Living My Life & Finding The Words

life update

I click over to the back end of my blog at least once a week, sometimes more. I know it doesn’t look like it… the blog looks deserted and a little bit dusty. I’m still here, dear reader, living my life, trying to find peace and happiness in all the little things around me, and I have a deep down urge to tell you all about the good and the bad.

I just can’t seem to find the words anymore.

There are too many stories that are not mine to tell anymore, even though I am going through them too. If the blog were a bit more anonymous, then I would probably feel more able to share, but that ship sailed many years ago.

My blog has evolved a dozen or more times over the 15 years that I have been here, and most of those evolutions have involved a long period of quiet while I sorted out whatever was going on in my life. I like to think this is just one of those times, and I will be back.

I just have to figure out how to come back… what I have to offer.

I don’t want to alienate those who found me through the baby loss communities when I share stories and pictures of our rainbow baby, though that may be inevitable. I treasure each of you with whom I share a mutual loss. I am still one of you, but the wound is not as fresh as it once was, and that is partly due to the passage of time, and partly due to those whom I met when I was writing my way through my grief on this blog.

I have met many readers who identified with my struggles with my oldest daughter’s mental health issues. I am still there, and I am sorry to say that, if anything, those struggles are more intense than ever before, but I am not comfortable voicing those things to the internet at large anymore. My daughter is almost 15, so as much as I would sometimes like to be selfish and tell you all about how I feel about her issues… I won’t. She deserves her privacy.

While I’m still sorting out what I have to say, and how to go about saying it, I do continue to post pictures on Instagram (username: thedestinymanifest). Please do come by and say hi there!

 

Katie is One Years Old!

Our darling Katie is one years old today! At 10:55 in the morning one year ago, this precious rainbow baby entered our lives and changed them forever. She’s eased the pain of my greatest loss in a way that I didn’t think would ever be possible.

Katie is a funny and wonderful little piece of our hearts, and to use an overused cliche, she’s the light of our lives. She weighs 25 lbs and is 30″ long… 90th percentile, pretty much across the board. This makes me incredibly happy, especially because she had such a hard time gaining weight when she was younger, prompting the frenulectomy that released her very tight tongue tie.

 

Katie took her first steps this past Sunday, but she can walk easily and quickly when holding our hands. She crawls like the wind and speeds up when we chase after her. She laughs and it sounds like everything good in the world. She makes jokes and blows bubbles on our arms because it makes us laugh, which makes her laugh. She is happy, incarnate.

 

At one years old, Katie can say all of our names: Mama, Dada, Ay-a (Addah), and Laylay (Lakin). She knows our kitties are “Cat” (Miss Kitty Cat) and “At-at” (Atlas). She points and says “go” and “dat” (that). She loves to play Pat-A-Cake and turn her music box on and off. She mostly sleeps in her crib, side-car to my side of the bed, but always ends up cuddling up with me before the night is over. She eats just about everything we eat, but still thinks “bubu” (her word for nursing) is the best ever.

 

I won’t say it’s not incredibly hard sometimes, wondering what it would be like to have Katie’s big sister Clara running around, almost 3 years old now. I would absolutely love to watch my two youngest daughters playing together… building with blocks, splashing in the bathtub, arguing over who gets to play with which Little People. I envision how it could be (should be); sometimes it makes me smile, and sometimes it makes me very sad. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t wish it could be so, every single day.

 

If I’ve learned nothing else in the last 3 years, it’s to be grateful for every moment that we are granted with the ones we love and treasure, and I have tried to soak up each tiny second with this wonderful rainbow baby of ours. She is amazing.

Happy 1st Birthday, sweet Kate!

 

The Great Bedroom Swap… and Unschooling

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks in our home. It took us about 3 weeks of doggedly following our set Oak Meadow curriculum before we admitted that it’s really not us and started investigating the ideals behind unschooling. Now that’s a concept I can get behind… and we’ve learned a lot more since we’ve let go of the idea that we have to sit down and “do school” every day at the same time, and just let the days take us where it will. I know I’ve learned a lot about myself, and have done a lot of soul-searching about what our goals are, and the best way to meet those goals. I’ve had to let go of control… and I do like to be in control. I am finding that we’re all doing quite well without me calling every shot (shocker, I know), and I’m feeling calmer and more relaxed as I learn to trust the girls’ instincts and decisions.

The big girls each received a Kindle, as a kind of “now that we’re homeschooling” gift, and they’ve been reading even more than before. Our local library has a lot of e-books available to borrow, and we’ve gotten a ton of use from our free trial of Kindle Unlimited. I’m pretty sure we’ll keep that subscription – with something like 800,000 titles to borrow, it seems well worth $9.99/month.

We’ve been attending homeschool park days each week, and we’re all enjoying meeting new people and having somewhere to be outside of our usual errands and appointments.

Homeschool Unschool Park Days

Another big change we’ve made is our environment… the Great Bedroom Swap! There’s a bit of a back story here…

When we lived in our little basement apartment a few years ago, David and I slept in our living room so that the girls could share the single small bedroom. From there we moved in with friends in Texas, where we slept on separate sofas, then a hotel room, where we slept 3 feet from the girls. By the time we moved into our current apartment, we were thrilled to be able to take the larger of the two bedrooms. We set up our bed, admired all of the space we had, and finally felt like real grown-ups.

The thing is, the girls keep getting bigger, and older, as kids tend do… and they’ve outgrown their bedroom. They both have big, beautiful personalities, which don’t fit so well squeezed into a 10 x 12-foot space. Meanwhile, David and I hardly spend any time in our bedroom, preferring to hang out in the living room most of the time. I guess we just never got used to having that much space of our own, so it wasn’t that hard to give it up.

Well, emotionally and mentally, it wasn’t that hard to give up. Physically… man, it took forever. We had boxes in our closet that hadn’t been unpacked since we’d moved into this apartment almost three years ago. The girls had a huge collection of stuff in their closets — things that were probably very important when they were brought into the closet, but have since lost their sparkle and been pushed to a pile on the floor. It was a lot to go through and sort into piles of Trash, Donate, and Keep. 

There was a lot of stuff in the Donate pile. We’ve stocked at least a few entire shelves at our local Goodwill in the past three weeks.

In the end, both rooms look great and suit all of us better than they did before. David has been spending way too many nights on the couch in the past few months, as Katie has gotten bigger and taken up more of our bed. Katie’s crib is now pushed up against my side of the bed, so we’re still co-sleeping, but now I have a little more space to call my own at night, and David has happily rejoined me in our bed.

Addah wanted a loft bed for her side of their room, so she’s sleeping up high now, with her desk and bookshelves below. She’s created a cozy little nook for herself, complete with a divider curtain made from last year’s Halloween costume tutu, which allows her to stay up later than Lakin, who prefers an earlier bedtime.

Lakin chose a regular twin bed, which we built for her — our first hand-built project, and definitely worthy of its own blog post. Her bed will be painted a deep midnight blue and decorated with silver stars. She has a desk for her laptop, as well as a cozy nook of her own in the walk-in closet: a comfy pink chair and her trunk of her most special books and journals. 

Great Bedroom Swap

We’re all pretty happy with the changes we’ve made. Our little bedroom feels like more like “us” somehow, where the big bedroom always felt just a little too big. The girls are bickering less and laughing more, which does my heart so much good and makes me wish we’d done this from Day 1 in this apartment.

So, lots of changes… but good changes, important changes… changes that make us a stronger and happier family.

Homeschool: The World Is Our Classroom

Homeschool Books

When my older girls were very little, I planned to homeschool them, at least up through elementary school. I figured I’d put them into school in 6th or 7th grade, and they’d have “normal” middle and high school experiences. Well, as fate would have it, I was a newly single mom when it was time for Lakin to enter kindergarten, and I needed to go to work, so she went into public school, and Addah went into a Montessori preschool.

From there, I just assumed we’d stick with public school until the girls graduated and went on to college. As time has gone on though, more and more signs have pointed toward homeschool as a very viable option again. Lakin’s medical issues have made it clear that she does much better in a one-on-one educational setting, as opposed to a large classroom setting. When we started researching homeschool for Lakin, Addah became very interested and asked if I could homeschool her as well.

 “Sure,” I said, “why not?”

We’re fortunate to live in a state that makes life pretty easy for homeschooling families. In South Carolina, we are considered “third option” homeschoolers, which means that we’re signed up under a homeschool accountability group, we agree to teach the four main subjects of English, Math, Social Studies, and Science, students must attend 180 days of school, and we keep records to prove these things. Within just a few days of making the final decision to bring Addah home for school, we had her paperwork done, a curriculum ordered, and her withdrawn from school.

I wasn’t worried about my ability to teach her what she needs to know, especially given a curriculum to follow. My concern was for her music classes, as she had signed up for band this year to learn the flute. I can sing, and I can read music, but I cannot play the flute (or any other instrument, sadly). It turns out that she wasn’t enjoying the flute as much as she could have been, because she wasn’t meshing very well with the teacher. We agreed that we would seek out an extracurricular music class, and in the meantime, she continues to practice at home.

Deciding on a curriculum to use was a little daunting, to say the least. There are so many options, and it all depends on what kind of educational style you’re interested in. Waldorf, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, classical, unschooling… oh my! We finally settled on Oak Meadow, a progressive and experiential Waldorf-based homeschooling curriculum. I love that it’s flexible and encourages artistic expression. I love that it focuses on project-based learning. I love that it fosters great communication skills, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. I love that it’s all laid out for us, but in such a way that we can drive the lesson in a way that fits our needs. Really, I couldn’t be happier with Oak Meadow for our family.

We’re about 5 weeks into our homeschooling adventure right now, and I don’t know that we’ll ever look back at public school. Addah is thriving in her lessons and seems so much happier and relaxed than she did before. Lakin is still enrolled in her virtual charter school program for the moment, because it’s the best fit for her needs right now, but the plan is to homeschool her as well, once her current program ends.

Our most frequently asked question has been “what are you going to do about socialization?”. It turns out that there’s a whole network of families who homeschool tweens and teens in our area, and we’ve had to pick and choose events and activities, so as not to be over-scheduled. Addah’s getting more socialization now than she did when she was in public school.

I feel empowered, and I believe Addah does too, by taking her education into our own hands. We’ll keep reevaluating as time goes on, to make sure we’re meeting her needs and accomplishing our goals, but for now we’re happy with the path we’re on. It’s exciting and refreshing having the world as our classroom, and it’s much less scary than I thought it would be.

Homeschool Books

The Importance of Reading

Reading - Usborne Books

I love to read. I love to be ensnared by a great book that begs me to read it all night, staying up way too late with a wholly inappropriate amount of respect for how quickly morning will come. We have an absolute ton of books in our house, bookcases in every room with books spilling out, waiting for us to buy and fill another bookcase.

I’ve been reading to my kids since before they could comprehend what they were hearing. Lakin’s first book was The Hobbit, read aloud when she was 4 months old, and followed immediately by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Of course we owned dozens of board books and borrowed even more from our local library, and these were read throughout each day and at bed time every night. It seems to have worked, as my girls learned to read at a very young age, and have become eager aficionados of the written word.

I kept our very favorite books from the older girls’ baby and toddler years. I was pretty sure I was done having kids, but I just couldn’t part with my favorites — Sandra Boynton books, Is Your Mama a Llama?, and That’s Not My Kitten. I still have The Going to Bed Book memorized, 13 years later. These books are a little bedraggled-looking now, from being well-loved and then carted around in boxes and on shelves for a decade or so, but when I pulled them out for Katie, they were instant hits.

That’s Not My Kitten is the book that started me on my current path, actually. I have such amazing memories of reading it to Lakin and Addah, with such inflection in the words to create excitement — “That’s not MY kitten! That kitten is toooo fluffy!” and finally, on the last page, we would all say “THAT’S my kitten!” and then take turns feeling it’s fuzzy ears. I didn’t realize there were more books in that series… or I’d have bought them all!

I was in the bookstore not long ago with Katie, perusing the baby/toddler board books, when I saw That’s Not My Monster. I bought it immediately, and it was just as much fun to read as its’ kitty cat counterpart. Imagine my surprise when a Google search turned up more than 30 books in this series now, all available through Usborne books. I clicked through to a consultant’s Usborne shop, and proceeded to spend a whole lot of time window shopping, just amazed at how many great books there are. More than 80% of the books for sale through Usborne are under $10, which is definitely good news for our book loving family.

Seeing just how many new books there are on the Usborne book’s site made my wheels start turning… and I felt inspired! Maybe I could sell Usborne books? I certainly feel passionately about books and literacy, and the importance of reading to children as often as possible. The more I thought about it, I realized that it’s really the perfect marriage of my love for books and my desire to stay at home with my kids and still bring in an income.

I kicked around the idea for a week or two, and finally decided that yes, I can sell Usborne books! (And you can too… and if you’re interested in talking about the benefits of doing so, please feel free to send me an email!)

Book Party Invitation - Usborne Books

So there it is… and I’m excited to offer you all an invitation to my very first e-show (and a giveaway)! If you place an order through my show link between now and March 31, you will automatically be entered to win a free book! The winner will be randomly selected using a random number generator, and if you don’t have the funds to shop now, don’t worry, because I’m planning to make this a monthly event and giveaway!

This new business venture couldn’t come at a better time for little Katie, who is just starting to develop a love for books that I know will follow her throughout her life. Earlier today, she was sitting on the floor at my feet, turning the pages of one of her First Words board books, having a lovely baby-babble conversation with the kitties and puppies on the pages. I think she actually plays with her books more than she plays with her multitude of Little People… and that’s just fine with me.

Follow my Usborne Books and More page on Facebook for updates on shows, sales, and giveaways!

The First Seven Months

I wish that I had done a better job of blogging about the first seven months of Katie’s life, because I am finding it hard to recall all the little details, in hindsight. A large part of these months has been a blur of sleepless nights and very busy days.

The best I can do is to give you a pictorial timeline of how much this darling little baby has changed over these seven months. Since she was born, she has gone from a quiet happy baby who loves nothing better than to nurse and cuddle with her mama, to a bigger (and less quiet) happy baby who loves nothing better than to nurse and cuddle with her mama, when she’s not trying to master crawling, or pulling up to stand, or giggling like a wild thing at her big sisters.

Katie-One-Month

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Seven months seemed to fly by in the blink of my eyes, and then yesterday, Katie turned eight months old. She is fun, and funny, and gets very excited when we sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and count her piggies as they’re going to the market. Her first word was “Addah”, followed quickly by “Dada” and “Bubu” (when she wants to nurse). She has two bottom teeth and is working on the top two.  She sleeps well, once she’s done fighting sleep each night, and her favorite place to sleep is curled up with Mama or Daddy.

She is a joy, truly and completely.

I won’t say it’s always been easy, these past seven months. In fact, it’s been pretty hard at times. I’m not the energetic early-twenty-something I was when my big girls were born, nor am I the more relaxed version of myself that I was when I was pregnant with Clara. In some ways, I feel like a first-time mother again, worrying over every tiny cry or bump, checking her breathing a hundred times a night to make sure that she is, in fact, still breathing. Her sister Clara’s death has made me a more vigilant parent than I was, even with Lakin and Addah. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing, but it is who I am, as a parent, now.

I am also more aware of what a treasure Katie is, and I make a point to appreciate the little things: her tiny fingers curling around mine, and the way her bottom lip quivers when she falls asleep after nursing. Packaged along with the pain of loss, I have discovered the gift of appreciation for every moment with this wonderful baby.

She’s growing up so fast, and so healthy, and that, too, is a gift, one that makes every day feel like Christmas morning.

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