Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Whew and Woah

So how did Andrew's first 4 HOUR stint at Mother's Day Out go yesterday?

He cried...when it was time to come home.

Whew!

I had to pry two little trucks out of his hands because he wanted to keep playing.

A happy morning for him was a WIN, made even more awesome by the fact that he fell asleep on our long drive home and TRANSFERRED to his crib for a nap.

I forgot how much these little things feel like such big things when you are in the thick of it.

Way to go, Miracle Baby!


In other news, we ordered a homecoming dress for Margaret online and it came with only a few days to spare. It is more revealing that she'd anticipated. To give you an idea:


So, I may be learning to sew between now and Saturday.


p.s. I promise I did not buy Margaret a dress like J. Lo's (above)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Redemption

I am often asked what it's like to have another little boy, when my first boy went to heaven. It's different than I expected, and much, much better.

I remember meeting with a lovely bereaved mom while I was pregnant with Andrew. Her two young daughters died tragically. She had a sweet toddler boy at home, and was hoping and praying that she and her husband would someday be able to have another girl as well. I didn't really understand what she meant when she talked about wanting to use the girls' bikes in the garage, and their hair ditties up in the bathroom again. That sounded painful to me.

And wasn't the joy of a new baby, regardless of gender, what was important?

I didn't get it.

In fact, I secretly wondered if the little boy I was carrying, who might, gulp, look a lot like his big brother, would hurt my heart more than a baby girl would. Just accepting that I had an unplanned pregnancy at this age and would be starting the whole parenting journey over again was MIGHTY SCARY-- did we really need to it be more difficult in another way too?

I get what that mama was saying now.

I experience it daily, and the closest word I can come up with is REDEMPTION.

For more than four years, I couldn't walk by the boys' section of Target without aching. It didn't matter if my eyes landed on a toddler outfit, or something for a teen-- my heart seized with pain as I missed Jack at every stage, even the ones he never got to.

Now, I hold up little boy shorts and ponder whether they will fit around Andrew's prodigious belly. I shudder to think of going into the toy aisle again, not because Jack died, but because it's mind-numbingly boring, yet I know I'll go there with Andrew. I see super hero paraphernalia on an end-cap and wonder if I'll need to learn the good guys' and the bad guys' names for the very first time.

Andrew shifts me to today. To next week. To the future.  He doesn't take away or diminish the past, but he somehow redeems much of it. I can think about Jack's love of baseball now, and try to guess whether Andrew will play, or whether soccer will be his game. Each stage Andrew is in takes me back to Jack and Margaret and the happy memories of their childhoods. Instead of tears, there is the remembrance of their own quirky cuteness, the chaos, and their snuggly love. It was a sacred time, even though I didn't know it then.

There is also a joy that comes from experiencing life through a toddler's eyes. Margaret and I've noticed we get excited about the little things-- a butterfly, a turtle, a fire truck, a helicopter-- when  we wouldn't have paid attention to them just a year ago. He has brought wonder back into our lives.

My delight in Andrew is not because he's a boy, or because he looks a bit like Jack, but his being a boy has been somehow healing.

I remember a sad scene in the movie Finding Neverland, with Johnny Depp playing J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. Depp's character says the one time his mother ever truly looked at him with delight, was when he walked into a room dressed in his dead brother's clothes.

Ouch.

Andrew may wear a few of Jack's things that I had saved for grand kids, or play with Jack's toys, but Andrew is Andrew, and we see him, love him and delight in him. Ok, not so much in the middle of the night, but you know what I mean.

Somehow Andrew helps us look at the past and remember it with joy not sadness, and he helps us look ahead at the possibilities that await us in this weird, exhausting, wonderful life. If he has also taken the sting out of Legos, toy cars, boy clothes, and Target, I am grateful for that.

And I know any joy, gratitude and hope that we have makes my first boy happy too.





Friday, September 1, 2017

Ikea Toddler Table Re-Do

I saw this red Ikea table and chair set in someone's trash the other day and nabbed it. There were 4 chairs, but I just took 2.


 The red didn't match my house, so I saw what paint I had on hand: gray chalk paint and  green spray paint.  I tried a much prettier shade of green first, but the can jammed and I switched. It was nap time, and I knew my painting window was not going to last forever.

Not my best painting job ever. I just noticed one of the chairs needs another coat. But that's the nice thing about free-- It FREES you up to do a half-way job and not feel guilty about it.  I think Andrew likes it!






Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Toddlers are Weird and Fabulous

From the Toddler Files:

Andrew woke up from a nap and was pretty attached to his Lovey and Pacifier. He wanted a snack, but didn't want to relinquish either. In the absence of pockets, he found his head to be a great place to store Lovey:

This continued outside as he played with the dogs and explored the yard.







I can't even deal with the cuteness.
video


Monday, August 28, 2017

Friend Level Platinum

I was talking to a young person recently who had experienced the death of his mother. He mentioned that he thought some friends were just around because they felt sorry for him, and that it felt weird. When I asked what he meant, he said they hadn't really been friends before his mom died, maybe just a grunt in the hallway now and then, but now these teens reached out to him, commented on his social media, and wanted to get together.

His feelings make sense to me.

Teens crave authenticity, and if anything has a whiff of disingenuousness, they will sniff it right out. No one wants a pity friend, because it feels out of balance. We want to be liked for who we are, not for what we've been through.

But here's what I said to this teen, since I'm a bit farther down the road, grief-wise, than he is, and I've got 30 years on him of seeing the complexity of life.

I told him I, too, had people reach out to me after Jack died, and my friends list is vastly different now than it was before Sept 8, 2011. Many people came into my life, and yes, it was a direct result of what happened to our family. However, those friendships are not based on pity now. A one-sided relationship is not sustainable in the long-run, but a friendship with someone who has already PROVEN a willingness to reach out despite awkwardness, is a treasure. Empathy and generosity are amazing qualities in a friend. How great is it to know up front that a person has those?

I also told him many people exited my life, never in an overt or hostile way, but because things became so complicated after Jack died. How impossible would it have been for us to hang out with baseball parents immediately after the accident? What about families from youth group, when we no longer had a middle schooler? Friendships shifted. We changed churches, jobs, schools, and neighborhoods. We had no energy, and some relationships faded away.

I believe many friendships are for a particular season in life, whether it's due to having babies close in age, working on a project together, being in the same school, or even in the aftermath of a tragedy.

I told the young man that if his loss led to his being placed on people's hearts, and they reached out of their comfort zones to express sympathy or be a friend, that's never a bad thing. There is a level of intimacy that comes from experiencing hardship together, while it could take years to get there with friends who don't know what you've been through. Some of the new friendships will stick and grow, while he will remember others just as a warm light in this dark season of grief.

Both are okay.

I've learned so much from the people who rushed toward me, rather than away from me in 2011, and I'm still learning today.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer 2017

Summer is winding down. 

School starts for Margaret on Monday, and Andrew will go to Mother's Day Out (yay!) in mid-September. For those who aren't following An Inch of Gray on Facebook, and who may feel a little neglected in the Miracle Baby Photo Department, here are a few to catch you up. We didn't have a very active summer. I'm really not sure what we did except chase Andrew around, eat a lot of ice cream, and watch Netflix, but we did make it to Connecticut for a week to see cousins and grandparents, and to WV for our annual camping weekend. Another highlight was Margaret's getting her braces off just in time for back to school.

Family time in CT. Andrew was in the front yard when a BEAR lumbered by!


This year we included Jack in the group cousin picture. I wonder how tall he would be.


 After a loooong break, the grandparents had to buy baby equipment again.
 Happy 4th!


Camping trip. Too young to tube on the river, so he tubed on the grass!
 My big brother made sure I had ample fried food, as usual. Andrew slept well in a tent for the second year in a row. Bonus: Our new tent took about 2 minutes to set up!
 Big hike up the mountain! Tim carried Andrew on his back. Whew! I stayed back and read a book.




 My dear aunt and siblings
Braces off! 
Back-to-school and off-to-college pictures are filling my social media feeds right now. Thank you for praying for me and for others who are missing someone special in the photos this year.

Love and Hugs, Anna