Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Everybody has a job to do..

Before I start, I wanted to take a minute to say THANK YOU to everyone who's messaged or emailed me about this or this post.  I cannot even begin to put into words how much this experience has blessed me and Mike.  Your thoughts, your shared experiences, your prayers.....all of that is so overwhelming and humbling to me.  For a couple of posts that I didn't even think were that well-written, the response has been incredible.  I am so grateful to all of you who shared it with a friend, or took the time to tell me how my words touched you.   In the midst of my grief, God has blessed me abundantly.   I am so grateful.

I'm still processing everything that has happened over the past few weeks, and right at this moment, we're dealing with the clean up from Hurricane Sandy.  We were blessed to not have a direct hit up here in Maine, and are praying fervently for those who were in her direct path, but we do still have a lot of clean up in our neck of the woods.  We're going on day 3 with no power, and our yard is a mess.   Thankfully, our only damage is some denting to one of our cars (hit by a falling tree limb), so the majority of what we are dealing with is minor annoyances.    No electricity during a blizzard is a bit more dangerous than what we have right now:  60ยบ temps, so we are just camping out and counting our blessings, while continuing to pray for those who are truly struggling with storm damage and clean up.

I was asked recently to share our "chore chart" system, so today's post is going to be just that.  It's light and fun (especially for Mommy and Daddy), and I think it's a good time to share.  A bit of a breather from the "heavy" stuff, if you will.

Anywho, a couple of years ago, I realized that I was frantically trying to do too much around the house, and had a few able bodies who were at the right age for "life skills training."   Our chore chart system was born, and with a few modifications, it's the same one that we use today.   We started when our oldest was 6 (and the youngers were 5 and 2).  Now, the boys are 8, 6, and 3, and it works like a charm!

Here's the basic concept:  I have a list of chores that I "draw" from.  They range in difficulty and frequency, and I try to make sure the majority of them are ones that everyone can do (I do have some that only the big boys can handle, but the bulk of them are ones that everyone can do).   These are chores that I don't *mind* if they're not done exactly to my liking - I learned quickly that if I gave a child a chore to accomplish but would be really upset if it wasn't done to my would backfire.  I'd end up being annoyed that it wasn't done "well" and the boys would quickly lose their confidence in their ability because I'd find myself correcting them constantly.  

Each day, I draw 3 chores for each child and place it on their chart, in the "to-do" column.  Some are chores that happen every day (like making their beds and feeding the dogs), and some are ones that happen on a less frequent basis.    Whatever the chores are, each boy is responsible for 3 of them each day.

I do not nag with these chores.   They have a day to complete their 3, and if they don't, they do not get rewarded.  I will sometimes give them a block of time after dinner as "chore" time, if I'm feeling nice.  ;)

When the chore is completed, the boys move the magnet with that chore's name on it into the "done" column.   At the end of the day, I check to see if they've finished their chores, and if so, I add a tally mark in their "bank" (also on the chore chart).   At the end of the week, I count up the tally marks and pay allowances accordingly.   7 tally marks is equal to one dollar, and if there are less than 7 marks, I prorate the dollar based on their work completed.

It works for us!   Live runs more smoothly than it did before, and the boys LOVE having a way to earn their own spending money.   

So, I present to you, our chore pictures:

The finished chore chart - I used to use a piece of posterboard and velcro, but when we moved, I had to condense it a bit (we have less wall space here).   This is a piece of plywood with picture hardware on the back (the sawtooth kind), and magnets.  I painted it in chalkboard paint to make it more fun, but the same thing can be done with just regular paint)

A close up of a sampling of daily chores - these are just piece of cardstock with clip art printed onto them, and magnets glued to the back

My stash of chores to pull from - I keep it on the fridge, out of reach of little hands

our system in use

Thursday, October 25, 2012


**Disclaimer:  I'm not sure this will be coherent.   I have a lot of thoughts and emotions and ideas playing on bumper cars inside my tired, overworked Mommy brain, and this will be an attempt to begin to express them.  Don't set really high expectations for me, and you won't be disappointed.  


We buried our baby yesterday.

Under brilliant blue skies (with only ONE cloud in sight, haha), surrounded by technicolour autumn leaves, and with the warm sun on our skin, we gathered with friends and celebrated the short life of our little baby.

It was beautiful.  It was slightly surreal.

And it opened the floodgates.

I think I've run through every single emotion possible since 2 pm yesterday.  Well, really, since I got up yesterday morning.  I've felt joy, I've felt grief, I've felt sadness, I've felt gratitude, I've been angry, I've been annoyed, I've been name it, I've probably felt it in the past 36 hours.

As I sit here, a day later, my entire household (except me, haha) is asleep.   Even the dog is snoring.  Pandora's finally figured out (it seems) that when I choose "David Crowder Band Radio Station" I really just want to listen to DCB and not songs that sound like them, but am feeling too lazy to go find my CDs or my iPod.   A cup of hot tea is sitting next to me.....the house is a cozy warm compared to the chilly fall night outside.

It's a perfect night for writing......but yet I still sit here, unsure of what to say.  It's taken me 30 minutes to get this far, and I don't even have to use the scroll bar yet on my screen.

How do you put into words the experience of burying your child?

Multiple times in the past week, I worried.  I worried that we were doing something wrong, making too much out of our experience, going "overboard."  It's bad enough that we're already the crazy Catholic family headed up by the weirdo doctor who won't prescribe birth control.   Now, here I was, adding to that reputation by holding (and inviting people to) a burial for our child who hadn't even been born yet, and even more than that, a child that most people weren't even aware of yet.   Shouldn't  I really be just letting it go and moving on, instead of going through everything in such a public matter?

A couple of times, I even picked up my phone to text our priest and tell him to just not worry about it, that we'd changed our minds.   Why bother him for something as silly as this?   He's an busy guy (aren't most priests nowadays?).   Wasn't I being selfish to request so much of his time for a child he'd never met?

But something kept me moving forward, even with all of those doubts and fears circulating in my head.  Maybe it was Mike's support and care during my pain.  Maybe it was seeing his own grief and pain at losing his child.   Maybe it was the fact that our busy priest never made us feel like he was too busy to support us.   Maybe it was the friends stepping forward to join us yesterday, stepping forward to help in any manner.  Maybe it was the phone call from my doctor, checking on me.   Maybe it was the handwritten card from my OB/GYN, or the seemingly never ending stream of Facebook messages and emails speaking of love and compassion and shared experiences (there are a lot of us out there, it turns out).   Who knows?  Maybe it was a combination of all of these things....but whatever it was, it led us to a moment of sunshine and blue skies, hugs and tears, and celebrating the little bit of time we'd shared with Jonathan.  

Standing there amongst the rolling green hills, listening to the beautiful prayers being read (and even you non-Catholics have to admit that the Church has the got the absolutely best, most amazing prayers written out there.  She's had, oh, 2000 years to perfect them, and my gosh, perfect them she has), it hit me.    I had to go through this burial process not only to say goodbye to Jonathan......but also to the baby I lost nine years ago.   Nine years ago, I was newly married (yes, we had a honeymoon baby!) to a man in his first month of med school, and at a prenatal appointment, we discovered that our baby no longer had a heartbeat.   We didn't know what to do with the pain and sorrow we were feeling, or how to move on.  So, we did the culturally acceptable thing - we didn't talk about it, and threw ourselves into our day-to-day routines and lives and just kept stumbling forward.

I realized, standing in the sun yesterday, that I'd never truly grieved the loss of my first child.   I felt myself slipping almost into a state of shock, as I realized that the pain I was feeling in my heart at that moment was so strong, so raw, not because I was crazy and going overboard like I'd feared....but because I was living out the two separate losses in this one process.   Reliving our first miscarriage and finally letting myself grieve instead of stuffing the pain down inside like I had been....while simultaneously grieving our Jonathan.  

As I stood there and watched his tiny body being buried, saw the grass being replaced, listened to the wind blowing through the trees, I felt a wave of intense gratitude start to replace the pain.  Love started to remove the replacing the sadness.   It's not a complete change-around just yet, and it probably won't be for a long time.   And as you all know, I'm quite the introvert, so I might be quiet around here for awhile still as I work through the remaining pain and guilt and sadness.  But I will work through it, and I will respond to your notes and messages, and I will some day be able to find the right words to truly express my gratefulness to all of you.   

We said our goodbyes, thanked our friends for being there with us, loaded the rascals back up in the car, and drove out of the cemetery.   Later that night, as we were driving through town, we were talking about the burial and just how we both felt that we had begun the healing process at that moment for both babies, my eyes seemed to be drawn to the sky.   Almost immediately, my cell phone buzzed.  A friend, hundreds of miles away, was sending me a picture of her evening sky.   A few minutes later, another text came in with another picture.   Across the country, it seems, there was quite the display above our heads.

And I'm pretty sure I know why.   It was love.  It was joy.  It was happiness.   It was laughter.   It was beauty.  

It was two siblings, finally meeting each other, face-to-face.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When there are no words...

....but you need to talk anyways.

We all know those moments.  The ones where you feel compelled to say something, but have no idea what to actually attempt to say.   

Like when someone dies or gets really sick.   There's really nothing to say, other than "I'm sorry"....but you feel like you want to say so much more.

But what if you're the one that is in pain, who's going through a tragedy?  What do you say then?  There's so much bubbling up inside need to talk.....but what can you say?

I've been quiet around the blogosphere the past few weeks.  That's been on purpose - we're adjusting to life back on the East Coast and a new job and schedule for the family.   Our youngest is attending preschool a couple days a week.....a big deal for this homeschooling family.   We're updating our adoption paperwork like crazy and trying to get all of that moving forward in a timely manner.

And last week....I was that woman.

The one who wanted to say so much, to talk about so many things.....but couldn't find the words.

I was that woman who miscarried.

Last Monday, ironically on the day that's set aside as a time to remember pregnancy and infant losses, I miscarried our youngest rascal.  The child that the majority of our friends and family weren't aware of yet.   The child that I'd known I was pregnant with since pretty much the day of conception (yay for Natural Family Planning and my chart).   The child that I already loved dearly and spent a good chunk of my time thinking and dreaming of.   The child I was already praying for......and who now is interceding on my behalf in Heaven.

I had known it was coming.   This was my second miscarriage, the first being before Rascal #1 was even born.   I saw the signs starting on Friday evening....and by Monday morning, when my baby's death had been confirmed through an ultrasound, I had already accepted the fact that our youngest rascal, this child I already loved, had already left us.  I didn't like it....but I'd accepted it.

So we went home.  To wait.   Thankfully, my body didn't make me wait too long before Nature kicked in.   I am very grateful for that - with my first miscarriage, I waited for almost two weeks, wondering when it was going to happen, trying not to let that little voice that kept whispering "Maybe the doctor was wrong....." get too loud.    

And then it was over.  My baby was gone almost as quickly as he had appeared.   Mike and I wrapped up his tiny body as carefully as possible, and started to make arrangements for a burial, which will happen tomorrow afternoon.

Almost instantly, the part I'd been dreading the most started to set in.   The "fog of emptiness," as I've come to call it.

Everything became empty.

Physically, my body was emptying itself.  My arms physically ached to hold my baby, but were empty and cold.

My heart ached with grief, unable to focus on anything other than the empty hole left behind by my baby.

Emotionally, the fog manifested in a sense of numbness.  There were no emotions.  My emotional vault was empty.




I walked around on auto-pilot, completing daily tasks and chores, trying to keep life as normal as possible for rascals 1, 2, and 3.   I made phone calls and arrangements.  I answered emails.  But behind the normalcy was a deep cloud of emptiness.   No energy.   Sadness.   Guilt.   Pain.

Hardly anybody knew about our littlest rascal.  We'd not wanted to tell people yet - partly because of our previous experience with miscarriage, and partly because we had so many changes going on in our lives at that moment and we didn't want to spring this kind of announcement on everyone (and risk it getting lost in the chaos).  He was our little cherish and revel in.

But people figured out that something was going on.  We told a few friends......and then a few more....and then the process of retelling our rascal's story over and over and over again became too painful, and Facebook helped spread the news for us.   While the support and love that has been shown to us has been incredible, I can't help but wonder about the millions of women who struggle with the loss of their baby in the darkness, in the silence.   Publicly talking about our baby has been hard for me.   I can't finish a conversation without crying at least once.   The fog of emptiness is still there, and it is thick.   I'm grieving my child, and reliving the loss of my first child......and that pain is raw.  It is deep.  It permeates everything I do and say right now.

And there's a part of me that can't help but pray for the millions of women who may still be struggling with this pain today, even if they lost their child years ago.   Whether it was by their own decision, or through natural causes, they are all touched by this fog, this emptiness, this pain, in some manner.   They, too, are hurting, and my heart aches for (and with) them.

In a society filled with people who scream that my baby was nothing more than a "ball of cells" or a "blob of tissue," how do I give myself permission to grieve?   My pain and sorrow reaches down to my innermost core.....but there are millions of people surrounding me today who argue that my baby was not a real baby.   Millions of people who claim that my baby was not a real person.   Millions of people who argue that my baby was not valuable enough to be grated the basic, fundamental protections in our Constitution.  

My grief is real.   My pain (physically and emotionally) is real.   My baby was real.  

But how can I talk about this, work through my grief and my pain, remember the memory of my child, or the dreams I'd dreamt about my child.....when our very own government and leaders will not admit that my child was a real person, one with inherent dignity and value?

It makes no logical sense to try and appease a woman like me with the idea that my baby was real because he was wanted.  My baby grew and developed the same way he would have if I hadn't been happy about the pregnancy, or if I hadn't welcomed his addition to our family.   My wants and desires do not dictate biology.    Allowing me, a woman who miscarried naturally, the right the grieve purely because I wanted my baby and pregnancy, only does a disservice to women who do choose to terminate a pregnancy that they may not "want."   We need to allow these women (and men) to grieve, as well.   

They have lost a child.   They have entered the fog of emptiness.   And at their deepest, most instinctive level.....they know it.   One quick google search will pull up hundreds of organizations and ministries designed to help post-abortive women through this fog, this grief.   They feel it too.   And they need to be allowed the chance to grieve.

But NONE of us women who have lost a child will ever be given that chance to truly, and freely, grieve until we, as a whole, recognize the fact that our children who died this early were just that:  our children.    Until we stand up and call them by name (child, baby, etc) women will continue to find themselves stuck in a place where there are no words....but where their hearts yearn to say so much.

My pain is real.

My grief is real.

My baby, my Jonathan Francis, was real.

I challenge you to stand up and speak for these women, myself included.  If you've had a miscarriage, stand up and say so.   Talk about your baby, your experience, your grief to anyone who will listen.     We cannot continue to let women suffer in silence and pain, mourning their children because our culture screams that these children do not exist and are nothing more than a ball of cells.  

Please.   For my sake.  For your sake.   Let us come out of the darkness, out of the fog, and reach out for help.   Find the words your heart is longing to say.

Allow our children to be who they really are.   It is okay to mourn them - they were real.

**if you are struggling with the loss of your own child, please know that these organizations are here to help you speak those words you hold in your own heart:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Just a little unpacking


taunting the turkeys.......don't worry, it's mutual

my daily view
early morning hike

beautiful fall day

rascal #2

checking out a gurgling stream

beach sky

awesomeness in a pan:  chalkboard paint on a cookie sheet.  Fun to draw, and magnetic too!  ;-)

Big little boy's first day of preschool.  Sniff!

Craft sorter......or snack tray?