Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Tribute to Koda...

It's been exactly a year since you've been gone, Old Girl. But today, it feels like we lost you only yesterday. I wish the last day of your life wasn't a memory. It was one of the worst days of my life. I will never forget your big brown eyes looking into mine, begging me to do something to take the pain away. As we sat on the floor with you and gave you our last goodbyes, I literally felt like my heart was breaking in two. Thankfully, that was only a day in your ten years. And in those ten years, I have more memories of you than I could ever detail, and that one day cannot overshadow them. Here are the ones on my heart tonight:

I remember the night we met you. You were a silly, clumsy puppy, but already so smart. We ran inside to grab some food at Braum's and left you in the car with the motor running. The next thing we knew, you were hanging out the window about to jump to freedom, having opened it by standing on the switch. Erik ran out and kept you in Jeep Jail, much to your dismay. I still smile thinking about your goofy, happy face, tasting freedom for a few moments.
Our first night with Koda.

One of our all-time favorite Koda pics.

I remember the many, many tricks we taught you. You amazed everyone with how you would get a Kleenex when I would sneeze, how you could turn lights off  and on, and how you would obey every command with merely a hand signal. I remember one year when we were showing off your Kleenex trick at my birthday party, and you got a little overzealous. You started pulling tissue paper out of all of the sacks and you were just so pleased with yourself! You had a knack for making people laugh.

Koda loved to "laugh." (These pictures were taken years apart).

I remember how you used to lay in the doorway every single morning as I was getting ready for work. You would roll the ball to me with your nose, and wait for me to roll it back. It was one of my favorite games to play with you, our private ritual. But on the mornings that I was running late, I would refuse to play along and ignore you altogether. Oh, how I wish I could have a few of those mornings back!
Our house on River Birch
New house, same routine...

I remember the night you got stung by something. Maybe several somethings. Your nose was swollen and misshapen and your breathing was heavy, and I stayed up all night with you, barely daring to blink. I rested my head on you and lay on the floor with you the entire night. The morning couldn't have come fast enough. It was my first taste of how it might feel to be a mom.

I remember the darkest of days, when I would sit on the floor and cry, or stay in bed recovering from yet another procedure. You would lick my tears away, never intruding, just there. My healing shadow. There were days you never left my side, wouldn't even go outside for a potty break. You knew I needed you, and I can't imagine getting through some of the hardest days without you.

I remember you with Addison. You were only a part of her life for a brief time, but you were her best friend. She still prays for you every single night, without fail. Seeing her rest her head on your belly and read to you would always bring me such pride in both of you. Your kind, patient temperament was such a marvel to anyone who didn't know you. Those of us who did, well, I'm sorry to say that we often took it for granted.

You were such a beautiful dog. You were a conversation piece everywhere we took you. From the ever-popular "I didn't know they came in black," to the curious, "What kind of dog is that?!" we responded to questions and comments about you left and right. I always thought that one day, that gift could translate into you becoming a therapy dog, but you just had such a puppy-like spirit, even at the age of ten, that it seemed a shame to try and rein in that exuberance.
Koda loved her daddy.

We grew up together, you and I. You saw me go from a silly, adult(ish) woman, to a nervous, but overjoyed, mom. I'm so glad you got to see that transformation. I know the sadness of our hearts had to affect you, as you were such a sensitive dog, and I'm relieved to know that in your final years, you lived in a house of contentment and peace (definitely not quiet, but peace nonetheless). You brought us so much joy, love, and companionship over the years, Old Girl, and I can only pray that we gave you even half of that in return.

I brought you home,
A ball of fluff.
You licked my face
I was enough.

My tiny shadow
Grew big and tall.
You had three loves:
Mom, Dad and ball.

We saw the light
In your dark eyes.
Your happy spirit
Shone through gray skies.

When Addison came
You took her in.
Soon enough you
Were such close friends.

That bleak day came
Caught by surprise.
We saw that look
In your kind eyes.

It broke our hearts
To say goodbye.
For days I couldn't
Help but cry.

I pray someday
We'll meet again
A gal's best friend.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Somewhere Over the Rainbow...

It has been many months since I have blogged. I remember finding it so easy to write when I was in the midst of pain or anxiety, but I find it much harder now, when I feel like my days are (thankfully) more mundane. Today, I was reminded that it is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, thanks to post after post on Facebook. It seems fitting then, that tonight, I write.

My last loss was in April of 2011. I remember it vividly because I spent my 30th birthday not out celebrating, but recovering in bed from yet another D&C. When I was going through my 5 losses, I only knew one person that had suffered a miscarriage. Now, I know too many to count. Back then, I had never heard the term "rainbow baby." Now, it is a universal phrase of hope. I pray that it is because we are finally understanding that miscarriage is not something to be ashamed of. Not something to blame ourselves for. Not another reason to look in the mirror and feel like we aren't enough, don't have enough. Maybe it is finally becoming okay to talk about your loss, to feel it, to grieve it, to share that grief with others.

I know from experience that grief is so very complex. Completely universal, yet incredibly personal. Here are just a few things I wish I had known years ago:

Grief does not, and will not, look like someone else's. I know some were incredulous that I did not plant trees, buy necklaces, or really do anything tangible to remember my babies. But I didn't, and now I don't feel the need to. They are in my heart, and that is really all I need. Don't feel guilty because you aren't grieving like others think you should.

It's okay to ask for help. I certainly did. I knew I wasn't dealing with a lot of things during those dark years. Our marriage was in shambles, my grief was eating me from the inside out, and to everyone else I still looked like I had it all figured out. We did not escape unscathed, but we were able to persevere and grow with the help of an amazing counselor. There is NO shame in admitting you cannot navigate it alone.

You don't have to keep it together for anyone. You will make people uncomfortable. It is not your job to worry about that. Yes, talking to someone about death is hard, but experiencing that loss without support is even harder. Good friends will listen, give you grace, and not expect anything in return. You need to take care of only you, for at least a little while.

Try not to stress the excitement out of your next pregnancy. Sometimes I wonder how much my story has colored the lives of those around me. I know of only one woman personally that has suffered more than one miscarriage, and yet I have tried my best to reassure so many who are terrified of that very thing. I am a fraction of 1% of the population. Please learn from my mistakes. I thought during each pregnancy that if I just prepared myself enough, detached myself enough, that I wouldn't feel it if or when I said goodbye to a once-beating heart. I am ashamed to admit that I didn't do so many things for Addison's pregnancy; now her baby book sits unfinished in a drawer, a testament to my worry that a loss would happen again. I let my fears leach away what should have been hers.

Grief does diminish over time, but it is still there, may always be there, lying dormant, waiting. Facebook posts, a friend's loss, a certain time of year...grief will return. It may not be as strong as it once was, but you are allowed to feel it. And you should. It is a part of the healing. And although I'm not sure if anyone ever finds total healing, I feel like you can get pretty darn close. For us, it came through God in November of 2012 in the way of Addison's big blue eyes, bright red lips, and squishy pink cheeks...a rainbow baby if there ever was one.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Longest Goodbye

Dear Lakehoma Family,

I can remember the first day I walked into Lakehoma as a teacher like it was yesterday. My nerves had my stomach in knots and my heart started to pound the moment I unlocked my door and stared at my unoccupied classroom, envisioning it full of excited students, all relying on me to teach them. Yesterday, as I locked my classroom for the last time, my stomach was in knots just the same, but my heart pounded, then broke into pieces on the tile floor as I imagined someone else standing where I have for the last 9 years. I have endured (and also chosen) a lot of hard things over the years. This ranks right up there as one of the most difficult.

Today, as I reflected on all of my teammates who have stuck by my side, I was reminded of how very, very blessed I have been through these last 9 years. I have made some incredible friends, taught some amazing students, and made countless memories. I would have never believed in myself enough to take this next step were it not for some very, very extra-special coworkers.

To Paula: Thank you. You have been my mentor, friend, safe place, and reinforcement. I could not have survived some years without you. I owe so much to you, for without you, I would have been in the loony bin long ago. I have learned so many things from you, and I love you very much. You are, without a doubt, the most dedicated person I have ever known.

To Miranda: I love you My Friend. You have done hard things. You have listened. You have acted when no one else would. You have been there when lots of others were not. You are selfless and you have taught me a lot about being a better person. I will miss you every single day.

To Cindy & Liz: You two are a force. You make things happen, and you make it look easy. I admire and respect you both, and you have been a sounding board over the years for many, many things. You've talked me off of ledges, and pushed me off of others. I will miss you both so much. Thank you.

To Sheri: Your quiet grace and understanding are beautiful. You are calm and collected when most would not be, and you see so much good in the world. You were a raft on an ocean on the bad days, and I love that about you. You will be missed.

To Karis: I'm so glad you joined our team 2 years ago. You are so much fun and provided some much-needed comic relief. I loved being your partner this year and I'm certain that many more kids will be touched by your math wizardry as the years go by. Thanks for listening this year!!!

To Vicki: Even though you left 2 years ago, that hole was never filled. You were my partner-in-crime, my work mom, and my favorite. I still miss you, and I've often found myself wishing I could open that closet door to tell you some random something. Love you!

To Jenny: Thank you for helping me get my foot in the door, for directing me as I tried to navigate my first years, and for taking a step back when I needed to find my own way. You will always be loved, my "other mother."

To Shawna: It is rare to have a boss you love. You are an encourager, a friend, and a wonderful principal. The fact that your door is always open is rare, and your willingness to help is always appreciated. We grew up together, teacher and principal, and I'd like to think that even as we move apart in proximity, we will stay close as friends.

To Anita and Jill: You two are too much fun! You've known me forever, and you've loved me like your own. I could not have done my job each day without you both. You are equally loved.

It seems fitting to end there, with the first and last people I saw on a daily basis. I could go on and on, but I won't. 

I've watched people wordlessly come and go over the years, and it always seemed too abrupt. You don't leave a place like Lakehoma unchanged. You all deserve the love and appreciation you've earned to be put out into the world, to be spoken and heard. And so it has been...


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What About Bob?

Since I have had so many questions about the newest addition to our family, I decided I would do a lengthier review than the space of a status update would allow. I am referring to our new bObsweep Pet-Hair Robotic Vacuum and Mop; we affectionately call him Bob. 

I have wanted a robotic vacuum for years, but the price tag has always been the main deterrent. In past years, when my Christmas money started burning a hole in my pocket, I would spend hours looking longingly at the Roomba, and then quickly close my Amazon browser before my mouse-clicking hand could override my brain. This year, however, I came across a Groupon too good to be true, and I jumped at the chance to finally purchase my very own little cleaning robot. 

When Bob arrived, I noted how thorough the packaging was...it included everything I could imagine a vacuum would need, and more. Replacement parts, a concise owner's manual (because let's face it, I don't have time to read anything thicker than a Llama Llama book these days), cleaning tools, and even a little screwdriver! I'm easily impressed. Once I did the few things needed to get Bob ready, I plugged him in to charge, reluctantly waiting until the next day to test him out. 

Why such excitement? Well, I'm not ashamed to say this; our house is dog-friendly. That means dog hair is constantly everywhere. Piled in the corners, woven through the strands on our rug, and even occasionally floating in our drinks. It's the price we pay for having 2 high-shedding dogs. And while we wouldn't trade them for anything, I do get sick of the hair. No matter how much we vacuum, we can't seem to stay on top of the daily furmageddon. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I knew he had the potential to be life-changing!

On his first run, he did manage to run into just about every single thing in our entire house. Many times. But he's a fairly quick learner. And he cleaned under my couches! UNDER MY COUCHES!! That alone was worth the price for me! He goes along my walls, cleans under tables and chairs with relative ease, and manages to find his charger when he is done cleaning (usually after about 45 minutes). No matter how many times he has cleaned during the week, his dustbin is always surprisingly and disgustingly full of dust and hair. We mainly have tile and wood, but he did just fine on our patterned rug and carpet once we blinded him. The diagonal lines apparently made him think he was going to fall off the edge of something; this prompted a pretty hilarious jig all over the living room before I finally decided to rescue him. He is a little louder than I thought he would be, but nowhere near as noisy as our Dyson. The dogs give him a wide berth, and Addison follows him around watching him clean, which is an added bonus. How do you think I'm getting time to write this review?! ;-)

He does have a few drawbacks. He doesn't always clean every spot that I think he should, and sometimes I catch him going back to a certain spot over and over, which is a little annoying. I find that if I just let him work without watching him, I am a lot happier. As long as the dustbin is full at the end of his run, I try not to nitpick. After all, after just 4 hours, I can put him to work again! 

If I had it to do all over,  I would purchase him again in a heartbeat. To all of our future visitors who prefer their environments hair-free, you're welcome! 

Meet Bob. I just love his shiny red color! 

This is Bob's dustbin today after Erik vacuumed just last night with our Dyson. Full and dirty!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Footloose and Fancy Three...

Dearest Daughter,

As your daddy and I tucked you in tonight, I couldn't help but reflect on our past three years as a family. I can hardly believe you are three today. The years we spent waiting and praying for you are not lost on me. I never tire of thanking God for you. You are the best parts of us, all rolled into a spunky, brilliant, silly little girl.

The past two birthdays I have written you a long letter, but this year, I thought a little rhyme was more appropriate. Currently your favorite books to read all rhyme, and after reciting them to you every day, the rhyming has become kind of contagious.

Our start of year two was a little rough
Your sleeping schedule made it tough

Your transition to a big girl bed
Filled my heart with so much dread

You were stubborn in your potty training 
When you finally got it, you had us exclaiming

Your adoration for Cars grew every day
Though Momma hoped for princess play

You are able to recognize so many words
You can count to 20; it seems quite absurd

You continue to have books as your favorite toys
You'll read for hours, making no noise

You still pretend to be a cat when you feel shy
But deep down you are tough, and rarely cry

You lost Koda this year, your very best friend
"She's in heaven," you say. You help our hearts mend

You sing so sweetly to Jesus each day
My favorite part of each night is hearing you pray

You have brought us so much joy and laughter
I cannot wait to write our family's next chapter

I couldn't possibly imagine loving you more
I will cherish each moment until you turn four!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Santa Squabble

Not since our decision to keep Addison an only child have I had to defend such a personal choice so often. It is mind-boggling to me that people feel the need to interject their judgement, criticisms, and derision into a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with their lives. I'm not bitter...just surprised. So, once again, I am blogging about a decision we have made for our family in hopes that I will not have to defend myself even one more time.

We are not doing the whole Santa thing. 

Now, I could list the reasons, but honestly, I don't want to. And none of them would be good enough for someone who does not agree with them anyway. But if you are open-minded and interested in our reasons (and what we will do instead of Santa), this blog (most of this one) (oh, and this one) is almost exactly what I would have written, were I so eloquent.

I will, however, say the following:

My decision to leave Santa out of Christmas has no bearing on anyone else's life. We get that people may think our decision is ridiculous, but to say that you "feel sorry for Addison" is just not okay. I know what Addison is and is not "missing out on" as Erik and I both grew up with Santa. For the record, if she someday decides to do Santa for her own children, we will completely support her, and we will even pay for her therapy should she decide her own Santa-less childhood has scarred her in some way.

I do not go searching for this conversation. It seems like inevitably someone daily asks about what Santa is bringing Addison or asks when she is having pictures with Santa. Because I have trouble being articulate under pressure and because most people are very defensive regarding this particular tradition, "We aren't really doing the whole Santa thing," always leads to a very awkward and abrupt end to the conversation. I am open to suggestions on alternative answers.

It doesn't mean that we think someone is/was a bad parent because their children believe(d) in Santa. No one needs to defend themselves to us. I promise that we don't care. We will not go home and talk about anyone behind their back. Our decision is not an indictment on anyone else's parenting.

We understand that people are very upset about the thought of Addison potentially ruining Santa for their children. I can assure everyone that when she is old enough to ask questions, we will make sure that she is fully briefed on how to respond to statements/inquiries about Santa. We will even role play. She will not run around breaking Santa figurines like some terrifying pint-sized Grinch or scream "Santa's not real!!" in the middle of the school program. We won't need an annual December quarantine.

In the end, we all have to prayerfully make the best decisions for our own families, and stay true to our personal convictions in the face of criticism. We wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and may we all remember the true reason for the season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Two Too Old

My Dear Daughter,

I absolutely cannot believe that today you are two years old. People constantly tell me not to blink while reminding me how quickly you will grow. Unfortunately, I don't need a reminder; I see it daily in your changing face, your new words, and your piles of too-small clothes. Today is bittersweet, as I'm sure all of your birthdays will be. I am so proud of you as you grow, and yet I want to keep you my baby forever.

This year has seen you acquire so many new skills! We are often left breathless keeping up with your quest for knowledge. The minute you feel confident in one skill, you are ready to learn something new and are not content to review old things. You have mastered the art of puzzles, you know all of your letters and their sounds, and you can name all of the numbers on sight. You frequently point them out as we stand waiting to check out at the local grocery store. Counting to 11 is a piece of cake for you and you know all of your colors too...even the hard ones like gray. You have also started picking out simple sight words like "is" and "the" in your books, much to our astonishment. You frequently string together thoughts that surprise us, and although we still can't understand everything you say, I know that someday you will hold us captive with your stories and observations.

We see your personality developing each day, but in many ways, you are still very similar to the baby I held just one year ago. You still love to dance with abandon, although now you don't hesitate to scream a song at the top of your lungs while doing it. Currently you especially like "Let it Go" and "Shake It Off," and you will ask us to play the songs over and over while you try to learn all of the words. You are still so very head-strong; you keep us on our toes as you change your mind often, but emphatically. You ALWAYS have an opinion on what you want to eat, what we'll watch on television, and even what you'll wear out of the house. You are so, so tough. You rarely show pain, and after falling you will dust your hands off and say, "I'm okay Mama!" no matter how scary the tumble seems to me. We call you our little "Warrior Princess."  Even though you are very independent, much like your mama, you still have a sweet streak a mile wide. Your hugs and kisses make our day, and we know the dogs secretly love them too. You make sure to say a sweet goodbye to each child by name at your daycare, and "Min-Min" frequently tells us how precious you are. You have made an impression on so many hearts, my child!

We still love trying to predict what you will become someday. We haven't ruled out anything involving books, as you can spend literally hours reading to yourself. Us getting to read to you is a luxury rarely allowed. Your obsession with the nightly appearance of the moon has prompted us to throw astronomer or astronaut into the mix, while your love of all things furry still has me proclaiming you to be a future vet. We know that God has given you the gifts and tools to be absolutely anything.

We are so looking forward to this coming year with our sassy, spunky "Miss Independent," and all of the new things it will hold for us all. From tackling potty-training to our first hotel stay as a family, there are sure to be many fun memories made and stories to tell. You enrich every aspect of our lives, my child, and we love you more than you could ever imagine. Happy Birthday My Sunshine!

All my love,