Category: family (page 1 of 10)

My top 5 homeschool hacks.

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I’m not a great homeschooler. Really. When I imagined homeschooling I pictured my family sitting on blankets in a field on a prairie reading Anne of Green Gables and eating homemade bread and jam while we absorbed the beauty of the knowledge in the stack of books we had brought with us.

Okay, so I am a bit of a romantic. Also, possibly delusional. Whatever.

The truth is in this particular stage of life homeschooling looks a lot more like us scrambling to find sharpened pencils and desperately trying to get as much school done as we can while a very very very busy toddler takes a nap. It’s not generally pretty. But we get it done. Mostly thanks to a few things that work for us. They aren’t necessarily revolutionary but they work for us.

  1. Online free curriculum – We use a lot of online tools in our homeschool. Kahn Academy is a fantastic resource for math of all grade levels and we love using it. Starfall has been a staple for the little kids for as long as we’ve been homeschooling and it helps to entertain them and make them feel a part of school when they are too little to do much on their own. Homeschool curriculum is not cheap and any freebies we can find help take the financial burden off of the process. Sites like Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool are also an excellent source of 100% free homeschool curriculum. This particular site breaks everything down in days using free links to web content that allows the student to be self-directed. We love it as a supplement to the other things we do but many families use it for their entire school curriculum.
  2. Single focus days – We’ve done this during different seasons of homeschooling and it is still one of my favorite ways to homeschool. Basically we just assign a subject to each day and focus solely on activities that surround that. For example, Monday = Bible, Tuesday = Science, Wednesday = Literature, Thursday = History, Friday = catch up on all the things that didn’t get completed on previous days. When we were doing this we would do math each day just to try and keep things consistently moving in that subject since it is our least favorite/weakest subject. The beauty of this method is that it is kind of like unit studies in that each subject really covers composition, spelling, reading, critical thinking, handwriting, etc. The kids think they are doing less work (always a win in this house!) but really they are doing the same amount of practice in all of these areas it just feels less noticeable since each day they are working on new subject matter.
  3. Ted Ed videos – Do you ever have one of those homeschooling days where everything goes wrong and you need to clean oatmeal out of the carpet and somehow throw food in the slow cooker before you get everyone to ballet/boy scouts/whatever activity you foolishly agreed to participate in and then on top of that you have the pressure of oh, you know, EDUCATING your child? Me either. But if I did have multiple days a month like that then I would surely use Ted Ed to help fill in the gaps when I need to fill those sweet little brains with info and run a household. All kidding aside, Ted Ed is a great way to learn things that don’t fit into traditional homeschool curriculums. They’ve learned about how the band-aid was invented, the paradox of value, and whether spotty fruits and vegetables are safe to eat. I know, I know, not exactly Common Core aligned stuff here but what I love is that it fuels a love of learning. Each lesson includes a video, a quiz, an opportunity to dig deeper into the subject, and a format in which to discuss it. The world is a big place and by learning about some of the more random parts of it my kids have discovered a love of knowledge that I think can sometimes be tricky to impart when you’re hammering them with tests and quizzes.
  4. Outsourcing – We utilize a homeschool hybrid once a week as well as a once-a-month co-op class in teaching the kids. Maybe you think it’s a cheater’s way to homeschool. Maybe it is. The thing is I find outsourcing a great way to help the kids learn from others without giving up my ability to help meet their individual educational needs. Once a week the kids spend 3.5 hours at an arts-based hybrid learning things that I would never have thought to incorporate into our schooling. Kai is working with other students on a student film. Ivy is learning Calligraphy. Each of them is working in a group with friends and enjoying being a part of a classroom experience one day a week. Then once a month the homeschool group we are a part of holds an enrichment day that allows the kids to learn about different subjects each month. One month the kids participated in a Shakespearean drama and had a feast to go along with it. They’ve built volcanoes and met geologists and enjoyed learning about cultures from people who are experts in a way I will never be. Each time they come home filled with information and enthusiasm about a subject they hadn’t previously interacted with and it fuels their desire to pursue knowledge about it for the rest of the month.
  5. Year-round School – We officially start school every September but the truth is we try our very best to “school” the kids year round. The first year we did school we stopped at the end of summer and when we got back to school-time in the Fall getting the kids motivated to learn again was a nightmare. They enjoyed the summer and didn’t feel like diving back into school. The more I thought about it the more it bugged me that we were basically telling them they got to spend 3 months not learning and that they could stop pursuing the study of the world that we were trying to tell them was so important for the other 9 months of the year. The second year we tried not breaking for summer. We changed the pace of our lessons and did lots of unit studies with the kids. We explored different subjects and cultures and found ways to take unexpected field trips and just kept the learning going. Then by the time Fall rolled around we just jumped right back into “regular” school and no one complained. And we felt like we were reinforcing the idea that learning is a forever thing. Not something to take a break from. It’s been a win-win scenario for us.

So, there you have it. Five homeschooling hacks that are working for us! I would love to hear what works for you and yours when it comes to educating the kids whether it is homeschool, traditional school, unschooling or some combo of different styles. There is so much to be learned and shared with others on this journey and I love storing away great ideas for when we need to change things up!

Tutorial: How to make DIY all-natural cleaner. With a 7-year-old helper.

**This post contains affiliate links that provide me with ice cream money to bribe my kids. Thank you in advance for their good behavior.**

Traveler created a super cool cell phone tripod for me to record videos on and we decided to test it out on a FB live post. So, I thought I would post it here to share! Traveler was quite proud of himself.

For those who want to make a recipe like this, here’s what you need:

1.5 C Water

1/3 C White Vinegar

15-20 drops essential oil (we used Young Living Purification.)

Mix together in glass spray bottle. And enjoy!

Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist.

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There are probably worse things to wake up to than a cat peeing right beside your face, but right now I can’t think of too many. When your day starts out like that it’s a sure sign that it is going to be a doozy.

And, yesterday did not fail to live up to that standard. In fact, considering the fact that my day ended with a snarky nastygram from an anonymous neighbor demanding that I “mow the grass and edge the lawn!” I think I can safely say that the cat pee on my head might have been the least jarring part of the day.

It’s not like anything catastrophic really happened yesterday. It was mostly life stuff. But some days you seem have two weeks of life stuffed into 12 hours and it is exhausting. Some days it just feels like I will never catch up. Never add up. Never measure up.

Life is like that right now. Holding up all the expectations of all the people in all of the areas of my life has been a real job. But this past weekend, thanks to some amazing family friends, Thomas and I got a mini break from that job. We dropped our kids off Friday evening and picked them up Sunday afternoon and took off to be tourists in our own city. It was a much welcome break from our responsibilities.

It’s funny what happens when you have a break from the constant chaos of kids. We got to talk and sleep and eat meals without having anyone climb on us or spill anything and it was pretty wonderful. It’s amazing, though, how much you get to think when you are without kids for a few days. I thought a lot about what our future holds as a family. What my future holds outside of my kids.

Most days it is impossible to believe that this stage of my life isn’t forever. I can’t imagine a house that isn’t a constant mess. I can’t picture not having to clean up a broken dish or toy or collectible once a day. I can’t imagine having a moment without the din of kids running, playing, arguing, laughing, crying. It seems a hundred years away.

One of the things that has come out in my therapy lately is just how much I fear being perceived as a bad mom. It triggers more anxiety and panic than nearly any other thing in my life. The thing is that particular trigger is lurking behind nearly every moment of my day.

Running late to pick up one of the kids from an appointment? Neglectful mom.

Lose all of your daughter’s ballet paperwork? Disorganized mom.

Fall asleep nursing the toddler and didn’t finish folding laundry? Lazy mom.

It doesn’t help that I have the image of the Proverbs 31 woman in my head all the time. She is the ever present measuring stick for every Christian mom out there. She looms over us like some holy mother we will never live up to. She’s the inspiration for countless mothering books, magazines, and websites. Seriously, who is this lady? Could she have set a more impossible standard?

[a]A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.

You guys, my husband had to wear swim trunks under his suit the other day because his wife of noble character forgot to put his underwear in the dryer. That’s not going to earn me any praise at the city gates.

14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.

Does the Zaxby’s by the Publix count as bringing food from afar? Because if so, then I’m winning at that part at least.

15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.

Last week my kids all shared two leftover brownies for breakfast because I had been up all night with a sick baby and they were too lazy to make cereal for themselves while I slept. So I guess I can’t check that whole “gets up and provides food thing” off the list either.

16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.

So, I’m not sure that my trading is all that profitable but the good news is if my lamp not going out at night means my power bill is always paid then I can check yes on that. Though there was that time I forgot to pay the water bill and my kids woke me up at 6:30 in the morning to ask why water in the sink was broken…

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.

Most days I am clothed in a thrifted black dress covered in sticky toddler handprints and I think we can all agree that whole dignity ship set sail about 3 kids ago. 

26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; (Proverbs 31: 10-31, NIV)

My tween calls me lots of things lately. Blessed doesn’t happen to be one of them. Though she did gently caress my cheek the other day and say, “I never realized how wrinkly you are, mom.” so that’s something I guess.

The more I think about her the more I wonder if even she would recognize the woman in these verses? Would she have been flattered to read this tribute to her abilities? Or exhausted at the thought of keeping up such an reputation? Since, as far as I know, there is only one perfect person described in the Bible she must have had at least a few flaws. Did she wake up grumpy in the mornings? Did she have to nag her kids to help her? Did she ever forget where she put something for 2 months and only find it after she had gone out and bought a replacement? Did her three-year-old ever repeat a swear word in perfect context after hearing it yelled loudly in traffic? (okay, I’m probably pushing it there. I’ve never known anyone who has had that happen. Certainly not me. And certainly not with every. single. one. of my kids.)

I guess my point is that even the woman who is the gold standard for Christian femininity had to be imperfect at some point. She had to question how well she was doing her job. She had to have moments where she wasn’t the best version of herself. And, yet, the parts that are memorialized are the best parts. The days when she did her very best. The days when her family was proud.

My prayer lately has been that God will meet me where I am lacking. That He will give me His love for my kids. That He will fill the gaps that I leave with His perfect love so that they will never question their worth and their value. I am a recovering perfectionist. I want things to be perfect. And they so rarely are. But I am seeing that perfection isn’t what I am called to. I am called to love. I am called to give compassion. And I am called to trust in God to fill the needs of my children. Some days that is harder than others but thankfully His mercies are new every morning.

The Lord loves us very much.
    So we haven’t been completely destroyed.
    His loving concern never fails.
23 His great love is new every morning.
    Lord, how faithful you are!
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is everything I will ever need.
    So I will put my hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24 NIRV**)

I’m counting on the freedom of that promise. And I am thankful for the days to come.

**The last translation I just used was from the NIRV which is the kids’ version of the NIV. If you haven’t ever read that translation I would encourage you to check it out sometime. I’m no Bible scholar so I don’t know how it stacks up against the others but I do know it is written in simple English for kids and new English speakers and sometimes the beauty of the simple wording is exactly what I need to hear. It is often one of my favorite ways to read a verse that I am using to speak to my fears or inadequacies.

Songs of Innocence

When voices of children are heard on the green
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast
And everything else is still

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Then come home my children the sun is gone down
And the dews of night arise
Come come leave off play, and let us away
Till the morning appears in the skies

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No no let us play, for it is yet day
And we cannot go to sleep
Besides in the sky, the little birds fly
And the hills are all covered with sheep

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Well well go & play till the light fades away
And then go home to bed
The little ones leaped & shouted & laugh’d
And all the hills echoed

-William Blake, “Nurse’s Song (Innocence)”

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The Ordinary Life.

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I always have big plans for summer. Somewhere around March or April I start dreaming of what our days will be like. Long lazy trips to the pool with PB&J picnics on towels in the sun. Book after book after book marked off our summer reading list. Day trips and field trips and endless adventures. Maybe a weekend or two sneaking away to some seaside location.

The truth of summer always disappoints me a little. It’s not that we don’t enjoy it. It’s just that it never quite lives up to my hype and I spend most of August feeling guilty for not providing a more magical Pinterest-worthy, Instagram beautiful summer.

I’ve become so much more aware of how quickly time is moving. Kai is 12 and there are fewer summers home with us ahead of her than there are behind her and I feel an urgency to make them all count. Life moves so quickly and I find it so hard to cherish the moment I am in and seem to spend so much time wishing I had savoring the moments that have passed.

I’m working on being mindful of my present moment. I’m working to put my phone down, stop worrying so much about things being perfect, and start appreciating those seemingly mundane experiences together as a family. Because those are the memories my kids seem to love the most.

We moved a few years ago from the house we had spent most of the kids’ lives in. It was a cute quaint retro ranch when we bought it and it turned into a bit of a money pit that, in the last couple years we lived there, had no heat and no air and a basement full of mold. It took our kids nearly a year to stop crying about not living there at least once a week. And to this day they all have the fondest memories of that place. When I remind them that the house didn’t have heat they say, “But it was so fun to cuddle by the fire together.” When I remind them that it didn’t have air conditioning they say, “But that meant we got to eat popsicles on the couch all summer.” They don’t remember a single bad thing about that house. It occurred to me this summer that if they could cherish those memories of a too small house with so many discomforts that they will probably remember the mediocre summers we have with great fondness as well. It doesn’t take a whole lot to make a wonderful memory. It takes time spent together, a willingness to be present in the moment, and a whole lot of love.

When my kids look back on Summer 2016 they won’t have fantastic and exotic adventures to relive. But they will remember:

*Nights spent catching fireflies and listening to live music under the stars at Matilda’s.

*Eating blackberries and blueberries straight from the bushes until our stomachs were full and our faces were stained with juice.

*Days spent snuggled on the couch under quilts watching our favorite Netflix shows together.

*A Fourth of July weekend spent in the country with their grandparents splashing in a cheapo plastic kiddie pool.

*A weekend visit with a special Hawaiian cousin and a night spent camping out on the living room floor with her.

*Days spent playing throughout the neighborhood with their best friends.

*Countless kisses on sweaty heads and skinned knees.

It doesn’t really matter if these moments were glamorous. Because they will likely grow up to view these things through their own magical sepia toned filter. As adults, its the ordinary childhood moments that always feel more fantastic in hindsight. I know that is certainly true for me. As a kid I did get the chance to travel a lot and spent a lot of my childhood adventuring across most of the country on road trips. We took fun trips and made great memories. But one summer memory always stands out in my mind. My sister and I spent our days playing all over our family’s 8+ acres of land most days and getting into as much outdoor trouble as we could. One particular day we found what had to be the biggest mud pit we had ever seen in our lives. We spent what felt like hours playing in the mud. We jumped in it and rolled in it and threw it at each other.  I know for a fact that neither of us even once worried what our parents would say. We finally showed up on the doorstep for dinner fully clothed and covered from head to toe in the worst smelling mud you can imagine. I will never forget my mom’s face when she saw us and realized we had been playing in the septic tank drain field all day. Turns out our greatest adventure was actually a big field of sewage. Seriously.

And that, my friends, is one of my favorite childhood memories. Swimming in a pool of crap for an afternoon. And I guess I only share that to remind myself (and all of us parents) that if I can grow up and cherish a memory of playing in the grey water of a septic drain field then surely my kids will be able to grow up and cherish these less than picture perfect summers.

So, I’ve decided to cut myself some slack on my stress over memory making. Because ordinary and special don’t have to be opposites. We make memories every day. And some of them will be extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime adventures. And some of them will be moments spent discovering a new favorite movie on Netflix. And all of them will be special.

Even the ones spent covered in crap.

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This post has been shared at Thank Goodness It’s Monday at Nourishing Joy.

Talking about talking. Or, more specifically, talking about not talking.

When we got the diagnosis that Viola was a Little Person I remember feeling really hopeful for her future. I knew things wouldn’t be easy for her but this girl’s spirit is something to be admired. When we got the diagnosis of mild/moderate hearing loss I was worried but optimistic. We would be able to get her a hearing aid if she needed one (she didn’t) or tubes to help improve her hearing (she did). Then a few weeks ago our speech therapist suggested an additional diagnosis.

Childhood Apraxia of Speech.

And I still feel hopeful and optimistic and all of those things. But I feel a little weary for her. Because I just feel like maybe she deserves a smaller mountain to climb.

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder. Children with CAS have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words. This is not because of muscle weakness or paralysis. The brain has problems planning to move the body parts (e.g., lips, jaw, tongue) needed for speech.

How this looks in our daily life is that she struggles to say any words on command. And she struggles to imitate sounds. She wants to. She looks at me and tries and tries and tries to tell me something but it comes out completely different than any word she’s trying to say.

For example, yesterday we were doing our speech homework. The goal was to get her to say the long A sound. “Aaaaa” I said. She set her eyes on my mouth to study it and forced out “Mmmm.”

At 26 months she isn’t saying much more than 5-6 words. Most all of those words are exclamations. Words she says spontaneously. Nothing much on command. “Uh-Oh!” “Oh Dear!” and now that we have kittens to chase around, “Meeeooow.” But not much else consistently. She knows lots of signs. She follows directions. And she can communicate non-verbally in a really effective matter.

We’ve seen lots of experts and therapists. And a Naturopathic doctor or two as well. And we are working to make progress. We’re doing some really intensive speech therapy right now. And taking probiotics and vitamin B-12 and cod liver oil supplements. And using essential oils. And pretty much any other thing I can think of to help her.

Maybe the thing I’m learning most in all of this is that Viola’s journey is just that – her journey. I can try and help her. I can be there for her but the truth is she is going to be climbing this mountain and there isn’t much I can do to fix things for her. That is true for all of my kids. It just took Viola to make me see it.

Lately I worry a lot about everyone. The more struggle I see my kids having the more I realize how limited my ability is to make life easier for them. I’ve been praying for wisdom and for patience and for healing. And I think I’m getting it. Just not always in the way I want to.

I want God to give me the wisdom to know how to “fix” Viola’s challenges. He’s giving me the wisdom to see that He created her (and all my kids) for a special purpose. And they don’t need to be fixed.

I want God to give me the patience to help her through this. He’s giving me the patience to wait on Him and to recognize that life may look differently for her than I had planned but that it is okay.

I want God to heal her of her motor speech disorder. He’s healing my mama’s heart of the fear I have for my children’s future.

This world is a scary place. Whether you’re average height or small. Whether you speak or whether you communicate by other means. And I’m being reminded daily that I am not the one driving this train. I have to trust more than I think I am able to sometimes. But trust feels like a rubber band. Just when I feel like I am going to break from the waiting and the trusting my rubber band stretches and I find myself capable of trusting more. God is here for me as much now as He ever has been. I’m just learning to rely on Him more. I’m seeing His provision more. I’m thanking Him more for the little things.

One of the things we talked about in my therapy recently was the idea of emotions being bad. If you had asked me 6 months ago which emotions were “bad” emotions I would say: sadness, worry, anger, fear, envy…and a whole host of other not so fun feelings. What I am learning is that these feelings are uncomfortable. And I mean, really, really uncomfortable. But so is growing. And that doesn’t mean its a bad thing.

It sounds pretty basic. After discussing this with my kids it seems like they already knew feelings weren’t bad. So I guess I’m a little late to the party. When I realized it was okay to feel sad or disappointed or angry at things it freed me up to see what these feelings were teaching me. I’m focusing on riding the waves of these emotions without letting them drown me. It’s been healing to have this change of perspective.

Tomorrow I am going to get up and get ready to surf the waves of emotions that come from being a mom to five kids (one with needs that are a little different from the rest). I’m going to exercise patience and trust. And I’m going to love and love and love and love.

Because, in the end, love is everything I have to give to my kids. And I’m trusting in that to be enough.

 

 

 

On the importance of self-care.

One of my biggest pet peeves is selfishness. I hate it in myself. I worry often that my decisions are selfish. As a mom, I hate to see it in my kids. It’s my biggest irritation at the self-love/self-esteem culture that I feel gets way out of control.

However, what I am learning this year is that selfishness and self-care are NOT the same thing.

For years I have neglected certain things in the fear that taking care of them is selfish. And I’m not talking about mani/pedi type stuff. If you’ve seen my feet you know that aspect of self-care is still one I struggle to embrace spending money on. I’m mostly talking about mental health and taking care of my mind/soul/heart.

Way, way back in the blog archives is a few posts somewhere about depression. Or anxiety. But, because I’ve been pregnant for, oh, 13 YEARS I just always called it Post-Partum Depression/Anxiety and felt like it would resolve itself. (Side note: PPD/PPA is a real thing and I shouldn’t have been “writing it off” and not dealing with it. If you’ve got it, seek some help. You absolutely deserve it.) The truth is I have been anxious for as much of my life as I can remember. I’m an anxious person. I worry. I fret. I stress most hours of the day.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. And Depression. And so there I said it.

About 5 months ago I made an appointment with a local therapist to start DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) in an attempt to get a handle on all of this. My midwife was not comfortable prescribing anti-depressants any longer without me seeing someone who was an expert in mental health.

Can I just tell you how pissed off that made me? Was she implying I wasn’t mentally healthy? No, it turns out she wasn’t implying it. SHE WAS SAYING IT. And that’s okay. I didn’t need to get any more angry with her than I would with someone telling me I had Strep Throat. Because mentally I was (okay, AM) unhealthy. But seeing the right person was going to help me get better.

So, self-care. I’m learning how important it is. I’m learning that loving my kids means taking care of their mother. I’m taking medicine and being mindful and using words like “opposite action” and “radical acceptance” and feeling better and better. Weekly therapy feels like a workout at the gym. Hard but worth it. Exhausting but so gratifying.

And I wish I had done all of this sooner.

Honestly, I don’t know where to go with this. Except that I wanted to say it out loud. To say that I am a work in progress. To say that the reason I have avoided blogging for a while (um…a couple of years?!) now is because I was so afraid of not doing it perfectly and amazingly that I just kept myself from doing it at all. But these are things I am working on. Letting go of my fear of being imperfect and my expectations.

I’m hoping this will be an exercise that helps me get back into this space. Back into writing and expressing myself here. I’ve lost too much time to anxiety and the fear of not having it all together.

I am who I am. And you either like me or you don’t. So there.

I still really hope you like me. I guess my therapist and I probably need to work on that a little more. 🙂

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Summer.

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It’s firefly catching time again. The southern Summer heat has wrapped around our city like a hot wet blanket and the sun has come out to play for longer hours each evening. And as dusk descends the landscape is peppered with the blinking lights of mating fireflies.

My kids, bug haters on any other day of the year, squeal with glee and run to get jars to trap these flying twinkles of light. They place them gently and lovingly into their clear glass jars. They watch them. And marvel at them. And treasure them. And as they do I watch these children of mine and cherish their unadulterated happiness at such treasures.

Tonight my bed is filled with children. Grass-stained elbows and feet poke me in the ribs. A sweaty head rests against their daddy’s shoulder. Our queen size bed is filled with three little ones and two adults while the older girls slumber on the floor. It’s summer concert season and they have fallen asleep the minute their head hit their pillows. Saturday nights we head down the road to Alpharetta’s best kept secret, an outdoor concert venue with folk art and picnics and local bands and hippies all around. The kids play in the field with glow-sticks and hula hoops forming friendships for the night while the adults sit on colorful quilts drinking wine and enjoying the art of doing nothing.

It is nights like this that I hope my children remember when they have families of their own. It is nights like this that I will carry into my old age like a tender package. Despite my sometimes grouchy complaints to the contrary, when kids fall asleep in our room with their hands and faces stained with watermelon and their bare feet dark with the dirt of a well-worn field I am filled with so much beauty that I nearly suffocate from the weight of it.

On these nights, I run to capture the perfection of these moments and imprison them in jars in my memory where I will cherish them forever. These are my summer fireflies. And they fill me with such joy and and wonder. On the days when my living room is a mess and my four-year-old loses her gum only to find it minutes later in her hair it is these moments I call upon to remind me how thankful I am for this crazy life.

 

Previously on Land of Lovings…

It has been such a long, long time since I’ve been present in this place that I’m not even sure I know how to write anymore. I feel so foreign at the keyboard. My fingers seem to be dragging the words out of my brain like some literary taffy pull and it isn’t a fun feeling.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had writing. It has been my way of processing the events that swirl around me. It has allowed me to create order of the chaos that I feel inside my “generalized anxiety” disordered mind. Last year after my miscarriage I lost more than the precious baby I carried inside me. I lost a bit of my footing, too.

Three weeks after my D&C I discovered that I was pregnant again. I will not lie. It was a terrifying moment for me. The weight of my loss hung so heavy inside of me that I wasn’t prepared to discover new life there again. I had spent 5 weeks feeling like a walking tomb as I waited for my body to deliver the baby and to discover life again in that tomb was a shock.

My heart beat so loudly at my first midwife’s appointment that I thought it might burst forth from my chest. It was a true miracle that they discovered a heartbeat so early and I will forever be thankful to the kind and patient midwife whose steady hands coaxed that sound out of the fetal heart monitor.

Still, in my nervousness, it took me 4 months to tell anyone I was pregnant. I spent the remaining 5 months in an absolute panic. I was terrified each day that I would awaken to find this baby gone as well. I was scared to be excited. Scared to be happy. Scared to be hopeful.

I remember the morning of the day I went into labor. I woke and frantically poked my sweet girl to get her to move. I needed a reassuring jab in the ribs to make me relax and know that she was okay. She obliged and kicked me lovingly in the bladder. I’ve never been so happy to almost pee my pants!

Viola Sky Ahonui Loving was born just after midnight pushing her into a May 1st birthday. A very important thing to her 10 year old sister whose birthday I spent laboring. My first and last baby born nearly exactly ten years apart. There is something really special about the timing of that.

Viola was breech, a fact which surprised everyone but me. I had spent the last couple months telling the midwives only to be reassured that I was wrong. But I knew, as mothers often do, where this baby of mine was nestled. My C-section, one of the family centered variety that I will blog more about some other time, was as lovely as a C-section could be. I nursed Viola immediately and snuggled her skin to skin. I marveled at her dark hair and her big milky eyes and one other thing– the pre-auricular skin tag by her ear.

I remember looking uncertainly up at Thomas as she was passed to me. Is she okay? I mouthed. Is something wrong with her ear? The midwives, sensing my concern, reassured me that it was a simple skin tag. That she was fine. And that old monster of anxiety that had plagued me the last nine months crept stealthily into the operating room. Something was different. And I did’t know what.

The next day was spent in those blissful newborn moments. Oh, how I love those first warm days of life with a newborn. The tightly wound ball of anxiety in me started to uncoil. Viola was fine. She was better than fine. She was amazing. And I nursed her and kissed her and wrapped my arms around her every minute of the day. When she didn’t pass her hearing test on the second day I was assured that it was perfectly normal for that to happen with C-sectionn babies. But then she didn’t pass it the next day and I got worried.

Maybe I had been right. Maybe something had been wrong. She looked so different from my other children in their newborn state. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I spent time on Google feeding the monster with every possible scenario that could be causing her differences. I became convinced that the doctors and nurses were scared to tell me what was going on with my baby. I knew where this anxiety spiral would lead me and so I put a call in to my midwife for my usual post-partum anti-depressant cocktail before I was even discharged.

Eventually we had her pre-auricular tag removed. She kept failing hearing tests and we were assured that any hearing deficits were minor so we continued to enjoy what a beautiful sweet spirit our Viola is.

There were things I noticed, though. Torticollis. Slightly twisted arms. A precious little tongue that perched out on her lips all the time. And her skin. She had rolls like I had never seen in a baby before. Soft, sweet bunches of skin that reminded me of wearing socks that were far too long for your legs. The skin bunched up around her thighs and upper arms. But I assumed it was just the result of some good breastmilk, kissed those sweet arms and legs, and moved on. The monster would not take my enjoyment of my daughter away from me.

And then we went on vacation. We spent time at the beach and in the sun and I looked at my little girl more and more. I was getting closer to discovering just what it was that was different about her. She was little. Not just small. Little. My mom and sister and I took some pictures of her and sent them to a friend who is a Little Person and a pediatric PA. Could Viola be a Little Person? Could that be what I had been missing? What everyone had been missing?

The moment the question was asked I knew. I mean, I just knew. THIS was it. And I was flooded with relief. Because I finally felt like I had discovered the truth that my daughter had been trying to show me. She was different. She was amazing and beautiful and she was Little. And I was relieved to know who she had been all this time. We were months from any real diagnosis* but I didn’t need a doctor to tell me what I had known all along. I could see her so clearly now.

I remember driving home from San Destin and being somewhere in the midst of Alabama and just mentally digesting the possibility of what new information would be ahead of us and I wept. Not with sadness. Or disappointment. I wasn’t unhappy that my daughter was a Little Person. I had met too many amazing LPs who had accomplished great things for me to be fearful of “disadvantages” for her. I wept with relief. And understanding. And a bit of nervousness for the ways this world might treat her. But, also, I wept with love and thanksgiving. I was so thankful to be given the opportunity to parent such a special girl. I was thankful that she was born into a family with a sense of humor and a fierce sense of protection for its members. I knew in that moment that Viola would be fine. More than fine, she would be amazing. She would be deeply loved and cherished by each of her siblings and by her parents and by all the members of our family.

Her differences don’t make her more special than my other children. They don’t make her more important. But they do make her a unique gift to our family. Each of my children have changed our family for the better in so many ways and though Viola may be smaller in size her gift to our family has been monumental. And I wouldn’t change a thing about our sweet girl.

*As of right now we are dealing with an undiagnosed skeletal dysplasia. We know she has some form of short-limbed dwarfism but testing has been inconclusive.

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Just a few hours after meeting Viola. I was exhausted but completely in love!

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Just minutes old, Viola meets her daddy for the first time.

Our sweet girl is one! Oh how we love her.

Our sweet girl is one! Oh how we love her.

Loss.

Mother’s intuition is a funny thing. When I discovered I was pregnant on Mother’s Day of this year I was beyond excited. We’ve wanted to add to our family for some time now but nursing a toddler has made things a bit irregular and I’ve not really been my usual fertile self. Either that or it has something to do with 34 having come knocking on my door this past birthday. I was thrilled when we finally got the positive pregnancy test but from the beginning I was more worried than usual. I didn’t feel quite right. I had the same symptoms I always have. Crushing exhaustion. Weird food aversions. A sea sick feeling. But there was something else. And I didn’t know quite what it was.

I convinced myself I was just being paranoid after my 9 week midwife appointment when it was confirmed that everything was going well. No problems on the horizon. Everything looked good. I let myself breathe a sigh of relief and began to really embrace this new little life. I started planning what cloth diapers to make. And room scenarios. I settled in for 9 months of nesting and I was thrilled.

But, this Monday I went in for a routine dating ultrasound and I had that bad feeling again. My mom, my husband, everyone I told thought I was just being paranoid. So I took a breath and believed them. And then as I was lying on the cold ultrasound table in the darkness of the room the tech seemed to get  a bit nervous. She suggested we switch from abdominal to vaginal ultrasound and I knew what was wrong. I knew that very second. I looked at the screen and watched as she discovered my small precious perfectly formed baby hover silently with no heartbeat. She turned on the doppler and I closed my eyes because I knew. When she asked if I would like her to tell me what she saw or if I would rather wait for the doctor to tell me I began to cry and my heart nearly buckled with the weight of my sadness. She didn’t have to tell me. I didn’t need a doctor to show me. I already knew what I had known the whole time. This baby was not going to be born into my arms. It was gone. And I was left feeling that terrible fullness of pregnancy with the knowledge that this baby was no longer living inside me.

The next hour was filled with information about how long ago the baby had passed (less than a week) and what to expect next. There were tissues and hugs from strangers and knowing looks from the women in the waiting room whose swollen bellies were the indisputable evidence of the life growing inside of them. And I smiled while I cried and thanked everyone for their kindness and went out to my car and wept. Because it was over.

I’ve been pregnant 7 times in the last 10 years. And this is my third miscarriage. Each of them is heartbreaking and sad. The first two were so early that nothing ever even had a chance to grow. They were gone nearly as soon as they had started. And with both I mourned the loss of what had never been. This time it’s a new mourning. A new and fresh sadness. This time I got to see my baby on screen. So small. So alone in the darkness of my womb and having died without me ever noticing he or she was gone. A silent, unseen, unheard tragedy. And I find myself wrestling with the guilt of knowing a child of mine died without me feeling it. And I feel sad. And at fault. And lonely. And crushed by the weight of it.

So now I wait. I wait for my body to process the loss that my heart is in the throes of feeling. I wait for the inevitable. And it hurts.

When you’re 9 months pregnant and waiting for labor every day you waking up scrutinizing each pang or twinge wondering if that is the feeling that will bring you to the moment you meet your little one face to face. And waiting to miscarry is a lot like that. Each minute I’m wondering is this the feeling? Is this it? Will this be the moment? Was that a cramp? Is it happening? And in the meantime I carry inside me the small and tender body of the baby that, had life moved differently, would have been another quirky member of the Loving clan. Would he or she have the same mischievous grin as Juni? Would this baby grow to be as stoic and tough as our Ivy? Would he or she share Traveler’s kooky sense of humor? Or Kai’s knack for philosophizing? I don’t know. And I won’t in this life. And the reality of it hits me every time I look into the dark brown eyes of one of my children. This, their brother or sister, will not sing silly songs with the rest of them. He or she will never snuggle up on the couch in my lap and ask to stay up past bedtime. There will be no family vacations or memories with this littlest member of our family. The memories begin and end here. Too brief. Too fleeting.

I wish I had a neat and perfect way to wrap up my post. Something about having peace in the midst of the storm. Or knowing there is a reason for everything. I do have moments of peace and I do believe there is a reason for everything, but it seems too simple to put that on top of this grief like a nice shiny Christian bow. I don’t doubt my God in this. I truly don’t. When my children ask why God would give us this baby only to let it die my only answer to them is an honest one. I don’t know. I likely never will. And sometimes having faith means terrible things will happen that will never make sense but that you choose to believe God is present through them. And that’s where I am today. And for now that’s as good as it gets.

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