Monday, July 29, 2013

Sunnybrae 2013.

We just spent a week at Sunnybrae Bible Camp. It was a fantastic week. The kids ran around free and had so much fun. We relaxed with no cooking or cleaning for a week. I did one load of laundry all week (and didn't even fold it:). 

Sunnybrae is a place devoid of memories of Eva. 2012 was our first year there. I wish she could have been there once...

Here are some pics of our week. I wish I could have a photo of our missing girl too. But the hole in my heart cannot be photographed.

Little J and Theodore waiting for their turn for a pony ride.

Theodore, me, and Little J enjoying cotton candy on carnival day.

Samuel and Vincent enjoying the water.

Nathan and his elephant ears.

Me and Nathan dipping our toes in the water.

Vincent, Theodore, Samuel and a friend pedal boating.

Ring pops at the beach. These kind of blue lips are ok.
Our family on earth. That space between Samuel holding Nathan and I is the closest we have to a photo of where she should be.
Missing you always Eva darling. Even when we are smiling and laughing.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A tinge of sorrow

I have so much to be  thankful for.

But can you see the sorrow?

I adore Nathan with eyes of love and eyes of pain.

There is no happiness without a tinge of sorrow.

Like a little cream in my permeates every drop.

There is no true happiness anymore.

No unadulterated joy.

No laughter with abandon.

No sparkling moment.

No love.

Without a tinge of sorrow.

No happy conversation.

No fireworks in the sky.

No earthy fragrance of growing tomatoes.

Without a wish to share this moment with my girl.

No decorated bicycle.

No friendly interlude.

No sound of baby laughter.

Without her in my mind.

Her absence is so palpable.

So much a part of me.

My love and my sorrow. My tears and my joy. Intertwined and constant.

My daughter. Ever present. Always.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

On Grief.

I've oft tried to describe my relationship with Grief. This woman has said it best.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What's best?

Sometimes it's not all about me.

Many people have said to me, well Em, you need to do what's best for YOU. And sometimes that's true. But sometimes it's not. It's hard to differentiate sometimes between what's right and what's right for me.

I find that in our culture today it's mostly all about me me me. What's best for me? What's right for me? But I find myself in a conundrum right now where I'm in the place of choosing what's best for me and for someone else. The choice involves me a great deal. Is what's best for me also best for them or do they have a best that is not best for me? And there are several other people to consider as well...what's best for them too? And is best that important or is 'good enough' okay too? And is empathy more important than 'best'? And is simply not wanting to travel that road a reason to say that it's not 'best'?

Is easier better than harder?

I want to follow God's will because I know that walking in His will is what will, ultimately, be best for all of us.

It's hard to listen to the still, soft voice of God. It's hard to walk in obedience when my heart is so heavy. It's hard to even know for sure whether what I am hearing is my self-talk or if I'm really hearing from God.

What if what's right for me affects someone else in a terrible way? What if what I think is right even if it doesn't feel right for me is the wrong choice? When this choice can affect someone's life in the hugest way?

Whatever choice is made will always bear what-ifs?

What if we chose the other?

What if we made the wrong choice?

What if what we thought was right was actually wrong?

Is there really a wrong choice and a right choice...or is it all just a different shade of gray?

I need to search the scriptures and find God's truth in his Word. Feelings are fickle, as I've discovered before. Only God remains unchanged and this life is but a drop in the bucket of eternity...and it's eternity that matters...

O God I pray for clarity tonight and in the weeks to come. Open the ears of my heart, God. I want to hear you. Give me ears to hear, wisdom to discern ,and strength to carry through. Help me Lord to walk in your truth and to obey your voice. Dispel the confusion that clouds my soul.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Little J

I have decided to tell y'all about Little J. She is not a secret in real life anyway and I'm tired of tiptoeing around her here.

Observant readers may have noticed that there were five kids in the ice cream photo yesterday. Five, the astute reader may have wondered...I thought Em had four sons on earth and one daughter in heaven. Ah, but one of those five precious kiddos is Little J.

Little J is Mike's cousin's biological child. We found out in November 2010 that she was in foster care and was going up for permanency. Looking back, I have no idea why we started a homestudy application and began considering adopting her. We already had four apparently healthy children who were still very young. But apply we did, and God must have been in it because everything went through at lightning speed and Little J moved in with us on March 3 2011. Had it taken any longer Eva would already have been sick and there is no possible way Little J would ever have been placed with us. When Little J moved in Eva was 4 1/2 months old, Little J was 13 months old, Theodore was 21 months old, Vincent was 3 years old and Samuel was 4 1/2 years old. It was insane. Looking back I wonder why they, the almighty they, even considered us a good placement. But so it was, and Little J joined our family.

Sometimes I look back on that crazy time and wonder if I was so busy caring for Little J and making sure her emotional needs were being met that I neglected to take care of my Eva. Neglected to notice her needs. This is something I'll never know. Something I hope to be able to let go of one day, but that day hasn't come yet. There are other things that haunt me too and, one day, I'll blog about them...but tonight is the night for Little J.

When Eva got sick in June 2011 we called foster care and asked for respite care for Little J for a few days while Eva was in hospital.  A few days of respite care that ended up lasting for several months. We still had no idea how sick our little girl was. God, I could go back in time and slap myself.

In July, when Eva was in stable condition but we were still in Edmonton, Little J's foster mom came to see us and brought Little J to see us too. I have some photos of Eva and Little J together from that time, which I'm glad I have now. I didn't think then that Little J would ever come back to live with us. Eva's condition was too volatile and would require frequent, regular trips to Edmonton. If we even made it home at all.

On August 3rd 2011 Eva and I drove home in celebration that we had made it. Eva was alive and we were going HOME!!! We were home for 11 days and then headed back to Edmonton on that awful day of August 15th. During that 11 days at home we met with social workers and said that we didn't think we could care for Little J and all our children. It was just too much. We wanted to stay in contact with her but Eva needed much more care and the future remained uncertain as to how sick she might one day be. I regret that meeting now. I wish we had never forsaken Little J. I never would have said, well, I can't take care of Samuel, Vincent, or Theodore. I would have just sucked it up. But that is what happened and that's just the way it is. So, whatever. There's so much I regret about the summer of 2011...

On August 15th 2011 we drove to Edmonton and Eva died at 9:15pm. While I was cradling my dead daughter in the ER and weeping and wailing I thought of the cross. John 19:26 says that when Jesus was on the cross he looked at his mother and also the disciple John, whom he loved and who was standing nearby. He said 'Woman, this is your son. Son this is your mother'. I always used to read that verse and think about how amazing it was that Jesus was looking after his mom even while he was in excruciating pain on the cross.

In the ER as I held my own dead child I felt Jesus speak to me and say 'Woman this is your daughter' referring to Little J. Finally I understood that passage from Mary's perspective. Mary wouldn't have been standing there grateful that Jesus was taking care of her she would have been screaming 'Jesus, Jesus, Noooo, I don't want John, I want you. You are my son. I don't want him, I want YOU'. Because Mary was a mom through and through. And as Jesus' mom she loved him as the precious child he was to her. She loved him like a mom. She loved him like I love Eva. She loved him like mothers the world over love their children in that unexplainable bond of love. And I sat in ER with my beautiful, lifeless daughter in my arms. As I wailed the death wail that you only hear come from the throat of a mother wailing over the body of her child, I raged. I did not want Little J. I wanted Eva. EvaEvaEva. Mary did not want John, she wanted Jesus. And as Mary had no choice 2000 years ago, neither did I have any choice 2 years ago.

As we drove home from Edmonton with an empty car seat in the back seat I phoned the social workers and said we would like Little J to stay placed with us. She stayed in respite for a few more weeks but moved back in with us in October 2011. Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. We were still in shock. Eva's first birthday was coming up on October 15th. What were we thinking? In hindsight I can see that we weren't thinking. And neither were the social workers, apparently.

I have long felt that it is God-ordained that Little J be in our family even while many parts of me have rebelled at the reality of it. Little J is only 8 months older than what Eva should be. Little J is a constant reminder of what I don't have in Eva. Little J complicates my grief over Eva. Unthinking folks have made unthinking comments to me that it's okay cause we have a little girl...are you f*cking kidding me? Little J is cute. She is precious. She is friendly. But she is not Eva. I can't ever expect her to be and it wouldn't be fair to either Little J or Eva anyway but it stabs me in the heart a little bit when she is cute and friendly and admired by people around me...has everyone forgotten that I should have TWO girls. That Little J in NO WAY makes the loss of Eva any easier. In fact, she makes it harder while, I, simultaneously, sincerely love Little J. She is a bright-eyed happy little girl who has her own room in my heart.

I feel so alone with my feelings about Little J. There is literally nobody who I can talk to about these emotions. I know bereaved parents and I can talk to them about all the emotional aspects of losing a child. I know adoptive parents and I can talk to them about all the emotional aspects of adopting a child. I know people who have chosen to adopt after their child died but no one who has had this mish mash of fostering, dying, adopting all mixed together, especially combined with a child the same gender and age as their beloved child in heaven.

I know that no amount of wishing is ever going to bring Eva back to me. There are no bargains to be made with God. I can only parent Little J, and all my children, in the best way I can while grieving my precious Eva and wondering how God can bring good from something so f*cked up but trusting that he can and hoping for restoration and peace that surpasses all understanding as I move forward. Picking up the pieces of my shattered life that once was so beautiful and full of promise. Putting those pieces back together in another way. A way I never dreamed or planned...but hoping for beauty nonetheless.

And there you have it, Little J and I in a nutshell.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Loving too much

When Nathan was born I held him and admired him and just stared at him for hours and hours. I could not get enough of him. I could not believe he was actually really real and really here.

And I was terrified. His sheer tininess magnified the largeness of my fears in losing him.

Now I can spend hours watching him sleep. Watching his chest move up and down.

Sometimes I wonder if I love him too much. I am scared that God is going to take him too...because I love him too much. Love him so much my heart hurts in another way.

I know too many families who have lost more than one child to imagine that I am in any way immune from losing another one of my precious children.

Vincent asks me almost every night these days if he thinks he is going to die that night. I say, no, I don't think you are going to die tonight. My children often talk about how they want to die and go to heaven to be with Eva. I tell them I want to die first. I hate these conversations but I love that heaven is part of our daily life. Because eternity is what matters...

This is me admiring Nathan in his first few weeks of life outside. I spent hours in that chair just taking him in.
I love these kiddos sooo cream faces and all...just one missing...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Trim Healthy Mama

I have mentioned before that I am eating Trim Healthy Mama style since October 2012.  This post is going to be just about Trim Healthy Mama.

I have been pregnant and birthed five children. With every pregnancy I gained 40 lbs and lost 35. Not bad for a first pregnancy but after going through that 4 times I started out my pregnancy with Nathan over 20 lbs  heavier than I did with Samuel. As the pregnancy progressed I was right on track to gain another 40 lbs at about a pound a week...

In July 2012 I found out I was pregnant with Nathan.
In August 2012 we passed the first milestone of one year of breathing without Eva.
In September 2012 I went to an Above Rubies retreat in Edmonton. I bought a copy of Trim Healthy Mama (one of the first copies in Canada!) and brought it home. I perused it a little but it looked too complicated. So I put it down...then one day I picked it up again but thought well, whatever it is, I am not starting until after Christmas. I love Christmas cakes too much. Once I picked it up again and started reading from the first page instead of flipping around I found, to my delight, that it was simpler than I thought...

My friend, Holly, was on board with me and we encouraged each other in healthy eating...and let me tell you I was far from perfect, I was pregnant,  I was and am still grieving. It is usually not a great mix to start a new type of diet. But, I could not resist...there were so many delicious and relatively simple recipes to try (once you invested in a few strange ingredients). My goal was not to lose any weight at that time but to not gain as much during my pregnancy with Nathan.

Being pregnant with Nathan was bittersweet, surreal, sad, hopeful, stressful, disconnected, difficult and joyful. As you can see it was a rollercoaster of emotions to carry the baby that would not have been without the death of his sister. It was during this time that I started eating THM style. After few  weeks I felt like my emotions were more stable and I was not having giant mood swings that saw me angry one moment, in tears the next, and laughing five minutes later. Trust me I had thought I was going crazy.

Once I started THM I became fairly consistent with it one meal a day that gradually expanded to two meals and then full days. I only bit off what I could chew (pun intended). I still felt sad but I felt good too. I felt that I was emotionally still a complete wreck but I felt, physically, much more stable than I had felt in years. And during the turmoil that was my pregnancy with Nathan I felt that my physical health supported my emotional health. Without the physical health I was enjoying I am sure my emotional health would have been much worse than it was already.

I only gained about 20 lbs total during my 42 week pregnancy with Nathan (I wish I was more accurate with my numbers, but whatever). Now I am going to divulge some secrets here today that I have not talked about with my closest weight. I weighed 170 lbs when I married Mike over 10 years ago. 170lbs is a really good, healthy weight for me. I am almost 6 ft tall, for the record. After 4 pregnancies and a time of incredible stress with my daughter in hospital and then a time of incredible grief that never lets up and leaves me eating comfort foods in the middle of yet another horrible night I weighed close to 200! Yes, I weighed 200 lbs when I got pregnant with Nathan. I did not want to believe it. I did not want to admit it to Mike. I did not want to get on the scale. I weighed almost as much as when I was full term with my first son.

Now, I have never really let people in on my weight, even when I was 170lbs and looked really good. Because I went through a time in my life where I was always was made to feel too fat, even weighing 140lbs which is really too skinny for me. The reason I am sharing today is because I see so many of my friends struggling with baby weight, grief weight etc...I am not superwoman. In fact I am so far from superwoman she would not nod her head to me if we crossed paths in Superstore (another pun! I am getting good at those).

When Nathan was born I lost about 20lbs right away (almost 9lbs of baby, a couple pounds of placenta, fluid, blood, etc...) Then I lost another almost 10 pounds over the next 6 weeks or so and weighed less than when I started my pregnancy. Now I weigh about 182 lbs. I still have 12 lbs to go to attain my goal weight). I am still not perfect on the THM plan but I wanted to encourage so many of the mamas I know struggling with weight loss. It can be done. And I have barely exercised. I am not fit and firm and my belly still jiggles like a bowlful of jello but...I got the best compliment from Holly last week...she said I really need some new clothes!

Thank you Trim Healthy Mama for the gift of physical health that is continuing to support me in my ongoing grief and love for my daughter in heaven, while I physically and emotionally parent my sons here on earth.

Friday, July 5, 2013

And it continues...

And it continues...I am so excited that we have online pledge sheets for Eva's Ride this year. That means that you can donate here to Eva's Ride online or collect pledges and ride in the Main Ride or even decorate your bike, collect pledges and ride remotely wherever you may be my dear readers.

I am thrilled. This is going to be awesome! Can't wait to see how it all turns out. I'll keep you all posted as things progress. Am I ever glad to have this to organize right now, during the worst season of the year. Ack! Summer!. My ongoing love/hate relationship with summer.

This time in 2011 Eva had had 2 closed heart surgeries and was recovering well. 24 months ago everyone thought she would live. Miss you my little sunflower.

This time in 2012 I thought I would die from the overwhelming grief of missing Eva.

This time this year her firecracker sunflowers are blooming in our tiny garden for our tiny girl.

 A little flower
Lent, not given
To bud on earth
And bloom in heaven.

Miss you so, so, so much sweetheart. I'd do anything to hold you one more time. Anything to look into your baby blues and tell you I love you. Anything to feel the weight of your body in my arms. Anything to caress your cheeks. Anything to see you big crooked smile grinning back at me. Anything. Alas, there is nothing I can do.

See you in heaven my darling.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Getting Ready...

Starting to get ready for Eva's (2nd annual) Ride Bike Parade here in our town. Last year it was so hard but so good. This year I'm excited to do it. It's going to be great.

I'm excited because whenever we drive by the old train station my boys say "that's where we had Eva's parade". I'm excited because I talked to some folks from RMH and they're coming up to be a part of it. One of the women is a photographer who took some really great shots of Eva at the House. Shots that would be just about the last ones we have of her. God I miss that sweet little face. I'm excited because it's a connection to RMH that we get to maintain. Our bright spot during Eva's sickness. I'm excited because more people will see Eva's beautiful face on our banner (thank you Sunburst Graphics). I'm excited because we're getting pink t-shirts made this year too (thank you Sportswear Plus) with a photo of Eva on it. I'm excited because doing this ride keeps Eva's memory alive for our remaining children. I'm excited to do something that I think Eva would have loved to do too...

It's kind of pathetic actually. I'm excited to do a bike ride but my daughter is dead. What a f*cking conundrum. I'd rather have a birthday party for her, in October. A really, stupidly, expensive one!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Let's talk about death challenge: Day 30 (Last one).

Photo: Our last day of the let's talk about challenge. Here is a one that may bring tears to your eyes. I know it does to mine.  You could start this way:

"Dear __________,"

Day 30, year 2... as we discuss life, love, and loss...

I love you. I wish you would come back but, barring that, just please write back to me.