Mother’s Day 2018

Continuing a Mother’s Day tradition, I try to step in front of the camera on Mother’s Day and get some photos with each of my kiddos.

Genevieve (18 months)

Dominic (4 years)

Lucia (5 years)

Monica (7 years)

I know, even now, that I want to remember being a part of their childhood. I want to have photos not just of my kids, but with my kids. And, even if we’re not all smiling, we were all there.

With patchy shade and grumpy teethers, it gets harder every year to get a “good” shot with everyone together, but that’s motherhood right? It’s messy and distracted and beautiful and dappled with more love than I thought possible.

And for those same exact reasons, it’s worth remembering.

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Silly, Silly Sissy

Sissy 5-18-5Genevieve is just a hoot right now. She’s in that super-sponge 18 month(ish) phase where she’s absorbing so much, I can almost hear the neurons growing in her brain. Every day there are new words, new faces and new stories she likes to tell.

Sissy 5-18-6Her vocabulary takes a little interpretation, much like her oldest sister. But she’s happy to tell her favorite memories to anyone who will listen:

Kitty, kitty (while pointing to her arm): the kitty scratched me (this girl will NOT leave Athena alone, and our kitty is old and grumpy, now…she’ll learn some day to have soft hands)!

Sissy 5-18-9Dog dog! (while sticking her finger up her nose):  Uncle Jacques’ dog licked me in the face!

Maaahhh, wa-wa (while pointing to her shirt): Dom spilled water on me!

Yes,  you read that right. Her word for Dominic is a growling Maaaaaahhh sound. It’s hilarious, and probably has something to do with the fact that he currently speaks in mostly dinosaur.

When I ask her for a kiss, she pokes my face with her little finger (exactly as I’m showing her, “Come on Sissy, give Mama a kiss. Right here on my cheek!”)

Sissy 5-18-2Sissy 5-18-4Her favorite thing to do is faceplant onto pillows. She climbs on ALL THE THINGS just like her big brother did. And she is the first kid to be found, unsupervised, with markers, drawing all over the floor and wall and toys (I blame it on the house move and not finding a good place to hide the markers yet…).

Sissy 5-18-1Her “bah bah” (binki) and other “bah bah” (blankie) are her two favorite things. Lucia is quick to find them whenever G is crying.

She wears everyone’s shoes, steals remote controls, and tests just how far she can get to touching the electrical outlets before she gets in trouble. Good thing she’s so dang cute.

Sissy 5-18-7Every night after bath, before PJs, Andy carries Genevieve wrapped up in a towel, tip-toeing through the house to look for me. She puts her finger on her nose and whispers “shhhhhh!” until they find me and they yell SURPRISE! Well, Andy yells and Sissy laughs hysterically.

Sissy 5-18-3All the big kids take their turn loving on her. She looks up at each of them (Mo-Mo!, Ooh-ooh! Maaahh!) with straight up love in her eyes, and they each make her laugh like no one else. Of course, she has her struggles and also yells, and cries, and gets mad at each of them, but I am more often floored to find them all sitting together or playing nicely.

She has the funniest old man laugh. Always has. And it’s the quickest way to make even Andy’s hardest day turn around 180 degrees.

Sissy 5-18-10Sissy 5-18-8Every day we see a little more of who she is and who she’s becoming and it is a delight!

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Not Alone

One of my favorite bloggers, Beth Woolsey, often “waves in the dark” to her readers. It’s her way of communicating that nobody is alone in their struggles and fears. And I feel like I need a little of the same tonight…

So, for all the mamas
Who feel mediocre.
Who know, if they could just figure out that perfect __________ (sticker chart, discipline method, sleep routine, screen time regimen etc) the kids’ behavior would improve.
Who know, if they were just a little more intentional, they could find an organizational scheme so that permission slips wouldn’t get lost and socks could be matched and kids could find their shoes.
Who know if they just had the discipline to wake up a little earlier, they wouldn’t come screeching into school, late, sweatpants-clad yelling “hurry up!” as everyone falls out of their old van like a shabby, grumpy clown parade.
Who count every negative kid-interaction, placing them on the scale against “I love you”s, and fall short of being balanced. Every. Damn. Day. And who know that their fly-away temper is going to ruin their kids for life.

For all the wives
Who know that spark would be a flame if they could just figure out a way to make date night a weekly thing.
Who know if they could just find the right ___________ (gym, work out video, diet plan etc) they would stop eating all the kids’ Easter candy, and maybe fit back into their wedding dress for an important anniversary some day.
Who know they should be able to handle all the cleaning and cooking and home-ing like all those other wives are capable of doing.

For all the friends
Who worry about calling, because they know everyone is too busy to talk.
Who know that that one stupid, weird thing they said ruined a budding friendship for sure.
Who know that their text, no matter how funny, doesn’t really deserve a reply from that beautiful, popular friend.
Who know if their house was just a little cleaner, better organized, a little less sticky, and a little less loud, then they’d also be posting photos of great play dates and smiling BFF selfies.

For all of you who know you know that that none of these things are actually true, but who feel it sometimes anyway.

Hi.

You are not alone.

And neither am I.

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Wordless (Retreat!) Weekend

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Photo credit for most of these: Mom! (thanks for coming with me! And next year WE need a photo together!!)

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Wordless Weekend, Almost Spring

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Wordless Weekend Returns

*Breaking the WW mould with some words here… A very dear friend reminded me today that I used to post photos on Mondays about what we did over the weekend. I’m going to pick that habit back up (Thanks for the encouragement Teresa! *muah!). I think it’ll also help me pick up my camera (or iPhone) more intentionally. And the Good Lord knows I take enough photos… I currently have 146,870 on our computer. WHAT?! What in the WORLD am I going to do with all of those?! Print? Delete? Back up to 3 different kinds of storage? Probably leave them on a hard drive for my kids to dig through some day… Anyway, I now realize I have a lot of feelings about the legacy of photos that will be saved for a different (worded post). I’ll let pictures do the rest of the talking.*IMG_0134

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State of the Family 2018, Part 1

February is a good time to stop and take stock, right? January is full of recovering from Christmas while simultaneously trying to reorganize and revamp stuff, life, food, exercise- ALL THE THINGS.

By February all the pretend motivations have fallen away, and one is left with a much clearer picture of the truth.

And the truth out here is good, and hopeful, and so full of projects I just don’t even know where to start to document them. So, the kiddos will be first because they (sometimes) smile nicely for photos and honestly take up 85% of my time and 95% of my brain-space (sorry Andy, but we make up in quality what we lack in quantity right? *fingers crossed)

I’m going to split this into several posts. My intention is to follow each kid around for a day or two with my nice camera and to document the things that I want to remember about that specific kid, at this specific time.

This first post is easy though, cause I only have one photo of our youngest kid.US Dec 5

HA HA HA! Get it?!

Oh man, I crack myself up.

Yes, another Elder will be here in July to make our Tales longer and fill our lives with more memories, more tears, more laughs, more…everything.

Love never divides, only multiplies. Considering all the siblings this kiddo has, this Little One has no idea the love that awaits him or her earth-side.

We’ll get more photos here shortly at our 20 week ultrasound, but for now we spend our time imagining how Baby’s limbs have grown and profile has emerged. Talking about this baby has been especially fun because (in addition to a toddler and preschooler) we have “older” kids this time round. They ask excellent (sometimes unanswerable) questions and make great predictions.

Based on past results though we can pretty much guarantee Baby will end up with a giant head, blond hair and blue eyes.

I’ve had all the feelz about a 6th pregnancy and adding a 5th kiddo to the mix. But that’s a post for a different time because emotions (especially when fueled by hormones!) can be strange, convoluted and confusing. I’m still working on some of them.

Gratefully, this pregnancy has been much like the others, very little nausea and (so far) no major complications. So, our current state is one of joyful anticipation… and mild panic while we try to get ALL THE PROJECTS done before Little One’s arrival and balance school, work, food… 35645

I’m good at priorities.

Next up: Genevieve!

This sneak peak should give you a little insight into her personality:IMG_0116

Can’t wait to see how much of her I can catch on film. Or, is it “in pixels” now?

Regardless, insert: wide eyed emoji and facepalm emoji

 

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Currently…

Life is busy. So, busy.

But also, not. You know?

There are times of the day where the minutes fly, and my temper flares, and we are always running late (mornings, evenings…).

And then there are hours of quiet. Sleeping babies breathe softly into monitors and I sit, just wondering when the next panic segment of this sitcom-life will start again.

Thus the hiatus in writing. The hiatus in photos. The hiatus in many, many things.

However, the last week I have felt more of a calm. A settling. A little less yelling, a little more playing. A little less running, a little more singing.

And I remember why I like myself. I remember why I like my kids. I remember why I like my life. I never doubted that there was love for all of these, just sometimes it’s hard to like. To like is to be in the present moment. To appreciate the little things. To understand that time is fleeting and worthy of appreciation.

There was a resentment fog that had settled in my brain and in my heart. There was so much change (seemingly) so quickly. And then so much sickness (none too serious, but just serious enough to drain). And so little sleep…

Routines have returned. Sleep has returned.

So, joy has returned.

I really do look forward to documenting our lives here again. I spent some time re-reading posts from the past, and I was shocked by the nostalgia. Maybe that’s silly and I should have expected it. I mean, for what purpose did I start writing here?

So that I could time travel and hear Mo’s 2 year old voice. See Lucia’s silly dances. Re-live my warrior labor stories. So that I could enjoy remembering.

Because, these kids? This life?

It’s worth remembering.

Worth Remembering(Plus, I don’t think I’ll ever make up that stupid sleep-debt, so without writing things down I doubt I could remember any of these years, even if I tried!)

Here’s to 2018 and many more Tales of the Elders!

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How We Remember

October 18th is the day we remember our Saint. It’s the feast day of St. Luke and the month that correlates with Lucas’ loss (and infant and pregnancy loss awareness month). There is providence even in the details.

As a Catholic, ritual is incredibly important to me. To us. I find meaning in collecting similar experiences every day, every week, every year. Each time we repeat an action, it becomes a deeper, richer part of our family story.

So, we have a few things that we do to remember Lucas. To maintain his legacy and solidify his memory in Elder Canon.

On the 18th, we make some sort of cake. Last year it was an actual cake. This year, Lucia baked the tiniest cupcakes in her easy bake oven. We eat something sweet, we say a prayer, ask for his intercession and sing a song. This year it was “Softly and Tenderly”. Last year, I think, it was “The Cry of the Poor”: the same psalm our friends sang at his celebration.

As the kids get older, I see some moments moving them more, but we still include food and song and prayers so that everyone can feel like they are participating or like they have something to remember. Dominic doesn’t remember the memorial service, but he certainly remembers cake. And so Dom talks about him.

That’s important too. I let the kids talk about him. I never, ever shush them. You would think this would be easy, but realistically, the places Lucas comes up are often the places I would least like to discuss loss or miscarriage: any time someone asks the kids “How many siblings to you have?” or any time I’m asked “Are they all yours?!” in front of them. It’s most often in the super market line, or when we meet new people… in general places where I’m trying to put on a happy face or give people a good impression of our family.

Lucia is his fiercest advocate. She never, ever fails to say “I have 2 sisters and 2 brothers, but one is in Heaven. He died before he came out of Mama’s tummy.”

I’ve watched more than one grocery checker swallow their own tongue trying to figure out how to respond.

And that’s ok.

I don’t have to apologize for my grief or for my suffering. I may not make eye contact because that is a hard Truth, but I never shush the kids.

I stroke her hair. “Yes, honey. And now he can pray for us,” is usually my response.

Sometimes that opens a tiny window into a stranger’s soul. They purposefully catch my eyes and say, “Me too,” and just for a minute we are united in that very personal grief. And I feel better (and devastated) to know that I am not alone. If I’m in a particularly grace-filled moment, I give a little prayer of thanks for all my children. Lucas included.

Honestly though, usually I don’t, because someone is screaming or pitching a fit, or adding unwanted items to the cart. But sometimes I can, and that’s Lucas’ intercession.

The other way I grieve and remember is to cut my hair. Right after his loss, I cut off the hair at the nape of my neck. Partly because I needed an outwards expression of my inside pain, but also because I made small relics out of the hair. As with many women, my hair changes in pregnancy. And I had already started to note the difference in the short time He was within me. My hair remained one reminder that he was there at all.

Some of that hair I cut just the one time, and it has almost grown out to reach the full length. I can’t help but feel, how dare it move on and mask itself with the rest of my hair… as if it had never been affected.

So in a specific small spot, I have Andy cut my hair off every year. I don’t do it on Lucas’ feast. I don’t need to feel anxious about forgetting to do that ritual on a specific day. And honestly, it takes enough emotional energy just to put together the cake/singing/prayer piece. I give myself the grace of time with my personal grieving, and honestly, his loss took a long time. So, sometime in the latter half of October, my hair is cut again. I place it at the base of the rose we planted in his honor. Returning a bit of myself to the ground. Dust to dust.

Throughout the year I feel that spot. It starts off bare and scratchy. Raw. Much the same way I feel in October. As it grows out, it’s still noticeable especially when my hair is up. I will reach for that spot when I’m thinking of him or daydreaming. I feel like it’s a tangible but private connection to my grief. To the aching that still sits in my chest. To my pierced heart.

Also, I’m becoming less afraid to remind people of this anniversary. One hard truth of grief is that other people move on. This grief is my constant companion, not theirs. As it should be. But I also know that there are many people who want to love us, who want to pray for us, and who want to remember Lucas with us. They just need to be reminded. So, I tell them. And, without fail, they respond with grace, and love and prayers. So much so that I am reminded of the joy he initially created in this world and that feeling eclipses the sadness of his passing, if only for a moment.

Lucas’ intercession continues in my life. He sends me sunshine on grey days. He prays peace into my heart when I am irrational with his siblings. He reminds me of the faithfulness of God, even in my sufferings. When I despair with doubt He is there. Sometimes I can almost feel him holding my hand. And he brings me back to a place of belief and gratefulness.

He loves me in a way that only a son can, in a way that only a Saint can.

Pray for us, Lucas Emeth.

And we’ll keep remembering you.

Love, Mama

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Moving Away but Keeping You Close…

Gosh, moving is hard. I’ve done it enough times that you would think I’d remember the physical and emotional strain of leaving the familiar for the unknown.

I’m not sure what I expected to feel, apart from sadness… I’ve mostly been forging ahead, surviving till we moved. Andy’s been living in the Tri-Cities already and life has been more than busy with end of school year, birthdays, packing, purging and goodbyes.

I actually have a minute right now to think about what’s going on, and while emotions are running high, the most noticeable one is gratitude.

It’s hard not to sound like a braggart as I think and write about this last week. It was filled with goodbye parties, surprise Ladies Nights, birthday parties, and friend after friend reaching out to say goodbye…to offer help.

As a small, prime example: I’m writing this from a friend’s house who let us stay (all 6 of us!) for a few nights as our house was packed and cleaned… even though they themselves were packing up for an extended vacation. Inviting us to anything during this transition is like inviting a circus of emotional elephants to parade through the space. And then there’s the kids! 😉

And yet, people keep showing up. Keep offering a hand. Keep inviting and loving. Keep asking and inquiring and caring.

But! Rather than point at me, at our family, these blessings and this generosity instead point right back to the community we have. It speaks to the kindness and beauty and security that can be found when a family is genuinely loved by a village of one-time strangers turned indispensable-friends.

They are the reason it has taken us so long to intentionally seek a new job closer to family. Without the love and support of all these people (and many others who weren’t there!)

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we would have left Vancouver long, long ago (photo kept small for their privacy and also because I’m not very good at splicing iPhone photos together…there’s got to be an app for that, right?).

Several people, myself included, have noted that it is a wonderful thing to be sad to leave a place. Instead of throwing off our caps, letting our hair blow in the wind and yelling “good riddance” at the rear-view mirror, we are crying silent (and not so silent) tears of loss and sadness. We are holding necks and kissing cheeks. We are laughing till we cry and crying till we laugh.

We are leaving with full, breaking hearts.

It is so obvious and so truthful that we are going to a good and beautiful place. Our hearts will be filled and smiles will be genuine and love will abound. But it is ok to feel both sadness and happiness. Being sad and a little lost about leaving friends doesn’t diminish the joy we will experience living close to family. In fact, it will be such a balm to see the kids hugging grandparents and kissing cousins.

I know, even, that we will build new community. We will make new friends. But when I think that (and even typing that now) it makes my stomach clench; it feels like a kind of betrayal. I want to stand before the vast universe and yell “I have friends! I don’t need more friends! Why stretch my heart to break it again?! Can’t you please just move everyone next door…?” fist shaking at the sky till my head hangs low, spent. It looks a little bit like a grown up hissy fit.

Then the Universe replies with a truth about love that my mom once told me: “Love doesn’t divide. It multiplies.”

She counseled me with that phrase as we transitioned from one kiddo to two. Just as we moved to Vancouver. Just as we left one community in Utah for another in Washington. Just as everything was changing.

Here we are, 4 babies and a whole new community later. Life keeps changing. Time keeps passing. And the love keeps multiplying.

Thank you, Friends, for hugging my kids, giving them snack after snack, patiently answering all their questions and marveling with me at the wonder of them.

Thank you for opening your arms to encircle me during moms group, ladies night, so much wine, and so many walks… but also, especially, thank you for holding my hand and my heart during the hard times- losing Lucas, The Beach, PPD, work/parenting balance and so many mom-fails.

Thank you for supporting our marriage, for the date nights, baby showers, meal trains, beer recommendations, Bible studies and board games.

Thank you for the million things that helped our lives but went un-noted.

You are forever a part of the love story of our lives.

We are the lucky ones.

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