Friday, September 30, 2011

2 month reflection of grief

My mom passed away on July 31, so this weekend marks 2 months of time since she has been gone. My sister just wrote about her grief and how she is handling it on her blog, just as I was sitting down to the computer to do the same. I guess our heads are in the same space- trying to enjoy the beauty of our children while also watching the calendar tick by and missing mom with a desperate longing.

Two months have gone by, and I still haven't visited her grave, despite it being just a couple miles away. Despite driving literally past it on several occasions. Each time I accidentally drive by (it's off a major road here), my eyes flood with tears and my hands shake against the steering wheel. I had to pull over to collect myself once.

The only time I have been to her grave was at her burial. I felt like a crazed, injured animal and wanted to run away as fast as I could. Instead, I hid my tears under a pair of dark sunglasses - it was a hot, sunny summer day - and quietly sat and held my sister's hand. I'm not ready to go back. I don't know if I ever will be.

I miss you, mom.  It isn't getting easier to accept that you are gone yet. There are so many moments that you are missing and it's just not fair. I'm not feeling like looking at any of the bright side at this very moment. I so often tell people, "Yes, it's hard, but there have been blessings too..." but that's really to make other people feel better. The truth is that it is a terrible thing that my dad doesn't have a wife, my daughters don't have a grandma, and I don't have a mom. I don't think that's ever going to go away.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

gratitude

This has been a long week, filled with a lot of this:
video


I am tired. I am worn. I suspect that if I had a free moment to actually look in the mirror, I'd find a couple gray hairs on the top of my head.

And yet, tonight I feel so blessed. My girls are healthy and amazing little humans. And I get to raise them with the most wonderful man I know. Here are a few reasons I am feeling gratitude for my husband Gary:

1. He cooked me eggs benedict last weekend! He even made the hollandaise from scratch:

2. He looks sexy "wearing" our baby Audrey in the Ergo carrier. I mean, really...is there anything hotter than a man carrying his baby....while making me breakfast?


3. He is watching the girls for me this weekend so i can get a massage and a pedicure.

4. He is always thinking of me and bringing me special treats.  He went to the drugstore for something this week and bought 4 different tabloid gossip magazines for me. Just because he knows they are my guilty pleasure.

5. He's really just a big kid at heart


6. He loves me unconditionally. He doesn't give me a hard time for walking around wearing t-shirts with breastmilk stains on them. And, on that note, he supports my choice to nurse my babies.

7. He works incredibly hard every single day to provide for our family, allowing me to be a stay at home mom like I desire.  

8. He is ridiculously excited about feeding and caring for his worms! (He has worm bins for making compost.) He treats the worms like family and it makes me smile.

9. He wrote me a sweet love letter on Facebook out of the blue, sharing  his appreciation for me.

10. He has the biggest heart of anyone I know. I am proud to be his wife,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

supporting the arts

It's a hot day and I'm still under the weather so we are sticking close to home. I decided it was the perfect day to experiment with Juliet's artistic side! I have been saving the paint for a special occasion, and it was hot enough for Juliet to be outside with just a diaper on. This was our first official "art project" besides playing around with Crayons.


It was a mess.  I guess the fun stuff in life is always a bit messy!  Juliet is still a little too young for painting, I found. Mostly because she tried to eat it! (We used Crayola Washables, which is supposedly non-toxic...I hope!).  She kind of grasped the concept of using a brush and painting the paper, but she was far more interested in chasing me around and putting her paint-filled hand prints all over my pants.


It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and then she got a bath, which was probably her favorite part. Juliet loves the bath! She loves to watch the water run and will stay in the bath as long as she can, until her fingers have wrinkled and the water has grown cold. She also has a bit of an obsession with taking out the plug and putting it back in...over and over and over again. Toddlers learn through these repetitive motions, and good thing, because it would seem OCD otherwise!

My goal as a mama is to encourage my daughters' creativity and to have fun with art.  
Does anyone else have a fun art project to share?

Also, speaking of baths, Audrey also got a bath today.  She only gets bathed once a week, so I guess it counts as a special occasion! I bathed her in the kitchen sink, which will always make me think of my mom. (Mom bathed me the kitchen sink, and then taught me how to bathe Juliet in the kitchen sink.)

Here is Audrey this morning (5 weeks, 6 days)


My mom bathing Juliet in August 2010:


Welcome to my new blog!

I have been blogging about my life since 2004, mainly as a diary to myself and about 10 close friends. My old blog captured the adventure and angst of my 20s and the first two years of my marriage to the most awesome man, Gary, and the birth of our first beautiful daughter, Juliet.

This has been a transformative year in my life with the birth of my second daughter Audrey, the illness and passing of my Mom, and my first year as a suburban mom in my hometown. So with that in mind, I've decided to archive my old blog and start a fresh new one.  I welcome you to join me here as I write about the joys and struggles of motherhood, my grief at losing my mom, the joy of new life, and all the little stuff in between that makes life so beautiful.

Thanks for joining me on my journey!


(p.s. I have moved over a few posts from my old blog to get started.)



waking up full of awesome

This blog post over at Pigtail Pals is super inspiring.

I'm sick and not feeling super awesome today. But i always want my daughters to wake up full of awesome. And I want to wake up feeling it too, barring nasty cold viruses of course!

Being a mama to girls is a heavy responsibility. I have banned the word F-A-T from our house, for instance. It's a bad word just like the 4-letter ones as far as I'm concerned. Just so I can keep my girls feeling awesome, ya know?

Do you have ideas for keeping ourselves and our daughters waking up full of awesome? 

Here are a few pics of me and my daughters, being awesome.




(originally posted on 9.26.11)
I'm sick with a yucky cold and feeling sorry for myself. These are the days when I miss my mom the most. Because no matter how old I got, my mom always took care of me when I was sick. (that's what moms do.) When I was little, she let me sleep in her bed when I wasn't feeling well. As I got older, she'd make lemon zinger tea and chicken soup. And when I wasn't living nearby, she would listen over the phone and give me tips on how to feel better and send me emails to let me know she was thinking of me.

I wish she were here so I could lay my head in her lap and feel her hand on my forehead. My mom had strong, firm, capable hands. Not wussy girly hands. They were the hands of a trustworthy nurse. I miss them. I miss my mom.

(originally posted 9.24.11)

winter gear




My sister is moving to Maryland in November (her husband is in the Navy and will be stationed there for 3 years). Since she is only accustomed to living in very warm climates - Hawaii and southern California - she is having a hard time wrapping her head around the idea of harsh winters. She doesn't have any winter clothes and wants help finding an appropriate winter coat- one that's both warm AND stylish.

Here are my ideas- anyone else who lives in cold weather, do you have a perfect coat to share? Note that my sister is very petite so a long coat may overwhelm her frame even though that's what I'd prefer to wear to stay warm. I'm thinking a down coat is essential but maybe I'm out of touch?
These coats are all from REI, which is where we shopped when I lived in Seattle. Not sure where Maryland dwellers shop.

(jamie- link is here: http://www.rei.com/category/40004820)

Juliet says "Audrey"

video

(posted originally on 9.23.11)

conscious parenting



I think a lot of parenting is all about flying by the seat of your pants, learning as you go, and doing the best you can with what comes your way at the moment. For me, especially now that Audrey is also here, it's a huge lesson in letting go of control and expectations. We are still very much in the "survival mode" stage of having 2 babies under 2 years.

But, on the flip side, I am also trying to be a conscious parent- meaning that I don't just want the day to go by and realize that I've only fed my daughter PopTarts or something and not try to actively shape the experience for our family in a way that I am proud of. My goal is to gently guide my daughters into healthy, kind, curious, and intelligent human beings. So, occasionally I am planning to write a little bit here about my parenting journey with my goal of "conscious parenting"in the midst of newborn and toddler chaos.

Toddler-- Juliet is 16 months now and is definitely a toddler now. It is so much fun. She is so active and curious about the world. She watches everything we do with such intent focus, and loves to mimic. She wants to put her tiny little feet into my shoes (and gary's sneakers), she is obsessed with wearing necklaces and carrying purses, sitting on the big chairs, and is done with the baby food- she will only use a fork and a spoon to eat off the big plates. She loves to take things apart and put them together again, figuring out how clasps and lids and hinges all work. Blocks, Tupperware, doors, dog collars- everything is a new toy to discover. It's so fun to watch her grow.

With all this adorableness, though, comes the other side of being a toddler. The tantrums and the whining. All a normal and healthy part of her development, but such a parenting challenge!

A normal scene goes like this:
"Juliet, do you want this?"
[shakes head No! cry! whine!]
"ok. do you want that?"
[shakes head No! cry! whine! throw entire body onto floor! kick arms and legs in air! whine some more!]

Gary and I have really had to work on our parenting strategy to figure out how to best nurture her through this stage. It is easiest to just say, "Fine, you can sit there until you're done whining" and walk away from her. But that's not the mom I want to be. I have decided to continue following the "Attachment Parenting" model.

It's easy to be an AP mama to a newborn: it means wearing baby in a sling or wrap, cosleeping, breastfeeding on demand, meeting baby's needs instead of letting them cry. It's harder to follow through with AP for a toddler. But it is really making a difference in how our day goes. For me, this stage is all about empathy. When she whines now, I try to sit on the floor eye-to-eye with her and really empathize with her-- to try and give her the words that she isn't able to communicate yet. For instance,

"Juliet, you look very frustrated. It must make you sad that mommy doesn't want you to eat the dog food. I get frustrated and sad too sometimes. Can I give you a hug?" and then redirect her to another task.

Instead of telling her "No!" and letting her sit on the floor and cry, I empathize with her and give her the words to go with her feelings as well as loads of physical affection and interesting distractions. It's a lot of work to do this countless times per day, but it's really making me grow into a better and more compassionate mother.

On that note, I end for now. Audrey was up all night and I didn't get more than a 45 minute stretch of sleep without needing to rock her. I think her tummy was upset. Anyway, time for us all to rest while we can!

(posted originally on 9.22.11)

on music and other stuff

I haven't listened to music in a long time. I have become an obsessive listener of NPR while driving in my car, and my house is usually quiet during the day, with the occasional cartoon (Yo Gabba Gabba!) humming on the TV in the mornings while Juliet and I eat breakfast. But there has been a distinct lack of music. Until yesterday.

I bought the whole Adele album (the new-ish one, called 21) and have been playing it and re-playing it like I used to with my Ani DiFranco albums in college. Music is so good for my soul. Yesterday I was driving to the grocery store - a mere 2 miles or so - and both of my beautiful babies were screaming their heads off. I stopped three separate times to try and console Audrey and hope that a pacifier would help. It became clear that I just needed to drive us there as quickly as possible, so I turned up the volume on Adele and sang my heart out. I realize that I am now a 30-something suburban mom, driving my 2 young children around in my Suburu, but damn did it feel good to rock out to "Rolling in the Deep". I felt like myself again- not as a mom or a wife or a daughter whose mom just died- but just like me.

other stuff:
on my mom-- I feel like she is just on a very long trip and we are all aching for her return. I don't think I am in denial that she has passed away, but I just can't process the idea that this is permanent. I miss her. I cry a lot when no one is looking.

on audrey-- I feel so much more confident as a mother this time around. She fits into our family so naturally and it feels really good to have her sweet warm little head resting on my chest right now as I type this. She is breastfeeding wonderfully and once again I am loving that bond. I love being a family of 4 even though it is terribly exhausting. She wants to be held all the time, and I try to oblige. Slings and my Moby wrap help a lot but it's still a lot of work. I broke a glass while I was putting the dishes away yesterday, while I was holding Audrey and Juliet was clinging to my leg. I thought, "I just can't do this! This is impossible!" and felt like crying. But I now realize that I can do this-- it just may mean that the dishes don't get put away on time. But I can love Audrey, and love Juliet, and that's enough for right now.

(wearing Audrey in my favorite ring sling)

on juliet-- It just keeps getting better. She is at an age that is positively delightful. She gives us hugs and cuddles frequently and lots of laughter. She likes to play "hide" and will hide behind chairs and then jump out and laugh when I play with her ("Where's Juliet? Where in the world did she go?" even though she is in plain sight). I am trying to remember to really play with her, every day as much as I can. Not just to provide for her basic needs of food and safety, but to really get down on the ground and look in her eyes and play and giggle and run. She can also be frustrating and make me want to pull my hair out. She is learning to exert her own personality and that means shaking her head "No" and whining...oh my, the whining. I am starting a new parenting strategy with her, though, that's working really well and that I'll write more about later. It's a lesson for me in saying "Yes" more often.

on God-- I have been praying more. Praying about my mom. Praying that I can parent my daughters with love and not frustration or exhaustion.  I am ready to worship my Creator again for this beautiful world.

My sweet Anna

My sweet, loyal, quirky friend Anna passed away on Thursday, August 25th. As anyone who has read this blog surely knows, Anna has been a constant, loving presence in my life since I adopted her in 2004.

She carried me through all the ups and downs of my 20s, loyally accompanying me on all the adventures, crises, and celebrations-- first in Walnut Creek, then San Francisco, Cabo San Lucas, Newport Beach, Seattle, and Fullerton. She let me cry into her fur on the many nights that I felt alone and afraid. She loved to run with me on the beach, chase squirrels in the yard, and follow me literally every place I went. That's really all she ever wanted- to be by my side.

Anna had a very enlarged heart from undiagnosed heart failure (old age). She showed some signs recently of not being well, but truthfully there has been so much going on that both she and Ellie got pushed to the background. The morning she passed, she was unable to walk, stand, or eat. She was in the active stage of dying, which I now unfortunately know looks very much the same in an animal as a human. But because she is an animal, we were able to relieve her of her suffering by making the heartbreaking decision to put her to sleep. That decision became clear when she fell unconscious on the vet's table. Gary was with her when she passed. He came home without her and we both cried. A lot. There have been too many tears lately.

I miss her. She was a good dog, and a good friend. I don't understand how this universe works, but my greatest hope is that her spirit ran straight to my mom in heaven, and they are keeping each other company. My mom loved her too.

(originally posted 8.30.11)

Audrey's birth story


The weeks leading up to Audrey's birth were extremely stressful. Mom passed away on July 31 when I was 36 weeks pregnant, just 17 days before Audrey was born. I was having contractions on and off during that entire time, and when I felt the baby "drop" at 36 weeks on the weekend that Mom passed, I was pretty certain that I would not be making it to my due date.

At 37 weeks, I was having contractions every 5 minutes apart that were stopping me in my tracks but not enough to even call them painful- more that they just took my breath away. My midwife checked my cervix and I was 4 cm! I couldn't believe it, because I was not in active labor and it took many, many hours of hard labor to get to that point with Juliet. My midwife asked me to walk around the hospital for an hour and come back to check my progress. I progressed to 5 cm during that hour but was still not in active labor so we went home to wait.

And so we waited, certain that Audrey would be coming any night. I mean, who walks around at 5 cm dilated? My family kept joking that the baby was just going to fall out, or that I would be that woman who accidentally has their baby on the floor of a fast food restaurant ;) For one week, I had contractions every single night that registered as "very annoying" on the pain scale. I also had nausea and just the severe discomfort that comes from being late in pregnancy. Fortunately my midwife had prescribed me Ambien to sleep to deal with my grief for Mom, and that helped me get some rest.

In the very early morning hours of August 17, at 38 weeks 2 days, I woke up to an extremely strong contraction. I lie in bed waiting to see what would happen, not waking Gary up, because I didn't want to have another false alarm. By the third contraction, Gary had woken up to my moaning, and we both were 100% sure that our baby was coming that night. I got out of bed and tried to collect myself, putting clothes on and brushing my teeth, but the contractions were so strong already that I could barely do anything but lean over the counter and huff and puff my way through. Mom had taught me how to vocalize with very loud, low moans (sort of like a cow, truthfully) through my labor with Juliet, and I remembered that and used it to work my way through. Thank you, Mom, I know that you were with me.

Gary called my sister Christy to come over to care for Juliet (my Dad would later take over wen Christy went to work- he was a saint! My mom would be so impressed.) and we headed for the hospital. As we waited for Christy, I told Gary, "We have to go...NOW!", feeling that if we waited any longer we would be having an unintentional home birth! On the drive to the hospital, Gary ran 2 red lights (there were no cars as it was only 4 am) to get us there quickly!

We parked at the hospital, and as I got out of the car, I had another huge contraction that had me leaning against the car and moaning very loudly- so much so that a passing hospital worker tried to get us a wheelchair. I was able to walk in on my own, but was in tears and told Gary literally as we were walking through the doors, "Please don't be disappointed, but I want an epidural. It's too much." And so that became our birth plan ;)

We entered L&D triage and I was having such obvious labor signs (not able to lie down on the bed, moaning loudly) that they didn't even have us fill out any paperwork or any of that normal stuff- a nurse directed us straight to a Delivery room. I still couldn't sit down in a wheelchair, so I hobbled my way through. A male midwife was on staff, and he checked my cervix- I was at 7 cm! Wow. This was really going fast! About an hour and a half later, I was at 8.5 cm and eagerly waiting for the epidural. I was proud of myself for making it so far without any medication. Almost full progression! The contractions hurt so much. No one can properly explain this sensation, I think- it's the strongest, most primal force in the universe.

The anesthesiologist finally came in and administered the epidural. I sort of yelled at her, urging her to hurry up as she was going through the laundry list of cautions she is obligated to read before the procedure. "Yes, I know the risks...please, please hurry!!" Getting the epidural was no big deal in comparison to the contractions, and about 15 minutes later, I had the sweet relief of being numb. That is a hard thing for me to fully accept- that I preferred being numb to feeling my baby descend - but it's true. It felt great. Audrey continued to tolerate the labor well after the epidural (steady heart rate), which was my huge fear after Juliet's distress. My body continued to progress on its own, I just couldn't feel it, and within 2 hours I had reached full dilation- 10 cm.

It was a very busy morning in L&D- we heard several babies give out their first cry! - and our nurse and midwife were barely with me in the room because they were so busy. So when I felt the pressure and urge to push (even through the numbness of the epi), I called the nurse button and told her, "It's time to push!" The midwife on call, whose name I barely remember as it was so irrelevant to the experience, came in and checked me and sure enough, it was time! A male OB resident officially delivered Audrey after only 15 minutes of pushing. She was born at 10:01 am, just 6 hours after my labor began.

They told me to reach down to feel her head, and I got to hold her tiny, wet little head as she slid out of my body. There is nothing, nothing!, like the birth of your child. They placed her up on my chest and I just wept and wept with joy. She was perfect and beautiful and so tiny. She gave some sweet little cries and my sister Susan, who had joined us at the hospital a couple hours earlier, was able to record every moment for us as Gary and I enjoyed these first moments with this sweet gift of life.

These last months have been so hard and sad, but Audrey's birth was beautiful and perfect, and healed a part of me that I wasn't sure could ever be patched up. I love you, Audrey, and I just wish your grandma was here to see how beautiful you are.

(originally posted 8.24.11)

Introducing Audrey


Audrey Kimberly Harris
born August 17, 2011 at 10:01 a.m.
6 lbs 9 oz, 20 inches long
Perfect and beautiful in every way.




Kim Guth, 1955-2011


Kimberly Ann Guth was born on February 27, 1955 in Chicago, the second child of Evelyn and Robert Arthofer. She grew up with 3 sisters, Laura, Sue, and Karen, and 2 brothers, Bob and Kurt, in a suburb of Chicago called Hoffman Estates. 

Kim had a generous spirit even as a young child, giving selflessly and caring for her younger siblings. Her sister Sue fondly remembers that Kim would walk her siblings to the store to each buy a candy bar, and share hers with them instead of enjoying it herself. Kim’s love of sewing began at a young age as well, and as a teen, she once sewed her mom an evening gown for her parent’s anniversary and surprised them with tickets to a dinner show.

In high school, Kim met her sweetheart and future husband, Jim. Jim was friends with Kim’s brothers, and Grandma Arthofer loves to recount the stories of how it took her a while to figure out that Jim was starting to drop by the house in hopes of visiting with Kim instead of her brothers! Their first official date was to a local mountain to ski, and Kim trusted Jim to take her to the top of the mountain. Unfortunately she fell and ended up with a compound fracture in her leg and ended up needing a cast up to her hip! Even still, their romance bloomed and Dad took Mom to the junior prom and they soon became inseparable- even today, their car license plate reads “JimKim1”.

After high school, Jim attended Notre Dame and Kim went to nursing school in Indiana, remaining sweethearts throughout. They married in a free spirited wedding at Notre Dame Cathedral in May 1976. Kim wore a flowing white linen dress and a white floppy hat and they danced to Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like I Do”. 

Shortly after marrying, Jim and Kim packed up their run-down Ford with their modest belongings and traveled across country to sunny California. Kim marveled at the warm winters and the plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables (especially avocados!) and she would become a lifelong lover of gardening.
Kim continued with her nursing career in California, working in Labor & Delivery at University California, Irvine and finding a lifelong passion in caring for newborns and mothers. She trained as a midwife and believed deeply in her mission of helping mothers achieve natural childbirth, opening a home birth practice in Santa Ana and delivering hundreds of babies throughout Orange County.
Kim had four babies of her own, all girls….Jennifer was born in 1980, Jamie was born in 1982, Susan in 1985, and Christine in 1988. Kim was a natural mother who deeply loved each of her daughters. She was the type of mother who always seemed to have a baby on one hip while happily cooking and talking to the others in the kitchen. Her children and assorted neighbors and friends would gather at the house with an “open door policy”, and she always welcomed everyone for swim parties, slumber parties, and trips to the stable to visit ‘the horse’. 

Kim taught her daughters through actions, and it was evident that her family was most important. She lovingly cared for her mother through breast cancer surgery and treatment. She hosted every holiday at her home with warmth and a casual hospitality. She danced joyfully in her slippers at her daughter Susan’s backyard wedding, she welcomed her son-in-laws Brian, Gary, and Daniel into the family with open arms, and she rejoiced in her youngest daughter Christy’s recent college graduation. 

Kim wasn’t afraid to make her opinions known and get involved in causes she believed in. In 1996 she campaigned for, and won, a seat on the Fullerton School Board. She also was involved with the Orange County Republican Party and enjoyed lively debates about both local and national politics.
As her children grew older and more independent, Kim returned to her love of nursing. She completed her Masters in Nursing at CSUF in 2004. She excelled in her program and was the founding President the CSUF Nursing Honor Society. In 2007 she traveled to Morocco with fellow nurses to help train maternity nurses. For the past several years, Kim worked in the St. Joseph Mother-Baby Assessment Center. She loved her work and it was a great source of joy and pride for her. 

Kim’s expertise of all things baby-related became very useful in 2010, when her granddaughters were born. Eva (daughter of Jamie and Brian) and Juliet (daughter of Jennifer and Gary) were born just 3 weeks apart, and Kim flew between Honolulu and Seattle to make sure she was present for both births. She taught her daughters how to be mothers, helping them through labor and gently showing them how to nurse their newborns. Kim delighted in her granddaughters and we are blessed in having her as a model of what a mother should be. 

Kim was the center and soul of our family and our grief at her passing feels endlessly deep. Our solace is in knowing that she had an unwavering faithfulness in God’s promise, and that she is resting in the arms of her Creator. We love you, Kim- beloved wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend.

Kim Guth, 
February 27, 1955 - July 31, 2011
__


I miss you, mom.
(originally posted 8.07.11)