It tastes like ice cream

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We started keeping Chuck accountable for helping around the house. She turned 3 last month and Hfoe and I agreed, with that sassy personality of hers, she is more than capable of maintaining a short list of responsibilities. On the list are chores like helping feed the dogs and making her bed. She gets the holy grail of stickers to mark the square for “staying in bed all night” because that is such a monumental event on the rare occasion it actually happens! The final space on her Mickey Mouse chore chart is reserved for “extra helps through the day.” She gets to place the coveted Sofia the first stickers on this space when she helps clean her sticky fingerprints off the floor to ceiling mirror in the living room (whoever installed that did NOT have toddlers) or she brings me buddy’s diapers, etc. She’s the quickest to remind us of these little extras throughout the day and has even started trying to negotiate her way into stickers for brushing her teeth and eating dinner. Nice try, pal! My favorite part of this chore chart, though, is the little “memo” section which allows us to write notes and goals for the week. Never mind that our goal for the week has remained the same for the 5 weeks we have been doing it…”no whining, no crying, no being mean.” A lofty goal, for sure. We must repeat this mantra often, but repetition is the key, right?! Along with our goal for the week, we have been choosing scripture verses for C (and us if we are being honest) to memorize. So far, she has memorized Luke 6:31, Phil. 4:13 and 1 John 4:19. I couldn’t be prouder! Besides, my little sinner is going to need all the guidance she can recall because this kid is mischievous, let me tell you!

 

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Who me? I am a perfect angel.

 

 

Her recent antics prove that perhaps we shouldn’t be spending so much time on verses about “doing unto others…” as we should be on something more like “thou shalt not bear false witness.”

 

I  mentioned that one of her chores is to help us feed the dogs in both the morning and the evening. A couple days ago, as Chuckles was carrying the cup full of food outside, I ran ahead of her to find the dog’s bowl that had blown away with the Santa Anas. When I turned around to bring her the bowl, she had a smug grin on her face. And the tiniest kernel of kibble on her lip.

“Kid! Did you just eat dog food?!”

I know we all did it at one point or another, but she’s THREE! We aren’t talking about an early walker here!

Just as emphatically as I proclaimed my disgust and astonishment, she rebutted, “I did NOT!”

Perhaps the art of discretion is lost on her, but the evidence was literally written on her face.

“You did, too and now you just lied about it! I hope it tasted gross!”

We eat organic in this house, for crying out loud. What could possibly drive her to desire processed chicken byproduct and ground corn meal?

“Nope. It tasted like ice cream!”

And the lie of lies, she blasphemed ice cream….

Whatever, kid. I just hope you don’t get worms. And next time you beg and whine and plead for ice cream, you better believe you’re getting one heaping cupful of pro plan!

 

Maybe we need to add a sticker line for refraining from taking food out of our puppy sisters’ mouths. Next week’s memory verse will be Deut. 14:3. She needs the lesson.

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Firsts on Firsts on Firsts

The single most covetable part about being a mother, in my opinion, is the privilege granted to me to be the eyes that witness and the ears that hear all the firsts that come from this tiny little human. It seems like every week is equivocal to a moon landing in one form or another. Chuckles had a big couple of weeks this month! Between her leaps in vocabulary and great first time experiences, I am chalk-full of accounts for September.

"Hey Bear! Look at me, Bear!"

“Hey Bear! Look at me, Bear!”

I guess we really started the month at the end of LAST month with a trip to visit the cousins in Oregon. Chuck loved waking up every morning to the giggles of her built-in family playmates. There is just something so special about watching your kid bond with their life-long buddies. Knowing that these tiny people will grow and go their separate ways over the years, but will always be able to come back together to reminisce about breakfast around the table with “not-so-hots” and cousin craft nights that got a little TOO glitter-heavy makes my heart so happy. While we were in Oregon, we decided to take a little detour to see some friends who had recently moved from our area up that way. What a refreshing time of fellowship with some sweet friends whom we have missed! Somewhere along the way, we decided to make the stop at Wildlife Safari. Have you heard of this place or a place like it? It’s a drive through zoo where the animals roam (mostly) free. I remember going to a place like that in Arkansas called Arbuckle Wilderness when I was little and it made quite the impact on my aspiring Zoologist self. However, I don’t remember it being THAT cool! Wildlife Safari turned me into a giggly kid and turned my giggly kid into quite the chatterbox! “Hi Bear! Hey, look at me bear!!” Her mantra of the drive has now become a Crunchy house catchphrase because it made us laugh endlessly while in the park. Her favorite animal in the park was the “scary chicken” that kept coming up to the window for food…of course this was an emu, but “scary chicken” actually seems more fitting. Needless to say, Chuck’s first time at the drive-thru zoo was a roaring success!

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This is her reaction for the Frozen float in Mickey’s Soundsational Parade at Disneyland….You’d think she’d appreciate my rendition.

Another first for this growing kid of ours recently has been her usage of certain phrases, correctly, that send us into stitches. C has always had a great vocabulary and was able to express herself from an early age. But this level of comprehension (and wit) is new. For instance, she, of course, loves “Frozen.” Like it has for every other two-year old girl on the planet, Disney’s latest princess flick has found it’s way into our sweet girl’s heart as an instant favorite. She would listen to the soundtrack on repeat if allowed. So, it stands to reason that her papa and I know ALL the words to one notable song in particular. C has decided, though, that our sing-along sessions just don’t do the film justice and as we head into the hook with great gusto, our dear girl will shout, “Hold it!” with her hands held up and a furrow on her brow. Kills us every time. In addition to her lofty musical critiques, she has crafted quite the imaginary scenarios of which we are expected to partake….and know all the rules. One example of this is the tea party she likes to host on a daily basis. The cups must face a certain direction and we must only eat cookies (not biscuits) off the plates. If I “eat” something I’m not supposed to, I will receive a stern, “No mama, like this.” from my bossy strong girl. My favorite phrase at the moment, though, is “I no hafta (fill in the blank), mama.” The most common blank-filler is “I no hafta nap now,” but you can also fill in with “eat that” or “clean that” or “do that.” While I know at first read this seems like she is talking back and perhaps in need of some nose on the wall time,  it’s actually funny because she is such a little mini-me that her inflection and tone make her sound EXACTLY like my “persuasive” voice. When I am trying to convince Hfoe that I don’t really need to clean the bathrooms today or that I don’t really “hafta” cook dinner tonight….my tiniest ears are listening and mimicking ME! It’s both a funny and humbling reminder!

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First Fish!!

We had a proud moment first while we were all in Colorado this month for hunting season. Since Hfoe harvested his elk on his second day out in the woods (thank you, Jesus for a full freezer for the next year!), Chuckles and I got to enjoy a little more family time with him than we were expecting. On one of those days, we decided to head down to the community pond at my grandma’s cabin and try C’s luck at fishing. After a couple of slapstick moments of chasing after grasshoppers for bait, we were ready to cast the line. Papa threw out the first cast and asked me to hold tight to the pole, while Chuck, in all her mini-fisher glory, manned the reel. It was truly a group effort…and it paid off! C was so excited as that bobber disappeared under the water and I helped her snag her first little trout. She reeled it in with papa and squealed uncontrollably as it flopped and flipped at her touch! This was one of those moments that, despite her age, I really hope she remembers, at least partly, because it was kind of magical….and a little slimy!

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Kicked in the head by “Brother-Sister”

A couple of my favorite firsts from this month involve C’s “brother-sister.” She got to feel baby kick for the first time as we were laying down to nap one afternoon and then she told the baby “I love you, baby” completely unsolicited for the first time soon after. Talk about melting a mama heart! I sure hope this sweetness continues once the runt is born!

As we head into the last 8 weeks of this pregnancy, I am reminded to take every opportunity to step back and enjoy each of Chuck’s “firsts” because soon we will have another first-timer on our hands. I am most excited to see my TWO babes meet each other for the first time. Now, THAT is sure to be a monumental first for our whole family!

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Being a good big sister, feeding bear.

 

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My Boobas!

Photo credit to Vickie Putnam Photography

“MY Boobas!” This has become the common declaration from Chuck regarding my utters ever since Baby N was born. Our buddies who live next door welcomed their sweet baby girl last month and C has been witness to many breastfeeding sessions since. This has made her keenly aware that she is not the only nursling who enjoys her mama milk. It has also brought up a wave of emotions and concerned inquiries regarding our own soon-to-be squishy in the house! When asked if she will share her “milkies” with the new baby, Chuckles thoughtfully replied, “Mmm, other one!” Meaning, we better find another boob for that kid because she isn’t sharing!

C is almost 2 1/2 and I never thought before I got pregnant with her that I would be an “extended breastfeeding” mother. I grew up in the south where the mentality is, “Once they are old enough to ask, they are too old.” It was seen as strange to continue nursing past 1 year of age and I just thought I would feel the same way. Fast-forward to actually having a kid who, with her history of gastrointestinal problems and failure to gain weight at different points in her short life, NEEDED me to be available to her, no matter if she could ask for it or not.

Chuck took to the boob minutes after birth and has never turned back. Thankfully, I was a milk-making machine, because I know that some aren’t so fortunate. But, we weren’t without our struggles. C had a minor lip tie that has all but resolved itself as she has gotten older, but as an infant it really HURT! Not to mention, I had a period of a couple months where, looking back, I’m pretty sure I had mastitis or something because every time I let down, it was like knives stabbing me in the chest. Every. Single. Time. Worse than both of these, though, was the deep sadness I felt during let down almost every time I would nurse C until she was almost 20 months old. It only lasted about 15-20 seconds, but it was so intense! After hearing another mama talking about this in my birth group, I learned I wasn’t alone. And it had a name! Dismorphic Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) is actually not so uncommon. Many women just don’t know to identify it. I understand, now, why people opt out of breastfeeding after the first few months. It’s like torture for some of us! But, I am cheap and stubborn and I am so, so glad for that. Because, after the uphill battle and the pain, we created this really amazing breastfeeding relationship. The milk was always there. It was always the right temperature and the comfort of mama’s arms never failed to be just what she needed. Now, the hurdles of nursing an active toddler were a little more comical and physically difficult to overcome! Ever try to feed someone while their feet are in your face, fingers are up your nose and they are trying to practice a double backflip? THAT is nursing a toddler!

Now that I am pregnant with number two, my milk has pretty much dried up. It’s so sad. But, we still do “milkies” at night (despite the OUCH that accompanies dry nursing!) right before bed because it is the one time of day my girl actually wants to sit and snuggle and SLOW down for the day. And honestly, it has become a time of reconnection for the two of us after our usual day of the back and forth struggles and corrections that come with parenting a two-year old. It’s the time I get to remind her, whether I have milk or not, that my arms are for snuggling her and the thing that has brought her comfort since day one, is still there.

I have been asked several times over the last few months when I think we will stop nursing and my response is always the same…whenever she is ready. I am in no hurry, but I am also ready when she is. W.H.O. (World Health Organization) says the average age of weaning worldwide is between 4-7. While I doubt we will still be going strong when she is in kindergarten, I don’t see any need to cut her off when it’s only beneficial to continue. I mean, why take away her source of anti-bodies and extra nutrition?  I’m hoping that once the baby is born, I will have the same awesome supply I did with C and I can build this same kind of nursing relationship with Bug. As far as logistics…the newborn gets first dibs and C gets the left overs. I doubt she will complain! Although, she might finally get a little chunky since that’s the good, fatty stuff! Now, we just have to work on this sharing thing!

This week is Worldwide Breastfeeding Week. What does your breastfeeding/human milk feeding journey look like? Whether you were able to produce for a day, a year or 3, you are doing good, mama! If you would like to participate in Worldwide Breatfeeding Week, check out http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/pledges.shtml to find a pledge location near you! As for Chuck and me, we will be at EarthBaby Boutique on Thursday!

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Heartbreak and Healing: a Papa’s persepective on baby loss and what comes after

I have been hoping to share a guest post from Hfoe for a long time now, but between his work schedule and the crazy antics of one little Miss Chuckles, the opportunity just hadn’t presented itself…until now. Considering that today is Father’s Day, I thought it would be completely appropriate to have my sweet husband explain, from his daddy heart, just what the loss of our baby Blue was like for him. I know many men aren’t able to fully express how hard life stuff affects their insides, but Hfoe was blessed with a pretty great way with words. So, I hope for anyone, any papa, who has lost a baby and also those who are expecting another after their loss, his words can be a source of camaraderie and comfort.


“I told you it wasn’t going to take long.”  That was the first thing I told Cara when I found out we were pregnant. I’m going to tell you how she let me in on her secret because this story could use as much humor as possible. I had arrived home from work and as often happens after a long ride on the L.A. freeway system, I spread some love and cheer to my two lovelies when I walked in the door then made my way to the restroom. As I was taking care of business so-to-speak I heard the mmm mmm mmm that lets me know I have received a text message. I dug into my pocket to retrieve my phone and there was a photo of my a fore mentioned lovelies, but something was up. I got the message right away. In the photo, my littlest lovely was wearing a new t-shirt that said “World’s Best Sister”. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised at all, even though we had only tried, in my opinion once (the wife says twice.) What did surprise me was the time and place that Cara chose to spill the beans. Evidently my rush to the commode had dashed her original plans, but she couldn’t wait any longer. 

   From that moment, I was over the moon with anticipation. I started talking and singing to our newest creation from the second the secret was revealed to me.  I was so sure that everything was going to be perfect that I didn’t waste any time before spreading the news to family and friends. After all we had gotten through the scares of our first gestational experience relatively unscathed. There was a crazy, beautiful little girl running around my house, reminding me every day that everything would be O.K.  There was a point in the first pregnancy when the Doctor couldn’t find little Chuck’s heart beat and yet hear she was. So what could possibly go wrong with our latest attempt to add to our family? 
   I still don’t know what exactly went wrong, but something definitely did. I honestly don’t remember how my lovely wife told me that something was wrong. I do remember that watching her heart break from the inside out nearly killed me. I do remember that the feelings I was trying to deal with while trying to be everything she needed me to be, nearly killed me. One of the toughest things to do was let myself grieve. I hadn’t been carrying this child. It wasn’t living off of my blood and breath and yet it was still mine.   
What a confusing place to be. My wife needed me and I needed her. There were times when we held each other and wept, there were times when I just had to let her be. I think those were the toughest for me. I’m a fixer, yet I couldn’t fix her, I couldn’t fix me and I most certainly couldn’t fix the baby we were losing. 

 
   Seeing her so mad, so very angry at the world for things that were out of control was heartbreaking. I knew she didn’t mean things that sometimes came out. I knew that I could never understand what was happening inside her. I prayed with everything that I had for patience and healing and love. I felt like a jerk for feeling like
“What about me? I’m losing something here too, you know?!!!” For the most part I choked those feelings down and really tried to be the husband that I knew needed to be. Even if I couldn’t fix things I could at least assist in the healing. 

 I would love to say that I am a new man and the grief is gone, but that would be a lie and a disservice to anyone who has gone through this. I know we all handle this type of thing differently, but the truth is, it just plain SUCKS. The other truth is, and I firmly believe this, the Lord has used this experience to not only strengthen my marriage, but more importantly strengthen my faith in Him. There were times when I wanted to run, when I wanted to drink, when I wanted to rip the door off of my house and throw it into the street, but I didn’t. I prayed and prayed and prayed and God gave me strength that I didn’t know I had. He gave me clarity when I was confused. He gave me patience when I was hurt and angry. He revealed to me what I was supposed to be for the woman He put in my life. I hope I did it right. I can’t be the judge of that, maybe my wife could tell you.

   Shortly after we lost our baby we were blessed with another pregnancy. Everything has gone without a hitch, at least physically speaking. I still struggle emotionally, trying to connect with the baby bump that grows every day. I know in time things will feel more normal and I’m confident that this pregnancy will be without major issues. Hopefully next time I share my perspective it will have to do with juggling a crazy, beautiful toddler and a newborn while trying to let Mama get some sleep.
 


 

With love in my heart,
HFOE

 

P.S. 
If there are any husbands who are dealing with this and would like more input, I’d love to offer any help that I can. 
  Don’t be afraid of what you are feeling, you are losing something too.
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7 Things I Have Learned Through Grief

I have been keeping a running journal in my head for the last couple of months about little life lessons learned through grief. In my head it’s titled, “Laugh, cry, make inappropriate jokes.” But here, I will keep it simple.

1.       It may come in stages…all at once

When you are pregnant, people kind of expect you to be crazy, laughing one second and crying into a Kleenex in the next. But, when your baby dies, I think laughing weirds some people out. For me, it’s a coping mechanism. I found it kind of confusing that I would be sobbing in wretched pain at the thought of what was happening when a flash of anger so strong would hit me that I couldn’t stand to be around another human for fear of lashing out. Then two minutes later I would say something about my uterus being an inhospitable chamber of doom to any fetus who chose to take up residence and my poor husband would nervously chuckle, not sure if this was another one of my shock value “jokes” or if I was truly ready to launch myself off the nearest cliff. Man, grief is exhausting! But, I think we have finally made it to the final stage- acceptance, mostly intact, ailing reproductive organ humor and all.

 

2.       You are not alone

You know how before you buy a car, you look around and you think, “I’m going to get a Nissan Sentra. It’s a sensible family car and I don’t see 4,000 of them on my commute every day.” Then you buy a Nissan Sentra and you see 5,000 of them on your commute EACH WAY. Or, like me, you thoughtfully choose a traditional, yet UNcommon name for your baby girl and once she is born you meet 5 other babies in your immediate circle with that same name? Grief is like that. Before you go through something terrible, it seems like those things are so horrible and rare. You may even think, “Gosh, how in the world would I cope if that was me?” And then it IS you and all the other grieving folks come out of the woodwork and your eyes are opened to just how common this really is. It’s both sad and comforting to suffer together.

 

3.       People still say cliché things

“Everything happens for a reason, dear.” “God only gives you what you can handle.” “I’m sure God will bless you with another baby in time. He just needed this one in heaven.” Those are just a few of the gems I have heard, not including scientific reasoning and urgings to just move on. I could write a whole novel of what NOT to say to someone going through a miscarriage or, really, ANY grief. But, I won’t. For the most part, people are well-meaning and loving and just trying to help. You have to give them the benefit of the doubt and just know that at one time, YOU were probably the one making trite comments. I know I have been! But, if I take one lesson away from this experience, I hope it is that the only truly sincere, helpful response to a person going through such deep, lonely waters is, “I’m so sorry you are going through this.” You can add on, “I will pray the Lord heals your heart,” as long as you truly mean it, but don’t say it and then walk away to forget. I cherished prayers from friends, because in the midst of the pain, my prayers didn’t sound very coherent. The Lord is the best healer and only HE has the correct words. So, rather than stumble around, leave it to the Master.

 

 4.       You don’t have to answer the door

Usually on Sunday mornings I am at church bright and early, but during the miscarriage and for a couple weeks following, I just couldn’t pull myself together to face our church family. So, I stayed home and learned this lesson….just because they knock doesn’t mean I have to answer. I saw them walking up the driveway because the blinds were open and I was sitting alone on the couch watching Dr. Charles Stanley. It was probably too late; I’m sure they saw, but I dashed to the bedroom anyway, frustrated with myself that I hadn’t turned the volume down on Dr. Stanley. They knocked once and my heart raced. I imagined these two suited men standing on my porch, feeling hurt that I was avoiding them because surely they knew I was home. They knocked again and I had to physically restrain my puffy-faced, snot and tear laden self from feeling the conflicted obligation to both open the door for these Mormon brothers because I was home on a Sunday and the distinct fear to, because of course I already go to church….well, not today. But usually. Oh, the snot? Yeah, sorry about that. I promise I’m not a heathen. In the end, they left and I sighed, relieved and guilty. I will have to apologize if they come around again (NOT on a Sunday, of course) but I think at the time I did the right thing.

 

5.       Coffee will SA-A-AAVE your soul

My favorite scene in any Friends episode is always when they come together in Central Perk. Some of the best one-liners are dropped over a cup of joe. I think the same is true in life. Especially in the midst of grief! Although, my hair never looks as good as Jennifer Aniston’s, I learned an entirely new appreciation for a hot mug of java as my closest friends gathered around to comfort me during my grief. Of course, we brought the coffee shop to my house, but there really was nothing better to lift my spirits than a text that said, “I’m stopping at the ‘bucks. What can I get you? I’m coming over.” In the comfort of my own poorly lit living room I could freely cry and giggle and make uncomfortable broken womb/dead baby jokes to those who know my true heart and could cry and giggle right along with me. No judgment. No pity. Just hugs and encouragement and sometimes, complete empathy. Ok, so maybe it’s not the coffee alone that will save you, but the warm trickle down your throat into your cold, dark shell will surely start the process!

 

6.       Kids give two flips about grief

Being sick while taking care of a sick kid is pretty much the absolute worst state of parenting I have personally experienced. Parenting while grieving is like that, except the kid feels fine and still wants to jump on you and run with you and be read to in high pitched, squealy voices. Hfoe, bless his heart, was the most perfect partner during everything because he took over many “mama” duties despite his own pain, so that I could recover. But, there is no substitute for “mama milk” and just when I thought all the life had left me, she would latch and suck out a little more. It reminded me of a saying I saw on a sports motivation poster once, “When you think you’ve given your all, give a little more.”  But, looking down at her sweet, quiet, suckling little face sure did fill my heart with love. Tons and tons of love. And after all, isn’t love the Neosporin to grief?

 

7.       The tears don’t last forever, but the ache might…and that’s ok.

It’s been two months since I started bleeding and I no longer cry every day. In fact, I don’t cry most days and it feels nice. The first day I didn’t feel the lump in my throat I remember clearly. Chuck and I were at the mall one beautiful Saturday morning while her Papa was at work. I just needed to return a couple of things and I decided since she was being a trooper, we would grab lunch while we were there. As we chewed our French fries, I looked over at my beautiful, growing, spunky little girl and I thought about what her sister may have looked like. I thought about how they may have been best buddies and how Chuck would have loved to “help” with the baby. I remember smiling and feeling a little pang in my chest, but no lump rose up in my throat, no tears welled in my eyes. It was nice. I realized at that moment that remembering and honoring our little blueberry didn’t mean I had to live in a state of depression over her. I could still live my beautiful life and love every second of what God has blessed us with. That wasn’t a disservice to her or a neglect of what was. It was actually the best way to honor her memory…with love and joy. And, it is the platform for moving forward. I am thankful for that day.

 

 

 Ultimately, through this grief process I have learned so much about myself and my family, life and love and our heavenly Father above. I appreciate the overwhelming comfort we have received in the way of cards, letters and books to read. People are good. So, so good. And maybe that is the purpose of grief….to remind us of that.

*Sidenote…a book that has been SO comforting to me through this is Safe in the Arms of God: Truth from Heaven About the Death of a Child. I absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for scriptural truth regarding the fate of their child in Heaven.

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