Close Proximity

Crickets here on the blog lately as for the last couple weekends, Wilson and I have been sharing sniffles back and forth and back again. You see, she’s awfully darn cute, so when img_1071I got some head cold germies, it was hard to remember to keep my distance from her (plus we still nurse around the clock, so….) and then when I got better and she got them, it was hard to remember not to let her slobber-bobber-ness get too close to me, so….I’m starting off my second Monday in a row with a head fog.

Fitting as we’ve been in a fog these last couple weeks, anyway, awaiting Ben’s grandma’s funeral (happening this weekend) and trying to wrap our (foggy) brains around the fact that school is starting, well, next week! Ben actually went back today for his first round of meetings and dives in full force with those this Thursday with kids starting classes the following Thursday.

We will have two in elementary and two in preschool (after he officially turns 3, for Truman, but knock on wood, potty training is going well, so looks like it is a go), which means this mama has to wrap her (foggy) brain around all the drop off times and split locations and all that again, which is different this year as our kids’ school is doing a two-year remodel, so they have to be taken to a different location, which feels new and little nervous making for all of us, I suppose, even though I know it will go fine once we get the new system figured out.

But we’ve honestly had a strange summer and a strange year, so shifting into the new school year and all the change that comes with it is making me glad to have at least a few more days here with all my babies under one roof (even if we are sharing too many back-to-school germs before back-to-school has even begun). I like it better when Ben is here with us so we can divide and conquer and enjoy just a tad bit more, but that’s what Paw Patrol is for, right? Right.

It may not have been the summer (or spring) we had planned or wanted, but we have been able to be together just the seven of us a lot, and that is always, always a good thing in my book.

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Grandmas, Gravy Boats, and (another) Goodbye

The first time I met my would-be-husband’s family, I crashed their family reunion. We had been together about a month and it would only be five more until we were engaged, so maybe that sounds like a weird first encounter, but really, I think we just knew this was it and there was nothing odd at all about diving in headfirst.

I’d like to think Ben’s grandma, Louise, knew it, too, because she was the one who insisted I be in the group photo, front and center next to Ben (Cox/Welsch crew: if anyone has that photo, can you snap a copy and send it to us, please?). I wouldn’t put it past her to have had that kind of super power because she was indeed a wonder of a woman.

Unfortunately, my use of the past tense is not accidental. After a decline that began in March, that we all had thought/hoped was turning out to be a miraculous recovery, Louise passed away in the early hours of Tuesday morning. So here we are, once again, faced with paying respects and giving our kids, and ourselves, one more lesson in life and loss and goodbyes.

What. A. Year.

I’ll be honest, this one hits hard for me. It’s way too soon after saying goodbye to both of my remaining grandparents (Ben still has two, now), but it is also that I feel this loss like it is my own. Geographically, Louise and her husband Eugene have been the closest ones to us in our married life which meant we saw them more, but really from Day One, Louise treated me like one of her own. Always caring, always asking after my work and my family, always wondering, in early days, when that first great grandbaby was going to come, and after early days, how each of those great grand babies was doing.

The weekend before last, Ben took the Big Four to see her and since I couldn’t go, I wroteIMG_9368 a card that he was able to share with her. In it, I teased her (gently, with love, in a way to hopefully bring about that kind flash smile/eye twinkle that she had) that in those early days she was always telling me that she was only going to live to 83, so would I kindly please get on it with the great grands. I told her I was so glad she didn’t call it quits then because, instead, she got to meet, hold, love on, and know all five of my babies, and for that we were all so lucky.

Technically that card turned out to be my goodbye to her but it is not the end of my memories of her. She will forever in my mind be the one who came to see four of my five babies when they were still hospital brand new and deemed each one “SUCH a nice baby” (& who always wanted to know if they had blue eyes in every subsequent phone call and/or card sent). The one who LOVED the color red and was thrilled to buy us the Fiestaware gravy boat from our wedding registry because it was one of the pieces I had picked in her favorite hue (plus super appropriate piece coming from the woman who hosted countless and delicious family dinners). img_0839The one who collected quilts and made sure to give us one for each baby. The one who helped make some of their blankets, too. The one who played Five Crowns and Play Nine (& other countless card games) with us and our children. The one who sent me a sympathy card when my grandpa Cliff died and told me how lucky I was to have a grandpa for so long.

She was right about that. But here is what I also know: I may have only been able to call her mine for 12 years and not 36 like my two 89-yr-olds we’ve lost this year (Louise would have been 89 next month), but I am by far a better person and a better mother because of her.

Practice

I just finished a home yoga practice on the sun porch (that was closed up all day and consequently SUPERBLY hot) and it felt so good. Shocking, right? That my body (and brain and heart) thought some yoga felt good?

I know. You all know already how much I love the practice.

But do you know how often I don’t practice?

Like all facets in life, my yoga ebbs and flows. Sometimes I knock it out of the park and other times my therapist flat out delivers a three week challenge in which she wants me to do 30 minutes a day (yoga or some bilateral activity like walking) to insure that I get some actual real FOR ME self care. Not bubble bath self care (not really my thing anyway, but I do love a good epsom soak), but legit movement FOR ME.

Challenge Accepted.

Actually, it was accepted six days ago and I’ve held strong to it.

Until today I’ve done videos after the kids went down for the night (I love when people message me and ask where they can start an at home practice. I hands down always say Yoga with Adriene; she’s served me well for over 4 years and counting). But tonight I had the time and space to roll out on the sun porch to get my asana and sweat on in a total go-with-the-flow practice.

It. Felt. GREAT. There may have even been a spontaneous dance party in the middle of that which you will not find in your regular flow class but which I highly recommend for home practice. 😉

And there was also this: a constant running voice in my head about how my body feels. How it feels to move (good). How it feels to challenge myself (awesome). How it feels when I twist and turn and fold and squeeze (hmmmmmm).

So I grabbed my phone (I know – not very yogic of me, but it’s the chronicler in me) and snapped some pics. And between two different poses, I got two pretty striking perspectives, which are fairly accurate in how I see/feel about myself.

One is what I would call pretty awesome. The other is what I would call pretty real. While it’s not easy to share that second one, it’s like the swim suit in that it just is what it is (and it being Navasana or Boat Pose, a.k.a my nemesis and not just because of the belly squish).

Now, let me back it up a bit. My therapist did not put me up to the 30 mins a day because either one of us thinks I need to do it for weight loss or because there is something wrong with my physical body. I’m doing it at her request because the more time I take for myself to move, the better I am able to see myself in a loving way, and that means loving whatever there is to see. Does it mean I can’t want to make changes? No, not all. But I want that desire for change to come from a healthy place, not a berating one, so I’m doing the work and I’m doing my 30 mins a day, and I’m sharing pictures of different perspectives because, Truth. Life. Love. Care. Acceptance. Practice.

May we all find just a little bit more of each, every day. Even in Navasana.

 

Road Weary

Yesterday we did a first ever (and let’s be real, unlikely to be repeated for many, many years) 9+ hour drive with the children in one go. Also a first ever? A six day trip with the children, and as any of you currently living with the 10&U crowd may know, a TRIP is very, very different from a VACATION.

Yes, we did touristy things, but no, I would not call our Black Hills Extravaganza a vacation because we had to do all the normal parenting things but with a bunch of extra hours in the car, sugar, loosey-goosey bedtimes, and not in our own house. While I know what I signed up for when having (this many) children, I also know that I look forward to the day when B and I can once again travel in such a way that does not involve working harder than we do when we’re at home.

Of course, the trip itself had a slightly heavy undercurrent as our real reason for venturing so far from home with so many young children (maybe by the end of this post, I’ll get mentioning that so much out of my system) was to pay final respects to my grandpa, Cliff, and attend his internment ceremony at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, SD. So yes, tourists over the weekend and once again mourning on Monday. But it was good that we could be there because I slipped up big time when we attended his funeral in March by not taking a moment to say my actual goodbyes to him, and on this trip I made darn sure to get the closure that I needed.

After tears and hugs and goodbyes post-ceremony, it was time to hit the road home because two kids had camp starting this (Tuesday) morning and we knew were looking at 7hrs, 45mins even without kid stops and a time zone change to boot, so on we rolled.

img_0819Truth be told, the kids did well. Ben did amazing (he drove the whole way). And I did my best to be a solid co-pilot, spotter, DJ, snack and water provider, fight-breaker-upper, and food source (breastfeeding while traveling post coming soon, friends). While I thought it would be the tireds that got the best of us, it was really the discomfort of being in the car that long that did us in.

We spent many, many hours driving last Wednesday and Thursday to get there, and many more each day of our trip to see the sights scattered around the Hills, but yesterday took the cake. Or rather, it ran over the cake and smashed it good and flat. I think Harrison and I felt it the most as he was the poor kid stuck in the middle of the back seat bench with no proper place to get comfy for sleep and my back was just PISSED by the time we were halfway home. And unfortunately it’s still not very happy with me, even though I can’t fault it one bit because of all the work it did all trip long of schlepping Wilson in the Ergo darn near everywhere (including 250 ft. below ground in Wonderland Cave).

The hope with the night-trip home was that the kids would sleep, we’d transfer them to their beds when we got home, and that would be “it.” The problem with a plan like that is that the children must actually sleep, which 3/5 of them barely did (and 1/5 of them I don’t think did AT ALL). And, again, I get it. Discomfort, lights (sun and then headlights), the sillies — all of these things make it hard to sleep. In the case of RL, the stars (which apparently she’s seen very little of in her life thanks to her sleep strict parents) were justimg_0823 too beautiful to watch to bother with sleep, and so. On we continued, through was sounded like all the bugs in Nebraska until just after midnight when we got back to Hastings where we promptly got all the kids in their own beds and then collapsed in ours until the whopping time of 7:13 when the first kid got up for the day. Keep ’em up so they sleep longer in the morning? No such luck.

So, in case you see us stumbling (no, really – Trumy fell at least three times more today than an average toddler clumsy allows) or gimping around in the days to come, just know that we are in post-travel fallout, doing our best to realign bodies and sleep patterns while also being very grateful to have been there and back on our trip.

On This Day

I’m not sure what possessed me to make my first new swimsuit since RL was the baby girl in our house be a bikini (except that one pieces are a pain in the ***) but sure enough, that’s what I did. Ordering any clothing item online is a crap shoot, but the introvert in me + lack of stores in my town made a guessed-at size and purchase seem like the path of least resistance. Because, as you may have noticed, it is summer and it is hot and I have small children, and all of those things mean being outside and near water this time of year.

Full disclosure, I am a big proponent of the Wear the Swimsuit camp. Just fly your freak flag and Wear. The. Suit. Lumps and bumps be damned. Pastiness, too.

Also full disclosure? I find it incredibly hard to actually put that mantra into real life action because swim suits are HARD. Hard to find. Hard to wear. Hard to like. At least, that’s the case in my world.

But true to my other forward/backward motion with body dysmorphia, I’m pushing against the hard and doing it anyway. And I’m forcing it to be documented because this is part of the process, too. Essentially, I’m in full-on fake-it-til-you-make-it + be-in-the-pictures-anyway modes here because I can’t hide from summer and I can’t hide from life.

It would be easy to look at this and call it a Before Picture. Before I lose the baby weight. Before I revamp my diet and exercise. But really, it’s already an After Picture. After having five kids in under nine years. After going from 26 (age when I got pregnant with HD) to 36 (current). After getting straight with the notion that I’ve got some warped perceptions of self and body image. After learning that the way I talk about my body matters and recognizing that even when I know better, my self-talk can still spiral out of control for the negative.

Because, ultimately, I know this is neither a before nor is it really an after, either. It’s just what was on this particular day. And on this day (damn it), I wore the suit and I took the picture.  36249474_10160766912935651_5116656649246867456_n

Family Rules

For some time, I have wanted to add to our walls, and no, that doesn’t refer to the (failed/tabled) house hunt from earlier this year. I mean artwork, but artwork (not surprisingly) based on words more so than images.

Basically, I have been itching to create a Family Rules piece to display on our walls where each member of our not-so-little crew could see it as a daily reminder.

We already have the Be the Good sign and this little piece (no really; it’s 5×7) img_0394 I picked up at a friend’s home decor party that hangs in our bathroom, but the two messages I have been wanting to showcase come from Micah 6:8 and the lyrics to the chorus of a song by Nahko and Medicine for the People. Perhaps that seems like an odd pairing, but in my world and in my brain, the wishes I have for my family can’t be said any more beautifully or clearly.

This is not the first time I’ve written about Nahko, nor is it the first mention of Micah 6:8, either. Both have been featured in posts because both are, as best I can tell, TRUTH. And I finally got around to getting both up on the walls, but in slightly different ways.

img_0391The Micah 6:8 sign I found on Etsy after hearing another sermon preached on it at our church last weekend; it was a great reminder of how much I love the charge to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” so I set out that same afternoon to find a sign. And because the Internet is awesome in that just about anything you can imagine exists, my beautifully lettered sign arrived five sleeps later.

However, when your favorite musician is a little obscure, not even the Internet can always provide the product you seek, so I had to get far more creative with my “Manifesto” piece (warning: the song has an unfortunate, albeit true, f-bomb in it, so be careful playing that around sensitive ears). It helps to have very talented friends, though, and instead of just a plain canvas, I was able to get a piece of art from my dear friend Chelsie Wilson, and because she’s not only dear but also awesome, she didn’t mind the fact that I wanted to write all over it in paint.

Originally I thought I’d have someone else do the lettering because my penmanship isimg_0393 nothing special, but I quickly tossed that plan because eff it. What’s so bad about putting my family’s rules in my own writing? If I can write in my own hand with a Sharpie on my walls, I can do so on a canvas. So I got a paint pen, spaced out the piece to at least make the lines even-ish, and got after it. Minus the fact that Chels hasn’t signed it yet, it is perfect.

So now these two signs are ready to display and ready to be imprinted on the eyes, hearts, and minds of my Littles, and any Bigs who happen to wander through my home. I can’t think of any better words to live by, at any age.

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Goodbye, Gertie

Gosh darn it. I’m sitting here feeling a little un-tethered right now. In less than three month’s time, I’ve had to say goodbye to my last two grandparents.

The last blow came, initially, after my first week of teaching summer class (and the night before we took family pictures). My parents called to tell me that my grandma Gert’s nursing home had called them about wanting to have a meeting to put her on hospice care. They told me she’d been pretty out of it when other family members had been there the previous weekend, but Ben and I decided last minute Friday night to pack up the kids and hit the road Saturday morning post-pictures, so we could go see Gertie one more time.

Y’all, it’s a miracle those pictures are as good as they are because I cried a lot that night. This is all just so heavy heart making and also hit so soon after the loss of my Grandpa Cliff (just for clarity’s sake: Cliff was my maternal grandfather and Gert my paternal grandmother). And we knew it was a long shot that she’d be coherent enough to visit with us, but we wanted to try.

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The stop at the nursing home was tough. She had declined drastically from the time my dad had last seen her and we had allll the kids with us, so I was trying to keep my brave, light pants on even though I was shocked by her appearance. She was not awake but also not asleep, if that makes any sense, so we tried talking to her a bit with the kids, but then Ben and my dad took them on a walk through the facility halls so I could just sit with her for a bit. I put my hand on top of hers, talked to her a little bit, and cried. That’s really about all one can do in a moment like that. And I said my goodbye because I knew that if they were talking hospice, that meant the end was near.

Getting to do that was a gift, really, and it’s one I’ve never had before with any of my other grandparents prior to them passing. It doesn’t make the loss any easier but I am grateful that she got to hear from me my thanks and gratitude for all that she did for me over the years. I thanked her for loving me. I thanked her for giving me my dad. I thanked her for being my grandma.

I spent a lot of time with my grandma when I was younger. Their farm was always less than 10 minutes away from us (even when they moved to a different farm place) and I spent countless hours roaming around her house and yard (and outbuildings, which apparently my parents did not know about until a week ago) where she would let me pull all of the cans out of her cupboard and rearrange them (yes, I sometimes did extremely strange things for fun as a child) and was always sure to hide the Twix bars in the same spot so I always knew where to go to sneak one. She made me hamburgers and mashed potatoes for lunches (because, again, weird kid), and taught me the beauty of games like Solitaire and King’s Corner.

After I left for college, my grandparents moved to town, and on almost every trip home, I’d pop in to see them. When I learned, my sophomore year, to quilt, my grandma recruited me to helping her with various quilting projects when I was home for breaks and holidays. She was also forever trying to give us stuff from her house (I use that vague word because seriously, there’s no way to categorize the randomness of what she might try to get you to walk away with after a visit), and I’m convinced she continued to work night shifts as a nurse for years and years and years just so she could slip us some mad money whenever my grandpa wasn’t looking.

Grandma Gert was fiesty. I heard stories about her card games (oh my gosh. so many card games!) and her quick mouth from people decades younger than her who worked with her at the State Hospital and got such a kick out of her. I heard that quickness myself over the years, and I have to think that I learned something about raising a big crazy crew from her, the mother of five boys and one girl. If my kids get together and laugh some day as they tell stories like hers tend to do, my heart will in fact burst wide open.

Right now my heart feels cracked for a different reason. We know what comes next because we’ve been here before and really, not that long ago. We’ll gather our gear and load up the babies to make the trip to be with family and friends to remember and honor another life that was thankfully long but of course never long enough.

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Our last photo all together, from our SD travels last July.