Thursday, January 28, 2016

Put that elf back on the shelf

Before I begin this not so serious post, I'd like to very seriously thank everyone who took the time to remember Rip in November. The hundred of emails, texts, Instagram and Facebook posts meant the world to my whole family.  A million times-thank you.

We all know that parenting is hard. These little people we love with our whole hearts challenge us in every way, but usually, at the end of the day we can sit back and be proud of our efforts. December 16, 2015 was not one of those days.

It started out innocently enough. The kids had "pajama" day at school. I'd happened to find what I thought at the time were the most adorable matching elf pjs in all the world- you probably saw them too- at Target. Glorious green striped get-ups for the whole family-even the dog. Unfortunately, I never found any for Parke and me, but I digress.

Anyway, pajama day was a hit and when I picked up my little elves that afternoon they were still adorable, albeit slightly bedraggled. Our good friends and neighbors asked if we would like to stroll to the park and the kids were ecstatic. The older of their two boys is Gracie's best boy friend and she ADORES him, so she was thrilled to have the chance to spend time with him. When she asked if she and Sam could wear their pajamas I thought, why not?

Here is where I will say- I love where we live. Love, love love it. But. Sometimes, it can be a little judgey. As in, "wear your Lululemon and your kids best be in smocked clothing and a bow at the park" judgey. But on this day I decided I just didn't care. I didn't care what other mothers thought because I was going to let my kids be kids and I would show them all what a "fun mom" looked like. Ha. Hahahahaha.

So we get to the park and while I saw a few sideways glances at my elfin lot for the most part we are having a good old time. My friend and I were chatting while simultaneously pushing the older kids and trying to keep the younger kids from eating dirt, par for the park course. I'm not sure what even happened next, some sort of scuffle over a ball I think?, but before I knew it the older two were in a full on knock-down-drag-out. Again, par for the course with three-year-olds.

My friend separated the two and took away the toy, took her child aside for the usual "talking to" and I started to do the same.

Before I tell you what happened next, friends, I want you to remember both of my children are in little green elf pajamas.

So, for some unknown reason, Gracie decided instead of being punished on that day, she was simply going to run from me. Repeatedly. I tried calmly saying her name. I tried smiling serenely while walking after her. I tried using all three of her names in a very stern voice. It wasn't until she took off toward the road that all semblance of a controlled mother fell away and I raced (with a jostling jolly Sammy on my hip) and full on tackled her by the little park bathroom.

"OUCHIEEEEEEEE!!!!!" Her shrieks could be heard ten miles away, at least. "YOU ARE HURTING ME!!!!!!!!!!"

In an even more unfortunate turn of events, every mother there that day had only one child under the age of 18 months. And I'm sorry, if you have one child under the age of 18 months, even if you know better and know that your time will likely come, you secretly judge mothers with misbehaving children. I mean, you will one day have a child who will melt down in Old Navy. You will. But for now, you are smug in your child's perfection.

"Listen", I hissed, "if you do not straighten up right. this. second. we are leaving this park."

At which point she took off again- thankfully toward the stroller this time.

So that is how I found myself wrestling a screaming and writhing elf and her now not-so-jolly brother into a stroller and attempting to walk/run the mile home.

To (sort of) quote Will Ferrell, she was an angry elf. She was completely beside herself. I had once hand on her the whole way home while she fought me, screaming at top decibel. I watched each passersby either pretend not to notice or stop to enjoy the show. Poor Sam just looked up every once in a while and made little sounds of distress.

Sweating profusely and words I'd forgotten I knew streaming through my head, a little thought bubbled through that almost sent me into hysterical laughter..."For this child I prayed".

I remember talking to someone before I had kids, and telling them I was worried I wouldn't be a good mom. It was an older, more seasoned mother- and she told me the most important thing you can do is love your child.

Now, had I known at the time that love could look like dragging a tiny demonic elf home from the playground, I might have thought twice. But I wouldn't have. I remember so vividly getting on my knees and praying for a child, telling God I would gladly take the good with the bad just as long as I had a child in my arms.

And now I had two. I would be lying if I said I was thankful right that very moment. But later I did have to laugh. I would pay good money for a video of the whole thing.

Once we finally got home, the now filthy and cried out elf was sent straight to her room while the pudgy confused elf was given cuddles for his trauma.

About ten minutes later I heard a soft, "Mama" behind me. It was the gremlin herself. "I am berry sorry I was bad at the park."

We talked for a while and agreed that sort of behavior was unacceptable and never to be repeated. After a while she shuffled away so I could start dinner, but turned back.

"Mama, can we play after school tomorrow?"


"But not at the park?"

"Not tomorrow, no"

"And not in my elf outfit."

"No. Not in your elf outfit."

That elf is going to be staying on the shelf. Forever.
Happier Times

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Still Remembering

This morning the first thing I did when I woke up was to take a "Color Test" on Facebook (as you do).  It said I was an Idealist- someone who always seeks beauty, hope and good. And that just about sums me up. I've realized recently that I am raising a daughter with these very same qualities.

I'd thought that maybe I wouldn't do a "Remembering Rip" post this year-but I think maybe I will just one more time. The very same daughter has been asking questions lately that are hard to answer, and my first instinct-as I imagine is most parent's-is to protect. I want to protect that idealistic mindset of hers for as long as I can, because it has been my saving grace. It is that idealist spirit that makes it easier to discuss her big brother and sing Happy Birthday up to Heaven.

The reason why we have to sing to heaven is one even I don't totally understand- but to show this daughter of mine all of the good things people are doing because of Rip-it helps.

So, selfishly and just once more, I ask for you to remember our boy tomorrow, November 18th, so we can continue to see beauty, hope and good.

***Original post from 2014***

Rip passed away four years ago this Tuesday- on November 18th, 2010.

I never know what to do with this day. His birthday is always harder on me, emotionally, but at least there is a purpose to a birthday. Even if the person is no longer living, you can still celebrate the day they were born. This year, Gracie and I made "birthday cakes" in her bathtub and sang "Happy Birthday" up to was her idea and I think it was pretty perfect.

But what do you do with the day someone, especially a child, dies? I've beat myself up in the past for not being the type of person who organizes a race in his name, or starts a fundraiser in his memory. A thought occurred to me this year that maybe it didn't have to be that hard.

I've said often that despite the circumstances, Rip is and always will be A Good Thing in our lives. So this year, on Tuesday, November 18th, I'd ask that you do something good for a child in his name.

It can be anything. If you want to make a monetary donation, I'd highly suggest donating to your local NICU or PICU...the people who work in those units, particularly the nurses, are truly angels on earth. They are saving the smallest, most precious lives. Of course, there are a million other worthy children's charities, especially this time of year, all of which are doing great things for those who can't.

But I know how busy we all are...and its the holidays so most of us are pretty broke, too. The good things I am asking for can be as simple as letting your child stay up that thirty extra minutes to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and taking the time to smell their sweet heads while they do it. Its doing something small and good that will bring joy to these amazing little creatures who have been entrusted to our care.

November 18th will never be a good day in our family's history, but it can certainly be a day in which good things happen. If even one child is given an extra smile that day in Rip's name, then his life is still a very Good Thing.

Thank you so much.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Gracie has been asking questions about Heaven lately. She wants to know what it will be like, what it will look like. I tell her is that Heaven is a perfect place, where everyone is happy and nobody is hurting or sick, that Heaven is place of love.

The day after Rip was born, he as able to start breathing “room air” which is a really big deal in the NICU. For the parents, its the first time you are able to really see your baby’s face. The evening after Rip started breathing on his own, Parke wheeled me down to the level II nursery and left me there for a while. I spent at least two hours holding our son.

I had on a black and white robe that I wrapped around him, and he nestled down into it and me. His little fuzzy head felt like the softest feathers against my face. For those two hours,everything else in the world melted away. I snapped a picture and sent it to my parents. The caption read, simply, “Heaven”.

I don’t know what Heaven looks like. I don’t know what our bodies look like when we get there. But I hope and pray, somehow, when I get there that I will have this moment back- that I will get to have this feeling with this boy again.

Happy 5th Birthday, Rip Harris. You will forever be my idea of Heaven

Friday, November 6, 2015

For the Others

I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be.

I came across this article last night and thought it was one of the better I’ve read about child loss in a while:

This time of year has me thinking about the subject more than others, which is as to be expected I guess. At times I get vibes from some (whether real or imagined) that they feel I am being a little too precious with this time of year or something I’ve said or done concerning Rip. I realize that it has been five years. And I’ll be honest, sometimes I wonder myself- Rip was only “here” one full week- do I deserve to be a real, full card carrying member of this awful little club? Is it time to “move on”? And then I see pictures of my friends with their beautiful newborn babies. I realize how those first moments we lay eyes on our children-heck, the first moments we see two lines on a pregnancy test- transform us. How having those moments…and then not having them…it changes you. Forever.

I celebrate Rip’s life on this birthday and I try to create something good out of the day he died, and I have a really wonderful life, but those two days are hard. 

While of course our family will always love and grieve for Rip, there will likely come a time when I do not do it quite so publicly. Regardless of what I choose to share as the years pass, I am both heartbroken for and profoundly grateful to those I am sharing this journey with.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

New Normal...or Not

I’ve seen a lot of press lately about postpartum depression and anxiety. Thank goodness. It amazes me that there is still so much stigma around such an important issue, that babies (and mamas) are literally dying because of it-and yet I understand completely because when I went through it my biggest fear was that someone would find out. 

After we lost Rip, everyone asked me if I was depressed all of the time. Doctors, nurses, my parents, friends- and the answer was yes, but understandably so. Under all of that overwhelming grief, I somehow sensed that this was a situational depression, “normal” in the most abnormal of circumstances. I was feeling everything you would expect to feel after the loss of your child and as awful as it was I needed to feel it. Grief is different for everyone and for me, at that time, medication just seemed to make things worse. This pain was necessary, something I had to endure to make it through to the other side.

It was different after Gracie was born. Here I was in this amazing, joyful time. The answer to all of my prayers had arrived. I could finally relax…except I couldn’t. Not in a normal, new parent way. Not in a newly sleep-deprived, what in the heck happened to my life way. Not even in a parent who lost a child way. In a something isn’t right, anxiety-ridden way. In an obsessive-compulsive way. 

It took me weeks to leave Gracie's side, and by leave her side I mean walk out onto the driveway with Parke while my mother-in-law stayed with the baby in our house. If someone spilled something, if something was messy, my heart raced until it was clean again. I showered twice a day. I worried obsessively about Gracie’s safety, about falling down the stairs with her or burning her when I opened the oven. I worried if someone knew about these worries they would come and take her from me. Somewhere deep inside I knew this couldn’t be normal, but I was supposed to be normal now…finally normal…and I was too ashamed for anyone to know otherwise. I’d put everyone through too much already. All of this started to fade after about a month, and was completely gone around two or two and a half months. Only after it was over did I realize how bad it had been, how afraid and irrational I’d been.

When I saw my doctor several weeks after it was all over, she asked me what I thought of those first few months. She asked it in a, “wasn’t is amazing” kind of way. I told her I thought I could have really benefited from some medication. It wasn’t the answer she was expecting, because at the time I’d told her we were doing great! We were so in love! So happy! And that was true…but I was also in need of help. She couldn’t have known that. Nobody could have..but I think maybe if people were talking about postpartum anxiety and depression then as they are now, even four years ago, I would have felt better about opening up when I needed to.

Except for that doctor’s appointment, this is pretty much the only time I’ve ever admitted to feeling that way. I never wanted it to sound like I was anything less than extremely grateful and in love with my baby girl. Now I see how silly that sounds- the only way I could have loved her more was to have taken better care of myself when I needed it. 

For the record, I had no symptoms of postpartum anxiety with Sam. Poor soul has been dragged to Target from week one. Gracie may never forgive me for those months of missed shopping opportunities. In all seriousness, though, my point is that my experiences only go to show how unpredictable this can be. So thank goodness for the brave mamas out there telling their stories and helping others get the help they need. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Short Hair, She Does Care

After age three got off to an…interesting…start, our girl is finishing it off with a bang. This child keeps me biting the insides of my cheeks daily as she informs me I am “NOT opposed to be laughing at her!”

Easier said than done, though, as she comes up with some real gems.

Car rides are always entertaining:
G-“Mama, I wish Sammy was still a tiny baby”
Me-“Well, sometimes I do, too, but he is fun now isn’t he?”
G-“This is so disappointing”

Me-“Sammy, say MA-MA”
Sammy-“Goo gaa, spit, blurb, goo”
G- “Mama, he CAN’T right now. He’s doing some very IMPORTANT things back here.”

Bath time is equally so:
G-“Mama, can you wash off my baby doll?”
I do, as bubbles come flying out of said baby’s nether regions
G-“Well. I didn’t see THAT coming!”

Deep conversations tend to take unexpected turns:
G-“Mama, how does God have powers?”
Me- (slightly panicked) “Well, God is all-powerul and he created us all…”
G-“Why did he create us?”
Me-“Because he loves us so much, blah blah more words more words”
G-“Well, I wish he’d created me with long hair”

And then sometimes they don’t.
G-“Mama, why do you go to Heaven?”
Me-“Well, that is where you go when your body can’t live here anymore... but you don’t have to worry about that right now”
G- “When you are old?”
Me-“Yes, when you are old”
G-“Is Baby Rip in Heaven?”
G-“What if God wants me to go to Heaven?”
Me-“He doesn’t, baby, not yet. He wants you right here with me.”

Through laughter and tears (and yes, the occasional toddler meltdown that still rears its ugly head) I never forget how this child is the answer to the most gut-wrenching, sincere prayers I’ve ever prayed in my life. She’s the Christmas present that keeps on giving and I love every (much to her dismay, short) hair on her little head.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

My Everything Just Right

Sometimes when I put Sam to bed at night, I am overcome with a rush of gratitude so huge all I can do is sit there and kiss his little hairy head over and over again. This child. He fit me perfectly from the very first.

Don’t get me wrong, my “sweet Sam” has started to show himself these days,making his presence known when things don’t go his way. We all have the bite (and pinch) marks to prove it. He enjoys tormenting his sister (who is really very sweet to him…most of the time) and will do something he knows he is not supposed to do looking you dead in the eye all the while. Bad. But all is quickly forgiven after appropriate reprimands are given, and the snaggle-toothed grin is still an almost permanent fixture on his chubby little face.

Yes! We have rolls! After his first year of being in the 5th percentile of nearly everything, baby boy discovered wonderful things like pizza, chicken, rice, peas, yogurt, anything in squeeze form, mashed potatoes…basically food. He likes food. A lot. While his sister picks and prods at her dinner, Sam plows through his and signs for more. I swear our grocery bill went up by half when the child started eating solids.

Also in recent developments (like, the past week or so), he speaks. Words include: bye-bye, mama, dada, stop, hot, all done, rock rock, woof woof, and uh-oh. You would likely not be able to decipher any of these words but I am his mother and I am telling you, this is what he is saying. Boy genius. Additionally, in our wheelhouse is shaking our head “no”. Frequently.

Sam is still a Mama’s boy. He loves to cuddle and generally finds the best time for a cuddle to be when I am unloading the dishwasher, getting dressed, or trying to shower. One look at that little face and stretched out palms and I am toast. 
Sammy is an easy laugher, loves a good game of peek-a-boo (who doesn’t?), and books. He is ticklish all over and I believe has had four bloody lips in the past two weeks (I don’t think Gracie has ever had one).

I adore my rough and tumble lover of a baby boy. He is sweetness and light, and my everything just right.