Dec 31, 2014

She is the Light of our Year

It's the last day of the year, which, for many bloggers, brings about the whole "year in review" post. And while there are plenty of things about our year I could review, the highlight was, quite obviously, welcoming Nora May into our family.

The nine month wait for Nora was physically without incident, but excruciatingly full of fear and doubt and emotional ups and downs. She entered into our world with quick determination, bringing with her a peace and calmness to a family desperate to feel comfort after a broken heart. I know that I am a different mother with her than I was to either of the older girls, partially because she's the third baby I am parenting, but also because I am a different parent after losing her older brother. But even with the change in me this time around, the ease she has fit into our family comes from her alone.

Her smile is light and her wonder-filled eyes are joy. With her I have a new appreciation for sleepless nights, diaper blowouts, and afternoon fussiness, which wasn't the case with her older sisters. She is a one hundred percent perfect fit into my arms. She is our shining star out from darkness, but the wholeness she brings to our family is completely her own.

2014 has, in so many ways, been kinder and gentler to us than the previous year was. And I am incredibly grateful for that. Every year is filled with highs and lows, stresses and joys, comforts and sorrows. There have been hard days and easy days, and there are many more of those to come, but I am determined to look through it all with a positive perspective. I am content with the journey this past year has taken us on, and am looking forward to filling up our blank pages of the year ahead.

Wishing everyone shining lights of joy and silent quiet peace in the new year!

xoxo, christine

Dec 25, 2014

And to All a Good Night

Another Christmas in the books. We celebrated the day with my husband's family. With four kids, two teenagers, and one baby it was a little crazy. And loud. Of course, sometimes the adults are just as loud (or louder) than the kids.

It was chaotic, overwhelming, and sometimes even stressful, but I love it. I love it because within the chaos there is so much laughter and love. The smaller families come together to make one big boisterous group whose wit and warmth can be felt when you walk into a room.

It was a sweet Christmas, made extra special with the presence of Little Nora. Even though she slept through church yesterday and opening Santa presents this morning, most of the time she wanted to get right in the middle of the action. And if she wasn't, well, she made her displeasure well known with a shrill, disgruntled squeal, which was satisfied only by the attention of her sisters or cousins. (And maybe milk, too.)

It was a relaxing Nora's First Christmas for most of us, with plenty of delicious food, lots of playing with new things, and only a few tears shed between the cousins. For part of the afternoon there was a marathon Lego building shop set up on two tables followed by a session of pass around the doodling book, where they each took turns coloring a page or two.

I am quietly enjoying the last of Christmas Day, in front of the twinkling tree, basking in the left-over glow from the day. I am happy and content, thinking of the day, our families, all the Littles asleep in their beds.

Happy Christmas to all!

xoxo, christine

Dec 15, 2014

So They All Rolled Over

I can see the chaos at the end of the tunnel. We are almost to the end of our quiet and low key mornings while Big Sisters are in school. Nora is flipping over like a hot pancake, fully cooked on her back and ready to go on the belly. Except, just like her sisters did, she tires of her tummy fairly quickly and lets the house know with her frustrated cries. It's only fun if someone's there entertaining her, and I have come into the room to find her flattened out, exhausted from all that hard work of holding up her head.

We didn't think we'd have to worry about Nora getting into the Christmas tree until next year, but more than once she's rolled herself right under the tree, reaching for the ornaments above her head like a little baby floor mat just for her personal entertainment. Pretty soon she's going to be rolling across the floor and scooting herself under the couch, also just as her Big Sisters before her.

I am in no rush for Nora to grow any faster. Even with some sleepless nights still, I am just enjoying my baby as much as I can. But Nora, she is ready to keep up with her Big Sisters. Her eyes follow them around the room in awe, and the smiles she gives them make my heart grow about three sizes.

She is ready to rock and roll. Me? I'm just hoping she still likes to snuggle too.

xoxo, christine

Dec 9, 2014

A Christmas Ornament for the Book Lover

Prepare to be shocked.

I got my crafting pants on and actually made a gift. (I will pause for you to pick your jaw off the floor.) Clearly, if you didn't already know, I'm not much of a crafter. I love the idea of crafts. In fact, there are many creative crafting things I would love to be able to do, but I don't. I don't know if I don't have the patience, or the skill, or if it's just too overwhelming to try something new, but whatever it is, as I've gotten older I've become less and less crafty. And since I never was all that crafty, well, you get the idea.

Something came over me last week though, perhaps some sprinkles of magic from Santa's elves, or a little too much holiday cheer, but I decided that making something was exactly what I needed to do. First, I needed to decide just who would benefit from my lovely creation. Decision? Members of my book club. I found an idea online, bought myself some Mod Podge, and proceeded to create my masterpiece(s).

The girls were pretty much in love with the whole idea, probably because they love art and I so rarely actually do projects with them when we're at the table.

So, without further background on my oh-so-lacking arty talents, I give you:

Christmas Ornament: For the Book Lover 

(Just make sure the book lover you are making this for will not be totally appalled that you had to cut a book to make this. ::Sorry Papa.:: I had a mini heart attack trying to get my courage up to rip a page out of a book, so my four-year-old did it for me.)

Here's what you need:

Cookie cutter (choose the shape you want the ornament to be, I used a tree and star)
Heavy duty paper (I used this, but any thick card stock would do)
Mod Podge
A book you don't mind destroying (I used a copy of A Christmas Carol because, Christmas.)
Colorful twine
Four-year-old to rip the book for you (optional)

Trace the cookie cutter onto the card stock. Cut out. Trace the cut-out card stock onto two pages of the book (ripping the pages out of the book first obviously work best). Glue the shapes cut from the book pages to each side of the card stock. Cover with mod podge. Dry. (Repeat as many Mod Podge layers as you'd like. I put three layers on.) Punch a hole at the top of the ornament. Tie a loop of twine through the hole.

Voilá! Homemade Ornament.

As you can see, I am pretty happy with myself, and how these turned out. I foresee many other Mod Podge crafts in my future... Clearly, I'm a natural. Watch out Martha Stewart.

xoxo, christine

PS. I got all my supplies either from my kids' art supply at our house or at Target, but I'm pretty sure these supplies are available at any craft store and on Amazon.

Dec 8, 2014

When It's Not Always The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's that time of year. The Happiest time of year. Except that it isn't. At least, not for everybody. Especially not for grieving families.

This year does not feel nearly as hard as last year, our first Christmas after losing Calvin. This year we have a beautiful five-month-old daughter to focus on and distract us. We are lucky. But even though I know our family is exactly how it is supposed to be, I can't help but also know there is someone missing. I can't help but think about how there is a little boy who won't be in any of our Christmas pictures. Again. Or ever.

Holiday cards in general poke vigorously at my wounds. Especially last year (although this year I'm surprised how some of my pain has resurfaced). It perhaps seems hypocritical, because our family did end up sending out a holiday card last year, except that had it been up to me we wouldn't have.

Last year, sending out a card with our smiling family felt like a lie. It felt like I was dishonoring Calvin or trying to pretend he didn't exist. And while I couldn't stand the thought of sending out Christmas cards, to my husband it was very important. I viewed it as part of his grieving and healing process, which is why I allowed him to do them himself. Even though I couldn't do it for fear of ignoring our loss, I know that by sending them my husband was not doing anything wrong. He was not forgetting about or dishonoring our son in any way. But I still could not take part in it.

Still, I was surprised by just how few people acknowledged our loss that first Christmas. Of course, there was a wonderful outpouring of love right after we lost Calvin. And I know that God has reserved a special place in purgatory for me to finish out those Thank You notes I never wrote after receiving so much love and kindness after Calvin's death. I am so thankful for all those people, yet I was still taken aback by how little support was offered to us during the holidays.

I promise this is not a guilt trip. My intention is not to hurt anyone. It's just that the holidays can be so hard. They can be incredibly difficult, especially for us parents who are thrust into a season of happiness and joy when we're feeling anything but those things. And we need to know that we're not forgotten. That our babies are not forgotten.

Here's the thing. I don't expect you to sit with me in the depths of despair. I don't expect you to spend your holiday season in the sad, foggy state of a bereaved parent. I don't expect you to stop smiling or laughing or living. But would it be too much to jot a little note acknowledging someone's loss? Would it be so hard to let someone know that you remember that for her this season might not be so happy?

Please, if you know someone grieving this holiday, find a way to let her know she's not alone. Write a quick note on the back of the Christmas card, send her a short email, or even text a couple of lines. Just let her know that you're remembering her child. I promise you, your effort will not go unnoticed. In fact, it will be very much appreciated.

Although sending out holiday cards was happier for us this year, they are still a little place of soreness for me. Which, because it was a more joyful experience, surprised me that much more that my wounds reopened. Yes, this year our holidays are not nearly as difficult as last year, but there are still some difficulties. Different difficulties. Unexpected difficulties.

Maybe holiday cards will always be a little bit painful for me. Or maybe after a few years they won't. I imagine it's just like anything else in grief, just when you think you're getting the hang of it, something new comes along or something old resurfaces.

Some days the holidays will feeling like the hap, hap, happiest time of year, and other days they really won't. And that's okay. I will hold my family close, and dream of visions of a little boy, wrapping his arms around us all.

xoxo, christine

Dec 4, 2014

Feed Me...Or Not

Given my sweet baby's deliciously rolly thighs and her love of nursing almost as often as a one-month-old, I was kind of expecting her to delight in being offered the next Big Thing in food. Rice Cereal.

We've been in no real rush to start her on solids, but the past week or so she's seemed particularly annoyed with us at meal times, which started us wondering if perhaps her irritation was that we were eating things she wasn't.

Her reaction to the rice cereal was less than pleased. Perhaps she was expecting to get some turkey tetrazzini like the rest of us.

I remember that her sisters had a difficult time getting the concept of eating something off a spoon. This was not Nora's problem. She just really didn't seem to like what she was getting.

Which was confirmed by her facial expressions and gags.

Sorry, Baby. You're stuck with rice cereal for a little while yet.

xoxo, christine

Dec 2, 2014

Tis' the Season

Thanksgiving is over. It is officially the holiday season. You can safely turn on the Christmas music without facing the disgust from others that it is "too early". You can admit that your Christmas shopping is started, if not well under way. You can Griswold out your house, get your tree up and decorated, and bake those sugar cookies LOUD and PROUD.

I did not get my Christmas shopping done before the first of the month, like I was kinda hoping too. (But next year I am all over that. I will be done, done, done by December 1st.) What I don't love about the season? The stress of gift finding and buying. I love to give gifts, but I hate that I think about it non-stop until I've gotten everyone on my list checked off.

I am trying really hard this year to take time to be mindful and Be Still. To take time every day (or at least a few times a week) to sit in the quiet and listen. I desperately want Christmas to be more about making room in my heart for God's son and less about commercialism and consumerism. I'm sure I feel this way every year, but I want to simplify. I want to let go of what is not important. Instead of wasting time and energy on what is not important, I want to use my time and energy on what is.

I want more singing along to Christmas music and snuggling on the couch in front of our glowing tree. I want more silliness and laughter and soaking up the look on my baby's face when she sees her sisters. I want more glasses half-full and silver-linings and rainbows with pots of gold at the end.

Happy December! Wishing everyone lots of snowmen and cocoa with marshmallows!!

xoxo, christine