Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Resting

   One of my favorite times of the day is rest time. My kids are getting older- 8.5, 6.5, 4.5, and 2- but I still require a "nap" for all every afternoon. One of the many blessings of homeschooling! For an hour every day, all four of my kids lay down to rest. My two readers take books, but all four must lay still and quiet for at least an hour. The rest is good for all of us. Even me. It's the perfect time every afternoon for me to get focused work done, enjoy the peace and quiet, or take a nap myself. This is imperative to my functioning every day.
   Some days I use my 'rest time' to get a dose of aromatherapy pick-me-up. Today it's 3 drops each of Bergamot and Tangerine essential oils.
   Bergamot is a tropical citrus that is commonly used in perfumes and teas because of it's pleasant scent, but it also has many proven health benefits, including(but not at all limited to) antidepressant effects. Because of the way it stimulates various parts of the brain, it's often very effective in uplifting the mind and helping ease tension and anxiety. (More information here: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-bergamot-essential-oil.html )
   Tangerine is another citrus that is particularly well-known for being calming, uplifting, and energizing. (More information here: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-tangerine-essential-oil.html )


 
How do YOU care for yourself on any everyday basis?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saying Good-Bye

   I've been to very few funerals. I have an incredibly small circle of those close to me, and it is gut-wrenchingly difficult for me to lose anyone. The permanence of a burial has been impossible for me to face, to the point that I have been to so few I can count them on one hand. Saying a final good-bye to my son was unfathomably impossible. And yet beautiful.
   Asher was born at a private Catholic hospital, and we were told before his birth that they regard ALL life as sacred, so they(with an area funeral home) held burials for the families of those who lost babies for free. For those who have never been through this process, most don't realize that when a baby is born before 20 weeks, it is medically regarded as "pregnancy tissue" and is disposed of by the hospital. For the hospital, funeral home, and community to acknowledge our tiny children as human beings worthy of respect is enormous. Just incredibly important and indescribably wonderful. To most of the world, my son was too small to matter. To most who haven't been through this kind of experience(and some who have), he was tissue, and his birth was cramping and bleeding. But that's not true. He mattered. He was significant. He IS our son. To be GIVEN a service for him alongside the other sacred lives in our community who never drew a breath outside the womb was immeasurably important.
   The service was held at Mount Calvary cemetery in downtown Richmond. It was officiated by the Diocese of Richmond, and facilitated by Bliley Funeral Home and the Knights of Columbus. To them he mattered, and to us that was so meaningful.


There were so many families there. Too many. Some babies as young or younger than Asher. Some full term. A set of twins buried together. So much heartache. So many tiny white caskets, so many devastated families grieving the recent(more recent than ours) losses of their babies.





The procession, carrying, and placement of the caskets by the Knights of Columbus was incredibly somber and respectful. My husband and I both remarked to each other at the deeply passionate calling all these people must have to perform this service for the area families on a regular(every month or two) basis. 








The hardest thing about the entire service was the tangible nature of it all. The son I never got to hold in my arms was there, in a box, right in front of me, and still I could not hold him. Then I had to place that box in a hole in the ground, turn, and walk away from it. From the little tiny piece of him left here on Earth. I cannot describe the difficulty in that experience. 


We gave our kids the option of coming with us or going to a friend's house. The girls chose to go with us. Our oldest was painfully aware of all that was going on, and broke down crying as we walked away from the graveside. 



The tomb of the unborn, for all babies stillborn.



Later that day, a double rainbow danced around our backyard. It felt like a promise, just for us, of what's to come.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:4

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

KCW Day 1: Lunch for Aphids

So I'm a day late on my post, but I promise I wasn't late with my sewing. Yesterday was day 1 of spring 2015 Kids Clothes Week. The day was dismal, mostly overcast, oppressively humid, and frustratingly chaotic. Finally, at 9:30pm I was free to sew. The catch: I hadn't touched my machines since I had a disastrous multi-needle-breaking sewing day back in February. They had to be set up from moving(they'd been pulled from their boxes and set on my table, but that was it!), cleaned, oiled, and re-needled before I could even think about threading,..
   But I did it. I got the machines out, fabric chosen, pattern decided on and pulled from a boxed in the corner, and started to cut. For the first time in ages, the sewing went flawlessly. Something always wrong. It's just how it goes. But not this time. I suppose I was being rewarded for my persistence in getting Day 1 done.
   Speaking of persistence, I also finished a knitted WIP nearly a month in the making yesterday. That's what kept me busy until 9:30pm(you know, household, husband, pets, gardening, and kids aside). I was insistent I would finish this knit yesterday. My goal had been Sunday and yesterday was Monday. It was a day late, but it was done. It was a test knit for a new Gabrielle Danskknit cardigan on Ravelry called Sugar Crystals. I did a size 9/10 for my oldest, to replace her classic grey Gymbo cardi she was quickly outgrowing. Okay, to be fair she outgrew it this winter, I've just been using the warm weather as an excuse to keep making her wear it as a 3/4's sleeve length this spring. But no more. Now she has a cardigan her proper size that she'll hopefully wear through this coming winter.
   Back to sewing. What did I make, you ask? Okay, maybe you didn't ask, but I don't often need a specific question to get me talking sewing or knitting. I chose the incredibly multi-faceted Geranium pattern by Made By Rae. Because my girl is so long and lean, I did a size 8 bodice and size 10 length. Fabric is a cotton woven from Joann's- a large, bright red rose print tossed on a watery semi-solid blue backgrounds with white water droplets(lined with a solid off-white cotton woven). Very springy-summer, and "growing up" from her usual kid prints. The sash was added by me, free-handed, and upcycled from one of my husband's old dress shirts. The shirt has been in my 'to upcycle' basket for a couple of years, and it was perfectly because it matches the leaves and droplets, but also has some texture in its white raised pinstripes. Closures in the back are simple KAM snaps she can easily do herself(or her little sister can help with in the privacy of their shared room).


   For once, I got beautiful, genuine, sweet smiles from my girl. Typically she either doesn't care to cooperate and gives me a completely fake snarl of a smile with dead eyes, or is so overly excited that I get all ham and cheese. Perhaps she loves this ensemble so much she ACTUALLY cooperated? Perhaps. 

Can you spot the furry photo-bomber below?


Rocket decided he needed in on the shoot.


The back lacework down the spine of the Sugar Crystals tester.


Photog assistant was pretty over it and just wanted to be held by the end. 



Friday, April 17, 2015

Till, Till, Till!

*100 points to whomever gets the 1980's movie pun in the title!*

I was raised on a dairy farm in rural central New York, but my husband was raised in the suburbs of a very rough urban area. I have always joked that he picked the most country of the girls in my family, because I don't even like small village or suburban life. Give me wide open spaces! Little known fact: While most people think Manhattan, Long Island, and the general NYC area when you say you're from New York, approximately 85% of New York State is rural farm land, mountains, and forests. 
A big, sturdy straw hat:
My husband's declared " Ginger Gardener
Must-Have" he bought for me
Since moving to our rural sanctuary, though, my lover has become more and more in touch with his inner country boy. As he has seen the potential in our land and experiences the joy in working it, he has become increasingly excited about it all. He now could care far less about fancy coffees, computer things, and musical instruments, and instead is eager to take any excuse to visit Lowe's, Southern States, Tractor Supply Company, and anything with "nursery" or "garden" in its name. Today as we left TSC after having spent much time staring at baby chicks and mulling over supplies for next year's plan of a chicken tractor and our own flock, he said, "You know, I think I was always meant to be a country boy." Not much else makes a farm girl's heart sing more than her man learning her song.
   Our seedlings are finally taking off, and we need a place to put them. Since we haven't saved up enough for a rear-tine tiller yet, I've taken on the project of hand-tilling the first go-round, then giving the soil a few days to rest, dumping on the compost, and renting a tiller from Home Depot(only $86 for 1 day!) to do the last step. The goal for next year is to put down a "lasagne garden" bed this fall, so next spring we have great, rich soil ready to go. For this year, since time is not on our side for the 4-6 week wait a lasagne bed needs, and the ground has never been worked into a garden(therefore we have tons of grass to contend with), I'm hand-tilling, then rototilling to finish the job. 
5 rows down, 20 more to go!
   What is hand-tilling, you ask? Okay, maybe you didn't but, and maybe you don't care, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Hand-tilling(our version, anyway), is me with a spade, digging down 1.5-2 feet into the topsoil, turning it over, one 30-foot row at a time, and my sweet little helpers going behind me, armed with metal rakes and hoes, chopping up the chunks. It is very hard work, but my kiddos are shockingly eager despite the sweat. I even have a pup helper! Doesn't matter which end of the garden they're on(we swap back and forth, and switch in the middle so nobody's getting hit with rakes or hoes from over-zealous swings), that little Australian Shepherd sticks close by his flock of human lambs and "keeps them safe." He even does some digging, too! Of course I have that one kid who always finds reasons to slip away and not help, but that's nothing new. Since toddlerhood he's been the one who, when they're told to pick up their toys, will be quietly and nonchalantly present in the room, moving ever so slowly, but if you actually tune in to what he's doing, it's a whole lot of nothing. Gardening, despite his excitement, is no different. But for all the balking, even my 2-year-old helps. He is our designated water boy, carrying the big 32-ounce jug of water up and down the rows, handing it to whomever asks, and taking it inside to Daddy when it needs a refill(Daddy's currently on the injured list so no tilling for him!). 
Water Boy whining that he's hit his limit
Even though we work in the hours of the day when the heat is not the most intense(right after breakfast and after dinner a night are our favorite times to work), said 2-year-old is also a great gauge of when it's time to take a break. In general he's a pretty active, happy-go-lucky kid who gets into his fair share of mischief, but when he has a job to do he is very purpose-driven. When my little water boy starts getting weepy, though, that's my sign it's a good time to go inside. Rest time for an hour, thin and water some seedlings, fold a couple loads of laundry, then out we go again.
   We're ALL pretty excited to get the garden in and growing. It's kind of crazy how much the garden has over-taken even our daily routine. The kids are more diligent with their schoolwork each morning because they're not only eager to finish for the day and get outside, but eager to finish the school year altogether so they can skip that step completely. We're about 10 school days from the end of our books, so if we stay on top of things, we should be done by May 1st. Then I'll need to double up on my batches of homemade sunscreen to make up for all the time we'll be outside.
The Cooper Tiller
I can see this being problematic in the future when we have things planted,
But right now it's just cute.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Grow

   We moved to a new house in March. We've officially been here a month, but it feels like forever. In a good way. When we looked at this house initially, it was the end of December. The second time we looked at it, we actually had snow. Now that we've moved in and spring is here, we're beginning to see things begin to bud and bloom, and it adds another layer of love to this house. It's been such a blessing. My mind struggles daily with the heaviness we're walking through, yet every morning I start the day at the literal crack of dawn out in the yard with the puppy, and I see new beauty and new life. For example:

Forsythia, Redbud, and peach tree last week.


Cherry trees this week.

The Myrtles and Dogwoods are working on their buds so we know they'll be in bloom soon, too.

We've also been working on adding some lovelies of our own to the property, like blueberries! Two Northern Highbush and two Southern Highbush. The Southerns came with leaves and blossoms(blossoms we pinched off so the bush can focus on growing for now), but the Northerns were little more than green sticks protruding from a pot of dirt. I noticed on my early morning Cooper walk yesterday, though, that the Northerns are starting to get leaf buds, too. I am SO excited. 


We also planted a lilac bush for our Asher. It's a little bit of a family 'tradition,' as much as such things can be, to plant a tree for passed babies. My brother was two days old when he died in 1982, and he was buried beneath a sapling that is now a glorious 33-year-old maple tree. When we were waiting for Asher to be born I told my husband I wanted to plant a tree for him. Lilac was the kind that came to each of us. Not only is it beautiful and my husband's favorite flower, but it is prolific, so should we ever move we can take smaller shoots with us to plant where ever we go. My family contributed toward this memorial tradition with us, too, and it was such a sweet blessing. 


Within hours of bringing the thing home it became very apparent that it had a black fungus gnat issue(Grrrr, Lowe's!), but we attempted to nix it with peroxide in the soil around the base of the plant, and it's perking up nicely. 

We're also working on a garden. One of our goals in the house-buying process was to not only have land, but cleared land(surprisingly hard to come by here in south-central VA) so we could have a large garden and land to grow on to work towards self-sustainability. A homestead, to use the trendy word. Not because we're trendy, but because we like to be organic, we like to be self-sufficient, and quite honestly we don't trust the establishment. No, we're not Doomsday Preppers, we're just smart. We're critical thinkers who can see there are HUGE discrepancies in the establishment, and we want to take care of our family ourselves. But I digress. Garden. There is no established garden plot, so we chose a spot on one corner of our acre and designated it as the 'to be transformed into a 30'x30' garden this year, and expanded in the future.' Last week the kids and I actually went out with a measuring tape and corner markers scavenged from the woods, and staked out the plot. We have no tiller, though, so the hand-tilling it is. My built-in daily work-out! In the mean time, one of my pantry shelves has been turned into a nursery where the seedlings grow. Seventy-two seeds planted, and 1.5 weeks out we have one flat of 36 that is a small forest:


And one that is trying to be mediocre(apparently we chose all our later germinating plants for this flat):


I'd tell you what they are, but, well, my marking system did not last well(pencil on a biodegradable crate. DUH!) so I'm getting a vague idea as they sprout, and am relying on them to all live so I don't have to replant before each seedlings lets it be known exactly what they are. 

Speaking of mysteries, there's one in our yard. A whole circle(literally, a circle. It's odd) of eight bush-like Cousin It beasts that are a mystery to us. Here's half the circle- Any help, horticulturists? 



Friday, April 10, 2015

It's Not You, It's Me

    The human mind automatically searches for a reason why in every situation, good or bad. Thankfully, I have had a peace from the start that the 'why' in the shortness of Asher's life was not mine to answer. I am not the Creator of life, nor am I the one to take it. I firmly believe with every fiber of my being that God has numbered the days of our lives, and there are reasons beyond our understanding for everything. Some times human action and free will interferes with His plan, but ultimately my faith answers that question for me, and I have had peace.
   Because of this faith, we initially had decided against having testing done on Asher. Then I developed a tumor that grew out of control in seven day's time, and because of the risk of rare things like choriocarcinoma affecting both mother and baby, the surgeon asked for our permission to order the testing. We agreed. Not because it made a difference to us, but because it could make a difference in my necessary treatment in the future.
   So the testing was done, and we all but forgot about it. It was something we were subconsciously waiting for, but not obsessing over. Then two weeks ago I realized it'd been eight weeks since Asher's birth and we should've had the results by now, so I called. The surgeon was on vacation. At that point I had a full break-down. Hysterics. My mind was screaming, 'What if he was fine? What if my body killed him?' I repeated to the few friends I confided in about the situation that I was not sure what I would do if that was the case. I'm a mother. It's just what I do. My children are my pride and joy, their births were these incredible life-changing experiences- even Asher's has changed me forever. What if, despite my best efforts and all that pride, joy, pain, accomplishment, passion, and effort, my body had gone rogue and decided to kill the life growing in me? I could not handle that thought. I had a full break-down, was stricken with near constant panic attacks and fits of tears for days. I became very angry with my body, that it couldn't keep my baby alive, it couldn't give birth to him so he had to be surgically removed, instead of growing a baby it grew a tumor, and now it couldn't even heal itself, physically and emotionally. I was so angry. At my husband's encouragement, I made an appointment with my midwife.
   Wednesday, the day of my appointment, I woke up feeling hopeful, that the day would bring some answers, relief, a game plan. Something. Some kind of hope. As the clock ticked toward my appointment time, though, hope turned to anxiety and nausea. As I stepped off the elevators on the fifth floor I was punched in the nose with the smells that had come to haunt me: Hospital cleaning solution and air freshener. I sat in the office and texted to a friend, "I hate this waiting room. It's really lovely, but I hate this room." I just wanted to see my midwife.
Bill for Neonatal pathology: Insult to injury at its worst
   Unfortunately I forgot about the interrogation you get from the nurse before the midwife comes in. In NY, my midwife had her own practice in her own building, so you went in, told her receptionist you were there, sat in a beautifully decorated, home-like waiting room, and when she was ready for you the midwife herself came out to the waiting room to get you. Not so here, where my midwife shares an office in a hospital with many. The nurse was nice enough, but I did not want to be spilling my guts to her. I wanted Melanie.
   Finally the gentle knock at the door came, and in she came, arms instantly open, and she hugged me tight, a sweetly long, hardly awkward hug, then pulled back and said, "Are you going to cry? It's okay if you do." So I sat down and cried. And cried and cried and cried. For 90 minutes I cried my mental, emotional, and physical woes to her. Several times she joined me with tears of her own. The appointment was everything I needed. It allowed me to spill my guts, to address my body's difficulties it's having, and to get help. Perhaps the most, "AHA!"-esque moment the whole hour-and-a-half was when I sobbed to her my intense anger at my body that not only could it not keep my baby alive, but that it couldn't give birth which made it necessary for me to be strapped to a table, surrounded by strangers, and have my baby surgically removed into a biohazard bag so that I was never able to hold him. For a whole week my husband and I tucked our children into bed and prayed that I would give birth that night so we could have the peaceful experience and closure we so desperately wanted, but it never came. Tears spilled down her cheeks and she said, "It breaks my heart to hear you say that your body couldn't give birth. It could! Your body was working so perfectly that it was POSITIVE that it was growing a baby. It was refusing to give birth because it knew it wasn't time. It knew it was supposed to be growing a baby and its baby was far too small to be safely born. Your body was working perfectly!" Every bit of intense anger and borderline hatred I had for my body's failings melted away with her passionate, comforting words. That made sense to me. Far more sense than the confused mess I'd been inside, hating my body for failing me in so many ways.
   Then came the dreaded moment when she informed me that the pathology on the baby's body was back, and it was there on her screen. She asked if I wanted to know the results. I don't know. Maybe. Yes. Yes, I needed to know. She studied the screen for a moment then said, "I can tell you from looking at all this information that he was 100% perfectly whole and healthy." So if my baby was healthy, then why did he die? If it wasn't my baby then it was me. My body didn't let him grow. My body killed him. She promised that wasn't the case, but that was all my head could think.
   If it's not you, it's me. Something about us didn't work, and the science says you're alright. So it's me. So now I wrestle with this. With the reality that my baby was healthy. With the reality that it was me. So I'm taking it one day at a time. I'm praying to God for strength. I'm letting myself feel. I'm getting help for the PTSS my midwife believes my brain has developed to try and cope with all of this. And I'm taking it one second, one minute, one hour, one day at a time.

Do you think you can make it through the next ten seconds?

I think so.

Good.

Is it over?
Almost. And then you can start on the next ten seconds. You're going to be okay.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Creative Catch-Up

   I always have the best plans. THE best. Rarely, though, do they come so fruition. Instead they stay in the 'plans and ideas' category and make me feel disappointed I never accomplished them.
   For example: In February we had a "HUGE SNOW STORM" for this area of the country. For the area of the country where I lived my entire life until 2013, it was nothing, but for here it was Earth-shattering and brought the region to a standstill. In our housebound-ness I started sewing. I took meticulous pics, prepared for a DIY tutorial, and then.... nothing. After the Snowpocalypse ended life got too busy, pictures sat stagnant in a file, then none of it was relevant anymore. I made two dresses, a travel carrying case for my essential oils, jeans, skirts, and 3 dozen cloth wipes and hankies. But alas, they never made it here. The best laid plans...
   So what have I been up to? Moving. Gardening. Child-raising. Puppy-training. Struggling to get by emotionally. Besides that? A little knitting. A Little Nutbrown Hare hat- precious pattern, by the way. Well worth the details, and the author is just as adorable, sweet, and helpful if you have questions.

Now I'm working on Sugar Crystals, a knitted pattern I'm testing for a designer, using sport weight yarn(I chose KnitPicks Shine Sport in "Robot") and some lovely lacework in panels down the front sides on either side of the buttons bands and down the center of the back. This one is a size 9/10 for my oldest, hopefully replacing her size 8 classic grey Gymboree cardi that I bought last summer and she has almost outgrown. 

Unblocked lace down the back of the tester
   Truth be told, I shouldn't have signed up for this tester because I really don't have the time, but I wanted so badly to pour my heart into something for one of my babies, and I can usually find a snippet of a day here and there to get some work done. It's precious time when I typically have a child or a pup snuggled up to me while I try to knit, but it's good. My heart still hurts most days, and my mind struggles when it's not focused or sleeping. I bought enough of the same yarn to do one for my second daughter, if I dare, once this is finished. We'll see if THAT stays in the 'plans' bin, too.

Morning attempt at knitting with a four-year-old tucked in my wing

As for sewing? It's been a while. I had plans to sew my girls Easter dresses from fabric I bought LAST YEAR for the same purpose, but two years in a row now it has not happened. Shall this become a running joke? I sure hope not! Up next for the machines: Kids Clothes Week! Once every season the ladies at KCW challenge home sewers to spend one hour each day for that week sewing for their own kids. This season is fast approaching: April 20-26. The theme is Wild Things, meaning all things animal. I am so excited. I can do so much with this for all of my kids. Now I just need to plan. Because I need to do some stash-busting, I see appliques of all kinds on my future.