Saturday, November 18, 2017

Go After It

Today marks seven years since Rip left this earth.

He was alive for seven days- people often make a big fuss over how God could have created the universe in seven days, but I can certainly see how whole worlds can be created in just such a time.

In 2010, I could not have imagined making it through seven minutes, much less seven years, but here we are.

Earlier this year, Gracie attended a vacation bible school where the motto was, "Do Good, Seek Peace, and Go After It".

That little phrase stuck to my heart as exactly what I've been trying to do since Rip died. My life is spent trying to be a better person, to seek out the good, in his name.

In the last couple of weeks I've seen a challenge on social media, asking people to display seven photos that represent their life. I've said time and again that our life- which is a very good life- is what it is because of Rip Harris. We would not have Gracie and Sam without him, Parke and I would not be nearly as kind to one another without him and I would not have learned to be brave without him. He changed us in all the ways we could be changed.

So here are seven pictures of our life today, seven years later.

Do Good. Seek Peace. Go After It.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

I Will Carry You

Dear Rip,

When I think of you, I think of fried chicken...and sweet tea...and Grey's Anatomy. While we existed in our little cocoon of hospital life for the most part it was just you and me, Bubba. And while that time was certainly stressful, it was also very sweet. And maybe a little unhealthy. But you were safe in my belly, Meredith Grey provided an escape from our worries and quite frankly that hospital could give the Colonel a run for his money in the chicken and tea department.

It was a little shocking then, once you were on the outside and I watched them wheel you away. Something that had literally been a part of me for all of those weeks now seemed a little bit...other. That feeling of otherness immediately washed away the minute I held you in my arms. You were once again so totally mine and a feeling came over me, as I've described before, as simply "Heaven".

When you had to leave me again, I fought so hard against the "otherness". It was the hardest thing I've ever been through, not to have you here with me. But somehow, over the seven years (seven!!!) little boy, you are with me again. There is not one thing- not one- that I do you are not a part of. Not a decision I make as a mother, as a wife, as a person who tries to leave the world a better place. That is all because I carry you inside of me. Just as I did all of those months and weeks seven years ago.

Over time I've come to realize - I will always, always carry you Rip Harris. No matter where you are.

Happy Birthday- I hope there is plenty of fried chicken and sweet tea (you are still too young for Grey's Anatomy).

Your Mama

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Plan

Dear Gracie,

Last night, while I was giving you a bath, you asked me in a very small voice what I thought you would be doing on your first day of kindergarten.

Your question took me a little bit by surprise, because all day you'd been SO EXCITED about starting your new school. Bouncing around the room while meeting your teacher, not holding my hand as we walked in the are so brave.

But we are very alike in this way- the unknown is very hard, isn't it baby girl? We like a plan. We like to know what we are doing in each minute of each day until someone picks us up at 2:20 pm and then we like to plan what we will have for a snack. Because, eating is something else we like to do.

And while I can, and did to the best of my abilities, fill in the gaps of what you will face on your first day of kindergarten the truth is that I don't know. And that can be a little bit scary. For mamas and for little girls.

Here is what I do know-I've been in lots of new situations and despite all of my best efforts sometimes they didn't go exactly as I planned. But you know what? They turned out okay.

For example, a teeny secret I will tell you only because you do not officially know how to read yet...Mama doesn't really know what she is doing all of the time with you and your brother. I don't always have a plan. But with a whole lot of love and a whole lot of Jesus (and your Daddy, he helps) we seem to be doing okay.

So that's the best plan I can give you for this year. Lots of love (for everyone- there is plenty to go around), lots of Jesus, and your mama and daddy.

The rest is a little unknown and that's okay. Except that someone will be there to pick you up at 2:20 and then we will have a snack. That I do know.

You are the best little girl in the world and you always will be.

Your Mama.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Sound of Sunshine, Part II

Gracie starts kindergarten next week. I'm fine with it...really, I am. No, I mean really I was fine with it  until this morning when I dropped her off for the next to last day at Pre-K.

I got in the car and of course the song, "Sound of Sunshine",  came on- the song that basically carried me through my pregnancy with this child who is somehow now GOING TO KINDERGARTEN!

I allowed myself a few nostalgic tears and then thought back to the beginning of this blog. I remembered titling a blog post "Sound of Sunshine", so I got curious and looked it up. You can find it below.

Its easy to forget to have faith sometimes- especially for someone like me who doesn't like change (this is the understatement of the century). Its nice to have a reminder.



After Rip passed away, one of my first thoughts was how much I wanted to have children.  Sometime in those first grief-stricken weeks I circled a date on the calendar, April 21, 2011.  It was the 111th day of the year and, as you know, the number 11 is special to me because it reminds me of Rip.  I decided that was the day I would be pregnant again... and yes, I may have been slightly drugged at the time.

April 21st rolled around and I took a pregnancy was negative.  An emotional day got even worse when I heard a song on the radio that reminded me of Rip.  It's kind of a cheesy Michael Franti song, but there is a line in it..."here i am, waiting for this storm to pass my by and that's the sound of sunshine coming down" that I hung on to during Rip's pregnancy.  Now it just seemed like another kick while I was down.

But then, the whole "sound of sunshine coming down" part started to stick in my head.  I came home, looked at Parke, and said "I am going to get another pregnancy test" (ever the practical one, he said, "great, grab me a Snickers").

This time a positive line started to show...and then disappeared.  I was devastated.

I felt like I literally could not take one more minute of this, it was the lowest I have felt since we lost Rip.  Not knowing what else to do, I got on my knees and prayed. I kid you not when I say a rainbow appeared shortly after I stood up.

The next day I received another positive test...this one stuck.  I am now almost 11 weeks pregnant.  To say that I am happy about it would be an understatement.

And yet...I am so scared.

Even though I truly believe this baby is a miracle, a God-given blessing, I am afraid.

So I very selfishly ask for your prayers.  Being Rip's mother has taught me so many things, not the least of which is the power of having others believe for you when you are not strong enough to do it yourself.

I am trying to enjoy every day, to be grateful every day for this little bit of "sunshine" who will be so loved by her (just guessing here...but "her" feels right) family and, I believe, has a very special angel guiding her way.
I am so thankful for my family, my friends and, most especially, my children.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

My Rainbow

You know how sometimes you have that feeling of dread, and you can't quite put your finger on what's causing it. I hate that. And I've been having it a lot lately.

Things have happened to people I know and love that aren't fair. There are children who have been hurt, some who have died. Don't even get me started on the news...

So my heart has been heavy, and anxious. And maybe this makes me not a very good Christian but when everything feel out of control like this, I need a reminder that God is in control.

Yesterday was full of passing (literal) storms to accompany the mental ones, so I tossed up a prayer, suggesting maybe my old pal the rainbow would be really helpful in times like these.

I stood outside for a while, ignoring passing neighbors wondering why the h I was standing out in the rain, waiting for my sign to appear. It didn't.

And because I am borderline obsessive, what started out as a little "Hey, God, it sure would be nice if..." now became a full-on mental/spiritual breakdown. I stood outside for an hour in the drizzle until finally shuffled in with nothing but the start of a migraine to show for it.

Wiping away my tears, I started cleaning the kid's artwork up while ushering them into the bath. As they ran away I picked up the picture Gracie drew for me- a very flattering depiction of the two of us, holding hands with " I LOVE YOU", written underneath.

On the back she'd drawn a huge rainbow.

This morning I told Gracie the whole story, how I'd been praying and asked God for a rainbow and she gleefully got to the punchline before I did, knowing she'd been the one to provide it.

Sammy, quickly closing in on my (insert sarcasm here) favorite age of the three is not pleased by much these days, and asked darkly, "Why'd Dod do dat?"

Gracie said, "Because Mama needed a rainbow."

Then she paused.

"But Mama...God is listening to you even if He doesn't show you a rainbow"

And I think maybe that right there was my rainbow.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Don't Add Water

There are times where I question my abilities as a mother. Bath time. Bath time is that time.

It starts with the moaning and whining about the act of actually getting IN the tub. My children bathe every night, and for the life of me I cannot understand why it is such a shock each time I ask them to follow me to the bathroom, but the howls of “Noooooooooo!!!” start immediately.

Five to ten minutes later, I’ve resorted to yelling, “Last one in is a rotten egg!”, knowing full well the rotten egg will be in full meltdown mode when he loses again.

Nonetheless the egg and his sister are at least now in the vicinity of the bathroom and clothes start coming off. Someone’s head has inevitably grown three sizes over the course of the day and a button scrape over the face results in another five minutes of over-the-top performance.

At last all bare buns are in the water. Until she, he, or both desperately need to go to the bathroom…despite repeated questioning of the same before entering the tub and only after full submersion has occurred.

Hair washing. Oooohhhhh hair washing. I remember calmly laying back in the bath while my parents washed the soap from my hair, and I’ve watched other friends unceremoniously dump water over their children to rid them of shampoo. Not my girl. All shampoo must be removed by handheld sprayer and if one DROP should enter the little snowflake’s eye vicinity there will be hell to pay.

“MAMA YOU GOT IT IN MY EYEEEESSSSSS!!!! UGHHHH!!! WHY DID YOU DO THAT???!!!” Screaming for all of the world like she is the queen herself and I just a lowly servant girl.

And I think hold the train sister. Had I talked to my parents like that, my sassy rear-end would have been whipped out of that bath so fast my head would spin.

And I know its 2017 and we are not, under any circumstances, supposed to spank our children but I also think- that child needs a spanking.

But then I think about that sassy fanny, and alllllll of the many hours I spent praying for said fanny and most of the time I try, in my imaginary friend- Calm, Reasonable Mama's- voice to tell her we don’t talk to our mother that way. Most of the time  even CR Mama's had enough and an appropriate punishment is doled out.

After the water torture is over, I look hopefully at the glass of wine and book I have brought with me. I am dumb, and an apparent slow-learner. By this point sometime has found a cup of old, cold water from some container or another and dumped it on the unsuspecting bath-goer. Lots of drama ensues.

“Time to get out!”


Five to ten minutes later I have wrestled two soaking wet, slippery seal-like creatures from the tub and attempted to dry them off. I am soaked. Someone slips on a puddle.

Turning to get their pajamas, both children take off running down the hall, little moons bouncing away from me at impressive speeds.

My husband, whose job it is at this time is to cook the dinner and who suddenly seems the wisest person in the world, shrugs as they bellow past and claims he cannot help because he has “meat on his hands”. I see no meat.

By the time I’ve reached them they’ve somehow turned on Pandora and are shaking booties and elbows to “Uptown Funk”. Hot damn indeed. 

Switching to more appropriate programming, Thing 1 gets in her princess panties and catcalls Thing 2 as I try to maneuver his Fred Flintstone through the openings of his Pull-up. I give up on pajamas all together.

Finished at last, I leave them to their ridiculousness and drag myself back to the bathroom in search of my wine and reading.

I barely hit the door before I hear, “Mama, you pway wif us?” or “Mama, will you come in the playroom with me?"

And of course I do, and will, and always will. Because, not unlike the movie Gremlins, once you get them out of the water they are pretty darn cute. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"Terrible" Two's

Two is hugs that involve all 30 lbs and smell faintly of strawberry yogurt, always

Two is “I lub you” and “sowwy”’s, freely given

Two is when “I” is “Me”…Me is your BIGGEST baby

Two is still falling asleep in the rocking chair every night, my lips pressed on his faintly sweaty forehead

Two is telling his sister, “It’s otay de-ah” when she gets hurt

Two is asking his teacher, “Miss Val, you lub me?” each day

Two is endless imagination, “You be a diber, Me be a tuh-tul and me is huwt”

Two is trying to eat five squeezable greek yogurts a day

Two is when everything is so ‘citing and we tan’t beliebe it!

Two is when he wants a Mickey Mouse party

Two is when he will do anything to make his sister laugh

Two is when he copies everything his daddy does

Two is when he still smells like baby sleep in the morning, and wants nothing more than to be held

Two is bottomless pit of snacks

Two is “watch me, Mama, watch me!”

Two is hair that sticks up in every direction, always

Two is stains on his shirt before we get out the front door, always

Two is soft cheeks and sweet lips

Two is still a baby

Two times two for me, and the only thing terrible about it is that it ends in three.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Just Don't Eat the Apples

Chick-fil-a has a fruit cup. Occasionally, when I am feeling particularly virtuous, I will get the fruit cup instead of the fries. I will eat everything in said fruit cup-oranges, blueberries, strawberries, red apples- until I get to the green apples. I hate green apples. And yet, every time I eat that darn Chick-fil-a fruit cup, I force my way through all of them, chewing with my mouth wide open so minimal tongue contact need occur. Barely allowing my teeth to scrape the bitter skin before forcing them down my throat.

I am a small person. I in no way shape or form need or want to lose weight. But I’ve had three children. And also, wine and cupcakes are my favorite. So, there is a tiny area around my stomach that is decidedly not my favorite. Its not going to go anywhere (unless I want to live a sad little life without wine and cupcakes, which I do not). I own only one dress in which this little stomach bump becomes the focus of all of my attention. Especially when I wear it with flats. I know this. Despite all the knowing, every few weeks I put on this dress with flats and inevitably spend the entire day prodding and ramming this very small bump and making ridiculous promises of a sugar-free diet. The next day I put on new clothes and eat the damn cupcake (or french fries).

Facebook makes me feel bad. Really all social media makes me feel bad. I have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), FOGS (Fear of Getting Sick), FOMKGS or FOMKD (Fear of My Kids Getting Sick or Dying), FOMHLB (Fear of My House Looking Bad) and just plain F. All of the F’s. I have them, from social media. Which is SO. Dumb. But I see some blogger girl that I don’t even know in her fabulous life doing fabulous things with her kids and I think, should I be doing those things with my kids? The answer is no, I shouldn’t. Because my kids are perfectly happy. Well, one of them is going through an unfortunate stage where she yells and writhes around on the floor like a dying spider when she doesn’t get her way, but other than that- very happy. And so am I. 

So here’s the thing. Note to self. Stop wearing the darn dress. Get off of social media- live in the real world. And for heaven’s sakes- just don’t eat the green apples.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Protect, not Project

Protect, not project. Its something I’ve been working on.

Last week, we walked in the Mach of Dimes Walk for Babies walk in honor of my cousin’s baby who was stillborn earlier this year. Its an event I’ve thought about doing in the past, and I was proud of her for having the strength to go through with it in honor of her son. 

The thing I was stuck on was whether or not to take the kids. Gracie, in particular, talks a lot abut Rip lately and I was worried explaining the reason for our walk to her might bring up questions I wasn’t prepared to answer. I was protecting her, see?

In the end, we decided to do the walk as I family. When I explained that the reason for the event was to raise money for babies who were born too early, Gracie said, “so babies like Baby Rip won’t have to go up to heaven? That’s good.” And she went back to playing.

Parking in the hospital garage, getting out of the car, walking to the event down the same streets where we walked to say goodbye to Rip (and later hello to Sam and Gracie), I was overcome with emotion. And wouldn’t you just know it, they were playing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes as we arrived. As I was saying prayers of thanks for my oversized sunglasses, my children happily played beside me. 

All of those questions I was so afraid of, the fear and sadness I brought to this event- that’s on me. Why did Rip die? Why do any babies have to die? Where are you, God, in this world these days? Those are questions I struggle with.

My kids, they don’t question. Rip is in Heaven. He is with God. We will do our best to help other big brothers to hang out with their families longer. Any fear or sadness in this day just did not occur to them. I know this kind of acceptance won’t last forever, but in the meantime I’ll try my best not to mask my projections and it protection.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rock, Rock

I guess rocking is one of those things that never ceases to be soothing, no matter how old you get.

Maybe it was for that reason that I spent a lot of time in a rocking chair after Rip died.

It was an old rocking chair of my great-grandmother’s that my parents had recovered while I was in the hospital, a bright apple green that went perfectly in the nursery that was not to be and yet still was. All those months after Rip and before the arrival of Gracie, I spent countless hours in that rocking chair- rocking my pain and wondering if there would ever be anything other than pain to rock. 

Praying and rocking and vivid apple green are things that flash to my mind when I think about this time in my life.

This weekend, I put Sam down and was on my way to do the same for Gracie, when I heard him calling out. Taking her with me, we all fell into the big rocker together and I felt the weight of their bodies as they drifted off to sleep.

Not everything in life wraps itself in a pretty little bow, and this story doesn’t either, but in that gentle back and forth motion with two chests rising and falling in time I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so thankful. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Oh, The Places You Will Go

Dear Gracie,

Ironically, this is very hard to put into words, but I’m going to try.

You are learning to read, baby girl. Its funny, because up until now I haven’t seen that spark in you- its been your brother who will bring book after book to me and beg for more. 

But as you start to sound out your words, and I see it click- first cat, then bat, then mat…allllll the rhyming words... your eyes lights up and sparkle. We are so much alike in that way. You want to be good at it, really good, before you let yourself love something. 

Let me tell you though- please don’t wait to fall in love with books.

Just go for it. Let me help you, you don’t have to be perfect at this.

I remember sitting with your great-great grandmother on her screened porch, drowsy with summer breeze and and Hawaiian Punch, and falling deep into the world of Ellen Tebbits.

To this day your Pop still thinks the word “fresh” is a good substitute for cool because Claudia Kishi said so when we were making our way through The Babysitter’s Club.

I always stand a little taller because I am Anne “with an e”, as girl with red hair once taught me. Much later, the girl with the red hair and I both grew up and lost someones we loved very much but didn’t lost our “e”-ness.

There was a great man who wrote about the place you live like nobody else. His name was Pat, and I got to meet him once. He taught me that words can also heal.

Gracie, the books you read will become part of who you are, they will take you places you need to go and bring you back when you move a little too far from where you want to be.

So sweet girl, as you tell me so often, put your finkin’ cap on. 

Keep going, and to quote another word lover, “Will you succeed? Yes! Yes you will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed)”


Your book-lovin’ Mama

Friday, January 20, 2017

Little Brown Coconut

I have not been as good at documenting Sam as I was Gracie, mainly because once there was a Sam there was also a Gracie and I didn't have time for much of anything.

That said, lately my baby boy is turning into a big boy and there are things I don't want to forget.

In between fighting like cats and dogs, my boy and my girl really do love each other and it makes my heart happy to see them play. Sam has called his sister "GC" since he could talk but just the other day he started calling her "Wacie" and hasn't turned back- despite my repeated urgings. The artist formerly know as GC finally told me I needed to let it go.

Other recent heartbreakers were when wawee turned into water and Bammy turned into Sammy. I get that a thirty-year-old asking to get in the wawee wouldn't be so cute, but why'd it have to go so fast?

This morning after breakfast as I cleared his plate,  I said, "Why thank you Sammy, it was a pleasure doing business with you. Please come back again some time!"
And he shook his little finger at me and moved his head and said," No, no Mama. You no say dat. You jus say tank you." And waltzed out of the room. Burned by a two-year-old.

Despite his cool exterior, Sammy-boy is still my cuddle bug. He is currently in a little Daddy stage (traitor) but will give full body hugs and big kisses on command.

Current loves are all things Thomas the Train, turtles, Moana, and trolls. He tries to mash his hair to look like a "Wholl" (aka stick straight up) and hollers "Mama you mess my wholl haiw upppp" if I have to touch it for any reason.

With his little silky bowl cut and big brown eyes, I could eat him with a spoon. However, he is not one for nicknames, and will be quick to correct you should you forget.

For instance, "Sammy, you are just a little brown coconut"

(Affonted) "ME not a yitta bloun totanut! ME Sammy Askell Awwis!!"

Sammy Haskell Harris, don't ever change, we could not love you more!