Monday, March 29, 2010


Where did the week go? I can honestly tell you I know I was busy and we had lots going on, but I couldn't tell you what it was.

That is where I find myself these days. I have no concept of time. I am now starting to be able to look ahead further than lunch. Waking up from the shock of grief is like watching the tulips rise from their winter slumber. They fight and push through the soil and there is a tiny green leaf. The rains come, the leaf grows bigger, and more make their debut. The weather warms, the leaves continue on their mission. Suddenly the leaves are fully out and are a deep green. Tucked way down in the center is a bud beginning to unfurl.

I know that one day I will look at the flower bed and there they will be in all their beauty. Tulips basking in the sun and adding beauty to an otherwise bland landscape.

I know that I am not close to blooming, but my leaves are definitely beginning to grow and thrive. This is the first time in awhile that I have felt not all consumed. I seem to have more energy right now to get things done and get back to the business of living.

I find myself looking forward to the Spring and Summer traditions the Bugs and I have. But it's not without the now familiar and poignant twinge I carry with me. This year we can accomplish our traditions in a far less complicated fashion. While I am happy to enjoy how much easier the bugs are becoming, I feel sad that I get to do that.

I'm pushing stretching and reaching to bask in that sun, getting through the rocky soil is the darkest and exhausting part. I can be renewed when I grow weary. I simply ask God to help me.

I am so grateful that He is giving our family the gift of enjoying what we have and each other. I couldn't bear this walk if that were wiped away.

I know that now we are on an upswing and around the corner will be a downward trend. But the slope is positive and progressing. So I've learned to take it as it comes and know, like a stage of a child's life it's not forever. Although it does seem that it is. Especially since last week feels like last year. December 18th seems like an eternity ago, yet paradoxically rolled together with crisp emotion.

On the way home from school the other day Emily said that she wished that she could invite Ava to her Birthday party (apparently the precursor is that she and Alexa are getting tired of being five). Elaina chimes in saying, "Well, maybe we could get she back." Alexa told Elaina , "No Lain we can never get her back."

Laina felt embarrassed and tried to pass it off as a joke. The big bugs tried to squash the little bug. I then said that it's OK for Lain to say that she wants to get Ava back. We all do wish that could be true. Then the light turned and we were talking about what we would have for lunch.

It's not enough to crush the progress, but it may slow things down in the moment. However we are all learning to have the moment and move through it, not to let it trip us up for the whole day. These flowers are fertilized with lots of water, prayer are grace. Once day we will bloom fully in the sun and radiate how God intends for us to. Our petals will have a blemish, but I won't try it mask it or wipe it away, I think it's a part of our charm.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tax Time

This week I tackled the taxes. I finally stopped thinking of all the other things I could do instead and went for it. After a day of neglecting the children and wondering what I needed to click to make our liability in PA go away I wrangled them, clicked print and was victorious.

This year I realized that I can deduct medical expenses. I found myself wading through a quagmire of paperwork and receipts, wracking my brain to see which of our contributions are pre-taxable and on the phone every 10 minutes or so with my Dad for moral support. (For those of you who know me, numbers ain't my bag but they are for Mr. Spreadsheet.)

As I flipped and scrolled through our documentation checking, calculating and double checking I found my emotions change as the dates on the EOB progressed. Suddenly I was not recording information, I was reliving every step of the way. Each appointment that Ava had. Each ray of hope. Each depth of despair.

I realized that that little girl was not here very long. In the hospital and in our home it felt so much longer. On paper, just like that, it was over and she was gone. I realized that she came out fighting with all she had and never gave up. I realized that I am grateful for my tubal so that I will never have to watch another one of my children live in that way. I realized that I would trade with my kids in a heartbeat so that they would not have to endure that harshness in life.

Then I realized the impact she had on so many and on our little family. It wasn't long we got to have that sweet baby girl, but it was big.

The other thing I noticed was how God provided for our family through that time and now. In the midst of my tornado when all we could do was focus on Ava and hang on by a thread, all of our needs, tenfold, were cared for, fulfilled and multiplied. I have no idea where or how half of what came came. But there it was, not a moment too soon. Not a moment too late. You see, God's timing is just plain perfect.

For the first half of the year our girls were more healthy than usual. This preserved some of our funds for the medical expenses to come. God took care of EVERY DETAIL. I never would have had the honor to see it laid in front of me if I skipped that section on my tax return.

I am so amazed by this, I don't even have the words to accurately describe it. In the service we went to today that pastor mentioned that we need to worship God even if the timing of it doesn't make sense. That is so true, we need to take "time out" to worship even if your sauce will burn on the bottom of the pan. We also need to live on faith, knowing that He will provide, even when the timing and the how's don't make sense. There is something freeing to not be tied to those chains of comfort and security.

Dave Ramsey says, "You have to live like no one else to LIVE like no one else." He is talking about financial freedom and wealth. I can also apply it to living on faith and trust that the Lord will and does provide. If we obey what He calls us to, He will make the rest work out. There is such a freedom in that. Sometime we don't want to obey the "rules" God has for us. We don't want to be "tethered" and accountable. But it's the opposite. By following Him we are "living like no one else to LIVE like no one else". There is freedom and peace in that.

Amazing. I was just doing some taxes. I get to learn all of this AND file an amended return for 2008 (I skipped the medical deduction then and realized I could have taken it). I can tell you that I also learned that Quicken is the way to go for 2010's medical expenses.

Monday, March 15, 2010


It has been a little busy around our house this last week. Our littlest bug turned 3 on Saturday. I can not believe where the time went. I found myself looking at her and wondering why she is so big. Then my eyes gaze over at the matching bugs and I am stunned once again. They are changing and growing up before my eyes. Allan tried to shrink Elaina, it didn't work.

Lately for the Potty Training adventures we've let Lain navigate the course. Mostly because I don't have the energy to put into the effort. The secondary reason is because we are so busy flitting from here to there this last week that we needed to not be trapped in the house.

Most of the time she tries to tell me that she is big. Elaina truly believed that when she turned three, she would be big. So when she tells me that she is big. I nicely inform her that she is not. She does not enjoy this (or anjoy it as Emmy spelled it by sounding it out this weekend) at all.

On the way to church yesterday she was happily chatting about being three, having a party "to celebrate me" and being big. "Mommy, I'm big. Right Mommy? I'm big."

"No you're not."

"MOMMY. I'm big! Yes I am. Look at me, I'm Long."

"No you're not." "Where do you put your peepees and poopoos?"


"Mommy, I'm big."

"You're getting there, but you are not officially big until you put ALL your peepees and poopoos in the potty, not your pull-up."

"Mommy, I'm oh-fishally big."


Did I mention that our Sunday Morning trek is a half an hour?

Guess who kept her pull-up dry through Sunday school and Family Fusion and the journey home? Guess who ran to the potty when she got home? "I'm big".

Oh there was a celebration, but there is no official biggness until....well, you know the drill.

Today, little Lain-Lain decided to use the potty of her own volition. She would tell me that she had to go and put what she said she had to do in the potty. (Imagine my excitement.)

After the second round, "Mommy, am I oh-fishally big, NOW?"

I told her that if she uses the potty all the time today and tomorrow, then on Wednesday she will be officially big and we will go buy a baby doll.

I don't want to spoil it, but she's doing great. Allan and I are just excited by the prospect that we may have found the hook.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Boo but Yeah

I am frustrated. I so much want to "get back to normal" and I so much know I am far away from it. While I should be joyful in all I've been able to accomplish, I find myself annoyed that the laundry piles up higher than Mt Vesuvius and there is no creativity for dinner. It's a layer of grief that I did not experience after Eric died. Yesterday I found myself drowning in a sea of grown up laundry crying tears of frustration that I "can't get to it". Is it that I can't or just that I don't?

Emmy and I had a big talk the other day. She is frustrated that her sisters are so sad and that our house doesn't feel "normal". I told her that I am frustrated about that too. We both decided to agree that it's annoying. Necessary. None the less, annoying.

This weekend we were blessed by visits from my second cousin on my Dad's side and by a long-lost friend from my Junior High/High School days. I love how God took an ordinary weekend of toy sorting and cleaning and turned it into something extraordinary.

Elaina is potty training on her terms and I don't have the oomph to fight her on it. So I'm not. I don't know or care if that is the so called "right" way to do it. It's how we are doing it. I know that she is fully capable of using the potty and controlling in her output. She just does it when she wants to. Today her motivation was a potty treat, Super Why and a taste of my coffee. (I figured she would hate it since it's cream, no sugar. Nope. Guess who loves it and wants her own cup??)

As much as I know that this is all "normal" I just want "me" back. We find Joy and Hope, but right now we are mingling it with the sorrow and despair. Boo to that. Boo the fact that 2 of my babies had to die.

On the flip side: Yeah to my sweet family that is still here with us. Yeah to our little ladybugs who are growing up so fast (Emmy and Lexa each have a loose tooth and it's the same one!) Yeah to all the little things that God does for us each day. And Yeah for the chance for knowing those two babies that had to die. His love is never failing, that is why I can write this, even if I am sad and annoyed by our circumstances.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Practice makes Perfect

It seems that Elaina is fully capable of using the potty, to get what she wants. "Hey Lain," I say, "How 'bout you sit on the potty and then you can color your Pirate."

"Mommy, Mommy, M-O-M-M-Y!" (I'm looking at her the whole time, mostly because I think it's funny that toddlers don't understand that when someone looks at you and raises eyebrows it's an acknowledgement.)

"Yes Lain?"

"Howbout I go sit on the potty and then I can color my pirate. Howbout that?"

"OK! Go do it!"

"Mommy, I get off now?"

"Did you put your peepees in?"

"Mommmmeeeee, I was just doing it so I can color my pirate."
"Lain, remember, you have a Pull Up on. You are little and you have to ride in the cart."

"Do they have a potty here?"

Tomorrow is another day of potty fun, I suspect.

On a more serious side, tonight's family devotional was about talking to your friends about Jesus. The lead in question was "what do you talk to your friends about?" Emily giggled in her sweet Emmy way and said "Stuff". (REALLY??? I thought you were 5 not 16!!!!)

"What kind of stuff?"

"I don't know. I talk to my sister all the time."

Pan over to Alexa. She looks vacant yet a little prepared...hmmmm.....

Emmy finally whispers that Alexa asks her all the time why Ava is in Heaven. Em says she doesn't answer because she doesn't know. We "reviewed" all visited topics: Ava was sick, her body didn't work, God made her, God loves her, she didn't have enough mitochondria....Then I realized Alexa wants to know WHY. Why did it happen to Ava. Why did this happen to Alexa.

I told her that Mommy and Daddy don't understand that Why either. We just have to trust in God's Plan. As I write this I realize we will need to talk about it more.

Off Alexa and Elaina flitted to brush teeth. Emily curled up in my lap. I asked her if she was afraid to talk about Ava. She indicated yes. I asked her if it hurt. She said yes. I told her that no matter how much it hurts or is sad she can talk to us about her. That she can't keep it in or it will be so much harder later.

She then asked me if she could talk about it even in the night? I she absolutely. "But I don't want to wake up my sister." She then told me that sometimes she wakes up thinking about Ava. I asked her what she thinks about and her reply: "The night Ava died."

Finally she told me she thinks about us coming home and telling her. My heart broke. My poor little girl is waking up remembering and picturing horrible things. This is a marker she will always remember. It might be hazy as she gets older, but it's going to be there. She wanted to know why we told her that Ava died. She wishes that we didn't. She's not angry, she just wanted to know why we did.

I told her that we couldn't let her think that her sister was alive in the hospital when she was really dead. I told her that sometimes it's better to know the hard stuff than to pretend. I told her that it would be a lie if we didn't tell her and that we don't lie to them.

I also told her that no matter what time, if she needs to talk to Mommy or Daddy she can. That we are always here to help her sort it out.

I am so thankful that God has given us children who really think things through and although it's harder for some than others, they will tell us what those thoughts are. It's tough questions and thoughts. Especially now we seem to be moving into the abstract.

Sometimes I approach my parenting in a "laying the foundation" sort of way. If we establish this now then they know they can approach us when the rubber meets the road. I just didn't realize that at 5,5 and nearly 3 the rubber is meeting the road and boy does it stink.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


If you were to look up the word "procrastinate" in the dictionary you would see a picture of my brother. However, for the secondary definition you would find my photo. So in Amy style I was looking for a CD of pictures of Eric last night as someone needed them by today at the latest.

As I stacked and stretched over boxes still packed from things "before Amy" used to do, I found myself diving into boxes of neatly organized and labeled photos. (This must have been "before Amy" as well). The unsuspecting me unearthed photos of those I've loved and have died. A long string of people: Eric Hearn, for whom our son was named, Laura Sitkberg who hasn't even been gone a week, Frances McMillan-my grandmother, Rex McMillan-my grandfather who was celebrating 2 years in Heaven yesterday, Elizabeth Crossan-a sweet young friend, and of course Eric and Ava. I also had the distinct honor of locating their death certificates and having to paw through the memory box.

I never found the CD. I did get smacked in the face with grief.

Right there since my freshman year of college was a string of people who have gone before me. There are a few more in the list, but I did not come across any photos last night. All of these people have been influential in my life, teaching me about life, death and God. As I wake this morning (at 4:30 and the 5:00 thanks to the sleepless bugs last night) I realize that they all left an indelible print on my soul. Each of them called to an earthly purpose- completed the journey. Three in the so called natural order of things, 4 way too soon by our standards.

Here's the thing. Last night was tough. I felt such a hollow pain. Every page of my life is imprinted with love and loss. Most I could rationalize, but I found myself wondering why did I have to have children at all as they come with such a high cost. One you never realize until they are no longer available for you to hold, smell, hear.

On the flip side, what is life here worth if you don't have relationships that are at a high cost? Really all that means is that you unabashedly love without worrying about the level of grief you feel when that person is gone. It will happen whether you go first or are here one left to sort out the emotion. It will happen.

This morning I look back on how I felt last night, my grief was hollow, but not dark. There are certainly times when it is. It's not fun and not remotely pretty and it's necessary. That wasn't last night. The color was white. It was fresh, like Spring. All these wonderful people whose pictures I saw last night are in Heaven, reveling together in the presence of God. I am amazed at how each one has life eternal. In the moment I felt deep pain of all that I, personally, have lost. This morning, of course I'm sad, but as I remember these people and the others who have gone before me, I have hope and a heart of gratefulness.

God orchestrated my life in such a way that I would have the privilege of knowing, learning from and loving these people. Through them I was taught more about God. More about Faith. More about Wisdom. More about Love. So I can learn to fully love and express myself to those to whom I am inextricably intertwined. To those who God has entrusted to me and those whom I walk through this life with. These are the people I can love and live with at the risk of a high cost, once they are gone. But why would I hide? Because the pain is too great when they die? If I did that how would my life be full?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Saga Continues

Sooo, we were doing pretty well there for a bit and now littlest bug doesn't feel like Potty Training anymore. Here's the kicker. She's trained. She knows when to hold 'em and she knows when to fold 'em. She can control everything until she feels like getting treats.

So today, she's back in Pull Ups. She wants to wear her alligator underpants, Captain Hook is afraid of alligators, you know. She LOVES her underpants. I told her that she's all done potty training and that she can't wear her underpants. "But I want a chocolate chip!" No, you aren't ready to be a big girl. Once you decide then you can have your underpants on. Now you wear a Pull-Up which is a diaper so that means you are a baby and not big.

"Mommy I am BIG."
"As soon as you choose to use the potty, you will be big. Now you are a little."
-Did you know that little girls cannot wash hands by themselves, choose shows, tell mommies what to eat????

"Hey Mommy, I'm big."
"What are you wearing?"
"A Pull-up".
"Ok, you are not big yet."
Ok, so I am aware that what I am telling my daughter goes against all of Huggies' diligent advertising. Swimming up stream I am. Their theme song, "I'm a big kid now" does not apply here. The bottom line is that a Pull-up is nothing more than a reconfigured diaper that all three of my girls use as a crutch.

Alexa chimes in, "Elaina you can't have your birthday party!"
Of course she can have her birthday party, it just won't be a big girl celebration. It will be a birthday party.

So here we are at 9:57am on day 5. The strong-willed child has a pull-up on and the ball is in her court. Secretly I am hoping that she likes this new found control and makes up her mind to continue the journey. (Won't my parenting skills really shine then? Brilliant I am.)

Realistically, I realize that I lost.