update and dance and squirrels and such

Hmmmm.  Where to begin?  It’s been a crazy month life and lately, I haven’t even known what to write or say to do it justice.  It’s hard; it feels terrible.  The end.  However, life continues and so shall I.  In truth, there are just so many things I can not share over a blog.  There are so many things that are not public details and many, many things I am contending with that require I not state them publicly.  I have many mixed and layered emotions about life and to wing something out there without a bigger context could be harmful to many people, including my family and Terry specifically.  So what’s left to write?  Well, (insert long pause) I’m not quite sure.  I would have never opted to start a blog after Terry passed away, but since I have already been doing this for quite some time, closing up shop isn’t such an easy decision.  There may come a point in time when various things in life demand that I stop…my career, my family, etc.  We’ll see how it goes.

For now, I can say that I feel very lost on this journey of life.  I’m not lost in knowing who I am, but I’m not certain how who I am and what my life is fit in to anything.  They don’t fit into the life prior to Reece’s passing or after Reece’s passing.  And honestly, I’m exhausted.  I re-read my posts from months and even years ago and in some sense, it’s as though I can’t identify with the life I lived.  At times, I truly don’t know up from down when I read some of my posts.  However, I know they were written in truth.  I just don’t know what I think of some of my writing at this point.  Some things are encouraging and others seem like platitudes.  Dare I say some of it sounds naïve?

I’ve tried to explain to a few friends that after Reece passed away, at least we had the comfort of each other as our own little family.  We had immediate things we could lean into and rely on and we had each other.  Most importantly, we could rely on ourselves for daily functioning.  This situation has left very little comfort in any sense.  I’m grateful my parents have been willing to step in and incorporate my household into their home.  I’m grateful I have very close and trusted friends and advisors.  I’m grateful for the outpouring of support I’ve received.  I’m grateful that despite the difficult nature of losing a child, I know who I am and how I handle crisis because of it.  I am in a rare class that can honestly say, “I’ve been there before.”  (At least in some sense.)  But the day-to-day is quite raw.

There is no comfort in my marriage or my home.  There is no comfort in hearing things like, “You’ll do it for your kids,” or, “God can do anything.”  My kids feel overwhelming to me.  Yep, I will eventually do it for my kids, because I love them more than anyone on the face of the earth.  But right now, if I don’t do it for me, I absolutely can’t do it for them.  And I know God can do anything.  Anything includes things we also don’t want to have happen but do happen anyway.  I’ve had a lot of that type of “anything” happen, so that also doesn’t feel that great or encouraging.  I know it will get better, but better right now feels theoretical.

I’ve said a lot of swear words lately.  My mind is mush in regard to what I’m going to do going forward.  I have a lot to contemplate and that includes the knee jerk desire to try to fix everything and act from a fear response versus trust in God and His plan.  I know in my heart that he is good, but I’m just not sure how that’s going to turn out in my life.  It would certainly be nice to have some clear direction.  I’m not going to hold my breath.

The kids are doing as well as can be.  They are involved with a few things and I am attempting to keep them in a few of the activities they were in prior to this all happening.  Britta and I had our dance show earlier this month.  I say “our” because we were in a “Mommy-and-Me” class all year.  I took dance lessons as a child and I really thought it would be a fun activity for us to do together over the year.  Other than the times I had to remind her that we were there to dance together and it wasn’t just a class for me to dance and her to goof around, it did prove to be enjoyable.  The parents participated in the year-end show and, under the circumstances, I was not exactly looking forward to getting up on stage.  It turned out to be a fun and fairly normal thing for us to do together.  We danced to “Rubber Ducky” and it turned out to be pretty cute.  Here we are, pre-show, after changing in the car (ahem…every dancer must know this skill).

Dance show! Dance show!

 

One final thought.  I’m taking some liberties in this post and allowing some pretty raw feelings to come out.  Before you get too depressed and decide to never read the blog again, let me disclose my previous statement, “I know who I am and I know how I handle crisis.” I truly have been here before.  They aren’t the exact same circumstances, but there’s enough overlap.  Had I not walked through those things, I would not be able to confidently state that it will get better.  And it will.  But it is a process and this one, unfortunately, is even messier than the last.  There is more to clean up and it requires perseverance and time.  One I feel short on and the other feels excessive.  I’ll let you decide.  Additionally, there are incredibly uncomfortable feelings of depending on others for just about everything.  But seriously, there are bright spots and they will continue to increase.  It feels totally ridiculous to come out here and say life is wonderful and every day feels better than the next.  It isn’t and it doesn’t.  That’s part of this.  That’s what it is like two months into this process.  That’s why I’m exhausted.  BUT–it will eventually feel a whole lot different.  If the blog stays up, perhaps you’ll feel you can read it long enough to see those bright spots again.  It’ll happen.  If you can’t stick around, that’s fine too.  Regardless, should you happen to run into me somewhere remember–I’m just a normal person like anyone else.  Just a squirrel trying to get a nut.

one long winter

I’m certain I’m not alone in thinking that this has been a loooong winter.  After the first of the year, Terry hit the road for his new job and traveled extensively throughout January and February.  And of all places…to sunny California!  In the midst of his travel, my beloved grandfather passed away (which deserves its own post) and since then, we have battled multiple colds, a bout with a stomach virus (which forced Terry to come back early one week), a household full of strep throat, and one very bad case of diaper rash which required a special trip to the doctor’s office and a prescription for some homemade concoction from the clinic called “poop goop”.  Seriously, those were the words that were printed on the label.  The weather needs no explanation.  With three small kids in tow, there have been many days where I decided it wasn’t worth the risk or the effort to bundle everyone up and go some place.  There was one week in January where all three kids had colds, Jude was up every hour of the night for multiple nights, school was cancelled due to weather so we didn’t leave the house for the entire week and by Thursday afternoon, I managed to fall down the stairs with Scarlett in my arms.  Thankfully, Scarlett was not injured, but I was fairly banged up.  Scarlett was so upset by my own tears after falling and so stir crazy from being cooped up all week that she literally sat on my bed and screamed at Britta and me for 45 minutes.  She capped it all off by heading upstairs and biting (yes, biting) our coffee table out of pure frustration.  At that point, Britta turned to me with a blank look on her face and said, “Maybe Daddy is coming home today.”  To which I replied, “Nope!  Not today.”  All I can say is uff da.  The week ended with Terry missing a flight connection, not getting in until Saturday afternoon and flying out again on Monday.  By the time Terry got home all I could say to him was, “I’m thankful that we will never have to live through January 2014 again and that our kids will never be this young again.”  Yes, it has been one long winter.  I promise I am sharing all this for more than my own need to vent and get sympathy.

It’s been a trying winter and in no small part due to Terry being gone a lot.  We are very thankful for his new opportunity, but I have been out-of-it as far single-parenting while Terry travels.  Truthfully, it’s an entirely different group of kids for me.  He hasn’t traveled like this since prior to Reece’s hospitalization.  Needless to say, I am out of practice.  Not only am I out of practice, but without Reece here as my helper while Dad is on the road, I’m way off.  It certainly makes me miss him even more.  Sure, Britta is nearly the same age as Reece was when Terry was gone before, but it’s just not the same.  The whole scenario has revealed many shortcomings I have as a parent.  And these shortcomings have reminded me over and over again about a post I wrote on Like Olive Shoots entitled 51 Things I Hope I Never Do Again.  That particular post has easily generated the most traffic on the blog other than the posts around the time Reece passed away.  It was written early on in Reece’s transplant as he really started becoming ill from the cord blood.  I remember sitting in the hospital wishing I had the same issues and challenges as I did on any ordinary day of my life.  I remember feeling trapped in such an obscure life place with no way to fix any of it.  Life felt completely out of control.  I promised when we eventually were out of the situation, I’d be a better mother…more loving, more compassionate, more creative, more tolerant…more whatever.  I promised I would remember how hard it was in the hospital and that, no matter what, our challenges at home would not compare.  While they don’t compare, the demands at home are still great.  The day-to-day can still be tough.  And you know what I’ve learned in the last 20 months?  I’m really not any better at parenting than I used to be.  I’m different at some things and I’ve changed quite a bit personally, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t gotten any better at being a mom.  I have strengths and weaknesses just like anyone else.  But I had convinced myself during our time at the U of MN that I would somehow be better at “mom” after going through all of that.  Well, my perspective is now different and I’m still good at some things, but I need a lot of improvement on others.  The “needs work” category has never been more apparent than in these last cold months.

Actually, if anything, I may have gotten worse at the things I need improvement on.  I’ve realized that I’ve been pressed in many ways throughout these last few months and nothing surfaces more in pressure situations than the ugly things.  Or is that just me?  Maybe it’s just me.  When I’m pressed, I’m no sweetheart.  But I’m trying–wow–am I ever trying to work on these things.  In particular, I am trying to work on not having a short fuse with my children.  Most days are just fine but there are a few moments baked into the most random places where I really have to work hard to not lose my temper, with Britta in particular.  One such moment happened about a month ago.  We were having a great day and leaving the gym on yet another very, very cold morning.  Britta was dawdling as we got into the van (getting the kids in and out of the van is no small process with the three kids in car seats).  In my desperation to get her to pay attention and get out of the extreme cold (I could tell she was deliberately trying to disobey me by not getting into the van) I did not handle the situation well.  But even as I was strapping her into her car seat I apologized for losing my temper and told her as hard as I try, I’m not perfect.  I will always tell my children their only perfect parent is Jesus.  Period.  But it just felt yucky.  I felt like I should be past this–I should be beyond this.  I know what if feels like to wish you handled every situation well.  I have certain memories with Reece, in our every day life, that I wish I had handled better. Those memories, at times, torment me.  I know every parent has these moments; I’m not unique in this way.  I’m also not unique in avoiding them–they didn’t magically disappear after Reece passed away.  But I know the feeling of regret over them.  I know the feeling of grief over them.  Nevertheless, I have accepted that my other kids will experience my own faults just like Reece did.

As I got in the driver’s seat of the van I was deeply sorrowful over the way I handled myself with her.  Then the words came to mind, “…and love covers over a multitude of sin.”  Thank-you, God, for that.  And it’s so true.  It doesn’t make sinning any less wrong; I’m still working on many, many things that I need to keep in check.  However, I needed to remember that my loving actions greatly outnumber the not-so-loving ones.  Most importantly, I take those words to mean that Jesus’ love for me and my kids fills in the holes of my parenting gaps.  If nothing else, they will be taught that in my shortcomings, Jesus will never fail them.  I’m not trying to replace God.  That’s a big revelation for me, because it basically lets me off the hook of beating myself up over my failures.  I still grieve my failures with my children, but knowing I can’t be perfect helps.

Here’s the deal–there is blessing in seeing your child live their entire life.  I can speak to a much bigger picture than the average parent (one of the ways I am a different person and different parent than I used to be).  I know in a deeply personal way that Reece was not thinking of my parenting shortcomings before he coded or passed.  His last months with us demonstrated love and commitment and perseverance–both parent and child.  There was no heartache about time-outs or me losing my temper or the things that Terry or I did wrong in our parenting.  Our final exchange of words was tender and loving and that is a gift.  It’s also extended to me as grace in parenting my other kids to know that this Bible verse is true and that I’ve seen it in action.  It’s not worth beating myself up over a single moment in January 2014.  The picture is so much bigger than that; life isn’t lived in a single moment.  That is encouraging to me.  It releases some of the angst I feel over moments I had with Reece and also from the temptation to beat myself over similar moments with my younger three kids.

By the way, I’m so glad that I titled that post “51 Things I Hope I Never Do Again”, versus “51 Things I Promise to Never Do Again”.  Because I’m pretty sure I’ve done nearly all of them since I wrote it and that would just mean I broke 51 promises.  Lord, help me.

Birthday Season is upon us in our household.  Reece’s birthday is in two weeks.  I’m sure I’ll be posting about it soon.  If you think of us, we covet your prayers.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

we had a baby

Yes, we had our baby boy. He’s pretty awesome in every sense of the word. Life has been crazy and sleep-deprived, hence the big, long sabbatical from blogging. Somehow, we managed to space our kids in ever-decreasing age increments (three years, two years, sixteen months). From my vantage point today I would not say the sixteen month spacing is my favorite. It’s two babies in the house. Blessings, yes they are, but it is challenging. Wow, challenging doesn’t even really accurately describe it. Still, this isn’t our first rodeo and we recognize that things will ease up as we work through different ages and stages with our kids. I keep saying, “I know this will get fun at some point.” Right now, all the kids are fun individually, but I know when things start to gel, they will be fun as a group as well. I hope that makes sense. I’m not Complaining; I’m just…complaining with a lower-cased “c”.

I’ll spare the details of the birth and say that I gave birth to a healthy baby boy in mid-September. We named him Jude. His birth was the only one where we did not spend the entire hospital stay debating the name. That is because we knew we were going to have a baby boy several years ago and, if our strong feelings about having him were true, we would name him Jude. When I look back now I have such a fascinating picture of how our family was formed and when and where God let us know how our family would be completed is no exception to it. It’s too long of a story for the amount of time I have to type it all out tonight (hitting the hay early these days!). Perhaps I’ll get into it another time. However, the name “Jude” means “praise or thanks”. It is indeed fitting. I have much gratitude for all of our children. This boy, being our last child, has a name that sums up my feelings towards our being gifted with him, as well as Reece, Britta, and Scarlett.

The girls are fascinated with him and very “hands on”–which makes me nervous at times. Still, I’m glad they are excited to be big sisters and I feel strongly that Reece is aware of his younger brother (and excited about him!) as well. I don’t know how to describe that other than ever since his passing there are things that I feel deep in my soul to be true…this is one of them.

I’ve written a million blog posts in my mind over the past couple of months. I certainly needed the break from blogging and have found, yet again, clarity about writing. The last few months of my pregnancy were quite challenging on multiple fronts and being able to just “be” and experience it all was important. As we get our feet back under us, I plan on continuing to write. I just needed to get this post out there that we did have our sweet little guy and that we are busy, but surviving. Our life continues to be a challenging and often foreign concept to us–at times it seems unrecognizable. Nevertheless, the undeniable, tangible blessing of a new baby in my arms is incredibly grounding and certainly affirms that we are held in the palm of God’s hand.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”
Isaiah 40:11

this child is loved

The evening that Reece passed away I remember saying to Terry that someone could storm in, hold us at gunpoint, and I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash–I felt so numb to life.  That numbness has gradually lessened over time.  That intense period of being oblivious to sincere safety concerns was very short, thankfully.  I then went through several months of feeling a loss of interest to make decisions that would somehow re-engage us in life activity.  It has been a very slow process of taking on small things that start to integrate us back into normal circumstances and to begin trying to really “live” life.  We are still working on this on many fronts.  However, where I really struggled those first few months was in my willingness to take on anything further than that to which we had already committed.  We had our girls, our home, and our current life at the time.  I had no desire to even entertain the thought of doing more.  My thoughts were solely about caring for the girls, figuring out what God’s ultimate calling was for me (which I accept may solely be taking care of my kids and husband), and completing it.  I really spent most of the day with my head focused on Heaven and Reece and getting there in the minimum amount of time God would require.  I could not fathom making decisions that would tie us here any longer or doing things that would tie us to this life any further.  This may not make sense to you, but my thinking was to do the best I could with what we had chosen to take on and not entertain engaging in anything that might get us invested in life here any further.  It sounds strange, but to me, it makes perfect sense in the context of what we’ve lived through.  We’d witnessed so much–our innocence had been lost–and other than raising our girls, I wanted nothing further to keep me here.  In the back of my mind, I know that God doesn’t work like that, but that was where I was at and I know that He understood it, perfectly.

Then, late last Fall, I happened to watch an interview of Barbara Bush on the TODAY Show. (Click here to view this clip.)  Interviewed by her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, the former First Lady discussed the passing of their second child–a daughter named Robin–from leukemia; she was three years old.  I had no idea that George H. W. and Barbara Bush had lost a child and as the interview continued, she discussed some intimate details regarding watching her daughter pass away.  What she described hit very close to home in our own experience of watching Reece pass away.  Most people, including myself, do not discuss such details publicly and it was helpful to hear her talk about it.  She spoke of how she and the former President still discuss their daughter and how they felt about losing her.  She mentioned that now, as they are approaching the end of their lives on earth, they discuss her even more and how excited they are to see her again.  As I listened, it occurred to me that they had several other children after Robin died.  George Bush went on to work in many high level positions, including being the President of the USA.  They raised five children (four having been born after Robin died), including one future US President.  They figured out a way to hold it together, to heal, and to be active again in life.  They took on new challenges.  They didn’t stop having children, they didn’t let it cripple their plans in his career, they didn’t crumble as a family.  Watching this interview helped me to realize that it would be okay, at some point, to take new things on in life.

A few months ago, I posted this picture on my Facebook profile page:

Family

I stated that this is what my dream looks like–to hold Reece again.  I’ve actually already lived and felt my dream.  It has temporarily left me, but it will be realized again one day.  In reality, it will be different from this, as you will notice, not all of our kids are part of this picture.  My dream contains this scene, but it includes more people than what are pictured.  Reece is only part of it–the entire picture is having my family reunited.  In all likelihood, that could be close to 100 years from now, but I strongly believe it will happen.  I have come to accept that I will never have a family photo with all of us together on Earth.  We won’t ever feel “whole” here, as a family.  Once I accepted that reality, I was able to better understand that we still had a strong desire of the heart to raise three kids together.  We have wanted for quite some time to have the dynamic of three children in our home.  This desire did not go away with Reece’s passing.  Certainly, I thought we would raise Reece, Britta, and Scarlett together–I really wanted that.  That will never happen for us.  So, after careful consideration and definite prompting from the Lord, we opened our hearts to having another baby.  One month later, I was pregnant.

Here we are, beginning our second trimester, feeling blessed, overwhelmed, and slightly confused as to how we exactly got here.  We considered not sharing the news until later in the pregnancy, but this being my fourth baby, it is not as easy to hide my belly this time around!  In all seriousness, I want to share that this isn’t some attempt to replace Reece or distract us from the process we are going through.  This isn’t about trying to have another boy to somehow fill his absence.  He is “The Boy” in our family.  We are excited to have either gender and excited about the prospect of potentially having the family dynamic of three children in the house…even though we are having our fourth child.  We went into this pregnancy with our eyes wide open to the entire spectrum of parenting–the wonderful and obvious blessings, the heart-wrenching moments, and the gems that can only be uncovered through trials and tribulations.  In my opinion, it has been a much more difficult endeavor to entertain having another child–considering the understanding of what it is like to physically lose one–than it would have been to not have another baby at all.  Ultimately, the blessing of loving a child–no matter how short a period we were blessed to have him with us–far exceeds the emptiness that would have been felt by not having him in the first place.  This is true for all of our kids–born and unborn.  So, we went back to the desire and calling of the heart and it was, indeed, to try to have another baby.

We talked at length with Reece’s doctors, after he passed away, about whether or not having another baby would be a negligent decision.  They assured us it would not.  There are only a few cases of siblings having childhood MDS.  We know that anything can happen to any of our children, but we did not feel that Reece’s diagnosis should be a deterrent for having further children–at least from the perspective that we would be putting future children, knowingly, in harm’s way.

Here we are, pregnant again!  We are excited and cautious; overjoyed and still fresh in grief.  This is, indeed, a blessing.  We have no expectations for a boy or girl–no hopes one way or the other.  We hope for a healthy baby, but we know no matter what, this child is loved by us and three older siblings.