Five Years Later

kids Aug2016

A friend of mine always gets a kick about how I keep track of time…

That was 5 years ago this spring.

That was before I started getting pregnant again.

That’s when we were at the theater.

That’s when I was Tweeting.

That’s back from our road days.

 

…and on, and on.

Last week, I started Tweeting again. I need to for my job, but in order to relearn the language, I started using my personal account again. Like all things social media, it’s a giant rabbit hole, not just of information, but of emotions.

I soon “saw” people I hadn’t seen in awhile and got caught up on one of their stories. Perhaps the most emotional one for me is the story of Sara Frankl, known on Twitter as “@gitzengirl.”

I read Sara’s blog for years. And in the middle of a crazy, turmoil-filled season in my life, she passed away after an agonizing battle with a rare disease.

I am delighted to see her legacy is moving forward, captured in a book and a foundation and the constant reminder to CHOOSE JOY.

Rod and Kel's Beach House

In five years, literally everything about my own life has changed. We moved two more times, and as of this July, we now live in our “BEACH HOUSE.” Through connections very divinely-ordered, we “have our own house” again, one mile from the ocean, with palm trees and golf carts and a salty breeze. It’s unbelievable…

kids Aug2016

We had three more children… two of them born to heaven, and one of them growing like a tall Carolina pine tree. I will never understand the baby that came to us (one year post-tubal-ligation) this January, and I may never quite get over saying goodbye to our Jesse at the end of February (2 years from the day of our first miscarriage), after seeing his perfect beating heart. But I am grateful for the new filter through which I view life… it’s always surprising, it’s always abundant, and we are never alone.

This year of 2016 has been full of the unexpected. We lost friends to moves, and gained friends who moved closer. We lost friends to disagreements, but gained others through grace. We lost a few dear friends to death, far too young in our eyes, but welcomed a few special little ones earthside. And I learned that redemption of sadness and loss maybe doesn’t look how we always thought it would.

our beach at full moon

And I am reminded that every story ends with an ellipses. There is always more to be told…

As I write this today my heart is full on many levels. I have missed coming to this place and sharing, but I know my life is so “abundant” right now that this is a privilege rather than an appointment. It’s one I will take. We never know what is coming tomorrow, so the life in our hearts should be expressed RIGHT NOW.

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Whatcha Got Shepherd’s Pie

shepherdspieI had a bluesy, stressful few days. The first of those days was potluck night with friends, and all I had to make was a ham-cheese-egg casserole. Easy enough. Last night, I used leftover spaghetti, frozen meatballs, and the last of the delicious meat sauce my Dad made a few weeks ago when he and Mom were visiting.

Today, I was feeling better and ready to give out in my love language: cooking. It relieves my stress and produces something useful, nourishing, and usually, appreciated.

Along with Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate brownies (thank you, Costco) sprinkled with a little sea salt (thank you, Pioneer Woman), this went in my oven. It’s not all traditional, because it was spur-of-the-moment, so I didn’t have everything on hand, and my people don’t really love peas or mushrooms anyway….

Whatcha Got Shepherd’s Pie
– Serves 6ish
1.5 ground beef
3ish strips of bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5 carrots. chopped
1 bag of frozen green beans (traditional: peas)
2 tablespoons flour
2-4  bouillon cubes/beef brother/Worcestershire sauce (make a combo depending on what you have)
red wine/apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar (depending on what you have)
salt/pepper/thyme
mashed potatoes (I used 6 medium whole potatoes, made extra creamy)
1 cup cubed or shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  1. Brown the ground beef. Remove beef from pan and reserve some of the drippings for next step.IMG_5201
  2. Cook bacon and carrots for about 10 minutes. Add onion and garlic. Cook until tender. Add flour and stir thoroughly.
  3. Add beef, green beans, and your combination of bouillon and red wine vinegar. This shouldn’t be more than cup of liquid total. Add about a teaspoon each of salt, black pepper, and thyme. Stir thoroughly and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer everything in the pot to a lightly greased casserole dish (I used an 8×8). Cover with mashed potatoes and then cheese
  5. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve.

We’re Too Flexy :)

Two weeks of homeschool  are under our belts.

We are LOVING it.

Is it early days? Sure, not to mention my parents were in town last week, so things were a bit more stay-cation-y than they would have been. We took that as a “deschooling week,” and while there was a worksheet here and there, we also kicked off by enjoying a place we’ve wanted to visit for awhile, Brookgreen Gardens.

We only enjoyed a portion of this beautiful and historical place that’s pretty much in our backyard… a storybook playground, a small kids’ discovery center, and a zoo of local animals. We plan to go back to enjoy the Sculpture Garden soon.

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The things I wanted most to change for us by making this decision are changing. More focused attention. Better sleeping (9am is soooo much better than 6am…). Better eating (I’m getting into cooking lunch…). Time to explore. Time together.
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There have been a few surprises. The biggest one was on the first “official” day, when Kaity came downstairs in a dress. Kaity does not wear dresses. Later in the week, when my parents took her shopping, she picked out a new dress and a nightgown. Only thing I can figure is she feels very safe. She doesn’t like to be fussed over for looking pretty (Cool or amazing, yes. Pretty, no). She knows we won’t.
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I love the conversations I get to hear them having with each other and with others. I love that they had no electronic devices to play with for the past 4 days and stopped asking after the first day. I love that P.E. has been riding bikes, together with me pulling their baby brother in the bike trailer, and part of their writing has been letters to cousins and friends. (Don’t forget to mail them, Kelly).IMG_4906 IMG_4908

One day this week, Rod asked us to go to lunch together. We headed to our favorite local sports bar, where our manager friend told us his wife had homeschooled their children. Then, over nachos and wings, after we schooled Rod about the origins of Halloween we had learned that morning, we semi-spied on a Red Hat Society lunch taking place in the dining room. Miranda just happened to be wearing a purple dress, so I told her about “When I am old, I shall wear purple…” and asked the girls if we should go crash the Bingo and merriment. The prizes looked really cute.

Before we left, I walked over to their table and told them how much we enjoyed seeing their fun. One of the ladies chased us out the door with an (empty ;) ) purple gift bag for Miranda. Later that day, we read the poem together (our first reading unit so happens to be poetry!)

That’s it, you guys. That’s the kind of natural, “the world is our classroom” experience that is my goal for our learning together.

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And this is an almost-nine-year old girl pretending she’s not giddy about that purple gift bag.

Other things we are loving so far:

  • doing reading and spelling on the couch
  • seeing their friends after school just like always… this is a cool holdover from having attended public school for a few years that makes me very happy for them
  • the girls doing their own laundry (Wednesday is laundry day!)
  • the girls are both 3rd graders now! (it was always my goal to get them in the same grade level)
  • As of this morning, I’m all organized :)
  • Most of our curriculum is free
  • We have several field trips with other local homeschoolers scheduled.
  • We are eventually going to embrace the idea of lapbooks. They look so fun; we just have to overcome our “arts & crappy-ness.” We are so not a craft family…

We are flexible people. It’s where we thrive. So when we haven’t done social studies yet and friends want to play, we play. When I have a work project that needs 45 more minutes, they read or color a little extra while I finish. When there wasn’t time before church for reading, they read me poems in the living room afterwards. It is working for us, and I’m glad we took the leap!

School’s in!

Homeschoolers 2015

Homeschoolers 2015Just when we think we know what’s up, another new season, with its changes and rhythms and surprises, comes in!

I spent the last three years waiting at the bus stop after school for my girls. It’s where we met some of our great neighbors. It’s where we met KK’s best friend and her wonderful family. It’s the place where my girls begin their hour-long debriefing of their day, every day. And for the last month or so, I watched from the porch as they walked home by themselves.

They are growing so fast, so much.

Today I went to the bus stop for the last time, at least for now. Though we have loved St. James Elementary, it’s time for a different school… one that will be located in our home.

Nothing happened to bring this decision, simply a steady set of observations over the past years about who our kids are, who are family is, what is natural to us, what is best for us.

Plus, we want to sleep in, eat fabulous home-cooked lunches, and travel whenever we want!

I’m nervous and excited about this chapter… I’m so thankful for the trust and support of my husband, the constant encouragement from my vast, widely-spread out homeschooling network of friends, my flexible job, and that God gave us these kids… and the ability to know what’s best for them during any given season!

 

Still

StillBirthday University

elizabeth-ii-quote-grief-is-the-price-we-pay-for-loveThere are moments in life that that are so life-changing, we will never forget them.

I remember the moments of discovery for each of my pregnancies… not just the positive test moments, but the “Hmmm… could it be…?” moments leading to those double lines. Having been diagnosed infertile, the possibility of a pregnancy was always one that made me as wary as it did excited. The moments of confirmed fertility…miraculous YESes in my life are among my favorite memories.

And of course, the moments I first saw and held my babies – there is nothing that compares.

The moments of loss – the stages in which I learned that our baby David was never going to be in our arms – are equally vivid for me. I still remember the moments in which my doctor couldn’t find the baby, then couldn’t find the heartbeat… the moment of realization that her words were equaling “miscarriage”… the moments of manic wavering between hope and despair over a very long weekend… the moments of confirmation, of bleeding, of hoping it was over… the moments of pre-op as I prepared to give birth in a way I never wanted to.

David was born. He was not born alive. He was likely not in a recognizable form. I never saw more than a blurry sac on a screen. I never got a picture. I don’t know if his eyes would have been brown or blue or quite frankly, if he was a he. But he was once alive, and he was born.

Some of the moments in life I felt most alone were the moments preparing for my D&C. On February 26, 2014, I sat in a curtained room alone. It was quiet. A worker who apparently did not read my chart carefully administered a pregnancy test. I didn’t have the wherewithal to say, “Are you freaking kidding me?” or even, “Is that necessary?” I did have the presence of mind to say this to one of the nurses as she prepared my IV:

When you stick me, I am going to start crying. It won’t be because of the needle.

I’d been through a few medical procedures alone before. When my appendix was ruptured in 2003 and we had been trying to get pregnant since our wedding, the IV for my CT scan set me off. They had given me a pregnancy test and I knew if it must have been negative. I was 26 and probably still looked 18 and that poor tech was so confused when my tears started flowing. He thought I was afraid of the needle.

Almost exactly a year later, my cycle of fertility testing ended with a laporoscopic surgery. In my optimistic form, I had people praying like crazy the night before that I would be miraculously pregnant and the surgery wouldn’t be necessary. Once again, a test was administered, no results were verbalized, and when the IV got started. I cried. Those poor nurses thought I was nuts. I told them I wanted to be pregnant and they said, “Honey, that’s why you’re here…” Then they out some happy juice in that tube and that was that.

So, something about the pre-op procedure, being secluded from my partner, and the IV confirming that this is really happening makes me cry.

Fast forward to 2015, the morning of my planned C-section for Jack. I felt like a pro. I was in that same pre-op area for the 3rd time in 3 years (there had been another procedure before my miscarriage). I felt excited and confident. I asked if Rod could be with me, and they allowed him. There were no tears.

My birth story for Jack is still being written, but here is the take-away. Birth is hard, and so are surgeries. I had a pretty routine 3rd-repeat C-section with Jack, and also had a tubal ligation. But having your insides cut up and sewn back together is what it is, and so is birth, and there are many emotions that accompany all those things.

I decided in the hospital after Jack was born that I didn’t want any moms going through any kind of birth to feel voiceless or alone, but in particular, moms experiencing surgeries, fear from past experiences, or loss.

Because I have worked in ministry for most of the past eight years and on a church staff for the last 3.5, I figured, “Eh. I will talk to some people in the hospital and see if I can’t be some kind of maternity chaplain.”

And then, I said that to a birth worker in my community, and her immediate response was, “OH! You should be a bereavement doula!”

Huh?

How can I be a doula when I have only birthed via C-section?
What the heck is a bereavement doula?
Why in the world would I take a certification course now, after having my 3rd child?

I am not sure I have all the definite answers to those questions yet, but they are evolving, and I will say, I am following a path that seems to have been ordained for me long ago –

  • when I was an adolescent having nightmares about infertility
  • when I was vicariously grieving for acquaintances, friends, strangers, celebrities, and fictional characters grieving from miscarriages and stillbirths and sudden infant death
  • when as soon as, maybe even before, I recovered from my miscarriage, people crossed my path who just needed someone to listen and support and understand
  • when I realized that Myrtle Beach has a fundamental little tribe who supports mamas in all seasons and I have might have something unique to offer

So this is my “announcement.”

StillBirthday UniversityWhat started as a little Facebook page inspired by my wise and wordsmithing daughter will soon be Three Dots Birth Support Services, or something like that.

And through the amazing design of Stillbirthday, by this fall, I will be certified as a doula for births with all outcomes and plan to go on to certify as a chaplain.

As I read through the course material and finished my first exam today, I wonder not how I can handle the workload but how my heart can hold the weight. Every 20 minutes in the United States, a baby is stillborn and a family is devastated. Forty percent of pregnancies in the U.S. end in pregnancy, equaling 600,000 per year. (all stats from Stillbirthday.com)

I had one that completely knocked me out. I cannot imagine multiplying that heartbreak by such staggering numbers.

I can only hope that one at a time, I can help mothers, and with my husband on board, families, get to the other side of those still, fearful, devastating moments of loss.

I want every mama to know that her baby matters.

My story wasn’t over, and neither is theirs, and neither is yours.