Monthly Archives: February 2011

A Place for the Pain

This is a sad post.

I’ve been dreading writing it.  I want to write happy, humorous posts to hopefully bring a smile to my fellow moms out there and any readers that stop by.  But even though I dread it, even though I’ve sobbed my way through writing it, I felt like it needed to be said.

Life is not always happy.

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of sadness. And it seems, the worst form of it, in the death of our beautiful angels, our babies.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I went to Kohl’s with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and Ada to get a jump start on Christmas shopping.  They took Ada to the shoe section while I ran manically around the store, trying to finish all my shopping before Ada got too whiny on their hands.  While having the use of both hands, I of course also used the time to catch up on some phone calls.  As I darted down an aisle, talking on my phone, I happened to see a girl I went to school, passing by with her mom.  I had last seen her in July, for Mya’s baptism and she had been near the end of her pregnancy, her first.  She knew she was having a boy. We had chatted about babies, pregnancy, and parted with mutual warm feelings in the glow of mommyhoodness.  Seeing her push her cart, back to her skinny self as I passed by, still talking on my phone, I just gestured excitedly to her and mouthed “Baby??”

As soon as the word left my mouth, I knew.

Please dear God, no, I thought.

Her face held for a brief moment, and then crumbled in grief.  Her mom put her arm around her, offering up a tight-lipped semi-smile for what must have been a dreaded familiar scene.

The girl cried, her tight blonde curls shaking.  “I lost him at eight months,” she sobbed, “My baby.”

I felt sick.  I wished I could rewind time.

“Oh my god. I’m so sorry.”  The inadequate phrase.  It didn’t feel like enough.  I felt her grief pierce through me like a broken piece of wood. “What is his name?”  I hoped she would notice that I knew he was not gone, that he would always be her baby, that he is with us. An “is,” not a “was.”

She told me his name is Brayden and I asked if I could hug her.  She nodded yes, so I hugged her, feeling like a murderer, and cried with her.

It was an awkward parting.  How do you walk away from someone after their life has shattered in front of you in the aisle of Kohls?  A “nice to see you, have a good one” doesn’t exactly cut it.

I found my way back to my family, sobbing uncontrollably. My mother-in-law thought that someone had robbed me.  I felt like what happened was even worse. I hated myself for doing that to the poor mother.  She must dread going out in public for exactly that reason–callously unknowing near-strangers, forced to share her innermost grief in public, a reminder over and over again that she is not a normal person Christmas shopping at Kohls.  I know that I didn’t know. I know that.  But still.  I should have somehow known.  I should have spared her yet another moment of grief.

Baby Brayden and his mama have been on my mind ever since.  That night, Ada and I added them to our bedtime prayers.

About a week later, I was at work at the hospital I missed a call from a good mommy friend of mine, Meghan.  That’s strange, I thought, she doesn’t usually call–we are more text people.  Being at work until 11:30 pm, though, I didn’t return the call.

Early the next morning, she texted me.

Meghan: Have you heard?
Me: Heard what?
Meghan: I don’t know how to say this….but Lily died.

 

Lily (left) and Ada, about a month before

Lily is the daughter of Meghan’s best friend, our  mutual friend Lauren.  We had all three been pregnant together, all given birth to our daughters.  Lily’s birthday is May 14; Ada’s, May 17.  They are a mere three days apart.  It had been a lifesaver to go through the experience of having an unplanned pregnancy with Lauren.  She gave me strength, hope, and inspiration.  Our daughters played together and I often dreamed about them growing up together, starting kindergarten together, becoming best friends. For those of you who don’t know the story of Lily’s death, please visit Justice for Lily. Lily’s death is unimaginable, too unbearable to even talk about. But I urge you to support the cause against child abuse and honor Lily’s memory.

The funeral was horrific.  The whole day was almost cliche in its sadness–the hauntingly beautiful grieving mother clutching a teddy bear, the tiny pink coffin, the cold and gray November sky.  No mother should have to endure what Lauren went through.  No mother should have to bury the baby that they carried for nine months, loved and cuddled.  It’s hard to pick the worst moment, but I couldn’t bear the thought that Lauren had to leave her.  As mothers, we kiss every part of our babies’ bodies–they came from our bodies, we boast stretch marks and saggy skin as testament to their passing through us, our bodies nourish theirs through nursing–they are a part of us in more ways than one.  How could she possibly walk away from her baby, leaving her in the cold, hard ground?

Lauren has been incredibly strong.  She has an amazingly close family and her faith is incredible to see.  But every day, I wonder how she does it. How she gets out of bed in the morning, how she bears to see another baby, how she can stand seeing me and Ada, a reminder forever, of the age Lily would have been.  How do you keep faith in God after such a tragedy?  It’s not a normal tragedy. It’s not an accident, a “nothing could have prevented it” part of God’s plan…it’s the worst, most unimaginable, unspeakable horror in the world. The pain of an innocent, beautiful baby and a mother’s loss.  A mother who only wanted to love her child, a mother who is more dedicated to her child than you can imagine.

I can’t believe that it can happen. But it did. And it does to more mothers, every day.  Yesterday I saw this blog post, a mother asking people to put bows on their babies to honor the memory of her four month old daughter, who loved to wear bows.  The blog is full of posts of the mom dreading going back to work, even a countdown of days until she had to leave Maddie.  And then sadly, one day, she left her forever when Maddie stopped breathing at the babysitters. Another mother and child to add to our nighttime ritual.

What are we to do with all this pain?

I find myself hoping I can find the good.  After all, that’s what we cling to isn’t it? If we can’t find the silver lining, what are we left with? Just the pain.

I find myself wondering when it’s my turn. Nothing bad has happened to me yet, but I feel like it has to hit sometime.  Imagining myself as the mother walking behind the pink casket.  What would I do? How do you pick out an outfit for your daughter’s funeral? Do you put on make-up? How do you care about anything, ever again?

I want to use the remembrances of these little angels to transform myself into the perfectly patient mother. To kiss my babies every chance. To laugh lovingly with my husband. To always use kind words to all I meet.  To cling to the knowledge that there has to be a God out there to help us through this, a eternal happiness to look forward to.

And yet, this morning, in the darkness of the early dawn, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror.  Pale, blotchy skin, under eye circles to the floor, inside out pajamas.  A truly ghastly sight.  Ada lay naked on the floor, crying and constipated.  A potty chair full of pee that I forgot to empty last night emanates a not-so-pleasant odor.  Mya wails in her crib, awoken too early by her miserable sister.

How do we reconcile the divine spark with the everyday?  Whining, poopy diapers, potty chair full of pee, greasy hair.  Where do we find God in all of that?  How does a mother bury her child one day and wake up the next?

I want to believe that there is a transformation that occurs in all of us before death.  A sudden grace to sweep away the imperfections, a elegance of manner that infuses a personality, a graciousness that only death can bring. But it’s not always that way.  I think part of the reason I lob along as a nurse is hoping to find God…I see so many people near death, and acting, well…like two-year olds.  They whine, they complain, they need diaper changes.  It scares me to think that’s all there is.  I want to find dignity in death, to see evidence of the eternal in someone so near to the other side. But I haven’t yet. So far, all I’ve seen is…just death.

I don’t know the answers, or even all the questions.  I want to know that there is a greater good, a higher purpose, but it’s so hard when I see so much destruction, so much waste, so much pure evil in the world.  A mother who has lost her child represents the greatest loss of all.

Please everyone, pray for these mothers, pray for ourselves, that we may keep our babies close, our tempers in check, and somehow, someway, find joy in living the every day.

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Not Now Sweetie…Mommy’s In The Ball Pit!

Yesterday I dragged my lazy buns out of the house with the kiddos to a playgroup hosted by my good friend Megan.  I am grateful for moms who do such fun things as run playgroups, but for the most part, I am not able to summon up enough energy to attend every week. And in my defense, it’s a 45 minute drive, so I’m not a complete lazy bum…

Anyways, this week’s playgroup was at Jungle Safari, one of those indoor playgrounds…you know the type, with the swinging ropes, the tunnels, and all sorts of various climbing apparatuses. Basically, kid heaven for a three year old.  After getting over my germaphobic tendencies (work one day in a hospital, I dare you!), I was really glad we went.  It was relatively clean, it was fun to get out of the house, and Ada was having a blast.  She even found a little friend, holding hands with her, and much to my horror, sitting down at her table and chowing down goldfish crackers while I fondly watched some random kid in the tunnel, who as it turns out, was not my child.  Whoops.

But while enjoying our time at Jungle Safari, I noticed something odd. Amongst all the sweaty, sock-clad children were sweaty, sock-clad…parents?  While Megan and I did the proper adult thing to do, and sat back at our table to enjoy watching the kids play, dolling out the occasional “Wait your turn” or “Don’t lick that,” parent after parent around us trailed behind their children in the playground.

At first I thought I was mistaken.  Surely no sane parent would willingly descend into the darkness of the Jungle Safari.  Perhaps that child was just too young to play safely by herself.  Nope, she looks about five.  Or, maybe that child just is stuck.  Nope, mom is pleading with her to play in a new spot so she can come out of the tunnel. Is that dad really going down the slide? Without his kid? Yes, yes, he is.

What is going on here?

Shouldn’t a child’s playground be just that–a child’s playground? Why on earth are these parents following around their children, “encouraging” them to play?  Isn’t that something kids, like, just do?

At one point, I was standing on one side, looking after Mya and another little playgroup baby while Ada tried the netted ladder for the first time.  She had trouble at first, her little cankles preventing her from achieving any real vertical gain, and of course, she whined that she couldn’t do it.

Did I climb up there and help her up?  Of course not.

But as I stood there and watched Ada try again and succeed with my encouragement, I watched another mom climb up behind her son and when he couldn’t climb up the first time, she lifted him up the next step.

What the…?

Who did the help, now really?

This post by a mom that I really admire was on my mind as I watched all these parents hindering their children from learning valuable lessons in the Jungle Safari.  I thought about how much I do this with Ada–playing guess-what-she-wants when all I need to do is give her time to tell me.  After reading the post and witnessing the jungle of the Jungle (ha) I’ve been working on encouraging Ada to use full sentences and be specific, always with a “please” when she wants/needs something.  It amazed and worried me how often I had to do this, alerting me to the fact that she usually just blurts out things like “I’m hungry” and expects me to jump on fulfilling her need instantly.

It’s sad how as parents, we try so hard to help our kids…and in the process, end up holding them back.

Here’s to letting kids be kids. And parents?

Try to stay out of the ball pit, ok?


Gas Station Thrills

Two long years ago, my mother-in-law treated Ben and I to a getaway for our first anniversary.  Nothing crazy, just a night out to a local touristy spot, where we enjoyed dinner, a horse-drawn carriage ride, and a glass of wine or two. It was a lovely time, marred only by the quite unromantic occasion of me having to use my breast pump several times throughout the evening.

But you know what sticks out the most in mind about our little getaway?

Our trip to the gas station on the way home.

After filling up the tank, Ben pulled up to the front of the station, shut off the engine, and unbuckled his seat belt.

“I’m going to go in and get some snacks,” he said.

“Uh uh” I muttered, barely looking up from my People magazine.

He stared at me, unmoving.

“Do you want to come in with me?” he offered.

It took me a minute to process….

Wait, what?!

I could go in with him? I didn’t have to face the inevitable and long-lasting struggle of buckling and unbuckling a child in the car seat? I didn’t have to sit in the car, straining to entertain a small child trapped in a vehicle?

A small chorus of heavenly singing erupted.

I opened the car door, stepped out into the sunshine, and simply closed the door behind me. In and out. Nothing could be simpler. Is this how people live? Is this how I used to live? Just getting out of the car without a backwards glance? No finding lost shoes, putting on hats and gloves on little people, or wrestling a screaming body into a 5 point harness? Incredible.  As we strode together hand-in-hand into that gas station to load up on junk food, I felt giddy with delight.  I couldn’t even remember the last time I had walked anywhere with my husband, holding hands and carefree.  What freedom! What fun! We even felt so crazy that we bought a lotto ticket while waiting in line. (We didn’t win).

Life with kids and car seats gets complicated.  I praise God for such inventions as drive-through pharmacies, eye doctor uncles who will fix my glasses for me in the parking lot, and drive-by library drop off boxes.  I limit all errands by the amount of in-and-out car seat transfers said errand will entail.  Actually, who am I kidding? I rarely run errands if it can at all be avoided.  I dread it, and so far, since Mya came along, I’ve managed to find a way to grocery shop without the kids, bolting out of the house when my mom stops by for a visit, sending Ben long emails of things to pick up for me, or playing the ever-popular “How long can we survive without milk/cereal/eggs/bread?” game.

Ahhh..parenthood. It ain’t easy.

But I will say this: Being a parent allows you to appreciate the little things in life.  Like spring, with its shedding of winter coats and one less step getting out of the house.  Or holding hands with your husband at the gas station.


Best Ever Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

Today we forget healthy eating.

Today we eat my favorite ever desert, the molten chocolate lava cake.

Our anniversary lava cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I have  a special passion for molten chocolate lava cakes, which has resulted in me trying several different recipes.  I have searched for a quick recipe, but alas, the results were not the same.  So today, I share with you the best ever molten chocolate lava cake recipe.  Yes, time consuming, yes laden with an unbelievable amount of fat and calories, but ultimately, oh so worth it.

Ingredients (Serves 6):

1 3/4 c. semisweet chocolate pieces
2 tbls whipping cream
3/4 c. butter
3 egg yolks
3 eggs
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbls unsweetened cocoa powder

Optional: powdered sugar, raspberries/strawberries to garnish

Filling:
Combine 3/4 c. of chocolate with whipping cream in a small saucepan.  Cook and stir over low heat until chocolate melts.  Remove from heat and cool, stirring occasionally.  Cover and chill for about 45 minutes or until firm.

Cakes:
In a medium saucepan, cook and stir the rest of the chocolate and the butter over low heat until melted. Remove from heat and cool.

Form filling into 6 equal size balls and set aside.

Grease and flour six custard cups and place in a pan. Set aside.

Beat eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla on high speed for 5 minutes or until lemon colored.  Beat in cooled chocolate mixture (the second one) on medium speed. Sift in flour and cocoa powder, beat until just combined.

Spoon 1/3 c. batter into dish, then place 1 ball of filling into each dish, and spoon the rest of the batter on top.

Important note: You can definitely make these bad boys ahead of time, as I usually do to save time to actually cook dinner (as much as I’d rather just eat this).  Just cover with some saran wrap and pop in the fridge for up to four hours (but who’s counting, really?).  Let them warm up a bit at room temp before cooking.

Bake at 400 degrees about 13 minutes, or until cakes are firm at the edges. Cool for a minute or two, loosen the sides with a knife, and then flip onto a desert plate.

Dust with powdered sugar, garnish with the fruit of your choice, and be sure to serve over vanilla ice cream.

Voila.


Brownies & Beans

Have you ever read those mommy magazines about sneaking healthy food into children through such trickery as pureeing veggies in spaghetti or putting spinach in smoothies? Or heard anything like the high school teacher I had who once made brownies…completely out of beans.

Gross.

I haven’t gone so far and luckily, Ada (daughter #1) actually loves veggies, more so than her father and I.  She lived off sweet peas for months, then moved to sauteed peppers and mushrooms, with broccoli now being her vegetable of choice.  I will take no credit for any of this, other than I did try to make sure that she had vegetables as her first food, before introducing her to fruit.  I am fairly certain however, her first food was actually chocolate, courtesy of her grandma…why grandmas insist on shoving my children full of sugar is beyond me.

Regardless of Ada’s love of green vegetables, I know it can be a struggle to provide balanced, healthy meals for our families.  I think we all aspire to be masterful mommas who can fool small children into thinking beans are brownies, and I am now searching for any mom tricks out there.  So far, I have two healthful eating tips that I always use. Prepare to be impressed:

1)  Dump frozen sweet peas into the macaroni noodles ( I use organic, whole-wheat, thankyouverymuch) as they boil. Drain and prepare as usual.  The girls gobble them up without ever knowing.

2) This one is a bit more fanciful.  I hide flax seed in everything that I bake.  Make sure to buy the ground flax seed, as apparently, the whole stuff is not as beneficial.  I dump a generous amount into pancake and waffle batter, chocolate chip cookies, coffee cake.  Perhaps I need to lay off the baked goods a bit to really be healthy, instead of hiding flax seed in chocolate. Hmmm….But anyways, you can’t even taste it. And according to WebMd, flax seed really is a supermom food.

Now I know macaroni and cheese and flax seed does not exactly constitute healthy eating, so any tips would be much appreciated! Especially now that I have child number two, who is showing a massive sweet tooth already.  She had fruit (darn pears) before she had veggies, I think we may be on to something here…

And if anyone has a recipe for bean brownies, do share.


A Community of Mothers

I have a confession.

There have been times when I have not enjoyed being a (mostly) stay-at-home mom.

There have been times I dreaded it.  The sheer monotony, the loneliness of no other adults, the feeling of my brain sharing too many similarities with the mashed bananas Ada ate for breakfast.

After Ada was born, I had a particularly tough time.  It was a combination of factors, really.  Ben was finishing up student teaching, taking a full course load at school, plus an extra class he had to get permission to even take, and working as a volunteer football coach in hopes of pumping up his resume.  And he wasn’t working at all, you know, for money.  So, basically I was a single-parent while simultaneously trying to be the stay-at-home mom for Ada that I wanted to.  I worked from home during the day, and worked nights at the hospital.  I was exhausted, never saw my husband, and then there was the small fact that I got hospitalized twice in a month with postpartum complications.

But enough of the pity party. My point is, it was hard to pinpoint exactly the cause of my struggle.  Was it exhaustion?  Typical mom stuff? Actual postpartum depression? I don’t know. What I do know is that whatever it was,  I wasn’t particularly basking in the new mom glow during the first few months of Ada’s life.  I felt so isolated and alone.  We lived in a small apartment in the small town where my husband grew up and I didn’t really go anywhere.  There were days I dreaded waking up in the morning…how would I fill all those hours?  I felt certain that Ada was bored out of her mind with me, because I was bored with myself.  As anyone who has struggled with similar feelings knows, the way you feel only makes you feel worse…as in, you know it’s irrational to feel that way, you know you have so much to be grateful for, health, a beautiful baby, sunshine, etc., etc., so the fact that you aren’t feeling happy makes you feel like a horrible human being.  And so the cycle continues.

It got better, of course.  Ben finished school, got a “real” teaching job, I was able to cut down on my hours at the hospital, Ada got to more of an interactive age, but I still struggled. The best way I can describe it is I felt like I lost all passion for life. I just felt like a boring blob (it didn’t help that I resembled a blob either…).

I would read about other moms succeeding, loving being home with their babies, moms who sounded passionate, or even worse, I would be reminded of the olden days, when women would have ten thousand children while still running a farm, making everything from scratch, and lacking even such luxuries, as say, a toilet.

I felt exhausted just thinking about it.  How on earth did they do it? I began to wonder what was wrong with me. I couldn’t even enjoy being home with my baby? I had her to myself all day, every day, and I wasn’t happy?

It took me about seven or eight months until I began to feel more like myself. I switched to days around the summer for work, and that helped too.  And then before I knew it, I was pregnant again.  By that time, Ada and I had settled into a nice routine, and I worried about bringing another child into the picture.  I irrationally feared losing that “me and Ada” time.  We bought our first house, moved, settled in, and prepared for baby #2.  I dreaded that I would struggle with the depression again–I thought it would be even worse with two children, any gloomy feeling amplified times two.  I feared being alone all day, outnumbered. Of course, wracked with guilt for my fears.

Hopefully I am not alone in confessing all of this…

Two days after her big sister’s birthday, Mya Therese entered the world.  Ben took his allotted one day off of work, and I was on my own.

Enter lifesaver sister, Shelby.

My dear, sweet, amazing sister Shelby came over every day for I don’t even know how long, in my post-baby fog brain.  I think it was at least a month.  She came every day with distraction and playtime for Ada…able to squeeze into Ada’s blow-up pool when I could not (for public sanity purposes, mostly), helping me change Mya’s diapers and outfits fifty times a day (she was a puker), taking over on countless laps around the house to soothe Mya’s colicky belly.  I don’ t know how I could have done it without my sister.  I am weepy just thinking about it.  Said weepiness can be found exemplified in Shelby’s Facebook pictures from Christmas, when I tried to express my gratitude by purchasing my shopaholic sister a Coach wallet.

All my gratitude for Shelby’s help got me thinking.  Maybe I wasn’t crazy after all.  Could it be possible that this is the way it was supposed to be?  I re-evaluated my view of those toilet-less supermothers.  Sure, they raised a million kids and worked non-stop…but were they alone?  Were they expected to spend all day nursing a baby, playing leggos with their two-year old, cleaning and cooking without adult interaction?  I realized that women have historically lived in a community of mothers.  They worked, birthed, cooked, cleaned, and raised their babies together.  One could corral the children, one could churn the butter. Their work lives were their home lives.  There wasn’t the separation like there is now–the never-ending working mom vs. the stay-at-home mom battle. No being cooped up in a house, alone all day, every day with their children.  Who likes that, honestly? They worked, period, because they had to, but they didn’t do it alone.  And so, my conclusion: Women need each other. We rely on each other to get us  through the crazy world of motherhood, those exhausted, monotonous banana mush filled hours.

With this revelation, I let go of my guilt. I gave myself freedom to not enjoy every minute stuck at home alone with my kids.

And you know what?

I’ve ended up enjoying being home alone with my kids.

Part of my new attitude is the sheer fact that with two, I have less time to mope about and feel sorry for myself, but the other part is, I feel that I have embraced the fact that I don’t need to do this alone.  It is ok, even right, for me to rely on the help of others.  My mom, my sisters, my “mom friends,” my pseudo-mom friend ( you know who you are), and everyone else far in and in between.  Whether it be a text to say hello, a play-date to make cookies or go sledding, or even the knowledge that somewhere, someone is going through the same thing I am going through, I am grateful that I belong to a community of strong mothers.  I am not alone.