Meeting Santa 2014

SS_FASHIONPLACE_20141223_000003_PI just love this photo! It makes me grin so hard my cheeks hurt. Tonight Cami met Santa for the first time and her expression says it all. Hailee also found herself quite shy to be on Santa’s lap. So while Hailee’s smile looks forced and as if she is barely tolerating the experience, she is actually just shy to be on “stranger” Santa’s lap. When Santa asked Hailee what she wanted for Christmas, Hailee became so nervous she whispered and the poor man couldn’t hear a word! Good thing she already mailed him her Christmas list!

photo(47)Translation:

Dear Santa, I want a tramp (sorry Hailee, won’t happen this year!); a (Doc McStuffins) walkie talkie, blanket (of the large picnic variety), and a frame with paints (a photo frame she can paint). Love Hailee (with an extra heart).

Love my girls and the magic of Christmas!

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Sleep battles

IMG_5664I really look forward to those hours at night, after the kids are in bed, that are mine to do with what I please. Those hours are like gold. But for me, the worst part of the day happens right before I get those few stolen moments to myself: bedtime. Chad and I hate the bedtime routine. Maybe hate is a strong word. Dread is perhaps a better word. And when I say bedtime routine, I’m referring specifically to the bedtime routine for Hailee. Cami’s bedtime routine is super simple and quick: bottle, clean diaper, binky, lovey, crib. No rocking, singing, reading, soothing required. Unless of course I want to. But even then, sometimes Cami will just point at her crib and make her little grunt sound which means, “Put me down now please.”

Hailee’s routine is much more complex and takes more time and effort (and fight). Jammies, brushing teeth, inhaler, getting water, going potty, reading books, saying prayer, and singing two songs while tickling her back. If this goes smoothly it’s not a bad experience. If it goes smoothly, it’s actually an experience I look forward to and enjoy. But most nights Hailee is manipulative and fights going to sleep as well as letting us leave her. She has also gotten in the habit of getting up and coming downstairs multiple times after we have put her to bed. And it’s a constant fight to get her back into bed.

We’ve gotten tired of this fight. As a result, we’ve gotten lazy about doing the bedtime routine with Hailee and she stays up later and later each night. The backlash is a huge meltdown (tears, yelling, on the ground tantrums) when we finally get her into bed. It is obvious each night that we let her stay up too late and we resolve to do better the next day.

Also intrinsic in these bad sleep habits is the fact that we’ve begun to let Hailee fall asleep in our bed. We put her back in her bed when Chad and I come upstairs to bed, but almost guaranteed, each night Hailee wanders back into our bed 1-3 more times. She always gets in on Chad’s side, perhaps because she knows that is where her best chances lie of staying in our bed. Half the time Chad doesn’t wake up to her crawling into bed with him. So it’s not until hours later that he will wake up, realize she is next to him, and take her back to her room.

This week, with Christmas approaching, we have tried to be more consistent about Hailee’s 8pm bedtime and having her fall asleep in her own bed. This result has been rough: tearful, distraught Hailee proclaiming she is “scared” to sleep alone.

Last night I comforted Hailee with tickling her back, singing songs, and saying a prayer. I told Hailee that Heavenly Father and Charlie would come and comfort her but she cried and said, “But they are invisible! I need someone I can see!” As a result I snuggled her until she fell asleep.

Tonight Hailee also professed she was a afraid. I let Chad take the first round and Hailee successfully fell asleep. She woke up about an hour later, however, and was crying for me. I went upstairs and snuggled her in her bed. Hailee and I then proceeded to have a very interesting conversation. First she told me that she said a prayer to Jesus and he comforted her by helping her fall asleep. But now she was awake again. Then she said, “I have a tricky question for you.” She asked me how Jesus knows what prayers come from which humans. Good question Hailee! Then she asked me how she came from being an egg into a human being. And what she looked like before she was an egg. Luckily this talk didn’t lead to the “birds and the bees” talk as  I am certainly unprepared to tackle that subject with my five year old! But this was one of the first conversations where Hailee asked questions I really had to think about before I answered. I look forward to more “tricky” questions from Hailee. After our conversation, Hailee wrapped her arms around me and fell asleep. It required some careful maneuvering to get out of her bed without waking her up. I look forward to getting Hailee’s sleep habits regulated again, but I also treasure these times, as I know all-to-soon she won’t need me, or want me, to snuggle her to sleep.

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Any reader out there who has advice on sleep training for a five year old, I’m happy to hear it! I’m a bit battle-worn at this point and would love to learn from the experience of others.

Hard career choices

I’ve slacked off writing in this blog because I no longer feel like my blog has a cohesive identity. I am guessing that most people follow my blog because it is a “grief” blog. As a result, I don’t hesitate to write grief-related blog posts. But I want to write more about my life in here as well. I know I wrote a post awhile ago, indicating that was my plan…I just haven’t followed through with it much. It’s weird, I almost feel like talking in a public sphere about other parts of my life feels too vulnerable. I tell myself I can share my grief reactions because maybe they will be helpful to someone on a similar journey. But talking about the other parts of my life would really just be for my benefit: to share, document memories, work through struggles and feelings, seek validation and support, and serve no greater purpose than that. I think for that reason I haven’t written many posts outside the grief category. I am going to challenge myself though and share more pieces of me, of us, and our experiences. This is going to be one of those blog posts. And it’s a long one so feel free to stop reading now if you aren’t interested in hearing my mommy/career dilemmas.

So, you may or may not know that I am a Licensed Clinical Psychologist currently working part-time at the BYU Counseling and Psychological Services. I enjoy my job a great deal but want to give a little background on my professional journey and aspirations. After I graduated with my degree in 2010, I started working full time at Center for Change, an inpatient and residential facility for those struggling with severe eating disorders. This felt like the perfect fit for me because it has been my desire to specialize in two areas: Eating Disorders and Group Psychotherapy. I was able to pursue both these goals in very meaningful ways while I worked at Center for Change. Not only did I work with eating disorder patients each day, I also ran 7 groups for the center! However, while this job was professionally and personally fulfilling, it was also stressful and challenging. After I had Charlie, I had intentions of returning to work at Center for Change but wanted to see if I could work part-time. Well, fate changed our life drastically when Charlie died.

After Charlie died, I didn’t feel I had the emotional reserves to work in a high stress, intensive environment like Center for Change, even though I loved the work and the population. I honestly felt like I had NOTHING to give and to do work with eating disorder clients in any meaningful kind of way, I felt I needed to have emotional reserves. For this reason, I decided it was not good timing to return to work at Center for Change.

A part-time position became open at the BYU counseling center and former colleagues and friends approached me to see if I was interested. This felt like a serendipitous opportunity.

This was the perfect environment for me at the time. I worked at the counseling center as a graduate student and so the environment was familiar and supportive for me. I also welcomed the opportunity to work with a higher functioning population and knew as a result, that the stress would be significantly less.

So I have been contentedly working at BYU since Fall 2012. It has met my emotional and professional needs and my bosses and colleagues have been incredibly supportive and flexible (e.g. giving me extended maternity leave after having Cami).

As I work there, I still feel I am able to meaningfully pursue my aspirations of developing an expertise in treating eating disorders and group psychotherapy. However, this is on a much lower scale. About 1/3 of my clients present with eating disorder concerns and I run only 1 group (compared to the previous 7). I have been ok with this as again, as I’ve been healing, I’ve needed to work less and with a higher functioning clientele. It has been really beneficial to go home at night and not worry about my clients. I have also felt I’ve been able to strike a good work/home balance as a mom. Also, since I’ve been at the counseling center, I’ve been working with other clinicians to develop an Eating Disorder program where we offer eating disorder specific groups, trainings, consultation meetings, and supervision. I feel valued as a knowledgeable colleague in this area as I was able to present an inservice meeting last month on treating Eating Disorders to the entire counseling center faculty and even a couple health center physicians. I am also presenting a half day workshop at a national conference in February on group work with eating disorder clients.

So overall, I have felt BYU continues to meet my personal needs and career aspirations.

But I ask myself, “Can I really develop an expertise in treating eating disorders and running groups if my job stays the same?” I often feel frustrated at the minimal progress I’m able to help clients make when we are so oversheduled that I am only seeing my clients 1x a month! And running one group each week, while awesome, doesn’t fulfill my group itch or make me feel like I’m making a lot of professional progress in this area.

Last month a job opportunity fell into my lap that seemed so perfect! Center for Change approached me and asked me to help them with their group program at a new Intensive Outpatient Program in Salt Lake City (15 minutes from my house!). They were only asking for three hours of my time and offered generous compensation! This position fit my career aspirations perfectly. It seemed like a no brainer to take this position.

But nothing is a no brainer when you are a working mom. Or a grieving mom.

Working part-time at BYU, while not nearly as stressful as working full time at Center for Change, is still a lot of work. I often feel “at capacity” with my ability to be emotionally present at work AND emotionally present with my kids. Finding that perfect work/home balance is tricky, and I honestly feel like I’ve found it right now. While my professional self wants more responsibility, wants more progression and opportunity, the mom in me, and the grieving mom in me, doesn’t know if I have more to give right now.

On the one hand, this position was only three hours of my time! On the other hand, that is three MORE hours of my time away from home and my kids.

Being a working mom, I face a lot of mommy guilt. Like when I missed Hailee’s Christmas Sing at school last week. I try to prioritize my kids above all else, and I also have to pick and choose. I took work off to volunteer at Hailee’s class Halloween party, but I couldn’t make the Christmas Sing work. And I felt bad about that and was sad I missed it. I am also sad that as of yet, I haven’t been able to volunteer in Hailee’s class, and I feel like I’m the only mom who hasn’t. I also get sad that our caregiver takes Cami to a Little Gym class on the days I work. I’m super glad Cami has that fun time, but jealous I am not there to witness her accomplishments like hanging from bars or walking a balance beam all by herself.

But in the  time I’m home, I feel Hailee and Cami get good quality time with me. Work energizes me and gives me a break from being home. And being home gives me a break from work. It’s a good balance. But I am aware this year, more than ever, that I am not “on top of it” as a mom. I miss notices from school about events, homework, activities, all the time. I also miss important emails from work! Sometimes I feel I’m losing my mind trying to keep everything straight. As a result, Hailee has missed out on some opportunities and I have a reputation at work for absentmindedness. See how precarious this balance is for me?

While I value both being a mom AND working, I feel I settle for mediocre in both responsibilities. And I kind of hate mediocre.

Back to the job offer: I honestly agonized over this decision and had long conversations with Chad and consulted with colleagues and trusted friends. I didn’t feel right taking the job and I didn’t feel right turning it down either. At times, the feminist in me got upset that I wouldn’t be facing this dilemma if I were a man! But then I also remember that I have the privilege of being a mom, a role many women want and don’t get to have.

Anyway, this is long and drawn out and in the end, I turned the job offer down. It’s hard to know I would probably thrive in the position Center For Change offered me. It’s super hard for me to “bridle my passions,” so-to-speak. But I’m also being protective of my time with my kids and my emotional capacity to be present with them.

As time progresses with our family and we continue to heal and grow, maybe the time will feel right to pursue added work or a different career course. But right now isn’t the time.

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Happy Third Birthday Charlie

I was fine yesterday. Maybe fine is a little bit of a stretch, but close to fine. I went to work and felt pretty ok the whole day. I began to think to myself, “Oh, maybe this milestone won’t be so bad.”

Then I woke up this morning. Unprompted my eyes started leaking and I couldn’t get them to stop for most of the morning! I watched videos of my sweet baby boy that I haven’t watched in a long time. I heard his voice. I saw him smile. I saw him smile at ME, as I was recording the video. It broke my heart. I opened my scrapbook from 2011 and re-read his birth story and my feelings about having my baby boy and looking forward to seeing him grow up. It’s a little haunting to read my words from when Charlie was in my life. How I had NO IDEA what lay in store for me.

But now, I’ve gotten used to this new reality: the new normal of living with loss. It’s familiar to me now. And because it’s familiar, I don’t think about it a whole lot anymore. I mean, I am always aware that my baby boy is dead. But I don’t dwell there or ruminate or get stuck there like I used to. I truly have learned to carry on. And in general I’m doing ok. Sometimes better than ok. Sometimes I’m happy. Genuinely happy.

But this morning I woke up and remembered that This new normal sucks. It SERIOUSLY sucks that I don’t have my would-be-three-year-old son here with me. It is sad to me that I have no idea what he’d be into at this phase of his life (cars, batman? legos? trains?). I don’t know what it would be like to have him walk into our room in the morning (because he’d for sure be in a toddler bed, or even normal size bed by now). Would he come into our room first, or go snuggle his older sister in the morning instead? Would he be potty trained yet? I don’t know what color his hair would be. Or what his voice would sound like. Or what words he’d struggle pronouncing. Or what his favorite meal is, so I could make it for his birthday. Today I MISS him. I WISH he were here.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had this feeling of OH YEAH, THIS IS HARD. But today is hard.

And I’ve also learned that hard days can also be good days; memorable days; meaningful days.

I tried to make today as meaningful as possible. I wanted to give Charlie a special gift for his birthday this year but didn’t know what. Then, a week ago as I was going to sleep, it hit me. I asked family members and close friends to do Acts of Kindness for Charlie over the last week. I asked them to send me a list of what they have done for him and I printed out the acts of service on Christmas colored paper. I cut the paper, rolled it up, and put them into ornaments my nephews, Hailee, Melinda, and Auntie Zee decorated at his birthday party.

IMG_6121I was shocked at how many acts of service others did in honor of Charlie. Many did way more than we, ourselves, did! All together, the strips of paper filled nine glass ornaments full! My heart swelled with gratitude that those we love still love and want to honor and remember Charlie. I hope Charlie feels the love we have for him and is happy at our efforts to make the world a little brighter of a place the last week.

For Charlie’s party we had my brother’s family over, our former nanny and dear friend, Melinda, and Auntie Zee.

IMG_6075 IMG_6078 IMG_6079 IMG_6080Chad made Pizza Poppers (which were a hit with everyone!) and I made the  pineapple upside down cake. Per tradition (until Cami is old enough to assert her turn), Hailee blew out Charlie’s birthday candles after we all sang happy birthday.

IMG_6099After dinner I helped my nephews make homemade snowglobes. Being with my nephews during Charlie’s birthdays, for some reason, is always helpful for me. It was also so wonderful to be surrounded by those who love us and love Charlie. I am so grateful for such wonderful people in my life.

IMG_6094It’s nice to be at a place in my life since losing Charlie that I know the sadness and ache I feel today won’t debilitate me, nor will it hang on for very long. I also know I can continue to feel sad AND happy. But today I MISS MY BABY BOY and feel SAD.

After the party I finished decorating Charlie’s tree. In a few days I will put this on his grave. But for right now, I want to enjoy it and think of him.

IMG_6116I love you my Mister Mister!!! SO MUCH. Happy 3rd birthday!