Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The gift

I took a nap on the day before Christmas. It helped that I was feeling a little off, but I looked at my to do lists (the one for this week and the one for the day) and dropped them in the recycling bin. I decided the ornaments I was making for my girls didn't need to be finished before Christmas morning. I had already decided to nix a bunch of craft projects that would have been nice but didn't need to happen. There are presents to wrap for my family later this week. I still have a jumble of jams and pickles to be bagged and delivered to friends and neighbors. But it was done. And it was enough. 

I have not always been good at this, at letting go of what I want and expect to do. The truth is I'm still not always great at it, but I've gotten so much better. I still make my lists and sometimes they are ambitious, but I recognize when I can't. And then I don't. And it turns out, it keeps being enough.

For so many years, I set the expectations and then got frustrated and overextended trying to meet them. And then I got pregnant. I was exhausted in December 2006 and I looked at the list of ornaments that I planned to make for my nieces and nephew and friends babies, oh and wouldn't want the older sibling to be left out, and . . . yeah, nobody cared. It was one of those traditions I had established and clung to and finally realized I could let go of. Henry gave me this gift even before he was born.

And then after he died, there was just so much I couldn't do. So I didn't. And it was enough. Even now, as I start to reintroduce things and face new options I don't pile it on and if I do and realize it is too much, I back off. Sometimes it seems like less a lesson learned and more utter exhaustion, but for many years I simply pushed through exhaustion as if completing it all were a badge of honor, as if giving in was defeat. I still make to do lists, still like them as reminders of what I'd like to do, still love the satisfaction of crossing of the things I've done, but I've learned to love crossing things of the list that don't have to be done, that I can let go of. I've learned a lot about letting go these past five and half years. This is the bit that has served me the best.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Breaking Point

Last night, I was sitting in front of the fire, Christmas gifts spread out before me waiting to be wrapped, and I hit my breaking point. Weariness, utter, utter weariness welled up in me. It was not the constant lack of sleep or the extra bustle of the holidays, suddenly, immediately I felt I could hardly hold my head up, sit up right and I began to weep. And what I hated most was I couldn't say why. I always like to pinpoint a trigger or a moment or an event, but here I was past the dreaded 17, past the sometimes more exhausting day after.

"Is it because it's the 22nd?" Brian asked. I didn't even realize it was the 22nd, the day we buried him, but that may very well been it. December is sneaky. Just when I think I've powered through, it sucker punches me.

And yet, from that sprung a conversation that needed to happen about this life we live with two little people running around and one nestled in our hearts, about how the people we've reconstructed from our brokenness fit together and how we even try to figure that out between diapers and drop offs and pickups and bedtime and why,why,why, and work. Perhaps I needed to break last night, but, oh, I'm ready to be done with December.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tell me about him

I had coffee today with two preschool mom friends.

A. gave me a big hug upon arrival and then twice while we were there. I'll take them. I'll always take a heartfelt hug.

Then B. said "I wish I could do something, but . . ." and she paused knowing there was nothing really to do. "Can you tell me about him?" And I almost cried and half smiled and I told her about Henry's smile, how the picture I posted on FB shows just a hint of it, how we captured it only once in all it's bright openness on the day of his surgery, how when Brian, narrating for the camera said that we'd soon get rid of the oxygen, Henry's whole face lit up and burst into that brilliant smile that carried me so many days, the one that still makes me smile.

"Can you tell me about him?" Nobody asks that. People ask what happened or say that must have been hard, which launches me into what happened and how hard it all was. He was only 6 1/2 months old. He was sedated during an awful lot of that time, so sometimes I'm not sure I have much to tell about him, and I still, five years later, find myself sifting through the rubble to find the pieces of him I lost as our world kept shifting and falling. But today, I collected just a bit and shared it with a friend who never got to meet him but wished she did.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Five Years

Last Thursday, I sat with a friend and sewed felt ladybug Christmas ornaments for my girls while she needle felted and we talked and settled in silences and our coffee and chai grew cold. I told her I felt I was finally replenishing my reserves, that I was able to do things, little things like make a felt Christmas ornament for my girls, that I had wanted to do but just couldn't manage these past five years. I am stronger, better, not all better, but, perhaps living through this month rather than just surviving it. I'm able to look at, seek out the light, this year, even as I sit in the darkness.
Friday morning the girls and I ate pumpkin bread and played with friends. And then the news started coming in. Horror, sadness, fear, disbelief. And a deep welling of grief and sympathy for these parents who dropped their kids off from school and will never pick them up. These parents who will stand hollow beside their child's grave. I am stronger, better, but still in touching distance to that raw, early grief. I feel it—the searing-torn-asunder pain and numbness together, the wild-empty eyes, the hows and the whys.

I have purposefully limited my news consumption, but still I keep thinking of the lives cut so very short and of the parents of these little ones. I keep thinking of the Christmas presents hidden in closets or arriving by mail and the family Christmas cards with smiling pictures waiting to be sent. I keep thinking of the funerals that will happen in the coming week. I keep thinking of next December and how cruel the joy of the season will feel. I think of next December and the December after that and after that and how slow the light is to come back and how it is never the same.

I think of all this, and I do what so many parents have done the last few days and I hug my girls close. Do I do it more because of the killings? Do I do it more because tomorrow is five years? Do I do it because in this month when I mourn a loss I also celebrate two lives? Do I always do it this much? I don't know, but I snuggled up under blankets and played a bleary eyed peek-a-boo with my freshly minted two year old in the still dark morning. I helped my just-turned-four year old make gingerbread cookies and let her pile on the frosting. We read stories. We walked around the neighborhood. We lit a candle with dinner and ate birthday cupcakes. I cannot make sense, but I hold as much love and hope and joy as I can in the face of inside and outside grief, a tiny star in the darkness. And I wait to see what my own grief brings me as we approach the day.

Tomorrow it will be five years. Five years since Henry was last alive. Five years since I sang out his soul. Five years since I let go and walked out of the room leaving his body behind. Five years and I'm still surprised that this is my life. I look at the pictures on my mantle of my boy smiling and sleeping and sucking his thumb. I had a baby boy and he died. I can't make sense of it, don't want meaning ascribed to it, but I read these lines from Mary Oliver  in a book I bought in June that has been sitting on the shelf waiting for me to find it in December.

"If I was the song that entered your heart
then I was the music of your heart, that you wanted and needed,
. . . 
And this was my true task, to be the 
music of the body. Do you understand? for truly the body needs 
a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work, 
the soul has need of a body, 
and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable 
beauty of heaven
where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes, 
and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart."
       —from "Red Bird Explains Himself"

I am so thankful for the song that entered my heart back in 2007 and for all my heart as learned from him. Ah, but I wish I could have learned that lesson another way.
Loving, missing Henry, five years later.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Lights: Early December

December 1, we woke to snow. A mere dusting that covered only the pavement and our dirt driveway, the grass was still its early winter mix of slumped green and blah beige. I might no have even bothered to note the snow if not for my girls who crowed, "It snowed!" upon looking out the window. They delighted in putting boots on over their jammies to walk down the driveway to feed our neighbor's cats, leaving smudged footprints behind them.

Out for a late afternoon walk, in the deepening dusk of winter 4 PM, we crested the little hill down the street. "Lights!" my girls cried seeing the reindeer and tree that they had walked by the past couple of weeks lit up for the first time.

Love Notes
I have a little tree that I put up for Henry. We bought it in December 2007 when we thought we might be in the hospital for Christmas. Family members were given little wooden hearts to decorate and send to us. My aunt was horrified hers were already in the mail when Henry died. I put the tree up with those hearts and some cardinals. Until last year, it was the only tree I had. Now, we have the big tree and Henry's tree too. Kathleen, out of the blue, decided she had to make something for Henry's tree, so she cut some strips of paper and wrote "Dear Henry, I love you and stuff, Kathleen" There are many, many of these bits of paper, and I look sometimes and think "What a mess," and other times "What love."

This year I am tackling the project of rehabbing my old dollhouse as a gift for Kathleen. I accept that it will not be perfect or finished really (I got it as a kit 30 some years ago and never put the trim or doors on), but she won't really notice that. Last year, I really wanted to do this for her for Christmas, but I hit my emotional exhaustion wall, and, as I have learned so slowly to do, I let it go. This year, I am finally able to tackle some of the projects that have languished, despite a true desire to do them.

Family Tree
Kathleen and I put up the Christmas tree today. The lower branches are heavily laden and luckily I have a large supply of felt ornaments as opposed to, say, antique glass. I told her the stories of the ornaments—the ones given to her when she was born, the ones I made when I was little, the mountain peak marker and wheelbarrow I gave to Brian, the hearts I made for each of them. And tucked in among those are little red birds ones I've bought each year on the day after Thanksgiving, a paper collage from Amy, a simple stuffed cloth bird from the ornament swap last year, a felted ball from Jenni, a painted glass ball from my aunt. And after Kathleen went to bed, I remembered to open the package that came in the mail (a bit of light and excitement any time) and found my new swap ornament, a cookie cutter with Henry's name on heart with a feather from a desert cardinal hanging. He has his own tree, but he's here with us too.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Part of our story

Earlier this week, Rachel at 6512 and growing, writing  about the premature birth of her son and how her awareness of prematurity has changed over the last eight years, said, "Now it feels like part of our story, but not the main plot."

I've been thinking about this line since, thinking about how Henry's story is part of my story, how it isn't the main plot anymore. I think the tough part is that his story doesn't go on, and I worry about that plot line fading out all together. I find again and again that I need to let go of the fear of him being lost to memory. I am reminded again and again that it is okay to let go, that he is remembered, that he is part my story.

One friend recently asked if we would have a Christmas tree this year. I met her after Henry died, while I was pregnant with Elizabeth, and two years ago, I told her that December is really hard for me, and she remembers this and asks me in different ways, how the month looks for me this year. This same friend dropped off a plant to put in Henry's garden for his birthday.

And my dear friend who knew Henry, who did more than she may know in helping me survive the hospital, just ended a message by saying she was thinking of me and Henry, as she always does come December. This friend has a picture of Henry on a shelf at her house, and when people ask her about it, she tells them he's a friend.

I am a cautious person. I reel out my line, loosen my grasp slowly. Will I have as much trouble letting go of my girls as they are ready more and more to go into the world?

I've been thinking a lot about Henry's story, my story, our story lately. I've been writing more lately (just not here), and I'm working with this story, but I'm not sure which story I'm telling. Is it the story of his life where roller coaster of his health are a major plot, the story that ends with me standing by a hospital door in the dark, arms empty, to go home to a quiet house? Is it the story of the journey that ending started? Is it the story of becoming this person I am now having reassembled my pieces (mostly) these near five years later? I don't know, but I'm going back into the darkness and the fear and the confusion, little by little, and finding it is not so deep below the surface sometimes, though the crust is stronger. I'm looking in these dark corners, as I always do, for the bits of light, the bits of love, the bits of Henry hidden in the shadows of oxygen tanks and ambulance rides, and codes.

It's almost December, the month when I celebrate all three of the lives I brought into this world. Two birthdays, one remembrance all packed tight and barreling into Christmas. I'm approaching December tentatively this year. I wonder if I'm just limping now out of memory, if perhaps I could step more surefootedly through the coming month. I'm just going to take little steps and see.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks, No Buts

Anne Lamott has a new book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. Every time I see the title, I am brought back to a tiny windowless room with a bed and a nightstand and a phone, where I slept for several weeks while Henry was in the CICU. Each night, I'd pray my helps and my pleases, my hopes and my pleas, but first, I gave thanks. I didn't give thanks first to bolster my pleas or as an afterthought tacked on the front. I gave thanks because I was grateful, grateful for another day, for a step closer to coming off the ventilator, for eyes peeking open. I was grateful for friends who visited or sent notes, for meals people sent in through my parents. I was thankful when Brian was able to visit.

It always seems odd to me that I really learned what I know about gratitude at one of the worst times of my life, but there I was thankful. Asking for help, asking for a miracle, for strength and patience, but first thankful.

As much as I wanted, that gratitude stood on its own. It wasn't thanks but . . .  it was just thanks.

I'm not there now, though I'd like to get back. I'm working on letting go of anger and frustration and feeling put out over little, inconsequential things. I'm trying to give thanks with no buts attached.

I'm thankful right now for the warm fire in front of me, the comfy bed waiting upstairs for me, the two healthy sleeping children already cozy in their beds, the husband who will come home and slide into that bed with me sometime, hopefully soon. I'm thankful he has a job. I'm thankful he has a job with health insurance. I'm thankful for a family that I both love and like who I will see tomorrow.

For a moment at least, I'm just thankful.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

In the Coming Darkness, A Light

I love the fall, this downshift season.

I love the colors and the crisp air and the delightful sunny, warm days. I love the gold of the light through yellow leaves and how it can seem bright on even a gray day.

I love layers and sweaters and pulling the covers up at night. I love soup simmering on the stove and hearty casseroles baking in the oven. I love squash and kale and apples. I love clearing the dead plants out of the garden—and still running out to snip some kale or broccoli or mustard greens or parsley.

And I don't really mind winter, but December is another story. I still dread it, still get anxious about how to make space for joy and grief, celebration and commemorating. I made some headway on it last year, but I don't trust it. Grief is not linear. I know this. I've forgotten and been reminded. December was better, but I'm wary.

But here is my light going forward:

I was talking to my aunt tonight and the day for grieving families that I go to at Children's came up. I talked about how it felt right for me to go back in late fall, in what was the middle of our time there. And, I said, It's right before . . .

Your dark time, she finished for me.


It won't always be dark you know.

I started to cry. Maybe part of me knew that, but part of me needed to hear it, because sometimes it feels like it will always be dark, despite the light most days. I have come so far in these almost five years. I don't need to reread my journals or this blog to recognize that (though I like to do that). I have come so far in these four years ten months. There will be other milestones, but I think (hope) believe December is the last big hurdle. I pushed back last year to reclaim the month to take back some of the joy. I will keep doing that, but I suspect that there is something beyond my control that needs to happen through grief work, through time. Maybe it will take five years or six or eight or ten. I don't know. But it won't always be dark.

My cousin died 15 years ago. I don't know when the darkness lifted for my aunt. Perhaps it faded slowly so that she wouldn't have been able to tell me if I had asked. I didn't need to know when it happened for her. I know we all have our own timelines.

It won't always be dark you know.

It feels a little lighter already.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Where have you been?

It's been a while since I've been here adding words. I've opened this page to see what other mamas I read are doing. I've thought about writing again, but then I think of all that has happened in the month plus since I last wrote and there are so many things I should have said.

I should have told you about Kathleen's first day of school and about the day I watched her through the secret window and saw her standing hands in pockets not doing anything, not talking to anyone and my belly lurched and my heart ached as I begged her silently not to be shy, feeling years of my own fears and struggle welling up. And I could tell you that she seems to be settling in and that I need to relax and trust her to make her way.

I could have told you about having coffee with one of the preschool moms and not realizing she didn't know about Henry and about telling her and how it wasn't as awful as it has been as I dread it being.

I should have told you about how I finally signed up for and started a writing class and how I love this time that I carve out for me and the energy I haven't felt in so long that wells up in me as I get words out. And that makes me think I should share some of those words with you and maybe I will, but not today.

I should have told you how my mother-in-law died almost two weeks ago and how I heard her and my sister-in-law laughing as if somebody left a window to the next world open. And how I felt Henry's energy zooming around with them.

I should have told you that Brian and I celebrated our seventh anniversary, despite all those dire warnings about divorce rates when we had a baby born with health issues, and the equally dire warnings after he died. And too that my mother-in-law died on that anniversary, but that Brian still got me a card and flowers.

I could have told you that because of the funeral, we missed the Buddy Walk, a walk we've done since the year after Henry died. And how my sister emailed the organizer and asked her to give each team a red heart balloon so Henry could be represented, and they did.

I could tell you the three trees that we had taken down this week by our barn and how different our yard feels. I could tell you that I'm having as much fun as Kathleen walking and balancing on the cut trunks, jumping from stump to downed limb for now, until we cut it up for fire wood.

I could tell you that I'm settling in for fall and thinking about the fires that will make the house cozy this winter. How everything but the mums and asters have died down in Henry's garden.

And underlying all of it my own wondering what I'm doing here, what I want this space to be, how much I want to tell you about Kathleen and Elizabeth. And I don't have answers to that. But here I am, and since I'm here I'll tell you too that I was visiting a friend and with her reminder, her son brought out the heart shaped stone he found on the Cape this summer. It's a lovely, tiny one and its up on my Henry shelf with the last little flowers from the garden and my mizuko jizo from Angie and my cardinal stone from Erika and the cardinal from Tricia and it made me smile on this gray and rainy rainy day.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Comedy of Errors

It's the first day of school.

Henry should be starting kindergarten today. He should wearing a new outfit and a too big backpack and a huge grin or maybe a nervous, tentative face. Back in mid-August, I sat at my desk one night picturing this morning, and I sobbed. Sobbed.

In reality, I would have dropped him off today a bit later than the bus. In reality, tomorrow would be the day I would see him climb on that big yellow bus for the first time, see him holding M's hand. Even though she sometimes rolls her eyes these days in a double-digits tween kind of way, I know she would follow through on that promise to get on the bus with him and make sure he wasn't scared, the promise she made five years ago after she climbed on the big yellow buss for the first time, while he was a baby, sitting in my lap watching. That's the image of the first day of school that has haunted me each September. Now it's here.

Five. Kindergarten.

Today is the first day of school, but not for us. Henry isn't here to get off to kindergarten and Kathleen's preschool starts next week. Still, we have a habit of seeing the kids off on the first day (and most other days too). Last night I made banana chocolate chip muffins like I did last year. This morning I brewed extra coffee. And at about 7:37 as Kathleen was saying we should eat the muffins with our friends, the bells on the back door jingled.

Despite the gray damp, I carried the muffins outside. We were just sitting down at the picnic table, reaching for our muffins when my friend J called out from down the driveway. "Where are the kids? Bus?!"

M ran into the house for her lunch box.

J ran across the dew-wet lawn in her wedge sandals trying to see where the bus was going.

Kathleen darted this way and that following M and J.

"This way!" J called and we were all off to the corner. N doubled back to grab a muffin off the table. I scooped up Elizabeth as we headed for the busy road.

"Oh, he's turning!" So we all looped back up around the house to the driveway where the bus had picked up the kids last year. M and N had crossed the road and were climbing the steps onto the bus by the time I got there.The bus roared away.

"I didn't get pictures!" J said. And she didn't. There was no excited, nervous, happy, grumbly waiting. No hugs and kisses before the bus actually got here and friends might see. No picture of smiling kids in new outfits and big backpacks waiting for the bus.

Maybe that was my saving grace this morning, that I didn't have to watch it all and think about what I wasn't doing, that I didn't have to see M actually get on the bus, or maybe this is yet one more milestone that is harder in the anticipation than actuality. Three weeks ago I sobbed one night thinking about the first day of school and the ghost of my boy getting on the bus, but this morning didn't even feel like the first day of school. I drank too much coffee and ate too many muffins and herded my girls back inside to start our day. This afternoon, when the kids get off the bus, I'll be on the other side of the river for an appointment for Kathleen. It's the first day of school. Just another September day for us.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Going Under

I'm tired. I find myself staying up too late and having trouble falling asleep and being woken in the wee hours by my early bird. On a good day, she snuggles in with me and we sleep for another hour or so. On my less lucky days, the coffee pots fills and empties early. Last night Kathleen slept out in the tent with Brian and I stayed up until 11 making salsa and sofrito because I had piles of tomatoes that were going to go by fast—and because I like moving about the kitchen with no one tripping me up or interrupting me. I was efficient and productive, but by the time I showered and read a few pages to settle down, it was midnight. Then up at 5:30. I've been doing this too much lately and it's adding up. I'm tired and when I'm tired, everything seems a little harder.

Today we were trying to play some of the video we've taken of Kathleen. Brian put in the unmarked tape that we thought was the right one, and there was Henry, lying on the play mat. He's propped up on a boppy and I'm waiting for him to find the toys hanging over him—something he had done just before I turned on the camera. Eventually his arms start swinging. He bumps into one, looks toward it. I cheer. I had such hopes for him. Even as I let go, or tried to let go, of my expectations and ideas of normal, I saw such potential in him.

His arms fall back to his sides. His chest heaves as if he has just sprinted some great distance. You can see it rise and fall even through his clothes, and I want to readjust the oxygen cannula that has slipped well below his nostrils. He was presurgery. I was scared and waiting, but believing he was going to be okay. You can hear it all in my voice—the hope and anxiety and pride.

I forget sometimes about this part, the home part, the waiting for surgery part, because the post-surgery part of his life was so intense. And then it ended. It kind of pushes a lot of stuff aside.

We turned off the tape, and I tucked that all away and went to a Labor Day cookout, where I spent the whole time helping my girls in the pool or trying to keep them out of it.

While in the water with Kathleen, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation around the side of the pool about two other kids who had had some hospital time. The voices grew more and more indignant as two moms talked about the struggle to find a vein in their kids, and I felt the frustration and anger and pain of every needle stick I witnessed, every one I held Henry for, every struggle for an IV I watched. I remember his red face and silent cry during one particularly difficult effort to get a line in. "Did they ever have so much trouble they pulled out a drill?" I wanted to ask. But I didn't really. I didn't want to try to one up them. I really just wanted to run away so I didn't have to hear or remember, but I couldn't get Kathleen out of the pool. And I wasn't going to leave her. She'd already gone under once.

Yes, despite my efforts they both went under. I didn't see Kathleen (bad mom, not right there), but I was feet away from Elizabeth. She was with me, but Brian was in the pool, and we miscommunicated. She leaned forward and fell and half floated and went under and half floated and sank down again, and I tripped to the side of the pool where Brian was already scooping her up.

She was fine, barely sputtering, but I began sobbing. I sat there hugging her and crying for the near miss and the split second that can change everything and the relief that she was okay. I cried for that me waiting for my baby's surgery and for the boy who can't worry me any more.

It was a long day, a stressful day, a day when I missed the baby who lay on the mat as I rooted for him to find his toys and for the about-to enter-kindergarten little boy he should be today. There are days when that missing is simply part of my story, something I sometimes carry without really paying attention too, but there are days that missing still feels really heavy and I want to put it down and leave it behind. Today was the latter. The heavy days still surprise me sometimes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


It's been a while. My mind flits here, but I don't quite know what I want to say. Plus I'm busy trying to keep weeds at bay in the garden (just enough to find the plants) and the fruit flies in check. The latter is a two part job—soapy fruit fly traps and doing something with all the produce piling up on the counter.

August is so abundant.

Tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers and beans. Eggplant and basil. Summer squash and zucchini. Onions, carrots. Peaches.

Tomatoes need to be sliced and eaten with basil and mozzarella or slow roasted with garlic and olive oil or pureed and simmered into a base for a later sauce. Peppers get stuffed and chopped for pizza and ground up for sofrito. Cucumbers and beans get pickled and pickled some more with hopes they are almost done. Eggplant gets sliced and roasted and eaten with the roasted tomatoes and good bread or layered on a summer pizza. Summer squash and zucchini get grilled and sliced for pizza and baked in bread and brownies. Onions and carrots (so easy) just get tucked away until needed. Peaches get dipped and peeled and chopped. They drip all over the floor and go into the jam pot or salsa or ice cream or yogurt. They're eaten by the dozen. We have too many. We need more.

This has kept me busy along with the frenzied end-of-summer didn't do yet lists. A little more beach, a trip to Boston and the swan boats, a visit from a friend before she is back to school. . .

And amidst the bustle and the business and the bundles of produce, I'm so aware of what August is (or isn't) for so many friends. I've been sending out a lot of love and fingering the rosemary in Henry's garden and remembering with you.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I needed to find pictures of my mom with my kids for a book we're making with her. And we need to finish the book by Sunday morning, so the time had come to find those pictures.

I sat down tonight and started flipping through the folders of photos on my computer. I didn't have time to look at them really, just scan for my mom. Still, I couldn't help seeing, noticing.

2007 almost stopped me in my tracks, because as far away as it sometimes seems, it still comes pouring back. The NICU and the fear and coming to terms and accepting and waiting and anxiety . . . the oxygen and surgery and home and back to the hospital . . . the fear and the waiting and the anxiety.

In among the photos that Brian and I shot are sprinkled a few that people have sent to us that they found on their cameras. Among them, three photos from the friend who commented on all our children. Months after Henry died, she found these on her camera and emailed them to me, and it was a little gift getting these new pictures of my baby who I could take no new pictures of.

The 2008 folder is almost empty until the very end. We were too tired and worn and grieving to take pictures. There are a few from a trip we took to Maine. I remember crying in the car with Brian. Among them are two of the very few shots of me pregnant with Kathleen.

And then things pick up. Baby pictures, family holidays, playing in the yard, working in the garden, hiking, visiting family, enjoying the beach, jumping in leaves, playing in the snow, introducing sisters . . . We look so happy. We look so normal. I suppose in some ways we are.

I forget sometimes to get out the camera or don't want to be bothered, but I found pictures I love. I found pictures I don't remember taking that I now love. I found pictures that weren't that great but that reminded me of how one of my babies used to be. I flew through five and half years in an hour. Sometimes it feels like time is moving that fast.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

All, and the editor in me

I had a lovely (I almost typed lively, and I suppose it was that too) visit with two college friends today. We met at a half-way point park, the three of us and eight kids.

Right before we left, we grabbed a quick picture of the kids (there is a kid hiding or trying to escape in each). One of my friends posted it on Facebook:
Great morning with Sara and H and all 8 of our offspring. 

I want to get out my red pen and add a caret and the word living before offspring. Or maybe delete the all. Yes, that's better. It's the all that gets me. Had she said just and our 8 kids or our 8 offspring, it would not have bothered me. But all excludes.

I only have to keep track of two kids on the playground, but I have three children.

I know it wasn't intentional and in many ways isn't a big deal, but I had to say this so I could move on.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


I'm back from five days with my family. I unpacked the car and a couple of bags; I did the first load of laundry. There are still bags strewn about the living room and dining room and kitchen. That first load of laundry is ready to be hung out in the morning. The second load of laundry is ready to pop in.

I make this trip every year to laugh with my sisters and cousins and aunt. I make this trip to see my kids play with their cousins. I make this trip to remember how it was to live at the beach in the summer. 

I make this trip every year to go to the beach. Each morning we pack beach chairs and umbrellas, snacks and drinks, towels, sunscreen, and beach toys. It looks like we are going away for a week. We cart all the stuff onto the beach and set up a compound my cousins slowly roll in with their kids, one day there were thirteen kids altogether, aged 6 weeks to 8 years. We usually go early on the Fourth to claim a spot before it gets to crowded, but a rainy morning got us there afternoon. Most days we stay until dinner. Those late afternoon hours, when the sun isn't so intense and the breeze off the water picks up and crowds start to shuffle off the beach, are my favorites. On the Fourth we leave early to get everyone fed before the parade.

I make this trip every year watch a parade full of firetrucks and Little League teams tossing candy and a band wearing crazy mixed up costumes led by a guy in a ratty red nightshirt and boots waving a plunger. There are fewer floats, fewer kids walking through in what likely was their Halloween costume, but otherwise it is much the parade I watched when I was a kid. Kathleen sat on the sidewalk in front of my sister, not liking the sirens. Elizabeth sat on my lap and only teared up at one sudden loud blast. She pointed out and named doggies and horsey and truck. She waved and clapped.

After the parade this year, crossing the street back toward home, I skirted by a stroller and noticed the mom. I knew her, but couldn't figure out how. "Look at all my candy!" her son exclaimed holding up his bag. "Good haul," I smiled. Two steps later it came to me. The candy carrying boy had a heart transplant while Henry was in the hospital. I remember his parents haunting the hallways, the drawn looks, the ecstatic night his heart came in. He looks good now.

"I'm five!" my cousin's daughter announced to me. This shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. Five is making all Henry's would-be peers more obvious to me, more than they were at four or three.

Just before I left for my trip, I read a book called The Shape of the Eye. The beginning of the book brought back so much of the early days to me, the days of getting used to the words Down syndrome and cardiologist and 02 stats and Early Intervention as part of my baby's life, part of my life. It brought me back to the day of Henry's surgery and how stressful it was even though we thought everything would be fine. I sat outside with my girls splashing in the water and took deep breaths and fought back tears.

"You're not going to have three are you?" my neighbor asked. How to answer that one. "I do"? "No"? I went with "we're done." I watched my sister and two of my cousins wrangling their three kids at the beach. I have three, but I will never do that.

I walked the beach and found heart-shaped rocks that I tucked into my bag. Tomorrow, I'll tuck them into Henry's garden.

I don't know what it is about my time away for the Fourth of July, but each year I seem to come back with these little scraps of stories. I don't have a lot of say about each, but I feel the need to unpack them, just as surely as I unpack the dirty laundry and the bathing suits and Elizabeth's blankie.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


I blinked and suddenly it's the 4th of July next week, which always feels like the beginning and end of summer to me.

I want lazy days of gardening and splashing in the river and eating popsicles and ice cream and hanging out in the yard. But gardening isn't lazy and then there's all the fresh food to process. I love canning and jamming, but it's not fitting in so well with Elizabeth's nap time or with Brian's work schedule this year. I'm still navigating his second shift hours and sleep schedule that has me yearning to run or garden or DO something in the cool early hours and then sweating when 10, 10:30 rolls around and I finally have a hand with the girls.

I'm trying to find family time and us time and me time and work time. I want garden time and running time and reading time and canning time. And there just isn't that much time. So I'm trying to prioritize (ugh) and let go.

Yesterday, Kathleen asked me to fill up the pool, which is really a tiny sandbox. Then she wanted to practice swimming, so she asked me to take her to the waterfall. The waterfall is a great little swimming hole minutes from our house—with big, rough, awkward steps to get down to it, very difficult to navigate for 3 year old legs. It was hot and I just wanted to sit and drink iced coffee and read a book. But while I sipped, I mulled it over. It would cool us all off. Okay. Yes.

It did cool us all off, even though Elizabeth clung to me the entire time. Kathleen laughed and shrieked the way kids do in water. Seriously, I think there is a specific pitch they hit when splashing. Her eyes sparkled even as she shivered, or as she would say, shimmered.

By the time we got home she was melting down again, the problem being the wrong popsicle. Sigh. It's not perfect, but we splashed in the river and ate popsicles and ice cream and after the kids went to bed, I emptied the kiddie pool and watered my peppers, so I guess I got gardening in there too.

July and August stretch before me with raspberries and green beans and cucumbers and tomatoes, cookouts, vacation?, another trip home to the beach. There is so much I want to do and so much nothing I want to do. I'm working on some odd balance of both.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My 30s

Today is the last day of my 30s.
Turning 40 doesn't phase me much. The weirdest thing is that I remember quite clearly when my mom turned 40. I was in high school—my kids aren't in preschool yet.

It's the last day of my 30s, which made me think back on this past decade and just how much has happened: I met Brian, got married, had a baby, learned more about various kinds of pediatric ICUs that I ever wanted to know, said good-bye to and buried a baby, had two more babies, watched them grow. Maybe it's not how much happened, but how momentous those each of those things were. The last half of the decade was particularly jammed-packed.

Maybe my 40s will be easier? slower? Probably not, I don't think life really works that way. Gentler, maybe? That might be nice.

I turn 40 tomorrow. The 40 celebrations I've allotted myself have already started and will continue. I turn 40 tomorrow. Feel free to use that as an excuse to enjoy cake or ice cream or to raise a glass of the libation of your choice.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Peaches on the Literary Mama Blog

Around here, the strawberries are starting to turn red. In some places they are coming in thick already, and there were pint boxes of them in the farmer's markets yesterday. In my garden, we've picked a handful. Tuesday, my canning friend's strawberries were wet and yellow. The sun today should make a difference, though. I have a jam-packed weekend, but might have to pack some jamming in there. Although there are a few earlier season projects (violet syrup, pickled asparagus, maybe rhubarb jam), strawberries signal the true kickoff the canning season for me. 

If strawberries are first, peaches are the most anticipated fruit of the summer. They arrive in the sticky, hot days of August and stretch into September. I wrote about canning peaches and being Henry's mom as part of a contest held by the lovely Kate Hopper to launch her book Use Your Words. You can read my piece the Literary Mama blog.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Good, Bad, Patterns

Yesterday's tantrum was not an isolated incident. Late afternoon is often a time of meltdowns and tantrums and general fussiness. Last summer, I found myself ending each day exhausted and frustrated and thinking what an awful day it had been. Except, like yesterday, it usually wasn't. Usually it just ended badly.

For a few weeks, I made myself write down the good and the bad of the day.

Good: taking a break to sing with Kathleen, lunch in the garden (Kathleen's idea), great run 3 miles+
Bad: Dinner started too late. I was storming around the kitchen fuming at B for making pie late in the day. Up way too late

Good: Elizabeth's morning giggles, taking a break to let Kathleen sit on my lap, knowing what Elizabeth needed to settle tonight (being put down)
Bad: Grumbly this morning about my "plan" for the day and B. sleeping in

Good: Elizabeth crawling!, watching Kathleen interact during our last music class (what a difference from the first class), dinner quick and smooth (yay for my plan of take out on music days!)
Bad: Feeling stressed about getting work done tomorrow

I'm thinking its about time to start doing this again.

Writing these things down over several weeks helped me identify patterns. Those patterns helped me make changes to make my days at least a little smoother. I prepped dinner early in the day when everyone was content. Even when it felt like we had plenty of time until dinner, I cut off all activities after 5—no walks around the block or a quick dip  at the swimming hole. I made myself stop working by 5—even if I was "almost done." When I stuck to the rules it helped, wasn't perfect but it was better.

What I really loved about this practice, though, was that it gave me my days back, much like that massage did yesterday. It helps me remember when the milestones actually happened and those amazing, non-milestone moments that you think you'll remember but you don't, the morning giggles and singing breaks and meals in the garden.

Today's bad: Struggle at bed time, Kathleen kicking on the floor
Today's good: Elizabeth moving her hands and singing "gooly gooly" when I was changing her (she learned part of the song I sing often during her changes!), planting the plants neighbors gave us for Henry's birthday

It got rough toward the end, but it was a pretty good day.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


My big little girl had an epic meltdown today. In the library. The kind that had me trying to pick her up (with the little girl in the backpack) without getting kicked to hustle her out of there. The kind that threatened to become what the whole day looked like, even though it lasted maybe 20 minutes.

I finally got her outside, where our lovely, tiny farmers market was going on. There was a string band playing and people hula hooping and green all around. The river burbled past behind a wrought iron fence. All I could think about was the struggle to get back to the car.

She wasn't ready to leave and I wasn't ready to push her, so I got out snacks for both of them and let them roam. She continued to test me, doing exactly what I asked her not to do until I finally got a the little girl screaming back in to the back pack, grabbed my bags, and corralled the big girl.

"Do you want a massage?"

I looked at the chair longingly. "That would be great, but . . . " I trailed off waving at the kids.

"Oh, they'll be fine." She asked if was okay to give them as snack, one of the breads from one of the booths.

I nodded, shrugged off the backpack.

"I saw you with that backpack and thought, she needs a massage." (Did she also see the desperation in my eyes? The how am I going to make it through bedtime look?)

I sat on the chair, pocketed my glasses and leaned into the headrest. She kept talking to my kids, so I trusted the were still there, close enough to reach. I just settled in and let go. At one point I felt tears welling deep within me and breathed through them. I don't know if they were the post-birthday release or the muscle memory of being massaged after Henry died or simply the sheer kindness of taking care of myself for two minutes.

I could have sat there for hours, but those few minutes reset me somehow. Even with the backpack back on I felt lighter. I smiled at Kathleen and thanked her for her patience and for sharing with sister and from keeping her calm.

Walking down the stairs after reading and singing and tucking them in, I felt the weight of that meltdown still holding down my day, but I was able to put it aside and see the cool, dry sunshine on the grass by the river. I was able to remember the four perfect red strawberries we picked from our garden this afternoon and Kathleen's wide eyes and Yummy! I let in the snuggles and stories on the couch with my girls in jammies and found my way back to the golden, molten sun behind the pines, the broad rays stretching between the branches as the morning mist slowly faded away as I walked and walked and walked with the little girl and her blankie just because we were both up and the world was quiet.

Twenty minutes almost stole my day, but those precious two gave it all back to me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Five and the Best Laid Plans

My plan for the day:
family breakfast of fried egg sandwiches
listen to You Are My Little Bird in the morning
plant flowers at his grave
work in Henry's garden today
have cupcakes with friends

This morning Brian stayed in bed after being up late with a feverish Elizabeth. I was leaving early to get Elizabeth to the walk-in hours at the doctors. No family breakfast.

I had a little time to spare, so I went to put the music on and the CD player closed and then opened and wouldn't close again. I fiddled with it for a bit, getting frustrated. No music in the morning.

And then I started to laugh. I don't know why I would think anything would go as planned on this day. Five years ago he was born, a day earlier than planned, and nothing, nothing really went as planned after that.

I ate my fried egg sandwich, much like the one I ate the day he was born. I made one for Kathleen. Brian got up. I got Elizabeth in the car, and turned the music on there.

After seeing the doctor (Elizabeth seemed fine except for that fever), we all went to the cemetery together. As Brian stopped the car, in one of those coincidences or something more, "Peace Like a River" was playing, which was perfect. I often find myself not knowing what to say when we visit Henry's grave. Today I sang "Peace LIke a River' as I worked. Kathleen helped me dig a hole and water. Elizabeth tried to pull up flags. Brian blew bubbles.

Despite oppressive heat, I spent much of the day in Henry's garden, as I did last year. I loosened soil and weeded heavily and split and moved plants. I still need to add compost and transplant a few things and add a few things from some sweet friends who know that is what I do for his birthday.

We had dinner and cupcakes with our friend who asked so earnestly that first winter " 'Enry 'ome?" and his sister who had promised to help Henry on the bus his first day of school.

That's what a fifth birthday looks like here, for now. Five. My boy would be five.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Right Where I Am: 4 Year, 5 Months, 7 Days

His pictures are dusty, like everything else in the house. Some nights I forget to turn the memory lamps on until I find myself stumbling in the dark. His garden needs weeding, mulching, tending, though I’ve purposefully put that off until his birthday next week.

He feels far away. Distant. Separate. Sometimes he feels unreal.

When Henry was born and diagnosed and taken away and sent home with oxygen and sheets of follow up appointments, all I wanted was normal, a normal baby, a normal life. My life is normal now, ordinary, full of figuring out what to have for dinner and running errands and defusing or waiting out tantrums. It’s filled with snuggles and reading stories and early morning (and middle of the night) wake ups. It’s normal, but he’s gone. I laugh. I watch my girls grow and change and amaze me. I notice the beauty around me and the abundance and the fullness of my life. And he is gone.

In this month of May, as his birthday looms close, I am wound tightly. The missing bubbles more to the surface, needing more attention. May is still tender; December still a month of apprehension.

On Tuesday, he will (would) turn five. He should start kindergarten this fall. Friends announce kindergarten screenings and open house on Facebook, and I remember watching with him as our neighbor started kindergarten, remember telling him how she would help him on the bus his first day. It seems so long ago that I was doing that. It seems so strange he will never get on that bus.

I’m still working on letting go of baby stuff he used (or never got to use). I'm still working on letting go of jealousy and resentment. I’m realizing how much his death affected my ability to talk to other moms when my oldest daughter was born, how that still affects me today.

Where am I right now? I’m here in this blossoming spring, here with my garden filling up, here with two little girls who get out in the dirt and should have tubbies every day. I’m here trying to figure out what it is I want to do with my life. I’m here trying to find balance between being with my girls and making space for me. I’m here still sorting out with my husband who we are now as individuals and how we work as a couple. I’m here, uncertain how much some of this has to do with losing a baby and how much it has to do with having a baby at all or having two little ones running around.

I am here, where from the outside it may look like I "got through it", and maybe this is what getting through it is, getting to this point where the missing is part of the ordinary, where the missing becomes almost like breathing, something your body does with out thought or excess energy. There are moments and days that still sear and sting and wipe me out, but they become rarer. And I bounce back more quickly, either because I’ve had practice or because my well has refilled some and I have reserves again.   

I am here, 4 years, 5 months, 7 days since I held him for the last time. That he is not here can never be normal, but that he is not here is part of my normal. I feel this, though it still confounds my brain sometimes. 

—part of Angie's Right Where I Am 2012 project
Right Where I Was (2011)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Another Piece

This photo of Henry is one of my favorites. No oxygen, no cannula hiding his face. He's so alert and focused. So healthy.

He's in his car seat, the Graco Snugride in neutral colors that I registered for. He's in his car seat ready to go. Truth be told, he didn't like the car seat much. He wailed on most car rides. He cried when we tried to take a walk with the car seat as part of a stroller. Here, though, he looks content, with a tease of a smile.

All three of my babies came home in that car seat. They went in it to visit family, take walks, go to appointments. The cried in it and slept in it and spit up in it.

Five minutes ago, a young women showed up at my doorstep looking for the car seat I had offered to Freecycle. I handed it to her with a smile, told her I was glad it would get another use, but as she walked down the steps and I watched the familiar green, blue, and tan plaid move away from me, this image of Henry grabbed me and I wanted to snatch it back.

I remind myself that there is now a little more room in the barn and the attic, that we won't have to pay to get rid of the car seat, that somebody else will extend it's life before it gets relegated to a landfill. It's not something I can hold tight, nor something I can save to pass on to my girls. It makes sense to let it go. Rationally, I know this, but still, sometimes I find myself wanting to hold on to the things he touched and used, as if by doing so I could better hold on to him.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

To all the mothers I've met

I walked today with our local support group to remember Henry and all the babies gone too soon. I walked to remember the babies I've come to know through their mother's words. I walked to honor their mothers. I have met so many wonderful, amazing women on this journey, and I'm so grateful for them (and if you are reading this, that likely means you). Wishing you a peaceful, gentle mother's day.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Stumbling Gratitude

I should know better what to do, what to say. I should be clear on what not to say. I should know there is no right thing, no magic thing, nothing that will really help. And yet, I want to say the right thing, the magic thing, the thing that really helps. And I worry about saying the thing that comes out wrong that hurts where it means to help. I want so much to help and feel helpless.

As I stumble through my friend's loss gracelessly, I think back to all the friends who stumbled through with me, all the people who didn't know what to say or do who offered words and hugs and silence for me to fill or not. I think of the people who sent cards and made donations and brought meals, the people who let me talk and cry after, long after, years after, who didn't shy away or change the subject, the ones who still remember his birthday and when he died. It's been almost five years since Henry was born, four and half since he died, and I'm welling with gratitude for the many people in my life who stood in the uncomfortable place of not knowing what to do and simply tried, because there are no right words, no magic things, because nothing really helps, but doing nothing at all surely hurts.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hope and Hugs

Life here has felt mundane lately, which is not a complaint. Struggles over bedtime and early morning wake ups. Figuring out a new work schedule. What to have for dinner. Easy, every day stuff. This is where we are.

But my heart is so full for friends right now: full of hope for a baby to be born healthy and go home healthy, full of hope for succesful treatment, full of sorrow and love for a friend and her baby and the shitty (non)choices she has.

They are not my stories to tell, but they are the stories I am holding these days, sending love and hope and positive energy from afar, and when I can't do much else, hugs.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


We finally got snow this winter, yesterday and today, and we did what you should do on a snowy day—get out an play in it and come in for cookies and cocoa.

This afternoon, Kathleen "helped" me shovel and clear off the car. Then we worked on her snowman from earlier in the day. It wasn't too cold and the snow was still coming down in heavy, wet flakes. It was fun and lovely and so ordinary, save for that brief moment of wonder that it could be so ordinary, so normal. It wasn't upsetting, didn't ruin the day—just made me wonder how it could be. How can he be gone? How can my life be so ordinary and normal and lovely with him gone? And yet it is.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Down the Road There Is a Farm

I was going to finally come here today and moan about how I've been drowning in work and hating it because it's getting in the way of the stuff that matters. And then I got a call. My neighbor J. down the street at the farm died. Despite knowing hospice was in, I didn't expect this news so soon. I'm sad, sad she won't be showing us and visitors around the animals, sad I won't hear "Hiya, hun" when I walk by, sad that she is gone.

My mind, however, wouldn't stay put. It raced back and forth. It went back to when Henry was in the hospital and I'd tell him again and again about home (where we would be again someday). I'd tell him about the farm and how M. would teach him to feed a lamb a bottle. I'd sing "Old McDonald" to him, but I'd sing "Down the road there is a farm, EIEIO. And on that farm you might see J, EIEIO, with a Hello here and a Hello there, here Hello, there Hello, everywhere Hello, Hello, down the road there is a farm, EIEIO." He's gone and she's gone.

My jumped ahead too, to another call that will come some day, sooner than we will like or expect, despite knowing that hospice is in. The call will come that my mother-in-law has passed or is struggling. There will be a flurry of getting down there and tears and everything breaking open again.

And then my mind comes to rest on the last time I saw J. It was a strangely springlike day a couple of weeks ago, and we were out for a walk. We stopped to see the chickens and were heading back to the wagon when we saw J. with people taking her out for a walk. She seemed cheery, glad to be out, and, aside from the wheelchair, fine. I remember her smile and her greeting and I settle with that.

Our neighborhood is close, and a piece is missing today, down the road, at the farm.

Friday, February 10, 2012

In the system

About seven weeks ago, I got a letter telling me that Kathleen and Elizabeth had been enrolled in one of our state healthcare for kids programs. I didn't want or need this coverage for them and certainly didn't want to pay the monthly premium on top of what we are already paying. Although I didn't really apply for this (I guess in a backward way I did by applying for premium assistance when Brian was in school), they suddenly sent me a bill. Or two bills rather, one for each kid, because they're efficient that way.

I was irritated that they were giving me something that didn't really help and denying me what would help. I was irritated that they were making me call to cancel something I never really asked for. Mostly I was exhausted by the idea of calling them.

We applied when Henry was sick for both the state plan and SSDI. After he died, I had to call both and go through a rigamarole to cancel his never used coverage, talking to this person and that and holding and being transferred, and each time having to say, "My son died." Exactly one person said anything like, "I'm sorry." Most just seemed confused because there was no page in their script for "baby died." I finally got to the last person, explained the situation ending with "he died."

"And?" she said, clearly irritated that I was wasting her time with my dead baby. And. And—that's why every interaction I've had with them has been exhausting. I dread making the call.

I had to call today to cancel the unwanted plans for the girls. The person I spoke to was pleasant and efficient. She got our account number and the girls' names and birth dates. She put me on hold to check our account. When she came back, she asked if I was cancelling for two children or three.

He's still in the system. Maybe I should be glad that he is in there, still lurking, proof that he was, but how many times do I have to say, "He died"? It's wearying. I managed to get off the phone before I cried. It seems like not having him should be enough, that I shouldn't have to keep confronting bureaucracy about it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Whatever else

Whatever else I did today—
whether or not I met my deadline
whether I did all the laundry or left some in the dryer and the basket,
whether I served healthy meals and good snacks or drank too much coffee and ate too much sugar
whether I got Kathleen to pick up toys and go on the potty without a tantrum
whether I got us outside on this balmy, melty, sunshiny day—
whatever else got done or undone,
this morning I sat at breakfast and played peek-a-boo with Elizabeth.
We took turns doing the peeking. We peeked from behind hands and napkins.
She said "Picka buh." She laughed. Whatever else today, there is that.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My View, Year 4

It has become a January tradition for me to sit in this chair that I got to rock my babies in and reflect on what I see and what has changed and where I am.

The view this year is much like last year. The swing is gone, replaced by the kitchen set, but toys still fill the shelves and block the fireplace. Kathleen's babies—Lulu, Baby, Maisie, and Jack (where's Bessie?) are jumbled on top of the stuffed animals along with "Sister's baby" Maxie, who Kathleen informed me is Lulu's brother. The stuffed animals are piled in a huge basket, made by our neighbor and given to us at our neighborhood party two days before Henry was born.

The milkcrates and CD stand still overflow with board books and picture books. One of our actual bookcases, however, is half empty, the books moved to save them from Elizabeth, who has a knack for destroying them.

CDs are piled above the TV all around Henry's picture, where I've stuck them after our pre-bedtime dance parties.

Up until last week, the Christmas tree lighted the corner by the stairs, the first time since 2006 a Christmas tree graced our home. Now, the Christmas ornaments are down, with some snowflakes and snowmen and cardinals (I categorize them all as winter) remain.

From here, I can see that much of the house is a mess, though I don't know if it is more so than years past. I think I just feel more overwhelmed with stuff. Toys, diaper bags, outgrown clothes litter the table and pile by the stairs. I don't worry really about the house being clean. I don't bother to apologize for my messy house. But sometimes, the clutter gets to me. Every time I make headway, we get an influx of clothes or laundry piles up waiting to be put away or I don't have time to finish sorting and everything gets jumbled again. Sigh.

It's messy and lived in and filled with things we love (and things we don't have the time or energy to get rid of (see above). Sitting now, remembering the many steps Elizabeth took today, it's hard to recall just how tiny she was this time last year, how many hours I logged nursing and reading and cuddling in this chair. Thinking of the songs Kathleen makes up, its hard to remember what it felt like sitting with her three years ago, making up songs for her. Looking around this room full of family and life and love and stuff, it's hard to remember the barren walls and just how shocked and adrift I was four years ago. I look again at his pictures and still wonder how this can be my life, how he can be gone. And I look around the room again and wonder how that fits somehow with all that is here, because it does. His being gone is somehow part of this life that we have settled into.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Five little things

I love that Kathleen calls clementines, lemontines, and the image of a squishy, easy to peel, tart, yellow fruit it creates for me.

Kathleen tried skating today for the first time. She got out on the ice on her double-bladed skates, holding tight to our friend's hands and then mine. She moved on to a milk crate and then, center ice (on the tiny, wonderful homemade backyard rink), she let go and half stepped, half slid one foot forward. Again. Again. Again. Til she reached me at the side, complaining that her hands were cold.

We went out skating today (I tried too though it has probably been 20 years—or more—since I last wore skates). We went out skating today despite my careful watching of the thermometer (It was 20 degrees out today, but sunny and still. Compared to yesterday with it's biting wind it felt almost warm.). We went out skating today despite the work deadline waiting on my desk. I'm glad we went skating today (and glad too to have moved that bigger than it seemed project off my desk).

Last week, while I was working, Brian and Kathleen made me five-layer squares, one of my favorite treats, certainly my favorite that Brian makes. He makes them particularly good by not skimping on any ingredients and being exceedingly precise in spreading the ingredients. I still have a few left and I look forward to my afternoon coffee every day because I get to have one.

We made chili over the weekend. I say we, but Brian did most of the work while I learned about making cheese and traded a few jars of dilly beans and jam for chutney and honey and elderberry elixir. Fourteen quarts of chili means a bunch of meals in the freezer—and chili pizza this week. As Kathleen would say—Hooray! That's another thing I love, how much she has been saying Hooray! lately.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Good intentions

I wrote last night in my journal (pen on paper!) about my goals and intentions for this year. I wrote about what I'd like to continue (letting go, seeing the good, opening to joy) and what I'd like to let go of (anger, frustration, anxiety).

At 4:30 AM, Kathleen fell out of bed (her bed rail, that I knew was loose when she went to bed, collapsed). We had the first meltdown of the day. My suggestion that she sleep on her brand-new Christmas present sleeping bag led to a screaming, kicking fit. Sleeping with me got the same response.

I finally got her settled in my bed. And I was wide awake. I was exhausted, knew I had a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it. I was angry with Brian for accepting a last minute overnight shift. I was irritated with Kathleen for waking up. I was frustrated that I couldn't get back to sleep. She couldn't either, so I pointed out the stars out the skylight. We snuggled, and when she asked at 5:30 to get up, I thought why not.

I made coffee and toast, and we had a picnic on the kitchen floor.

It was not the day I expected or wanted or planned for. It was long and sometimes hard. I ended with a lot of anxiety about getting all my work done and feeling a little incompetent though I suspect I'm not the first one to question the process on my new assignment and I know I'm not to blame for the schedule cram I'm in.

I'm going to take 15 minutes to breathe and maybe read and be away from my work and my desk and my computer. I'm going to try to let this day go, but maybe I'll hold onto the stars and the snuggle and the picnic.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Old Year, New Year

Last night I read through all of my posts from last year, because I love doing a kind of year in review. If I had time, I’d read through my journal from last year too, but we were up too late last night for New Year’s Eve and I was up too early in the morning for Elizabeth. I’d do it today, but my four-day vacation is over and work is piled up, and I’m still unpacking from being away.

My family celebrates Christmas just before New Year’s, so I spent this transition night with them. I rang out the old year laughing with people I love. Laughing and loving is not a bad way to welcome the new year. I’ve missed a lot of these family gatherings the past few years, and I am glad I was there, but I think my ideal New Year’s Eve would be spent at home, eating good food, enjoying a fire, and reading and thinking about where I’ve been and where I’m going.

2011 was about embracing the fullness, holding the joy and the sorrow together. It was about watching that first year of astoundingly rapid growth from Elizabeth and the leaps and bounds of Kathleen. 2011 was about starting to come back to life by making time for things I love and, in some cases, simply remembering some parts of the old me that I had forgotten (or in the case of Brian and I remembering what it was like to be us). 

I don’t make resolutions, but I like to take stock at years end and again mid-year at my birthday. I like to figure out what is working in my life and what isn’t, what I want to keep and what I want to change.

In 2012 want to continue the opening I did in 2011, the rediscovery of me. I want let go of anger and frustration and laugh more. I want to notice what I am doing, not what I can’t quite figure out how to do. I want to keep working at that priorities thing that I smugly like to think I have in good order, until I can’t figure out how to get it all done, and as part of that I want to keep work at the letting go that December afforded me this year. 

What are your resolutions/goals/hopes for 2012?