Bravery

My theme for the year, 2016, is “Bravery.” I will explain one of the reasons I chose this theme in this post. Other reasons I chose this theme, I will disclose at another time.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do. The first step is giving ourselves permission to show up.” -Brene Brown, The Daring Way.

I continue to wrestle with how much of my story, my experiences, my life and thoughts, I should share in a public forum. It’s always a vulnerable experience to click “publish” after writing a post.

The experience I am going to share in this post feels particularly vulnerable and I’ve thought about my motivations behind wanting to publish it or not. And I decided I wanted to express it in a public way because of the quote I shared at the beginning of this post. In the last six months, I’ve had experiences I feel, perhaps not ready, but willing to talk about. These experiences are part of my story and giving voice to those experiences is one of the ways I practice self-compassion as well as a way I can “show up” in my life. Giving voice to these experiences also is a way for me to honor those experiences and validate my own reactions.

So without any more preamble, I will directly address what I am alluding to: Within the last six months, I have had three miscarriages.

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Trying for another child feels incredibly vulnerable and brave for us.

I know the last time I talked on the blog about planning our family, I believe I shared that we were in a “holding pattern” per-say, of “not deciding” whether to have more children. The tide slowly shifted as we worked through a lot of our reasons for not wanting to have more children. I also recognized that I don’t have all the time in the world to sit on the fence about this as I continue to just get older (turning 34 next month) and my girls continue to grow up.

In August, I expressed willingness to start trying for another baby but did not expect that within that same month, I would be pregnant! It took us 7 months to get pregnant with Cami so I was more than shocked when my period didn’t come as expected. However, a little over a week later, that pregnancy turned into a miscarriage. I noticed with the first miscarriage, I felt relieved. I had barely begun to wrap my head and heart around the idea of trying for another baby and felt overwhelmed that it would become a reality so soon. While I felt relief, I also felt increased awareness that I do want another baby.

So we kept trying.

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I won’t go into many details of the next two miscarriages. I’ll just say that even with the help of prescribed progesterone, both pregnancies were lost at six weeks.

This last one has been the hardest emotionally and physically. In many ways I’m really grateful I miscarried early, before I got too attached. But I did get attached to my little blastocycsts. I could feel my body react and change to their presence, preparing itself to grow a baby. And then I’d suddenly stop feeling those symptoms and within a couple days the bleeding would start.

I feel confused. I feel like something is wrong with my body that I would have three miscarriages in a row; especially when I was given added progesterone to support the most recent pregnancies. I’ve had a miscarriage before these three, but my body has been able to grow and sustain and give birth to three live babies…so what is different now? Will we figure out what is different/wrong? Will we be able to fix it? Will I be able to carry another pregnancy to term?

I feel sad. I feel like life just keeps reminding me that I don’t get to plan my life the way I want. I feel sad that I keep accumulating more losses. I feel tempted in moments to throw myself a well-deserved pity party. These miscarriages bring up my grief for Charlie and that is painful.

I feel upset. I feel upset that life continues to be unfair. The self-righteous part of me protests that we’ve already gone through more than any parent should be asked to go through so we deserve to have a continuous flow of blessings, when and how we want them! (Yes I hear how pretentious I sound) Or at worst, we shouldn’t have to keep feeling hurt and keep losing. While I am upset, and I believe those upset feelings are completely valid, I also know that I am blessed that I have been able to give birth to three babies that I have been able to cuddle and kiss. That’s three more than a lot of people get the opportunity to have.

I feel existential angst. These miscarriages trigger all my questions about God and whether He’s involved in our lives or not and if so, how much? Is He to blame for my miscarriages? Does He want us to have more kids? Is there any meaning in the miscarriages? Or should I refrain from giving God credit and recognize that something is going on with my body that we need to figure out? Should I pray and ask that we can get pregnant? Will that help at all? I have certainly learned through losing Charlie, that I can’t control God…but it also makes me hesitant to ask Him for anything. It feels too vulnerable. Why are we encouraged, as Christians, to express gratitude for anything positive in our lives and call them blessings from God, but refrain from blaming Him for bad things that happen? How to we reconcile that? It certainly causes me to have serious attachment issues and want to withdraw.

I also continue to feel hope. While three miscarriages in close succession has been pretty hard emotionally, I’m not down for the count. Not by a long shot. I actually feel like we’re at the beginning of another journey and we need to seek answers. We meet with my OB in a little over a week to discuss where to go from here. I imagine we’ll likely pursue seeing a fertility specialist at this point as well.

In the meantime, I’m trying to stay present in my life. I’m trying to appreciate more each moment with my girls, engage in those things I value, and practice mindfulness and self-compassion.
We’ll see how this journey progresses. While I know we won’t have a new little Packard in our arms this 2016, I am determined to make amazing memories and have great adventures this year!

 

Freeze Time

IMG_0374To be honest, I never understood why parents would say, “I want to freeze time.” I don’t recall if I’ve ever said out loud that I’ve wanted to freeze time before. But it’s possible those words have left my lips due to covert social pressures and my desires to appear like I relate to other parents and their positively gooey experiences of parenthood. I feel as a parent you are “supposed” to want to freeze time…like all the time. And I hear people say it around me all the time.  But if I did say it out loud, I was lying! I’ve enjoyed stages my kids have passed, and found them to be super adorable, but I never really experienced a time where my heart just pleaded for my kids to stop growing up…until now.

I absolutely love the ages of Hailee and Cami right now. It is such a joy to witness all that Hailee is learning, both in school and also in her extracurriculars and just as a little girl emerging! Hailee is loving and happy, and while we still worry about her academically and socially, she seems to be doing really well in her life right now. She is passionate about tumbling and enjoys swimming. She loves playing with her little sister and eagerly asks for playdates with friends all the time. While reading is still a little bit of a struggle for her, Hailee has made amazing progress and reading time at night doesn’t involve tears anymore! I am also loving making memories cuddling with Hailee at bedtime, closing an Ivy and Bean book after finishing a chapter and Hailee begging for me to read just a couple pages more. Hailee lost her first tooth after Christmas and has two more wiggly teeth. She is absolutely thrilled to have loose teeth and I just want to cry. One evening as she was wiggling her teeth I got sad and exclaimed, “I don’t want you to lose more teeth and grow up!” And Hailee looked at me and responded, “But I want to grow up, just like you and eat a lot of chocolate.” Hmm…interesting feedback I should think more about sometime.

Cami is a fiesty love bug. She can be exhausting and demanding but she is also so sweet and her giggles just make my day. She is talking more and more and loves to be included with everything going on around her. It’s fun to take her to activities, like reading time at the library, and witness how she is on the cusp of grasping social concepts (obeying instructions, interacting with other kids, etc) but also continues to look a little bewildered and nervous. I love her always looking to me as her safe base as she tries to navigate new situations like this. I love that all it takes to make Cami happy, is to spin her around and around in circles. Although, beware, she can do this all day and before you even stop spinning she exclaims, “No done!” Cami still ends up in our bed every night but to be honest, I love this. I love snuggling her, even though she actually prefers to snuggle her dad.

I love how, more now than ever, Hailee and Cami are little friends. Cami loves to wake up “Hays” each morning and Hailee always turns the TV on for Cami and puts on shows Cami prefers, even if they aren’t the shows Hailee would want to watch. I kind of love and hate that the Disney Jr. Sofia the First song plays in my head most of the day (“I was a girl in the village, doing alright. Then I became a princess over night…”) I love how Hailee and Cami chase each other around, build and play in forts, giggle, tumble, and have tickle fights. I love how often each day I hear Hailee exclaim, “Come on Cami!”as she urges Cami to join her on some activity or adventure. Now, Cami is a little bully and sometimes puts Hailee in tears by hitting or throwing things at her, but I love how Hailee never reciprocates. And while she may bully Hailee, Cami adores Hailee and misses her when she leaves for school each day, asking multiple times throughout the day, “Hays back home?” Hailee is a wonderful older sister and I love the sweet relationship these two have with each other.

I am realizing that this “freeze time” concept doesn’t mean one’s life is perfect in the moment or stress free. There is still plenty of daily yelling and whining and tears. I am still exhausted every night from the daily parenting marathon. But life right now is beautiful in all its imperfections, stress and mundane. Parenting continues to feel hard, but it feels like parenting is moving beyond a custodial job into something more substantial and overall, enjoyable. It sounds so cheesy but my heart aches with love when I look at my girls. I want to squeeze them and smother them in kisses and enjoy the endless snuggles they offer. I want to enjoy the last few months of Cami in diapers and footie pajamas, and Hailee with her loose baby teeth, disheveled hair, and mismatched outfits. I want to record the soundtrack of the literal “pitter patter of tiny feet” that I get to hear every day, and the joy and happy sound of my girls calling, “Mom!” and “Momma!” For the first time as a parent, I feel I really want to “freeze time” and just stay in this time, this moment of life, for as long as possible.

Grieving chronicles continued

IMG_0016 Grief still comes unexpectedly and unbidden. In my head, I realize I should have expected some grief waves this last week as we approach Charlie’s 4th birthday tomorrow, but they still blindsided me.

I think they blindsided me by how powerful they felt. I haven’t felt a grief contraction that strong in at least half a year, if not more. I felt so overwhelmed with grief that my heart and chest physically hurt and I felt like I wanted to throw up.

On Sunday I felt grief overpowering me and I decided I needed to retreat up to my reservoir where I could ponder and cry if I needed to. Hailee wanted to join me, as hiking together is a favorite pastime for us. I told her that I was going up the reservoir to be sad and think about Charlie. Hailee said she understood if I wanted to be alone (although not wanting her to come obviously hurt her feelings) but she offered to come and be sad with me. She said we could cry together and say a prayer for Charlie. Bless her tender little 6 year old heart! I realized that I didn’t need to exclude Hailee from my grief and that perhaps it would be meaningful to allow her to witness my sadness and be a part of it. So I allowed her to come.

On the hike up to the reservoir, Hailee held my hand the whole time. She warmed my heart as she spontaneously started talking about how much she loves her body. She talked about loving her legs, arms and hands for all that they let her do.

When we got up the reservoir, we had the whole place to ourselves. We walked down to the water, now mostly ice, and went in search of some ducks to feed with our stale bread. We found three of them. Hailee giggled watching them trip and skid across the ice after her broken bread chunks. And I loved watching her and just felt so grateful for the light she is in my life.

IMG_9972While I went up to the reservoir with the intention to cry and grieve, I ended up enjoying myself with Hailee. We went on an adventure, walking on the outskirts of the reservoir and breaking through ice. We screamed when our shoes fell into deep mud. Hailee threw chunks of broken ice across the pond, over and over, and listened to the fascinating whistle sound the ice made as it slid on top of the frozen water.

FullSizeRender(7)Hailee pretended to ice-skate with her tennis shoes and giggled as she slipped and fell repeatedly.

IMG_0010This experience felt beautiful to me. I felt present with Hailee. I felt present with the beauty that surrounded us. I loved the sun on my face and the cold, clean wind that whipped down the canyon and filled my lungs. I loved the sensation of Hailee’s hand in mine, totally trusting and totally connected to me.

I’m amazed over and over again how complex emotions and experiences can be, and simultaneously so simple and unadulterated. I am impressed how you can feel more than one emotion at once, including emotions that seem like opposites. I still felt sad and miss my little boy, but my heart also felt happy and grateful. As I reflect on this experience with Hailee, two words come to mind: tender and beautiful. I think Charlie would feel happy knowing Hailee and I made a good memory together in remembrance of him.

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Kindness for Charlie 2015 beginnings

Kindess for Charlie this year is having a little bit of a rough start.

I’m very enthusiastic to start thinking of and executing small and not-so-small service projects in honor of Charlie’s birthday coming up in less than a month. I love this tradition as it helps me feel that I am giving gifts to my angel son, when he isn’t here to unwrap birthday presents himself.

This year I really want to get Hailee more involved. I feel like she’s at an age where she could grasp the concept of service more and in my fantasy world, she’d be super enthusiastic to do good for others and brighten their days! I keep bringing up with her that we should make a list of service activities we can do…but her enthusiasm is less than desired.

No matter. I figured for sure, if we started on one project, Hailee would catch the spirit of service. For our first project, I chose an awesome service opportunity: Operation Christmas Child. Perfect! Hailee could choose gifts to fill a shoe-box for an underprivileged girl, just her age, in another country! I really talked this up and tried to communicate to Hailee how happy this will make some little girl in need.

I also planned on doing two more shoe boxes: one for a boy Charlie’s age and one for a girl Cami’s age.

I took the girls with me to Target this week to pick out toys and other items to put in the shoe boxes. Almost immediately upon entering Target both girls started clamoring for what they wanted for themselves (Cami shouting for a Barbie and Hailee asking for almost anything in sight). I reminded Hailee we were shopping for an underprivileged  girl for Christmas, to which she became very grumpy and responded, “But why?  Santa will go to her house too!” Hmm, good point Hailee…how do I get around that?

As we shopped, Hailee and I both became very frustrated. Hailee was melting because I wasn’t letting her get toys for herself, and me because Hailee was just being self-centered and entitled. Cami, I didn’t expect to have any idea about what was going on and she was content enough as I let her put a Barbie in the cart (sorry Cami, Barbie will be sent away in a shoebox to someone else but I’ll let you think it’s for you! Muhahaha).

The shopping trip was miserable. Hailee did pick out some items for her shoe box, but the items she chose, she chose largely without more than a cursory glance. But I kept them because I wanted Hailee to feel ownership of the project and know that a little girl is getting toys that she chose for her. I hope a little girl in an underprivileged country will like getting a Lego Friends kit of an airplane with flight attendants! Will that little girl even know what an airplane is? Oh well.

In the end, I ended up allowing Hailee to get one small present for herself…a reward she certainly didn’t deserve and I regret giving. But I also was desperate for her to want to do service and is it manipulative to reward her for doing service?

While I found myself quite frustrated, even angry, with Hailee for being so self-centered, another voice in my head said, “the person you should feel frustrated with is yourself.” Hailee is just six. If she’s self-centered, that’s because we have spoiled her. It’s not like she will intrinsically get the joy of service. And it’s my job to teach her.

But how?! How do I help Hailee be less spoiled and more thoughtful?

I’m going to keep trying to keep Hailee involved in Kindness for Charlie 2015. Maybe I need to make her service projects more directly concrete and observable. Maybe she can’t grasp that somewhere, in another part of the world, she is helping a little girl without toys or even a soft bed to sleep in. Maybe I need to focus on helping her do service for people we interact with and see on a daily basis? I’m open to ideas here!

While Kindness for Charlie is off to a little rocky start, I’m excited to send these shoe boxes to brighten Christmas for three little children in need! And as we dropped the boxes off to a church in Salt Lake to be delivered, I could tell Hailee felt good about being a part of something so special.

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Barbie power

I strongly, strongly (border on hate) Barbie. I haven’t always felt this way. In fact, I can recall a good number of hours playing with my own Barbies growing up. While I was never a “doll” person, I have fond memories cutting Barbie’s hair, dressing her up, and making up pretty lame play stories with redundant themes.

My dislike for Barbie came as an adult when I became aware of the ubiquitous covert messages bombarding our girls about gender roles and unrealistic body image expectations. All you have to do is spend 30 minutes watching the NickJr TV station and wait for the advertisements, or walk down the toy isles at Target and Walmart, to gain a testimony of what I’m saying. And I’m not just being sensitive about this. There is research to back up what I am saying. And people might think these messages are harmless, but they aren’t. And Barbie is at the center of these covert, negative messages. Even if supposedly her body was designed the way it is so she could be easily dressed and undressed, there is research reporting that Barbie damages girl’s body image and increase their risk for disordered eating or eating disorders. And since treating eating disorders and negative body image is what I do professionally, you can imagine how much I care about this topic.

I am really trying to create an environment in my home that embraces a healthy body image, a healthy relationship with food, and unconditional positive regard. While I know I can’t keep all of the worldly messages out of my home, I am doing my best. For example, Hailee thinks the “F” word is “Fat” and knows that we don’t use that word in our home. And we speak positively about our bodies and all types of food. I try to have an inclusive diet for my kids that involves all food types (from fruits and veggies to cheese and ice-cream) and model that food choices are based on likes and dislikes, not bad vs good food. For example, Hailee knows I eat chocolate everyday but that I don’t eat ice-cream much because I simply don’t like it. I also never speak negatively about my body and when talking about attributes with my daughters, I try to emphasize their qualities and personalities over looking “cute.” I’m not perfect at how I am navigating this ideal but it is something important to me that I am continuously working on.

I know I spent too many years feeling poorly about myself and objectifying my own body instead of valuing it, loving it, honoring it, and taking care of it. I deeply don’t want my girls to have that experience. I want them to be able to see how absolutely incredible they are, exactly as they are!

Ok, so back to Barbie. Because fate loves irony, my two year old has developed a strong obsession with Barbie! I seemed to mostly escape the Barbie craze with Hailee. Hailee’s not much of a doll person so while she asked for Barbie dolls, she was never too heartbroken when I refused to have Barbie dolls in the home. She settled for Barbie band-aids. And when Hailee has gotten a Barbie or two as gifts, they have mostly lain untouched on shelves or in boxes gathering dust.

But Cami, on the other hand…wow. I didn’t think two year olds were old enough to be interested in, let alone obsessed with Barbie! Barbie isn’t even intended for children under three! But Cami has fallen madly in love with the idea of Barbie and will throw hour long (not exaggerating), daily, fits begging to watch Barbie on TV. She pulls my legs, my shirts, whines and cries incessantly. “Barbie! Barbie! Want Barbie!” I try to distract her with playing other things, like building towers, or playing a picnic, and the distraction may work, but only temporarily. Her whining and obsession has been so grating on me the last month! And I know we have been randomly reinforcing her tantrums through occasionally giving in and letting her watch an episode of Barbie on Netflix (the dumbest show in existence). Seriously, watch some Barbie episodes on netflix (not to be confused with the Barbie movies) and you will feel your IQ get lower over the span of 20 minutes. The Barbie movies are slightly better and can even have some strong female themes (e.g. Three Musketeer Barbie) but I don’t want to rent Barbie movies much more than I want to let Cami watch the Netflix episodes.

Let me just say, it’s been a struggle this last month. Not only has Cami been difficult emotionally with all her tantrums and whining, but it’s felt particularly difficult given that she is throwing tantrums for Barbie! Why can’t she throw tantrums for Sesame Street? Or Doc McStuffins? Or basically anything but Barbie?!

I have heard that the more you resist or don’t allow something in your home, it can backfire. In other words, I know that if I don’t navigate this carefully, Cami may idealize Barbie and want her even more than she already does. I’m also trying to be mindful that perhaps I am giving Barbie too much power and making too big of a deal over her myself. It’s as if Cami and I are in this epic game of tug of war, with our heels dug deep and neither of us winning.

So today I made a choice. I took Cami to Target and let her pick out her first Barbie doll. She chose a combo packet of Barbie and her little sister Chelsea and I was pleasantly surprised it was under $20. This is the first Barbie I have bought…I think ever. Any other Barbie that has entered our home has been a gift from others. And those have been few and far between since I think most of our friends know how I feel about her.

Cami has been playing with her new Barbie and Chelsea since we picked them up and seems very content with her new dolls. I am praying having Barbie dolls to play with, will decrease the amount of time she wants to watch Barbie on TV. I’d rather her start playing with her imagination than zoning out in front of a TV, even if that imaginary play includes Barbie.

This is my attempt to stop the tug of war and drop my end of the rope. By allowing Barbie in my home, I am hoping she loses the power she seems to have over Cami and Barbie will become just another toy and this will be just another phase. This is also my attempt to not take everything so seriously and let a toy, at times, be just a toy, and not part of a grander conspiracy to make our daughters have low self-esteem and develop eating disorders.

We’ll see how this goes…

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Hailee’s first nemesis

Hailee has accomplished  and grown  a lot this summer. In the past few weeks she has mastered (mostly) the art of riding on two wheels.

IMG_7117Hailee had some fear this spring and summer as we tried to get her riding a two wheeled bike. We were confused because Hailee is very athletic and she had been looking forward to learning to ride her bike for months! We discovered she was afraid because her bike was too big for her. When we borrowed a smaller two wheeler from a neighborhood friend, Hailee took off, literally! She required hardly any help and has been eagerly cruising ever since. We will start working our way up to bigger bikes soon.

At least that was the plan until Hailee met her first nemesis: the monkey bars.

Conquering the monkey bars has been an accomplishment for Hailee this last year, and now she crosses them with ease and confidence. In fact, she boasts that she is one of the few kids at school (in first grade) that can do all THREE sets of monkey bars on the playground. Hailee’s middle name could be “monkey” as she climbs on anything and everything she can.

IMG_7062And since Hailee has become super adept at monkey bars, we’ve stopped being vigilant about helping her…and watching her.

Yesterday, while at the park riding bikes, Hailee wanted to play on the playground for a few minutes before we went home. We had decided to head home prematurely as it began to lightly rain. But the rain was tolerable so we thought we’d let the girls play just a few more minutes.

Well it didn’t cross our minds that rain=slippery monkey bars. And Hailee’s fate was sealed.

Chad and I were talking to our friend when we heard a thunk and then Hailee came running over, screaming her head off and crying. Her arm was hanging limply at her side and she screamed over and over, “I can’t feel my arm!”

When she said that, I thought she might have dislocated her shoulder but quickly ascertained it was fine. We also thought (wrongly) that Hailee was being dramatic. I scooped her up and held her but she continued to cry and talk about how much her arm hurt.

Once in the car she asked to go see the doctor. If you know Hailee, she never wants to see the doctor…ever. This combined with her blood drained face, convinced me to take her to kids care (urgent care for kids).

On our way, Hailee tearfully asked me, “Can you pray for me?” That just melted my heart and of course we said a little prayer all together. She also said she wanted me to accompany her to the doctor because, “Mom calms me.” When she said this my mind flashed to all my historic unsuccessful attempts at calming her in the doctor’s office, but I’m glad she sees me as a source of comfort and someone who can help soothe her!

Once at kids’ urgent care, the on-call doctor checked Hailee’s arm and ordered an x-ray.

IMG_7123 IMG_7126 IMG_7130It was from the x-ray that we learned that Hailee had indeed, broken her arm…both her ulna and radius, close to where the bones meet her wrist. Luckily the break was small, and I guess technically termed a “fracture.” And luckily it is her left arm so she can still complete school work and (most importantly) play Minecraft.

After some ibuprofen, Hailee felt better and was actually pretty excited at the prospect of wearing a cast. She has a temporary cast right now and we will follow up with an orthopedic doctor next week to see if she needs a hard cast.

IMG_7135Today the novelty and “excitement” of having a broken arm is completely worn off. Hailee has some pain and is strongly opposed to her cast. In her words (tears streaming down her face) “I hate having a broken arm! I hate this cast! And I have to wear it for a really long time! Like four or five days!” Chad and I didn’t correct her and tell her it will likely be at least four or five weeks.

Which is a bummer because that means Hailee will miss all of her soccer season, a big chunk of swim team, and might have to opt out of tumbling this fall (I might have over-scheduled her). I hope, for Hailee’s sake, she gets a hard cast so she can at least enjoy having people draw on and sign her cast, and get some positive attention from peers in the flavor of, “ooh, you’re cool because you broke your arm!”

I feel like we are passing another childhood milestone. Hailee may be the last of her peers to lose any teeth but she is the first to break to a bone! And everyone wants a broken bone story to tell in their lives, right?

Nanny transitions…again

This summer our nanny of over a year, Erica, gave us her notice. She graduated from the University of Utah and found full-time employment. We were so sad to see her leave, but we understand that being a nanny is rarely a long-term gig for anyone.
After she gave her notice, we began the grueling, anxiety provoking search for a new nanny. We interviewed way more nannies than we ever have in the past. Each time a nanny came to our house I was filled with both hope, excitement, as well as anxiety and slight feelings of nausea. I wanted to have a “love at first sight” experience where I open the door where my heart just KNOWS that this woman is SUPPOSED to be our nanny! But the interviews proved to be more like first dates and ending with feelings of, “She might work…but I don’t know.”
On the other side, there are also the feelings of insecurity, hoping these nanny applicants would want to work for us, just as much as we’d want to hire them. We offered the position to three applicants who all turned us down. I was quite flummoxed with this experience as we pay quite competitively for our nannies, we are decently flexible and reasonable, our previous nannies love us and loved working for us, and our girls are sweet! Of course everyone has to do what is best for them and I understand our family might not be the best fit for everyone.
We wanted someone to fall in love with our girls and see this position as more than a job; but rather a meaningful opportunity to be part of a child’s life. To facilitate feelings of desire to care for our girls, I’d brush their hair and wipe their faces (a rarity) and pray they’d be cute and adoring when these nannies showed up. If cute and adoring counted as crawling all over potential nannies, or hiding from them completely, then our girls passed with soaring colors!
Eventually we did find someone: Zoe. She came as a personal referral from a friend (way better than Care.com), lives locally, and her references raved about her. The initiation with a new nanny is always stressful (especially after that awful experience where that nanny quit after 24 hours). So far, we’ve had Zoe for over 2 weeks now and it seems to be going well! Our girls really like her and she seems to like them. She is active and likes to take the girls places. She is also good about upholding boundaries so the girls don’t get away with murder. She is also responsive to feedback from us. She is on time and seems pretty responsible. I’m getting my hopes up more and more that Zoe might be with us for awhile!
IMG_6944I feel like childcare has a lot of power to make or break my own experience with working. When we have someone we trust and is reliable and nurturing with our children, I feel at ease and more confident as I leave for work in the morning. I thrive when this is the situation. But when our caregiver is sick, unreliable, or even worse, when we have to find a new caregiver, my level of stress increases exponentially. These moments remind me of the scripture, “No man can serve two masters.” When childcare is stressful, I feel immense guilt. Guilt because I can’t please or meet the needs of everyone asking demands of me: my children, my employers, and my clients. I am less effective at work as a result of this stress, guilt and anxiety, and have a shorter fuse at home when I’m with my kids.

Part of the struggle of finding care is the feeling that NO ONE is good enough. And that’s true. No one is ME. But I know the childcare we find is serving an essential role of helping ME become the BEST ME and BEST MOM I can be. Having a nanny has enabled me the freedom to pursue my career goals and the work-home balance helps me be more present and engaged with my kids on my days off. Also, I have learned through the last six years of having a nanny, that my children do not have limited love to give. In fact, they thrive on attaching to and loving another person in their lives. I especially value this as we live in an area where we don’t have family close by. My daughters’ confidence grows when they feel loved by more people in their lives and our nannies have provided an essential source of this love and attention. And while no nanny replaces me, I’ve also learned that our nannies often have more energy and creativity than I do!  In fact, I think our nannies are often nicer and less stressed than I am. They are able to give more one-on-one attention than I can because they aren’t trying to juggle a million things at once. Seeing my children excited to greet our new nanny in the morning, allows me to leave for work knowing that Hailee and Cami will be enriched and loved throughout the day. And nothing matters more to me than my girls’ well-being!

Our first in first

To continue, or perhaps conclude, the drama regarding Hailee’s education plan, we decided to move forward with first grade.

IMG_6934We aren’t sure we made the right decision. We aren’t sure there is a right decision. We ultimately decided to move forward with first grade after meeting with someone from our neighborhood who is an education specialist. We told her about Hailee and about our concerns. We talked for an hour. What tipped the scales toward first grade, for me, was this part of the conversation: She asked me, “Have any teachers expressed concern about Hailee moving forward?” I told her no. And she responded, “Then you need to stop treating Hailee like she is a concern.”

Further, while we’ve been making this decision (or avoiding it) I’ve been reading the book, The Conscious Parent. This book really helped me untangle all the pieces of this dilemma that were my own stories and my own needs and really, have nothing to do with Hailee.

“When you parent, it’s crucial that you realize you aren’t raising a ‘mini me,’ but a spirit throbbing with its own signature…Instead of meeting the needs of our children, we tend to project our own ideas and expectations onto them. Even when we have the best intentions…most of us unwittingly fall into the trap of imposing our agenda on them…We each enter the parenting journey with visions of what it will be. For the most part these visions are fantasies. We hold beliefs, values, and assumptions we have never examined…Based on our unexamined worldview, we unknowingly lay down rigid expectations of how our children ought to express themselves…For instance, if we are super-successful at what we do, we are likely to expect our children to be super-successful also…If we were an academic wizard in school, we tend to carry a torch for our children to be brilliant…We want what we consider to be the ‘best’ for our children, but in seeking to bring this about, we can easily forget that the most important issue is their right to be their own person and lead their own life in accord with their unique spirit.” (p. 2-3).

I realized through reading this book that so much of my fears and worries for Hailee are my own stories that I am projecting on her. I recognized that I have an egoistic need for Hailee to excel in school. I want her to be at the top of her class and show promise. I want to be that parent who complains how bored my child is in school because she isn’t being challenged enough. I want her to stand out as a leader. I want her to have confidence and love learning. Those aren’t necessarily bad wishes for Hailee. But they are MY wishes, not hers.

It wasn’t until I began to see this story I was projecting on Hailee that I realized my own history wasn’t full of academic prowess. I certainly didn’t show promise when I was Hailee’s age. I was held back a grade. And when I eventually was put in classes with my same-aged peers (sixth grade), I wasn’t in any advanced classes by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, in high school, I didn’t take any AP classes and VERY FEW honors classes. I got good grades but nothing that stood out. In fact I remember failing freshman honors English. I also didn’t do stellar on the ACT. I did “fine.” If my dad hadn’t petitioned the Dean of Admissions at Brigham Young University to let me in, it’s quite possible I wouldn’t have been admitted to BYU.

It wasn’t until college that I began to excel academically. It took until college for me to find that side of myself that really, intrinsically, valued learning and thinking. Why am I expecting my 6 year old to do what I only began to do at 18?

“We are inpatient to maximize our children’s potential…When we teach our children that their success in life is dependent on their performance, childhood becomes geared toward the future instead of being experienced simply as childhood…There is little presence, little time to savor the extraordinary in the ordinary…Although it’s natural to want our children to excel, this is preferably never at the expense of failing to revel in their ordinariness. When we deny our children’s ordinariness, we teach them to be enthralled only by the exaggerations of life. They come to believe that only the grand and the fabulous are to be noticed and applauded…In contrast, when our children learn to value the ordinary, they learn to inhabit life itself. They appreciate their body, their mind, the pleasure of sharing a smile, and the privilege of relating to others.” (p. 155-157).

After I recognized this, I realized that one of my desires for putting Hailee in Kindergarten at Challenger would be so she could excel academically. Dropping this fantasy allowed me to warm up to the idea of public school first grade.

In first grade, I anticipate Hailee will be very “ordinary.” And I want to honor that. I want Hailee to have a childhood where she can be whoever she is: learning and growing and maturing at her own pace.

While I have made good movement toward letting go of my egoistic need for Hailee to excel, I still worry about her being behind academically. And she is struggling right now, as she learns to read. She “doesn’t like reading. Not one bit.” It’s like pulling teeth to get her to read each night and often the experience involves whining and tears, on her part, and deep breathing to remain calm, on my part. I want her to have the freedom to learn and grow at her own pace, but yet, the pace of her class and of her peer’s learning is accelerating beyond her.

I know she will learn to read. I know one day it will “click.” But I worry that in the process Hailee, who already struggles with confidence, will become even more insecure and doubt herself and her abilities.

I also worry about Hailee’s ability to make friends. Hailee is young, both in age and maturity. She is very friendly and outgoing, but already this school year she has experienced some social rejection. A boy in her class told her to go to the back of the line because he didn’t want to stand by her. An older girl, who Hailee considered a friend, didn’t let her sit by her on the school bus. And someone called her “Shawn the sheep,” which may or may not have been name-calling but Hailee felt really hurt. Her first grade teacher says that Hailee is quiet in class and that she doesn’t see her really interacting with other kids very much. Hailee has told me she plays alone at recess, but “has fun playing alone.” All of Hailee’s best friends are all together in another class and I worry that Hailee is slowly going to be ostracized, unintentionally, from that group of friends.

It’s hard when you see how amazing your own child is and just want everyone around you to love her as well! I want her to feel accepted, loved, and wanted by her peers. This is where I still have doubts about her being in first grade. She might fit in better with peers in Kindergarten.

I am trying to relinquish my own stories and needs and embrace Hailee, as she is, but the protective mama bear in me is on high alert. I know, being a therapist, as well as carrying my own scars, that social acceptance is vital and rejection can carry life long consequences. Hailee has such a light and I will do everything in my power to keep her little light burning.

While I can’t control Hailee’s environment and I can’t protect her from all of life’s hurts, what I can do is, “mirror [her] inherent wholeness, out of which [she] will manifest who [she] is becoming. By mirroring [her] wholeness, [I] help [her] realize that who [she is] here and now is already [her] greatest achievement.” (p.168).

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Two year old rainbow!

IMG_7036Cami turned 2 this last week. This is where I go on to gush about how cute and amazing she is, and how time flies and how I can’t believe my baby is two!

Seriously though, there is something about Cami turning two that makes me realize she really is no longer a baby! There is something sad about that for me. And there is also so much that is so enjoyable about her right now that it compensates for the sadness.

IMG_7144Cami is the biggest snuggle bug. I love how much she cuddles and gallops (literally gallops people) into my arms whenever she sees me. She’s a jealous snuggler too. If Hailee and I are snuggling, Cami crawls right in and, depending on her mood, may try to push Hailee out. If Hailee comes to snuggle when Cami and I are already cuddling, Cami will make disapproving noises and may even try to smack Hailee away.

While Cami finds herself competing with Hailee for attention, as well as turns playing with toys, eating food, playing Ipad, etc, and this can frustrate her at times (often); overall she worships Hailee and will follow her everywhere. Really in the last few months, Cami and Hailee have begun playing together all the time. I love how Hailee will often invite Cami to play with her, either in a fort, in her room, to color, or to play hide and seek. More mornings than not, the girls won’t even ask to watch TV because they are entertained playing together in their playroom.

IMG_7136Cami has been a little slower to pick up words and sentences but Chad and I both feel in the last few months, she has added tons of new words to her vocabulary. Her favorite word continues to be “Nom nom” indicating almost anything edible and yummy. She has also begun to use two word sentences on occasion (e.g. “Want please,” which sounds like “Whan Ease.”) Also, for some reason she didn’t really pick up the word “no” and who would complain about that, right? Instead of no, Cami would always say, “Uh-uh” and shake her head. Well, the last couple weeks, “No!” has become used quite frequently in Cami’s exclamations. The first time she said, “No!” was upon arrival to a swim lesson.

This summer we put Cami in swim lessons, just like we did with Hailee at the same age. Unlike Hailee, who took to swimming like a literal fish to water, Cami, is much less enamored. We have had five lessons and each lesson is full of loud tears for a full 15 minutes. It’s so hard to watch as a mother! But she also loves the pool…when it’s not her lesson. She is always asking to go to the “pool” and loves playing in the water.

IMG_7160I think her lessons traumatized her when they began dunking her underwater the first lesson. I’m hoping over time, the tears will end at swim lessons…because I’m sticking to my guns and my kids MUST become water safe as soon as they are able-sorry Cami, one result you have to deal with from your parent’s losing a baby.

IMG_7086Besides being almost-always adorable when she is awake…Cami is honestly giving us a run for our money.

IMG_7750We went on a family vacation last month, for a week, to Oregon and California. During this trip, Cami learned how to climb out of her crib! This began a whole new stage of sleep training that for weeks felt like Cami was really training US and not vice versa. It was horrible. We tried any technique that seemed to work…and ultimately realized we were not being strategic or consistent and that Cami was winning the war. During this time, Hailee was the only one of us not sleep deprived.

It seems like we literally just got Hailee out of our bed (again)(for good) and now we have Cami crawling in at all hours of the night. And we are exhausted from fighting her back to sleep so we often give in…only to get kicked and rolled on for the remainder of the night! Finally, we got a solution from our friends who had the same problem and this solution has actually gotten us some traction. The solution? The CHAIR (ominous music). We brought up a carseat and put it next to Cami’s crib. So when we put Cami down at night, we inform her that she will have to go in the carseat if she gets out of her crib. Then, when Cami almost immediately hops out of the crib when we leave the room, we inform her she made a sad choice and we strap her in the carseat for three to five minutes. She does NOT like this AT ALL and I also hate putting her in it because she’s so tired and sad. After three to five minutes we lovingly unstrap her, hug her, and put her back in the crib, informing her again, that if she gets out, she will have to go in THE CHAIR (dum dum dum). There were a couple nights we had to do this over and over and over. But finally, (fingers crossed) the last week or so, we haven’t had to use the carseat at all. We still have the problem of her waking up at weird hours and climbing into our bed…but we’ll take one victory at a time! At least now we can all go to bed at a pretty consistent and decent hour.

Besides the nighttime drama, Cami just brings so much joy into our lives. I am loving each day as Cami grows and I see more and more of her personality emerge. Yes, she is entering the terrible twos, but she is also entering such a fun stage of life full of adventure, learning, fun, and always lots of snuggles!

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Family musings

In less than a month, our rainbow turns two. It’s about right now that people start wondering (or have been wondering for awhile) but start asking out loud, if we are planning on having more kids. Just this week I’ve been asked that question three different times. And if I’m being honest, it’s been on my mind for the last six months or so, as well.

I’ll cut to the chase and add details as I go. Chad and I are 100% UNSURE if we are having more kids at this point. We are literally on the fence about it. For a couple months this question troubled me a lot. For some reason I felt I needed to DECIDE! Cami IS turning 2 and I am over 33 years old! I don’t have many good child-bearing years left in me. But then I realized (therapy helped) that the pressure of having to decide was only causing anxiety and decreasing clarity. So Chad and I decided that we would deliberately NOT decide for awhile.

And that is where we are right now: consciously NOT deciding to have or not have another baby.

Whenever one of us brings the topic up, the other seems to take the opposing view. If I say, “I think I might be done,” Chad will say that he doesn’t think we are done. If I say,  “I think I might want another baby,” Chad will say, “I’d have to really think about that.” So there is no direction or consensus. And that’s fine. Without any pressure to come to a conclusion, we get to live more in the present with our daughters and evaluate the needs of our family, as it stands right now.

One thing Chad and I have realized this last year, since having a toddler Cami roaming the house in addition to a spunky Hailee, is that PARENTING IS HARD. I honestly feel like having one child is a CAKE WALK compared to two. And I HEAR having three increases the difficulty exponentially. This year, as parents, has stretched us, challenged us, and driven us to the limits of our sanity. I’m not going to say we’ve been miserable. In fact we’ve mostly felt the opposite. We’ve been good AND it’s been incredibly hard. I don’t think we have particularly hard children. I also don’t think we have the easiest children either.

Cami is a pure delight and a great little toddler. BUT she is, by definition, a toddler, and lives up to that reputation.

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Hailee has always been emotional and struggles with emotion regulation. We as parents have struggled, in turn, how to help Hailee regulate her emotions. This is challenging and draining.

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But if that were all, I think we’d be inclined to have more kids. Because these two we have here with us, are pretty amazing.

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It’s the effects of having lost our son Charlie that mostly interfere with our desire to have more kids. I honestly cannot adequately describe the TOLL losing a baby takes on your body and soul. We live with constant fear (I’m not exaggerating) of losing another one of our children, because we KNOW how easily and quickly that could happen. When I think of having another baby, I feel overwhelmed thinking, “It’s hard enough to keep these two alive!”

There is this quote I put in Hailee’s baby book that says, “Having a child is to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” When you are a parent, you feel and are, vulnerable. I think all parents feels this vulnerability. And I think most parents are cocooned within this cozy layer of naivete. Bad things happen, but to OTHER PEOPLE. I know I was that way before we lost Charlie. I can never be that blissfully ignorant again.

As a result, our experience as parents now includes pain. I don’t mean that to sound dramatic. It’s not. It’s our reality. Parenting is hard, period. It’s even HARDER with a thick layer of trauma, grief, and FEAR plastered on.

That first year of Cami’s life was HONESTLY about KEEPING HER ALIVE. It was beautiful and full of sweet memories but the primary objective was: Get Cami past the SIDS risk. It was almost as hard as surviving the first year after Charlie died. The anxiety was horrible. The trauma memories that flooded us that year were so painful. The sleep deprivation was barely survivable. Our marriage really suffered as all else took a backseat to keeping Cami alive. We really were slightly crazy that year.

This year we’ve regained some semblance of sanity and are beginning to live again. But this living feels tenuous, always lined with fear. We are trying to be brave and as a result we are creating some awesome memories as a family. And I feel like it’s the first time in YEARS that I’ve been able to take a deep (albeit tentative) breath.

As we are finally getting our feet back under us, it’s hard to want to rip that ground away with adding more vulnerability and fear in the form of another family member. Plus, my pregnancies have all included some significant complication, and if history were to hold true, the vulnerability begins at conception!

Also, as a personal rant. I have always wanted three kids. And three kids I have! I HATE that I don’t get to have all three of them here. I also hate that I don’t get credit for having three kids. People see me and I think they see a mother of two, not three. That’s hard on me. It makes me sad.

Anyway, I could go on as I have more to say but that enough musing for now on this topic.