Monday, August 14, 2017

The Junk Drawer

When I designed our new kitchen, I included 2 junk drawers. The contractor pointed out that an extra drawer would encourage extra junk. I agreed, but that's what I wanted.

Junk drawers are a jumble of scissors, small tissue packs, bobby pins, matches, and sticks of gum. Batteries, a measuring tape, ear buds,  phone chargers, and random keys. Patches for river rafts and air mattresses, a tiny screwdriver for eyeglass repairs. Andrew's pacifier clip, and multiple lipsticks.

They are also the landing spot for things that serve no practical purpose, but have no other place to go.

In our home, those include a small plastic eagle we bought on a coal train ride in West Virginia. A  key chain with Margaret's and my photo on it. A tiny Magic 8 ball. Jack's kindergarten ID. A Darth Vader pen. Assorted novelty erasers. A headless Lego guy. Tim's first Blackberry that Margaret used to play to with, pretending she was a spy.

I straighten the junk drawer every now and then when it gets out of control. This gives me a chance to sift, sort, and remember. If these little things were packed away in a box, I'd likely never see them again, and I appreciate being able to touch them and move them about.

I know they will always be there because it is proven that no one ever cleans a junk drawer except for Mom. Sure, Tim will sigh and claim there are NO MORE NAIL CLIPPERS when he is looking right at them; he'll shuffle some stuff around, but he's not going to toss anything.

I like order as much as the next person, but I also love the little family museum I root through every day.

Now were did those scissors go?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Novagratz Tufted Sofa Verdict

My Novagratz Tufted Sofa from Walmart came and I've been meaning to give you an update. Here's what it looks like in the ad:

I'd seen this sofa around the internet, especially in the emerald green, and I was intrigued. It looked so pretty and feminine. I needed a new sofa like a hole in the head, but I justified this purchase because this sofa is also a futon, and we don't have a guest room. I thought it would be nice to turn my office into a guest room when the need arose, especially because I'm not getting a lot of work done in there anyway. 

Delivery was free and fast (2 days)!

It came in a flat box, with the components (legs, arms) tucked in a zippered compartment underneath the upholstered seat.  It was Ikea-level assembly that involved minimal cursing on Tim's and my part.

I selected the dark gray:


I like that the tufts do not have buttons, because in my experience, those pop off.

The reviews said the couch itself is firm rather than cushy, and I agree. It is not a "sink into" couch by any means. The fabric is very pretty but does NOT look as durable as what I'm used to. For instance, our microfiber living room couch is third-hand, given to me by a friend, who got it from a friend, and it has had numerous spills on it, plus many napping dogs. My basement couch (yes, I have a couch problem) has a nice tweedy/chenille-type fabric that has lasted us 17 yrs without issue. The fabric on the Walmart couch, however, is a non-stretchy velour that resembles velvet. It feels pretty thin and looks like it will not be very forgiving for spills, snags, or dog toenails.

Reviews also pointed out its small scale. It definitely as a lower profile than my other couches. Think futon.

Here's what it looks like in my office:




Pardon the lack of a rug.

My sister spent the night last night and tested out the futon. She is our most frequent house guest, so is the best person to judge the new set-up. She got up extra early with Andrew today (is she a saint, or what?) and gave me her verdict when I dragged myself downstairs. She says it was indeed firm, but that she slept well. There is a bit of a gully where the two pieces come together, but she was not bothered by it. She emphasizes it is a futon for ONE person only, not two. Twin sheets fit on it.

Here it is opened flat, a simple process that took a few seconds:

And made up with twin-sized Laura Ashley sheets, circa 1985:


Does it really solve my guest room problem? No, not if we have more than one guest at a time.

Did I need it? Not really.

Other complications: It didn't look good with my existing rug, so now I'm on the market for a new one.

Am I glad I bought it? Yes!


Grade for Novagratz couch/futon:

B or B+

Would I recommend: Yes.

p.s. This is not a sponsored post.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

My Weekend plus A Giveaway!

What a wonderful weekend at the national gathering of the Bereaved Parents of the USA. I was honored to be asked to speak twice: 1 keynote, 1 workshop. I was stressed going into Friday because I wanted to honor each parent's experience, and be a light if I could. But with Andrew having a scary accident in the driveway last week (he's fine but oh my!) and Tim being out of town, I was afraid that my talks wouldn't come together. Fortunately, prayer helped, and by the time I got up in front of the amazing parents of BPUSA, it flowed.

It was awesome spending time with online friends I know from support groups, and Tim even made it back in town to join me Saturday night for a long-overdue date night. If you had told me a few years ago that our date night would be at a convention for bereaved parents, or that I'd be asking my 40-something girlfriends for overnight childcare for a TODDLER, I would have thought you were NUTS!

One of the highlights was meeting and talking to Pam Vredevelt, author of the well-known book, Empty Arms. She has helped so many grieving parents over the years after baby loss. We know a bunch of the same people in the Christian publishing world, and it felt like I'd known her forever.

I was able to take look at her latest project, Empty Arms Journal: 21 Days of Good Grief Exercises for Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or the Loss of a Baby and was so impressed. Pam also offers an Empty Arms Online Course.





I'd love to mail a copy of the Empty Arms Journal to a reader for herself or a friend who is experiencing baby loss.

If you would like to enter this giveaway, please do so below. There are no requirements other than leaving a comment on anything you wish.

Love and Hugs,

Anna

a Rafflecopter giveaway



#affiliate link included

Friday, July 28, 2017

Today

On soaking, rainy days like today, when phones beep with flash flood warnings, my family is on many hearts. But to me, they seem like any other day.

Why, I wonder?

I think it's because when I think of Jack, I think of his laugh, his understanding, his compassion, his great love for me. His hair, his speedy talk, his interests, his sleeping figure, his vise grip on my hand in the dark. Some memories are growing hazy, and I wonder what I've already forgotten, but I can't forget his essence, his soul, his love, his space in my heart. They are with me right now.

Even though I am less than a mile from the creek where he died and must drive over it many times a day, he is not the boy in the creek to me, and for that I am grateful.

I think that's why today can just be another day.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Oh Crap!

Today was a long day.

I was up before 6 with Andrew, and faced blazing hot temps outside that only a toddler would love. We had too much tv time, as I tried to keep him cool, and I didn't get one non-baby-related thing done.

I also felt pretty lonely, yearning for adult conversation, but also for alone time and the opportunity to write and create. Mid-morning, I took Andrew to the fancy-pants gym to go swimming, but it was at least 45 minutes of prep and wrangling for 20 minutes of fun. I saw moms and their kids socializing in the gym cafe and wondered if/when I'd ever feel up to that again instead of trying to do this mom thing solo. Perhaps I'm doing us both a disservice by not reaching out for activities and playdates. I know that being busier and more plugged in would make our days go faster, but it just seems like such an effort.

Margaret stayed holed up in her room most of the day.

At 5:30 p.m., as Andrew and I played, Tim sent the dreaded "I have to work late" text. I'd been hoping he would walk in the door any moment.

When Margaret came down and smelled the prepared dinner I'd picked up at the grocery store to save time, she rejected it outright and claimed the odor might make her vomit. I'm not saying it smelled good-- it really didn't-- but when I didn't care for my mom's dinners, I'm pretty sure I kept my mouth shut and made myself a Lean Cuisine. At least I hope I did.

Anyway, after a "disgusting" dinner that Andrew loved, during which I taught him how to put black olives on his fingers, I took him upstairs to change his stinky diaper. Too late-- I could feel dampness seep through my dress as I carried him on my hip. Oh well, we were cruising toward bath time anyway. He wailed and flailed as I cleaned up his bottom, so I decided to let him have some naked time while I started the water. I didn't feel like wrestling with him any longer, and what was 5 minutes diaper-less? His wails turned to smiles as he got busy pushing Tim's new roller suitcase around our bedroom, his chunky tush getting a nice airing out.

When I'd readied the bath, I stepped into the bedroom to grab him and noticed moisture on the floor. A little pre-bath pee is not unusual, and easy enough to clean up. But something else caught my eye. Pile after pile of frothy baby poop-- that he was running over with the suitcase while making car noises.

Some days I'm kicking geriatric motherhood's rear.

Other days there's not enough ice cream in the world.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A-Camping We Will Go!

So remember last year when I took a 3 month old tent camping? With no running water? And my breast pump broke and I had to milk myself like a cow? Yeah. Well, a lot of you said this year would be even tougher because Andrew would be mobile.

Indeed he is.

In short, I'm a wee bit nervous. And, having been sick all week, my energy is WAY DOWN.

We leave in 2 days and I can barely fathom what this is going to be like. Well, I guess I can: It's going to be hot. Dirty. There is still no running water. But there are fire ants, ticks, bees, a river, boiling oil, a fire, and possibly bears.

There will also be mountains, family, and friends. And we bought a larger tent to accommodate a Pack and Play, so it could feel like a palace.

Will you say a little prayer for us? Specifically for Andrew's safety and my sanity? I'll be ready to report back early next week. In the meantime, tales of some of our earlier trips:

2013

2010

2009

2008

Friday, June 30, 2017

Learning about Marriage from a 14 Month Old

Margaret will be away from Andrew for almost a week. "I'm going to miss him sooooo much!" she said as we hugged goodbye. At 2 days in, he's already wandering around the house looking for her.

I'm glad this day has come, because it took a while for them to connect.

First, he was just so fragile and scream-y. Then he got cuter, but she was busy with school and sports. Their interactions were limited and brief. As I like to say, she reminded me of a Downton Abbey parent, content to have the baby paraded in once a day for a quick pat on the head and that was it. If you are guessing that she's Lady Mary and I'm the hard-working nanny in this scenario, you are correct.

Once she decided to pay more attention to him, however, it didn't go so well. She would swoop in after a long day at school and go in for a hug, to which he would fuss and give a straight-armed push right back. That would frustrate her, make her think he didn't like her, and she'd keep her distance.

Tim and I were talking about it one day, and this is what he said:

"She needs to let him interact with her on his terms. She can't just come in out of nowhere and expect him to react the way she wants to with a hug. They need to spend time together first. She needs to figure out what he likes and what interests him. If she'd get down on the floor and play with him more, he'd want to spend time with her and accept her affection."

I raised an eyebrow and said, "Does that sound at all familiar?"

The angels sang, and it all clicked for Tim.

If Tim shows up out of nowhere wanting to get frisky, when days or possibly weeks have gone by with little interaction between us, he might be greeted with a straight-arm, too. If he has shown no interest in what's going on in my life, or forgotten little niceties such as "How was your day?", a hand brushing against mine on the couch, or saying good night, going for the gusto seems jarring and discordant.

Like Margaret did, he may see physical affection as a way to connect, which it is, but if it isn't backed up with a relationship, it feels wrong. Likewise, when Margaret (or Tim) feels rebuffed, it makes them want to withdraw, and the cycle continues.

 Life is so fun!

The good news is that Margaret "got it" and started doing things Andrew likes, such as playing outside, looking for butterflies, reading books, and chasing him around the kitchen. She started spending time one-on-one with him, so he wasn't always running to Mommy or Daddy, and their relationship grew. Now, he's her biggest fan and vice versa.

As for Tim and me, we are still learning. I mean, it has only been 25 years, so why rush things?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Stitch Fix for Him? Stitch Fix for TIM!

You know how much I've enjoyed Stitch Fix for myself, but I've been meaning to tell you about Tim's B-day Present:

Stitch Fix for Him! Ha ha! Now doesn't that look just like Tim?



Tim has been stuck in 10 year old clothes that are WAY too baggy for him. His pants are on the wide and short side, and his shirts look rumpled.

He does not like to shop, and although I don't mind throwing some socks or undies in the cart for him at Target, I long ago gave up on being his personal shopper. While I had success at getting him to cull out some of his no-longer-in-style clothes, I wasn't sure how to build his wardrobe up again.

Stich Fix for Men seemed like a great solution.

Margaret had fun helping him fill out a Stitch Fix profile, emphasizing trim and current clothes for a casual work environment, and before we knew it his first box came in the mail.

Our super-professional "unboxing" video was too large to post on this site, so a few photos will have to do! Looking Good!



They sent him this navy button down dress shirt for work, a henley-type heathered gray shirt, a short-sleeved button down by Woolrich, slim-fitting indigo jeans, and slim fitting khaki jeans.

Guess what? 5 out of 5, baby!

He LOVED 4 of the items, and liked one. He decided to keep all 5 to get the 25% discount, and ended up with a totally refreshed wardrobe.

Plus his new clothes even motivated him to get on Amazon and order 2 new pairs of shoes that were outside his comfort zone!

His next fix is scheduled to arrive in time for fall, and mine comes next week. While I love how Stitch Fix has worked for me, I think it's even handier for him. I know he keeps clothes for A LONG TIME, so the prices are completely reasonable, even low, when I consider how much wear they will get. And while I'm fairly likely to pop into Marshalls or TJMaxx for myself every now and then, I know Tim won't.

The convenience of having stylish clothes come to our door is HUGE.

If the man in your life wants to try Stitch Fix, I say GO FOR IT! I hope he has as much fun as Tim did!

#affiliate links included!


Friday, June 16, 2017

To Jack's Friends on Graduation


 I was trying write a speech for all graduates this spring, but I kept getting stuck. 

I wondered if it was because I was just too heartbroken to write about graduation, when Jack wouldn't be walking across a stage, collecting awards, and smiling for pictures.

There would be no party.

Then I realized that addressing all graduates, and trying to come up with words of wisdom was too much. How wise am I anyway? I really just wanted to address Jack's friends, the ones who knew him in the flesh. These are the kids who for a while would glance over their shoulders thinking he'd be there. They are the ones who likely can still half-close their eyes at a group gathering and picture Jack as part of the scene amidst the laughter.

To them, Jack is not an idea, a concept, or a cautionary tale.

He's just Jack.


To Jack's Friends on Graduation: 

Congratulations on your big day! We are so very proud of you and all you have accomplished! I'm not saying I couldn't have pictured all of this when you were goofy little kids, but I will say you've come a long way. You are smart, poised, generous and kind. 

You will always have a special place in our hearts, in honor of the place you had in Jack's life, and the big love he felt for you. As we've watched you grow and change, we've pictured Jack alongside you, and although that hurts, it is also healing.

I am so sorry that our family's struggle represented such a shift in your childhoods. You didn't ask for heartache and the harsh reality of death to crash into your lives at such a tender age. It was shocking and scary. It left you feeling vulnerable. I wish we could have spared you.

I am relieved those horrible days and months are far behind us all, but I believe there are fruits that have come from this hardship, things most people don't discover until they are much older, if at all. 

You learned so much.

You learned how to grieve and how to memorialize a loved one. You learned how to support each other and a hurting family in times of crisis. You learned that saying someone's name might feel awkward, but that it is a loving act. You know how to reach out, how to give a hug when all words fail, and how to persevere when life seems scary. I know the people you encounter will be blessed by this. 

You learned how important each person, each life, is to this world, so much so that when he or she is absent, the world feels a little different. Your life is important. You matter. Your presence is valued, valuable, and needed. There will be times when you feel insignificant, hopeless, or alone. You will wonder if you are heading in the right direction, or if anything you do holds meaning. Remember that you don't get your value from what you do, but from who you are, and whose you are. 

You learned to lean on your faith and to see things from an eternal perspective. Yes, you had heard your parents talk about heaven for many years, but now one of your own was there, and it became even more important to live a life that focuses on what's real and what's true, not on the petty concerns of the world. You know that this is NOT the end.

You learned to persevere and to thrive. To trust even though things felt scary. To let yourself laugh and be kids. You saw us persevere as well, and this helped illustrate to you Luke 1:37-- "For Nothing is Impossible with God." Not even a new little baby-- eek!

I know we haven't seen each very often over the years. We were too new at grief to know how to navigate it and how to keep you integrated into our family life. I especially missed you as older brother and sister figures to Margaret, as I know you be if Jack were alive. I didn't know how to articulate what we needed, if I could have even figured it out. Yet you showed up again and again for special events and milestones. You snuck out in the wee hours and hung blue ribbons near our house for Jack's birthdays and crapiversaries. You culled your memories for any stories of Jack you could share with us. 

It would have been far easier to pretend we didn't exist, but you and your families didn't give up on us. You held a space in your life for our joys and our sorrow. We never once doubted that you still love Jack and you love us. THANK YOU!

I've mentioned some things we all learned from Jack's death, but what about from his life? Remember when Jack's Auntie came up with these at his funeral?  They are the way Jack lived, and I believe they are applicable to you today as you head off to college and to new adventures:

Be Kind.
Pay Attention.
Think.
Play.
Never Give Up.
Share Others' Joy.


Friend, we share in your joy today. 

And I know Jack does too. Remember in the Bible where it talks of a great cloud of witnesses cheering you on? Well, please know that wherever you go, you always have someone cheering you on. He's no longer the 12 year old boy you knew, or even the young adults you are now, but a soul with more knowledge, wisdom, joy and perspective than we will be able to get until we are with God. 

He wants the best for you, and so do we!

You have so much to offer the world, and we will watch with pride and anticipation to see how God uses you and your gifts. 

Love, The Donaldsons

Micah 6:8
Joshua 1:9


Thanks to my friend Carolyn, also a bereaved mom, for modeling this letter writing for me. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Grad Week

Just checking in to you to let you know this would be Jack's graduation week.

So far, we are doing well, even though it hurts. Andrew is keeping me active chasing after him in this intense heat, Margaret is wrapping up sophomore year, and Tim is busy at work. Tomorrow I am hanging out with another bereaved mom whose son should be graduating as well. We feel a strong kinship as we both lost our sons in freak accidents. We have no agenda. Just support and conversation
during Andrew's babysitter time.

photo credit: doriehowell.com

On Sunday, Father's Day, Tim will board a plane for San Diego for work. It will be his first trip there since his trip with Jack to Legoland.



So, we are doing well. But, as always, we appreciate your prayers and support!

Thanks, Loves.

p.s. When Tim gets back, I'm heading to a blog convention in Orlando. If you will be at BlogHer, be sure to say hi! I'm usually the one holding up the wall or looking awkward.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Before and After

On Friday, I was looking for an easy meal to make, so I pulled this recipe for Tortellini Soup out of my recipe binder. It's basically just a list of ingredients to dump together in a pot and bring to a boil.

My kind of cooking.



When I looked at the date, I was taken aback. My sister-in-law sent this to me one day before Jack's accident. At that point, I was gearing up for the new school year, planning quick meals I could make on busy weeknights of baseball, soccer, and scouts. I was wondering what it would be like to have a middle schooler in the house. On the bottom of the page, I'd scribbled a note about an upcoming field trip for Margaret's class. Nothing too exciting.

September 7-- mundane.

September 8-- shattered.

Oh how often there is a clear before and after in our lives! I remember looking through my mom's check register after she died. There she was paying bills and doing the routine tasks of life, until she wasn't.

Sometimes before and afters are positive. They can denote a marriage, a decision to take care of your health, a career change.

Other times, they represent the day the world came crashing down.

If there is a clear before and after in your life, due to death, illness, or a time someone harmed your body or your heart, I'm sending you love today.

After is different. After is often hard.

But after doesn't mean over.

Hugs.


Monday, May 22, 2017

God Wink: Doves

I went down to the basement with Andrew early Sunday morning. Toys were everywhere from his playtime with Daddy the night before. I picked up dozens of Hot Wheels cars, tossing them back into their bin. I knew that cleaning up didn't make a whole lot of sense because the day was VERY young, and the toys would be used again and again in the next 13 hours.

Is it terrible to already be thinking of bedtime before you've had your first cup of tea?

The plastic train bin was dumped as well.

I'd debated pulling out all of Jack's trains for Andrew. I remember what a HUGE deal it was to anticipate and plan for each one. Each new train represented a holiday or milestone in his young life. If Andrew started out with a complete set of Thomas trains, all jumbled in a bin, they would never be as special as they were to Jack, who slept with the train catalog under his pillow. When things come too easily for us, it's hard to appreciate them.

I remember how Jack would quiz me on each train's name and number, and after all these years, I still know them. The funniest memory was when he convinced us there was a train named Scarbuffle, Number 17. Scarbuffle was one of the gang and was included in all of our Jack's quizzes and train stories, but he existed only in Jack's mind. It was fun to realize that such a structured, orderly kid had an imagination too.

I decided to give Andrew all of Jack's trains, because I know something else will take hold of his passion-- whether it's trucks, superheroes, or something else entirely. To him, the trains can be just regular toys.

Sunday, after I tossed all of the trains back into their plastic bin, I felt something sharp under my bare feet. I wasn't surprised to see that there had been debris in the bottom of the bin. We haven't been in baby mode for many years, so I've had to be vigilant about sniffing out tiny vehicle tires, screws, and legos from our old toys before Andrew can put them in his mouth.

I bent down to scoop up the tiny sharp objects, before they attracted his attention. They were small and white, shaped like hearts or birds, but what WERE they? Puppy teeth? Mouse bones?


Immediately it clicked.

They were the white DOVES that come out of sand dollars when they are cracked open. Technically, they're the sand dollar's teeth, but according to the legend of the sand dollar, they represent doves that  stand for peace or goodwill.

Jack's trains had been closed up in a bin for a very long time, perhaps a decade or more. I assume the doves are from when I must have shared the legend of the sand dollar with the kids at some point. I'll have to ask Margaret. She remembers everything.

How interesting and fun to discover these little doves when Andrew dumped the trains.

Years later.

A different house.

Same love.


Birds. Peace. Trains. Jack.

Thanks for the God-wink!










Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Graduation

Prom and graduation are approaching fast.

It's weird and hard being in the throes of toddler parenting when I thought I would be planning a graduation party and have a house full of teenagers soaking up as much time together as possible before scattering for college.

Tim and I are ragged out and on edge. Interrupted sleep isn't helping. Thank you to An Inch of Gray readers on Facebook for the gentle advice on helping Andrew sleep past 5:12 a.m. We've had a bit of progress this week, but we're still so darn tired. "Andrew liked the, um, bread. You know, the brown kind," Tim says. "Wheat." I reply. We talk about, "that thing" and "that other thing" and do a lot of pointing because our brains are mushy.

But guess what?

Jack and Margaret's high school asked me to be a graduation speaker!

I was overwhelmed with gratitude because that means that Jack is remembered, even 5 1/2 years later. Through Jack's death, the students have learned important lessons about grief and being supportive, and I believe those lessons and their kind hearts will have positive consequences in the world. They didn't think in terms of "Dead kid, how depressing! Let's not drag down our big day by listening to his mother speak." Instead, perhaps they remembered what it was like in 7th grade to have their moms and dads stop, hug them extra tight, and give them a naked glimpse into the fierce love of a parent that goes way beyond grades, achievement, or even likability-- a sacred glimpse brought on by death of a boy just their age somewhere across town.

I thought about the offer for a few days and then declined. Yes, it would have been difficult, but I often surprise myself by doing the next hard thing that comes my way. Speaking is one of my favorite things. However, when I pictured what it would be like to go to the beautiful venue and be surrounded by happy parents and kids I've known forever, but then have to drive away alone, I decided to cut myself some slack and decline.

Sigh.

Would you do me a favor these next few weeks? Would you remember Jack this prom and graduation season? I know it's hard to picture him as an 18 year old, but let's try to do it anyway.

And while he doesn't get to graduate from high school and I don't graduate from missing him, there's still a place for him in the festivities, in our town, our world, and in our lives.

Love never dies.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Heirlooms

Grandma's Blue Willow platter and a painting of our family sent by a blog reader

I have a brand new article up at Aleteia about how to manage heirlooms and keepsakes from loved ones.

My motto has always been, "The Most Important Things in Life Aren't Things," but so many objects do hold special meaning, especially when they belonged to a cherished loved one. Having them in our homes can bring us joy and comfort. Please check out the article and leave any strategies you may have for enjoying things passed down to you.

Special thanks to Denise Fleissner from Soulfuly Simple for her expert advice.

Grandma's saucer used as soap dish in powder room

Our gallery wall includes a baluster from my family's early 1900's house in WV


Thursday, May 4, 2017

15 Awesome things about Being a Very Old Mom

I've had a rough few days/nights with Little Boo so I decided to think about what makes having a late-in-life baby so great! Here are some reasons it's awesome to be a Very Old Mom.

Reading Glasses:
Old moms don't sweat the small stuff because we can't SEE the small stuff. You might see crusty noses or rheumy eyes, but to us our babies faces have the hazy glow of an Elizabeth Taylor perfume commercial. Bonus: We notice less of the schmutz around the house.

Disposable Underwear/Adult Diapers:
We'll need only a few of these miracle workers right after delivery, but we can stash the rest of the pack for a day in the not too distant future when we can't sneeze without peeing.

Patience:
We've survived wall phones, snail mail, and dial up internet. We waited 12 hours, in the cold, to buy Springsteen tickets. We know a thing or two about being patient, and our little ones will benefit from it.

CRS:
Sure, we may be afflicted with "Can't Remember Sh*t" Syndrome, but that makes hearing about Pokemon or Minecraft for the millionth time a tad more bearable, and each episode of Little Einsteins new again, since we can never remember who the artist of the day is.

Elastic Waists and Comfortable Shoes:
VOMs can coast straight from maternity pants to jeggings and leggings exclusively. We can say a final farewell to belts and zippers, and embrace practical footwear. Bonus: Both of these changes make getting to the bathroom on time much more of a possibility.

Sleep:
Losing sleep with a baby will help prepare us for the inevitable sleep disruptions of menopause.  Never mind. Losing sleep is never a good thing, so there's no good way to spin this one.

Calcium:
All the whole milk and cheese sticks we feed our toddlers will remind us to take our calcium. Bonus points for eating leftovers off the high chair tray and saving on cleanup.

Trends:
We have lived through every child rearing trend, and watched the pendulum swing this way and that. So instead of stressing about doing the ONE RIGHT THING, we can find a groove that works for us and our kiddos. If anyone lectures us about the parenting strategy du jour, we will remind ourselves that we wore denim overalls, sans irony, as adults. This too shall pass.

Babysitting:
Hopefully by our age, we've stashed a way a few bucks. While our friends are using their savings for their kids' college educations and that trip to a winery, we can hire a sitter to have a date night, or more likely, mow the lawn and take a nap.

Hearing Loss:
Too many concerts in the 80's and 90's mean that our baby's crying and whining won't seem quite as loud as it would if we were younger.

Technology:
While our friends will have to contact their annoyed kids at college for help syncing their gadgets, we will have built-in tech support with youngsters at home.

Fewer Damns to Give:
If we don't want to be Room Mother, ever, we don't care if anyone judges us for it. And if we do want to, we'll shove our way to the front of the line with a smile on our faces.

Perspective: 
None of us makes it 40+ years without realizing that life is hard. We know that there's no such thing as a perfect child, a perfect marriage, or a perfect life. Because we've seen just how fragile and tenuous it can all be, we are more able to appreciate the small moments.

Work Experience:
Though we may not have changed diapers since we babysat in high school, we do have quite a few work skills that translate to mothering. Team building? Got it! Leadership? Check! Dealing with a self-centered boss? Been there! If our new charges turn into small despots, we will use our vast experience to present them just 2 choices of what WE want them to do, and likely convince them the whole thing was their idea.

Gratitude:
Regardless of how we came to be VOMs-- after years of longing and at great expense, or as an "oops!" when we thought the fertility door had slammed shut, we realize what a gift these little ones are. We know how quickly the decades have flown by for us, and we remind ourselves to keep our eyes and hearts open on the wild yet fleeting ride ahead.









Monday, May 1, 2017

Epic Mom

It's easy to think I can't do this geriatric mothering thing. That it's too hard. That I'm too old. That it's asking an awful lot to embrace all of this when Jack should be graduating this month and our nest would be empty in 2 years. I see much younger moms wrangling toddlers and I think, "Thank God that's not me!" before realizing, "Oh, but it is."

Even though I did not miss the baby/toddler/little kid stage-- one bit, I'm  enjoying it more than I thought I would. Before, because I always kind of wanted another child, I never knew if I was doing something for the LAST TIME. I'm pretty sure that when I do things with Andrew, it is for the last time (Please, God, please!) so I'm able to appreciate them a little more.

I'm surviving. But every once and a while I'll realize I'm not JUST surviving, I'm doing this thing like a BOSS!

Like when I was out with Andrew and he needed a diaper change. I threw open the tailgate of my car, placed the wriggling, almost 25 lb behemoth on his back, pinned him down, and made him smile with a love that was heart-melting, all while whisking away an epic diaper filled with last night's Chipotle.

I am Old Mommy, hear me ROAR!

And quack like a duck.

And moo.

And make silent fish noises, of course.



Thursday, April 27, 2017

Organization Inspiration

I love an organized home. That has been one of the challenges of having a new baby. I had grown accustomed to having things stay in their places for the most part. But now my living room looks like this every day:


The adjacent kitchen doesn't fare any better, because
he can tear apart it apart in record speed. I am reminding myself to surrender to this season because I do know that it's only temporary.

However, I still love organizational strategies, and I thought I'd share one of mine that really works!

Tim and I had a folder stuffed with recipes that were printed off the computer, ripped out of magazines and newspapers, and on recipe cards. Each time we wanted to cook something, we would rummage through the pile looking for our tried and true recipes, but they got lost amidst scraps of paper and the many recipes there was NO WAY we would ever get around to making.

Often, Tim and I found ourselves asking each other, in frustrated tones, "Did you put the recipe for X back?" Later we'd find it in another stack of papers, stuck to the fridge, or shoved somewhere in the folder.

Next, I tried putting everything on the computer, but I found it awkward to cook while looking at a screen, and I didn't want to let go of some special old recipe cards from family members.

The solution that has worked for us the past 3 years is surprisingly low-tech. The reason it works so well is that it's crystal clear to both cooks how to use it, so we each follow the system!

Supplies:
Large 3 ring binder
Tried and true recipes on cards, printouts or from magazines (I suggest being selective and only including recipes you will cook!)
Plastic sleeve protectors
Sharpie

Put 2 recipes in each sleeve, one facing front one facing back. The order is not important because all recipes will be equally accessible. Category is not important either. My previous attempts categorized things by type of dish, but I find this much simpler. Because there aren't hundreds and thousands of recipes, they won't get lost.

With a Sharpie, number the plastic sleeves. (Remember when I made that ice cream cake for Jack's 12th b-day?)




Write or type up a table of contents with a name of dish and the recipe number. We have about 75 recipes so far.

When we need a recipe, we look at the table of contents to find out what number the recipe is, then take out the sleeve to cook with in the kitchen. A bonus is that if we splatter on it, it wipes clean.

Because the number is on the sleeve, the recipe always finds its way back to the proper place in the binder.

I use Pinterest and magazines to find new recipes to try, and IF they make the cut, they get added to the binder. I hope someone finds this ridiculously simple idea helpful. What is your favorite way to organize recipes?

My LOVE of streamlining and organization led me to discover an awesome deal on a HUGE "Bundle" of online resources that includes eBooks, eCourses, and even printables to help me in my home. While my goal was organization, I was thrilled to find out that it included MANY other topics of interest to me as well: home decor, goal setting, recipe books, saving money, parenting, and even faith. It feels like Christmas in April to me! Don't let the "Homemaking" title fool you. There is something for everyone here! There are only a few days left in which to purchase this bundle, so I wanted to be sure to share it with you here: 




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Safe


Everything goes into Andrew's mouth these days. He likes to look directly at me as he puts mulch in his mouth and laughs.

Yesterday we were playing in the basement when he started crawling away from me, up the stairs. As I approached him, I noticed he had something in his mouth. It was a small metal ball, super heavy, and about midway between the size of a regular and a large marble. I have no earthly idea what it is, why it was in our house, or where he found it.

I stuck my finger in his mouth to pluck it out and he started giggling. Then, he darted his eyes around looking for something else to stick in. What a ham. No wonder I shove a pacifier in there at any opportunity.

I hope this stage ends soon, because only one of us finds it amusing.

It got me thinking. When we face a crisis such as a near-choking incident, do I feel any more or less anxious than I did before I knew what I now know? That kids can die. No, really, MY kids can die.

People ask me if I'm more protective because of what we've gone through. For the most part, I think I'm pretty much the same: careful in many ways, yet casual in a few others, and not overly anxious. Some people's parenting will always feel too lax for my comfort level, and others' will seem too restrictive.

The fact that my views on that haven't changed all that much shows I am either a slow learner or it is gift, for which I should be grateful.

For I know now that bad things happen, and that prior tragedy does not safeguard you. I also know that even though water safety was my number one concern as a parent, so much so that I refused to look at houses on water or with a pool, my son drowned, just four houses from home.

Things will happen. Some of that will have to do with me, some of it won't. And there are many times that I'm going to mess up, but everything will still turn out okay.

So we just do our best. We scour the floor for odd metal marbles. We try to rig up a 60 degree driveway with a safety net. We say a prayer when our new driver gets behind the wheel. Please. Please. Please.

And when we scoop out that marble or Lego, discover that we forgot to latch the baby gate and he's now on the top shelf of the cupboard, or swoop to grab a toddler heading into the street because we've grown distracted, we breathe a grateful sigh. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For we know that many times, often, almost always, things will turn out okay. Sometimes because of us, other times despite us.






Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Baby Proofing Update: New Railings!

As you know, Little Andrew quickly broke through our half-baked solutions to keep him off the stairs.

My strategy then became to teach him to stop, flip over to his tummy, and go up or down the stairs that way. He is very adept at this method, which is a relief. Now that he's walking, I hope he doesn't get too gutsy and think he can go walk down the stairs frontwards, but so far so good.

Even though he is now a master of the stairs, we were still left with the project replacing the stair railings that had been removed by the previous owners. I absolutely approved of their choice of getting rid of the clunky 1980's railings, but I knew we needed to do something eventually, if not for the baby, then for me, and for resale.

I did not feel safe having nothing to grab onto, I lived in fear of sleepily pitching over the 3 foot drop in our bedroom in the middle of the night, and I didn't like how on the main staircase, if Andrew got off track, he could fall off either side.

I got 4 estimates and soon found out that this would NOT be a cheap fix. However, I didn't want it to be something we'd take care of right before moving, not ever enjoying it for ourselves. Too often, we save projects until we move and think, "Why didn't we do this sooner?"

I chose the least expensive estimate, which was less than half of the others, and I'm quite pleased. It wasn't exactly like comparing apples to apples, because the scope of the job changed with the estimates, but I still think I got the best deal possible. The spaces are pretty small, and we don't have a foyer, so I chose much smaller, understated newel posts than I did in our last house. I stuck with square balusters-- my favorite.

I'm really pleased with how it turned out! I feel safer, and in these days of not getting much accomplished, I'm glad to have checked something off the list!

Here is the new railing in our BEDROOM:


Here is the new railing in our LIVING ROOM:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Carrots!


Andrew has been taking a bottle in the middle of the night for many months. As "the middle of the night" inched closer toward morning over the past few weeks, I came up with a "brilliant" way to get him off the bottle. If he wakes up after 5, instead of giving him a bottle and trying (usually fruitlessly) to get him to go back to sleep in bed with me (why won't he snuggle???), I'd just get up with him and start the day. That way, he would no longer associate waking up in the night with being given a bottle. Not sure what I'll do if he wakes at 4:58, so this plan may not be completely thought out.

The other kids didn't use bottles, so I have zero expertise in this area. I'll report back on how it goes, but for now let's just say we are oh so tired. I am a night owl, so a 5 a.m. wakeup call is particularly grueling.

Sleep deprivation (and grief brain, baby brain, and menopause brain) are taking a toll.

Tim and I were in the yard with Andrew yesterday. Tim mentioned having little luck cutting back our liriope using gardening shears.

I held up a finger in a Eureka-like gesture. With enthusiasm and certainty, I said, "I know what you can use! Carrots!!!!"

Ugh. Last I checked, scissors and carrots were not the same thing.

If you want to feel better about yourself, I'm hare all day. Ha! I just saw that typo. I'm leaving it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Stitch Fix Reveal!





My latest Stitch Fix was a winner!

Let's take a look at what I found in my box.

1) Dear John Bayley Roll Cuff Bermuda Short: $68.00.

Basically, white denim shorts. No photo. I needed new long-ish shorts, and white would have been a good choice, but these were too tight. Also, too expensive!

PASS.

2) Market and Spruce, Amberley Cut out Detail Top, Teal Green: $48.00




While on paper, this would be a great choice for me: striped, bright, soft, long, fun detail in back, I HATED this shirt on me. Margaret and I both had this visceral reaction to it. Perhaps it's the way it clung. Or how it reminded me of a shirt I had during a particularly rough patch in middle school. Or, perhaps b/c Margaret said, "It looks like it came from Kmart." Now, you KNOW I am not a clothes snob, but if I could get this from Kmart (or Walmart, or Target) it would be a lot less expensive.  I was surprised not to like this shirt on me.

PASS.

3) Finn and Grace Karyn Off the Shoulder Knit Top: $28.00




Please pardon the black bra. I specifically requested a shirt to show off my shoulders. I wanted to see how this trend looked on me. The answer: while I like my shoulders a lot, this baggy lump of ugh did nothing for me. Maybe it would have been better in black or royal blue, rather than tiny red and cream stripes. Margaret, who would look gorgeous in a potato sack, asked if she could have it. Because it was priced reasonably, I said yes. She had better wear it!

KEEP, but not for me.

SOOOOOO, why do I consider this Fix a success?

4) Pixley Ellie Printed 3/4 Sleeve Blouse, Cobalt, $48.00





This dark blue shirt with swans on it is unusual but very flattering. I thought for sure it was a NO-GO until Margaret insisted I try it on. I like that it's not something I'm going to see in every store. I also love the flowiness and the length. Cute with white jeans. I hope we have some cooler spring days because I want to wear this one a lot. If I become The Swan Lady, so be it.

KEEP.

5) Wisp Ryenne Jersey Dress, Blue: $84





I was hoping for a cute summer dress that could be super casual. This fits the bill. The shape is really flattering, and it is long enough and roomy enough for me to wear on any given day. On the floor with Andrew, my underwear won't be showing. It's loose around the tummy, so a big Taco Bell meal won't be an issue. The fabric is a fun batik pattern and is flowy and soft. Also, it shows off my aforementioned shoulders without looking dumb. I plan to wear it with Birkenstocks for casual, silver flat sandals for a little more dressiness, and wedges for church.

So, I'm keeping 3 out of 5 on this FIX. Because I kept just one item, I can take $20 off the total (my "styling fee"). Considering I cannot stand summer clothes, I think this went very well!



STAY TUNED! As promised, I ordered Tim Stitch Fix for Men for Valentine's Day and we scheduled it for next week. Ha! I can't wait! I wonder if he'll look like this guy: