Friday, May 13, 2016

Red Plate Special

You may or may not have seen the plate…its red and has the words “You are special today” around the edge. It was a big deal in my house growing up, handed out only on birthdays or other noteworthy occasions. It was thrilling to reach the dinner table and find yourself deemed worthy.

Last weekend Gracie and I traveled to my parent’s house to watch my baby sister graduate from college. I won't even get into how old this makes me feel. I was luxuriating for a few extra minutes in bed (I should have known) when I heard Gracie screaming from downstairs. What I heard her screaming was “I. AM. SPECIAL!!!!!!” 

Evidently, she was having a class 5 brat attack because she found out that my sister the graduate would be receiving the red plate that day. In true fashion my dad was reassuring her that yes, she was special, while my mom was telling her in an “ain’t nobody go time for this” tone that it just wasn’t her day. I decided on the middle of the road approach and took her little rear end outside to explain that while she was, in fact, special so was everyone else. And it was not a red plate special kind of day for her.

I was pretty horrified by her behavior but the more I thought about it…I think I may act that way myself sometimes. Maybe I don’t throw myself on the ground and scream, but I do expect special treatment. As many times as I say I don’t want to be “that girl”, I, mostly subconsciously, expect people to treat me with white gloves because my child died. Five years ago. 

Don’t get me wrong- I will always grieve Rip. And I will die trying to make a wonderful, positive legacy for him. But wanting someone to know about him so they will treat me with a “you poor dear” reaction is doing neither of those things. I find myself thinking that the world owes me because I have suffered the very most of anyone ever. Which of course of I haven’t. Not by a long shot.

Yes, losing a child makes me “special”…but everyone has something (or things) that make them horribly, awfully special. I know people who have battled infertility, lost one or both parents, faced impossible situations with their living children…lost children. Sometimes more than one of these things. 

I was given an impossible amount of love and comfort when I needed it most. The one thing good thing I can take from grief is the ability to help others through theirs, not drag them into mine, but to truly take what I have learned and make their journey easier.

I pray daily for my children not to encounter the darker things life has to offer, but at the end of the day, I can’t protect them from everything. What I hope to teach them is that no matter what life has in store for them, good or bad (and Lord, let it be mostly good)…everyone is special. I hope I can teach by example so that they learn its not always about them. And when your day is done, always be willing to pass the red plate.

Monday, April 11, 2016


One minute you are driving down the road on a beautiful sunny morning turning up Ophelia on the radio, and the next thing you know you are crying huge, gut-wrenching sobs and pounding on your steering wheel.
You are having flashbacks and in between the sobs you are mouthing the words “I want my baby back” over and over again. You are speaking directly to God.
And even while you are doing these things you know that ten minutes from now you will walk into your office and smile at everyone, ask about their weekends and sit down at your desk.
This is all at once comforting and awful, the control you have over your grief.
It has been months, maybe even a year since it has bubbled over like this.
Again, comforting and awful.
Over five years later, that’s grief.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Time Marches On

 My baby boy is growing up. I saw a quote the other day that said motherhood is being torn between wanting to keep your babies little and being excited to see who they will become. And that is so true.

Sometimes, when Sam falls asleep on top of me and stirs around, I am imagine what it was like when he was still in my stomach…I know, creepy weirdo stalker mom. But I really did love it when he was in there. And I really loved it when he was a tiny baby. All the extremes I felt with Gracie (love and fear, mainly) finally settled down with Sam and I’ve been able to relax when I hadn’t before.

So, its bittersweet saying goodbye to those baby stages.

But, also, hilarious.

This toddler boy of mine is a funny dude. 

His favorite word, “NO”, is pronounced “NAW”

NAW MAMA, NAW DADA, NAW DAH (Dog), NAW GECE (Gracie), and after a recent premature viewing of Jim Carey’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, NAW NINCH!!!!

He has a sweet little voice though, and is always looking for family members not in the same room with him. It makes my heart happy to hear his fat little feet padding down the hallway calling “Whea Mama?” Whea Mama?”

I recently took both kids to see the Weeki Wachee Mermaids at our local aquarium. I took Gracie two years ago and she is still talking about it, so I knew she would be on board but I didn’t expect Sam’s reaction. He was OBSESSED. This has been over a week now and we are still constantly badgered with “Whea muh-may?” And “Awwwww” when told said muh-mays have gone back from whence they came.

I love watching Sam and Gracie together. Don’t get me wrong, this relationship has its ups and downs- like major peaks and valleys- and much to my surprise, Gracie is by far the sweeter sibling. She is constantly kissing Sam and telling him he is “cutie boy”. There is hitting, pinching, and biting and Sam is the main culprit.  I did, however, hear yells last night and Gracie came running in to tell me she had accidentally pushed Sam down. Pause. And accidentally kicked him afterwards.

Overall though, they are at an age now where they play together and watching Sam copy Gracie’s every move has been one of the greatest pleasures of watching him grow. Do I wish she hadn’t taught him to spit out his drink at the water fountain? Yes. Other than that, pleasure.

I told someone the other day that I could eat Sam with a spoon, which is probably a braggy thing to say about your own child but I worked hard for this kid and its true. I find him to be the most adorable, snuggliest baby in the world. Even when he throws a tantrum (on the reg these days) and lashes out at anyone with arm’s reach, I am completely melted by his little “towwy” and smacking wet kiss that is very quick to follow. His smiley little eyes and solid, sweet smelling body are some of the greatest joys of my life. So yeah, its hard to watch this baby grow. Yes, I may cram my full-grown toddler into fetal position and give myself over to delusional fantasies every now and again. But overall, I am just very thankful for every day with my Sammy boy.

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.