- up at 4:45, locate contacts
- 4:49 shower
- 5:07 get dressed; rescue hair and face
- 5:25 review seminary lesson
- 5:45 wake up 3 big kids, tell them to get ready
- 5:50 wake up the kids who fell back to sleep and tell them to get ready again
- 6:00 tidy house
- 6:10 family devotional and scripture study
- 6:30- teach seminary
- 7:20 scramble to finish hair, sign school forms, find coats, wake up little boys and get them ready
- 7:35 start the school drop offs
- 7:50 sit in the car for 20 minutes until I can drop last kid off
- 8:25 get boys home, feed them
- all before 9 am, people.
You should see the rest of the day. This is why the blogging is a bit slow.
Actually, things are going very well. The first few weeks of having five children I was forgetting to eat and sat down maybe three times total in a week. I’m sitting a lot more now and eating more than enough. We are out of survival mode and into the new normal.
We’ve adjusted well. The kids are acting like siblings: playing, fighting, watching each other’s backs one minute and ratting each other out the next. It is much less a contest for attention and more of an understood groove. People know where they stand and what is expected. The honeymoon is over, and real personalities are emerging.
I’ve known Dr. Jekyll for two months; he’s a lovely individual. In the past few weeks I’ve also gotten to know Mr. Hyde on a much more intimate level. And Mr. Hyde is one manipulative, crafty, angry, nasty little poop. He is fierce, but nothing I can’t handle. After all, my own children have been pretty challenging, so I have a few insights and a few tricks from experience. I am nowhere as naive as I was with my first born, and that helps. However, my biological children are very different from my foster children.
My children are without guile; they can’t manipulate their way out of a box. My children do not find smug satisfaction in other people’s trials and consequences. They do not have it in themselves to be truly devious, and genuinely prefer it when everyone wins. They are terrible liars, and they have a healthy sense of guilt. They are beautifully, wonderfully attached to their parents and to each other. Yes, they have intense emotions and they get mad and yell and hit and try on all sorts of naughtiness as they grow and mature. They are far from perfect, which makes them very typical. I see every day how living in this world is slowly teaching them less attractive traits. Most of those unpleasant qualities are, after all, necessary survival skills. To quote the movie White Christmas, “Surely you knew everybody’s got a little larceny operating in them? Everybody’s got an angle.”
The difference is that most people gradually accumulate that cynicism and sense of self preservation. The people who gain these skills when they are still, quite literally, babies do so because they have to. Aside from the good looks, charm and brilliant minds, these children are nothing like my own.
They are more like me.
It has been an interesting period of introspection.
I had many challenges in my childhood- challenges that without a good mother would have very easily landed me in the foster care system. The situations I dealt with demanded a set of skills not generally required for children. My life was survival of the fittest, and it was a good thing that I was an expert manipulator-it meant many of my needs were met, and in the process of learning to manipulate, I learned how to recognize others who sought to manipulate me for their own gain. It was a good thing that I was a convincing liar-it got me out of very dangerous situations and saved people I loved from getting hurt. It was prudence and wisdom to be controlling- I would have been more hurt than I was if I hadn’t taken that control on the occasions when I could. That control equaled protection. If I hadn’t known how to look out for number one at all costs, it is possible that I wouldn’t even be here today.
So when I look into the sweet faces of these children and I see sparks of malevolence and cold calculation, when I stand just outside a door and observe artful cunning and a cynicism far beyond their years, I get it. Yes, it is disturbing, but I’m not afraid of it. I understand where it is coming from and why. And I can shove that learned nastiness aside and see the person behind it, and see how frightened and how angry and how desperate that little person really is.
I turned out alright because I had very good parents. I had a mother who loved me unconditionally and a dad who made it a point to make sure that I learned that I needed to choose healthier ways to deal with life, and who had very little tolerance for the ugly behaviors I relied on. That wasn’t easy either. I was in trouble a lot, and mad about it. I understand it much more clearly now that I am parenting someone a lot more like me. I am this daughter’s personal brick wall. I am the knife that slices through her web of manipulation and makes sure it doesn’t work. I am the demanding maestro who is always a few measures ahead, because I practically wrote this song, and I know where she’s going to lose her rhythm and hit the wrong notes. She has to re-learn some life skills, just as I had to, and people don’t generally change and refine their behavior unless their current behaviors aren’t getting them what they want.
I try to balance the discipline with hugs and positive moments, but sometimes I still feel mean. However, it would be neglect to be anything but this persistent. Sometimes it is a little overwhelming. At the same time, I feel uniquely equipped to take on this role. I can see the hand of God in their placement in our home. I see through these kids, because when it comes to those unfriendly qualities, I am a master.
I am sure some of you who know me on a more personal level don’t recognize these attributes in me (at least I hope not!). I try to use my powers for good, as they say, because how we utilize the skills we’ve gained is, ultimately, a choice. These children have never had anyone present the other option. You can’t choose what isn’t offered, so they really can’t choose wrong or right, good vs evil, better or worse- they can only choose what they know. My parents made sure that I saw my options and the consequences related to those options. Choices and accountability for those choices was probably the most defining lesson of my childhood, repeated over and over at each new age and stage. I was a child who was desperate for control- and these new choices didn’t bind me, they offered alternatives that ultimately freed me.
I want to clarify that I am not entirely over all of this. I’m not sure if that is possible. I still struggle at times and want to revert back to these very basic survival skills, especially the control freak behavior. I am pleased to say that most of the other stuff is buried under much more positive coping skills. I hope I can pass at least a little of this healing on while these kids are with me. They won’t be here forever, and I hope they will be blessed with the same resiliency God gave me, and that wherever the next step leads they will continue to find those better options.
For anyone shopping in the Rapid City Petco today who may have seen someone who looked like the world’s worst mother with three small children- 1 little girl in pink and two littler boys in striped sweaters- I would just like to clear something up.
I’m sure you couldn’t help but notice when the older boy, aged three and a half, ran excitedly up to the aquariums shouting, “Bitch! Bitch! Bitch! Mommy! Mommy! Bitch!!!!!!” And I’m sure that your horror at this massive breech of social decorum turned to all out disbelief when the mother in question, rather than looking properly abashed and chastising her child, began to laugh, hysterically, while the child continued to spout profanities.
Said three year old has a severe speech delay. And said mother has a mildly irreverent sense of humor and, when it’s all said and done, would rather laugh than cry.
Bitch in Gabriel-ese is actually fish.
We have three aquariums at home.
I hear that word ALL. DAY. LONG.
At least he’s not mispronouncing the word truck.
Stress, The Parable of the Talents, And You Bet Your Boots This Is One Of Those Posts Written For My Own Edification
Shortly before the Air Force moved us to South Dakota, I had an evening where the stress of the move and the impending unknown brought me to my knees in tears. I am pretty sure that every military wife has some version of this moment before moving. I was happy about moving, for the most part. The other part of me, the part that sparked the emotional meltdown, was made up entirely of fear. It usually is.
I ended up in my bedroom with the door shut, on my knees, trying to put into words the near panic attack that was going on in my brain. There were the usual concerns of stuff breaking and housing being impossible to set up, and then the “what ifs” set in and the rest of the prayer went something like this. “What if no one likes me? What if I end up hating it there? What if I’m unhappy? What if everyone I meet thinks I’m an incompetent loser and WHAT IF THEY’RE RIGHT!!!?” It was with this very mature and self assured thought that I opened my eyes, not even formally closing my prayer, eyes bugging out, staring blindly at my bedspread while contemplating this new horror I hadn’t even allowed myself to verbalize during all of my mental rants.
It was at that moment, while I was dangling on the precipice of a self loathing induced nervous breakdown that I heard a very quiet, gentle voice inside my mind say, “Leah. Don’t worry. I’ll put you to work.”
And then I smiled. My Savior knows me, and because of that, as it says in scripture, He knows precisely how to succor me in my time of need. Only someone who knew me very, very intimately would give this perfect answer that I wasn’t expecting. I have such a defining need to be useful, and have learned the lesson that work is a blessing many times over. I do not cope well with idleness. I also know that the very best way to end a pity party is to get up and go be of service to someone else. That is the recipe for true happiness, and that is why so much of Christ’s teachings focus on the importance of giving service. He wants us to be happy.
I used to think that the commandment to give service was for the benefit of others and society. Caring for the sick, the poor and the lonely is just good sense if you want a functioning community. But I understand that the Savior didn’t give any commandments that weren’t for our direct benefit. The gift of being able to work and serve others is a gift given for our own edification- and ultimately our sanctification. If the point of being here on this earth is to become more like Jesus Christ, then giving loving service could probably be considered Christianity 101.
That’s all fine and dandy, isn’t it? Well, what about when you hit that other wall where the work God has blessed you with seems like more than you can actually manage? What if no matter how hard you try, and how faithful and diligent you’ve been you still fall short and never quite get to where you meant to be? What if you’ve got so many things on your plate that your head is actually starting to spin and you think you might crack sooner rather than later?
That’s where I was last night. Actually, that’s where I’ve been for several days. God has most definitely kept His promise to “put me to work,” and vastly exceeded my expectations of what that was going to entail. And that’s great! It’s just hard, and frequently I don’t know what I’m doing. I have been assuring myself for several weeks now that His grace would be sufficient in all things I am trying to do right now, because I know that the things I am using my life up on are what God would have me do. And that is true. Knowing you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, and knowing that He will make up the difference because you are doing your best is a huge comfort.
But even then, because I have some really unhealthy perfectionistic tendencies, I can still become completely overwhelmed. And then God blesses me. I was reading in Matthew 25 last night while prepping a seminary lesson I need to teach this week when I ended up going over the parable of the talents. Initially, I glanced at it, thought I already understood it, and started to move on- and then something told me to stop and go back. I read that parable with completely new eyes last night. (Go figure- I’m doing service by teaching seminary, and it’s blessing me. Case in point.)
To sum up (although I recommend you just go read verses 14-30 via the Matthew link above): The lord gave three of his servants each some talents (a unit of money). One got five, one got two and one got one. The first two were industrious and made the most of what they had, ultimately doubling what they started with. The servant’s master was pleased, called them good and faithful, and made them rulers over many things. The last guy took his talent, buried it in the earth and failed to benefit himself or anyone else with it, and had nothing more to present to his lord. The lord said this servant was wicked and slothful, took back the one talent, and cast the servant out.
It is so very, very easy to take this parable, turn monetary talents into the talents we have been blessed with and say: Use ‘em or lose ‘em, and while you’re using them, do so in a way that benefits God, and makes you worthy of being called good and faithful. End of story. (See? I can be succinct when I want to.)
So what was new last night? It all started when this very overwhelmed woman read the verse that states:
His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
All I could think was that I absolutely did not want to be made ruler or given any more responsibility than I already had. What kind of reward was that? This is pretty childish, but understandable. When you’ve just spent a half an hour in prayer, bemoaning your pathetic capacity to handle the many things that are stressing you out, the answer you want is not, “I’m going to bless you with even more of that!”
Then I read further on, and saw what the underachieving third servant had to say to justify how he had manged things:
And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
I was afraid. Did that ever jump out at me. I was afraid, too. Afraid of having any more on my plate. So afraid of failing at what I had been given (not just talents, but time, energy, and the very breath in my body- everything the Lord gave me) that I was actually ready to turn down the opportunity to make more of myself. No thanks, Lord, you can keep all that extra stuff and I’ll just try to return the basic gift of myself to you intact, no worse for wear- but no better. Don’t you just hate it when you read the scriptures and realize that you’re the equivalent of the third servant?
Before I had time to feel too badly about this, I looked over the parable again and saw the beauty behind verse nineteen.
After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
After a long time . Perfection, or even being wildly profitable isn’t required now. While there certainly will be a reckoning of how I spent my time and energy and what I made of myself- that’s not today. The story isn’t over. I have time. Not time to be lazy and slothful and a big chicken, but time to work on things and get better. Time to have faith.
And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliverdest unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
I have gained. It also struck me that both of the good and faithful servants simply reported their work as having gained. It didn’t matter that one had ten and one had four, they had both gained. There was no perfect number of talents, no lofty goal to hit before you could be considered good and faithful. Good and faithful servants gain. They grow. They do a little better each day. The point is not perfection- it’s progression. I can look at myself and honestly report that I, too, have gained. Do I have it all together? No. But I have it more together than I did before. Maybe I’m not quite so third servant, after all. Let’s look at that verse that had me scared earlier.
His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
1: Since I’m here trying to learn to be more like Jesus, it is valuable to note that this exercise in “gaining” is really just practice helping me to be more like Him. Everything the Savior puts His hand to is made more. Loaves and fishes, a repentant heart, fishermen into apostles. Christ magnifies everything, including me. In a very small way, that is what He is teaching me to do.
2: It’s not about the level of responsibility. It isn’t about how much or how worthwhile what I do amounts to. It doesn’t matter how fast I do what I’m supposed to do. It matters that what I do is done joyfully. It all goes back to that original blessing of happiness. God lets me serve because He wants me to be happy, so rather than asking to do things better or faster or smarter, I would be wise to ask Him to help me live my life with more joy. Joy is the end goal of life, as well as the sustaining force that can carry us through.
And I knew this before. I just needed reminding.
We had planned a family vacation to Fargo awhile back, and then the Air Force canceled it, as they are wont to do. So when my husband came home from work about two weeks ago and said he was taking leave, and then asked me if I wanted to go to Fargo, I said yes. . .but I wanted to go by myself!
I have never just taken off and left my husband home with the kids. And certainly, I’ve never left him home with FIVE kids. The closest I’ve come is having babies or surgery and spending a night away at the hospital, which is completely different than a full week of an experience I like to call “Welcome to Motherhood!”
He was very supportive of me taking a vacation (we both knew I needed it), and we decided that I would take just Maggie and have a girl road trip.
IT WAS AWESOME!
It was so nice to sit down, and stay sitting down for as long as I wanted. It was great to hear quiet and not automatically assume that someone was shredding curtains or setting the carpet on fire. I ate meals without popping up and down ten times trying to take care of everyone else while my food got cold. Maggie is easy, entertains herself for the most part and completely enjoyed her break from reality as well. I loved shopping with people who were patient, walked at the pace of normal human beings, and never screamed hysterically for a treat. Heck, I loved shopping in general, simply because Fargo has pretty decent options when it comes to clothes shopping and I had all my favorite stores at my fingertips! It was beautiful.
I visited a few friends, but mostly just hung out with my parents and did nothing, which is just what the doctor ordered. We did have one grand adventure when we drove out to Bluebird Gardens, a really cool Farm co-op my parents participate in. We harvested pumpkins, lugged them out of the field ourselves and loaded up my car with A LOT to take home.
Confession: I love pumpkins. And not a little. Very little in nature makes me happy like Autumn and Pumpkins- and boy did Fargo deliver a gorgeous fall!
Now I am home, and getting back into the swing of things. Gabe has barely moved from my side since I walked in the door. All is well at home, and Chris did an amazing job making sure everyone was happy and fed. Astonishingly, the house wasn’t completely destroyed when I got home. I wonder if he’ll let me do this every year?
I have determined that five kids really isn’t that hard.
Unless they are all crabby. Or all tired. Or all coping with major adjustments: two who’ve been removed from their homes and who are stressing over things like, “does anyone here love me best, and is any of this stuff mine?” And one who is coping with, “Holy freaking cow, these people are trying to take over my mother and do not seem to understand that she is my exclusive property! As are my toy cars! And my stroller! And my shirt that I outgrew a year ago! And EVERYTHING! Dibs! Dibs! DIBS!”
Both types of freak outs really are pretty reasonable, when you consider the enormous level of change all three are trying to wrap their heads around. I am trying to be understanding and compassionate. In the end though, it really seems to boil down to “Suck it up, buttercup! Mommy has two hands, two ears that can barely keep track of one well articulated conversation clearly, and only so much patience. Mess with me once and I’m pretty nice. Persist, and find yourself spending a lot of quality time in time out.”
I have felt like a jerk this past week, not because I am being a jerk, but because I have three small children ages four, three and eighteen months, all testing out the new boundaries at the same time. And when that happens to you, you either permit yourself to be run over by their Mac truck-like resolve, or you become
I have one kid who I refer to as The Informer. She keeps me abreast of every (and I do mean every) single thing going in the house. We have discussed what is tattling so often at this point that I have actually heard her muttering to herself as she walks through the house, “only if there’s blood or something is very hurt,” almost like a mantra to keep herself on the strait and narrow. This only works about twenty percent of the time, but that is twenty percent more than two weeks ago when she would (no joke) stand next to me viewing a situation that we were both seeing, and then turn to me to tattle on what she knows I just saw. She has also really slowed down the preemptive tattling, such as, “I think Gabe’s gonna hurt my brother”, even when Gabe is doing absolutely nothing and her baby bro isn’t even in the same room.
This is the same child who will deliberately pick a fight and do everything possible to make someone else really want to hit her, just so she can run to you and tattle when they do. Instigation is her middle name, and she can walk away smiling sweetly or sobbing with theatrical aplomb, based on what she feels the situation calls for. How do I know she’s not legitimately upset? Because I have eyes in the back of my head! Duh.
I’m not sure what to call the next kid- I can’t seem to find a succinct way to express the remarkably low tolerance for anything challenging his principles, iron clad will power, and sheer grit embodied in one size 3T kid. If you want complete candor, I should just say He’s My Kid, and inarticulateness aside, He Takes After His
Stubborn As A Mule Mother. These qualities are mostly useful, unless you are a three year old with a very age appropriate inability to filter your emotions. It is also not helpful when you choose to unleash your extraordinary doggedness on very ordinary annoyances that mete a considerably more tempered approach.
This is the kid who screamed at me for a half a mile while we were on a relaxing walk around a lake because I had the audacity to put another child in the stroller formerly known as his. This is the kid who had to have a turn, however short, being pushed (all thirty-eight pounds) in said stroller while the one year old old who moves at the pace of a distracted slug lumbered along behind us for about ten yards. Once the principle of the matter was addressed, and he had had his pithy ride, he was totally cool with having his turn over and resuming his normal three and a half year old activities.
This is also the kid who inspired me to buy a new eighty-seven cent Hotwheels car to add to the other fifty that he lugs around all day in an old ice cream bucket, because, in his mind, even the suggestion of sharing one of his very sacred cars is tantamount to blasphemy. He keeps perfect track of this new car, the blue one with the silver blower and flames painted up the hood, so whenever the one year old feels he would like to play cars as well, he can hand him the car specifically purchased for this occasion. I. Kid. You. Not.
That brings us to the little guy. This is one tenderhearted little kid. So tender, in fact, that all you have to do is look less than ecstatic in his general direction, and the head goes down to the floor, the bum goes up in the air and the tears start flowing. He literally crumples. You can cheerfully say the word no, in any context and he is upside down in an instant. Try legitimate disapproval, like, “We do not play in the potty kiddo,” and he completely falls to pieces. The good thing is that it never lasts long- the tears leave as fast as they came, and although there are moments where he is legitimately in need of a good cuddle, which he gets, I’m thinking that he has learned to use these waterworks to his advantage, so I’ve started just ignoring it and he rarely caterwauls for more than six seconds. I’m getting used to this little siren going off on regular intervals throughout my days.
Mostly, I think this guy is just sad, and sometimes angry. It is understandable. He tries to lay claim to me (at the same time as four other kids) and feels very lonely when he can’t have a mom who just loves him best of all. The other day I gave him some snuggles and hugs for a minute, and then he happily maneuvered so he was no longer in my arms and could go play. Gabe happened to walk in at that moment and ran up to me to get a hug. Out of the corner of my eye I watched this little guy observe that hug and his head dropped down to his chest, tears filled his eyes, and I have never seen such a little kid look so dejected and lost in my whole life. Gabe ran off as quickly as he came, and I tried to pick up him and cuddle him, but he just sat on my lap, clearly unsatisfied. For once he didn’t cry; he just sat in stoic silence and wouldn’t be comforted. You really can’t replace a mother.
And how about the rest of us? We’re doing pretty well. I make it through the day, and Chris picks up the pieces at night. Maggie and Jonas are lost in their worlds of school, and happy to be affectionate and helpful with the littles when they are home. Every day things get a little more cohesive. A few more weeks and it will probably feel like we’ve been doing this all along. For now, I’m just trying to keep up and enjoy whatever quiet God grants me.
Well, school started. Seminary started. We got two new kids.
And then I didn’t blog for several days because the chaos level at my house has left me a little off kilter.
It is a whirlwind around here. We have ha meetings, back to schools, registrations, and a million other things that have kept me running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I think I have most of the initial appointments done, so hopefully I can sit for awhile.
Today is the first day for a week that feels slower- and in all reality, it is still a pretty full day!
We are adjusting well. I’m tired trying to get back into my early morning seminary schedule. My house is literally shutting down around eight at night now because we eat dinner and then basically fall over from exhaustion.
The kids are all doing well. Our two news (I am going to call them Kid2 (toddler little guy) and Kid1 (preschool girl) for now, out of privacy) are easing into a routine. They are very good kids, easy and compliant. They have their quirks as all kiddos do, but on a whole, these are pleasant children and we like them. That’s good, because it looks like we will have them with us for awhile.
My kids are doing alright with the change. The two little boys are vying for my attention, so I am being careful to spend extra time with Gabe and hold him a lot. He’s been running errands with me; I guess you could say I’m sacrificing my sanity for his peace of mind. Jonas and Maggie are, as always, wonderful older siblings. They will both be great parents someday. The littles have already learned to look forward to end of the school day when the fun comes back home. I look forward to it as well, since that gives me a little breathing room.
Kid2 needs a lot of cuddles. He is such a content kid, but when you hold him he just melts in to you as if this was where he wanted to be all along and he’s glad you finally noticed him. Kid1 likes to snuggle as well, but mostly she likes to talk, talk, talk! She’s a pretty funny kid and I enjoy a lot of her little commentaries on her world. The day after she arrived she held up her hand with all her fingers spread wide and said, “you get to keep me this many days, then I go back to mom.” We had to have a talk about how it was going to be lots more days than that, but she handled it well. Both kids amaze me with their ability to just roll with things and adapt. Some of it, sadly, probably indicates that things are pretty tough right now, but most of it just indicates that they are amazing.
Having a family is a lot like doing scientific research.
I am currently living in the field engaged in an experiment called “What do Killian’s like to do?”
You would think I would be somewhat of an expert on that topic,
but after 11 years of having this family, we are still working out the details.
We are all very different people. Our interests and likes are pretty varied, as are our ages and abilities,
and that has kept us from doing a lot of experimenting.
Being a military family and having Chris gone a lot hasn’t helped. Neither has having a mom who got really sick every time she had a baby. Moving from place to place, finding something we like and then moving somewhere where that is unavailable can throw a crimp in your family activities as well. You can’t go to the ocean here. You can’t go to the zoo. You can’t eat at the places we used to do birthdays.
Now these three are gaining a little more independence, and it is suddenly very important to me that we do something together-
something beyond household chores and being vegetables in front of the television.
We need some memories. We need bonding.
These kids are getting huge in a hurry, and I am pretty sure they will all move out and move on in a few minutes,
and they might never come back.
When you look at your family, can you make a list of things that you all like to do together? Not things that half the people tolerate, or things that wear mom out but make everyone else happy, or things so expensive that you only do them once in a lifetime. I’m talking little things that could slip into your definition of who your family is.
We are people who. . ?
We all like to eat out. And earlier this summer we discovered we all like to go swimming.
We are also homebodies who all like quiet time alone at home, by our selves. We need nudging to break out of our routines.
I have been making plans to do new things. I’m experimenting.
I’ve come to the hypothesis that we all really like a low key hike around Canyon Lake Park.And I like taking pictures of things I love.
Ever Anxiously Wait For The Starting Gun And Then When It Gets Shot Off Realize Your Shoe Laces Are Untied?
So our social worker e-mailed me. Our file is officially open for placements and in the hands of the lady who makes the calls.She said we would get a call soon. . .if we hadn’t already.
So, about a week and a half ago I had an icky little tummy bug. Then Maggie got it, and Gabe got it 2 days later, then Jonas dropped on Monday, Chris went down on Tuesday. . .and I thought- well, good. We’re all done with that.
Until I woke up at 3 am on Wednesday sicker than a dog. Yeah. So not cool. And to top it off, everyone else felt like crapola for 1 day- me, I’m on day two of feeling icky. I think I am on my way out- yesterday was horrid and today I am just weak and miserable feeling.
I am willing myself to get well before the phone rings.
Also- I bleached pretty much the entire house on Tuesday, and now I need to do that again. The last thing I want to welcome new kiddos with is a tummy bug. Yeech.
You know what I will really miss when the kids go back to school? I will miss hearing their hilarious opinions on the world. Their take on things has had me cracking up all summer. Here are my favorite two from the past three days.
We’re driving home from a piano party and stereo is playing a Barry Manilow song I like called “When October Goes”. Jonas has heard this song a few times, but tonight he is curious. He wants to know what the big deal is about October and what this song is about. I launch into a detailed explanation about longing and the bittersweet reality of time passing and love lost. A a few minutes after I am done explaining he pipes up, “Oh, I get it! I bet he just doesn’t want the Halloween candy gone. THAT makes total sense.”
Yeah, kiddo, Barry Manilow really had your number on that song.
- Mermaid tails for Waldorf sized dolls- made a new one for Maggie and a few to sell in my etsy shop.
It’s Friday. Every Friday Bamboletta dolls puts up their new selection of dolls for sale, and Maggie and I stalk the previews and drool over the cute dollies. Maggie especially wants a blue haired doll, and there is one this week that is truly blue haired perfection. Her name is Winter. However, she is expensive ($245), and it’s just not going to happen this week since I blew my budget on back to school stuff and new wardrobes and a not very fun car repair. Not to mention the fact that these dolls hit the market and sell out in seconds so your chances of carting the one you love are slim.
Maggie saw me on the computer, got excited and asked me if I got the doll. I explained no, someone else bought her. She was not pleased.
“Mommy! Why do people keep buying the dolls we like best!?”
“Well, we like the super cute ones and other people like the really cute ones too.”
She chewed on that for a moment, face scrunched up in displeasure, trying to process this reality. Finally she shakes her head, mutters “MEANIES!!!” and stalks off.
Sometimes it is really hard not to laugh until they are out of earshot.
I wish I had the right words. This isn’t usually my problem- in fact, I tend to have more words than anyone cares to listen to. I usually have three different ways I can clearly explain myself, and once I get what’s in my head nailed down, I’m better. It becomes concrete, owned, and passé. Whatever the event was is now neatly filed and case closed. I need the right words- I’m not myself without them.
For months now all I get are flashes, phrases, metaphors- bifurcated thoughts that lack gravity. When things are really, really wrong and raw, I can’t speak; processing pain becomes visceral. I can’t get an intellectual hold on something that I can only channel physically. I don’t have the vocabulary to effectively make someone understand what it is to feel such a profound level of pain that you can’t breathe. Saying that sounds melodramatic and hokey. It doesn’t come close to doing justice to the horrid, strangling catch in my throat, and the impossible combination of being too full, welling and frothy with emotion and completely gutted at the same time. I am both the delicate reed and the strength of the wave that overcomes it.
That probably makes no sense. Words are laughably insufficient.
I have not handled this third and final miscarriage well. The first two were hard, but this one just broke my heart.
I felt the initial shock, but pushed it aside, telling myself that I’d done this twice before, and that it just didn’t matter. And this worked for awhile, because I had so many other riveting concerns that driving what I really felt as far underneath everything else- major surgery, months of pain, and just coping with the day to day, as I could was all I could do. I had to bury it because the physical strain was taking everything I had. There wasn’t room left.
After I was physically well, it resurfaced. At first it was voiceless, tears coming suddenly while driving or finding myself standing, dumbstruck and immobile at the sight of a beautiful baby. Most of the time being busy kept those feelings at bay, and I filled up every second, coping by doing anything but grieving. I refused to make time.
My mind retaliated and carved out hours against my will. Bedtime became a routine where I would lie awake for an hour in silence and then, when it was perfectly still, I shattered. I was invisible in the darkness, tears running from the corners of my eyes, tickling my ears, then hitting the pillow until it was so damp I had to get up to find another one. After awhile I just kept an extra by the bed.
Sometimes it wasn’t quiet. There were nights where I ran out the door seconds before I could wake anyone, locking myself in the car at midnight sobbing, keening violently into the blackness until there was nothing left.
Mostly, I was glad no one noticed. I thought I did a pretty good job concealing things. It was a private grief, and I wanted it to stay that way. I didn’t talk to friends, family, not even my husband for several months. I have never been so silent.
I forced myself into situations where I deliberately salted my wounds and demanded that I hold it together anyway. It was almost a punishment for being so weak and so vulnerable. I am not permitted fragility.
I held babies at church. I walked up and down every baby aisle at the stores I visited. It was sheer grit that got me in the door and kept me in my seat at a friend’s baby shower. I made myself stay until the last gift was opened and then literally fled a room full of good friends the second the last wrapping papers hit the floor. Who knew that a few baby blankets could make me feel completely smothered? I barely made it to the car, and then sat there feeling like a jerk for skipping out so early while knowing I would have been a bigger jerk if anything had happened to detract from her attention and joy. I don’t think anyone saw. I hope not.
I was mad at myself for being so upset, even now, months after the fact. People don’t talk about this. Once the initial loss is over, you’re supposed to tie grief up in a neat little box and move on. I accused myself of being unwilling to heal, of refusing to find solace. I fed myself every platitude, every particle of pragmatism or hope I could find, every truth designed to make me feel better- and none of it mattered. Be reasonable. Be sensible. Get over it. I couldn’t even if I knew how.
I am not deliberately inconsolable. It is simply where I am and accepting, validating and not trying to change myself or my heartache helps- at least it removes the guilt and the pressure to feel better right now. This grief is like a hunger, and you can’t feed hunger with rocks or sleep or flowers or scripture. Hunger is only fixed with nourishment, and I don’t have anything that will satisfy.
I should have had a baby this week. Maybe should isn’t the right word- could have, might have, would have had what I wanted, if things had gone my way. When I was given my due date back at the beginning of this, I automatically pushed it to a few weeks earlier because my kids have been four, five and three weeks early, respectively. I landed on the eighteenth of the month that fell within that time frame because all three of my kids are born on the eighteenth of a month. August eighteenth was my adjusted date, and in all probability, the most likely corner of time in which that child would have arrived. I would very much like to skip the rest of this month and go to September because it holds no expectations and is free of this.
I’m not sure how I feel about this timing, but it looks like our license for foster/adoption will be finalized this week. There is a good chance we could be getting new kids at our house right around the eighteenth. You can imagine the perfect outcome where a hole in my heart miraculously gets filled by the addition of a child who was meant to be mine arriving at just the right time. It’s heartwarming, this possible miracle. It’s perfect. It is also unbelievably unlikely and smacks of being way too good to be true. While I believe God can arrange that, and even know that His character is unspeakably merciful, and understand that He wants me to be happy- I have almost no hope. I can’t have it because any unfulfilled hope will just break my heart again and again and again. This pretty picture is the very antithesis of how my life actually works. Hope for anything but a challenge is downright foolish.
The things in my life that are worth the fight have always required one. It has always been hard work and the grace of God that got me anywhere. I want to expect a miracle. I want to expect beauty for ashes being right around the corner. I want to assume that every happy fairy tale I’ve concocted can and will come true, and soon. I know I don’t deserve it. I am unworthy of more blessings than I already have. I am in desperate need of mercy, and I am afraid to even ask for it.
I can separate the two events. There is a loss and a gain and neither one is mended or invalidated by the addition of the other. The future may well be wonderful. I have faith that it can be. But it doesn’t change this specific pain, and I don’t know that it ever can. I am well aware that I have a very rich and full life and that there is an astonishing amount of goodness in it. I also know that there are many people who have dealt with much harder things, and who have walked the road I’m on so many times that three miscarriages probably sounds like a good deal. It may be ungrateful to be so sad.
I have been grateful when my parents quietly acknowledged what I had lost. I’ve been grateful to a friend who told me about her new pregnancy last, but who told me herself. I don’t think she knows how much having someone guess that I might not be ok yet meant to me. I was very grateful for the ability to keep my expression smooth and emotions hidden when kind, new friends jokingly responded to the information that we had three children with, “that’s a good start!” I wanted to cry, but I bluffed, and the moment passed. For once I had the pardon of a poker face. I am especially grateful for my husband who has patiently been my greatest source of comfort, who knows there aren’t words for this, and who is a gentle buttress against harsher things.
Grief doesn’t change my ability to live life and to do many things well and with satisfaction. I am not crazy or seriously depressed. I have a life full of gifts and happiness. There is just pain running beneath it all, and this week is especially hard.