And Then She Was Four

It’s been a little while since I have contributed to this space.  We got all caught up in the holiday madness, with places to go, people to see, guests to entertain.  Now that things are a little calmer around here, I can take a breath and reflect on the past year.  What a crazy year it’s been.  Every day, when facebook shows me my memories from the past years, I find myself half smiling/half dying inside.

Last year at this time, I was pregnant and expecting a little boy.  After losing him tragically at 16 weeks, we decided it was too much bear.  We couldn’t go through it again.  While we have decided that we are fine with leaving our baby days behind, I am still coming to terms with Evelyn being an only child.  We are so very blessed to have lots of families in our lives.  Evelyn started preschool this year, so she gets to be around other children all day.  She’s also been cared for by family friends before and after school, so she gets to play with their children as well.  Truly, she’s had the best of both worlds…surrogate siblings with friends and the perks of being an only at home.  Still, she caught me off guard when she asked my why God made three babies for our friends’ family and He only made one baby for our family.  The tears welled up in her eyes as she asked and I don’t know exactly why that would make her sad, but she seemed sad about it.  I could only tell her I didn’t know why and fight back my own tears.  It amazes me how much she has grown and how the questions come when I least expect it.

Aside from the sad memories on my facebook news feed, things are pretty good around here.  I returned to work a few months ago after our financial situation was upended a bit.  Now, Michael and I are both doing work we love and Evelyn seems very happy at preschool.  She seems to have grown so much since she started school, from toddler to a true preschooler.  She’s still having the occasional terrifying tantrum, but they are fewer and farther between and I have been really trying to change my own response to her, which I think has helped a lot.  I am trying to be more patient and positive and she is learning some calm-down methods at school that she actually tries to employ at home.  She will sometimes stop in the middle of a screaming fest to take a few deep breaths and calm herself.

Every day I see updates from friends on facebook….babies growing up, rolling over, sitting up, and crawling for the first time.  It makes me a little sad that those days are over.  Maybe I would have cherished them a little bit more, I don’t know.  But, even though I am sad to see her baby days passed, I am also having quite a bit of fun with this spunky, dramatic little girl that she’s become. Instead of babbling and cooing, we’re playing Uno (and she’s winning) and telling made-up stories at bedtime.  She helps me to cook scrambled eggs for breakfast and rushes the grab the dustpan when we give her dad a haircut. It’s fun to have a little partner-in-crime.

Even though this past year has been a difficult one, I prefer to look back on the fun moments with my 3-year-old girl that I will never get back.

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And, just like that, she was four.

 

Evelyn is 4

The Dollhouse Remade

A few years ago, I posted about my dollhouse.  When I was about Evelyn’s age, I got a dollhouse for Christmas.  Despite the fact that it’s not in it’s pristine original condition, I have been hanging onto it for roughly 35 years.  I can’t even believe I am typing that number.  Makes my head want to explode.  Anyway, I always imagined that one day, I would refurbish it and give it to my own child. Since Evelyn is almost 4, I decided that I have been procrastinating long enough.  This will be the year that I give her my dollhouse.

I started ordering the furniture long before I started working on the house itself.  I chose some sturdy wooden furniture made by Hape.  I wanted the pieces to be durable and appropriate for a preschooler’s hands.  Sure, I love the elaborate dollhouses with delicate Victorian style furniture, but I wanted her to be able to really play with this.

I think I had originally planned to take my time and work on it slowly.  Yeeeaaahhh, that didn’t happen. I am a master procrastinator.  I started working on it approximately one month ago.  I removed the wallpaper and discovered that the walls are a little rough.  I bought some wood filler to try to smooth out the texture of the wood a bit, but soon discovered that working in the tiny spaces was challenging and I didn’t have enough time or patience to bother with it.  So, I just started painting.

At one point, I invited Evelyn to help me work on it.  I showed her how to dip her paintbrush just so to prevent drips from getting on the carpet. Even though we had a moment when she came close to tears after she accidentally started painting the floor instead of the walls, we mostly worked side by side and just chatted about our work.  I told her how I had received the dollhouse when I was her age and that I had been saving it just for her for 35 years.  I told her how I was going to paint the walls to make it look like our house and she started to verbally plan out the rooms.  She even wanted to add a toilet to the basement, just like we have.  I knew that I had made the right decision to invite her to help when she told me, “I love helping you, mom.”  All the dreams and plans I had for this dollhouse were right there in that little statement.

So basically, I just painted all the walls, reattached the borders around the windows and doorways, and gave the exterior a good coat of paint.  The dollhouse used to have a balcony and a staircase. The opening where the staircase used to be left a huge hole in the floor, so I got the idea to cover the hole with carpet to make better use of the space.  Now, I am not so sure that I like the look of the thick carpet, so I might eventually try to rebuild a staircase and try some different materials for the carpet.  I would also love to try to rebuild the balcony someday, but for now the master bedroom has a big doorway to nowhere.

Once I finally got everything painted and felt like I was close to being finished, I started looking at dollhouse tutorials on Pinterest.  That opened a huge can of worms.  The possibilities are endless and I had no idea.  After seeing some of the beautiful dollhouses out there, I am almost embarrassed to post pictures of my own.  I decided that I just had to at least add some wallpaper and some little artwork on the wall.  Eventually, I would also love to make some curtains and add some other little touches.  I imagine this is something that Evelyn and I can do together for as long as she is interested.

It’s not perfect.  I wish I would have started working on it sooner and done a little research ahead of time, but I know she will love playing with it and we can make changes to it as often as we want.  I was already looking for tutorials on how to make a little Christmas tree!

The pictures are a little dark…it’s hard to get in all those little corners, but without further ado…

the Dollhouse

That room at the top was my nemesis last night when I was trying to wallpaper it at the eleventh hour.  I could not get the paper to stick.  I will eventually have to pull it out and start over.  Maybe we’ll turn it into a nursery or a game room.

The living room…

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The dining room….  I think this one is my favorite.

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The kitchen….   I had a blast picking out little pictures to hang on the walls.

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The bathroom was one of my biggest challenges.  It’s the narrowest room in the house and the furniture doesn’t fit very well.  We probably could make do with just the tub and no shower, but the set came with both.

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The kids’ room…

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The parents’ room…

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I think it’s safe to say my girl loved it.  Now, I wonder who’s going to play with it more??

Old Becomes New Again

Photo Credit: Dustin Lee
Photo Credit: Dustin Lee

Once upon a time, I thought I might try to increase my followers here on the blog and try to use my writing to earn a little extra money for our family.  The first thing to do, all the best bloggers said, was to move over to a self-hosted site.  So, I did that.  However, I soon discovered that I just didn’t have the kind of time and energy that is needed to monetize a blog.  I also wanted to stay true to myself and write on my own terms.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to go with my blog and the truth is, I’m not really sure that I want to go anywhere.  I mainly just want to write about my life and my experiences so that I can stay in touch with family and friends and so that I can leave our history for Evelyn someday.  When it was time to renew my hosting services this year, I started to worry about what would happen to my blog if something should happen to me.  If nobody had access to it and if nobody paid the fee to renew it every year, my blog would just shut down and the people who I most want to share it with would not be able to see it anymore.  So, after some thought, I have decided that it’s time to return to my free wordpress site.  All that means for you is that you can find my writing at a different address now.  Previously, I was blogging at ascenicdetour.com.  Moving forward, you can find me here at ascenicdetour.wordpress.com.  I have moved over all my old posts, so they are still available here and I have been working on a new design and layout.  The plan is just to keep it simple and write about whatever strikes me at the moment.  I’m still working on some details, but if you have been following along, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to keep in touch with what’s new.

I hope to see you as I move forward into this new chapter.

 

Becoming a Family of Three

When Evelyn was born, we became a family of three.  It was such a magical time, as it is for many families.  An adorable, wrinkly little being enters the world and a mother is born, a father is born, a family is born.  Despite the fact that I had to travel a long, hard road to motherhood, once I finally did get pregnant, I was certain that we would have another baby in the future.  I carefully chose all of our baby items to be gender neutral, so that they could be used again, regardless of whether we had boys, girls, or one of each.  Several hours after giving birth, I was already talking about the “next time” and the nurses teased me, since apparently most women are a little too traumatized to start talking about having another baby so soon.  I never had any doubt that we would have another baby.  When Michael and I discussed the future, I always referred to “our kids” because I knew that another one would be joining us eventually.  We were a family of three, but in my mind, that was only a temporary situation.  We would eventually be a family of four.

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Once I got pregnant, I naively believed that it would be a snap to get pregnant again.  And actually, it was.  I’ve been pregnant four times since Evelyn was born, but we’re still a family of three…and the difference now is that I’m pretty sure we always will be.  Two chemical pregnancies and two miscarriages kind of left us worse for the wear.  After our last miscarriage at 16 weeks, I was pretty sure that it was time to just let go of the idea of another child.  We were so weary from the losses and just not sure if we could go through it all again.  We are both getting older.  Can you believe the medical term is ‘elderly’?  I seriously thought my OB was teasing me when he used that word. Physically, I am not what I used to be.

I think for most women the decision to be done having babies is huge, whether you have one or fifteen.  It’s hard to close that door forever, even if you think your family is complete.  Unfortunately for some, there is no choice in the matter.  For me, it’s been a process.  At first, I was really mad at the idea of leaving my childbearing years behind after such a negative experience.  I didn’t want my last memories of pregnancy and child birth to be so painful and traumatic.  I also didn’t want to go through another loss.  I started by getting rid of all the baby things.  It was so hard.  I still had ‘what if?’ in my mind.  But my mom and Michael gently reminded me that I could always get more baby things if I needed them.  So, I had a yard sale.  I cried when I went through all of Evelyn’s things.  I cried in my car when I met with ladies to sell her cloth diapers.  I cried a lot.

I worried about Evelyn being an only child.  In many ways, I think I wanted to have another baby more for her than for myself.  Michael and I both come from big families, so the thought of an only child was totally foreign to me.  I don’t want her to be alone in this big, bad world once her dad and I are gone.  I talked to a good friend of mine and read lots of blog posts about the experience of being an only.  I started to see all the positives that can come with that.

As I was slowly coming to acceptance over the idea of an only child, I was also still very much mourning the loss of our son, our last pregnancy.  It was very conflicting to start to feel happy and relieved about the idea of being done having children while I was still so sad over our loss.  At times I felt that if I let the happiness creep in, it was like saying that I never wanted my son in the first place.  I’ve been having to learn how to separate the two experiences and it’s still difficult sometimes.  But, I am slowly coming to a place of acceptance.

So, instead of becoming a family of four, we’re becoming a family of three all over again.  I’m kind of getting used to the idea.  I know we will be able to do a lot of cool things as a family that we might not be able to do as easily if we had more children.  I know that Evelyn will be okay.  I know that our family is not in a position to be starting over with a new baby right now and I am not sure we ever will be.  I suppose that if God decides to add another child (or children) to our family, I am open to that idea, but we are not actively pursuing it.  For now, I am just focusing on contentment, and it feels pretty good.

Thoughts on a Missed Due Date

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I typically don’t waste a lot of time thinking about what might have been.  The past is in the past and I tend to believe that the things that have happened, both good and bad, have taught me a lot about myself, about life, and about how things should be.  I take what I need from those lessons and I don’t dwell a lot on the coulda, shoulda, woulda.

But, when you lose a pregnancy, you can’t help but think about the should-have-beens.

I should be feeling my baby move all over the place.

I should have been preparing the nursery by now.

My belly should be watermelon-sized and I should have a hospital bag packed.

I should have planted more in our garden this year, but since I was anticipating being pregnant this summer, I didn’t.

I shouldn’t be dreading August 20…but I am.

That’s the day (give or take a few) that we would have welcomed our little boy into the world.  Evelyn would have become a big sister. Instead, he was born 24 weeks early.  The baby things have been sold, the nursery is a storage room for the time being, and I’m still hanging on to the weight that I gained in the first trimester….a constant reminder, like my body won’t let go of what it already lost.

How does anybody cope with a due date after a pregnancy loss?  I don’t know.  I’m not even sure how to write this.  I am still getting through it.  In a way, I will be glad when it passes.  It feels a bit like the last mountain to climb before I can work my way back to normalcy.  It also feels like losing him all over again. So far, it’s just been best for me to let the feelings come, experience them, acknowledge them, honor them.  They are what I have of my son….the should-have-beens.

I am grateful that Michael’s vacation time will coincide with the date and several weeks ago, I suggested we take a long trip.  Yep, I’m running away from it….away from all the things that remind me of what should have been.  I guess I didn’t have my head on straight when we planned the return trip because on August 20, the day I should have been holding my son, I will be sitting in a car for 12 hours, with nothing but time to think about it.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  I don’t know.  I guess we all just muddle through this life and try to figure it out as we go.  At least that’s the way I do it.

I’m hoping not to live in the should-have-been for too much longer.  “Should have been” suggests that the world owes us something.  It does not.  We are not owed or guaranteed a single thing.  I think about this when I try to figure out how we might honor our son each year.  I don’t know how we will do it, but I do know when I’d like to do it and it won’t be on August 20.  In the time that it’s taken me to write this, I have realized that I do have more of my son than the should-have-beens.  I have what actually was.  I still gave birth to him.  I still got to hold him.  Not many women who have miscarried get to say that.  Sure, there have been times when the memory of those moments with him made this loss much more painful than my previous miscarriages. But, I’d much rather honor him on the day he was born rather than the day he should have been.

That seems like a huge step, right?  Accepting what was instead of wishing for what should have been?  I’ll keep working on it.  One day at a time.

 

A Day in the Life

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I slept in your bed last night because you woke up with a fever, complaining that your head hurt.  I had hoped you would go back to sleep quickly, but once I gave you a dose of pain reliever, you wouldn’t stop talking and asking me for water every 5 minutes, so I settled in for the rest of the night.

This morning, I watch you sleep. I just read a mom’s blog story about her baby dying at 2 months from SIDS.  I gaze at the long eyelashes over your closed lids and thank God for this one, you, and for babies that live and keep mommas going.  You roll over and settle into your pillow.  I watch your eyebrows raise and lower again and I’m reminded of you as a baby.  You’ve been doing this eyebrow raise since you were just a few months old.  An outward display of your innate curiosity. When you first discovered something new…a toy, your foot, the ceiling fan…you would study it for what seemed like hours and your eyebrows jumped up and down.  I silently wonder if you will always do this and if I will be able to catch your adult eyebrows raising and be taken back again to your baby days.

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You are slow to wake up and be fit to interact with the world…just like your parents.  I swear, if I knew that coffee would solve the problem, I would very seriously consider having a cup waiting for you in the morning.  Since we’re all a bit foggy, mornings are usually pretty slow around here.  Coffee or juice, TV, morning news, feed the pets, tiptoe through our interactions.  It’s hard to know what kind of mood you will be in and even if you wake up sunshiney, that can turn around on a dime.  Your dad is the master of unintentionally “poking the bear,” as I like to call it.  Sometimes all it takes is too much of a smile or an enthusiastic “good morning!” to piss you off.  Somehow, though, we manage to muddle through.

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Just a few short months ago, every trip out the door was a struggle.  These days, we’re more like partners.

“Are you ready to go?”

“Yep, I’m ready!”

And off we go.  Amazing how we suddenly find ourselves here and I have no idea how we got here…working together and being on the same page once in awhile.  Not always. But now.

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Most days, you are attached to my hip.  It’s a little frustrating at times.  I want you to be independent, play on your own, and be able to entertain yourself.  But, I also love that you need me and I know that this time is fleeting.  One day soon, you will stop wrapping your little arms around my legs as I try to make dinner.  You won’t ask to be held the instant I open my laptop computer.  You won’t request bedtime stories and those off-tune lullabies you have been hearing since you were a baby.  I won’t always see this sweet little face looking up at me.

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No two days are alike around here.  I guess we’re not a family of routines.  Certain times of the day are pretty routine…mealtime and bedtime mostly…but the rest of the day is open for anything.  We make trips to the library and local parks.  We have shopping days when we drive out to the Amish produce and discount stores and then stop at the big stores for anything else we didn’t find. In the winter, we stopped at McDonald’s a lot so that you could let out some energy in the Playland area, but summer means trips to the coffee shop for ice cream or bubble tea.

On days when your dad is off work, we make bigger outings, like to the beach at Bald Eagle State Park or we drive to State College.  You love to go to Barnes and Noble.  We make trips to the strawberry fields, pumpkin patch and the county fair every year.  You like to spend a lot of time at your art table, using your watercolors and playdough.  Sometimes you help me in the kitchen with whatever I am cooking that day.

You follow me everywhere….literally.  Even if I tell you to stay put because I have to run to the basement to pull something out of the freezer (a 30 second task), you have to follow me down there, making the process take much longer.  We talk about privacy and how people need that when they go to the bathroom, so you follow me in there and tell me that you’ve closed the door so that I could have some privacy.

Some days we spend way too much time watching TV.

Some days feel like they will never end, but the weeks seem to fly by in a flash.

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I usually have to dodge a trail of toys that magically appear in the kitchen when I am trying to prepare dinner.  At least once a week, you tell me you don’t like my food.  We almost always sit down to eat as a family.  You have become an old pro at saying grace and as we eat we share our favorite parts of the day, as well as our less stellar moments.  More often than not, you barely touch your food and then 10 minutes after dinner you are asking for fruit or gummies.

Bedtime is our time.  Your dad takes turns with me and he tucks you in at night too, but more often it’s me.  I still sit with you every night until you fall asleep and, though there are times when I think it would be nice to just plant a kiss on your forehead and leave you to fall asleep on your own, I still really enjoy just sitting with you because that’s when we talk.  Ever since you were about 18 months old, we have been having conversations at bedtime.  I used to be able to rock you in the chair and you’d lie in my arms and look up at me and tell me about your day, 2-3 words at a time.  Now, you lie in your big girl bed and tell me how much you want to see penguins and that you want to go to the ocean. You ask questions and every response that I give you prompts another question. Not topic is off limits.  I like to tell you the truth about whatever you ask.

We move through the motions of the bedtime routine you have had since the beginning.  Brush teeth, potty, three books, and as many songs as it takes to get you to sleep.  Sometimes I sing and sometimes we use a playlist.  You yawn and then I yawn. “I made you yawn, mom.”  It’s our little inside joke.  I love that we have jokes now. :)

Pretty soon, I can hear you lightly snoring and I know that you will be out until morning (at least most of the time).  This is the moment when I pause, watch you sleeping, if only for a few seconds.  No matter how different you seem from the baby you were, this is the time when that little baby reappears and I thank God for the seconds, minutes, hours we have had together.

When you’re finally in a deep slumber, I back out of your room and take one last glance at those long lashes covering your eyes, grateful that I don’t have to be quite so careful with the rattling of the door knob.

 

Black Moshannon

 

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Back in February, when the winter still had a harsh grip on us, when I was still pregnant and sick, and when the whole family was in a deep funk, we decided that we needed to get the heck out of town for a few days.  Michael’s work schedule made it difficult to schedule anything very soon, so we reserved a cabin for a weekend in April.  Even though it was a few months away, we really just needed something to look forward to.

A few weeks ago, we finally had our getaway.  I have to admit, it was kind of weird at first, just the three of us with no electronic distractions. For a minute I was wondering what I had gotten myself into.

With the exception of an hour long scream fest when we made Evelyn take a nap one day, we had a calm, relaxing time. During the day, we hiked the trails, which were easy enough for Evelyn, and in the evenings we toasted marshmallows and played board games.

I don’t mind tent camping, but this time we decided on a modern cabin with heat and a bathroom, and I’m so glad we did.  It was still pretty cold at night, and I didn’t want to trek out into the night to a communal bathroom with a child who is just recently potty trained, especially with the clear warning about bears that was posted in our cabin.

Like many of Pennsylvania’s natural features, this watershed was named by Native Americans. According to local tradition, this area was called “Moss-Hanne,” meaning “moose stream.”  Appropriately, the “black” in the park name describes the tea-colored waters. The 250-acre Black Moshannon Lake is fed by clear springs and small streams which flow through the bogs that stretch in most directions from its shores. As the clear water flows through sphagnum moss and other wetland plants, it becomes colored by plant tannins. In a sense, the bog vegetation acts like a giant teabag to color the water (from the park website).

I’ll just let the pictures tell the rest of the story. :)

PicMonkey Collage

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