Archive | April, 2016

More Thoughts on Grief

29 Apr

IMG_20160429_082734It’s been over 2 months since my mom passed away, and it’s just now starting to set in that she’s really gone. I won’t see her again in this lifetime.

This awareness has coincided with most people going back to their own lives. The meals and cards have stopped. The questions about how I’m doing are no longer asked. I’ve heard this same thing from other people who have gone through grief. The true impact of the loss doesn’t start to set into your consciousness until the constant swirl of activity and people surrounding the loss quiets down, and you’re left with what your life was like before, except for that big gaping hole left by your loved one who is no longer here.

I totally get it. I’m as self-absorbed as the next person, and until I had experienced my mom having and dying from cancer, I didn’t truly understand or think through what that experience was like (and even now that I know, I’m still self-absorbed!). The Bible says that’s one of the blessings found in trials–we can comfort others with the comfort we have received from God, because we know. We get it. Sure, every experience of grief is different, but they all share similarities too.

A couple down our street lost their 3-year-old daughter to leukemia over a year ago. I read on either their Caring Bridge site or in a Facebook post their plea to be told memories about their daughter, that they loved talking about her and the things she loved, that it was helpful and healing to talk about it. I appreciated that candor because as a person who was once on the side of never having experienced devastating loss and who is now on the other side, I know that it’s hard to know what to say—on both sides.

In the days and weeks following my mom’s death, friends and family asked how I was doing. At that point, I was mostly in shock, with some peace and acceptance mingled in. Each time, I’d shrug my shoulders and say, “We’re doing ok.” That was easier and more socially acceptable than the long answer of, “Well honestly, I can’t believe she’s dead. I look around and everything reminds me of her, but I just think the thoughts and move on. I feel sad, but mostly I feel numb. I have also been listening to Good, Good Father by Chris Tomlin on repeat because I need the reminder that God’s ways are perfect, and He has a reason for things being like this. I also feel somewhat hopeful and expectant to see what God does through this, because I truly believe that this would not have happened if there was any other way for God to accomplish what He wants to accomplish here. I also feel a little anger and bitterness toward those who fall apart at the thought of a cancer diagnosis, or having surgery, and especially trials that aren’t medically related, because at least they’re still alive and fighting. At least they haven’t lost the battle. But I know that’s insensitive, and cancer and surgery and other crises are big deals, and I still make mountains out of the petty molehills in my life so I’m not any better.”

Even if I had felt the freedom to verbally vomit like that on those who sincerely and innocently asked how I was doing, it wouldn’t have come out like that. There were so many mixed emotions in my heart that I couldn’t even fully process them all myself, let alone put them into words to speak out loud. I think through writing—that’s the way I process things. (So if you think that I share way more on my blog than I do in real life, that’s why!)

Then there were people who didn’t say anything—maybe because they didn’t think about it, or maybe because they didn’t know what to say. Again, I get it. With no outward reminders of loss and no context of a hospice or funeral home, it’s easy to stop thinking about someone else’s loss. But if you’ve ever struggled, as I have, with not knowing what to say, or thinking that maybe bringing it up would open wounds that the grieving person would prefer to not deal with at the moment, let me offer this:

A simple “I’m sorry for your loss” means the world. There’s nothing you can say to make the situation easier or better, but a simple acknowledgment that that person’s world has inalterably changed at least lets them know that you’re aware, and you feel for them.

Those grieving the loss of a loved one are already thinking about them all the time. There’s no escape from the reminders, or the sorrow. So don’t worry that you are dredging up memories or opening a wound because those memories are comforting and the wound is already open. It’s nice to remember that loved one, and to hear other people’s unique memories.

Because try as you might to remember that person—how they spoke, acted, smelled, felt—your memories fade over time. But then you can have a dream of that person, and your brain remembers exactly how and who they were.

That happened to me about a week ago. It was a strange dream, and the details really aren’t that important, except that I hugged my mom, and she felt exactly like herself, like my arms and hands remembered the contours of her shoulders and the way I am just slightly taller than she was. And in my dream, she was laughing. My whole family was there, and we were all laughing and having a great time. Right before I woke up, though, my mom disappeared from view. My dad said the same words as he had said in real life, “She’s gone.” And I went to look for her but she wasn’t there.

I was roused from that dream by Annabelle crying. It took me a bit to wake up but after I stumbled to her room and sat in the glider that my mom was the impetus of buying, nursing Annabelle, I cried.

I cried because Annabelle won’t remember her. I cried because my mom was my go-to for advice on everything from parenting and wound-mending to decorating and cooking. I cried because I still have texts on my phone from her, and somehow that makes it sink in that she hasn’t been gone that long, and yet it feels like forever. I cried because that hug felt so. real.

I brought back some shirts and shoes of my mom’s that I found while going through her things. When I wear them, I feel simultaneously comforted and heartbroken. They’re like a tribute to her but also a reminder that I only have them because she’s not here anymore.

The Easter holiday and the girls’ birthdays were the first major holidays after my mom’s death. It was palpable that she wasn’t here, and I cried myself to sleep each night that my dad was here, because even though I love seeing him, his presence goes hand in hand with a very tangible reminder of my mom’s absence.

The evening of Good Friday, I lay in bed looking out the window at the tall, leafless trees basking in the faint moonlight. I could finally understand a little of what Jesus’ followers felt after His death. The sadness, the crushed dreams, the shock of what had happened.

Their grief only lasted until the third day, when Jesus came back in His glorious resurrected body, but before that happened, they grieved without hope. They did not fully understand what was taking place. And that is the difference between their grief and mine—and any believer’s. We do “not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thess. 4:14)

I won’t see my mom again in this life, but I will see her again. Nevertheless, “life has become a little less sweet, death a little less bitter, heaven a little more real.” (Puritan Proverb)

Emma Grace: 3 Years

23 Apr

Emma is THREE! Her birthday was back on April 7.20160407_074733 (Large)

At her 3-year well child check, she weighed 32 lbs (64%) and was 37.5 inches (65%) tall. Emma still takes one nap a day. For a while, she was consistently waking up at 8 am, taking a nap from 2 to 5 pm, and then going to bed around 9:30 pm. But for the past month or so, she has been getting up around 7 am, taking a nap from about 1/1:30 to 3:30 and going to bed at 9 pm. On the days she goes to daycare, she usually goes to bed around 8, since her nap there is shorter and the extra stimulation makes her more tired.

Emma’s general weekly schedule for the past year has been: MOPS on every other Monday, Daycare on Tuesdays, ECFE and Speech Therapy on Thursdays, with Wednesdays and Fridays open for playdates or outings.20160401_071757 (Large)

When she turned 3, Emma was re-evaluated by the Paul Bunyan Education Coop for her speech because she needed to re-qualify to continue receiving services (which was a weekly visit from a speech clinician). Like I expected, she is now in the average range for both expressive and receptive speech, so she no longer qualifies—which is great news! Her articulation is a little below average, but the speech clinician said she expected that to continue developing naturally as Emma gets older.

Here’s what Emma has been loving in January, February, and March:

  • Pink!–She is still obsessed with all things pink, so naturally we threw her and Annabelle a pink party for their birthdays. (Photos and details to come.)20160409_123042 (Large)
  • iPad—her favorite movies/shows right now are Tarzan, Tarzan II, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Mulan II, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Lilo & Stitch, Stitch the Movie, Sofia the First, Oscar’s Oasis, Secret of the Wings, Mickey’s Magical Christmas, The Pirate Fairy, and Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue. She has developed this annoying habit of fast forwarding or rewinding the movie every 30 seconds, instead of just watching it. Drives me crazy! She is also very adept at finding new shows on Netflix (90% of the movies above she discovered herself) so every once in a while, we find her watching something we end up turning off.20160420_083444 (Large)
  • Dresses – Emma still prefers wearing a dress over anything else. She’s starting to really enjoy picking out her own clothes to wear, and it’s often a t-shirt, pants and a dress—and sometimes a skirt too. (You didn’t know you could wear a skirt over a dress did you?) And she loves twirling in her dressed!20160407_092727 (Large)
  • Girly things—Necklaces, sparkles, ponytails, earrings… Emma loves them all. Though she will still only leave a ponytail in her hair for about 20 minutes. (So I put her hair in a ponytail most mornings, but she takes it out before we go anywhere.) She’ll frequently tell me in the morning “I need to get dressed” and pick out clothes to wear. Once dressed, she’ll say “I need a necklace” and then “I need a pony(tail).”20160401_153650 (Large)
  • Fishing—We (meaning Travis) got Emma a fishing rod for her birthday and she loves casting the rubber fish into the river off our dock. She’s still hit or miss but I’m impressed that she can do it at all!20160401_092955 (Large)20160415_163505 (Large)
  • Ice skating – though she only tried it once, she has requested to go again many times (unfortunately, the time of year for that is pretty much over)
  • Swimming Playing in the water—Emma cannot wait for beach season. We’ve taken her to the pool a few times this winter and she enjoys it, but doesn’t really want anything to do with being in the water if she can’t touch the bottom (she’s just like a leach). Funny story: we went to the waterpark at the Holiday Inn back in January and there’s this giant bucket that slowly fills up with water and then when it’s ready to tip, it starts dinging faster and faster, and pours a deluge of water onto the splash pad. I had never been there before, so I didn’t know that. Emma and I were standing on the splash pad waiting for Travis and Annabelle, and the dinging started. A group of people gathered on the splash pad next to us and the dinging was getting faster and faster. I could tell something was going on, but I didn’t know what (I couldn’t see the bucket from where I was). Before we knew it, we were getting dumped on with water. It freaked me out and my instinct was to run out of the water. I took a few steps before I remembered to turn around and grab Emma too. She seemed to handle it well in the moment, but it is an experience she has talked about a lot since, and she is now terrified of anything at a pool or waterpark that rains water. Travis was very amused by the whole thing and chuckles over how I started running away before I ran back to grab Emma. What can I say? My survival instinct is apparently stronger than my mommy instinct.20160401_104338 (Large)
  • Walking through the woods—This is probably Emma’s favorite thing to do outside right now. She can walk through the woods for hours, looking at all the different plants, trees, leaves, pine needles, acorns, pine cones, “pokeys” (bushes that have small thorns), and animal poop. But once everything greens up, the woods will most likely be too thick for us to walk through them, so we’re living it up right now.IMG_20160321_115402 (Large)IMG_20160321_121240 (Large)20160407_074744 (Large)
  • Bathtime—Emma never needs convincing to take a bath. Some days, she takes multiple baths. Her favorite things to do in the bath right now (much to my frustration) are pour water on Annabelle’s head, wash Annabelle’s hair, and blow bubbles in a cup of soap with a straw. We most often do bathtime after naptime, before Travis is done with work.20160206_181518 (Large)
  • Sugar—specifically pink (strawberry) ice cream, ice cream or fudge bars, suckers, gum, donuts and Starburst. She likes cupcakes too, but only for the frosting—she uses the cake for making a mess. Speaking of which…20160407_081231 (Large)20160415_160502 (Large)
  • Making messes—She has outgrown the whole “pull everything out of a cupboard or drawer and immediately move on to something else” phase for the most part, but now Annabelle is in that phase, so Emma frequently resorts back to that behavior—I guess because it looks fun? But Emma still loves making messes. Her most recent mess mediums have been applesauce, yogurt, chocolate milk, peach tea, paper, books, markers, toilet paper, and Q-tips. I have been trying to teach Emma that it’s ok to make a mess, but that part of making a mess is also cleaning it up. About half the time, she helps me clean the mess up without a fit or fight. The other half, I end up giving her a timeout in her room and cleaning it up myself. Ugh.20160405_171556 (Large)
  • Running away—This is hands-down The. Most. Frustrating. Thing. Emma does right now. It doesn’t matter where we are—at home, in a store, in a parking lot, at the library, at a park, at church, Emma takes off running. She doesn’t look back. She doesn’t listen. Most of the time, I’m holding Annabelle, my purse and a giant diaper bag, so running after her is hard! And the faster I run after her, the faster she runs away (because she thinks it’s a game). She does this with Travis too, so it’s not just me. I’ve tried not chasing her, and just waiting for her to come back. She doesn’t. I’ve tried telling her that it’s dangerous to run off and I want her to stay with me because I love her and don’t want her to get hurt or lost. Doesn’t faze her. I’ve tried bribing her with donuts and candy. I’ve tried spanking, arm twisting, anger, yelling, letting her walk on her own, forcing her to ride in the cart or hold my hand. Nothing has worked. (If you’re reading this and have any ideas, I’d love to hear them!) The most humbling thing is that I can totally see myself in her… she gets an idea in her head and refuses to be deterred by anything. I have been known to be like too… at times…20160415_110207 (Large)20160414_150150 (Large)20160414_151618 (Large)20160414_150535 (Large)
  • Being thoughtful—As a spirited child, Emma does everything big. She does anger and tantrums big, she does independence big, and she does love and thoughtfulness big. She is very observant and will bring Annabelle a toy, blanket or drink if she thinks Baby needs one. She loves feeding Annabelle with a spoon, or giving her bits of what she’s eating. Emma will also do thoughtful things for me and Travis, like bringing us our phone or sunglasses if she thinks we’ve misplaced them, getting us a tissue if we appear to need one, etc.20160421_100651 (Large)20160402_132348 (Large)
  • Hugs and kisses—At Emma’s Early Childhood (ECFE) class this year, the parents move to a separate room for the last 30 minutes while the kids eat a snack and have free play. The past 4-5 times, Emma has anticipated when snack time will start and tell me she needs a hug and kiss, and after she gets them, she says “Ok, bye!” It’s so cute. Also, on Tuesdays when I pick her up from daycare, she squeals with delight when she sees me, then runs and gives me a big hug. At the beginning of March, I spent 5 days, 4 nights down in Rochester with my dad and Annabelle, and ever since, Emma has said numerous times, “You came back! I missed you. I love you Mom.” It just melts my heart!
  • Arts & crafts–Emma loves painting, drawing, coloring, cutting, glueing, decorating, etc. Like her Nana Beth, she calls it her “business.” 20160123_134208 (Large)
  • Pulling/pushing Annabelle–Emma loves to help, especially when it comes to pushing Annabelle the stroller/trike or pulling the wagon/sled. But she also frequently pushes Annabelle over, and pulls her across the floor since she can’t walk yet.20160120_140233 (Large)20160401_163829 (Large)IMG_20160322_191514 (Large)

And that’s Emma at 3 years!

Easter 2016

12 Apr

Easter this year was extra special because it was also Annabelle’s 1st birthday! Because of that, we decided to host Easter at our place and celebrate both the girls’ birthdays with our families (Emma’s birthday was April 7).

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My dad came up Saturday night. I hadn’t known his final plans (he sent a text but I didn’t check my phone) so when he walked in the door from our garage, we were like “Um, who is this person coming into our house?!?!” Ha.

On Sunday, we all went to church for the 9 a.m. service (which was so, so, SO good), then headed back home to finish making lunch. While we were getting things ready, Travis’ parents Al and Beth, his sister Carolyn and nephew Drew all arrived. For lunch, we had ham, mashed butternut squash, strawberry cheesecake (pudding) salad, wild rice hotdish, fresh green beans with slivered almonds, and rolls.

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Then it was time for an Easter egg hunt! Travis and I hid the eggs around our yard, and Emma loved finding them. She needed a little help locating the general vicinity of the ones that weren’t completely obvious, but otherwise, she did a great job.

20160327_142227 (Large)20160327_142252 (Large)20160327_142545 (Large)Each time she found one and put it in her basket, she’d say “’Nother one? ‘Nother one?” She was pretty disappointed when it was all done. The only thing that lifted her spirits was going back inside for cupcakes and ice cream!

Emma loves blowing out candles so we sang Happy Birthday to her first, and then to Annabelle. Emma blew out both her candles and Annabelle’s (since Annabelle can’t blow them out yet). Both girls just licked the frosting off their cupcakes. Annabelle makes the cutest faces of disgust when she’s trying new foods, and the frosting did not disappoint! But she got over it. After eating all the frosting, Emma destroyed her remaining cupcake but Annabelle lost interest pretty quickly.20160327_144900 (Large)20160327_144853 (Large)20160327_145437 (Large)20160327_145407 (Large)20160327_145421 (Large)

Then it was time to open presents! In addition to awesome Easter baskets from Al & Beth and Carolyn, Emma got a water table from my parents (they bought it before my mom passed), a trampoline from Travis’ parents, some dresses and a Crayola Tub of Fun from Carolyn & Drew, and a pink play rotary phone and some crafts from great-aunt Cheryl.

20160327_124746 (Large)20160327_124738 (Large)20160327_150702 (Large)Annabelle got a bike trailer from my parents, Tobbles and a name puzzle from Al and Beth, adorable clothes, a stuffed bunny and a book from Carolyn and Drew, and more cute clothes from great-aunt Cheryl.

We bought Emma a Barbie fishing rod; training wheels, streamers and a basket for her bike; and a bed canopy. We got Annabelle a wooden whale shaker, a couple books, a baby doll (that only ended up being 8 inches tall, whoops!), and some cogs for bath time.

20160327_150650.jpgAfter all the presents were open, we all went back outside, except for the Papas who stayed inside and set up the trampoline (which apparently came with pretty poor instructions). Then the birthday girls took a bath and it was time for the Kluthes to head home. Emma was devastated that Nana Beth was leaving.

My dad stayed at our place until Tuesday night, working remotely from our basement. We enjoyed his extra-long stay! Emma loves “fishing” with her new Barbie fishing rod and the rubber fishy on the end. The trampoline is also a hit, and we’re just waiting for the weather to warm up so we can use the water table and bike trailer.

It was a great Easter. Happy 1st birthday Annabelle! You’ll always be my cute little baby.20160327_125457 (Large)20160327_125648 (Large)20160327_125644 (Large)20160327_125657 (Large)

Annabelle Lyn: 11-12 Months

1 Apr

Annabelle was 11 months on February 27 and 12 months on March 27 (Easter Sunday). I can’t believe she’s ONE!20160327_131923 (Large)Annabelle has changed so much in the past 2 months!

Size

Annabelle is still wearing almost all 12-month size. Through 11 months, some 9-month things still fit but a few days after her birthday, I boxed up everything smaller than 12 months, and got out her 18-month stuff (which is still a little big on her). She’s wearing size 4 diapers.

Her 12-month checkup was today and she is now 29 inches tall (53%), weighs 21 lb 5 oz (72%), and has a head circumference of 19 inches (99.3%).

20160327_125457 (Large)Eating

Annabelle is still nursing about 3 times during the day and a couple times at night (just because of teething). She has figured out how to suck on a sippy cup and tip it up so we’ve started giving her whole milk in an effort to move toward weaning but she seems to prefer water (and nursing).

20160224_114520 (Large)Annabelle’s favorite foods are purees (though we’re trying to be done with those), yogurt, cheese, toast, puffs, strawberries, green beans, mandarin oranges, raisins, pears, peaches, and applesauce. She has tried and liked grapes, cottage cheese, broccoli, corn, peas, and cooked carrots (but we haven’t fed them to her very often). She’s not a huge fan of blueberries, rice, black beans, or butternut squash. When she doesn’t like a food, gets sick of eating it, or is done, she starts throwing her food on the floor behind her. If she wants more, she wails for a bit and then waits to see if you’re listening before continuing. She also gets a kick out of feeding the dogs, and pretending to give you a piece but not letting go of it.

Annabelle has eight teeth (the four in the middle on both top and bottom) and has been working on her bottom molars for what seems like forever (it’s probably been 3-4 weeks). They’re just now starting to peek through her gums.

20160227_121527 (Large)20160302_181722 (Large)Sleeping

Teething means that Annabelle’s sleep is not the greatest. She’s up 2-3 times a night, usually the first time about 3 hours after we put her down, then again 4 hours later, and then up for the day between 6 and 7 am. There has been a night here and there that she has slept through the night, but that is definitely not the norm. The fact that she does is occasionally though gives me hope that once teething is over (or at least stops for a while), her sleep will improve. PLEASE!?!?!?!20160229_130737 (Large)Annabelle is moving toward dropping her morning nap and only takes one nap a day about half the time. If she does take a morning nap, it’s short — 20-45 minutes. When she only takes one nap, she’ll go down around 12:30 or so, and sleep until 2:30 or 3. Which means that Emma and Annabelle no longer nap at the same time (single tear). Emma is moving toward not napping at all, so some days, I just have her do an hour of “room time” (usually 15-30 minutes of reading/playing, and then 30 minutes of watching the iPad) so that I still get a chunk of sans-Bisk time.The benefit of Emma not napping is that she goes to bed at 7:30 instead of 9:30, so Travis and I actually get an evening together! Some days, that’s totally worth no break during naptime. And if I’m taking care of one kid, I might as well be taking care of both of them and have them both go to bed early!

IMG_20160308_145014 (Large)Development

Another potential contributor to Annabelle not sleeping well is that she has exploded in gross motor development! Around 11 months, she started leaning forward on her hands and then sitting back, so that she could sort of scoot in a circle doing that. Then she spent 2 weeks getting in a crawling position, and sitting back down. Then she spent about a week getting in the crawling position, inching forward a bit and sitting back down. Finally, about a week before she turned one, she started crawling for real! Now she’s all over the place and into everything. It’s about time. 😉IMG_20160315_164426 (Large)

She has also gone from sleeping in one position all night, to sleeping on her side, to rolling on to her stomach and getting mad because she (thought she) couldn’t roll back, to sleeping on her stomach 80% of the time by choice. In the past couple of weeks, she has started to sit up in her crib when she’s unhappy, and just this past week started pulling herself up to standing in her crib (and pretty much everywhere else she can).

20160327_184133 (Large)In addition to pulling herself up, she can climb stairs, cruise furniture, and take steps when you hold her hands. She did NONE of this a month ago, and had been so “plateau-ed” in that area, so it is seriously amazing to see her take off in gross motor development!

Annabelle loves to squeal and say “dada” — in a loud voice, normal voice, or whisper. She also likes to whisper “ssss… ssss…” and shout “ha… huh…” noises. She has said “mama” (but doesn’t often) and loves to say “uh oh.” Similar to her sister, she loves being held upside down, spun in a circle, dropped on her back onto a bed, steamrolled, and pulled/pushed in a stroller, wagon, swing, laundry basket, sled, you name it.IMG_20160322_191514 (Large)

Her personality is mostly mellow but there are definitely times when she gets wound up and shows similarities to her boisterous sister.

Annabelle puts up with a lot of rough play from Emma, and has a pretty easygoing personality about most things, but does not like being held up or thrown high in the air. She is also very hesitant about different textures. In the past 2 months, she’s experienced snow, grass and sand, and didn’t like any of them. I also showed her a wire heart covered in garland and she wouldn’t even touch it. These things haven’t really been a problem yet, and hopefully they’re just like her reactions to food — once she experiences it a few times, she warms up and it’s no big deal.12779106_1084627788234209_8896076473531583942_o

Annabelle tasting the frosting on her birthday cake:

She ended up eating most of the frosting, but hardly any of the actual cake.

A few habits Annabelle has that I do not like are scratching my chest and grabbing/pinching my chin while nursing (it seriously hurts!), and also biting me when she wants to nurse.

Annabelle also had her first scrape in the last two months. We were at a local pool and I had placed Annabelle, unstrapped, in her carseat under the watch of my friend while I went to the bathroom to change clothes. Annabelle leaned forward and fell out on her face on the rock floor, got a bruise on her forehead, and a scrape on her chin. Poor baby and mommy fail!IMG_20160304_101758 (Large)

And that’s Annabelle at ONE YEAR!