Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Unimaginable

Sometimes I write with the intention to never share. Often I think about Kate and don't form a circle of my closest friends to cry. Life moves on. I don't want the world to look at me and say, "Wow. Girlfriend really can't process her grief, can she?" Lesser still, do I want the world to question how I could still be so deeply sad.

And I don't know, is the thing.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus's blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest thing, but wholly trust in Jesus name.

Why then, the grief?

Why do I wonder if I might wake to find that it was all but a dream? Perhaps, one day, I will see that losing her was just a passing nightmare. And I'll have both Kate and her brother.

My eight year old wept the other night. Through angry tears he exploded, "She should be asleep in her bedroom right now." And she should. How can you argue with that? Grief, as my mom said to me today, is a weird thing.

I wrote this last month and posted it to a writer's page that I'm a part of on Facebook. I never intended to post it here. But I'm not sure why. Because transparency is painful? Because I don't want the rest of the world to have access to my grief? Because she'll never be here the way I want her to be?

But he is. And he deserves every piece of my broken heart.


There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
-Lin Manuel Miranda
I held him, curly hair sticking out from his head in loose spiraling staircases. He looks like a man cub. His legs squeezed my hip, foot resting on the womb that held neither of them. A chubby hand clutched my shirt just above the heart that holds them both. “This is your sister,” I said.
His eyes locked on the giraffe caged in the shadow box. The soft, stuffed toy sits, staring, for always. Plump arms never snuggled the animal, sticky fingers never dragged it by the neck, soft baby breath never exhaled over it. The antithesis of a Velveteen Rabbit, the giraffe will never be real. She was never here to love it enough. I stare at the tiny footprints pressed into plaster. My eyes shift to his tiny toes. They wiggle slightly. I look back at her frozen ones and try to imagine them pushing against the walls of their mother. One minute they pressed and stretched. The next moment they fell limp—forever. My gaze lands on her picture. Black and white lines that form the image of my daughter, his sister.
“She was inside your other mommy before you were.” I was stoic. “She went straight to Jesus when she was born. And then we got you.”
I can’t tell him that his stillborn sister wrecked me. I can’t explain that while I walk without a limp, my heart beats erratic and broken. Our great God used the man cub to heal so much of that bloody wound left by her absence, but he can’t fix it all. An 8 month old cannot bear that burden.
He will not know the way I startle whenever I hear her name belonging to someone else or the way I choke back dreams when I see a little girl holding tight to her mama. He can’t know that when I stand in front of that shadow box, I imagine what she would have been. So much more than the cold corpse I held tightly in my arms before we buried her.
He is amazing life, incredible and indescribable joy. I will tell him about the sister who came before. I will share all the miracles. He will know her.
But I will not tie my albatross of grief around his neck. He will walk freely and hear only the ways my life is made infinitely better by his presence. I will shield him from the moments when, weeping, I succumb to the excruciating thump of my still cracked heart.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ax Murderers and Exploding Eyes

Somewhere around 1:00 am, my middle man came wandering into our room. I didn't know he was there. My children have become stealth sneaker uppers and it is VERY disturbing to me. I used to wake at the slightest sound. Now, my eyes will fly open to discover one of them standing over me and it's enough to cause momentary cardiac arrest. I'm completely terrified that one of these days it won't be one of my kids standing over me but an ax murderer instead. My eyes will open and the last thing I'll see is the image of some horrendous evildoer just before he slaughters me.

I'm dramatic.

But, honestly, who goes to bed at night and thinks, "I'll probably be murdered by a serial killer tonight?" No one. That's who.

So I didn't know my 8 year old was in my room until my husband suddenly startled in the spot next to me and, groggily, started muttering something about Matthew being in our room. I bolted upright (because I do weird things when I'm awoken from sleep to find that, once again, the children have crept in like silent little ax murderers) and stared at my kid.

"I had a bad dream," he whispered. I told him he could sleep on my floor and that is when the real fun began. See, we've been sharing the Great Plague Cold of 2017 and at least one person in our family has been sick for five weeks. Will's had it twice. Troy's had it twice. Apparently, as was evidenced by last night's shenanigans, Matthew is now on his second round because the kid proceeded to sniff and snort ALL NIGHT LONG. Then, downstairs, the cat flipped his lid in the wee hours of the morning and meowed at the top of his feline lungs.

In my exhausted state, I was powerless to do anything about any of this. Remember being a kid and wanting to pull your covers up but being way too tired to do anything about it? That was me last night. I wanted to tell Matthew to blow his nose. I wanted to call in an ax murderer for the cat. But all I managed to do was wake up every two seconds and resent ALL THE NOISE.

So this morning, when the world (a.k.a. Will) woke up at 6:45, I was not prepared for life. I fed him and then proceeded to fall back to sleep. Troy got up with the boys to make sure they didn't engage in an epic wrestling match or punch each other's lights out when they were really supposed to be getting ready for school. He took care of Will but, at some point, he went downstairs and closed the gate behind him. Will lost his mind with all the abandonment and bawled like a six month old instead of the sophisticated nine month old that he is. 

I called him over to me and lifted him onto the bed. Lying flat on my back, I raised him up into the air over my face. It was immediate. And so strange. I managed to feel it before my brain registered that it had seen it coming. And, in a way, it happened so fast that I can't remember truly seeing anything, really. One second, Will was thinking about smiling at me and the next second, I felt warm liquid spreading throughout my eye. For the shortest of milliseconds, I thought that, perhaps, my eye had spontaneously exploded. Quickly though, I dismissed that idea because there was a real lack of pain. I was pretty sure that spontaneous eye explosion would cause significant and debilitating pain. 

I sat up.

"HELP!" I yelled. I had my eyes tightly shut but I knew there was spit up in my hair and on my neck and I wasn't sure how truly bad it was and I needed something to wipe my face with and the troops needed to rally around me RIGHT then.

It took them longer than I would have expected given my distress cry. But they are men and they generally think that, because I am the lone woman around here, I have the entire world under control. They also live with me and know that my distress cries tend to be more, "There is a really big spider watching me from the corner," and less, "There's an ax murderer actively murdering me right at this very murderous moment."

This, as you will see, fell somewhere between help, spider and help me I'm being killed.

They arrived on the scene and Troy immediately began a waffling dance of laughter and oh no's. The boys were vacillating between hysterics and groans. Troy then started saying, "Wait! Just wait!" as he grabbed my phone to take a picture. Will, meanwhile, sat in my lap. I had no idea if it was on him although, in retrospect, the gravity would have taken all the puke down. We do not live in a world in which vomit defies the natural order of things. As I waited for the picture to be taken, the warm, regurgitated formula began to drip down my face. Troy snapped the picture, handed me a wash cloth, took Will, and said, "You just, uh, need to get right into the shower. Just go straight to the shower." This picture doesn't do justice to the amount that was in my hair, clumped behind my ear, but my response was basically, "Oh. You think?"

I remain infinitely glad that I didn't lose my eye in what would have been the first ever documented case of Exploded Eyeball.

Okay. I just googled Exploding Eye to make sure there wasn't actually such a thing and OH MY BLESSED STARS THERE IS!!! No, but seriously. Now, not only do I have to worry about ax murderers sneaking into my house at night, I have to worry about my eyeballs spontaneously exploding. Knowledge is not always power, y'all.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Great Hair Debacle of 2017

There are just certain people I grow attached to in my life. My gynecologist, for one. Who wants to go shopping for a new one of those every year? The dentist. As long as you'll keep telling me I don't have any cavities, you can have my business forever. My hair stylist. When we moved to Utah, I didn't get a new stylist for several years. I just kept getting my hair cut in California when I'd go home to visit. Who says long distance relationships can't work? Eventually, I grew weary of the airfare involved in getting my hair cut, my kid got too old to fly for free, I had to stop going to CA quite as frequently, and the time came to find a new stylist.

It was a fiasco.

I had my hair done by someone nearby. I liked it fine. The shop closed. I went somewhere else and liked it fine. I scheduled another appointment and, when I showed up for it, the shop was closed. I texted her and she didn't seem to know anything about me or why I would have had an appointment scheduled with her. I swear she was on drugs. It was the most bizarre conversation. I ended up getting my hair cut at Great Clips. Not long after that, I found my stylist, followed her through moves to two different shops, had my hair done by her as she grieved the loss of her granddaughter, had my hair done by her as I grieved the loss of my daughter, had my hair done by her as we welcomed Will, and, in December, found out that she was going to quit cutting hair. 

She cut my hair before Christmas and that was the end of that.

I silently mourned. I'm not ready to repeat the stress of finding a new person.

I have kept telling myself for the past two months that I really need to figure out a new solution. I need to get back out there and find a new stylist. But I kept putting it off until, on Tuesday, I snapped. I'm very level headed. I'm loyal and I'm trustworthy but sometimes, sometimes, I'm compulsive. I have an activator personality. It's an asset. Although, my husband does not always think so. And he has good reason.

On Tuesday I just had to have my hair cut. As the day wore on, the itch became so severe I could no longer satisfy it. I very nearly went back over to Great Clips but the baby fell asleep and it was going to be too late. I was working on Wednesday and if my hair wasn't cut before that I WOULD SIMPLY DIE A SLOW AND AGONIZING DEATH OF UNFULFILLED DREAMS.

I decided to watch a YouTube video and take matters into my own hands.

I have NEVER taken HAIR MATTERS into my own hands. My hands lack any and all artistic ability. But multiple videos seemed to support the idea that a simple trim was VERY EASY. So I followed the video. I took off just about an inch and let my hair down. It looked good. It looked healthier. It looked JUST fine. So I decided to take a little more off. My niece is constantly cutting her own hair and the girl looks good.

My niece, however, can play instruments and paint and CUT HER OWN HAIR. She has talented hands. I have uncoordinated stubs that are good for typing and scrambling eggs and that's about it.

I followed the same procedure that WORKED FINE THE FIRST TIME. I let my hair back down. There was no difference in length in the back. Instead, there were now long bangs and hideous layers. My hair was now two lengths. Long and statically luxurious in the back (darn these dry Utah winters) and dog chewed layers in the front.

I laughed.

"Oh, what have you done? What? I...oh no. This is irreparable. I...What? Um...oh no." All I could think was that I had to work the next day and there was no time to fix this and even if there was, what was I going to say?

Please fix this. The last girl who touched my head really butchered it?

I decided to cut more off just the back to try to blend it with what was happening in the front. Did I mention I was using household scissors? I don't think I did. I was using household scissors. The kind my children use to cut construction paper and, occasionally, twigs.

Just then my husband came home. "OH! YOU HAVE TO HELP ME!"

"What have you done?" he asked. "Why did you do this?" I think he was imagining the time I cut down a dead tree in our yard and then stuck the entire tree in the trash can, assuming the trash men would take it like that. He had to come home and cut the tree apart. I'd wanted the dead tree out of the yard. Once that goal was accomplished, my work was done. It's really a very charming trait of mine, no?

"I think I just need help with the front. The back is ok, right?"

"Uhhhhh...if that's what you're going for." He took a picture for me. Not having eyes in the back of my head, I couldn't really see the damage. I mean, I'd tried to look at it with a mirror but obviously the mirror faked me out because I thought it looked okay and, in actuality, it looked like this...

Suffice it to say, that is not what I was going for. Painstakingly, over the next hour, Troy, who is largely (i.e. completely) untrained in the area of hair cutting, turned the above disaster into this. I'm not going to say it's perfect but, considering what he was working with, and his lack of training, and his terrible scissors, I think he did a pretty good job.

I was pretty certain the front was NEVER GOING TO LOOK GOOD AGAIN. Or, at least, not for three months until it grew out and a professional fixed it for me. But Troy did his very best. He molded and shaped and snipped and chopped. Then I blew it dry and styled it and yesterday, before work, it looked like this...

Generally, I do not think of myself as a pinhead. However, this angle of selfie certainly makes it looks like my tiny head should not be sitting atop my very large body.

I digress. The point of this picture is not my pinhead. It is that I HAVE HAD WORSE HAIRCUTS DONE BY PROFESSIONALS!!! (Not my most recent professional, she did not ever give me a terrible haircut but there was one particularly traumatic cut in 2011 that left me partially scarred for life.)

Guys, I don't even hate it. And, yesterday, at work, I received MANY compliments about how cute my hair is.

So I've added "hair cutting" to Troy's list of things he can do. He's pretty much amazing. And he didn't even get irritated with me the way he did with the dead tree situation. He just patiently set to fixing it. AND IT DIDN'T COST ME A PENNY!

This however, is not a long term solution. I'm going to need the name of a good stylist before I get the next hankering to chop my hair.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Interview with 8 Year Old Matthew

1. What is your favorite T.V. show? Ben 10.
2. What did you have for breakfast? A doughnut and some eggs.
3. What is your middle name? Eric and David. (David Eric)
4. Favorite Food? Bananas.
5. What food do you dislike? Nothing.
6. What is your favorite color? Bluish grayish.
7. Favorite lunch? Peanut Butter and jelly.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go to church.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? To Texas to see my mom.
10. Favorite sport? Soccer.
11. When is your birthday? February 28.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? A night person because I'm not a morning fan.
13. Pets? I used to have Peter and Beck. The ones that are still alive are Ollie and Tessie. And Hammy.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I am going somewhere with my Grandma and Grandpa but I don't know where yet.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? A teacher like Indiana Jones and a military policeman.
16. What is your favorite candy? Me. Chocolate.
17. What is the farthest you've ever been from home? Israel. (He finally stopped calling it Isrerael. Sniff.)
18. What is your favorite book? Dino Mike
19. What are you most proud of? Having a baby. Will. (Such a sweet brother.)
20. What is your favorite movie? The Ben 10 movie.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The egg. Why do you think that? Because first the chicken has to hatch out of the egg?

And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Ben.
2. What is your least favorite word? Poop.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Jesus.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Satan.
5. What sound or noise do you love? Zippity Do Da.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Wah wah wah. When my brother cries.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Stupid.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Being a missionary.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Be a doctor.
10 If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part) "Kate wants to see you." (This one basically did me in.)

Friday, March 3, 2017

My Middle Man is Eight!

Dear Matthew,

Do you want to know why this letter is late? Because we're so crazy busy trying to keep up with your schedule. That's why. If it isn't Scouts, it's soccer. If it isn't soccer, it's Kid's Club. If it isn't Kid's Club, it's choir. You're involved. In everything you can be.

The biggest thing that happened to you this year was your promotion to big brother. You have embraced the role like a champion, almost always willing to help in whatever way you can. Will adores you and the bond you have is incredible to watch. From the moment you laid eyes on that baby, the love you have for him was evident.

This year you played baseball, soccer, ran track, starred in a church Christmas play, joined the school choir, got great grades, participated in scouts earning your Wolf rank and advancing to Bear, and learned a lot at church. Always a man of a few good friends, you are branching out at school and beginning to request play dates with friends. You're always willing to invite buddies to Kid's Club and I love that passion in you.

You are still hilarious. Your impressions slay me. Your timing is hysterical. You make me laugh every day. While on our recent vacation to Disneyland and Universal Studios, we cooked a frozen pizza in the microwave and on the stove top when we realized that there was no oven in our kitchen. I had dad film me doing a step by step detailing of the process. At the end, we had you sample it and you declared, "Hmmm. This pizza has a delicious flavor." It was intense overacting. It was major hamming. It was super funny. Dad had to pause the video because we both were cracking up. All this while your brother was refusing to taste it because, surely, frozen pizza had turned into Haggis in the microwave.

We celebrated your birthday a week early at Rainforest Cafe at Downtown Disney with your buddies Ben and Web and their parents before hanging out for two days with them at Disneyland and California Adventure. You ordered pasta and fruit and had a special treat of being able to drink soda. Later, we had red velvet cake and ice cream in our hotel room. Grandpa Gary took you to Medieval Times to celebrate your birthday and you had a great time being upgraded to VIP, watching jousting and eating your dinner. On your actual birthday, Grandma and Grandpa came to visit. We had a cake that you picked out at the Scout Blue and Gold dinner, a pudding cake with plastic sharks on top. You opened presents, ate McDonald's for dinner, and watched your brother play in two soccer games.

I can't believe you're already eight years old. I love you so much. You keep me on my toes and on my knees. You give me such joy and it is my intense hope that you will grow up loving Jesus and funneling your intense passion for good. Because, if you can do those two things, Kid, you'll move mountains.