Friday, March 25, 2011

A new kind of dating...

So, when you're young and single, you can meet people fairly easily -- especially if you go to college, where the organizations are set up so that you can meet people with like interests and create those "lifelong friendships" everybody talks about.

Then, you get married and have children... and things change.  Suddenly, the concept of meeting people and "compatibility" is based on completely different things.  Whether someone is a good match has to do with your children--their ages, your parenting philosophies, etc.

Now, I'll admit:  I am very fortunate to have friendships that are strong and super-meaningful to me.  Aren't my best friends gorgeous?

Vanessa, Me, & Christine

Unfortunately,... they live many miles away in different directions, and we don't get to see each other as much as I'd like.  So, that leads to this - this need to meet new people, and ya know -- keep me from going insane?

Believe it or not, making new mom friends is hard.  So, when I finally had the opportunity to make a friend and plan a "Mommy Date" not very long ago, I was actually a little nervous.  There's a teacher that my husband works with who has a baby a little less than a month older than Natalie.  In mommy-speak... that means compatibility.  So, we ran into her, with her baby (Bonus! Something to start the conversation.... ding, ding, ding!) at the grocery store.  Taylor introduced us, and I said one of my probably-not-that-funny quips about Mommyhood, and she laughed.  Woo hoo! Instant camaraderie over our babies and mommy-dom.  Yes!  But, then it was back to grocery shopping.  And it hit me!  Neither of us had exchanged information and we hadn't made plans to meet.  All that charm (okay, more like nervous-babbling-because-I-really-wanted-this-new-person-to-like-me) had been for nothing.  Blech!  I disgust myself.

But, I got a second chance in the parking lot, and I pulled up my big girl panties long enough to ask her if her family of three would want to get together sometime with the three of us.  And then, I felt like the nerdy guy getting the girl's phone number.  Even worse, I'm like the nerdy guy who doesn't even know what to do with them when he does get the digits.  What do you expect?  I'd never done this before! 

Then late last week, we met a mommy with twins about Natalie's age (she told us that they were conceived through in vitro, and we had an instant connection both because of our babies ages and because of infertility), and she was so suave asking for my phone number... it made me realize that I really was like the nerdy, inexperienced guy when I had asked for that other mommy's information.  Oh, to be suave and cool like this other mommy.  Oh great - it's like high school all over again.  But then again, this time, I'm a little less self-conscious about the extra fat packed onto my rolls around the middle, and I've got an adorable baby girl who thinks all of my dorky jokes and ridiculous sound effects are hilarious.

Thankfully, looking back on my whole "Mommy Date Pick-Up" encounter just makes me laugh, and now we have a plan for our families to meet and have dinner next weekend.  I'd call it a play date with our kids to make it seem less ridiculous... but I'm pretty sure a play date for babies less than 6 months old is ridiculous.  Just sayin'.

Natalie is 4 months old now!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Surprise Baby Shower


So, my best friend Vanessa probably never expected a party of the sort that we had on Sunday.  Especially when I remember back to that day she first called me with the news…   V:  “I have news.”  Me, joking: “You’re pregnant?”  Her:  “You weren’t supposed to guess!”  Or something like that.  Ha!

Anyway, when I started to plan the baby shower with our friend Christine, she suggested a surprise shower.  I was very nervous because I am terrible at keeping secrets (especially from my best friend!) but I am SO glad we did.  Great idea, Christine!!

So, here is a run-down of the hustle before the event.  Vanessa’s husband, Stephen, was in on it. He gave us the okay to have it at their house (woo hoo, no transporting gifts!).  We asked him to take her to church and out to lunch to keep her occupied.  But then, she asked me to come visit for my birthday.  Uh, seriously?   I couldn’t say no because then she would know something was up.  So, then the plan was for us to go to spend the night, get up and go to church with them, but one of us would suddenly “come down with an illness” right before church.  Stephen would still keep her away long enough to get the party underway.  THEN, Stephen actually got sick.  Bad sick.  Poor Stephen!  So, we didn’t know what to do.  He told us not to cancel.  (Such a sweet hubby!!)  So, we had to really work at it, but we finally got her mother-in-law in on it.  She was going to take V to church – same plan as before.  But then Vanessa wanted to do breakfast before!  Golly.  So, we ended up going to breakfast and then I said I needed to run back to the house for something, and then messaged her that I wouldn’t make it back to church.  Her mother-in-law did a fabulous job of keeping her away… and when she got home - boy, was she surprised to see all of us!!

Soooo --- The invitation…
A “Pack Party” is where you bring a six-pack and a package of diapers… Yeah, I made it up to keep all the men occupied. :)
The surprise….
She knows something's up... but still doesn't realize it's a baby shower.

Ooooh!  A baby shower!

The décor…
Diaper wreath with special center for Baby Tobin

Wall hanging with Tobin’s name as the entry table décor (I wish I got a better picture of it)

Paper onesies with guests' advice, well wishes, and congratulations strung up on a "clothes line".

Diaper Chair (made from diapers, a romper with matching hat, and baby wash cloths)
Diaper Cake and Stork bundles (made from homemade receiving blankets and diapers)

The corsages (made with baby wash cloths as backing)

The food…

We had all that food you can see on the table, plus a crock pot full of little smokies and about a million more cupcakes and cookies (Christine made them all, and they were delicious!).
You can see the diaper carriage I made in this picture.  (and you can kind of see the intricate detailing on the cookies Christine made – they were sheep for Vanessa with Camo for Stephen)

The guitar cake was meant for Stephen (who actually plays, for those of you who don't know him), but since he was sick – we just all enjoyed it a little extra for him!  My mom did a great job – it looked awesome and tasted great, too! 

Vanessa said her theme is "all things boy".  So, we had everything from lambs and camo to dots and puppies.  I think even though everything was mixed and matched with different colors and prints, it all came together to make a pretty cute shower.

The guests…

The gifts…

Diapers from the guys…

oh, right – the guys!
They enjoyed the backyard pack party, anyway.

Then, the keepsakes…

The center of the wreath.
This, the onesie papers on the clothesline shown way up above, and the onesies we used to record the gifts were all put together as a shower memory book.
An autograph plate
And we even played a game that had a prize…
Vanessa’s mother-in-law won it… and gave it to Baby Tobin!!

All-in-all… that was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  Fun with family and friends always makes me smile.

Oh, and Natalie matched some of Tobin’s presents from me… Love this dress I made with her initial on it and a matching flower bow, too!

I can't believe it, but she’ll be 4 months old on Saturday.  We can’t wait for her new friend’s arrival... due July 4, 2011 – Baby Tobin Ricky Stewart!

Friday, March 11, 2011

In Loving Memory of...

So, we've now been through two funerals in Natalie's short life.  Our baby before our baby girl... our Barkley... just died today.

God blessed us with Neo first.  He came to us the first time we were having a hard time having children.  Just before we became foster parents.  That time in our lives was almost as hard as when the fertility doctors told us that they didn't think we would ever get pregnant.  Talk about a blow to your heart!  And then, we had the opportunity to get Barkley, and he was able to help the pain in our hearts as we pushed onward with trying to have a child.  He was my baby.  He was my friend.  He was not merely a dog that we owned.  He was a member of our family.

Taylor and his B-Boy

I never understood the phrase, "you look like your dog just died."  I've never had a dog that was a friend or part of the family until our boys.  Now I get it, I can assure you of that.  Some people may not understand it but... we had a funeral.  He was buried with his sweater, his favorite toy, and wrapped in the fleece blanket that he and I never could agree on whether it was his or mine.  I can't believe it took this for me to finally give in,... but it's his.  His grave is marked with stones in the shape of a B.  And while it might sound silly to some, as the first bit of dirt started to cover him and the tears in my eyes started to spill, the beautiful words of Amazing Grace seemed the only thing that could do him justice. 

His registered name was Prince Romeo von Barkley.  If dogs do go to heaven, I know that the part of his name that was Romeo will live on as he chases females (though he wouldn't know what to do if he actually caught one)... And the hills that he'll stand atop will show that he is a prince.  He was our Barkley.  Our B-Boy.  Our baby...

So, I'll close with my goodbye:  Rest in Peace, Barkley "B-Boy" Norvell.  We loved you dearly and will forever miss you.  Though we do not understand what happened to you, we are thankful for having known you and being blessed to call you our friend and our baby.
Barkley, Born 3/10/09
Rest In Peace, 3/11/11

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Angel

We prayed and prayed for Natalie for 4 years. After many, many, many failed months of trying to conceive and many trips to the fertility doctor, God blessed us when we found out I was pregnant.  That moment of our greatest surprise has come up a lot lately; so, I thought I'd share that story:

We had done family planning.  We had done fertility pills.  We had even done shots.  What worked?  According to the doctors and nurses at our fertility clinic, none of them.  My eggs simply wouldn't mature.  What did that mean?  It meant that we couldn't even do in vitro fertilization.  You have to have a mature egg to be able to do in vitro.  My heart was broken.  I remember calling my mother, hundreds of miles away and sobbing because not only would we never conceive naturally -- we couldn't even do in vitro!  Of course, they had me on the next round of high end hormones and fertility treatment shots.  The next step was to see if they could harvest some of my immature eggs for a less-common procedure called IVM (in vitro maturation), where the eggs mature in the lab.  So, I go in for my visit.  And I can tell you this -- I was SO nervous.  The tech began doing the ultrasound of my ovaries, and then she suddenly stopped and had a weird look on her face.  She excused herself, left, and came back with another nurse.  They both studied the screen with a look of worry mixed with puzzlement on their faces.  They said nothing.  Finally, the two of them left and went and got my fertility nurse.  She came in and looked at the screen.  She nodded at the tech and the other nurse, who looked at me then the floor.  I was thinking they were going to tell me some sort of awful news!  Finally, she said that there's good news and bad news.  The bad news is that at my last visit, they were wrong.  The new infertility path was a mistake.  Then, she pointed at the screen and explained this little mass that I could barely make out... explained it in terms that were way above my head, and finally said "So, that's the good news.  You're ....(and with a giant pause of disbelief)... already pregnant."  I was astonished.  I was in complete shock.  Here we were in the first step of the next horribly long, expensive process... and I got to... skip it?  She followed it up with a smile and a shoulder touch as she explained that it might not "stick".  But, she said that all we could do is be thankful that I was pregnant, and pray for this little life to turn into a beautiful baby.  And I did... I had the most beautiful baby I've ever laid eyes on.

I had a hard pregnancy and about 8 weeks of contractions before labor, but it was all exciting. Exciting that our little Princess would be here for us to spoil and love. I have many friends who are still having a hard time trying to conceive.  I continue to pray for them daily.  And I will always remember that our Natalie is a blessing, our gift from God.  She is here to make me a better person, and to make us a stronger family. She is ours. The one we prayed for. The one we love.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Domestic Diva

I would like to start by saying the reason I didn’t post this yesterday was because we were getting our home insulated.  My amazing hubby is super sore today from crouching in the attic running the blow-in insulation hose (my fantastic daddy fed the insulation into the hopper, too - so, thanks!).  So, I guess our home is a little more energy-efficient, after all!  Woo hoo.  I am so excited for progress on our fixer-upper!

Oh, the fluff!
That said – here are my top 5 domestic mommy traits:

#1 – I breastfeed my baby.  Exclusively.  (I use a cover, but I do breastfeed in public and in mixed company, faux pas or not.  Would you rather a couple minutes of awkward or a screaming baby?  Honestly.)  Anyway, from the beginning I was determined beyond determination that Natalie would be breastfed.  I may have cracked, bled, and been miserable for a while… but I was not giving in!  Also, my baby lost more than the acceptable amount of weight at the hospital, and they told me to supplement.  I am SO thankful for my one lactation nurse that said we just needed a little more time for my milk to come in more.  She had me pump after every feeding (not much came out but she encouraged me that the baby could get more than the pump ever could), and she had me feed my baby supplementary bottles (still my milk, though).  Had I supplemented, my milk supply would’ve been even less and my baby that much less motivated to eat.  I thank God for that nurse!!

#2 – I use cloth diapers.  I think it may be an understatement when I say that I had very, very little support when I first told everyone that I would use cloth diapers with Natalie.  Little did they know that I had already used them at home on our foster son (we couldn’t use them all the time because his daycare wasn’t cloth-diaper-friendly).  I knew what I was getting myself into, and I really didn’t appreciate the looks of astonishment, nor the comments about how long that would last or how ridiculous I was being since the disposables are so much easier.  I found myself starting to explain how much cheaper they were, and I’ve even found myself telling people before they have a chance to comment that “whatever it takes for me to stay home with my baby.”  And it usually gets left alone then.  But, to be honest… it wasn’t just about money (although, considering that our bills-like water from using the washer-didn’t increase at all and we haven’t had to buy a single package of diapers since we started using cloth, we’ve already saved money even though I bought the more expensive cloth diapers).  The main thing was that I wanted to use them.  I have the one-size kind with Velcro closure.  They work just like disposables and will fit her until she’s potty trained.  I really love the concept of less diaper rash, and they told our grandmothers how good drying diapers in the sun was for our babies.  Why did they stop telling us?  Oh, and the sun’s ability to remove stains… BIG bonus!!  I now use that trick on her clothes.

Natalie's cloth dipes...
and our lovely view from the backyard, lol
 #3 – I’m a fan of home remedies.  Okay, this may sound weird but here it is.  Back story - disposable diapers did in fact break out my baby’s bottom.  And I’m talking BAD.  The minute we switched to cloth, it was almost instantly better!  Then, we thought we’d use ‘sposies for a trip we took to visit friends because we fell victim to the claim that they were more convenient… and our poor baby’s tush cracked open and bled – it was BAD!  We switched her back to the cloth, and instead of using a diaper cream (which would potentially ruin her diapers, anyway) I tried a trick that the nurses told me would work on me when I was hurt from breastfeeding – I put breastmilk on her bottom, and within one diaper change it was gone.  I later told my mother-in-law that I got the breastmilk home remedy idea from my grandmother, but considering that my grandmother only breastfed for 3 weeks with any one of her four girls… I don’t think that’s where it came from.  I think it was my awesome grandmotherly lactation nurse.  Thank you again, ma'am!!

#4 – Another reason I’m old fashioned is just my values.  Things have changed so much for me as an individual, especially since we've formed our family.  Growing up, I always had plans to have a career.   Going to school, becoming something great, enjoying whatever successes God would bless me with… those were my plans, my goals, my aspirations.  Things were hard for us when I was in college, what with my brain problems and all.  You know, a tumor or a blood malformation don’t seem all that bad until you put the word "brain" in front of it.  Brain tumor.  Brain Malformation.  See?  Because then, it’s like – the problem is where?  Well, that’s not really true, I don’t guess -- those things are bad no matter how you look at it.  But anyway, things were hard then.  But they were nothing compared to infertility.  Not being able to give my husband a child… well, it’s just a pain that somebody who’s never experienced infertility could truly understand.  My attempt to make it understandable is linked if you click here.  So anyway, the year before we got pregnant with Natalie, my husband and I were very fortunate to have fairly high-paying jobs as a teacher power couple (tee hee-I think I just used an oxymoron there).  But when God blessed us with the right infertility doctor, good timing, and luck to conceive our precious angel – well… my plans, goals, and aspirations changed.  Owning a home and a minivan replaced other goals and desires, and my resume now reads wife and mother.  And to be completely honest, I’m loving every minute of it.  I keep getting the looks and questions about when I’m going back to work or if I’ll ever be an Ag Teacher again.  I keep telling them that maybe someday.  But honestly, I think I would be content to stay home and raise babies.  If that’s God’s calling on my life, who am I to argue?  Plus, as long as there’s a 4-h club to be found, there’ll always be a place where I can help with contests, team training, and keep my love of agriculture awareness close to my heart.  Those are the things I loved most about teaching Ag, anyway.

Moving on...

#5 – I can cook.  I can sew.  I can make a pretty good hairbow.  I have goals like reinventing the ordinary and making it extraordinary -- while I don’t recycle plastic, I don’t usually throw containers away – I mix them up and repurpose them into something useful.  I guess I’m not a “recycler” – I’m an “up-cycler”!  I am on this mothers’ panel that does surveys.  My title on the board is “domestic diva”.  That makes me laugh.  I mean, I never thought I would be the wife and mother that stays home all day, cleans, does laundry, and has dinner on the table for her working husband every night.  That wasn’t me.  But now, there’s nothing that makes me happier!  Our fixer-upper is getting fixed up, and our bills are completely manageable, even with only one income.  I don’t have too many complaints.  Above all, I love being Natalie’s Mommy!!

Spirit bow I made for my baby sister

Outfit my mom and I sewed for Natalie...
with matching bow, of course!
My baby sister had completely ragged out her old skecher flip-flops.
So, now they're reincarnated as spirit "fluffy flops"!
Can you tell their school colors are orange and black?

The fact is – a lot of not-so-great stuff has happened in my last couple of posts (the fires, death, first shots, etc).  I’ve been able to use my blog as an outlet for those emotions and fears.  That way, when I'm spending time with my family, I can keep my sunny disposition (that may be stretching it just a little, ha!).  Seriously, though.  I want my daughter to see that obstacles may come your way, but you just get past them one step at a time.  It is my hope that I can teach her to have a high moral standard, good Christian values, and that life isn’t always easy.  But it’s worth living.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The fires...

My dad always told me as a child to stop being so "attitudinal."  When I got older and stressed over jobs or decisions, my dad told me to "quit being so pessimistic" and "lose the sarcasm."  Who knows how many times he told me to “Look on the bright side!"  Those statements (and many others) have always gotten on my nerves.  How dare someone tell me how to feel or how to act?  Who does he think he is?  My father??  … Oh, yeah.  Oops.

Well anyway, every now and then, my "sarcasmicatude" comes out, gets the better of me, and there’s no stopping it.  And the sad thing is that since becoming pregnant and having a beautiful baby girl, it seems that the pessimistic smarty pants crazy-bot in me has only gotten worse.  So, please keep in mind that I mean no harm when I shout, cry incessantly, or throw an all-out baby temper tantrum over things, especially when I'm supposed to "look on the bright side"… like with what I’m about to write.

Our home has been ransacked.  Has it been burglarized?  NO.  We did it ourselves.  We destroyed it and flipped it practically upside-down when we were digging for our most “prized, precious, priceless” possessions and memories last night.   And why did we do this?  The fires.  Fires that flared up and got a little too close to our home for comfort.

If it had just been our house, empty, I would’ve said “let the shack burn!”  Don’t get me wrong – I am thankful that we own a home.  However, it’s a fixer-upper, which we have been very slow-go to actually fix up.  So, if it burned -- well, let’s just say that losing the stress of the remodel wouldn’t break my heart.  But, it wasn’t just a shell of a house.  It’s our home, with a lifetime and a half worth of possessions (and really, I don’t need the lecture about how it’s just stuff and can be replaced.  Don’t lie -- if you lost your wallet, you’d be upset… and we’re talking about possibly losing and replacing EVERYTHING - just the thought makes me cringe).

We knew the fires were on both sides of us, and the one moving toward us was “moving fast”.  But we had no idea what that meant – did we have minutes, hours?

So, we loaded up the most important stuff.  Priceless items such as my mom's box of pictures-that I still haven't had the heart to work all the way through, btw-- and baby books went first (but not without checking first to see that my baby’s precious umbili-stump was still inside… gross, I know; but that’s a whole ‘nother story).  Next, we got all the precious gov’t paperwork that we need when we have to prove who we are… you know, so I’ll be prepared the next time someone accuses me of being Maria San Salvador because it is SO believable that this fair-skinned, blondeish haired, green-eyed American could possibly be from another country.  Maybe I could pass for Connie Souphanousinphone from Laos?? 

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes… Then, as I was grabbing scrapbooks out of the basket with our old yearbooks, my husband says to just grab it all - including the yearbooks.  I looked at the hubs and thought, really??  The goal is to forget the freckled-face nerd rebellion that was my unbelievably small high school graduating class of TEN, and you wouldn’t want to just let those things burn?  What’s the matter with you?  Were you really that popular in high school?  And then I laugh.  Because I actually knew him in high school… and well… it makes me laugh.

The digital camera and computer go next – too many pictures of our darling girl are on them (and the fact that they cost hundreds of dollars to replace doesn’t hurt).  But, anyway, they get shoved in a bag and drug out to the car through the smoky air. 

And then we pack a bag with a few shirts and a pair of pants for each of us.  As my brother and mother come to help us, I try to decide what to take for Natalie.  And how do you decide what to take for a baby when you can't take it all??  We were so fortunate to be given so many awesome baby gifts – toys, clothes, crib bedding, curtains, the beautiful crib itself.  It makes me cringe to think of losing them.  As I continued to look around, I saw the changing table/dresser that her daddy painted for her, and the hand stitched wall hanging that was made for her, and then… I start to feel my eyes fill with tears.  And I’m turning round and round in circles, looking at everything and I can’t figure out which heirlooms to save (the play dishes that are some of the only things that I have from my own childhood, the clothes that were handmade for Natalie, the quilt that was handmade for her daddy but is pink because they thought he was going to be a girl).  Instead of choosing, I grab what I can and I quickly grab the clothes that were on top as I tried to hold it together.

But, yes I broke down.  I cried.  Then, I realized that I could smell smoke coming in the window of Natalie’s room.  I freaked out, and then we got in the car. 

I immediately told Taylor that I didn’t want to leave the house.  I wanted to stay.  I wanted to know what was going to happen.  The forestry service had been called in, along with lots of firefighters (lots for this area, anyway).  They were going to get it stopped.  We should stay, stand our ground.  Then, Taylor talked to our neighbors who came to check on us, and they told him that their homestead had burned to the ground.

So, we went to my parents’ house.  We could still see the flames, but we were out of the path of destruction.   Out of the horrific wind’s angry path.  All we could do was message our friends and family as we watched the flames, like angry hands grabbing at the glowing horizon.  It was getting so late that it should have been pitch black outside.  But the glow.  I’ll never forget the glow. 

They were finally able to contain the fire.  And that meant that they saved a lot of homes, including ours.  So, for a brief moment last night I thanked God for saving our home.  But then my "sarcasmicatude" returned when we came home and I realized that the smoke smell was unbearable.  Airing out the house was useless.  Comforting my baby was hopeless.  I couldn’t even give her the blanket she loves to sleep with because of it’s reeky smoke smell.  So, what to do?  What’s left to do?  Lay my head on my smoky pillow and thank God that my pillow is still there to sleep on.  That my baby is still safe in the other room.  That things are okay. 

And I am.  I’m thankful.  But as I woke up this morning, I realized that one small part of me does want to be angry.  Angry that we flipped everything upside down and have to put it back.  I just know that it is the devil seeping in, and I have to fight hard to prevent that.  So, fight the hurt I did - and that led me back to the place where I remembered what’s important.

I think that this was a huge wake-up call from God.  The hubs and I have been praying for a sign that we’re doing the right things with his career and the other big changes happening in our lives.  I don’t think that for us there could be a more significant mirrored sign:   Our lives will potentially be flipped upside down by the changes that are to come.  But rather than be upset that we flipped it upside down, we need to be thankful that everything will still be here to put back into place when things do settle down.  It may feel as though there is a fire bearing down on us with all these changes, but we need to trust God with our path just as we trusted those fighting the fire to save our home.

Or something else witty and thought-provoking instead.  

Happy flippin’ February, Everybody! 
Natalie is 3 months old!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Confessions of a Sad Day

Uh-oh.  Now that I’ve written this post I look back and realize this is two totally serious posts back-to-back.  I’m thinking that something good has got to happen.  And soon!

Today hurt. 

That is the truth.  I went to pay my respects to a man who, in his own special way, made an impact on a lot of people.  He died on Saturday.  Suddenly.  Unexpectedly.  In a tragic accident.  

I couldn’t help but let the hurt wash over me.  I mean, that’s what you do at a funeral.  You allow yourself to hear the funny quips and the sad truths and you can cry without it being viewed as a weakness.  Two men (both of whom I have looked up to for a lot of years) cried today and seeing their tears made my own swollen cheeks damp again.

That’s the thing… I cried.  I never allow myself to cry, either.  My husband says that I build up this wall of grief and I tackle emotions by myself.  “Why won’t you let me help you?” is a question he often asks me.  The truth is that it’s easier to keep my million-mile-an-hour pace than it is to give in to my emotion when I am really upset.

It’s not just because of the funeral, because of this loss of such a wonderful human being.  That would be enough, I would think.  However, it is so much more.  I saw his children sitting at the front of the memorial.  I saw his daughter smile as she looked around and saw all the people who loved her father gathered in this place.  I was jealous of her.  In the face of this horrible tragedy, she has been blessed with her father's gloriously sunny disposition.  And I am SO not that person. 

I sat in my seat with my own beautiful, smiling daughter in my arms. And I got this horrible feeling as the memory of losing my mother as a child came to my mind.  Seven years old and I had already defined how to compose yourself when you lose a parent, and I was acting the same way all over again --  putting on a brave face and not crying because I didn’t want the world to see my vulnerability.  And that’s when I broke today.  I saw those older men, my mentors, with tears on their cheeks.  I saw this family that has now been broken by the loss of a great man, and … I lost it.  I actually cried.

Then, I allowed myself to feel the sadness and anger over the things that I have been pretending don’t bother me.  First, there is the fear of our entire unknown future as we embark on a possible new journey with our careers (especially Taylor).  He is hard at work on his principal certification, and that may mean moving again.  That total unknown scares me a lot. 

Then, there is the anger I feel toward the guy who installed our heating and air conditioning.  He came in August and did the installation, but didn’t install the furnace properly.  He said he’d be back in two weekends.  Three months later, the day after Natalie was born, he came to fix the furnace so our baby would have heat (but only after Taylor left him a message shaming him for leaving our house so that our newborn would come home without heat).When he fixed the furnace, he changed the air conditioner so that it now won’t work (and he also damaged our ceiling in two rooms).  So, he said he’d be back the very next weekend to fix what he had messed up and finish the work.  Because my husband and I were in the hospital with the brand new baby, my dad was with him finishing the work.  He clearly wasn’t done, but my dad trusted the guy, took his word that he'd be back, and paid him the remainder of what we’d agreed to pay him.   We did not trust him and were not planning to pay him until everything was completely finished.  And now I know us not trusting him was the right thing.  Here we are, Natalie is almost 3 months old, it’s getting hot (80’s today), and we don’t have a functional air conditioner.  (In case you weren't keeping track, it's been over 6 months now since he initially came to do the installation.)

It’s times like these that I question everything.  Do I have the right to be hurt?  The right to be angry?  I mean, I can’t help it but sometimes I feel so unworthy of my feelings.  Like, how can my mom’s death still hurt my heart?   It has been over 16 years.  And I pretended for so long that our miscarriages didn’t even happen.  Do I deserve to mourn them now?  Or the losses of our failed adoptions?  Or what about our little foster baby?  We know he now has a wonderful and stable home with friends of ours.  Is it wrong to look back and be sad about the day he left our home?  Am I allowed to be upset that our home is in a state of limbo when it comes to climate control?

Am I allowed to mourn the loss of this ag teacher who seems to have been taken from the earth too soon?  I don’t know.  My prayer is that God will comfort me, knowing that he is now in heaven. 

I pray that God will help me to feel better about … no actually, that leads me to realize my real prayer.  Taylor asks me why I won’t let him help me.  Why I never cry.  Why I won’t allow myself to hurt or feel.  So, my prayer is that God will help me to feel.

I am almost there.  I still feel totally unworthy of that precious baby girl I just laid in her crib to sleep.  It is my wish that my own level of self-worth will increase… because I never want her to question her own value.  She is everything.  She deserves the very best -- and that includes the very best possible version of her mother.  Lord, please hear this prayer.  I give my tears to You, and I give my fears to You.  Help me to remember that You created me, and that means that I am worthy of all that You have given me.  You created my angel baby, and she is definitely worthy of everything I can offer and more.

Today’s burial service was in the heat of the day, right at 2 pm.  I now have a sunburn (ridiculously, it is a red blotch with a fair colored outline of the huge cowhide cross necklace I was wearing now ingrained in the middle of my chest).  It’s like I have been physically branded by my hurt. 

Here’s the thing -- my swollen cheeks and puffy eyes will go down and my sunburn will fade, but the imprint left on my heart by this day will remain.  I have opened my eyes.  I see the Truth; I’m just having to take the progress one step at a time.

How do you dress an almost 3-month-old
for a funeral taking place in 80-degree heat?
Comfortably, I guess.
...And yes, that's her bath seat. 
What?  She likes it more than her bouncer. ;)