Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Empathy Brownie

Claire typically has storytime at our local library Wednesday mornings while Benjamin is in school. The session just ended, so I invited over a mom who lives in my neighborhood for a playdate this morning.

Just as she was leaving and I was grabbing my things for preschool pickup, the phone rang. The school nurse called to inform me Benjamin had fallen and scraped his forehead, been cleaned up, given a bandage and an ice pack. Paperwork was added to his backpack about his fall and signs to look for in case of a concussion.

As he walked out of the school, I could tell he wasn't himself. He definitely had a goose egg and a scratch along with that bandage and ice pack. His backpack had the routine paperwork. We go to the park in front of his school every single day after school. Today, he said he wanted to go home. He reluctantly allowed Claire a few minutes of swing time and we were off. He didn't appear to have a concussion and no spoilers here (he didn't!). I assume he was both feeling a headache from his small head injury and also in an uncomfortable funk because he just hurt himself for the first time without Mommy present, had another (likely stranger) adult console him and another stranger (nurse) caring for him. He also probably felt embarrassed for having hurt himself at all and needing this attention.

Instead of going home so early, I figured we'd head to one of our favorite pizza places for a few slices. They love this place, especially because they have lollipops for the kids that they always choose as a treat when the meal is over.

We ordered and sat outside like we always do. Claire began to throw a fit. She was crawling on the table and screaming. And at that point, the wind was so strong that it was blowing our cups down. I schlepped our pizza and cups and napkins and stuff and two kids inside the restaurant and plopped down in a booth. Phew.

Claire continues the battle with no end. She's pulling me this way and that, grabbing at things, knocking down other things and insisting we move tables again. I helped her carry over her slice of pizza to another table and put it down. Then she promptly swoops it up and chucks it on the floor, face down, obviously. Luckily the cheese wasn't super melty, as it had plenty of time to cool off and coagulate at this point. It remained fully intact and the seemingly clean floor showed no signs of the fall.

I try to maintain some peace while tables of other patrons are eating their lunches, assuming they might get a break from the noise of the day. It wasn't so. I threw up the white flag and started grabbing our things, stacking our pizza for a quick exit, throwing away our full water cups, putting back condiments, stuffing excess stuff into the crevices of my purse and schlepping kids outside.

Another mom with her two kids stops me and hands me something (I had seen her purchasing at the counter). It was wrapped in a bag and she said, "You're doing great. I know those days. This is for you."

She handed me an empathy brownie.

And so we went home with a screaming baby who continued to tantrum for another half hour and throw food all over the (home) kitchen multiple times. And what happened to that pizza that landed face down? I peeled off and discarded the cheese (that touched the ground) that revealed the (untouched and buried) sausage and saucy crust of which I cut it into tiny pieces and fed to that angry baby. It's cleaner than the majority of the world has for lunch, I guess. #judgeme #goahead

Terrible twos, we welcome you again. Please be kind.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Here and Now

It's been almost a month since I've come to this space. I haven't had much time to read blogs, let alone write them. My head has been in so many places and this post is barely scratching the surface.

We had some good friends move yesterday. They're only 4 hours away, but they were a family who totally rallied around us when Andrew died. They were good (new) friends before, but morphed into great friends after. It's rare that loss can bring friendships closer, especially with those who haven't experienced any child loss themselves. They defied the odds on that one and we're abundantly grateful. They stayed with us the final five nights here in Illinois and it was so nice.

I drove in the direction of their former house today while running errands and was saddened by it all. We've lived here almost exactly 5.5 years and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel the itch to go. There's a lot in that statement, but mostly it's just being a nomad at heart and loving the adventure in life. Surely stability is immensely important for children and I get that. I married an adventurer and we love to explore. Having great friends move on to their new adventure doesn't help tame that spirit.

I've been working on a dresser for Claire's big girl room that's been painted white. I added crystal knobs and it's about 99% done. I just need to get a little sandpaper out for the drawers to fit just right. Blog reveal to come.

Benjamin's school is going incredibly well. We love his teacher and I attended his curriculum night a week ago. I had to fight back tears a number of times for so many reasons: Andrew, missing my career in the classroom and also because I was just so at ease that Benjamin was in the perfect place for him. We made the right choice.

We stay after school every day to play at the park in front of his school. It's convenient because I can bring a lunch, there are similar-aged school friends available to play, Claire can partake and I can get a little social time in with other adults. If we went straight home, we'd be isolated at home having lunch and there'd just be more crumbs in the dining room. One mom often shows up from across town to take her youngest just to the park because this particular park has a firetruck that he loves. (He even wears his firetruck shirt each time.) She's come enough times now that they starting packing a lunch just to eat with us. We either walk home with the stroller or drive home. If walking, we have a routine of stopping by at this disc swing on our way home that's hanging in one of my neighbor's side yard. And then it's off for home and nap and afternoon adventuring. This will all change when the cold weather sets in.

That's probably part of my interest to adventure and run; winter. I hate winter and I especially hate December. After August and the end of summer comes the -ber months of which start out nice and end cold and painful.

With this summer being so incredibly awesome having a perfect vacation, Benjamin growing out of his terrible-two-three-ness, Claire being big enough to walk and rally, Benjamin learning to swim, and taking advantage of the outdoors at every chance we can get, we're just not ready for it to end.

We decorated for Halloween a bit today and Benjamin ran around for a few hours in a costume I picked up this morning on a whim. At least October is looking promising.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Benjamin Babble V

Scene: Benjamin returning from the bathroom, appearing defeated.

B: "My body says no, I can't go poop. It's tricking me. It just says no."


Scene: Benjamin is upset at Claire for breaking the baby wipe he was using to clean.

B: {scolding} "Zero shows for you, Claire. That means no shows for you, Claire. No more broking my wipes, Claire."


B: {sniff} "You smell good. You smell fresh. I'm going to sit with you {pushes over chair}. When I want to sit with you, give me a little spot."
Me: {moves over a bit}
B: "Thank you for giving me a little space."


Scene: Driving in the car, chatting.

B: "I have long hair. I need to cut it. I need to comb it."
Me: "Does Claire have any hair?"
B: "Claire doesn't have any hair yet."
Me: "She doesn't?"
B: "I will get some more for her at the store."


Scene: Reading Benjamin a National Geographic Kid's Magazine and telling him Panda Bears are born without fur.

Me: "That means they have no hair when they are born."
{Pause, turn to the next page.}
B: "Claire Mae Wilson doesn't have any hair."


B: "You can sit in this chair, Mama. You are going to be a big boy soon."
Me: "Can I be a big girl instead?"
B: "You will be a big boy tomorrow. You will have a penis, okay?"


B: "You are not allowed to have these (beads) Claire. You put them in your mouth and that's not okay. You were not coperating (cooperating)."


Scene: Showing me a DVD that had a chewed up corner.

B: "Did Claire chewed on this?"
Me: "Probably."
B: {scolding} "Seriously, Claire? Don't chewed on this!"


Scene: Chatting in the car.

B: "Mommy has the same house and Daddy has the same house and Claire has the same house. All of my people have the same house!"


Scene: Driving to the park.

B: "You can't put skunscreen on us; it's a shaded park."


Scene: Chatting about the rain outside. It went from nothing to bucketing.

B: "We better close our windows. It will rain on our head and we will not get hunky anymore and we will cry, cry, cry."

... {minutes later, stops raining}

B: "It's not raining anymore. It stopped raining. Maybe it went on vacation."


Scene: Random chatting while driving somewhere.

B: "If you go in the street, a car will hit you and you will have to go to the dentist and you will have problems."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

He said it.

We had friends over this morning for a water table and outdoor flour paint playdate. My friend has a daughter Claire's age and her second daughter passed away nearly three weeks ago, an hour after she was born premature. We were on the deck and the kids were playing away.

There was a conversation about friends who continued to be pregnant at a similar gestation after our children died and how it's still hard seeing them, and for me, seeing their living child growing and learning. I said something along the lines of "When Andrew died..." because that's what happened and that's often the segway into a story about emotions and grief.

A minute or so later, Benjamin turns from what he was playing with and said, "Did Andrew die, Mommy?"

"Yes, Benjamin, Andrew died."

A couple hours later, Elliot came home for lunch with us (rare treat!). About 10 minutes into our casual lunch and lots of cuddles, Benjamin told Elliot, "Andrew died." It was totally out of the blue, but it's true and Benjamin now knows it.

We hadn't withheld this information before. I'm sure we've explained to him that he died, but we didn't explain what dying actually means, because that's too abstract for a child so young who hasn't personally experienced it with a close family member. He knows he has a brother and that his brother was born before him. He sees his pictures in our home regularly and even picked up his ashes the other day (cue the anxiety). He knows that he is in heaven, but what does that even mean for a child of three-and-a-half years old?

Well. He said it. I wonder what that really means to him and I wonder when more questions will come. Regardless, I'm proud to be a mom who shares love and heartbreak with her kids. After all, it's because of love that heartbreak exists and that itself is beautiful.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The New School Park Experience

Benjamin starts at a brand new preschool on Tuesday. Four days a week this time. I'm stoked. He's stoked. He's mostly stoked because he gets chocolate milk every day (and he'll tell you that). It's probably his favorite drink ever and when I noticed about three-quarters of the kids in his class also signed up for chocolate milk, I knew there was no chance I was getting away with signing him up for the white milk. He wouldn't drink it anyway. It's going to be great leverage for those rough mornings.

We went to preview day last week. After, the kids played at the park in front of his preschool. People slowly trickled out until there were about 4 kids left. I was nearby when a kid asked his mom to get on the other side of the see-saw. It was one of those newfangled ones that is on springs and didn't require leg work. Super chill. When she replied that she couldn't, I explained that I go on it frequently with my kids and it's so much nicer than most. She replied, "No, I just had a baby."

I rescinded my comment. Of course I wouldn't be getting on that thing either (and probably shouldn't have said anything). Through further conversation with the mom, I learned that she was a surrogate for a (stranger) family an hour away. She has two biological children and then carried another baby to term, all vaginally. She plans to have more kids of her own.

I found myself instantly uncomfortable. Jealous even. It was entirely directed at her innocence in birthing babies and understanding that there is an absolute living birth at the end. Maybe she doesn't entirely believe that, but I'm sure birthing a full term deceased baby wasn't in the forefront of her mind when she considered surrogacy. I told her about Andrew because I felt like leveling the playing field when she told me she birthed three babies. ME TOO. That, and I just talk about him because he's mine.

One thing we had in common: We both had breastmilk arrive a few days after birth. I asked her how that went. She told me it wasn't a big deal and just went away after a few days. She did mention that it felt weird because she breastfed her two boys, but was otherwise fine. That milk devastated me. In common, but NOT same-same.

I'm so grateful for surrogates and have friends who have used them to bring children into their families. I just never actually spent time talking with one. I didn't realize my emotions would be so involved and my grief would play any sort of role.

School is going to be an eye opener for the both of us, I presume. Kleenex ready.