Sunday, February 28, 2010

Potty Training

Friday was the day. Da da Dummmmm. Elaina was out of diapers and we embarked on the dreaded time in parenting. Potty Training. I don't know if you have picked up on this by previous posts, but Elaina is a cunning, cute and smart little bug. There is nothing that she does that isn't calculated. Imagine the dread Allan and I feel knowing the time was drawing near.

Thursday morning Elaina was down to 5 diapers. I showed her the stack and said, "tomorrow we POTTY TRAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I was seriously proud of myself for all the excitement I could muster for something I totally hate to do. My sweet daughter informed me that she didn't want to go to school or Vacation Bible School (2 things that require potty training) and that she's decided that she doesn't want to be big either. Then she looks at the diapers and tells me that we still have 5 more.

I tried to counter with: you don't have to go to school, you will always be my baby if you are potty trained, whatever you want to do sweetie. In my mind I was going down a list of ways to motivate the head strong little bug. Ok, a list of bribes. I really was formulating bribes.

The notion of always being my baby at her convenience seemed to stave off the opposition for the moment.

Just before bedtime I was online looking at underpants and called Lain over. At first she had to go save the castle, but she couldn't resist the kissing goldfishy underpants on the screen. She picked all her favorites and then said, "Mommy, can I do it NOW? Can I potty train now and can we go buy underpants in the dark?"

"OF COURSE you can and we can go to the mall in the dark to buy underpants".

Off we run to the potty where she sat down and peed. Homemade confetti was thrown, and there was much rejoicing. Lain looks at me and says, "now can we go buy the dark?" Phone calls made, a chocolate chip was given. The bigger bugs were left in a puddle of tears as they wanted to go on this special trip. Lain looks at both of them and says, "Emmylexa it's ok. You can't come. I have to go on my special date with Mommy to buy the dark." Off we went with Dumbo (who also needed underpants) leaving Daddy with the sulky twins.

On the highway I hear from the back seat "UNDERPANTS HERE WE COME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Once we came home there was a fashion show, a bath and bed.

DAY 1: Elaina remembers her underpants and we were off. Except that she didn't want to sit on the potty. So she had 2 tiny accidents for which she told me that "thems surprised me". As she was eating her breakfast she had a flood. She looked at me and said, "Mommy it's happening again! This isn't working. Now I can't eat my dinner." We talked about just learning and that she needs to try the potty. Throughout the day we did some better and she was into it.

DAY 2: There were signs of some improvement and ability to control. However, she was all done with the training after nap since she needed to poo poo. Since she tends to willfully control that area of her life we aren't going to force the issue and let her go in a pull up. At one point we just made cookies and she wanted another snitch. I told her I only give snitches to those who obey Mommy and sit on the potty when asked. Guess who ran to the potty, sat on it and put pee pee in it within one minute???? Thankfully that was my last interaction for the day since I had to work last night. Allan was left wit h the illustrious honor of creatively trying to encourage her, guide her, bribe her all the while let her think she is in charge, which is really her favorite thing in life. By the way nothing will work unless she chooses to.

Day 3: Girlfriend really needs to go so she doesn't want to try and put her pee pee in the potty. We tried before church, nothing. She wore a Pull-Up to church, she kept it dry. She watched and entire Mickey-Mouse Clubhouse on the potty. Nothing. She drank a sippy of milk and had Lemonade at lunch. Refusal. We began to tease her (she likes that). "We will put you in the snow until you are potty trained." "No you won't because that will make me miss Ava."

"Elaina, your baby just told me that she wants you to show her how to potty train." Elaina puts her on the floor, pretends she pees and is all done.

"Elaina, your baby just told me she wants you to potty train." She hold her baby up to her ear and says, "She said no potty train."

"Hey girls I guess if Elaina can't sit on the potty and obey like a big girl then we will have to treat her like a baby." Then I explain to the big bugs what that means, including that she can't get out of the room because babies don't move. Girlfriend comes into the room with her baby saying, "watch Mommy. Watch, Daddy." She proceeds to hold her baby's hands and makes her walk. Then she looks at us and says, "See she walks. She can move."

Finally while writing this, she had a drip in her underpants and stopped the accident. Refused to sit on the potty. Then asked for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. (SURE!) She sits on the potty, drinks more lemonade, lets out a dribble and oh the celebration! I told her the more pee pee she puts in the more chocolate chips she gets, so at the Mystery Mousekatool, she should try again. She runs to the potty and says she can't b/c we forgot to empty it. (Personally I think she likes to make us run around like idiots.) Fresh potty. Child sits and pee pees! 2 chocolate chips!

Playing child. "I feel my pee pees coming out." Run to the potty, false alarm. Play. "I feel my pee pees coming out." Run to the potty (times 5 Bentons). Oh the celebration!!! The Joy!!! Now we get 2 chips for pee pee and 1 for feeling pee pees and running to the potty. (It's the take care of Laina chip.)

Playing child. O, "I feel my pee pees coming out!" Run. Sit. Pee pee. Raucous Celebration. Three Chips.

Somebody is eeking out the pee pee to get the maximum chips I think. So I am left to wonder, who really is letting who think she is in charge?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Catching Up

This weekend my girlfriends from college flew in. Aptly timed after a surprisingly difficult and emotional week. There is something so comfortable about being with people who have known you forever. It's easy. We don't see each other very much and we don't talk all the time. But they are the kind of friends where that doesn't seem to matter. We meet each other where we are and off we go. What was unexpected was that I found how nice it was to connect to people who knew me before all this loss. They are the same ones who have seen me through it too. I could look through that tunnel and see even though I am sad. I am still me. I could also be reminded of simpler times and easier days.

One of our friends has a sweet baby girl. It was wonderful to see the bugs pour out all that stored up nurturing on that sweet baby. I think the baby rather enjoyed all the attention as well. They all adore babies and were happy to attend to her needs.

On Sunday I was making bracelets for a fundraiser and the bigger bugs we "helping" me. For a few minutes I felt like everything was normal. It was like a breath of fresh, Spring air.

Managing the emotions of all the family members is and I imagine, will be a constant struggle. Some days we get through nicely. Others there is a lot of turbulence. I know He is there every step of the way, so that is helpful. Honestly, there are some days that I want to not deal with all of the chaos that surrounds me. That doesn't mean I don't love those bugs like crazy. It just wears on me some days.

When Emily and Alexa were babies there were some really tough days. By afternoon I would think that today was a wash and tomorrow is a new day. So instead of fighting against the forces to be reckoned with (ie napless infant twins), I would roll with it and scrap the plan for the day. Once I figured that out I did much better. I am trying to relearn this lesson now.

What is tripping me up is that I can't seem to get my emotions to be on the same "schedule", so to speak, as that of the bugs. Just when I am relishing the feeling of normal, someone inevitably will cry out, sob or whine about Ava. Sometimes we just talk about her. And sometimes we use her death as an excuse to get more attention. It's a tricky balance to try and figure out what the motivation is and how to handle the situation the right way.

Last week I found out for certain that after combing the literature there has never been any other children reported to have the disease and the progression of it like Eric and Ava. That's a mind blower. The hearing loss does not fit any other pictures. Somehow that knowledge comforts me and bother me all at once.

I wonder what God has planned for us. But I never want to peer into the future. I am following where I feel He leads and pass through the doors He opens. This journey is just getting started. It's daunting. Allan and I are committed to follow through even when we don't really feel like it. It's actually a neat way to live. Not really fly by the seat of the pants, since we are following His path. But it has a tendency to feel seat of the pantsish.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Things have been busy around here, I'm just not quite sure why. Sometimes I see that I feel busy, but am spinning my wheels and getting nothing done. The weight of our loss is beginning to resister. It has to and it needs to. So that is good, I suppose.

I find that I am more willing to follow God without argument right now. I have no extra energy to think that I can do this on my own. I find if He opens a door, so to speak, I just walk through it, no questions asked. I don't waste time worrying about the 'what ifs and whys". I just proceed. If the proverbial door is closed, I barely notice. It's actually nice. I spend a lot less time analyzing and over thinking. Two things I usually spend too much time on.

The problem is that I know that once I get my feet on the ground a little more I will begin to protest more. Why is it that when we are in a crisis that we see how dependant on God we are. But when things are peachy keen, we trick ourselves into believing that we are in control? I struggled with that after Eric died.

As a grasp and cling to stay in the moment I find that I am focusing on intentional living. The one aspect of my life I am focusing on is to face whatever is holding me back. Am I afraid of a memory? Do I not want to go somewhere or to a function because it's "hard"? Well that's not an excuse. Honestly, living every day is hard right now. the laundry is hard, the grocery store is hard. The kids are hard. Reminders lurk under around and behind and upside down every corner. Why hide from it? How is that living an honest life?

I think about how people are always trying to placate the reality of a painful situation with colloquial phrases. Then there are the phrases that add a twist, catch on like fire and become colloquial. When you are smack dab in the middle of grief. There's no need to sugar coat it. Death stinks and it's hard to deal with. BUT if you don't deal with it you find yourself rolling in a sea of hidden memories and watered down emotions.

I can not choose to live like that. Sometimes I think it would be easier. Then again I would just be trap myself in a life of memories that are "too hard" to face. As time wears on the grow and grow and grow. Then suddenly my cushy safe zone would become a dark and paralyzing closet. Why would I want to go through this world paralyzed my my sorrow and anger?

The world is full of sin and everyone gets some form of a raw deal at some point in life. Maybe we should embrace what we view as an injustice and face it head on. I am trying to. But I have to take it in small chunks. If I bite it off all at one time, that could be detrimental. When I notice that I am back peddling and cowering in a safe little cave I think about what I am trying to accomplish. I ask God to help and I pull myself up by the boot straps and put one foot in front of the other. Some days that all I can do. Some days I just need feel all my sad. Some days I can laugh and have fun. Some days I have to go to the place, do the thing, or see the people that I have somehow attached some strange and usually not so realistic notion to. It's never easy. Not at all. Sometimes I fall apart. However 95% of the time I realize that there is some blessing and something positive and useful that comes from the interaction I would so rather avoid.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I wanted to tell you about a new idea I have. I've decided to run with my bracelet idea and will make bulk orders (10 or more) of custom order bracelets to honor a loved one, commemorate an event, to unify in prayer, or to use as fundraisers for a group. The plan: we talk about charms, and color choices for beads. I make the bracelets. I would like to keep the cost to $5.00-$6.00 a piece, it will depend on the cost of supplies. Then you can give them out or sell them and give the recipient some needed funds in a time of crisis.

Check out my shop at for ideas. So far I've been honored to make butterfly charm bracelets in support of....., teddy bear charm bracelets in memory of....., and am working on rose bead bracelets to commemorate a special birthday.

Making these bracelets has brought me joy and seeing them worn brings me comfort. I would be honored to help others feel that same camaraderie.

These are the things that I am thinking about on a snowy blizzard day. I am trying to focus all this unfocused energy on something good.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Ladybugs have Landed

It's amazing to me how much happier it is in the house when the girls are in it! What also amazes me is that I feel like that especially when I spend a day breaking up fights, putting out squabbles and the incessant whining.

I guess when they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, they really meant that.

I guess that they went away for the weekend is a good thing, since I think I am going to be trapped in the house with all the bugs all week. School was closed today and they are predicting another big storm to roll in tomorrow evening. Here in DE some streets are plowed, you just don't know which ones are. Fortunately for us the way our house sits gets pretty much full sun, so I have been spending my days cheering on the melting efforts. We have run out of places to put all the snow!

Our house is full of dress up and dances today. Last night in the car Elaina serenaded us with her "songs" THE WHOLE WAY home. (It's an hour and 15 minute drive to Grandma and Grandpa's in good conditions). She was singing her "Ava and Eric" songs. TO which I was chuckling. Some of the lyrics were, "I miss Ava I want she to come back, I want she to come back today. I have Ava her Highness. I have Eric his Highness. Emmylexa are my sisters." We were shocked when we were asked to sing with her. I had no idea I was going to be quizzed on her made up songs. So I asked her to teach it to me. Wouldn't you know that kid sang the same thing and the same tune? So then I really felt obliged to pay attention! I asked he to sing and Emily and Alexa song. "I can't Mommy, I don't have any of those songs. I only have an Ava song and an Eric song." -S-I-L-E-N-C-E- (rejoicing in the front of the car...premature rejoicing....) "Mommy! Oh I DO have an Emmylexa song. I didn't know I had one of those!" Cue the music....

Lain has been grappling with the notion of Heaven and the permanency of it. I comes out in her music, her play and her bedtime questions. We are trying to help her understand that it's not a bad place, and that it's not a threat. Right now I think she feels like she is going there soon. Such hard stuff to understand when you are two. I try daily at 36.

Today I sat on the floor and let the girls play with my hair. I had about 30 bows clips and barrettes in it. It was so wonderful. I love to play with them and see how they think and feel. To look into their eyes and see how beautiful they are on the inside and the outside. They are wise beyond their years and still retain their childlike wonder. I am so very grateful for that. I want them to feel like kids because that it what they are. They have big stuff to handle now and will throughout their lives. I am glad they can just be themselves and not be too big too fast.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowed In

This weekend my parents took our Ladybugs to their house for a snowy Grandma and Grandpa weekend. This is the second time that they have been away from the house when we are home. The first was while Ava was in the hospital. Even then we weren't "home". We just slept here. They weren't gone for too many nights during that time. We quickly realized that we needed to tuck them in and see them in the morning.

It's quiet and lonely here. I should enjoy it. I do like hanging out with Allan. He's my best friend. When my Mom and Dad offered to take them I had all these notions of running errands that are no fun to do for us or for them. You know the ones that you have to go to 20 stores for specialty items. My goals are always more than what can be accomplished. Of course I want to clean out toys that we don't need anymore. We also need to clean out Ava's room. Something I've tried to do several times. I didn't think it would be as bad as it was to clean out Eric's room since Ava never really got in to it. She never had a chance to sleep in the crib in there either. Yet I find myself quickly frustrated and giving up each time I try.

I find it curious that the day after Ava died we were inundated with a big snow. I vaguely remember that there was snow but I didn't realize there was a lot of it until people started to make comparisons on the news. The snow kept us tucked in our house, cozy warm and together. We could do what we needed to do without the distractions and temptations of the outside world.

So here I sit. All these tasks before me and I realize that we are REALLY snowed in. The drifts are up to my hips and shoveling is slow going. Our little snowy ladybugs are safe and cozy with their Grandma and Grandpa. No outside distractions and temptations. I think God is telling me it's OK to let my guard down and do what I need to do. Part of me fears that too.

At Eric's service our Pastor prayed that we have "the courage to grieve". It struck me. It stayed with me. I didn't understand it. In my darkest hour, I clung to it. That day I learned just how deep dark and scary grief is. I found out WHY it takes courage to enter into such an emotionally draining and dark time. I remember it. I felt like I was in a black pit scratching my way to the top. Afraid that I would never ever get out. It was then that I realized that the courage I needed was to face it, head on and trust that God would carry me through it. As I write this I realize that this is why I never wanted to be in this position again. Not because I don't trust that God will carry me through even when I don't think I can see or feel Him. It's because that level of pain and emotion is just plain hard to deal with.

It's like the black smoke monster in LOST. The cast members run and hide from it. Some boldly stand there and look into the face of the evil before them. We are sinful and full of evil. We have to stare our ugliness and sadness between the eyes. Acknowledge the thoughts that accompany them. Cry out and know that "Jesus is light. In Him there is no darkness." He's always there on the other end to offer a hand, pull us out of the pit and bring light into our lives once again.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Part of the Club?

After Eric died I felt like I couldn't talk about my experiences being pregnant, having a c-section, breast feeding, and diaper changing adventures. If I talked about it then I would always be faced with the uncomfortable follow up questions which inevitably lead to "my son died". Then there was the look of shock, horror, embarrassment which would lead me to have to try and make that person feel better about my circumstances.

After waiting my whole life to be a Mom, I was no longer a part of that club, but a new not so wanted one. The "Mommies without a Mission" club. Membership is free, but you pay a dear price to get in.

Then, I became pregnant, and miscarried. THEN I became pregnant. Ten and a half months later our sweet Emily and Alexa were born. I WAS A PART OF THE CLUB!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was great I could talk about all the things I wanted to and only I would know of whom I was speaking. Let me be clear, I never really "hide" Eric. It was more like I had to put a lot of thought into how far do I want to take this, how do I approach this, how do I answer this question.....It's tiring. And yes, it still happens today. It probably will for the rest of my life.

So now I have 3 beautiful buggie babes. LOTS of experience with breast feeding, diaper changing, and yes ever c-sections (4). But I struggle with not being a part of a new "club". I am most definitely a "Mom with a Mission" (although I admit that I might be a bit aimless from time to time). However, I am not in that "Mommy of 4" club that I seem to have always wanted to be in since Junior High. (Back then my children's names would have been: Justin David, Branden Michael, Katelyn Marie, and Megan Patricia.) I'm trying to be OK with that. I'm different now. I'm more experienced, have a deeper faith and more mature. I try to tell myself that I have a good size family. I do. I really do. But I struggle with the need to have "credit" for all of the children that I gave birth to. When I hear Moms say "I have 4 kids, 5 kids etc" with a sense of pride that is sprinkled with the craziness that quickly ensues I naturally get a twinge in my heart. Moms who have lost know all too well that twinge.

To take "credit" for my 5 babes means that I have to make someone uncomfortable. Then I have to try to show them that I am OK with the life God has blessed me with. Naturally then they should be too. Here's the deal. I did nurse 5 babies. I did have 4 c-sections. I did have a surprise pregnancy. I did have 2 miscarriages. I have to deal with death. I did have a set of twins. I did change a baby boy's diaper and gotten peed on. I did have 4 kids under five at the same time. It may not be in the way that I dreamed of at 12, but God gave all of those gifts to ME. Little ole' ME. I am immeasurably blessed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Over the last few days my mind has been cluttered with half thoughts which has rendered a writing block.

Yesterday I got an email from a family member. In it she was talking about the tides of emotions we are feeling in our home, times five. Her prayer was that we could manage those tides and that they would be in sync. Her email put voice one of the thoughts cluttering my mind.

I feel like I am constantly putting out fires. You feel that way as a Mom anyway. I like it sometimes. Lately the emotional fires are tough to manage. We all have good days and bad days. Everybody does. Sometimes, when I am in a "good" place I don't want my vibe to be interrupted by the grief of someone else. I hang on by a thread some days. It's a delicate balance at best.

Yesterday was one of those days. I FINALLY started to feel. Each start to what should be a "normal" routine was interrupted by illness. Yesterday was the first day that it wasn't. I completed my first full weekend back to work. Allan has been getting up at the crack of dawn to get to work on time. I'm up late, he's up early. Thus, I'm up early too. The girls hear him up so they are now getting up an hour earlier than normal too. Leaving me with no time to be alone and little reserve. Ahhh, the good old days.

Allan's commute changed the week before Ava was born. So I would get up with him to make sure I could shower, feed Ava and get all other parties ready for the day. All perfect plans never work out so well. Someone would inevitably awaken to see Ava or Daddy. It seems we are back in that routine. But with a gaping hole.

I took the big bugs to school yesterday. As I was leaving with my little bug I felt like I was forgetting something, my arms were not heavy laden with kid paraphernalia. I looked around, saw Lain with me and realized I was missing a car seat. Usually if Lain came to drop off, that meant someone was not home with Ava that morning. Those reminders just plain flat out stink. But they are necessary to feel the loss.

I was feeling like I was on a good track by the time I got the bugs home. Emily was in her room crying for me. It sounded like a real need, not a typical frustrated girlie whine. She fell apart missing Ava. There on their beautifully clean floor was a picture of her feeding her sister. It took her by surprise. My heart sank. I hate that they have to deal with this. I know that it's God's plan and that the outcome will be Glorifyingly good (like the word I just made up?). But I can honestly say that my mother's heart hates the process for them.

I don't stop it. I let them all be where they need to be. They all have their own way and their own needs. They have to feel too. It's so HARD to FEEL.

It's important to do it. If I don't I'll never be able to feel other things. Other joys, sorrows. I don't want my life to be a series of muted experiences where I am afraid to FEEL. How can I experience the Love of my husband, my family and my Lord when I haven't tackled the underlying pain? It's impossible to feel free to enjoy when there is a weight so heavy that you are tethered to the bottom of a pit. That weight gets heavier an more insurmountable as time passes and the taboos creep in. I don't want a life like that for me, or for my precious bugs.

So we are exercising lessons in feeling. Boy does it suck. But I can do it and they can too. In the middle of the darkness and pain is a ray of light. Gods hand is there to guide us and be our life line.

At work I purposely went to the floor that Ava was on. Why should that be taboo? Why should I make something harder than it is? People don't go to hospitals because of the reminders they hold. I did the same thing. I couldn't even go to AI in my mind after Eric died. Why? It's just a place. He would have died if we were at the beach. So I intentionally broke those barriers and REMEMBERED. Yeah it was poignant. Fresh painful memories are. But if we lean on God and use His strength to find the courage to remember that which ties us to that pit, the poignancy lessens and the chain becomes looser.

Sometimes walking a dark walk requires blind faith and courage to revisit the shadows that tie us and keep us from moving through the tunnel to the light. It is amazingly difficult. There really aren't many words that can accurately describe those feelings. We all have them. We all will experience them as we go through our lives. Spoiler Alert: The only guarantee in our lives is that we will die. People we love will die. Some will die when we think it's socially acceptable. Some deaths will be shocking. Some tragic by societal definition. Yet somehow it's always a surprise and a shock. How could God do that to ME??? God does not "do it" to us. We just die. So I ask you, do you want to just die or do you want to live in Glory for ever? That part is your choice. I've made mine. Because of it I sit here and write, I take a break to do the "Hot Dog Dance" -Goofy style, I can FEEL the good the bad and the deep dark pain. I have a full life and vast hole in my heart simultaneously.