Blessings from Babies

Every pregnancy is different. Or so I’ve been told. My first two were very similar: sick, tired, crabby and torturous. This one… pretty much the opposite.

When my daughter turned two, my son turned four and life became more enjoyable. It was like a sigh of relief after two years of chaos and managing sibling jealousy issues, potty training, nursing, sleep challenges for my oldest… but when she turned two it all seemed to get better. And I went from never wanting another baby, to needing one more.

After almost a year of convincing my husband how awesome it would be, we were almost there. Then we suffered loss after loss after challenge for a year and a half or so. It was one thing after the other and the dream of a tiny sweet baby, one more completing person for our family, was slipping away… lost in the darkness of constant rain. I didn’t know that we would ever get to where we are now… pregnant with baby #3.

Pregnancy number three has been a blessing. It’s almost as if this is where and when we are supposed to be, even if we had wanted to be here sooner. I have never felt so amazing while making a small person. Time is flying by with a six year old and four year old to play with. Having kids old enough to know what a baby is and be enthusiastic and so loving is a huge difference from having a 18 month old and wondering how they will feel with a new baby to take away the attention.

I feel like our path is a blessed one- which is weird to say considering all the loss and hard times we have had recently. There were times I didn’t want to go through the motions of a normal life when it felt like anything but. There were days where it was exhausting to try to smile until I felt like smiling or pretend to be excited about events… when really I’d prefer to just stay in bed all day hiding from the next bad thing that was coming. But we made it through that rough patch. I know rough times will always be around, but this feels like a lull in the storm.

Feeling that tiny person kick around in my tummy the last week has reminded me how incredible life is. From tiny cells a new person is forming- tiny ears, toes, fingers, lips, and a heart that beats on it’s own. Probably a spunky, independent little person with huge ideas of their own (that’s judging by our first two sweet babies). I’m sure we’re in for a wild ride, but if I’ve gained anything from the past year and a half, it’s to enjoy the small beautiful moments. Like a tiny person saying hello from the inside. 🙂

So I’m reading this book about World War 2. I’ve read quite a few books about this event, but this one’s perspective was different. It’s about a small town in France (which was occupied by the Germans during the war) and their view on what was going on.

All radios were confiscated when their country was taken over. There was no communication or way of being informed of events besides illegally distributed papers (and people caught dispersing these were executed immediately). Soldiers moved into or took over the local homes in the area, as well as the hotel. Citizens were given ration cards, and only received the food the soldiers residing in their town did not want.

The good news is most of the families had gardens, farm animals and skills to survive without depending on things like a grocery story. Small towns like these didn’t have that option, but instead had a butcher to visit, neighbors or the market to collect goods from and relied on their own ability to grow, then preserve their own goods.

As the war continues in the book, there is less and less food to go around. The woman in the book only really has food when the German captain, who is staying in her home, brings home food to share with them. The food she grows, preserves/cans, dries,etc is enough to barely carry them through the winter. There’s only homemade soap she trades with a neighbor to get, she saves yarn from old sweaters/blankets to knit clothing they need (she seriously knits underwear so they have some to wear. Sounds comfy, huh? Better than nothing I guess!), and their electricity is shut off so they rely solely on candles and the fireplace for light/heat.

I can’t help thinking to myself how we would do in a similar situation. Where we live we are dependent on grocery stores for all of our food. Sure… in the summer there’s farmer’s markets we could buy from, but in the winter we are dependent on the barges that bring our food up from the Lower 48. We are taught to be prepared to be self-sufficient. Our pantries are generally stocked, at our house we have alternative heat from our fire place, a back up generator and fuel stored to run it. A small camping stove with fuel. Water stored. But that is not a long term plan. It’s for an emergency…. a few days. A week. These people were in this survival mode situation for years. With the added tension of having enemy armed soldiers roaming their streets and living in their homes.

I can’t help but think of how utterly helpless most people would be if they lost cell service and with it their information source and communication (and calculator- who could live without that). We are so dependent on others for everything. It’s convenient and, yes, our lives are so much easier, but what would you do if you didn’t have your phone? The internet? The news? What if that was all gone… even without the addition of war. Scary stuff my friends. Scary thoughts.

I’m grateful I have some basic homesteading/homemaking skills, but the idea of having to rely on them to keep my family ALIVE is terrifying. To do it for ‘fun’, like heading to the cabin, is one thing… survival is another. I don’t know what my point to all this rambling thought is- again this is the babble my husband would be forced to act like he was listening to if he was home, but he’s not… so you’re welcome!

My advice (which is obviously what you’re all reading this for) would be to check out what you have at your home. How long can you go without needing something from the store? How much water would you have if your tap didn’t work? How would you cook without electricity or natural gas coming in? If you had heirloom seeds saved at home, would you know what to do with them? Do you have a sewing kit at home? First aid kit? Just some ideas. And if these questions leave you feeling panicked, or at the very least, concerned- GOOD  NEWS! You have time to learn and gather ideas on how to be self-sufficient for your family. There’s 1.75 million blogs and articles on how to be ready to provide for yourselves. Just get googling! And maybe printing… so you can reference in case of the aforementioned emergency. 🙂

PS> If you want to read a super good book about women in World War 2, here is the link. It’s amazing and heartbreaking and thought provoking…

Nightengale

Blurry Vision

I feel like I’m floating. I’ve always been goal oriented with short term, long term and super long term goals. So is my hubby. It works well… but now I feel like most of those goals were checked off the list or changed… and I need new ones.

Everything feels up in the air. We’ve been stuck in this period of grieving and can’t seem to pull out of it. It reminds me of when you step in that super gooey sticky mud and every time you shift your weight to move forward, you feel your foot sinking down further and the air sucking in around it, making it impossible to pull out of it. I guess our grief has been compounded by more grief, making a tough life changing event grow.

My husband said it best the other day when he asked who is he supposed to call now? Dad’s gone, my Gramps (who was incredible to talk to and always got you to find your own answer, just by asking the right questions) is gone, his mom has been gone for ten years… I obviously volunteered myself, but he told me that was a given and he did that already. It just is this big hole that can’t be filled. And to make it worse, it just doesn’t end. Taking care of the property, selling items, moving all his dad’s special things, figuring out trust details and how to get it all divided but still have money to pay the taxes in January… it’s all a big tangled web of details to sort through. For example, we sold the house finally and thought it was done… then after Vince leaves to go hunting a letter comes saying more people need more documents to be able to transfer records. Then today (after Vince is back at work) another letter about another detail someone needs. Just doesn’t end.

I guess once we’ve settled all those things, maybe we can start to regain our normal.Or our new normal I guess. It’s been impossible to do anything but distract ourselves by keeping busy and then losing it privately in the quiet moments. It’s like we need a whole new set of goals and dreams, because the previous ones involved people who are gone now. My brain feels like a video that’s frozen but kind of moving from the current scene to the next- know what I mean? Sort of shaking and not able to go backwards or forwards.

Our current ‘normal’ can’t be our long term normal. I’m a hot mess that’s one coffee spill away from a crying session. I’m fine and happy one day, getting stuff done and working out- being amazing- then a few days letter… hot mess Mama has returned. It’s like a roller coaster of emotions that I didn’t expect to be so largely present by now. But it is. Popping up it’s head every now and then, just to remind me my loved ones are missing from our lives here.

Today I was flipping through this ‘count your blessings’ type book I bought myself to try and inspire some self-reliance/recovery. This page with this super cool poem popped out at me. It’s by an ‘unknown’ author, but I’ll share it here:

“God didn’t promise days without pain.

Laughter without sorrow. Sun without rain.

But he did promise strength for the day,

Comfort for the tears, and light for the way.

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it”

Pretty good, right? Funny because my Gramps told me ‘God made us a lot of promises. He better keep up his end of the deal!’. Maybe me wishing for some of Gramps’s words of wisdom came in the form of this today. I’ll go with that for now.

September has me like, whoa.

Dude. This month is creeping by. It isn’t even halfway over and it feels like we are at least 41 days into September.

Also. Alaska. Global warming. Me not using full sentences. These are all things that seem to be happening to me this month. My garden is hanging in there somehow… because temps have been hovering in the upper ’60s. Abnormal. For sure.

Homework in kindergarten is pretty amazing. Switching to a new licensing program for my preschool is not (thanks State of Alaska for dumping off your expense onto the municipality… glad we could help you out). My daughter finding her BFF in preschool class is insanely beautiful. My son finding out his BFF from preschool is still his BFF in kindergarten is also incredible.

My husband has been in and out of the area on various hunting  attempts. Now he is off tomorrow for a week long adventure off the Denali Highway. Praying he comes home with some meat. Mama’s hungry. Just kidding about that, but we eat only game meat and the occasional chicken breast around here. Chicken of the woods is my preferred (some people call them grouse or ptarmigan) fowl choice, but that isn’t always an option. This year has been good for bird hunting though.

We said goodbye to my father’s in law’s house of 20 years last week. That was tough… but also a relief. We had a lot of memories there and it was always a place of comfort, respite and one of those homes you can feel the love radiating out of as soon as you pull up. You don’t even have to get out of the car and you feel welcome. I hope the next family makes as many beautiful memories as we have… and that they don’t notice if ‘someone’ acquires a few Irises here and there. I don’t know who would do that, but just saying. And now I have one less lawn to mow and house to check on. Good timing because my spare time got really short this month. This never ending month. OH September.

Two more weeks and I’m breaking out Halloween paraphernalia.Just to celebrate it not being September anymore! Good luck. Hang in there friends.

 

My July Blog. Yah… I know. It’s August.

July update. Because I suck at blogging. As we all know.

Just got back from celebrating my Grandma’s 80th birthday!! We had a fancy tea at a tea house for all the girls- and it was amazing. I haven’t been ‘to tea’ since I was little… and my sweet G got to come with us too. The food, atmosphere and company were perfect. I have been blessed with positive, loving, encouraging and a little bit stubborn women in my life. Being surrounded by strong female role models has really helped shape who I am and, hopefully, who I will help my kids to become.

After that we had games with prizes. My mom was in charge of this department. We played some classics: drop the clothespin in a jar, cotton ball toss and keep the balloon up. Prizes were awesome- my mom excels at buying great gifts and prizes. It’s so fun! Followed that up with a delicious Sunday bar. My cousin excels at putting together things like that. We had so many topping choices, lots of ice cream and even fancy adult sauces. Yum! She bought some of it from mouth.com – check it out. Cool stuff!

Our happy birthday weekend was frequently paused by visits to the hospital. My Grandpa was dying. He has been fighting MDS for the last five years. Last summer they told us he had a month to live. It’s been a year. Then he came down with pneumonia and that was it. He landed in the hospital where we discovered his kidneys were quickly declining and the afternoon of my Grams’s birthday, he had made it to his goal: her special day. And was ready to go on to Heaven.

The gift of being able to say goodbye, give him one last hug, kiss and hear him say ‘I love you too’ is indescribable. If you haven’t lost someone suddenly, without warning, you don’t realize what a gift this is. To see him exhausted, unable to sleep because he was in such pain and having a hard time breathing, to hear him asking why it was taking so long for him to die and that he didn’t think it would be this hard to go… it’s a gift. It’s a hard one to take, impossible to think of it as something helpful- but it helped me to let him go. To know it was time for him.

My poor little man is going to think everyone is going to leave him. Can we say abandonment issues? Although, in a large development, a bit after I told him that Great Gramps (who he wanted to play with all weekend, but never got to) had to go to Heaven, he looks up at the sky and says ‘Great Grandpa. I forgive you for leaving for Heaven. I will not see you there because I am not going. I am staying with my Mama forever.’ I remember feeling that way when my Aunt Cindy died suddenly when I was a kid. Like you never know who might be next and definitely didn’t want to be alone or away from my Mom. It was scary. I hope S and G don’t have to say goodbye to anybody else for a long time.

He has given and given and given his whole life. He has been the strong one for his family of ladies. Now, as my Grandma said to him sitting on his bed at the hospital, it is our turn to be strong. And take care of each other. And we will do that. We will be okay.

We will continue to plan parties, play games with fun prizes, go to tea and celebrate milestones- because that is who we are. And we are that because of him. And my Grams. And they are that because of their parents. Our tribute to their legacies is to continue on and make our children’s lives as amazing as ours are, as our parents are, grandparents are and great-grandparents were. To remember in happiness. We had more good than bad- more smiles than tears- and now we are here. And here is all we have. With each other.

 

 

A Blink and Forever

Today marks 10 years of my husband’s Mom passing away. I was lucky enough to date him in high school, and get to know his mom then.But we were not together when she passed away. After this January, and losing his Dad, maybe it was a blessing that she wasn’t a daily part of my life then… although the pain would have been worth the gain.

Things that remind me of her are springtime, tea on the porch, dirt… digging up flowers and moving them again, and again and again, playing games in the winter, Christmas… the crazy excitement over that train that went around the bottom of the tree. Party mix. Knowing that what you want is worth working for. Ladybugs. My daughter’s smile. The idea that helping others, even if it is inconvenient to you, is important and should be a priority.

The world is a darker place without her here to light it up. I wish my kids could have experienced what she felt like. She lit up a room when she walked into it. But they won’t get to know that. Just like we didn’t get to see her smiling face on our wedding day. She never got to hold our sweet babies in her arms. I never got to show off my garden to her  and the kids will never get to help her in hers.

Her opinion on our landscaping is unknown. Her advice for simple things and big things is a secret, lost forever. We frequently feel her around us… see her signs… and we have to make that be enough. Enjoy each tiny moment where it feels like she is there, lighting up around us.

My sweet husband is in a world without his parents. At too young of an age for anybody to be there. So today we will gather together at the lake, let our lanterns fly up and deliver our wishes, and have a seven and seven in memory of her. Or two. Make party mix and eat too many raspberries with cream. Look at old pictures and read old memories. Remember all the amazing times instead of thinking about what we are missing out on.

Imagine how a life went by in the blink of an eye…. and yet it still feels like forever since she was here.

 

 

At Least We Have Us

So here’s the thing. We have always talked about how much it just sucks that Brenda (my mother in law) isn’t here to be a part of our kiddos lives.  It will be ten years, on March 25th, since she passed away.We’ve lamented about how much our kids are missing out on.

*Every time someone complains about their mother in law, it takes every part of my patience, every piece of my being, to keep my thoughts to myself about how lucky they are to have her there. Every time. And sometimes my thoughts just spill right out of my mouth. (So… note to reader: Enjoy every day with everyone in your life. Are they bugging you? Giving their two cents? Hug it out. Tell them THANK YOU for loving your kids so much they need to meddle in your business and tell ‘how they did it’. Even if you don’t want to at the moment, just do it. And you’re welcome.)*

But in all our complaining and missing her, we always  have said ‘At least we have Dad’.

Aunt Elaine was taken from us  in a horrific accident almost two years ago. It was shocking and earth shaking. Unexpected. She had filled such a void for our kids, making them feel so loved (and us too, of course) and always taking the time to make them feel important. When she was taken, we were again so glad to have Curt there to hold everyone up. To look to for what to do next. I feel safe in saying that the whole family felt like he was the rock to lean upon and a guide to get us through the darkness. We thought ‘At least we have Dad’.

Here we are coming up on our first Easter without him. Having to plan our own celebration instead of Grandpa putting it all together. We just got back from our first cabin trip, just the kids and I, without Grandpa there to meet us. I found myself wandering around the cabin, finding jobs to do and things to move around. While looking around for ‘the eagle’ who lives there, and feeling sad he wasn’t there to remind me of Curt, I noticed a set of footprints walking from the cabin down to the lake. All the snow was melted away, except for a set of tracks, set in ice (probably from when the ground first froze). It was my sign that he was there… but also bittersweet to know those tracks are all that’s left.

Tomorrow my husband comes home from his first ‘hitch’ at work without his dad around. I haven’t gotten to talk to him in a few days. And the Grandpa calling to check in call is glaringly apparent. Just feels… extra mean. If that makes sense.

Losing someone always is hard. Always. We love big and we love hard in this family. You’re in or you are out. No middle ground.  But it’s not fair that he is gone. He was our best buddy, for all of us… not just my husband or me or Sawyer or Gracie… but for every member of this family, he felt like a best friend to. And now… there’s this hole that can’t be filled. And it isn’t fair. I feel like we’ve picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off so many times… and now again. We have to do it again.

I’ve been hanging in there. That’s the only way to describe it. I’m ‘cursed’ with being stuck on the bright side of things, most of the time. Even when thinking of all we have lost, I can’t help but count all our blessings and the amazing times we did have.And all the time we have coming to us in the future to make new memories with our kids, and each other.

But there is never enough time. Maybe… my bright side isn’t a curse, but an opportunity to pick up those around me. Maybe I’ll pick myself up in the process and find something else to write about beyond the losses we’ve encountered. That seems like asking for a lot- but we have to have goals to know where to go. 😉

grandpa wait for me

Joke is on me. And it ain’t funny.

The jokes appears to be on me.

I pulled into my driveway today, after having to take my daughter to the doctor as early as possible on a Sunday because of an apparent ear infection (she screamed from the moment she woke up until we got into the doctor… about 2 hours), and what do I see? Cabin Grandpa’s truck, my husband’s truck and my parent’s car parked there. All the people who are not here to help me. My support group represented by their vehicles. Shot to heart!

I knew this first hitch of Vincent being gone would be tough. I underestimated what would be thrown at me. Hey… if you’re going to get used to having to do things alone… what better way than to be challenged at every turn? And have all back up people be out of town. (*That’s not 100% fair. My sister in law who lives here did call the other night, but in the midst of crying/medicating kids and wrangling dogs, I didn’t get a chance to talk to her.)

Between conferences with parents, sick kiddos, being coughed on, vomited on and snotted on… plus having no communication with my husband beyond a few 2 minute phone calls… plus apparently there’s some sort of night loitering going around in my neighborhood… plus no babysitter… jeez. Oh! And throw in an uncle who is in ICU because of complications with a cancerous tumor. Anything else? Anything? You can believe I’m waiting for something else to come along.

There’s been lots of good things too. Snuggles with my hilarious little man… who is extra funny when he doesn’t want to go to bed yet. All the laundry is done, folded and put away (yay me!). I got a sweet package from our cabin neighbor with a book that I didn’t know I really needed to read. I mentioned wanting some old glass insulators  and a couple barrels of glass stuff my great grandpa collected were discovered in Washington. They haven’t been opened in 40 years since he passed away. That’s kind of cool.

But isn’t that what life is? Right? It’s hard and challenging and mixed in there are the amazing, beautiful moments that make it worth it all. I’m hoping all  my bad times are happening in these last two years- but even that’s hard to say. I’ve had two devastating losses… and a handful of big losses, a lot of ‘oh well’ moments… but all and all… my life is good. And isn’t the hard and sad supposed to make the happy and amazing seem better?

All I know is I’m ready to appreciate some really, really, really great moments. Let’s start that now. And…. go!

First Time Again

My husband left today for the first time since we lost his Dad. I have to convince myself every moment that it will be okay. And that nothing is going to happen, just because he is gone. And nothing will happen to him because he is gone. But I cried the whole way home from the airport this morning… first time I’ve done that in a while.

The problem is this… his dad was so… invincible. Tough. Strong. Dependable. A problem solver who fixed things you didn’t realize you needed to fix. He was a respite in moments of madness when Vince had been out of town and I had been ‘single mama-ing’ it for far too many days in a row. An adult who could make my kids laugh so I could go sit on the dock and fish for a few minutes. Or take my kids out to help him stack wood… something they aren’t really into doing with me. But it was cool when Grandpa asked for help.

We would go to the cabin and he would be another adult to talk adult things to. A sounding board for my crazy ideas. And somebody who knew about everything because of his awesome life experience. His life of working hard and playing hard influenced our lives tremendously! This December Vince was telling him he thought he might only get a few weeks of work this winter. Curt’s response? “Would that be the end of the world? To be home with your family for a couple months?”  

Now the other person in my world who I always viewed as ‘invincible’ is now going out there away from me. Not only away from us at home, but off to work where he’s running equipment, battling trees and working on the Haul Road, out of cell phone service. Just gone for two weeks. With big ol’ semi trucks cruising by them… and last time he was up at the same area he almost got swept under the ice in the river… and didn’t tell me until the next summer. No wonder I get carried away in my anxiety.

I’m excited for him to get back into the work routine and get his mind off all this mess. For him it will be a break from it all. For me it is going to be a sharp reality check as I find the person I leaned on when I was ‘alone’ is now truly gone forever. It sounds selfish when I read it back to myself- hahah. At least I can see that… so that’s a step forward. I think.

We are lucky that we have the kids to help us heal. And my parents who are beyond essential in our lives. I don’t know if we would have made it this far without them there to help every time we ask. Which has been a lot. Another couple people I now find myself obsessively worrying about being safe. I don’t want to be one of those families people read about and think… jeez, hasn’t it been enough? Because it already has to this point. I think we should tap out on bad things. Right? I’m sending it out there and hoping that works!!

Wish me luck!!   Two weeks starts now….Dada airport.jpg

One Month Later

So it’s been a month. Somehow it’s been four weeks since that day we lost Cabin Grandpa, Dad, Curt… but it feels like yesterday and forever ago at the same time.

This week I had good days. I got up every day and went to work. I cried every day. But not that hysterical, can’t breath crying, just the ‘normal’ cry that happens sometimes.

I seem to be suffering from some mild PTSD. I don’t really know if that’s the right term, but can’t seem to come up with any other one that applies so well. Every time the door bell rings unexpectedly, I freeze. Can’t move, can’t answer the door, just stand there… short of breath… and then have a small tear fest over it. Hopefully that goes away some day. Can’t burst out crying every time someone drops off a package or pops by for a visit, right?

One of Vince’s friends came over and was helping him move some stuff the other day. He is a guy Vince works with and was with him when I called him to tell him the news. I guess he just got home Tuesday… when he said that all I could think of (and say cause I can’t keep my mouth shut apparently) was that was the day Vince would have come home if none of this had happened.  Then there was a moment of silence and just… it felt like acceptance that all this really happened. And… then I had to jump ship (or the kitchen in this case) and go cry it out in my car on the way to pick up the kids from the babysitters.

Our house has been inundated with belongings that aren’t supposed to be here. I am so glad they are- we have pieces of an amazing man’s life surrounding us, but I’m so mad they are too. I don’t want his things- I want him. His first chainsaw is posted proudly on the beam in our garage… makes me cry every time I pull in. Boxes and boxes of die cast models he left to Vincent, labeled in Curt’s handwriting… makes me smile and cry every time I get out of my car.  A ‘sport’s diary’ Sawyer pulled out of Grandpa’s gun cabinet (empty of guns, mind you) and was sitting by my bed and written in 1974… makes me laugh and cry.

How long until it’s just laughs and smiles and less and less cries? And how long will it be until we pick up his shirts that I’m saving to do a project with… and they don’t smell like him anymore? How long will it be until I’m able to actually cut and sew those shirts into what I want? I still feel like if I do I’m going to get in trouble (from him!). How long until the weight of this isn’t a daily struggle to survive? How long until the waves are less and less frequently and smaller so I’m not pushed over each time?  I don’t ever wish time to go by because it already does too fast, but I do want the hurt to be less. Working on it.

The other morning we finally had a moment, a ‘visit’, a ‘sign’ from Curt that he made it. I’ve been waiting and waiting for something. I can feel Brenda (my mother in law) around us at times… other great people we’ve lost too. I’ve always felt that way about those who have moved on: that they are still here, checking in on us. But I couldn’t feel him.

At 2:50 in the morning, the radio came on. It has NEVER done that ever… and a song was playing. It’s called ‘Rainbow Stew’ and neither of us had ever heard it before. The song is about how great life will be and we will all be together under a sky of blue, drinking and eating rainbow stew. It was written during Vietnam (which Curt served in) and the singer toured there and sang this album. It was a moment to let us know he made it and was drinking ‘free hub-a-lub and eating that rainbow stew’ with his sunshine. I know it was him… I guess seeing more and more of those signs will help to make the pain feel manageable? I sure hope so! Until then I’m going to keep wading through the waves and trying to lift up those around me. Wish me luck!