Friday, April 1, 2016

The Birth Story of our Son

Babies are funny about being forced out of your body...our induction was scheduled for 42 weeks gestation if he didn't make an entrance first. My beloved doctor told me he had to go out of town because his mother was sick at 41 weeks, 1 day....and that he wouldn't be back for 5 days (Easter Sunday), and that I should try not to have the baby without him (haha-but he was very sorry at the idea that after all we have been through, this may happen outside his watch). Well, I told him I was clamping my cervix all the way down until he got home. And I did. We went into labor the day after he got home.

Our son Andrew Jewell was born March 29 (Tuesday) at 9:38 am. He decided we weren't the boss of him, and that he was coming before we forced him out. Monday, we did all.the.things. That way if it didn't work, we could sleep all day Tuesday in anticipation of induction on Wednesday. Nonni and Grandaddy came to town the 24th for Easter thinking he would be here, so they were around and had promised to take the girls to a hotel one night to swim and hang out downtown, so we asked them to do that Monday night. Monday I did acupuncture, my doula/midwife (hired her as a doula, but she's also an awesome registered nurse midwife who delivered a couple of my friends' kids, which was nice) came and checked my cervix (3 cm, 70% effaced, which was improved over the 1 cm, 50% effaced that it had been for weeks), then we discussed the game plan, which included two 2-oz doses of castor oil (she said I was ripe for it to work--at the top of the roller coaster before it headed down the peak-just needed a good shove!). blerg. Anyway, she left and hubs and basted the tukey for those good prostaglandins, ate spicy noodles for dinner, which I chased with 2 oz of castor oil in 4 oz of OJ, we went to the grocery store to stock the kitchen since his parents were leaving Thurs morning, went home, watched a little of a movie, and by 10 pm my contractions were 5 min apart. I called the doula, and she said "take the other 2 oz of castor oil and take a bath and go to sleep--if this is real labor, the bath will let you slow down enough to rest, but nothing can stop real labor". So I did.

At 2:48 am I couldn't sleep through the contractions anymore (intense!) and at 4:09 am I called my doula and woke Sean because they seemed to progress fast. At 4:34 I texted and told her to hurry because we needed to go to the hospital. We (hubs, doula, and me) left at about 4:50, got to triage about 5:25. Finally got in my L&D room around 6:30 or so. Labored very hard, and they broke my water to help me quickly get to 10 cm. I pushed for what felt like forever. My doula had great ideas for positions (crunching into a squat on a birth bar puling up on a knotted ribozo was the most productive till the end) and when he finally came out with a nuchal arm it was clear why it took him so long to come through my pelvis--his arm was next to his head! 9 lbs, 8 oz, big headed, add a few cm for the arm. 2nd degree tears instead of 3rd like last time. No pain meds, no interventions till after the placenta was delivered (minor hemorrhage, but under control pretty quick), baby was placed on my chest immediately and had a great latch for nursing, they didn't take him to weigh until an hour and a half went by.

Looking at this sweet baby-my last-I was overcome. My last SON. This time I know this is my last time raising a baby. And he is so beautiful. He reminded me of Addie as a newborn-big blue eyes and pinky pink skin. Except Andrew has a sweet little dimple in his left cheek and Nonni dimples and Sean's deep, deep hole punch dimple in his chin. How I love that sweet one in his cheek!

My doc stitched me up, and I went home the next day after lunch. This recovery has been really easy, and I am feeling really empowered getting through a second natural VBAC! I can't help but thinking about how God is so good to us, and how this baby has come to bless us and bring us grace. My prayer every day of my pregnancy was that this child would bring joy to everyone he meets.

Just born-dimple!!!!

My doula/widwife and wonderful Doctor!

Brand new <3 td="">

Sisters meeting him for the first time...

Our little family is complete

Ultimate Nonni

Three generations...the chin is the trademark!

Since we were only in the hospital a day and a half, Baby and I went home midway through the next day after the baby's last few labs and hearing test (we were in the hospital 35 hours total). Nonni got a very cute outfit for the trip home, and I was more than happy to get home to my own space.

After the hearing test, we could go home!                                           Going home outfit

Gillian and Addie made sure that Andrew and I felt special going home, and with Nonni's help, they made some banners and signs to welcome us home, and we had a ZERO birthday party for Andrew!

Extra snuggles on his celebration day...

So much love. Glory.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Forty one weeks...and counting

Feeling swelling like with the girls (no weight gain in the past 8 weeks...difference between boys and girls???). That said I am feeling pretty uncomfortable! Chiropractic care since month 4 has made this so much more manageable...I walked 10 miles this past weekend! I couldn't have done that when I started going to the chiropractor before I gained 50 pounds, but I can do it now...

Not to rush the time, because we can still do this... <3 p="">

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lady in Waiting

Today, you are two days past due. The child I mourned the loss of has returned, according to Adelaide. She told me you would that sad, cold day in mid December when we found out the little life inside had passed. She was matter-of-fact about it.

This pregnancy was more guarded, more mine than the others. We announced at 20 weeks this early announcements we had to choke back, no broken façade to hide in public. We found out you were coming last June. The days and hours have flown and lingered eternities since then. At once joyful and confident, at other times fearful and cautious, excited, and exhausted. I know I am a low maintenance pregnant woman and my condition hasn't changed my interactions with my family much. At this moment, I feel heavy and tired and slow. I feel ready to have you in my arms and out of my flesh, where you keep growing, and stretching, and tearing me. My son. My SON. Such a foreign thing to even think with two daughters all this time.

My belly won't ever be the same. My heart won't either. Adelaide smells it in the air, and she is scared to death. I make this judgment by her recent pattern of manic joy followed by crushing sorrow every night just before bed about some new affront. It breaks my heart, how she thinks I could ever love her less. I tell her a mother's heart gets bigger every doesn't just learn to accommodate more guests. That her space is hers-forever and ever and ever. No matter how shitty she ever gets with me or what mistakes she makes, she is forever my baby. Gillian is harder to discern-how she feels about it all. But some pre-teen angst seems to emerge from time to time that exhausts me completely. She can't wait to love you, and love you, I think.

We discussed having you ad nauseum...for years. We would decide it was a good plan, and then that it wasn't...that we are too old and tired, then that my heart would forever be missing a piece without you. Now we are on the precipice of knowing you, and yearning to have you tangible and here and stop talking in uncertainties about you. So, we're here, still waiting.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


The prodigal daughter is home again. Home at the white gulf beach where I cried one million tears and laughed 5 million laughs and earned at least my first 10 crow's feet.  Home where I was abused and survived and home where I found resolve and became strong like an oak tree is strong. Home where the water calls me like a lover, and the sun paints me a rainbow every night in passionate, violent skies. Home where today I floated on my back over the rolling waves and into the sunset feet first with the dolphins and pelicans and the blushing clouds overhead.

This week I brought my children here--to this place. What I found was a deep rooted joy of watching them fall in love with the things I have always loved--at their delight in finding an interesting shell, or building a drip castle on the beach, or diving in the waves like mermaids. My pride at having a very hard time getting them out of the water because I just know. I wanted to bring them to this ocean--to feel the peace of immersion and surrender to that rhythm, and play in, and marvel at. Just like I marvel every time I stand on the edge of the mysterious vastness with a heart so full it might bust right open. Just like I have every single time I have stood there, humbled, as long as I have had memories.

The evenings are warm and breezy and there are glorious cloud formations that catch the pinks and oranges--oval wombs that flicker with heat lightening like the night my mother died, right here. I remember the way it smelled of salty gritty humidity that night and every night. I remember the salt tears burning my newly 20 year old wind blown face the day I lost her and how I never thought I would smile again. I remember the people who loved me through my heart splitting in two because the only anchor in my world returned to serenity. And she watched over me then and watches over me still, and she is pleased I am home.

Monday I brought the children to the grave to see the stone with our name on it--their first visit with my parents. It was the discount grave from the government for a man who never thought past next week and was harsh and mean and funny and charismatic enough to make sure you never knew exactly what to expect. So, there was my mother who tickled my back every day for 18 years when she tucked me in and we talked about the world and our day...who stole money from work for my high school yearbook because it was $50 more than she could afford but wanted me to have one, and her impatient, demanding and sometimes charming husband. For all his lack of endearment, he made sure music was planted deep in my soul very young, so I am grateful. Those were my parents, and they did what they could do with what they knew. So, my beautiful girls put their arms around me then, at that grave marker, and held me close with iterations of their love, and I wept for them. Because I never really knew them at all. They were both dead by the time I was old enough that I realized I needed to know things that they could tell me.

We played and swam and enjoyed our little old Florida no-frills hotel room by a perfect and well used little pool two blocks from the ocean. One of my oldest friends brought her daughter with her and our girls are fast friends. At this moment I have enjoyed a day of reflection with this friend as the children have been deposited with grandparents (mine) and home (hers). We woke for the sunrise and walked and shelled and watched the dolphins playing in the waves, and ended our day over wine and in the end enveloped in the ocean set fire by the sleepy sun. We talked about our lives and growing older and wiser and being parents and wives. It is a blessing to journey through this life with people that can see you. The days are growing too short for people who don't.
So, I have sat still this week-still enough to feel my breathing and to remember those things I love about this place where I came from. There are things that are ugly and hard about my memories here, but it cultivated the basis of who I am. I'll take it all. And I won't be so long coming back next time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A dream of you

I just took medicine to make a dream of you. I chose to do it. The same medicine people use to abort babies they don't want. Except you are wanted-so desperately. I feel like a traitor to us both, to choose to force you away from me, even though you are already gone...

We saw you then at 7 weeks, waving, smiling, a happy heart dancing in your chest. And my dream was cemented. A third child we could love-that would bring light and joy to our lives. You measured a little small, but the doctor there said it could be error...they saw a small sub-chorionic bleed, a "dime a dozen" they said. Nothing to worry about if the bleeding wasn't making it to the outside. And it wasn't. She said things looked good, and your heart looked healthy and strong and that there was a less than 3% chance that we would lose you. The thing is, I never play the odds, because I have bad luck.

So, the weeks passed and we dreamed of you-would you look more like Gillian or Addie? Would you be a little brother or sister? We loved the timing-we could announce your coming on Christmas day-at 12 weeks on the dot. You were due on Addie's birthday. I would have the months of July and August to spend nesting with my girls-who wouldn't have to go to camp now that I would be on leave-and my sweet new baby. I would be able to help the girls transition to their new school by walking them there every morning and picking them up-no aftercare-and we could walk with our old friends/new neighbors who are having a new baby at the end of March, those friends who have two girls the same age as our girls..who are dear friends of us and our girls. It was perfect. It couldn't be more perfect.

I planned how I would tell my colleagues and shared the news with a few close friends. We had a wonderful idea of how to tell the girls on Christmas Eve-we are reading "Unwrapping the Greatest Gift" for advent. We were going to make crowns and talk about the three kings who brought gifts to the newborn baby in Bethlehem, and Sean and I would give them a gift-the gift of you-that night.

Two days ago, I went for my monthly prenatal, and Dr. couldn't find your heart beating. That same little heart that was so cheerfully greeting me before. I felt a lot of fear. That nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right that I had had since the first ultrasound-when you were too small-returned. We heard Gillian and Addie's heart on the fetal monitor at 10 weeks or just before, and you were then 10 weeks and 4 days..Dr. joked that maybe he'd lost his touch. I told him that wasn't possible. He said for peace of mind he would send me for an ultrasound the next day.

I read all the blogs and saw all the posts of all the women who said they didn't hear a heartbeat but saw a healthy little heart beating when they went for the followup ultrasound. I was heartened by that, and chose to assume you were in there, hiding away, you tiny lentil heart beating somewhere safe and warm. I stifled my unease as I went to Gillian's class and did the scheduled craft with the moving right along. The next morning dawned, and we did the normal routine and dropped the kids off at school. We went to the hospital for the ultrasound. It took 40 minutes to be called back for our exam.

The tech was nice, I told her we were there for peace of mind. Sean sat next to me, and the tech pulled you up on the screen. There you were, but you weren't. You floated lifelessly in your tiny love space. No movement- no primal nerve twitches, no blood flow. The cardiac tones were gone. The happy little heart was still. You never grew past 8 had grown 1 week and 2 days over a month's time, but it was hard to say when you had passed since it seemed you had been growing too slow. And right at that moment, my heart broke, and all those dreams of you felt suspended, like you were on the screen, lifeless and dull and broken. She said she was concerned but that the doctor would interpret what anyone would have seen there. You had passed. Gone away. You had left me, the child we so wanted. The child that would have been our light and joy. It was surreal, what followed. The tech stepped out and I dissolved in Sean's arms after a trip to the bathroom, where I washed my hands with the soap they had in the NICU when Gillian was born. How many prayers had I said with that scent on my hands already? There was no praying now. The doctor came in the interpret what we already knew and was matter of fact. She tried to hide the fact that she was desensitized to the grief of mothers after so many visits like ours. She talked, but I was dead inside. I didn't hear her. I just knew a kind NP came in afterwards and led me to the private exit for mothers of dead babies so no one had to see the crippling grief--the grief etched in every tear that poured out of my heart.

We went home then. To our home that is happy and safe and warm. We went home to drop me off. To wait for Dr. to call and tell me what was next. While I waited Sean made some calls. To work, to family, to music teachers...And I looked for an angel grave marker, already planning the most beautiful place to lay you down. There will be flowers  at the place we will set aside to visit you. And a sleeping infant angel to guard you, like you are guarding us now. I found a small cherry ring box for your tiny casket and a website to help me find you in the mess of what will come today and tomorrow. I realized that I need to know if you are a daughter or son. I need to know why you died, if DNA tests can tell me. Dr. called and gave me the three options- 1) D&C (essentially an abortion where the suck the tissue out and scrape your uterus clean-which results in a chopped up mess of tissue) 2) natural miscarriage, which can take up to 6 weeks (the idea of carrying you lifelessly around that long was too devastating to consider) or 3) taking prostaglandins to induce labor. I chose the third option. Maybe birthing you would be cathartic. Heart shattering and bloody, but in the privacy and comfort of my own space. I told the doctor that your body belongs here with us, intact. They can have the rest for their tests, but I need to hold you, just this once, and bury you close to me.

The girls came home after a music show for Addie (the ONLY performance or reading or event I have ever missed of either of theirs-I just couldn't do this in public), and music lessons, and swim class. They came home, innocent, and sweet. They were concerned because they story had been that I was very sick..sick with grief, perhaps. The came and nestled into bed because I told them there was something Papa and I needed to talk to them about. So, I told them that there was a baby in my tummy, and they said they noticed it getting fatter, and I told them Papa and I found out our baby had died that morning. Addie felt my grief momentarily and then went in to comedian mode trying to undo what I had just said. Gillian fell apart, asking over and over again if I would be ok, she begged me not to cry, which made me cry harder. She weakly offered that we could have another baby one day, like getting to this point-11 weeks of fear and worry, and paranoia-was on par with going to the store and buying a new baby. We cried and cried, Gillian and I--my empathic angel girl. The one Sean had said, sitting in the ultrasound room, that we had used our grace card to save, our Get out of Grief Free card those 8 years ago when we nearly lost her when she was born too soon...11 weeks too soon, and a week of blood transfusions and blood infections, and all the praying and lack of sleep. We used up our Miracle then. There wasn't any left for this baby.

This morning I got up after terrible sleep. I saw that my hospital bracelet, the one Gillian had asked why I didn't take off the night before, was still there. I answered her with, "it reminds me that this isn't just a terrible dream." So this morning, I humorlessly noticed, it was still there-this was not a terrible dream. It is horribly real. I woodenly did what I had to do. I drove them to school, I picked up the tissue containers from the doctor that were filled with formalin to preserve it after waiting entirely too long in the waiting room for something that was supposed to be waiting for eyes were red rimmed and shiny and ravaged. I saw people shifting uncomfortably when they encountered my grief stricken eyes. I was like a wall of sadness, I reckon. Of heartbrokenness. People know that when they see it, it's instinctive. After that, I went to the pharmacy, and got the medicine that will make you leave the comfort of my body, where you belong, and out into the little wooden box that will be buried in the frozen ground. I inserted that medication as they told me, and I am waiting for my labor to begin-to end our bodies entertwining.

We will never teach you to walk or hear you laugh or hear you speak; I will never feel your sweet milk-breath on by cheek, or feel your slight little body sleeping over my heart. But I will feel you all around us, another one of my many angels. Somewhere, I have made my mother a heaven grandmother, and I know she will love you and love you and love you until I can hold you, mother you at long last, in the light of ever after.

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
                                  -Leonard Cohen

Goodnight, Sweet Babe.
Love, Mama

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On Forgiveness and Parenting

Do you know what the answer is? What it always is?


Forgive everything. Every second of every day. Forgive people who hurt you on purpose. Forgive people who hurt you on accident. Don't blame one more than the other. Blame is cancer and eats you from the inside out. It doesn't matter how it happened. Someone hurt you. Carrying resentment about it makes you brittle and fragile. Be like clay-that can be molded over and over and over again. Malleable. Forgiving. Accepting of whatever comes.

Forgive yourself when you are being small. Forgive yourself when you are being big. Remove judgment. Live like you mean it, in the comfort of compassion for yourself. This is our time. This. I know about internal warring and the stress it brings. Let it go. Breathe it right on out. And forgive yourself if you held on to it too tight or for too long or for selfish reasons. Forgive yourself for the things you have to do to survive your story, to survive your pain. Forgive people for judging that, but more importantly, forgive your own judging of how you survived. Focus more on the fact that you did. Life is hard. Life breaks you down over and over again. It's an opportunity to shine brighter, do it better, breathe deeper, be kinder. Every time. Do it better, but be compassionate with yourself in the interim. Love and openness start within you.   

Forgive your child(ren) when they lash out with the ugliest, most hurtful words they can think of. I. DON'T. LOVE. YOU. The are really saying "I am really mad at you". Help them learn to say what they mean by always saying what you mean (I think you are trying to tell me you are angry with me, am I right? It hurts my feelings when you say you don't love me, because I love you more than anything...). Remember the value of one on one time-regardless how brief.

Forgive children when they make mistakes, especially when they make mistakes. Watch the way you react to their mistakes-you have the power to steer them toward tolerant acceptance or blame and disdain for their shortcomings and how they view the shortcomings of others. "It's just milk, sweets..." vs. "Jesus, HOW MANY TIMES ARE YOU GOING TO KNOCK THINGS OVER TODAY!?!?!?".


Don't shame your children. EVER. Shame eats at every good decision they will ever make in their lives. They will never be capable of great things and taking risks if they don't think they are good enough to get to where they want to go...if they don't trust their own judgement. Forgive their indiscretions instead. THEY ARE CHILDREN. As my Addie said when explaining a dream to me, "we are learning the baby game". I asked what that game is and she said "how to love people". Shaming a child for mistakes while they are playing the baby game is like kicking a puppy. It will still inexplicably love you. Except human children can simultaneously learn to loathe themselves while preserving their love for you. Talk about their choices instead, and don't attach their choices to their soul...choices do not a person make. The child is a light of God. Everyone is a light of God, but we have a bad habit of defining people by their choices. What if we addressed poor choices with loving kindness when the "monsters" of our society were children?


Acceptance starts with forgiveness and open heartedness. Accept where you are right now. Accept who you are right now. Don't try too hard to be different than you are unless that changing is from a place of love and understanding. Stop making excuses that cloud your own view of yourself. See yourself with clear eyes, forgive yourself, accept yourself. If you want to do some work, don't be afraid to work to be the person you aspire to be. Remember that we are all on a very solitary trajectory, dancing together for an instant. Accept others, exactly who they are. Love them in spite of themselves, warts and all, and they will love you back. It becomes easier to love others, accept others, if you sit with yourself first.

Do your work, then let go. Sit in the circle.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The looking glass

I am considering deactivating my social media account or really reducing my time on it. I feel like as a global population we are losing our people skills. I feel like maybe we can't remember how to be patient or give people grace, or how to make a phone call in order to hear people's voices. I feel like we intimate inflection and tone and are more likely than ever to misinterpret other people's intentions. I feel like people's insecurities are compounded by the parts of themselves other people choose to share, or in many case, not share...the things that would make them human sitting together don't exist on line. So, the perfect mom and homemaker you envy may be barely keeping it together, but you could never tell watching her life unfold on Facebook.

This struck home with me when, the other weekend, two women from school I know through room parenting agreed that I was "Supermom" at a party I was at. I was embarrassed to be lumped in the very false façade I was just discussing. I started thinking about it..and I was really resistant to the idea that my online persona could be causing self-doubt in others. I really try to mention the good and the ugly in our house-Addie's smart alec humor and Gillian's ups and downs (we even posted a sign she made for us to keep out because she was mad at us), as well as the things we are proud of them for. I starting thinking about it...I do post videos of their musical recitals, and photos of fun events and time spent with friends...I post pics of art projects I have done at school with the preschool class, and bits and pieces of other little things too. I mean, I don't post updates on my weight or my physical fitness achievements, but I also don't need validation on those things. I guess I started considering why it is that I post what I post. I like posting crafts because I think that if they turn out cute other people might want to try them with their kids. I post pics of trips and fun stuff and friends to share the photos I took with other FB friends who were there. I started considering why I am always feeling like it is my job to document our lives.

Maybe it's because I have exactly 46 pictures of my entire life growing up until I could develop my own photos. No one cared to archive my life at all (I was kid#3, and by all accounts a 7-year-later afterthought/oops (thanks family-for making me feel special by letting me know that growing up)). So, my own curiosity has never been satisfied with the one living member of my nuclear family that I never talk to (maybe once every few years) or see (last time was when my brother died in 2008)...I guess I decided now that I'm in control we will never lack in the visual memory department. And we don't. But that isn't the way some people operate. To them my play by plays are all about my overachieving and for them are insecurity-inducing. Truly-I am just living my life here. I remember reading something about not dimming your own light to make other people happier and more secure. So, part of me thinks-"share what you want to share. You have family and friends who don't see your relationship as a competition and don't feel the need to compare themselves to you." I love to see posts of my friends' kids doing awesome things and achieving. It makes me want to cheer lead for their successes, and it makes me proud of them too (because I genuinely love those friends and their kids). I don't get petulant and think "look at that bragging jerk" and feel insecure about my kids' awesomeness (or my own). It doesn't make us less when our friends and their kids do great things. In fact, maybe I should weed people who say things that insinuate that out of my life. Love is, among other things, people who rejoice with you in your tribulations (and sit with you in your trials for that matter). Ain't nobody got time for less than that.

So, trumpet your joy from the rooftops if you feel inclined. I love every weird drawing my kids make, every concert they perform in their music program, every insightful comment, and every belligerent show of their independence and burgeoning self hood. I won't apologize for loving those things or sharing them with other people who love our family.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Addie's First Original Composition

Addie may just be the musical artist in the family. Gillian is a fine musician, and a wonderful artist with drawing, but she doesn't seem like the music-writing type. Addie informs me that she isn't done with this piece, FYI, but she has been chewing on this motif for a few weeks now. In other news, she informed me that she wanted to learn to read Saturday and Sunday she read 15 Bob Books. Addie doesn't mess around-if she says she's going to do something, then she does it. End of story. Since Sunday, she has had her nose stuck in a book every second she is not playing animals or practicing cello. She prefers reading over watching My Little Pony, which makes me teary with pride (and, to qualify, adequately shocked). Behold music plucked from her busy little brain:  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 in Review

I am in the habit of an annual reminiscence about the year that passed as another begins. There were many things to celebrate, a few things to mourn, and some challenges to overcome...things that continue to need to be overcome.
As always, I am struck by the incredible awesomeness that is life and strive to be worthy of it all. Not to say that everything is a cakewalk even most of the time, but the things that make life wonderful are the things that gratefulness makes more abundant. There are things I have done well, and things I want to work toward doing better. I think on some level, I have become a little kinder to myself on the parenting front. I use to think if I wasn't constantly engaged with the girls, I was neglecting them. I know now that I shouldn't constantly be engaged with them, because that does a terrible disservice to their independence and self-reliance. Striking the balance is the trick.
The girls are so hard and so amazing at the same time. Sometimes they bicker and whine so much I want to carve my eyes out, and other times they are so lovely I walk around with a lump of teary grateful in my throat all day. They are prolific artists, promising musicians, funny, silly, smart, and generally kind (except sometimes to each other).
I have a network of women-mostly mothers and some not-who lift me up and support me and listen to me when I need an ear. I like to think I do the same for them, but truly, there are challenges in my life that required some serious listening on their parts. Work....dear Lord, work. Work has been a constant sore spot for me in the past 5 or 6 years. Difficult interpersonal dynamics in the workplace is not my forte as far as what I have been able to successfully overcome in life. I am trying, I am. I need to surrender and let it be whatever it will be. I really only ever wanted to go to work, work hard while having a day of pleasant exchanges with colleagues, and go home (not thinking about any of it again until the next day). I don't need buddies and best friends at work. I just need to NOT have work populated by people annoyed by the fact that I breathe-I haven’t determined there to be a better reason for our issues than that. Is that a lot to ask?
In a related subject, I am currently working on making myself stop trying to save people who don't really care about being saved (they just want to complain and spew about their difficulties, not to actually do anything to make life better) and boundaries (I am the quintessential Can Do person, so not having success here is tremendously difficult for me). How I struggle with boundaries with these people.... so, this appears to be one of my greatest challenges: to stop making myself accountable for the feelings, opinions, and self worth of other people. I need to find immunity to those things, and immunity can be gained through meditation/prayer, and meditation/prayer only. Followed by not engaging and not reliving my stress at home and with friends by talking about it, and just "dropping the rope" as one of my dear friends says. Folks, my 40th year is the year of rope dropping. And becoming immune to and rejecting drama-mine and that of other people. Not that I can’t have compassion for their needless suffering…just that I don’t want it to seep into my spiritual fabric and bring me down.
But it’s hard-this is something outside my realm of control. I don’t like things outside my realm of control. Intellectually, I know none of this life stuff is really within my control, but I digress. I can make myself feel better by thinking so. So, I am completely open to changes this year. Something needs to change-doesn't matter if it's tangible or intangible. I love my work, a LOT, so I have a choice-find the center, and let the rest spin and twirl around me and sit with it (whatever it is) or make some major change while I work on the center some more. I am craving a different twist on what I do-maybe somewhere else or by morphing my own work some. Whatever it is, I want to telecommute. That is a better balance for my family than what I am doing now with these loooooong days and never ever being able to skip commute time (even though the vast majority of my work is writing-which can be done anywhere). I figured I would have 9 extra days a year with my kids if I could telecommute 1 day a week. These are moments that will be gone in no time...I need to fight for them now.
We had a stellar year in 2013..Some firsts: Addie began playing cello on her 4th birthday. We went camping for the first time (late May), and then went once more as a family (Sept) and Gillian and Papa camped again at Gillian's first music festival (August). We went bowling and promptly got stomped by a 4 and 7 year old (we make ourselves feel better by silently acknowledging that they had bumper guards and we didn't, but they did a fine job consoling us in case we were depressed about it). Gillian had her first gig as a violinist performing with her string class at the Christmas Bazaar breakfast at church. I started taking cello lessons from Addie's teacher. Addie added three foods to her short list of things she will allow to touch her lips: pizza, burritos, and tortellini. Don't judge me-we are thrilled. Our blessings: We continue to be surrounded by love and light on a regular basis. We have the good fortune of many friends in our community, and loving family that is further away than we would like. We enjoyed a million lazy days at the beach with our friends, swimming and making castles, and loving the fact that this place is 2 blocks away.
Living in the city we are able to enjoy the benefits of a tremendous amount of culture..we saw shows at Lifeline, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Joffrey Ballet, the Music Institute, the Book of Mormon for Papa's bday, and the Nutcracker at the Athenaeum Theater. We visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chicago Art Institute, the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum. Collectively, the girls performed six times this year on their string instruments, and seven times in school musicals/holiday events. Needless to say, the end of stage fright as we know it will most assuredly be gone for these two at an early tender age.
This year we touched sting rays and rode horses, had tantrums and laughed until it hurt. We saw fairies and made them a house, and made angels in the snow. We wept from frustration and sadness and danced and kissed and snuggled endlessly...that's the good stuff. That is what I will daydream about when I'm old, sitting on a bench at the beach. Moments. Love. The rest of it will wash away until the vital stuff is all that remains. Why does it take so long for some of us to really internalize that? Everything that is the not the good stuff just clouds our vision and distracts us from loving. At the end of my life, will I care about the fact that someone at work gave me the silent treatment for 8 weeks straight for reasons unknown to me and unfriended me on Facebook, or will I remember that day at the park that I got the breath knocked out of me to look up at Addie's beautiful face against the azure sky? The suffering is needless. It's not up to us to ease the suffering for anyone but ourselves, and at the end of the day, to end our own suffering we simply have to let it go-drop the rope. All of it. Our soul's only job is to orbit around this circle of love-to give it and receive eat it, drink it, and breathe it. To give it all of our time and attention. That's the big secret of the universe-which is God and the great mystery. Simple, but hard to wrap your overthinking head around. Namaste. 
Greatfulness is key

Signs are everywhere!
Gillian's first love note-from Ian, snuck into her backpack
Winter Fun in January 2013 with friends

Classroom awesomeness-We had a French themed Valentines Day and Gillian's teacher told her they had a special visiting author-turns out it was the students themselves-reading their journal book to the class.

Members of our wonderful parent group blessing our formally adopted, freshly painted playground!
First sampling trip in late May

Group recital in late May

Saying good bye for the summer to our beloved teachers

Endless beach days in the summer-we can walk here in 5 minutes...

The bench a friend and I painted at the park...

Gillian and Papa went to a music festival in West Virginia
Addie found a baby rat on the way home from the playground...
Celebrating birthdays...

Celebrating my early promotion

Visiting with our wonderful family

First day of school for 2013-2014, realizing our oldest daughter is seriously Type A, and Addie's very first recital

Strawberry picking and apple picking getaway to Michigan with some of our dearest friends...
Random Acts of Kindness (AoK), a subset of parents from our parent group, held our first event-baking 250 little cookie love packages for random strangers at the train station (Addie decided to start throing in a hug, too, for good measure).

First bowling game, and they whooped us!

The holidays were magical and amazing with our friends and family