Category: family (page 2 of 10)

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. ūüôā

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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 fairly large 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. Like each of my kids, 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.

*UPDATED: In August of 2015, after a trip to see the (amazing, awesome, wonderful) Dr. Bober at DuPont Hospital we were given Viola’s diagnosis of Hypochondroplasia. You can read more about that here.

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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.

My week. A recap so I remember it all…

This will be boring for those of you who don’t care to obsessively follow the goings on of my kids & family. But one of the reasons I love to blog is so I remember everything 5 years from now. Or, to be honest, even 5 months from now. It is amazing how the beautiful moments slip by disguised as the mundane…

So, this week:

Juni discovered the joy that is Southern Fried Chicken. And boy did she go to town.

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And Kai begged me for some new “church” shoes. And she didn’t get them. (She was serious BTW. Pray for me.)

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Traveler continued his obsession with preschool street art. He finds it impossible NOT to leave this on each and every cart that comes within walking distance of him and a smiley face sticker. Never fails to send all of us into fits of hysterical giggles.

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Kai and Ivy arranged an in-house lunch date for Thomas and I. They surprised us with warming up leftovers, pouring soda into wine glasses, turning on romantic music (Jack Johnson of course!) and then also turning on a recorded show about Great White Shark attacks. It was hilarious. And adorable. And the chips and salsa with chips set directly on the tablecloth (which was actually a blanket that had been laying in the floor five minutes prior to this table setting) was too sweet not to make note of for posterity.

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Lord, how I do love these precious children of mine. So thankful for the blessing of these wild and crazy and creative and spirited little people. I pray I never forget to be thankful for these moments.

Random pics from our homestead…

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Sensory Boxes: A cautionary tale

I love sensory boxes. Really, I do. But, apparently it has taken me four kids to realize that sensory boxes are not intended to be utilized without adult supervision. Or at least not inside. Here’s to 16 ounces of Penne pasta all over my kitchen. At least they had fun doing it. : )

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Summer Rite of Passage – The Lemonade Stand

A couple of weeks ago the girls came up with a list of things they wanted to accomplish this summer. Of course, at the top of the list was “Have a lemonade stand.” They have been wanting to have one for a year now. And so…

SUCCESS!

On turning 33…

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My many blessings…

Yesterday was my 33rd birthday. And the end of birthday season in the Loving family. It’s quite an exhausting and expensive season. Between March 25th and May 23rd we have no less than 7 birthdays in our family- 5 of which are in our little family alone. It’s a marathon for sure.

By the time we get to my birthday we are usually worn out and tight on cash. It’s just par for the course. Throw in a beach vacation that went a little over budget and you have a 33rd birthday without too much fanfare. My usual reaction to this has been to passive aggressively play the martyr. There I admitted it. I act like a baby. Oh, poor me! I don’t have a big spectacular birthday! Boohoo.

Something changed this year and I hope it means I’m finally growing up. Or gaining perspective. Because it felt good not to act like a total baby about it for once. It felt nice to have a good attitude and to be happy with my day no matter how simple it was. There is something so empowering about peace.

For years and years I’ve had an inner war with my underlying materialism. It’s partly why I love embracing the hippie Earth mama ideology. It helps me break out from materialism. But it is a struggle. Probably always will be to some extent. How can you live in our culture of rampant consumerism and not be tempted to want want want more than you need?

But yesterday I was putting my littlest ones down for a nap (which sometimes entails snuggling up in bed with one or more of them until they/I fall asleep) and I was laying there with my babies and hearing the soft rhythmic breath of the deep sleepers and listening to my big girls play happily in the other room with their dolls and I realized something. I am happy with what I have. I am happy with a simple day and simple joys. I am happy to have a small house with a big life. I am happy. It was the perfect birthday present to myself. How could I not be happy with my blessings? How could I not love this season of life?

I realized that lamenting having to sacrifice an elaborate birthday would essentially be saying that having these babies in my life is worth less than the new purse or shoes or sunglasses I would have gotten if we didn’t have so many little ones and their birthdays to celebrate. And the truth? My simple birthday with a home cooked meal and birthday brownies and hours spent cuddling my littles was 1000 times better than any store bought birthday present I could have gotten. It fills a place in my soul no material pleasure could.

Last night after snuggling up on the couch with my husband and watching a movie he asked me if I was disappointed that my birthday wasn’t more “exciting.” For once I could answer with 100% truth that I wasn’t disappointed. I could say with all honesty that my heart was full and I was completely content. My life is not exciting to most and it isn’t filled with glamour but it is good. And it is great. And it is everything I want it to be right now. Realizing that was a gift on my 33rd birthday. It was, perhaps, my most valuable gift ever.

Summer Days…

There is nothing quite so wonderful after a busy season than a trip to the beach where you have absolutely nothing to do. And last week we got to do exactly that.

We spent 5 fantastically uneventful days down at Amelia Island just connecting as a family and enjoying our time with each other. There were no fancy meals. Every day was spent barefoot and in the sand. And there wasn’t a single day on the trip that Thomas and I both didn’t get a long, glorious afternoon nap. It was good for our souls.

The kids loved the lazy days and playing in the surf and we loved that since it was the week before most schools get out we didn’t have a crowd of battle for the best spots in the sun. It was just the most ideal vacation for this season of our life. And, as a bonus, we got to celebrate Mother’s Day down at the beach where I was spoiled with breakfast in bed, cards, drawings, flowers, and a fun vintage silk scarf. It was, in a word, dreamlike.

We took a few pictures on the beach for Mother’s Day and even though I know on a daily basis how blessed I am to have these kiddos there is something so concrete about photos that makes me see my blessings frozen in time and my heart soar all the more. It is when I look at these pictures that I realize just how at home I am as a mother and how happy I am to have so many little ones who depend on me and who love me and who make my Mother’s heart whole. I never quite feel so complete as when I have a lap full of children. I am a mother through and through. It is my life’s calling. After 8 years and plenty of momentary lapses with self-image, I know that now. A mother is who I am. No matter what else I will be in my life I am at my core the mother of my children and for that I am eternally grateful. There is nothing I would rather be.

Today was the last day of our “official” homeschool year (though we do a scaled back version of school all summer long) and I am ready for long days in the backyard with sprinklers and kiddie pools and popsicles at the end of long afternoons. I am ready to see my children brown from the sun and tuckered out in their pajamas and watching movies into the night. Summer days are such fun days and even more exciting, I think, when you get to see them on the other side of adulthood. Every year since my kids began school, summer has felt like this long amazing stretch of possibility. There are so many things I look forward to filling their days with – even if 90% of those days are spent simply enjoying childhood. So, now is the time to enjoy the blank canvas of summer possibility and all the fun that promises to be lurking over the horizon.

I wish that those days will be filled with light and joy and fun and laughter and sticky popsicle fingers and freckles and big smiles. I wish that for each of my kids. And I wish that for each of you…

Oh, yeah, and just because I can’t get enough of these kiddos I’m leaving you with some pics of my babies from the beach. You’re welcome, Mom and G-ma! : )

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