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. 

With Your Love on Your Arm

I have been trying, for almost nine years, to think of my “mother’s” tattoo. Now, I understand that not every mother requires one of those, but I’ve always wanted one, and as I’ve added baby after baby (after baby after baby after baby) to our crew, I’ve been at a complete loss for how to represent them in permanent ink.

For the longest time I assumed I’d do something with their given animals. But it’s pretty hard to think of something where a monkey, owl, frog, bear, and elephant all go together that isn’t a zoo (although, let’s be real – that might be pretty appropriate and funny) and something that isn’t culturally appropriating, so that never seemed quite right even though I searched and searched on Pinterest for ideas.

Then, in April, Pinterest did show me the way when I saw the prettiest lower arm flower tattoo and a dang light went off in my brain.

Flowers.

Five different flowers.

All familiar to me and with significance, too.

I picked the following:

Sunflower – because, how could the 90s girl in me not include one, and my kids have always planted those in our garden, so, perfect.

Lilac – because they grow on my family’s farm in SoDak and are one of my favorite smells ever in this world.

Peony – because they are big and beautiful and their blooming process fascinates me.

Ranunculus – because from the first time I saw them, I was crazy in love with their shape and their colors.

Rose – because, love. Wild, free, sometimes thorny. Love.

Now, I don’t have a flower associated with each kid yet and maybe I never will. Maybe each kid will embody a component of each flower at different time in their lives, or maybe not. That part doesn’t matter so much as the bouquet, because without all five of them, I wouldn’t be the mother that I am.

The other factor that sealed this deal for me was the song “Wildflowers” by Tom Petty – my favorite of his ever since I came across it two decades ago in the yearbook editing room of my high school in a sleeve of CDs left behind by some other random student. If you’re not familiar, here are the lyrics (and my wish for my own five wildflowers):

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free
Run away, find you a lover
Go away somewhere all bright and new
I have seen no other
Who compares with you
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free
Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

 

And, so. Here I am now with my love on my arm, for all of time. We weren’t able to get it all done today (gray tone fill will come in two weeks) but it is an amazing start (except wow, I hate how much line work hurts), and I can’t wait to see the final product.

Shout out to the always awesome Joel Anderson for another great piece!

 

This Too Shall Pass

Seeing as it has been the fastest-but-longest month (winter) E.V.E.R., it’s both impossible and totally reasonable that we are now in the final days of April. Oh, April. You’ve challenged me before and you’ve challenged me once again. I don’t know why we have this beef, but it seems that every couple years, you come with…..lessons. I really can’t believe how quickly the month has gone but looking back it was also a pretty damn hard month, so I’m not exactly sad to see it go.

It started with the stomach bug that knocked me out at Easter, the very first of the month, and it’s continuing here, four weeks later in the form of continued boob drama. What started as a bleb in one breast and then shifted to a clogged duct in the other then turned into a bleb in the super sore boob and now remains as two just generally cranky boobs. You’d think we just started nursing instead of being five months in based on how I feel and I have zero explanations for it.

I’ve had Wilson’s mouth checked and there’s no sign of a tongue tie or teeth or thrush (thank goodness to all three of those things) but there’s also no clear indicator as to why her latch is what it is (kinda crappy, kinda leaky at times) or why my nipples are so sore. It just is and I just am.

So we wait it out. Give her time to grow and maybe time for me to heal, and we see what happens. 12 months remains the goal and Lord in Heaven, I may have to be VERY stubborn to make that happen based on how things are right now, but I worked hard enough to get her going in the first place to be able to come home 100% breastfed, so I suppose I can somehow get there. Right? Right.

The other “this” that needs to/shall also pass is a different kind of stuckness (nope, not a word), and it has to do with my physical routines.

I don’t have a set time post-baby where I suddenly start working out again,10452ba4-24b1-4483-ad23-6d8a3fe746c0 but around this time the baby tends to get big enough to start straining my back as I carry the car seat (or just the baby in general), which prompts me to start doing more yoga, etc. to strengthen my body. This go-round I had not only the desire to yoga again but also to RUN which I haven’t done seriously since before children; but I couldn’t get it out of my head, so instead I just went for it. And by it, I mean a run – with Raegain and then Lincoln – and it was great. I logged less than a mile total and there was definitely some walking in the midst of that running, but I was excited to baby step my way back in to what once was a big part of my life.

However, right when my legs stopped being crampy from the yoga + running, my boob/side exploded in soreness from the clogged duct and alllllllllll the nursing resources out there say rest, take it easy, go slow when you’re having these problems, and so. Here I am. Taking it slow which looks and feels a lot like still doing nothing. But that’s not really true, is it? Because if you’re anything like me, you know that sitting in stillness is very much not nothing, nor is it easy.

img_9914So no big physical practice for me right now. On the mat or on the streets. Instead I’m committing to Legs up the Wall and a meditation/mantra of being healthy and whole and that’s it. It’s not exactly what I wanted to be doing right now but it is what my system is clearly, loudly, painfully telling me I need.

It won’t always be like this. In a year’s time, in a month’s time, everything will be different, and I’m much closer to having my body be entirely my own again than I have been in almost a decade, so there’s that to consider, too. Time will pass. Circumstances will change. Focus will shift. For now I’ve got to stay the quiet course and that’s just going to have to be OK for as long as time says it needs.

The Struggle Bus(t)

OK. If the title and the picture didn’t give it away, we’re getting all up in the boob talk with this one, so consider yourself warned….

After the last post about The Bleb (surely it should be a proper noun, no?), a friend who experienced one on her last baby told me to keep an eye out for repeat occurrences, as apparently once you get one, it is common for it to come back. At first I was dismayed/horrified/disbelieving, but it makes sense, especially in my case where I had to create an open wound ON my nipple. Trying to heal something like that can be tricky because breaking open can cause bleeding which can lead to scab/scar which could totally become blocked again, even with lanolin (which I have been applying after every feed on that side ever since).

So that’s part of this story: the paranoia. I am watching those pores like a hawk because I do NOT want another Bleb, but when your sweet, sweet, baby nurses like a, like a what? a Tasmanian Devil? good luck being gentle with a recovering boob.

All of my babies have been movers and shakers while nursing (I credited RL’s and LT’s pint-sized-ness to the fact that they never stopped moving, even to eat), but Wilson is a puller-back which sucks. Or rather, doesn’t suck as nicely as I would like her to (it’s funny how many puns there are around breastfeeding once you get going). Mainly she is forever pulling her head back away from me, with my nipple still in her mouth, so ouch, AND she comes off a ton of times, too, in any given feeding. Part of this is her age and distractability, but part of it is also just her. (Any suggestions for how to curb this and still get her fed would be great, thanks!)

Even though I sometimes think The Return of the Bleb might be upon me, that’s not actually the point here. The point, or rather the pain, is now in my other boob which apparently got left in one particular nursing tank for waaaay too long (confession: a solid 40 hours, tyvm) and is now incredibly, miserably, sore. So, note to self: even if not showering, CHANGE THE TANK/BRA/WHAT-HAVE-YOU every day/night! Duh. And OOF. (Again, any tips here would be great. Trying to massage the breast during feedings and considered using a warm compress on it. Can’t always start on that side, though, because I’m a one-side per feeding kind of girl.)

Once again, in the span of just a few weeks, I find myself doing everything I can think of to clear this what I assume is a clogged duct in hopes of avoiding mastitis. For the love of all things holy, please let me avoid mastitis!

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And really, all of this is to say that even though I take these #brelfies, it really isn’t to (just) show off. It’s motivation. It’s documentation. It’s mother-effing determination to keep going because breastfeeding is STILL the hardest thing even though it seems like it should be the most natural. I take these pictures and I write these posts because I want other mamas to know they are not the only ones struggling. I really want all this boob drama to just go away so I can snuggle up and enjoy nursing my last little one for as long as possible, but honestly, the last few weeks have been rough and have left me wondering just how we’re going to get as far in the months nursed as I did with all the others.

If you know a currently breastfeeding mama, give her some love, even if she’s not (over)sharing about her efforts and her struggles, because the struggle is indeed real and encouragement helps.

 

Should We Stay or Should We Go (Now)?

I keep writing status updates and blog posts and song lyrics (just kidding) in my head, so after a month’s worth of not actually getting any of those words OUT of my head, it’s time to dive back in to the blog.

A month is the longest I’ve gone between posts possibly since I started doing this. Losing my Grandpa Cliff and then throwing myself into one of the biggest distractors ever – house hunting – the day after we got home from his funeral also hasn’t happened in my six and a half years of doing this, either, so you know – uncharted territory and whatnot.

And no, not looking at houses only because I haven’t found a better way to deal with grief (although I’d be fuzzing details if I said I had found a good and proper way to actually do that), but rather picking up a thought we started playing around with about this time last year, which would have been shortly after we found out Baby No.5 was on the way.

In case you don’t recall, we moved into this house when Baby No.2 was brand new. We had tried to sell our first house after I found out I was pregnant and it didn’t go well, so we took it off the market and decided to be patient. Then our realtor came to us about a month and half-ish (six-and-a-half-ish years ago is hard to remember such details, even when you do keep a blog to help with such remembering) after RL’s birth with a potential buyer for our home, so we went looking, and just like that we found our current house.

Make no mistake. We love our current house. It is a beautiful home with a ton of character and a surprising amount of space. But if you know us at all, you know we’ve done our darndest in our time here to FILL that space.

And so….the looking that started last year.

We visited a couple houses early last summer, got discouraged, and decided we’d just spend money in our house to make the space we do have work a little better for us. But then, as the year played out, those plans didn’t all come to fruition and so I still find myself checking Realtor.come on a fairly regular basis, which lead to the discovery of a house the day after we returned from SoDak that caught my interest. And then another. And another. However. The market here is tricky (not to mention expensive) and so the last three weeks have been a whirlwind of “What ifs” and “Maaaaaybe we should just stay puts” and “Do you like this ones” and all of those crazy making (for two Type A planners such as B and I) questions that go along with a search like this.

Also, did I mention that we even showed our house a couple times already? I spent my 36th birthday (and the whole day after it) cleaning my entire house (with family here to help, even!) so potential buyers could see it, which was so much work it left me sore the next day as if I’d gone on an 8 mile run. But its hard to strike a deal for your own house if you don’t actually know which one will be yours next.

Because here’s the deal: in order to get a house big enough to even hold our crew, that is also nicer than our current house, in the Hastings market of today, we’d have to go over $100k for what we paid for this one. When we upgraded to this house, we had to go about $30k up (however it was 2012, soooo). And the real kicker is that many of the homes in our price range actually still need updating, or will in the very, very near future, and that is daunting for a family with this many small children (and one income).

Which leads me to my second deal: if we move, I’m most definitely going back to work full-time sooner than later. I mean, not until all the kids were in school, but still – there’s no way to make this fly on B alone forever.

While I’m OK with that concept (mostly), I also wonder how OK we could be here if we just did the work we wanted to last year and stuck it out in our cute little one-and-a-half story house that would be paid OFF before HD goes to college (& that’s without me working any more than I already am).

Do I have house envy? Do I need to have my head examined? Do I need to just have a big cry about everything that has been topsy turvy in the last month, curl up with a good book, and let it go?

I have no idea.

But here I am, sorting it out in words once again, as I do.

And, y’all…truth moment…if we move, I am really going to miss the room in which I wrote this (which was admittedly a couple days ago before we got more snow and it was too cold to sit out here):

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A Sadappey Trip

In our house, we have a dinner time check-in ritual called Sadappeys (thank you, Toddlerisms, for blurring the line years ago from where it started as Sad/Happys). We don’t do it every night, but when we do, it gives us a chance to reflect on our day and share our ups and downs with each other. And right now, we are faced with a huge Sadappey.

You see, it hasn’t been since Harrison was the age Wilson is now (approx. 3.5 months) that we’ve had a direct loss in our family, but Monday morning, my grandpa Cliff passed away suddenly. Maybe 89.5 years doesn’t qualify to some as sudden, but his death was certainly not anticipated and has been, as a result, a bit of a shock for all of us. Plus, as noted, we have been tremendously lucky in this respect for many years, which also makes this feel like uncharted territory.

In some ways, it really is. We’ve never had kids old enough to remember losing a family member, so we’ve never had to deal with helping them understand/manage grief while also trying to understand/manage our own. So here is another parenting hurdle to face, and like all challenges, I find that I am very much in it with the extra phone calls and memories and tears and smiles, while at the same time, “normal” life very much continues with laundry and homework and so on; all of this leaves me feeling a bit dazed at trying to hold all this normal and very NOT normal together at once.

In other words, it’s a hard week. And that’s OK. This muddling is very much part of the process and it’s likely that this juxtaposition of handling life while celebrating and remembering a life will continue through the weekend and beyond as we travel to South Dakota for the funeral being held Monday. In true on-point kid style, Harrison nailed it on the head when his first response to the news was: “So we are going to take a sad trip to South Dakota, soon?” Yes, Buddy. Yes, we are.

And yet, when I think about my Grandpa, my namesake (Clifford Raymond for Jennifer Rae (hence Raegan’s name spelling)), there is so much joy in remembering our time with him. I was lucky to call him mine for almost 36 years, and as I’ve been sitting here the last couple days, thinking about him, I realize there are so many characteristic bits of awesomeness about him that I have stored in my head and heart. Essentially, I find myself in the height of Sadappy existence right now. So sad to know he is gone. And so happy to have had as much time with him as I did.

I’m sure the list will grow as the week continues and the Sadappy trip takes place, and so I hope to add to it as we go, but for now – a glimpse at Clifford Raymon Jansen through his oldest granddaughter’s eyes…

He was…

the one who turned a ski rope and a tree into a trapeze, and a boat cushion into a stair toboggan for all six cousins to ride together.

the master of horseshoes (he could spot us 20 points and still beat us as played on the beaches of the Missouri River near Pierre).

the fishing guide who always had a line or two out on the boat or the beach. Soooo many walleye caught over the years.

the one who gave me a greeting so big at my wedding that my veil came lose.img_9394

the lover of old school country music that we danced to together in their basement that was, I’m convinced, 70s-tastic enough to have shaggy carpet on some of its wall (that might have made the stair taboggan slightly more safe?).

the man who took over after my grandma’s death, almost 15 years ago, to be the sender of birthday cards (and he rarely missed a one, even for all of my kids) that always included a clever, handwritten note inside.

the bearer of blue eyes – the same bright blue eyes (that hold that seem devious-in-a-fun-loving-way spark) that I see in my Truman.

the one who called me Jennifer more often than not and loved loved getting to meet (and see almost annually) four of my five children. img_9395

the sayer of things like “Well, I’ll be darned” and “Is that right/is that so?” and another one I can’t remember right now, but each of them would usually be accompanied by an emphatic head nodding gesture that in recent years I have totally caught myself doing.

the wearer of a pack of smokes in his shirt pocket that I was sure were getting crushed when he’d hug people (the man was an enthusiastic greeter/parter) and a holder of, what I remember most, a can of Old Mud (Old Milwaukee) in his hand.

the maker of cookie salad (bless him) and provider/pusher of sour cream and onion Pringles when you visited him (Ben says we’ll have to have some in his honor while we are in Pierre).

the one who showed me the magic of a big family. One of 13 kids himself and the father of four, it is in part from watching him with his own siblings at reunions and with his kids and grandkids over the years that inspired my own desire to have a large family.

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