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.

Three of Us

 

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.

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.

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.

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. 🙂

Our Life Since Then (Surviving a Miscarriage)

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It’s been about a month since we lost our son and I can’t say that I am an expert on recovering from miscarriage, but I am at least feeling better and finding ways to move forward. This kind of loss is so personal and I think everyone handles it differently, but I wanted to share some things that have helped me so far because I know that overwhelming feeling that comes in waves…”How am I going to get through this?”

The first week was the hardest, but fortunately, Michael was home with me and we were able to just grieve together and to allow ourselves to feel whatever we were feeling.  We had a few “normal” moments, but for the most part, we struggled.  After about a week, I wrote about my experience and posted it here.  That was very cathartic for me and I feel like a weight lifted after that. We are very fortunate to have a lot of amazing people around us (and far away) who showered us with phone calls, flowers, gifts, food, prayers and love. It was so comforting to be able to lean on the people we love. For me, it has also been helpful to seek out others who have been in the same situation.  I joined a facebook group and some online forums that are specifically for parents who have experienced loss.  There is something very healing about being able to share your experience with someone who knows your pain and it’s even more healing to be able to offer encouragement to others as they are going through their darkest hours.

One of the biggest realizations I had during both of my miscarriages was just how precious my daughter is to me.  When I found out I was pregnant with her, it felt like a miracle.  I had tried for so long and had been through so much before she came along.  It almost seemed selfish to hope or ask for another child, but we always thought we would have another one and really wanted Evelyn to have a sibling.  We were very intentional, right from the beginning, about the items we purchased (everything gender neutral) and the way we set up the nursery.  We had always anticipated that there would be one more.  But, after two losses, back to back, we are just not sure if we will continue to try to expand our family.  We aren’t ready to take any permanent measures of prevention, but we are definitely planning to take time to heal from this loss and weigh the pros and cons of trying again…or not. As much as I wanted another child, I have always felt that if I only ever had Evelyn, that would be enough for me.  I don’t want the weight of this loss to impact my relationship with her, so I am doing my best to maintain life as usual.  April has been full of Easter preparations and trying to enjoy the warmer weather.  I’m taking pictures again…I know that sounds weird, but I used to take so many pictures of Evelyn and over the past 6 months, I had just kind of stopped.  For me, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong.  I decided it’s time to take pictures again, to experience life as it happens and to really appreciate all that I have.

Keeping the faith has been a priority for me.  I have been down some very difficult roads before and I recognize that these are the times to draw close to God and grow in Him. The first week after we lost our baby was hard. Really hard. On a cerebral level, I knew all the things that people say to be true.  It happened for a reason. God had a plan and would use the situation for good.  But, I was mad at Him. I needed to be mad at Him for a period of time.  Despite my anger with God, I didn’t run away from Him.  I went to church on Sunday, two days after I got out of the hospital.  I started reading some devotionals that centered around grief and loss.  I prayed…constantly. I talked to God and told Him about every fear, every regret, every pain.  I asked Him why, over and over. I still do from time to time. I know that God can use this situation for good in my life and that He can use my experience to help other people. I don’t know what that will look like just yet, but I pray about it every day.

There was never any doubt that we would have to find a way to honor our baby.  He was real to us, our child, not just a fetus…whatever that means.  We got to see him and hold him.  We dreamed about who he would be and how he would complete our family. I had just begun to feel movement in my belly and we took pictures of him when he was born.  We had named him and talked to our daughter about all the cool things she would do with her little brother. The hospital staff who worked with us were incredible and they gave us a box which contained all kinds of keepsakes, a tiny blanket and hat, poems, a necklace and other items.  We added our ultrasound photos, pictures that we took, the little outfit I bought when I found out we were having a boy and, eventually, we will add the tiny urn that holds his ashes.

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I am also planning to dedicate a little section of our garden to the angels we have lost.  Some friends of mine put together a gift basket for us and it contained some seeds and a decorative stone, so I am excited to get started on that as the weather warms up.  I also ordered this adorable necklace, as a way to represent our family of angels, both here on earth and in heaven.

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Several months ago, when we were caught in the throes of an endless winter, we reserved a little cabin for a weekend getaway in the woods. Our weekend is coming up soon and it has been nice to have something to look forward to. It will be nice to get away from our familiar surroundings, go hiking, enjoy the outdoors, sit by the fire at night, play games, and cut ourselves off from our cell phones and Netflix. We’ve also been thinking a lot about some day trips that we can take with Evelyn this summer and possibly a getaway for just Michael and me around the time of our anniversary. It’s helpful to be able to think about the future in a positive way instead of always dwelling on what could have been.

I know that there will still be difficult days ahead and that healing happens moment to moment.  So, I think one of the most important things to do, if you are faced with loss, is to just give yourself time.  Don’t expect to feel better tomorrow, or next week, or next month, but know that you will feel better, in your own time.  As I have talked with friends who have been through miscarriage, we have been able to say that we are better, stronger people for having known and lost our angels.  If you are going through this now, take heart. We will never forget, but slowly, it does get easier.

It’s been awhile…

It’s been quite some time since I have posted here, and I don’t have any particular reason for staying away.  I guess I just needed a break.  A lot of changes over the past year have left me in a strange state.  I don’t know if it’s depression or exhaustion or just indifference.  You know all those big life changes that cause the most stress?  Even the good ones…getting married, moving, having a baby…can take a toll.  It seems I always experience big life changes in large lump sums.  Never one at a time.

This year, I left my job to become a stay at home mom.  It was strange at first, especially after 20 years of working.  20 years.  Is that even possible?  I still don’t feel like I have figured out how to be at home, but I can at least say that I have gotten used to it and it’s mostly been a great experience.  I am very grateful to be able to be home with Evelyn, but at times I wonder what on earth I am doing.  I sometimes feel like it was a frivolous, impulsive decision, even though we planned for it.  I guess for someone who has worked so hard and been in the workplace for so long, being at home feels almost irresponsible for me.  I am by no means saying that stay at home moms are frivolous or irresponsible.  Being at home is hard work and taking care of children and raising them to be decent human beings is a complicated and worthy undertaking.  It’s just still strange for me.  I often joke that I’m going through a mid-life crisis.  I probably am.

My miscarriage in October made the latter part of the year a bit of a blur.  This kind of loss is weird.  It’s not like a break-up, when you have someone at whom you can direct your anger and hurt.  It’s nobody’s fault, so you have to just sort of move on and get past it.  I don’t know how to grieve this way.

Then, only 6 weeks or so after my miscarriage, I got this…

…and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it.  Of course I was happy, but also scared and worried and a bit in disbelief.  The holidays came and went, I announced the pregnancy to my family and a handful of friends, but I couldn’t help but think about the fact that if the first baby had stayed, we would have been finding out the gender by then.  I totally distracted myself with online shopping during the month before Christmas, buying gifts for Evelyn’s birthday and for Christmas itself.  I didn’t allow myself to become too attached to this new little being and I felt like this cloud was hanging over us.  I didn’t take pictures or videos, which is completely unheard of for me.  For the first time since Evelyn was born, I just didn’t feel excited about much of anything.  This is a pretty depressing pregnancy announcement, isn’t it?

I’m still trying to work my way out of that funk and it’s been hard because I have also been physically unwell.  I am planning to write soon about my first trimester, but to make a long story short, I have been in physical pain for months (back, sciatic) and have had multiple illnesses over the past few months (shingles, influenza).  It’s been a rough year so far, but I am trying to move forward.  I will be starting physical therapy sessions next week and I have slowly recovered from the other sickness that has had me down.

I am looking forward to Spring and to many happy occasions that my family will be celebrating this year…graduations, a wedding, our baby.  I’m working on my spiritual growth, which is something that I have neglected for far too long.  I hope to be posting here more often again and I am finally starting to feel attached to the new little alien in our lives.  Evelyn is insisting that it’s a girl and we should be able to find out for sure in a few weeks…and it’s nice to finally see a light at the end of this dark tunnel I have been walking through.

 

These are the Good Old Days

 

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I recently came upon a quote while I was perusing Pinterest and it made me stop and think.  Apparently, it was made by Andy of The Office, a show I’ve never really watched.  I know, I am probably one of the only humans on Earth who hasn’t.  Don’t judge me.  Anyway, it went something like this,

I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.

It made me a little sad to think that we sabotage so many moments of our lives by focusing on the negatives.  I’m guilty.  I’ve done it all my life and I still do it from time to time.  At least now that I am aware of it,  I can try to remind myself that one day I will laugh about today’s tragedy and look back on these times with fondness.

I suppose this is one of those lessons that one person can’t teach to another, so why should I write about it?  Argh.  It’s so frustrating to think that there are so many life lessons that can only be learned through experience, and even though I will try, I will never be able to pass what I have learned onto my daughter.  I will tell them to her and she will roll her eyes and she will never truly understand until she has lived it.  Just like you might be reading this now and thinking “Sure, sure.  My roommate sucks, my parents just don’t understand, I just failed an exam, I hate my job, these kids are driving me crazy, etc, etc”  Whatever you are going through right now might have you reeling or feeling like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.  But there is, and when you get to the end you will turn around and look back and see where you’ve been.

I remember my college days when I was working and busting my butt to pay the bills.  I had bosses and roommates who occasionally drove me crazy and the stress of trying to meet deadlines, complete my student teaching, staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish lesson plans and papers.  I put on the next day’s outfit before bed (usually sweats) so that I could sleep in as long as possible before my morning commute.  It was HARD, but those were the good old days.

I think back to when my ex-husband first left and I laid on the couch for days while my brother fixed me things to eat and I couldn’t get through a day of work without crying.  Yes, I broke into a million pieces and it seemed like I would never feel “normal” again, but something in me died during that time and a new someone emerged, someone stronger than I ever imagined I could be.  And I actually miss those times now.  I get all nostalgic thinking about how I was forced to surrender everything I thought I knew and how close I felt to God in those moments.  Those were the good old days.

I think about the house that Michael and I lived in when we first got married.  It was small and didn’t have enough storage space and my kitchen window overlooked the neighbor’s yard, which was littered with a rusty old car and crappy lawn furniture that was haphazardly placed with no rhyme or reason, not to mention the hairy, sometimes shirtless man who lived there.  My patio there was half the size of the one I have now, but you know what?  I miss it.  It was our first house together, it was in that bathroom that I fell to my knees and thanked God when I discovered I was pregnant with Evelyn.  Those were the good old days.

Thinking back about the sleepless nights when Evelyn was a newborn sometimes makes me unsure if I want to have any more children, but I can easily fall into a trip down memory lane, remembering how I escaped to the bathroom when she was crying, only to return and see my hubby in his robe, rocking her and singing “Sweet Baby James” to get her to calm down and sleep.  I was exhausted, I was scared, I was in over my head, but those were the good old days.

Isn’t it weird how our minds tend to focus on the negatives in the moment, but when we look back, we tend to remember the positive things?  I guess the point I am trying to make here is that whatever you are doing right now, wherever you are, whoever you are with, stop for a moment and take it all in.

Breathe the air,

listen to the sounds,

look at the faces of the people around you.

Remember this, because these ARE the good old days.

 

Staying at Home: The First 30 Days

 

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A lot of people told me that staying at home would be a huge adjustment and I could see why it would be for many people.  Many first time moms decide to stay at home after the birth of a baby and getting adjusted to a newborn is definitely huge.  I can remember my two months of maternity leave after Evelyn was born.  I was in a constant state of shock/panic/exhaustion.  Learning how to read a baby’s cues and establish a routine is hard work.  Add breastfeeding to that and there is very little time left in the day to shower, eat, sleep and otherwise take care of the basic needs that keep us all feeling human.

Since all of that is behind me, transitioning into being at home has been pretty smooth for me, but I have had to adjust in other ways. I’ve probably been a bit like a kid on summer break. You know, no more work, right? Woo Hoo! I can stay up late and watch back to back episodes of Dexter while mindlessly scrolling away on Pinterest and Facebook. Before I know it, it’s after midnight and I know I’ll regret this tomorrow afternoon when I am fighting Evelyn to take a nap and I end up passed out on the floor next to her bed while she’s grabbing my face and whispering in my ear “Are you OK, Mommy?”

Time to get serious…

Establishing a routine is something that I haven’t really accomplished yet.  I chose summertime to leave work for a few reasons, primarily so that I could enjoy the season and all it’s activities with my daughter.  So, we’ve really been on the go since I have been home.  We’ve had guests come and go, a family staycation, and we’ve gone to visit family ourselves.  Needless to say, that hasn’t left much time for “normalcy” in our world and it’s something that I will be striving for in the next 30 days.  I know that Evelyn needs the routine and I definitely need a stretch of “normal” days so that I can really work at potty training with her.  I’d also like to develop a regular blogging routine, since I’ve got a pile of half and unwritten posts, a guest post, and a 50 Things book that I am working to finish.

One of the things I worried about most before I left my job was that Evelyn would miss school.  She’s 2 and a half, after all, and had been attending daycare for almost a year.  I was afraid that she would miss her friends and teachers and that maybe I was being a tad selfish for pulling her out of that social environment to trap her like a hermit at home with me.  After about the second week, I was feeling super-smug and proud of myself that she had not once mentioned school.  This wouldn’t be so bad after all.  Maybe she didn’t really miss school at all and I was just being silly to worry about it.  Then the harsh reality hit me one afternoon when we were driving home from an outing.  Her daddy and I had taken her to the new Children’s Garden that had just opened at Penn State.  It was awesome.  She got to play in water and rocks and sand, run through a tunnel in a big cave, bang on some musical chimes and climb on a happy caterpillar.

There was a group of daycare children there with their teachers and she was eager to join the group and run and laugh with the other kids.  At one point, when the teachers were trying to round up the children to move to a different area, she wanted to go with them and was upset when she couldn’t hold onto one of the rings attached to a rope which is designed to keep them all together.  On the way home, I asked her, “Did you like the garden?  What was your favorite part?”  Her response…. “The KIDS!”  The doubts started to creep in again as I realized that even though she might not verbalize it, she did miss school and her friends there and playing with other kids.  Why wouldn’t she? So, I know I need to make sure she gets out of the house and has a chance to play with other kids.

I also haven’t really had a chance to feel the full effects of the financial consequences of my actions. I have still been getting paychecks and a payout for the vacation time I had accrued, so it’s hard to gauge just how broke we really are. To be continued in August…

Probably the biggest setback I have had was a severe case of sciatica that set in just about the time I was leaving work. I have been living on ibuprofen for the past month and visited the doctor last week. I’ll be doing lots of stretching and core-strengthening exercises, icing my back a few times a day, and I got a script for physical therapy. If you’ve ever had this kind of pain, I’m sure you can attest to the fact that it’s AWFUL and debilitating, especially when you’re trying to run after a little one who requires being hoisted onto one’s hip multiple times a day.

I guess I could sum this all up by saying that I don’t think it has completely sunk in that I left my job and I definitely haven’t exactly figured out how this new role is going to play out for me. My house is not suddenly sparkling and I haven’t put on makeup for weeks. But I can tell you…I am having a BLAST with my daughter. It’s so amazing to be able to be with her and see and hear all the funny things she says and does. Sure, there have been frustrating moments and I am sure that it won’t always be fun, but for now, I am loving every second of it.

things I want to remember: Evelyn at 30 months

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I’m really not one of those moms who calculates her child’s age in months until she’s off to college, but 30 months has some significance for me.  I work for an infant/toddler education program and when children turn 30 months, we begin to prepare them for the transition to preschool.  Preschool.  I can’t believe my girl will soon be reaching preschool age.  Heck, I still refer to her as “the baby” most of the time.  Where did the time go?

I also have been a very bad mom when it comes to recording milestones.  I have taken enough photos to wallpaper my whole house, but I’ve really slacked on any other kind of record keeping.  But certainly, I want to remember her as she is right now.

Dear Evelyn,

You are only 2 and a half, but you know so much.  You are wise beyond your years.  People have always said you seem like an “old soul” and I agree (you take after your mom).  One of the things that surprises me most about you at this age is your grasp on the spiritual realm.  I wouldn’t have believed that a child your age could have any kind of comprehension of that, but you do.  A few weeks ago as we were driving by the coffee shop (which also happens to be our church), you pointed it out, “There’s our church!”  I agreed, “Yep, that’s our church.”  You started in on me.  “That’s not your church, Mommy.  That’s not Daddy’s church.”  I said, “No, it’s God’s church.”  Your eyes widened and you whispered, “YES! God loves me and my family and He says Pray to Me…”  Whenever it’s time for books at bedtime, you always pick out the Bible stories or books about God and I love watching you fold your hands and close your eyes as you sing “grace” at meal times.

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You love to talk and sing.  You know so many songs, I can’t even keep up and you make up new words to the tunes of songs you already know.  You are always singing…and reading.  You love books too.  Lately, when I put you to bed at night you manage to get books into your bed and I always find you with at least one book tucked under your head or arms when I come into check on you before I go to bed.  There are times when you ask me to read to you, but then end up reading another book on your own and not really listening to me anyway, and then there are times when you will curl up on my lap and listen to every word.

You’re a mommy’s girl right now.  Most of the time you protest if your Daddy tries to do things for you, but soon I will be leaving my job to stay at home with you and I think that will quickly change as you will probably get bored with your dear, old mom.  You’ve started calling me “mom” in the past few days.  It’s weird to hear the shift from “mommy” to “mom.”  It makes you seem like such a big girl when you say it.  You’re growing by leaps and bounds every day.

You love to play with our neighbor, Kole, and ask for him every day.  You also love your friends at church, Piper, Maria, Grove, and now Baby Harrison.  You just love babies.  The teachers at your daycare sometimes let you play in the baby room if you don’t nap while you’re there.  You also love to play with older kids, especially your cousins.  Recently, your cousins came to stay with us for a few days and when they left, you cried, “But I miss them!!”

You’ve never been much of a risk-taker and you are so serious when you are trying something new.  Recently, we took you to a carnival and you wanted to ride all the rides, but I had to tell you, “Smile, Evelyn, you’re having fun!”  You smiled then, but it took some work on my part.  I think you just forget to smile…you are too busy studying and analyzing everything.

You are a very sensitive kid and I am trying to come to terms with that and see the positive in it.  It is a positive thing.  You cry easily and are easily offended if someone corrects or scolds you.  Your breath holding spells have decreased, but you still have them and it’s still hard to watch you struggle through them, even if I have become accustomed to it.  Somehow, this extra sensitivity will work to your advantage. It’s a part of who you are.  Tonight I watched you rock and sing to your baby doll, then read her a book, and lie down next to her to put her to sleep.  So sweet.

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There is so much I am looking forward to doing with you in the months ahead as I make the transition from work to home.  I pray that I am doing the right thing by leaving my job to stay at home with you and I hope that it will be a learning a growing experience for both of us.

Today at the grocery store, the cashier asked you how old you are.  You held up two fingers and said, “I’m two,” very matter-of-factly.  Then you added, “and I’m three,” and added another finger.  Not yet, little one.  Don’t rush it.  You’re already growing up too quickly.

 

traveling with a twosie

 

traveling with a toddler

This week we set out for a 12 hour car ride from Pennsylvania to Georgia (and back again a few days later) with our 2-year-old.  I was dreading it for several weeks and seriously considered backing out and sending my husband on his own.  I just hated the idea of having her stuck in her car seat all day long.  It’s hard enough for me to travel and, for the most part, I have control of my own destiny.  I knew it would be that much harder for her, so I did my best to plan ahead.  Fortunately for us, the trip went really well.  We managed to keep Evelyn entertained and she fussed very little during the hours on the road.

Are you thinking about a long trip with your toddler?  Here are some things you can do to make it as painless as possible for everyone.

Overlap travel time with sleep time.  For our departure trip, we left home around 3:30am.  I am not the type of person who can leave at 8pm and drive all through the night.  I would be dozing off behind the wheel.  But, if I can get a few good hours of sleep first, I’m fine.  We went to bed early and packed the car before bed.  Then we only had to fill our travel mugs with some strong coffee and transfer our cherub to her car seat.  We managed to get about 4 hours under our belt before she woke up.  She also napped later in the day for about 2 hours, so that cut off a considerable amount of travel time for her.

Take frequent breaks.  I think you have to enter into a long trip like this with a laid-back attitude.  Of course we wanted to make good time on our trip, but we stopped frequently to eat, use the restroom, and just walk around.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to arrive by a specific time.  Stop when you (or your child) need a break.  If you have a very active child, that might mean more frequent breaks.  Many rest stops have large, grassy areas where your child could run off some energy and everyone can just stretch their legs.

Pack plenty of snacks.  A hungry kid is a cranky kid.  Normally, I would be a bit nervous about allowing Evelyn to eat in the car.  I always worry about choking, especially if it’s just the two of us and I am driving.  But, since one of us could sit in the back seat with her and monitor her, it wasn’t a problem.

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Ok, I didn’t take this pic on the road, but it was too cute not to post. 🙂

Pack an activity bag.  I packed a bag with books, crayons, paper, stickers, and playdough.  I purchased an inexpensive clipboard that she could use as a work surface.  I also packed a few of her favorite games that could be easily manipulated on the road.

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Embrace technology.  I’m not gonna lie.  I’d love to tell you that we didn’t rely on our devices to entertain Evelyn, but we did use the iPad to show her some downloaded movies when we had exhausted the other activities.  I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching Frozen and Brave with her.  I offered her my phone to play some memory and matching games that she likes, but she wasn’t interested at the time.  What kind of kid is this anyway?

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Involve the kids in the conversation.  It’s easy for the adults in the front seats to get caught up in conversation and ignore the little ones in the back.  The few times that Evelyn whined during our trip were when Michael and I were busy chatting away and she wanted to get in on the conversation.  Involve them!  Point out trucks, buses, or interesting vehicles on the road.  Ask them to tell you what they see out the window.  Talk about where you are going and what to expect there.  Listen to music and sing songs.  Make them a part of things.

Be patient with them.  It’s really hard for kids this age to sit still for long periods of time.  There are bound to be some tough moments.  Acknowledge how hard it is to sit, offer suggestions, and change things up if necessary.

Since Evelyn is an only, I can’t speak on traveling with multiple children.  What works for your family?

 

 

can we really have it all?

 

have it all

Like many women today, I grew up with a working mom.  Though my mom stayed home with me during my preschool years, my parents divorced when I was 5 and she had to enter the ranks of working, single moms.  I grew up thinking that the idea of a stay-at-home-mom was a relic of yesteryear.  Nobody did that anymore.  Women are strong and self-sufficient and take care of themselves and their families.  The media and pop culture burned the image of the woman who could “have it all” into my brain.  The career, the family, the picket fence, and all the trappings…the new American dream.

It wasn’t until I had my daughter and returned to work that I started to realize that maybe this idea was crap.  Whose brilliant idea was this anyway, that women should have it all?  Don’t get me wrong, I think that women should be able to have whatever they want, so long as they are willing to put forth the effort to earn and maintain it.  But all of the things…all at the same time?!  Can I see a show of hands of working moms who are not stretched to their outermost limits?

I felt guilty, guilty, guilty all the time.  Guilty about being away from my daughter, guilty that I couldn’t concentrate at work, guilty when I couldn’t contribute as much to the housework as my husband, who was staying at home at that time.  I felt like I was spread too thin and I couldn’t give enough energy and focus to any one thing.  I still feel that way most of the time.  On the surface, it seems like I “have it all”, but most of the time I feel like I feel like I’m only barely keeping my head above water.

So, when does the camel’s back break?  When does “having it all”  turn into just existing, going through the motions, and not really enjoying any of it?  When Michael started a new job in September the weight of it all really came down on me.  He had to be out of town for 2 months for training and I was left to drag a crying child to daycare,  work all day, drag a crying child home again and then the house work started.  Dinner, bath, books, bed.  Then wake up and do it all over again.  and again.  Weekends didn’t even provide a break because I would spend them cleaning, cooking, and preparing for the week ahead.  I know, many of you do this every day, with multiple children, extracurricular activities, etc.  Whether you do it out of necessity or choice,  you struggle just as I do.

At the risk of sounding a little dramatic, I have to say that being in this situation really made me think about the meaning of it all.  I started wondering what was the point of stressing myself out, stressing Evelyn out, so that I could work to afford to send her away to have someone else take care of her all day.  I prayed so long for this child and I wanted to be with her all the time.  Before she was born, I never even considered being a stay at home mom.  It was never a possibility that crossed my mind.  We would never afford it.  I wouldn’t feel like an equal partner if I couldn’t contribute financially to our family.  But when Michael unexpectedly became a stay at home parent when Evelyn was only 2 months old, I started to think about it being me instead.  I wanted what he had.

I began to plan it in my mind.  I had no idea if it would ever happen, but but I daydreamed about it.  We talked about it and hoped that when Michael finished his Master’s studies, he would find a job that would allow me to stay at home.  Since this was something I had never considered before, we had not planned for it, but we started to take little steps to make it happen.  We used our tax return to pay off my car.  We switched our phone service.  We ditched cable.  We factored in the hundreds we will save on child care, gas, and wear and tear on my car.  At first, I wanted to wait until we had another baby.  I figured I would go on maternity leave and not return to work.  But, after almost a year of trying to conceive and two chemical pregnancies, it occurred to me that I could wait for another baby that might never arrive, and miss this time with Evelyn….or I could just pick a date and go for it.

So, I am happy/terrified to announce that I resigned my position at work and will be a full-time, stay at home mom, starting in July.  I have no illusions about the fact that it is going to be hard, but I feel it’s what’s right for this season of my life, for my child, and for my family.  I’ve had time to be young and crazy, travel, get an education, work, build connections in my community, and now it’s time for something new.  I think it’s nearly impossible to have everything all at once and really be able to appreciate it, but maybe, over a lifetime, we really can have it all.