Maelstrom: a story

In the spring of 2006, Husband and I decided we were ready to start trying to have a baby. Several months later I was unbelievably excited when the pregnancy test came back positive. And then the next week I started bleeding. And that was the end of many things: that first pregnancy, all the hopes and dreams that had already wound their way into my consciousness, and most unexpectedly, my naiveté. I hadn’t even considered miscarriage a possibility.

We again were blessed with a positive pregnancy test three months after that first loss. Phew! We had gotten tragedy out of the way, out of our system, moved beyond, paid our dues, and now we could get on with the real business of having a baby. That time I made it a week or two longer before the bleeding began.

Two losses in a row. Then I lost hope. Was this how it would be? Could I not carry a pregnancy to term? Did my body not work properly? Were we going to have any children at all? That was a dark, sad time. I cried a lot. Husbands struggle with this type of loss because they can’t help, they don’t know what to do, it hurts to watch their wives walk this path, they aren’t the ones whose bodies have failed them.

The decision was made to stop trying until we knew what was going on. We made an appointment four months out with a specialist. It hurts your heart to actively prevent pregnancy when it has become the thing you want most in the world. And then a miracle happened. Something didn’t feel quite right. A test was taken. I was accidentally pregnant while we were trying not to conceive. Of course we were excited…and confused…and scared…and pretty convinced we knew what was coming.

We were immediately seen by the specialist we had been waiting for. Ultrasounds, bloodwork with a few red flags but nothing really conclusive, some prescriptions, and yet, things seemed to be fine. FINE. I made it a couple weeks more, and another appointment, and things were still fine. It was a waiting game. When was the other shoe going to drop?

First pregnancies are blissful and new, full of hope. Pregnancies after a loss are scary. You assume they will end early, you assume your body will fail again, that the past will repeat. But that pregnancy continued on, and Child#1 was born in the fall of 2007. That joy helps ease the pain of the earlier losses, but doesn’t take it away completely.

When there was another positive pregnancy test, in the winter of 2009, we were overjoyed and scared. It wasn’t quite as scary that time because I knew it was possible. My body could have babies. We welcomed Child#2 into our little family in the fall of 2009. A year later we were ready to make our team of four a team of five.

Things seemed okay after we found out I was pregnant again. Time went by. I had an ultrasound, and there was some confusion about the image on the screen. What did I think my dates were? Maybe you’re just not as far along as you thought. Come back in a week or two, and we’ll surely see a little gummy bear wiggling around on the screen. But I knew. In my heart. I knew my dates weren’t wrong, and I knew what should’ve been there on the screen. So we waited. Nothing was happening and we were waiting. At the second ultrasound, there had been no change. Your body is “pregnant” but there is no baby in the yolk sac.

More doctors. More waiting. More time. My body was not dealing with this on its own. I had gotten pregnant in February or March. A D&C was scheduled for June unless my body decided to get things rolling, which it did not. Surgery week was hard and sad. And then it was over.

We decided to be done trying. Our family was complete. Our family IS complete. We did not want to run the risk again when the odds were against us: more losses than live births as they say. It was hard to come to terms with being done having children, took me a long time to be okay with it. I always thought there would be another one. It’s weird that the last time I had a baby I didn’t know it would be the last time. Why is that weird? Would I have savored it more? Our mind plays mind games. That’s what minds do.

My children are the coolest thing I’ve ever done, besides marrying Husband. Had that very first pregnancy come to term, I wouldn’t have the kids I have now; I’d have different ones. I don’t want different ones. The road into and through parenthood has been a journey. A maelstrom. A swirling confusion of loss and joy, heartache and love, pain and growth. You can become hardened in trials, or you can let healing build you back up stronger than you were before. I won’t ever stop being sad for those three angels I lost, but I’m glad to have walked this road with Husband, and I think we are stronger, wiser, changed people.

Cutting up a deer…and not being Amish

Husband and I cut up a deer yesterday. Just the two of us. For the first time. And I think we sort of succeeded.

One step closer to self-sufficiency. Okay, I know we will never be “off the grid” or anything, but it’s nice to know you could manage if you needed to.

I always joke that I want to be Amish, but that’s not really true. I sort of aspire to be more like the Amish. I’m not giving up my electricity or makeup in exchange for bonnets and aprons or anything, although Amish gals are barefoot quite a bit…

What I love about Amish folks is that they are so self-sufficient. Growing and preserving most of your own food, doing it yourself, knowing where it came from: that’s cool. I want to be homemade, handcrafted, home-cooked, and home grown. But I have a job. As a working mother, I sometimes need convenience. Time is a commodity, and one that doesn’t run in excess around our house. We do the best we can, but if it needs to be frozen pizza tonight, then so be it.

I will not feel guilty when store bought reduces my stress level and allows me to not be crazy mama to my kids. I will, however, be homemade over store bought every chance I get.

The smell of smoke

One of my favorite things about our new house is that we have two wood burning fireplaces. I love the smell of woodsmoke. It reminds me of the outdoors and of my childhood.

Until I left for college, I had never lived anywhere that didn’t have a wood stove, so if I was outside as a little girl, and it was sort of chilly, odds are good that I could smell the fire.

Woodsmoke smells like sweaters and rolling in crunchy leaves. Like the oil-gas mixture that runs the chainsaw. Like the smell of cut wood. Like the flannel and chamois shirts my dad wore.

Woodsmoke smells like listening to quietly falling snow. Like the smell of being outside in fresh air, and then like the smell of coming in from the cold when supper is cooking…beef, tomatoes, onions, garlic. Or like coming inside when Mom is making cookies.

I hope that the smell of woodsmoke permeates my children’s memories until it is deeply embedded as one of those smells that just takes them back. I hope it brings them back to this house, to us, to food, to me.

The crunchy life: homemade granola bars

We try to do homemade whenever we can in our house. We make pretty much all our own bread, dinner rolls, granola, desserts, etc. Here’s the recipe we use for homemade granola bars:

GRANOLA BARS

2 c rolled oats

3/4 c packed brown sugar

1/2 c wheat germ

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1 c whole wheat flour

3/4 t salt

1/2 c honey

1 beaten egg

1/2 c vegetable oil

2 t vanilla extract

3/4 c chocolate chips

Mix together dry ingredients; make a well in the center. Pour all wet ingredients into well and mix well using your hands. Pat mixture into a greased 8×8 or 9×13, depending on desired size of bars. Bake 30-35m at 350 degrees, just until edges start turning golden; any longer and they’ll be too crunchy (smaller pan = longer cooking time, larger = shorter cooking time). Let ’em cool for 5 minutes and cut while they’re still warm or they’ll be too difficult to cut. I then wrap ’em individually in plastic or wax paper and keep ’em in a big baggie or plastic container in the pantry for easy snacking.

(adapted from Playgroup Granola Bars)

Dog with a blog

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Hello, my name is Ridge, and I am a dog. A ten-year-old black Labrador Retriever who may or may not have been sired by a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. I was kind of an accident.

I was a scrawny four pounds when my mom and dad took me home to their first house. When I arrived there, there was a big chocolate lab already living there. I thought he was going to eat me when they finally threw me into the kennel with him. Perhaps because I was still the size of a rat. But Mom and Dad were tired of my pooping in the house, so out I went. I was pretty stupid in those days; good thing I had a big brother to help me out. He was really smart, so I just did what he did. Except for eating socks and underwear. I didn’t do that; that was kind of weird.

When my parents moved a few years later, they couldn’t take dogs to their apartment, so my big brown brother and I went to live with with our uncle. In an unfortunate turn of events, my brother was hit and killed by a car, and I became an only dog. Boy, my stupid days were over. I had no one else to take care of me, so I had to smart up real fast.

My uncle started working out of town a lot, so I began to get shipped back and forth between his house and my grandparents’ house. So many trips in the car. I used to be crazy freak riding in cars, basically crawling onto the driver because I was so scared, but I eventually got used to it, and Grandma took really good care of me. And I was pretty good at living in new places. They started calling me the family foster dog because I hopped around so much.

I had always had a limp, and my parents used to call me a faker, but one day Grandma took me to the doctor and they found out I had torn ligaments in both of my back legs. Bad news. By this time my mom and dad had a bigger place again, so they asked my grandma and my uncle if they could have me back to take care of me. They probably felt bad for thinking I had been faking all those years.

I’m pretty old now. I’m getting awfully gray, and there are a lot of things I can’t do. I really want to jump up on people I meet, but I can’t support my weight on my back legs. It’s hard for me to get up on people’s beds. Playing fetch makes me really sore, and I always pay for it later, but I can’t help myself. It’s like crack; I just can’t stop.

I will live out the remainder of my days with my mom and dad, my human brother and sister, and my little dog sister, an overly enthusiastic and annoying yellow lab. I take a lot of medicine, but it helps me play a little fetch, and I basically sleep 23 hours a day, so it’s all good.

‘Tis (not) the season

I used to be one of those people who rolled their eyes at the early Christmas displays in stores, the pre-Thanksgiving holiday music, and, yes, the early Christmas lights and decorations on people’s houses. My argument was sound: the longer you celebrate, the less special it becomes. It’s an argument I used to use in reverse to claim that winter makes summer more special. It’s something you only get for a short window. Like only getting a spoonful of a really delicious dessert: you savor it.

And now? This year, I was counting down the days until Halloween was over so the Hallmark Channel would start airing its Countdown to Christmas. CHRISTMAS MOVIES, PEOPLE! Cheesy love stories that make your heart feel warm and cozy. Similar to most Lifetime movies, they follow a set format, occasionally contain subpar acting, follow disappointingly predictable plotlines, but I DON’T CARE. And I have Christmas lights up, too. And I’m getting awfully close to playing holiday music.

See, I’ve come to the following conclusion: Christmas is a wonderful, magical, joyful time of year. That fact doesn’t change if I stretch my celebration out a few weeks. What does change is that I get to experience that wonder, magic, & joy for a few extra weeks. This year, I’m not doing moderation. I’m all in, and I’m all in now. And I don’t care if you think it’s too early. Because I have my wonder, magic, and joy. HA. Ho ho ho.

 

 

Duck and Cover

Practicing for a fire drill isn’t hard at all. It’s usually a nice break from class, especially when the weather is nice. It’s not scary. We don’t really even imagine real fires. Still, fire is dangerous…except that it’s been a looong time since a student has died in a fire in school, and fire isn’t a cold blooded killer.

Hearing gunshots in a school building is just plain eerie. Even if they’re blanks. Even if you’re just practicing. Even if it’s a drill. Even if there are no students inside. Huddling in the dark in your classroom during a drill and thinking about how it would be if the bad guys were really there instead of the super nice police officers we get to work with…it’s sobering.

You can try to keep it light and joke and smile, but then you hear the gun. And it gets louder and closer as you huddle in the dark. And all you can think of is what if this were really happening? And what if there were two dozen scared teenagers in here? And then you think about the places where it HAS happened. And then you think about your very own children. And you try not to cry.

It is GOOD that we practice this. And talk about this. And plan. It’s just hard. But sometimes it’s good to do hard things.

Welcome to this totally unfocused and random insight into my mind…

So it’s NaBloPoMo. National Blog Posting Month. And I commit to writing a new post every single day during the month of November. I sometimes think I have a lot to say, but I’m pretty sure I’ll start running out of ideas somewhere in the middle of week two.

This blog isn’t really very focused…obviously a direct reflection of my life. It’s not just about my family. Or my job. Or cooking. Or crafting. It’s about all of those things. Or maybe none. It might be totally uninteresting, but I need a creative outlet, and Lord knows my husband doesn’t want to sit down and listen to me ramble on about any of this stuff!

You can expect musings on the following topics over the next couple of weeks: parenting elementary school children, weekly meal planning, school shootings, the holidays. Clearly a unified collection of ideas. Yeah, I teach English.

Here we go!