*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.*
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.
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…
I’m good at priorities.
Next up: Genevieve!
This sneak peak should give you a little insight into her personality:
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
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.
(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!
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.
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!)
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.
We recently took our annual trip to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival. 6 years running now!
Cue traditional two wooden shoes photo, which we seem to be completely filling up now:
Here again are the last 6 years, just for a little perspective, and a strong dose of nostalgia:
This year was filled with, shall we say…some challenges. Firstly, it has been raining non-stop for FOREVER. I know I always say that, but for realz, this past March set rain records. So, the tulips were a little late to bloom this year.
After weeks of waiting, we saw a sunny day in the forecast and made plans to go.
So did every. single. person. in a 300 mile radius.
We left a little later than normal, and that translated into sitting in our car in line for more than an hour to creep inch by inch for the last 2 miles of the drive.
Crazy, you might say. Not worthwhile, perhaps? I know, I know. But there’s something about a tradition, especially one that is this cute:
that makes even the crankiest Mommy dig in her heels and shout, “WE’RE GOING TO DO THIS AND EVERYONE BETTER HAVE A HAPPY ATTITUDE ABOUT IT!”
After the wide-eyedness and shock wore off, everyone had a good giggle. And we did, in fact, enjoy the day. Even the drive. The highlight of which was deciding to change Baby G’s diaper. My intention was to change her diaper on my lap, feed her, and then set her back in the car seat, which the kids were very nervous about. “Mommy! We are in the car! The car is on! You can’t take her out of the car seat!” Worry quickly turned into peals of laughter as we discovered the extent of a surprise she had for me: baby poop- all the way up her back.
Not even I, Mom of Four, Master Baby Wrangler, Queen of Diaper Changes, could manage this one on my lap.
Thank goodness (again) it was a sunny day! I gathered Baby G, all the diaper changing accoutrements and walked to the edge of a nearby field. Within minutes her diaper was changed, soiled clothes wrapped in a plastic bag, and I carried my mostly naked baby back to the car. Which had moved forward…6ft.
Once we (finally) arrived, Andy snagged an excellent parking spot (defined as: a spot close to the entrance/exit and near porta-potties). We changed into our mud boots and headed out into the tulip fields, where, by golly!, we saw tulips!
Lots of mud.
Turns out mud is a favorite. But these guys are my favorites:
It was a little more crowded than in years past (remember, only sunny day in forever!) but the flowers were at peak bloom. Andy got to see two drone operators flying their machines (I saw one crash land, just about hitting a lady in the head!).
The kids knew they should smile when I asked, and we did let them roam and explore. There are lots of fun things you can pay extra for, but even more that are free.
I recently upgraded from a D3100 to a D7100. I’m still getting the hang of it, but the pixel density amazing. It’s a joy to get to know. Some day I hope to take advantage of the field’s early open/late stay option for photographers. During normal hours, you have to get creative to avoid a lot of extra people in a shot.
Or, you just make those people the focus, which isn’t a sacrifice for me…
We default to our phones, though, when asking for a group shot,
and thank goodness for helpful strangers, because I love seeing our crazy crew all together.
The drive and poop and mud were definitely worth it.
My paternal grandpa, my Dad’s Dad, passed away on March 16th. Baby G and I spent a whirlwind couple-a days down in the Bay Area attending his rosary, funeral and burial.
The priest at his rosary and funeral knew him from daily Mass. He spoke words of wisdom, lessons we could learn from Grandpa. The bottom line: Grandpa was prepared. We know not the hour nor the day of death, in that way death is mysterious, so the best thing we can do is to remain prepared. Grandpa did just that: frequent Mass, he seemingly waited to pass until after a priest came to do an anointing, and- even in his senility- he tapped his fingers over and over repeating the 5 worded prayer “Jesus, I trust in you.”
The priest at his burial didn’t know him. In fact, called him Joseph the whole time, though we always knew him as Paul. True to his French-Canadian heritage, all his brothers were named Joseph (his sisters Marie) so middle names were the way to go. It was somehow fitting though, because the Feast of St Joseph was mere days after his death. And we all related to him as a father or grandfather. This priest spoke of stories. Tell his stories. Gather and tell his stories and that is how you will remember him. Little did he know, that was all we had been doing. All we ever do. The Labries are a tribe of story tellers.
My own Dad, actually named Paul Joseph, gave the funeral eulogy. He stood straight and brave, the love and grief and truth cracking through every once in a while. His words are far better than mine could ever be, so, with permission, I’m re-printing them here.
I hope that through them you will know, even just a little, who my Grandpa was, and who he will remain to those of us who love him.
I would say “Good afternoon” but I’ll leave it at, “Afternoon.”
I am Paul Labrie, Paul and Paulette’s oldest son. My family and I thank you all for attending this memorial Mass for our beloved Father. We are humbled by your acts of kindness and your presence helps to lift our spirits during this difficult time.
For those of you who many not have known Dad, well, what you did see was a kind, gentle man, quick to smile, or with a joke. A man who volunteered for service without question to lend a hand or build and design some project without recompense.
For those of us who loved him and knew him well…That was Dad. No airs, no need to put on false pretense. Simple, quiet, loving, true.
I would have trouble finding anyone who ever heard him say a cross word about anyone. Well, other than those directed at my brother Willie and I. Though in retrospect they were certainly deserved. Yet once delivered, that was the end.
Raised during the hardships of the Depression and the deprivations of WWII, he learned how to persevere through hard work and thrift. A life-long trait many of us are familiar with.
To make ends meet, he and his family took many hard labor jobs. A funny one he related from his youth was working as a grave digger, of all things, with his Father in Massachusetts during the winter in sub zero temperatures, where the ground froze at times down 2 1/2 feet. They would use a 10lb sledge and metal pike to break through the ice. With his father swinging the sledge and Dad holding the pike, he was always grateful his Father never missed. He said, “All those years I never saw him strike the pike, as I always had my eyes closed.” -A true man of faith.
He took great pride in the accomplishments and careers of his children and grandkids. If any asked for help, he never said no. It was only important we continued to move forward. He may have questioned our choices but enthusiastically supported our decisions once made.
He would guide us with gentle encouragement and spoke with pride to others of our successes. At first, it did not come easy to lavish praise, as he was from that generation of quiet fortitude and self-sacrifice.
Born in 1922 and raised in a large family of 5 brothers and 3 sisters in the midst of the Depression, he told us they did not know they were poor as everyone else was too.
Serving with distinction in the Pacific Theater during WWII as a marine, he rarely spoke of his service- if only to joke that he went in a 154lb civilian and discharged as a 128lb Marine. Even with his propensity towards seasickness, he served honorably on the Flagship Appalachian under Rear Admiral RL Connely. They were involved in many battles in the South Pacific and sustained many casualties. In correspondence home he never complained, he always spun a positive light on the dangers and constant threat he and his fellow marines faced.
Dad always relished the gathering of family. The chaos, laughter and food- mostly the desserts. He would greet all with a smile, a genuinely warm handshake, or in the later years “the HUG”. Then sit back, and take it all in. He would dive into any game of cards with a relentless pursuit of a win. Unless the grandkids were playing him, where somehow he could never win, then with a harumph and a laugh, dive right back in to lose over and over again.
We all seek guidance and knowledge about life. Yet, occasionally as in my father, this pathway existed right in front of us. If only we could have removed the blinders of youth and inexperience that shielded us from seeing. Most times only age and experience allow us to finally glimpse and then know the truth.
Dad was a man who set a path, focused his energy and invited us to join him on his journey. When he wavered it was only to stop and look back at who faltered, then patiently wait for them to catch up, join hands again and continue the journey- in love, virtue and integrity with him.
To assign these few words to Dad and to understand and honor him, is just not enough. Yet all we have today are words and memories. He loved his beautiful wife of 63 years, Paulette, his family and his God.
Many of you know him by his prayer, repeated everywhere, hundreds of times a day, “Jesus, I trust in you.” (I can assure those you who heard him in church, he was not saying as some thought, “Jesus, please be quiet!”)
To close I would like to paraphrase an old saying: “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle to burn as brightly, yet the life of the original candle will not be shortened. Love never decreases by being shared.”
This world is a lesser place today without his guiding spirit. Were the world more like my Dad it would be a better place. We all miss him. Like the Dark misses the Light.
We love you Dad.
Genevieve is our only child to never meet Grandpa. She is also the only one who saw his funeral and I know she shares a special connection with him.
The night he passed away was a terrible night for sleep….well, for me, anyway. G kept waking up, and somewhere between 2 and 2:30 AM she just kept talking. Not crying or fussing- just her normal 6 month baby babble she speaks to those she loves.
Bet you can guess why I mention it: Grandpa passed away during those same early morning hours.
We feel his loss, but we also feel his close presence and his intercession.
Joseph Paul Labrie
July 24, 1922 – March 16, 2017
Pray for us, Grandpa.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
So, after waxing poetic this week about Monica losing her first tooth, today, during dinner, she lost her second!
And accidentally swallowed it.
For the record….
That tooth will not be in my jewelry box.
Monica folds herself up like a grasshopper to play on the floor. She is all arms and legs with seemingly an extra limb in there, because goodness that’s a lot of skin! There is not an ounce of toddler chub left on her body or in her face.
She even lost her first tooth recently!
As my oldest, I know she’ll be full of firsts, but sometimes my reaction to those milestones are unexpected. I was surprisingly nostalgic, even teary, about that first tooth. I flashed back to her toothless turtle-smile as a baby, to those fearful nights of tylenol and crying as we navigated teething, to her changed smile as those teeth busted through, and how many thousands of smiles I’ve seen from her face with that tooth solidly in place.
A tiny piece of her, a piece that I helped grow- first inside my own body, then with nourishment from my body, then with the food I provided via the work of my body- now rests in my jewelry box. A generational mirror of the place my baby teeth are kept.
When I discovered our teeth in my mother’s jewelry box, I didn’t understand what they were doing there, nestled among so many other shiny, treasured things.
I understand now.
There’s something analogous to all of parenting in that lost tooth. The pain of growing, the inevitable letting go, the desire to treasure the past.
She’s growing a new tooth now in that empty hole. She’s got several other wiggly teeth. They will, eventually, all leave.
I remember thinking, not long ago, that her smile had started to outgrow those baby teeth. They looked so small in her big-girl, first-grader smile.
And now, she’s growing a new big-girl smile. A smile that will, at first, seem too big for her little first-grader face, but that she will grow into. A smile that will stay with her a lifetime.
Here are some photos from a recent Father/Daughter dance. (As a side note: the girls have such an amazing example of true, sacrificial love in their father. It’s my prayer that they learn from him how a man should treat a woman… learn what real love and respect looks like. Just as I did, from my Dad.)
You can just barely see the spot left by her missing tooth. Her smile is different, but still beautiful. Perhaps there’s another lesson about parenting in there. There is beauty in growth. Beauty in different.
There’s also a lot of humor in growth. Case in point, our son:
The girls could barely keep it together during his photo bomb. Each of the other children has also grown and changed in similarly significant ways during the last several months.
This is true every time after a new baby. I kind of wake up one morning, and everything is different. I think it happens once the baby starts sleeping a little more and we’re past the truly sleep-deprived state. Suddenly I start seeing my kids again, instead of just surviving my kids.
Let’s be honest, those first few months (years?) for me are just making it to the next meal, next snack, next nap… Extra gold stars if I can throw in a load of laundry, but considering how often I sit on the couch to fold it and fall asleep instead, the chances of it leaving the couch are pretty minimal.
But then, one day, I do get it folded. Even put away! I find activities for the kids to do between assembling food on their plates! I actually start to mom again!
More on the other kiddos coming soon.
But just in case you forgot, here’s the Mo-Bug I see in my head when I think about that first tooth…