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 Heaven...it 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. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Balancing Act

I, along with seemingly half the people on my Instragram feed these days, just started reading Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love. The first night I got the book I did something that I haven’t done in I can’t tell you how long. I got in a nice, hot bath and started to read. This actually is a something I find to be better in theory than in practice. I enjoy baths and I love to read, but it unnerves me to get wet fingerprints on my books and then I have to keep adding hot water and my top half is always a little too cold, so I end up reading a couple of pages before jumping out into the comfort of my sweatpants, but I digress.

Anyway, I managed to shiver through a few pages that really hit home about balance. Hatmaker uses an analogy of a balance beam, which anyone who knows me knows is not really something I can relate to…I can barely keep my balance on land…but her point is that it is really, really important for us to find what is crucial to our lives and get rid of the rest. 
That’s something that I have been having trouble with lately (always).

I’ve mentioned before that I am a little bit (a lot) impulsive. Its a part of my personality that I really do love. I love the fact that I think everything sounds like fun, that I truly believe everything is going to be great etc. etc. It is also a part of my personality that can bring me a lot of unnecessary stress. For instance. In the last 6 months, I signed up for a second “side gig” (read: job), a half marathon, and several freelance writing gigs…on top of my full-time job, kids, husband, house etc. So in between flooding rains, stomach bugs, ear infections, flashbacks to five years ago when we lost Rip, and doing all of aforementioned “normal” things, I was also attempting a sales job, fitting in 10 mile runs, and writing about this and that. 
No surprise I ended up feeling like I was failing at all of it.

What stays on my balance beam? What goes?

 I had to say goodbye to the side gig, and maybe next year to the half marathon. Then, in true Anne fashion, I immediately started to think about all of the things I could add.

I need to see my friends more. And I need to exercise. And I need more faith activities. So, I could call this friend about a Bible Study, and this friend about yoga, and I really love to write so maybe I add more…

And then that train of thought just stopped dead. Most likely it was God beating His head against some celestial body. Probably like, “ANNE! Dear. Sweet. Anne. For the love of Me. Can we just…not? For this season, anyway. Let’s. NOT.”

Which is fair.

While this is, to say the least, a bittersweet time of year, it is also such a special time to have kids. Gracie is about to bust she is so excited about Halloween and Christmas (not to mention her birthday). Sam is learning so much every day, his little personality is just starting to peek through. What would happen if I really took the next few months and just-stopped. If I just enjoyed them, as they came. What if I had impromptu drinks with friends instead of planning things way in advance? What if I kept reading good, faith-inspiring books? What if I took the kids on long walks in the sunshine (and ok, maybe threw in some 8 minute abs for good measure)? What if I treated myself every now and then- or just cut myself a break?
Listen, this isn’t going to be a permanent change, I know that. Hopefully, by the ripe old age of 30 -something we have all realized we are who we are. Since I had this epiphany two nights ago I have almost signed up for a gym membership and considered writing a book. This ain’t gonna be easy, friends-its a balancing act, to say the least. But you know, shaky baby steps across the beam are okay. 

And, if you see me in your jazzercise class before January 1st, please just escort me to the door.