day so very special. Happy Birthday, Megan, I love you!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ranting

I belong to an online group that sends me daily inspirational quotes for homeschooling/unschooling, which usually are quite open encouraging. Today, however, I got this one:
--------------------
I have heard of, read about and communicated with people who referred to themselves as part-time unschoolers, relaxed homeschoolers, eclectic homeschoolers, academic unschoolers and other terms

Limited kinds of unschooling will have limited benefits.
--------------------

And it made me feel very judged and labeled--especially that last sentence. First of all, I go through great pains not to label myself, my child or what it is we do all day. Now, I recognize that people in the "real" world require these labels and the fact that we are homeschoolers is a label I am willing to wear when we are out there. We take classes in our community that are specifically for homeschoolers, and none of them ever ask me what kind of homeschooler we are, which is good, because there are so many different kinds out there. I know people who have daily check-lists for their kids, I know people who do every subject every day and people who do some subjects on specific days and others at other times. I know people who do unit studies and people who don't. I even know people who, at the beginning of each year, go to the local public school and get that year's curriculum for their child and take it home and do it. There are lots of ways to homeschool...but all of us are simply out there trying to meet our child's needs the best we know how.

Unschooling, which is the label I would mostly wear if I had to, is what works well for us right now. It gives us the freedom to pick and choose what we want and it gives Erin a chance to explore all kinds of things based on what interests her right now. Maybe it will work for us next year too...maybe it will work for us forever...but to suggest that if we don't do it all the time, it will have "limited benefits" or to suggest that there aren't benefits for schooling in other ways is incredibly unfair and, I think, divides a homeschool community that needs to stay together. Homeschooling, like parenting, is hard enough without pinning one kind against another.

Sigh...maybe tomorrow's quote will inspire me to do something cool with my child instead of get on my blog and rant....

Monday, May 2, 2011

Better late than never....

It has been a while since my last post--sorry about that! I wanted to post a few pictures from our most recent trip to FL. Enjoy!



DinoWorld was a big hit with a certain toddler. It was a bit hot for the rest of us, but he was in 7th heaven! "Mommy! Look at this one! Look at this one!"


We did a day trip to the Clearwater Aquarium, home of Winter, the dolphin with no tail (she got tangled in a crab trap as a baby). You may have heard of her because there is a big movie coming out about her on September 23rd, starring Morgan Freeman and other big names. Anyway, now my kids can say they have met her. Megan actually got a kiss from her!



Easter was fun, complete with Easter dresses for the girls and a cutie outfit for the baby boy. Pictures took a while...and you can always tell when Erin is done with them!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Oh well...

It appears that there is a huge difference in the level of "hero worship" (for lack of a better term) between a 2-year-old and an 8-year-old when it comes to good ol' Mama!

Today, I was driving down the road with Evan and Erin in the car and there was a guy on the opposite sidewalk, running towards us. And I mean running. Clearly training for something and obviously doing a good job. I'm talking probably a 5 minute mile and he had clearly been sustaining that pace for a while and had no intention of stopping anytime soon. Evan points at him and says, "Look, Mama! That man runs like you!" Erin looks up from her book..."Um, no, Evan, Mom runs much more slowly than that!"

Thanks, kid!

Monday, April 4, 2011

At least I made her laugh...

I have a good friend I have recently reconnected with. She is four years older than I am, but was a huge inspiration to me when I was in high school and she was one of the biggest reasons I went to Mount Holyoke College (where I got to meet Amy...). Anyway, we have reconnected through the bonds of parenthood as she recently had her first baby. He is a wonderful little bundle and she loves him with an intensity only a mother can understand. Of course, there are difficulties, as there usually are. He is a fairly high-needs baby and she is very much a goal-oriented, in-control kind of person (as you would have to be to have a PhD in toxicology!). Sometimes these two things don't necessarily match! As any experienced mom knows, peace and harmony is usually far more easily accomplished when you can just let go of control and follow your baby. As any first-time mom knows, this is far, far, far easier said than done! And haven't we all been there? Haven't we all had that moment at 2 in the morning when your dear one just won't go back to sleep and you can't think beyond the next 5 minutes, never mind the next week or month or year? Haven't we all snapped at our husbands for [insert silly reason that didn't seem silly at the time here]? Grumpily hung out in our pjs all day because the baby just won't be put down? Felt (*gasp*) resentful towards our child for needing us so? I know I have. Sure, you might admire my parenting now...but you weren't there during those many, many nights after Megan was born and I couldn't believe we had ever thought having two children was a good idea. You weren't there for the umpteenth discussion over finances and why we needed yet another baby carrier in our collection ("Maybe this one will stop her from crying!"). You weren't there for the moments that I can't even repeat because it is so painful to put myself back into those feelings of complete inadequacy and resentment towards my child.

So, anyway, here is this new mom, a thousand miles away, struggling through these completely normal feelings of exhaustion, resentment, exhaustion, lack of control, exhaustion, and overwhelming love, and all I can do is talk her through her roughest moments. Like the other day. It was 8:30 in the morning. Megan had just managed to get off to school, Chris to work, Evan was in his one-piece-footed pjs with no diaper on, Erin was on the couch reading. All at once, just after the door shut behind Megan and Chris, Evan yelled, "I POOPED!" I turned around and yes, he had pooped...in his pjs. As I'm getting him out of those (which, of course, got poop on the floor), I realize it would just be easier to put him in the shower. He gets in there, Erin yells, "I'm starving!" to which I reply that she will have to fix that herself as I'm busy cleaning up poop. Chris and Megan come rushing back in and out again (I have no idea what they forgot) and--you guessed it--the phone rings. "Hi, Aimee!" she says, "Is this a good time to chat?" I looked around me. "Of course it is! I've got one kid fixing her own breakfast (which I'll clean up after later), a two-year-old in the shower, poop on the floor and a substantial amount of poop in his pjs! But what's up???" She just started to laugh. Her next sentence? "Thank you, Aimee, you made my day!"

We talked a bit more and then I went back to cleaning up poop and she went back to soothing a fussy baby. Obviously I didn't do much for her, other than to reassure her that someday she, too, would have poop all over her floor (she can't wait!).

It gets easier...with time and with more kids, it simply gets easier. But just like you would never tell a mom who has just had a loss that things get easier with time, it does no good to tell a new mom how much better things will get. Because when you are in that moment, it just doesn't matter how much better it will get eventually, you simply need to survive now. And I understand that, my friend, I truly do. So call anytime. And if you ever need poop on your floor, I'm pretty sure Evan is equal to the task.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just Regular Days...

I haven't written in a while--not much to say. We are getting through the days of March without much excitement. The weather has been cold, far too cold to call it spring, but yet the occasional warm day means the snow is slowly (veeeerrrryyyyy sllooooooowwwlly) making its way out of our yard. The road is clear, so bike riding has begun (on days when it is warm enough to be out) and our favorite running spot at the university is nearly clear. (Right now we have a short loop and look forward to the snow being off the longer loop--surely by the time we return from FL!)

Erin is deeply involved in her Egypt unit and has made a book of gods, clay amulets, maps, stories, drawings...and is hoping to make a "life-size" pyramid (don't think so, kid!).

Megan is at that incredibly exciting time in an early-readers life where she is actually reading words and stringing them together to form the sentences. She can read the funnies in the morning, sounding out each word carefully and then putting them all together. I love love love the look on her face when it all comes together and makes sense. It just amazes me how wired the human brain is to learn and how great it is when it all falls into place. Awesome.

Evan is just cute. He has so many more words and expressions...he is priceless. I love listening to him "read" stories to his babies.

Despite the cold and the apparently unending gray of winter, spring will come! (And even if it doesn't, the kids and I are going to FL in a few weeks anyway, so who cares???)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring In Maine

So this morning we looked outside and saw this:



Evan said, "Mama! Look! There is snow on that tree and that table and that garden and Sophie's tree and the slide and that tree.... Oh no, Mama! Let's go wipe it off."

Happy Spring, indeed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Yet Another Ramble....*

I have a friend who I have been thinking a lot about lately. I'm not sure why she has been so prominent in my thoughts recently, but she has. This friend is a few months out from her loss, a dear baby boy who died at 17 weeks gestation. And do you know what I've been thinking about? I've been thinking about how she is going about her days with a smile and laugh and working hard to enjoy her three living boys, her wonderful husband, and her supportive homeschooling community. I've been thinking that I know what she is going through, as she goes through the motions, a few months out, when people around her no longer mention her loss. The people who love her so much don't talk about it because there isn't anything left to say. They did all the right things; brought the meals, helped with the memorial...and now there is nothing left. Obviously they would be there for her if she needed it, but no longer do they expect that this missing baby will be a part of the conversation. No longer is the missing one part of their every thought. But he is still a part of her every thought. This, I know. And I need to be clear--these friends of hers are not, in anyway, being mean or cruel or thoughtless for not mentioning him. They truly, truly aren't. Every single one of them (myself included) would drop everything and come running if she were to ask...but she has mostly stopped asking. Because there is nothing anyone can do to help her right now.

And so she goes about her day with this ball and chain clamped to her heart. Can you see it? And while in the beginning people were lining up outside her door with offers to help carry it, time has gone on and life is moving forward. People don't mean to, but they have to put it down to do their own heavy lifting. Soccer practice, a dentist appointment, a sick child, a husband needing clean socks.... Before you know it, my friend is left holding this weight by herself. And again, none of us who have gone through this fault anyone for leaving us holding it. It is ours to carry and the last thing we want you to do is take it away from us. But, my friend, I know that sigh. The one that escapes you as your living children hustle out the door to enjoy the first day of spring and you are alone in the house for a brief moment of quiet. Smiling at those you pass, you don't talk about it, but I know that you know that it is there. Getting kids through the grocery store, cheering them on at a game, helping with schoolwork...all these things take priority and you have become skilled at carrying this weight without complaint, without expecting help. It is, after all, yours to carry.

I don't know why I'm writing this right now. I don't know why I have been thinking about this so much. I guess it is because I want her to know that I see it--I see that heavy weight she is carrying so carefully through her day and I want her to know I know exactly how it feels. I know what it takes to breathe deeply, pick up that weight and start your day. I know what it is like to grab a few precious seconds in a shower to simply cry at the huge unfairness of the universe and then get out and love your living children because they are there for you to love. I know what it means to have someone ask, "How many kids do you have?" and feel like you've just been kicked in the gut. I know how much that, even now, you would love a day to simply cry. I know what you carry, my friend, and I guess I just wanted to tell you that.

*sorry for the repetitiveness of this post...it really is just a ramble! And, my friend who knows who she is, if you would rather I take this down, let me know!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Unschooling Ramble

I've been doing a lot of reading on unschooling this past year. I love the whole idea of letting my kid be a kid and following her interests. I will admit that I struggle with this sometimes, as many I know who also unschool have admitted to me as well. (Especially as our children get older and seem more out of tune, so to speak, with other kids their age.) Then, of course, there are the Radical Unschoolers, who have a whole following of their own. This group contains some people who are almost cult-like in their zeal to allow the child to choose absolutely everything in their lives, from clothes and food to education and bedtimes. I admire these people, who have such trust in their child's ability to always pick the right thing. I fully admit that I'm not there yet and that we are trying to decide how far "there" we will go. Take bedtime, for instance, I know without a doubt that my second would stay up really late if I let her. She would run herself into the ground--probably throwing a tantrum at the end, just because. As the parent, I choose to not let her do that. We get her into her pjs early, read to her for quite a long time, then tuck her in with a relaxing meditation CD. She goes to sleep easily and usually sleeps all night. None of it feels forced, coerced, or fixed, nor does it seem disingenuous with regard to her needs. So the fact that she doesn't necessarily have the freedom to choose her own bedtime doesn't feel "wrong" to us somehow. Radical Unschoolers would tell me I don't trust her to do what feels right in her body. And perhaps they are right...as the parent I have lived longer, have more experience in this area and I have definitely seen the results of letting her stay up too late. Trying to balance her needs and her freedom and independence can be a delicate balance, can't it? And should I feel guilty for not "allowing" this freedom? Because I don't...I feel like a responsible parent.

Food choice is another major area of discrepancy for Radical Unschoolers and regular unschoolers, like us. My kids have total freedom with anything in the house. Rarely do I ask them not to eat something at whatever time of the day...if it is in the house, it is fair game. The trick? I am very careful about what comes into our house. My husband and I are passionate about eating locally, organically, and growing our own when we can. We know our local farmers, get food from local markets and buying clubs and raw milk from a good, clean, local dairy. We have researched this topic a LOT. As a result, our kids have grown up able to appreciate limits on their food consumption. We have NEVER (and I truly mean NEVER) taken our kids to any fast food restaurants. Why? Because we have a major problem with how food is raised in this country and taking them to a restaurant like that would simply be telling them that yes, we talk about food and how important it is to know your food source, but just this once (or twice or however many times), we'll ignore that value and eat here. That gives such a HUGE mixed message to kids and I don't think it is fair. At some point in their lives, when they are older, they will be on a field trip or team sports trip or whatever, and the bus will stop at McDonald's for dinner. We know this. At that point, they will be more than welcome to choose what they want to do. If they ask us to pack them a dinner because they don't want to eat the food, we'll be more than happy to do that. If they ask us for money to buy something so they don't feel different from their peers, we'll do that as well. Because at that point, they will have the understanding they need to make their own choices. I know I'm going against all Radical Unschooling policy when I say that I just don't believe my 5yo has a good enough grasp of the complexities of the food system to make that choice right now. Of COURSE she would pick a McDonald's chicken nugget...they taste good. Duh...they are supposed to. They are marketed specifically for the 5yo...the chemicals have been tested especially for them! RUs tell me that if I don't give her the choice now, she'll "never" be able to make the choice later. Sorry, I just don't buy that. (It has a similar ring to the idea that if I don't wean my son, he'll "never" stop nursing. Again, I just don't buy that.)

So I guess I'm still floundering in this world of "regular" unschooling while being bombarded with messages about the positives of Radical unschooling. I mean, I think of the time my son, at age 5-months, did a face plant into my husband's ice cream cone. Until that moment he was exclusively breastfed, but apparently a little Moose Tracks ice cream was just want he wanted. Now, we had been fighting a dairy allergy for a while, but that aside, should I have just let him have it? Or would even RUs understand that 5-months is a little too young to make food choices? I say again, I'm stuck with what some say is my "need" to control the situation and what others would call my son's need to control what goes into his body (or my daughter's need for bedtime freedom, etc.)

Anyway, I know these are just the ramblings of a mom trying to make her way through this adventure of parenting and now homeschooling. At some point my kids will be adults...at that point I'll know if it worked or not, if my guidance was reasonable or if they are permanently messed up. But by then I'll probably be living in Hawaii, enjoying my retirement with ease. And a houseboy...I'll definitely have a houseboy who does the laundry.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Auntie Amy's Gift Part 1 of many...

Here are a few images from our weekend of skiing. The first day was awesome and I was just having such a blast watching the kids on skis that I didn't take out the camera. The second day was so snowy and blustery that I didn't take out the camera (much--the shot of Megan skiing is on that day!) and then the last day was so wonderful that we were just all out enjoying it and again, usually forgot the camera. We did get some though, so enjoy.

Here we all are as high as we could get on the mountain that day (the tippy-top wasn't open due to wind, but we enjoyed a great view from where we were).


Who doesn't love a 2yo on skis for the first time?? They just don't get any cuter!


This kid was fearless...here she is on an intermediate slope in the middle of a blizzard. Just point her down the hill and off she goes!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Birthday! (Number 8)

As we are on our way to Saddleback Mountain to ski for the weekend, I don't have time to put up an appropriate post for this very important day. You see, 8 years ago today, I became a mother for the very first time. Obviously it was a moment I'll never forget and one that continues to change my life profoundly. When Erin was born, I was planning to breastfeed her for 6 weeks (more wasn't really necessary, right?), go back to work immediately and never look back. Wow. Clearly that didn't happen. Anyway...


Erin is such an amazing kid and I love watching her grow. I'm so blessed to be home with her every day and be a part of her journey out into this world. I wouldn't trade it for anything!


Happy Birthday, Erin!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Victory

Unschooling is a journey--an amazing, eye-opening journey of self-discovery for both the children and the parents. Trust is a huge part of this, as is watching children make mistakes and watching them celebrate their victories. This may not look like a victory to someone who likes a tidy kitchen, but to my not-yet-8-yo who just made her very first pan of brownies from start to finish all by herself, it is an important victory.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

The WhatIfs

It think it is human nature to second guess everything. I know that for years after Sophie died, I spent time wrapped up in the WhatIf game. Of course there is no point to this game--we all do the best we can with the information we have at the time--and it is only the passage of time that allows us to move through those doubts and accept the consequences of our choices. In the 5 days since Amy's death, I have been rapidly second-guessing each and every minute I spent with her and wondering if I really was there for her as much as possible. Obviously I was doing the best I could and I know this. I've no doubt that Amy knows it too and even with all the bumps, I know our friendship would have lasted another million years, easy.

So on Wednesday, I stood up in front of a room filled to the very brim with people who loved Amy. Friends, family, colleagues...all there to honor the too short life of a very loving and giving person. I stood there and tried to sum up 20 years of friendship...and I couldn't do it. I mean, I spoke and people said it was great...but I just don't feel like I did her justice at all. I don't know as there is a way to adequately express the very simple idea that Amy was just always there. She was always there, always helping, always a part of our lives--a big part. From college, to our wedding, to our pets, to our kids...Amy was just always there. Always. So I can talk about the inside jokes and the strange/funny/interesting things we have done over the last 20 years, but it simply doesn't explain it just right, you know? And this is what I'm stuck on right now, as I play the WhatIf game. WhatIf I had said something better, something clearer, something a bit deeper and more meaningful? How could I have done this? How could I have better expressed myself (through tears, granted) and explained how deeply woven into very fabric of our family Amy was? I just couldn't do it. Now her apartment is empty, the memorial service is done, the ashes are on our shelf and, just outside my window, time is marching on. And as time passes, I will become more comfortable with how things went and I will again trust that I did the best I could with the information I had at the time. Amy is now in a place where she can read my feelings straight from my heart...and she already knows what it says there. I will forever wish I had found a way to convey these feelings to the people at her service, but in the end, the one person who needs to know it, already does. I will find peace with this...in time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It is sinking in...

It was this past Saturday, during the end of Evan's birthday party, that I got the call about Amy’s death. After the initial feeling of shock, I went into "business mode" and began to put into place everything we had been talking about for months. I went down to her apartment on Sunday to meet up with her mother and Sara. We sat and talked for a while, shared some stories and outlined some specifics about the service. Then her mom left and Sara and another friend and I began to clean the apartment. I didn't shed a tear as I packed up books and clothes. I didn't have a problem wrapping up her dolphin figures or packing up her cd collection. That afternoon, we all went to Amy's favorite restaurant to finalize plans for her service. We got the date and time, figured out the menu and how we would set up the room. Sara is in charge of the slide show, I'm in charge of the ice cream...no problem. Then I drove home. When I got home, Chris and I worked out the most "normal" schedule we could for the week while still allowing time for the final apartment cleaning and Megan's busy week at school. All was fine. I emailed my employer and told her I would definitely be at work this week and that I really was okay.

Then I woke up this morning...and Megan didn't want to go to school, Evan only wanted to nurse, Erin didn't want to get dressed, and the worst? I'm having trouble reaching the distributor for Ben and Jerry's to deliver enough ice cream for 80 people at the memorial service. I feel like I'm losing my mind. Tears are ready to spring at any moment and I simply cannot believe that I'm facing the rest of my life without Amy.

So I talked to my employer. I'm taking the rest of the week off.