Tuesday, May 29, 2012

a letter to my MOPS girls

Dear MOPS friends -

As I write this, I am a few hundred miles away from you all, as you dig into egg casseroles and sip hot coffee.  I am missing being with you there terribly - the 'Tea and Testimony' meeting is by far my favorite of the year.  What a treat that our amazing Mentor Moms lavish love upon us like that.  Please enjoy, don't take it for granted.

I have been a part of MOPS for six years.  In 2006 I had a two year old and an infant, when I saw listed in HOPE's Sunday morning bulletin, "Coming Soon - Mothers of Preschoolers will be meeting here!"  I quickly shoved the bulletin in my tired husband's face, "This!! This is what I was talking about, a group! This!!!!"  He nodded, not knowing the open door that invitation would bring.  Neither did I.  I had hoped I'd make a few friends, women in the same stage of life as I was, and perhaps we could even share a few playdates.  Little did I know what MOPS would really end up meaning to me.

In 2006 I was 26 years old.  My close friends did not yet have kids.  We had just started attending HOPE in March, and I thought the women were friendly but I did not yet have friends.  Wanting to get involved and do something other than change the 50th diaper of the day, I asked Heather Mandala if there was some kind of hospitality group at church, because I knew if nothing else, I could make a meal now and then or send a card.  She had just started the planning of MOPS and so she "steered" me in that direction, and that is how I became a part of this MOPS group original steering team.

And so began my love affair with MOPS.  Because I joined MOPS - and really, mostly because I was on steering - I developed wonderful, strong friendships.  Over the years I have enjoyed countless playdates, park outings, and beach days.  I was in a cooking club with a few MOPS friends for awhile, and although they have both moved away, I still make the clam chowder recipe we cooked one day, as our little ones played at our feet.  Every time I make it I think of those mornings we had together.  I still have a picture of my fridge from 2007, when a group of us went to Cape May and wore hats and had tea outside in a beautiful garden.  MOPS meetings were something I looked forward to so much.  Hot breakfast, sitting with women talking, learning something from a Mentor Mom or a speaker.  Feeling understood, validated and encouraged.  But truly, those few hours were only the beginning to what MOPS really offered me.

Friends are not to be taken lightly.  The friends I have made while in MOPS are now some of the best friends I have.  These friends screamed in joy as I shared with them that we were expecting a surprise baby, just weeks ago.  They were the same friends who doubled over in grief for me when I then had to tell them that precious gift had been taken back.  They were the ones who stocked my fridge with groceries, made meals, sent care packages, cards and flowers.  They cried with me, prayed when I couldn't, and actually chased me down in the parking lot because they didn't want me to leave.

Girls, I pray you never have to go through what I just did.  Really, what I am still going through.  But odds are, you'll go through something during these preschool years.  Don't you want some amazing friends to fall back upon?  And when life is good - albeit full of sleepless nights, poopy diapers and temper tantrums - don't you want friends who really get you?  Look around you.  You might not know her yet, but you have a good friend in this room.  The only way you'll find her is to put yourself out there.

When I realized I wouldn't be back yet from our family vacation to attend this year's last MOPS meeting, I was devastated.  I wanted to tell you all how special I think this group is, and I wanted to thank Lindsey and the rest of the steering team for all of their amazing work this past year.  But perhaps my emotions would have overcome me.  After all, I think every time I have spoken in front of the group, except maybe when I talked about coupons, I cried!  And I wouldn't have wanted my message to be watered down with tears -- and my message to you all is this - LOVE each other.  Be there for one another.  Please, trust me, it is a gift you give yourself when you love someone else.  Be selfless and do things like pick up the Panera bread.  Invite a mom you don't know yet over for a playdate.  Take a chance and go to that MOPS outing, even if you don't know many moms yet.  Don't just come to MOPS for the biweekly meetings - take advantage of the opportunity to make friends that will feel like sisters.  It won't happen overnight.  But it will, if you let it.  And then those friendships will take you well beyond your MOPS years.  Because even though it doesn't seem it, this time will go by.  Some days drag - hours even! - but all of a sudden you realize you're peeing by yourself and there's not a pacifier, diaper or bottle to be seen in the whole house.  You might be looking forward to that and you won't miss it maybe, but in the meantime, let MOPS make these years more enjoyable, filled with friends that are in the same boat and along for the ride.

My ride was certainly better because of all of you.  And I'm taking you with me as I go towards the next leg of my trip.  Thank you dear friends, for all you have given to me and my entire family these past 6 years.  You don't know what this time has meant to me.  Much love.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Just read over Taylor's IEP.  Part of it was tough, reading that she is below level still in some areas.  I was shocked to read her IQ was in the normal range because I think she is gifted, of course.  Actually, really I do.  She just didn't feel like taking whatever test they gave her.

Before having children, I really didn't think about having a child that would need special services.  And I never thought I'd read the word "special" so many times in my life.  But here I am, with one child who has Cystic Fibrosis, and another diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Sensory Disorder.  I feel that both of them have such victory over their diagnoses, as they are both healthy and thriving.  Some days are tough, but really, they are great.

So what is special, anyway.  I am too lazy to x out of my blog to even look up the definition, but it means something like "out of the ordinary," "not common" or "above average."  Right?

Both my girls ARE special.  They are amazing.  Sure they can be brats, and perfectly normal in any kid sense.  But I really think they are out of the ordinary and even though I'm biased, I really think they are!

Bailey has such a deep empathy for people, and an understanding that is beyond her years.  She would do anything to make someone she loves feel her love.  She is sentimental to a fault, and I love it about her.  She is kind, and soft, and snuggly, and already, a servant of God.  She has such a heart for others, that I will confess I have already prayed that God not instill in her a heart for missionary work, because I can't bear the thought of ever being parted from her.

Taylor is laughter.  Her laugh IS my favorite sound in the whole wide world.  She is joy, and life, and wonder.  She has developed such a love for her family, and her loyalty runs deep and strong.  She loves to be touched and she lets me hang on to her babyhood.  She loves her family more than anything, and to her, Jesus is an extension of our family.  She is trusting, even though it doesn't come naturally.  She is brave and she is strong.

Pretty special, if you ask me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

what to do when you're seeing red

So I have been stewing over something that will have absolutely no resolution whatsoever.  I can't hash it out here on the blog (although I wish I could!  Oh the stories!!) but let's just say I have been pissed off.  True, it's not always hard to do, but I usually get over whatever pissings come my way.  But because I'm not a keep-it-inside person, I'm a vent-until-I-pass-out kind of chick, I am finding this situation really difficult because there's NOTHING I can do.  I can't talk about it, I can't reach some kind of compromise with this person, I can't do anything.

Ugh I wish I could just forget about it and not let anything bother me.  Not get mad, hurt, bitter.  I wish I could just not care.

So I think the only thing to do in this situation is go out with my girlfriends, get a good drink - or two - and vent away.  They will laugh, they will look at me with sympathy, they will say I deserve better.  That's what girlfriends do - once in awhile they will tell you you're wrong, but most of the time they will listen, empathize and totally side with you.  And because I have really great girlfriends that are strong Christian women, they will also pray for me when I don't have it in me to pray myself.

Can't wait to go out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

favorite moments

I would venture to say that most moms have some moments in their life as moms that are their favorites.  These are some of mine.

When they are sleeping.

Okay, I have more...let me think.  Um....


No, I'm just kidding.  But that is towards the top of the list.  Not just because while they are in dreamland there is no fighting, whining, begging, making a mess, making me crazy.  But because they look young to me in their beds ensconced in their lovies and princess blankets, and I can fool myself into thinking that they are still little girls.  They are going on 9 and 7 years old this year, and that is too close to 10.  10 sounds old to me....I know when they are 20, 10 will seem young and innocent.  But from where I am sitting, ages 2 and 4 seems like just yesterday, and yet it seems so young.  At 2 and 4 their days were filled with Dora and Elmo, art projects, toddler books and taking a bath for the 3rd time that day, because all they wanted to do was be in water and since they were contained and happy in the tub, sure, take another bath.  They still thought I hung the moon at 2 and 4, and cried at the window when I left to go anywhere, even though we had been connected at the hip all day.  They ate Cheerios and Goldfish for a snack and when they painted - which they loved - I had to strip them down to their unders because surely the paint would get everywhere.  They played with pots, pans and stacked tupperware at my feet while I made dinner.  Taylor required no less than 11 lullabies at night to calm down and stay in her bed, Bailey started drifting off after only 2 or 3.  They were little.

Now they are big.  But I'm not complaining, just remembering.  Because they are older now, we have a lot of fun and life is certainly easier.

I digress.  Some more favorite moments.

Going swimming.

Watching them figure out how to do something new, and seeing the pride and joy in their eyes for it.

Making cookies together.

Watching them play softball, they are so cute in their oversized team shirts.  They look over at us and smile with missing teeth as they run the bases, and sometimes my little one will blow a kiss and it just makes me melt.

Watching them onstage when they sing for choir concerts at church or on Sunday morning.

Listening to them play together - when they're not fighting.

Seeing them hold hands, or protect each other.

Listening to them talk about their faith, and what it means to them.

Witnessing the people they are starting to become - tender, empathetic, strong girls who truly know how to love others.

These are just a few.  I have to stop now, because Tatie is up and she doesn't like the sound of the keyboard clicking as I type.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

pure sweetness

It was one month ago our little one that wasn't to be, left me.  I'm guessing this past month, and probably the month that I would have been due - November - will be the worst months, as far as grief.  But it's really interesting something that I have learned about grief - it can be intertwined with the purest sweetness there is in this life.

When my dad died, my friends rallied around me.  Unbeknownst to me, they made a schedule and took shifts checking on me, being with me.  It was during this time of grief that my friendship with Kevin became deeper, more meaningful, more precious.  He would lay with me on my bed - a top bunk in a dorm room no bigger than a closet - and just be with me as we watched movies or listened to music.  Nothing physical ever happened, except sometimes some hand holding or I would lay my head on his chest - but the closeness I felt to him was special.  It helped me, and it was pure sweetness intertwined with my grief.

With our baby loss, again friends rallied around me.  Prayers, hugs, tears, cards, care packages, flowers, books, meals.  We felt loved, we felt buoyed.  It helped us get through it - there is no doubt about that and I don't know what I would have done without it.  It has convinced me that in my lifetime, I must, I must be there for others in their times of need, as my dear ones were for me.  It was pure sweetness.

This loss has also created a deeper closeness within my little family, especially within my relationship with Taylor.  Tatie and I both took it the hardest I think, and we feel a kinship in that.  We lay together a lot and talk about the baby, hold hands, sometimes pray, sometimes laugh with a tickle fight to break up the seriousness.  Last week I had a particularly bad night.  I had read them a book they have requested frequently, which was given to us by a good friend.  It is a childrens' book about heaven, written from the perspective of a little boy who died and he says he actually went there and this is what he saw.  I cried my way through it, I couldn't help it.  It's a beautiful book and it paints such a lovely picture of what the future will bring for us, and what it is like for my little baby there now.  I tucked in the girls and poured myself a big glass of wine and laid on the couch in the dark, crying.  Tater came out and I hugged her and told her I was fine, go to bed honey.  But then she asked if she could lay with me and listen to my heartbeat and I said yes...and she did and we both fell asleep.  As I drifted off, smelling her freshly washed hair and touching her smooth forehead, I gave thanks for all I have, and I felt such peace.  I was still sad, but I had joy, gratitude and love in my heart.  Laying there with my daughter, the one who I used to pray would learn how to really love others and now her love was overflowing, was pure sweetness.

It's interesting to me how the heart can feel broken, and yet full of love at the same time.  How is something broken yet full?  Shattered but bursting?  Maybe my heart isn't broken, maybe just torn...and there will always be a scar there.  A jagged, noticeable scar that will make some people ask, "what is that from?"  But more that, I hope my heart can continue to grow, continue to feel full with love for others.  I want to honor my baby...that his or her life was important, not in vain.  And that too, would be pure sweetness.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Am Mom Enough

My facebook news feed has been lit up with mom bloggers I follow, ranting about the picture on the TIME magazine cover that comes out today - a woman standing with her four year old nursing off of one of her breasts.  The magazine titled it, "Are You Mom Enough?".  Women are outraged over the picture - especially the attachment parenting moms who nurse for an extended period of time, saying that once again, our country has poked fun of something that should be accepted as natural and healthy.  More women are outraged over the question they ask.  I'm not really outraged, I don't really care, but I thought in honor of Mother's Day, I would answer that question for them.

Being a mom is really hard.  None of the details matter.  If you have the "perfect" family of a boy and a girl, a husband that worships you and makes tons of money, a big house that you can afford and don't have to clean yourself, and all of the other "perfects" like a great school, helpful and friendly neighbors, supportive family, and a body that is none the worse for wear after pregnancy, childbirth, nursing and eating your kids leftover chicken nuggets...IT IS STILL HARD.  Your kids will still fight with each other, your toddler will still want to sit on your lap when you pee, your baby will still cry when you hand him over to a sitter to get your hair done, your husband will still want affection from you even though you feel like all you have been doing all day is touching, loving, playing, hugging, kissing boo-boos, calming, swaying, bouncing, and rocking.  You will still cry yourself to sleep at night wondering if you are ruining your children and your future grandchildren for life because you yelled, again, even though you prayed you wouldn't.  You will still wonder if you have what it takes to raise them to be responsible, generous, loving individuals who can make it in this harsh world...and you will read stories of families that did everything "right" and they still have a son that's a mass murderer.  This also, will keep you up at night, right along with the baby that likes to eat every few hours.  And you will wonder why for decades there has been a phrase "sleep when the baby sleeps" because first, it seems the baby never sleeps and when he/she does, you are rushing around like a mad woman trying to do things like, I don't know, shower and poop.  This mom prays that everything she can give her child, from the $1000 birthday parties to the love-notes in their lunchboxes, will be enough.

It is even harder for the mom who has none of the 'perfects' of the aforementioned mom.  This mom is doing it alone, the dad got a free pass.  Oh sure he's supposed to pay up, but he's no where to be found. This mom has to juggle child care while she works, and she owes much more than she makes.  She knows she doesn't live in a safe town, she knows she feeds her kids cheap, processed junk...but the money she makes can't go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, it's got to go towards trying to keep a roof over their heads.  This mom loses sleep wondering if her children will go to bed hungry again tomorrow night, or worrying if her babies are warm enough because they can't afford heat.  This mom prays that her whispers of love in her children's ears, her promises of a better life soon, her hugs and kisses before she drops them off with a childcare worker she hopes she can trust...this mom prays that it will be enough.

What about the mothers that are mothers already in their hearts, but their bodies just can't seem to get pregnant, sustain a pregnancy.  They are still mothers, will their baby ever come?  These women are brave and strong, who do amazing things like go to the grocery store and watch as a mom disciplines her child harshly as he begs for a cookie.  She thinks she'd never stop giving her son cookies, if she only could.  Or how about rsvp-ing Yes to that baby shower invite of an old friend who used to say she never wanted kids, but the birth control didn't work and now she's having twins.  This mom would give anything, and is trying everything, to be able to feel life grow inside of her and give birth to a baby that is lifted to her chest to nurse and thrive.  She knows women visit abortion clinics every day and she wishes she could talk just one of them into having that baby, and giving it to her to love.  She loses sleep each night thinking of all the unwanted babies in this world, and wondering why she can't seem to have any.  This mom prays unceasingly that God will give her a baby, and she hopes that He thinks she is enough to give her one.

It is also hard, so hard, for the mothers who have lost a baby, or even many babies...their arms are empty and their hearts are broken.   They wonder what they did wrong, they wonder if they are being punished.  This mom wonders if her baby even knew how much he was loved, and wanted.  This mom prays and hopes that God hears, and will tell her baby over and over again that he is missed, and loved, with every breath, every day.  She cries herself to sleep, clutching the baby blanket that never held a baby, as she thinks of how old he or she would be, what would they have done that day together?  Gone to the playground or the beach?  Would her child have had brown eyes or blue, blonde hair or brown?  This mom hopes that her belief that she will see her baby again in Heaven is enough to get her through this life.

No matter what kind of mom you are, it is not easy being a mother.  Shame on you, Time magazine, for questioning us.  We are far too busy questioning ourselves.  We are far too busy questioning each other, when we should be affirming, supporting and loving each other.  Indeed there are moms out there who don't do right by their children, and that is a tragedy.  But I think the majority really are trying...but there is not a book out there that can tell us exactly what to do or say on any given day, because no one else lives our life, with our children.  We are all unique, with different gifts and challenges.

Happy Mother's Day moms...you are enough.

These 2 precious girls, plus one in heaven, made me a mother.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

a how-we-are-doing kind of post, and telling the girls

Well, it's been 3 weeks since we learned our baby was an angel baby.  It feels like 3 years and I'm not kidding.  There have been hours of crying and grieving, but also an underlaying sense of gratitude within my family.  Kevin and I have always been thankful to have our girls, but this loss has made their lives even more precious to us, even more miraculous.  Not to say I still haven't yelled at them about their fighting or leaving clothes and toys all over the house! :)

Bailey is doing pretty well, although I have realized that how she handles sorrow is to make like it's not there most of the time.  I'm not sure how I feel about that - on one hand, of course I totally get it, and I do it myself.  I have a lot of memories/issues about a person/season in my life, and most of the time, I just really don't address it.  I feel like it's done, there's nothing I can do about it and I don't want it to impact my life except to learn from it.  On the other hand, I don't want her to repress emotions.  So I ask her every few days hows she's doing and if she wants to talk about anything - and that's when she usually tells me something like a boy in her class defended her while another boy said she's the most annoying girl he's ever met.  As a family, we pray every morning and when it's her turn she sometimes says something about the baby, sometimes she doesn't.  A few times she has said something like, "I miss our baby" but then quickly goes on to something else.

Taylor is a totally different cat.  (and if you know her, you know she'd love being called a cat, because she wishes she was one.)  She talks about the baby a lot, and likes to lay with me and read the few childrens books I was given written from a child's perspective as they deal with miscarriage.  She and I hold hands and cry, and she asks questions that I don't really have the answer to, and she asks them over and over.  "Will we have another baby...Why was I born and this baby wasn't....Did this baby have brown eyes like me or blue and green like you...Will this baby be a baby in heaven or a kid I can play with..."  Our talks sound stressful, but they're actually healing and peaceful...I can't explain it.  But it does hurt me incredibly, knowing my girls have this life lesson, this sadness happen to them.  Last week when I was babysitting, Taylor ended up coming home from school (after 5 minutes there) and being with me and the little guy, who's 2.  We went to the playground and as the three of us held hands crossing the street, she whispered, "I have a great idea Mommy, let's pretend he's ours today, he's our baby."  It's moments like that, where I feel my heart actually pinch and I mourn for my sweet Tatie and her tenderness, her wishes, her pain just stops me in my tracks.

When we told them, we picked them up from my in-laws and took them to Kevin's old church where they have a memorial garden that's beautiful, with a bench and a cross.  We had called my in-laws and told them, but asked them to please not tell the girls.  We wanted to do it, and we wanted to do it in a place where they wouldn't have to be again if they didn't want to.  When the girls got in the car they asked where we were going, and what was going on, they were onto us.  Thankfully, the church is only a few blocks away and we told them we wanted to talk and show them such a pretty church.

When we got there, I sat on the bench and held them, as Kevin stood and cried.  They were saying, "what, what, Mommy?  What Daddy?" and I just started weeping and said, "Girls, look at this cross.  That cross is where Jesus died for us, he loves us so much!!!  He loves us, remember that.  He is always the same, no matter what happens, he loves us and he never changes."  Then I said, "girls, our baby, it is an angel baby, I'm so sorry!!  Our baby isn't going to come out of my tummy, it went back to heaven."  They both said, "NO!" and buried themselves crying against me and we all just hugged each other and cried.  They asked how I knew, and I told them the doctor took a picture inside my tummy and it showed our baby's heart had stopped, so it had to go back to Heaven.  I said I don't know why, but God needed our baby back and I just couldn't stop saying I was sorry.

Throughout these last few weeks, I still feel so sorry.  I do think something was wrong with the baby - from the beginning this pregnancy was different than my others, and the baby didn't grow date-wise as it should have been.  By April 12, I should have been around 11 weeks along, based on when I probably got my last period in January (couldn't remember the date).  But I was only 8 weeks, and they deduced that I just ovulated really late in my cycle, and conceived much later than the typical day 14 ovulation window that most women conceive in, give or take days.   At the time I thought it was a miracle gift, and God just really wanted us to have this baby...it sounds bad to say that I don't think that now, but here we are, no gift.  After I saw the heartbeat I was so comforted, statistically miscarriage goes way down...but I guess there was something wrong and the baby just couldn't survive.  I feel like it was a big tease, and now we all feel a big letdown.  And I keep wondering if I hadn't have been so stressed - taking on a new job, packing up my kitchen and everything on the floors to get work done to our house to sell, worrying about money - would the baby have been ok?  If I didn't accidentally eat a turkey sandwich before they told me no uncooked lunchmeat?  What was I doing at that exact moment when my baby's heart stopped?  What made it stop?

All that to say, it makes me sound like I am not doing well.  Actually I think I am.  I started the new job, I love my redone house and have enjoyed cooking again in my new kitchen, I have gone out with friends and laughed.  I tuck my girls in at night and tickle them silly and sing them to sleep.  Kevin and I have gotten even closer and I soak up my time with him.  I have gone out in public when all I feel like doing is being a hermit in my house and watching comedy movies...and that makes me feel brave and strong, because it almost feels impossible.

So lots of words, to say we are healing, we are loving, we are thankful but still sad.