Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Playgrounds & Picnics

If you are what you eat, then Charlie is on his way to turning into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with grapes for eyes, an apple slice smile, and Bugle-chip fingernails.   Healthy?  Probably not.  Convenient?  Yes, definitely.  And I'm all about convenient when it comes to throwing things together for a picnic with a three year old.  

I wish I had some idea of how many picnics we've gone on this summer, how many times we've played at the park, how many road trips we've taken up to Parkersburg to play at the "really big red park". But the truth is that I've definitely lost count.  Our handy green picnic basket is always at the ready, our pantry is stocked with peanut butter and we buy a new jar of jam at the Farmer's Market every Thursday.  Thanks to Hy-Vee and their awesome selection of pre-cut cantaloupe and fruit, we even "healthify" our picnics a bit.  Throw in some Bugles and a water bottle and we're good to go.  

On Sunday, Mason played in a golf outing so I asked Charlie what he wanted to do while Daddy was gone.  He told me that he wanted to find a new park and have a picnic.  Honestly, I was feeling pretty lazy about venturing out, but  after being to all the parks within 15 miles, a new park sounded pretty good to me.  I remembered that there was a huge wooden playground in Waverly, which is about a 45 minute drive so I asked Charlie if that was okay. 

Me:  Well, there's a pretty cool park but we'd have to drive in the car for awhile.  It's all made out of wood. 
C:  Oooh yeah, I like that one.
Me:  But we'll have to drive for awhile, is that okay?  
C:  Oh yeah.  Because you know, we won't have to drive for days.  Just a little while.  

So we bundled up in long sleeves and pants (can you believe this weather!?  It ticks me off but more about that later), hopped in the van and headed up to Waverly.  We skipped the picnic (we were out of bread and fruit!) and opted for "Old Mc. Donald's" instead.  Aside from the part when we had to actually leave the park, there was nothing but smilin' from the two of us.  

It would have been so much easier to hang out in Grundy that Sunday, to not spend the gas money on a drive or the $10 on McDonald's.  It would have been easier to have lunch at our own counter and guarantee a little rest time after lunch, but I have to admit that it sure felt nice to go on a little adventure.  


Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Land of Make Believe

Do you remember Mr. Roger's Neighborhood?  Do you remember the little red trolley (conveniently built into the wall) that took viewers to "The Land of Make Believe"?  The trolley would always stop in the living room and Mr. Rogers would summarize what had happened yesterday, something like, "Now friends, yesterday we noticed Prince Tuesday was sad about breaking his new toy. His father, King Friday, was very upset.  I wonder what they'll do about the broken toy?"

I LOVED the Land of Make Believe segments.  They were definitely my favorite part, so easy to visualize, so easy to feel as though I was really there.  But now, 30+ years later, I'm not sure how I ever immersed myself into them.  As Charlie grows, so does his imagination and creativity.  I'm amazed at how easily he slips into imaginative play, and how detailed and exciting this play is.  He's constantly wrapped up in his own make-believe land, which borders our own reality.

The other day, he played on our couch, alone for 30 minutes with his fire fighter truck and the plastic fish from the "Let's Go Fishing!" game.  The fish stuck perfectly on the ladder of the truck and in the seats of the fire engine.  Each fish was in peril and needed to be rescued from certain parts of the couch.  One by one, Charlie rescued each and every fish, with a dramatic flair that you would think only happens under the lights of Broadway.  There was singing and shouting and flailing around on the couch.  There was beeping and siren noises and a shoestring that assisted in each rescue.  As I watched him, it was hard for me to define where the imagination ended, and reality began (or vice versa).

Later that day (or was it earlier?), we played trains.  Who knew that the train obsession would last an entire year, and not wane at all?  Now, I have to admit that I'm not crazy about playing some of C's games.  I really don't like playing "race" and playing "Can you do this?" (where we do weird things and balance and jump of the couch) is not my favorite.  I don't mind playing "shoot it in the net" or soccer or baseball....I just don't want to play those for five hours.  But I can kind of handle playing trains.  Actually, I kind of like playing trains.  Because when we play trains, we totally play "The Land of Make Believe".  It's awesome.  Here's how it works:

Charlie gets his trains all lined up on the tracks.  As the conductor, he switches orders and tracks until the train is finally ready.  While he's doing this, I'm instructed to sit on the black chair (in real life).  On his train tracks, there is a little station with black chairs to wait on-- so that's technically where the "pretend me" is located.  Then, he tells me which train I'll be riding on.  (Usually it matches what I"m wearing.  Or he lets me ride in the blue one because it's my color) But before any of this can happen, I must give the conductor a ticket-- this can be a scrap of paper, a credit card, a paper clip, a pony-tail holder, anything really, but I must not forget the ticket!  After producing my ticket, I am instructed to go sit on the train (our couch).  Usually, I'm told to look out the window.  I have to buckle up and I have to say things like, "Oooh, here we go!  Oh, we're going through a tunnel!  Boy, it's sure dark in here.  Oooh, there's a waterfall.  Oh, now we're going over a bridge!  Look conductor, the bridge lights up!"  And if I forget any of these things, or if the trees fall over or the train breaks, I'm supposed to notice those things and react accordingly.

Sometimes I try to sneak laundry onto the train and I'm told that it's not a laundry train-- the laundry has to wait.  Or sometimes I try to read my kindle and usually that's not allowed either.  But each day, I try to remember that these moments of make believe days are very real now, not just a figment of my imagination.  And someday, they'll just be a memory.  I'm trying to soak up a little moment each day, and really fully engage in an activity with Charlie because, as I've mentioned before, I know I'll look back and miss these fleeting moments in the future.  So while I'd love to multi-task and get some things accomplished on my mid-morning basement make-believe train ride, I'm trying to just sit back and enjoy the real-life ride-- with the cutest (and perhaps the bossiest) conductor you've ever seen in the land of make-believe.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wish List

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Brian Andreas.  He's probably one of my favorite artists-- if I knew enough by name to have a favorite artist.  Because I love his artwork, I subscribe to his email list-- which sends out a "story of the week".  Usually, I glance at the story and smile-- sometimes even chuckle-- and then delete the email and move on.  But two weeks ago, while I was up at my parent's house, I opened up my email and found this:

"I wish you could have been there for the sun & the rain & the long, hard hills.  For the sound of a thousand conversations scattered along the road.  For the people laughing & crying & remembering at the end.  But, mainly, I wish you could have been there." 

I read it and my heart-literally-flip-flopped.  My breathing became ragged and tears welled up in my eyes.  The Universe had sent me the perfect piece of art-- describing exactly how I felt about losing these pregnancies---these hopes and dreams for our future.  I just wish they could have been there.  It's as simple as that.

My mom immediately noticed my tears and I mumbled that I had to buy this thing off the internet.  She took one look at it and (while tears began trickling down her cheeks) insisted on buying it for me.  It was that perfect.

As we filled up the remainder of the week with activity after activity, I momentarily forgot about the artwork.  Charlie and I returned to Grundy and spent a couple days with Mason before he left for his fishing trip.  I was incredibly jealous because he and his longtime friend were fishing in northern Wisconsin and spending their evenings at the Spahn cottage.  As I've mentioned before, this cottage--located at the very tippy top of Wisconsin, placed on a serene lake and dwarfed by towering evergreens, is most definitely my "happy place".  And since we all know things haven't exactly been happy lately, I desperately wanted to be there.  And if I couldn't be there, I at least wanted Mason here, taking care of me like he does so well.  But I also knew that he should be there, to have some reprieve from what's been going on here, to have his mind on fishing and little else (maybe some golfing too).

I have to admit that I was nervous about being alone for five days.  Of course, I knew I could handle it-- and have, plenty of times before.  But I just didn't quite trust my emotions.  I still felt pretty fragile and I couldn't quite loosen my grip on the Kleenex box just yet.  I wasn't sure that I could devote a full five days to Charlie without someone helping me out and providing some distractions.  I wished I didn't have to be alone.  I wished someone would cook for me.  I wished someone would offer to play with Charlie.  I wished someone would call just to chat.  I wished I wasn't so hormonal.  I wished I wasn't missing Mason so much.  I wished, I wished, I wished.

And here's where that sneaky Universe came into play.  Without even asking, I had so much support during that week.  People stopped by, people randomly texted happy things, and I received a sweet card in the mail.  One night, while we were at the pool, we ran into a friend who invited us over for pizza & sandbox play the following night.  Another night, a coworker asked if she could stop by with her kids to swim and then have dinner together.  A third night, another friend drove up from Des Moines with her boys to spend the afternoon and evening with us.  We played, pooled, and farmer's marketed, before they headed home.  On top of it all, Charlie completed his first week of swimming lessons!  At night, I sat on the deck and wrote and wrote and wrote (and stared at the sunset and then the lightning bugs).  I thought more, I cried less, I loosened the grip on the Kleenex box.

And somewhere, in the middle of that crazy busy supportive week, my Brian Andreas print was delivered to my doorstep.  It was just as perfect in real life as it was on the internet and so are those words, "But mainly, I wish you could have been there."

Nestled among our family photos

Friday, July 12, 2013

Under Their Wings

Last week, we vacationed at my parents.  It may not have been an "actual" vacation, but it felt like a vacation to me because they welcomed Charlie and me with open arms, and then tucked me safely under their wings as I tried to endure another week of heartache.  Each day seemed a little better last week, but the highs and lows of my crashing hormone levels were not fun, and sometimes they were downright horrible.  But having two people there to talk to, cry on, and entertain my little guy (while I read People magazine) made the second week after the silent ultrasound appointment a little easier to bear.

Our visit had been planned months ago, since my bff was home for her sister's wedding.  Initially, we weren't going to stay the entire week, but after the miscarriage, I desperately wanted to be taken care of by those who know me best.  And although our reason for sticking around all week was/is really sucky, it ended up being a great little getaway.  I loved seeing my friend, and watching the boys play together is always so much fun.  C was a crazy wild man because he was so excited to be at his grandparents,  and he couldn't contain one morsel of his energy.  He did eventually settle down-- just about the time we headed back home on Friday.  Of course, it may have been due to the fact that he was exhausted after we crammed a million things into one week.  Here's a glimpse:

A good omen: One of the first things we saw in Spencer: a street being torn up by a big digger and a little skid loader.  C & I got out of the van and watched the workers for about 10 minutes before I literally had to carry him away from the scene.

Papa surprised C with two new golf clubs!!  How did that grandpa know that someone would be thrilled about clubs with an orange shaft?  Lucky guess?  

That night, we had a mini reunion with both Josh and Kelly in Spencer for a few days.  I logged a million teenage hours in the presence of these two people-- they saw me through the good-bad-and ugly parts of high school.  I love love love both of them so much! 

Class of '96 rocks!! 
That night, we grilled and ate dinner together at my parent's house.  After the Pearsons left, Josh hung out on our porch, talking with my parents and me until close to midnight.  We were exhausted, but going to bed early is not an option when you have the opportunity to catch up with old friends.    

The next day, we took the little boys up to Arnold's Park.  I think they loved it.  

Riding the big train-- always a hit!

The dragons were fun too.

And so were the boats...

But the little train was just the best.  Especially when someone got to be the conductor.  Again. And again. 

And then he wanted to hang out in the caboose for awhile so he rode it one more time. 

And just one more time for good measure.  Chillin' in the caboose is a good thing.

Oh wait a minute, maybe the roller coaster was the best.  Hmmm... that was pretty fun too. 

Or maybe the chocolate ice cream cone with the teddy graham was the best.  

Or perhaps just hanging out with best friends was the best?  (That was my favorite part)

That evening, the public library had guests from the Sioux Falls zoo visit with four little critters.  C was entralled with the presentation and listened intently to the little lecture from the zookeeper.  He raised his hand and asked a question about whether or not the box turtle could swim.  I was impressed when he told me later that the lady said the turtle could swim in shallow water but not deep water because his shell was too heavy and not made for swimming.  Maybe he will do okay in school afterall.  

On Wednesday morning, Dad and I took C up to Treasure Village to watch the children's theater.  If you've never been up to Okoboji in the summer, there are millions of things for families to do, and the Treasure Village Theater is always fun to watch.  I have to admit that it hasn't changed a bit from when I was a kid.  

"What!?  Dirt floors!?  THATS wee-oyd."

We saw Peter Pan and C loved it.  He played Peter Pan for days after that, standing with his hands on his hips and exclaiming that he was Peter Pan, fighting the bad guy, Captain Hook.  

After the show, we played some mini golf.  There are 27 holes to play but C insisted on only playing the ones that looked like fun.  He especially liked the castle and "the big mountain".  

Eventually, we had to tear him away from mini golf long enough to enjoy our picnic lunch and head back home.  That night, we spent time with Grandma Viv, eating pizza at her house and then swimming in "her pool".  Ama surprised us by taking us out for Dairy Queen after swimming, which is always super cool.  Nothing says summer like clean jammies and a 9:00 trip to Dairy Queen on a muggy midwestern evening.  

In the morning, Dad and I headed up to do some flea market shopping at the lakes.  We both found some treasures and promised Charlie and Ama that we'd bring something special back for them.  What were the treasures, you ask?  Well, I found a 1940's wooden train in excellent condition.  I purchased it with the intention of using it for decoration if/when we redo Charlie's bedroom.  However, he LOVED it, and has been playing with it ever since.  Not sure it will make it to a decorative shelf in the future.  However, the super awesome red antique railroad lantern definitely will make it to a shelf someday!  I also picked up a (FREE) little dye-cast airplane and Dad found an orange softball (big hit!).  Mom's treasures were a tablecloth with chickens on it (don't even ask) and an antique book for her to craft with.

While the two of us were up shopping, Mom and Charlie were nature loving out at Stolley's Pond.  They hiked/triked around the pond and played outside.  Mom has some great pics on her camera that are evidence of the terrible time they had together (do you hear my sarcasm?).

That evening, the serious festivities began.  C experienced sparklers and S'mores for the first time and loved them both.  Although, after eating the S'more, he looked at me and said, "Mommy, my tummy hurts."  When I asked him why it hurt, he told me, "Maybe I ate too much of dis yummy yummy stuff and it made it bad."  Hmmm... smart kid.  

After our snacks, we packed up the sparklers and lawn chairs and headed up to the North Mall to watch the fireworks.  C was thrilled with them and ooohed and aaahed for every single one.  His face was as bright as the fireworks and his eyes glittered with excitement.  The firework show was pretty short but as I've said before, everything is different--fun and new and exciting-- when  you experience it through your child's eyes.  

The next day, I had a chance to spend a few hours with Grandma Viv before leaving.  We chatted about the big stuff going on in my life right now and the little stuff.  We talked about books and cousins and Grundy county (a favorite subject for her).  I always love when time is on our side and gives us a chance to actually visit for awhile- it's one of my favorite parts of returning home.  After saying goodbye to Grandma, I headed back to load up the van and get on the road.  Charlie was asleep within five minutes (a week without naps will do that to a busy 3 year old) and slept almost the entire way home.  

Our drive was uneventful-- sunny skies and light traffic.  As I drove, I reflected on the previous days and how far my emotions had come over the past week.  I arrived at my parents' house feeling sad and confused and scared and angry.  And then, all these people tucked me under their wings and I left feeling comforted and grateful.  (Still sad, but grateful)  Grateful for being my parents, for them taking care of me, for having such amazing friends, for the opportunities in our lives, for Charlie.   And each little word of comfort, little hug, little text, little distraction, is helping day by day.    

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Chi-Town Photo Book!

All this sadness is making me..... well, sad.  So let's look at some photos taken before the sadness-- the weekend before, actually.

Here's the scoop: My dad is a huge Cubs fan-- despite their awesome losing record.  We "grew up" going to Cubs games and spending time in Chicago every few summers.  So for his 60th birthday, Liz & I gave Dad two tickets to a Cubs game-- a little getaway in the city for him and my mom (happened to be on their 40th anniversary too!).  The only thing he didn't know was that eleven other people were going to show up and crash his party!

We've never taken Charlie into the city, so we turned this little weekend trip into a mini summer vacation.  At the time, things didn't seem to be falling into place very well (the weather, the traffic, the excursions), but it ended up being a perfect trip.  (hmmm.... how's that for an ironic analogy of this thing called life?)  Looking at the pics makes me a little achy about the "what if's", but I can't help but feel grateful for the gifts in my life.

Rather than post the pics on the blog, I'm linking the photo book here.  Check it out!

Shutterfly offers exclusive layouts and designs so you can make your book just the way you want.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Word of Thanks

I never knew emptiness could weigh so much, she said. I can barely hold it. So I sat beside her & reached for her hand & we held it together. 
-Brian Andreas

Matters of the heart defy physics.  For physicists would say that 'empty' is weightless and therefore simple and easy and effortless to carry.  But when your arms crave the soft weight of a sleeping baby and you're told no baby is on the way, your heart and soul feel as empty as your arms.  However, instead of feeling light and airy, your heart feels heavy and downtrodden.  You feel paralyzed and disoriented and alone and confused.

And then people show up. They show up beside you, ready to loan their hearts to you while yours is mending.  Some speak words of wisdom and insight.  Some offer their own personal stories of heartache and survival.  Some invite you over for supper, rescuing you from the proximity of the empty chair at the table.  Some send flowers.  Some send texts.  Some ask you, "How are you really doing?" and then squeeze your hand as you whisper, "Not that great."  Some e-mail you and say things like "this sucks" "life can be so shitty" "wish I was there to hug you tight". Others just say "I can't stop thinking about you" and "You're in my thoughts".   And right there, you feel comforted.  You know they can't do anything to change the circumstances, but knowing they are there is helpful enough.  

It's only been eleven days since we heard the silence of that ultrasound.  And in those eleven days, we've received so much support and love from our friends and family.  It's a little humbling, actually.  But I wanted to extend this thank you to those of you who have reached out, who have called or texted or sent cards or emailed or shown up at our doorstep.  It can be so awkward to know what to say or do when a friend or neighbor is weathering a storm.  It can be much easier to silently pray for them or think about them, rather than reaching out to them-- especially if you have no idea where to begin.  I personally, have meant to reach out to others many times, but stopped myself because a few days or a few weeks had passed or I didn't know what to say.  I've justified not reaching out by telling myself, "they probably just want to move on, not be reminded about this."  But one thing I have learned in the past eleven days is that showing up means a lot.    

So far, nobody has said or done anything to make my pain disappear.  Nobody has been able to reverse the clock and change the outcome of our ultrasound.  Nobody has been able to give me an answer for why this happened or predict the future of our family.  But I have been so comforted by those of you who have simply said, "I'm so sorry.  I'm just so sorry."   (And I especially like it when people say, "This is so shitty.  This is just so so shitty.")  I've been comforted by those of you who have reached out, who have cried with me-- maybe from the comfort of your own living rooms or maybe on the other end of the phone.  I've even been comforted by those who have said, "I don't know what to say," so we haven't said anything-- but just shared a sacred silent space for a moment in time.  

And as I reflect on these past eleven days, and look to the future I realize that not only am I taking comfort from your support, but I'm also receiving a great life lesson-- to always reach out when someone is hurting.  To avoid searching for the perfect thing to say, only to end up staying silent as a result.  To know that sometimes, just showing up (maybe with dark chocolate or cookies?) and holding hands and not talking is perfect enough.