Monday, February 27, 2012

0,1, 2, 3.


we spent your day celebrating with you.

reading, laughing, imagining,tickling,
making up stories,twirling
singing, running with balloons,
and reflecting back on 
how much our lives
changed for the better 3 years ago, 
at just before 6 a.m.

happy birthday, my hilarious, beautiful and unique little leah layne.

we've had 3 full years to love you, 
and we are so blessed because of it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

half a year with june ellen.

{this was written at the end of january,
but i just uploaded all of the pictures 
and finished it up.}

on sunday a friend in church asked me if june was 6 months old yet.

"not yet," i said.  "it's on, yeah!  the 26th."

"well today is actually the 29th......soooo...." my friend said.

and then i said woops!  and whispered a quick happy six months, baby, in june's peach fuzzy little ear.  maybe it's because she's a third child that i didn't realize the day of her actual half-year birthday, but i honestly don't think that's the reason.  i think because as cliche as it sounds, i celebrate every day with this little tubby girl.

things i don't want to forget about june, at 6 months:

~the way she wakes up in the morning, talking to herself in a quiet voice, moving her blankets and staring at her hands like they're something new to her.  then when i look over the side of her bassinett, she smiles at me, grabs her blanket, and buries her face in it, only to peek out at me a second later.  if i'm not there, she starts to cry.

~when i hold her, she keeps one arm extended, waiting for something to grab if it brushes by her hand.

~which brings me to her vice grip,  the one she's had since she was fresh on earth.  

she grabs anything and everything she can get her hands on.  more specifically, my hair.  i'm now remembering why i chop my hair off after every baby is born....

~she knows the sign for "milk" and can actually do it!  either that, or she's just trying to grab the air, but since she makes the sign when she's hungry and saying "bubbbbb" or when she sees a bottle, i'm going to choose to believe she knows what she's doing.

~when she's playing happily on her own, she makes the funniest squealing sounds.  she sounds like a balloon, when someone is letting the air out slowly and at a high-pitched tone.  

~she scoots around on her belly, going forwards and backwards.  the girl can move.  by 6 months, leah was already crawling but i have to say, i'm glad june is taking her time. i'm guessing she'll be crawling by around 8 months.  

~she is super snuggly.  she wraps her arms tightly around me and buries her head in my neck, and moves her legs up and down like she's trying to inchworm her way up and over my shoulder.  

~she has the funniest laugh.  she sounds like a little baby machine gun popping off, and when she laughs hard, she starts crying, just like i do.  she and i have had many laugh-offs that lasted 10 minutes or more. she laughs, then i laugh at her laughing, then she laughs at my laughing, and on and on.  

~she loves music.  anytime i sing, she immediately lights up and smiles.  anytime music comes on in our home, she's searching for it.  i sing the beatles "hey jude" to her every night, but i change the lyrics to "hey june" and she smiles as soon as we start.  i've had a song with each of my kids, and i think this one is ours.

~bath time is her absolute favorite.  once we turn on the bath water, she is all squeals and smiles.  she loves to splash and squash bubbles with her chubby little fingers.

~for the most part, she's a great sleeper.  and on nights when she's not, i'm reminded of how awesome she actually is.

~she sits, she claps, she fake coughs, she rolls.

~she is just so content.  i love that about her.  she is calm, and so happy.  and has honestly been a heart-healer for me in so many ways.  

and now, for pictures:

this is what she looks like when i start singing "that's amore" in my loud opera voice: 
{it's been making her laugh for months now and still does}

this is what she looks like when she's trying to grab the camera:

here are her toes:

this is what she looks like when she's trying to figure out what i'm doing:

here is her adorable profile:

this is what she looks like when her brother comes into the room, and she stares at him while he talks:

this is what she looks like when her brother says "hi" to her.  she adores him:

and this is what she looks like with a diaper on her head:

so grateful for 6 months of happiness with our little junie bug.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

want to see what finding mold in your house looks like??

since our 8 months of living in a house with mold in it, i've had several friends ask me how we found out that we did, in fact, have mold.  we were initially suspicious because we had actually found mold in our downstairs closet, from a leak that had been going for months.  but there's a difference in finding mold in your house, and then having it in the air, causing legitimate, and potentially scary, health problems. 

we had been having health problems for months....and the thought was in the back of my mind that it could possibly be more problems with mold, but i continued to try to dismiss it.  that is, until i was coughing up blood, both of my kids had their first-ever ear infections {caleb was 6, leah was 2} and vomiting so hard from the ear infections that blood vessels had burst in their eyes and cheeks, caleb's legs were causing him so much pain that he couldn't walk, suddenly both caleb and i were diagnosed with asthma {which we had not had problems with before}, leah was on a nebulizer to help her breathe, and we just could not get well.  and i was watching both of my kids lose color and weight in a speed that was alarming to me.  they weren't bouncing back after the illnesses, they would just get another one.  and another.   

then, my brother and his wife came for a visit.

my SIL is allergic to penicillin, and within a couple of hours of being in our home, felt her throat closing up and tightness in her chest.  when they would leave and get out into open air, those symptoms would go away.  

so, we bought one of those mold take-home kits before we called in an expert, to see what would happen.  you're supposed to buy more than one test {found at home depot or lowe's for around $10/each}, so you can take a q-tip sample from at least two separate places.  one of those tests is supposed to be used to sample outside, and one inside the home.

the truth is, everywhere is going to have some sort of mold.  what you're looking for is how much, and especially the type of mold you find.

instead of testing our outside though, we decided to take one sample from our upstairs master bathroom {where we knew several leaks had sprung and leaked through the floor boards into our downstairs ceiling and was most likely the most mold-full place}, and then the other sample was from our closet underneath our stairs {where we had actually found mold growing from a separate leak and the mold experts had apparently "completely cleaned and sanitized," thinking it would be the least likely place to grow mold}.  

anyway, we swabbed, and let our petri dishes do their thang.  

within one week, this is what grew.  brace yourself:

EW.  right?  the one on the left is the one from the downstairs closet, the one on the right was from the master bathroom floor.  

when we had the actual mold and air specialist look at these, he said that clearly the downstairs closet had not been accurately cleaned, but he called the mold from the master bathroom much more serious, because it was a "cocktail" of different types.  the colors, the fuzziness, etc.   

so if you're concerned that you may have mold in your home, i suggest starting with one of these take-home kits.  if scary stuff shows it did with ours....then call in the expert.  

i look at what was going on in our lives a year ago, and sometimes i can't believe it.  i have never seen my kids that sick, or been that sick myself in my entire life.  it just did not stop.  

to be honest, it's still really hard for me to think any positive thoughts toward the property management company who was so shady and dishonest {R & C Real Estate--locals, DO NOT USE THEM!!}, threatening us with a lawyer instead of trying to do the right and ethical thing, and help us. i wanted to show up at their office with my pregnant belly, my new asthma inhaler, my poor little boy who couldn't walk, my daughter with her nebulizer strapped on her face, and ask them how they could sleep at night, knowing how they had treated some of the few decent people left on earth.  

when i saw the house up for sale several months ago, i made sure to call the listing agent to report the mold.  she acted suspicious and asked me who i was, and i let her know we had been the family renting it, who all got sick from the mold problem.  she said they knew about the mold, and it was in the report for the house.  

and now the home sits vacant.  it's been almost a year since we've left, and no one has occupied it.  i drive by it, walk by it, and i just feel sad about the whole thing.  i'm so, so grateful we're no longer there.  i'm so grateful that even though moving in 2 weeks while i was 7 months pregnant, and ben was writing his 25 page end-of-the-year paper was crazy-stressful, and really hard in all sorts of ways, that we did it.  

caleb still has asthma.  mine has improved, and only shows up when i'm exercising hard core.  our family has been only normal-sick, and not moldy-house-sick.  leah has put weight back on, and has only used the nebulizer once this winter.

so yes, it was a hard time last year.  we moved to a smaller house, and are paying more in rent.  that's not easy either, but it has been so worth it.  because i can't imagine what the mold house would have done to sweet little june's immune system.  and i'm glad i never have to find out.

Monday, February 13, 2012

the day we knew.

it all happened the day i wore pink.

in jackson hole, where i was living for a summer.  he was an hour and a half drive from me at his own school, and randomly sent an email saying he wanted to visit, he had never been to the town.  {a shame for anyone who has not had the pleasure.}

the shirt i wore was borrowed from my roommate, because at that time i had made a purposeful point in having no pink clothing in my possession.  i met him, as he pulled up in his car.  we smiled, gave an awkward hug of old friends.

and started walking.

we went through art galleries, cowboy shops, clothing stores, photography galleries.  we stared at one picture for several minutes, mesmerized.  a midnight sky over the peaks of the mountains, lightning in the distance.

as we walked, we talked.  and talked and talked.  filled each other in on the last 3 years of our lives.  adventures and travels, my family struggles, his mission, each other's college.  our current relationships and how we were happy in them.  {i lied, i wasn't really happy in mine}

"how do you walk in those things?"  he asked me, looking down at my brown platform sandals.

"like this," i replied, and started walking away.  we both laughed.

we stopped at a park, laid down in the grass.  it was there that i opened up to him, on a real level.  something that at that point in my life, i rarely did unless someone had proven themselves worthy, safe.  which in my book, took a long time.  i told him i wasn't really happy with where my life was heading, but was unsure how to stop it, how to change my course.

it was then that he said,

"if only you could see yourself the way i see you."

and i was embarrassed, but i looked in his brown eyes with his long dark eyelashes, and i knew he meant it.

the moment was broken, and we stood up for lunch, walking and bantering back and forth about the correct way to pronounce the word "gyros."  we ate, then began walking again.

at one point, he tripped.  "first day on the new feet, huh?"  i teased him.  we laughed and he said he liked me because i reminded him of his sisters.  "calling me out on my crap just like they do," he said.

our time was coming to an end, and i felt sadness creep around the edge of the air as i thought about him leaving.  we walked to one of my favorite places on earth.  a bench for two, set up in a field overlooking the Teton mountains.  it was a place that before this day, i had only been to alone.  we watched the sun set together, naming the colors as they changed.  purple, amethyst, pink, orange, peach, vermillion, aquamarine, teal, salmon, we tried to get creative.  ended up laughing again, and as we did, i couldn't remember a time where i had laughed more with anyone.

our hello and good-bye hug was the only time we touched.  i watched him drive away, as he took the sun with him.  i turned back to go home, thinking that it was one of the best days i had experienced in a long time, hoping one day it would happen again.  but instead of going home, i unexpectedly turned down the road to that photography shop, and bought the picture we had stared at together.  i vowed to give it to him, somehow.

and i did, almost 2 months later.

i saw him at church, i was going in as he was leaving.

"hey!"  we both said at the same time.

"what are you doing here?"  he asked me.

"i'm back in town,"  i said.  "home on a break to get my tonsils out, i'll go back next semester.  what are you doing here?"

"home on a break too!  well, actually, i'm leaving right now for california," and then he explained that he was going to move his girlfriend back home so they would no longer be long-distance.

i was happy for them that they were doing well, but for myself, my heart sank.

"are you still dating the auto mechanic guy?"  he asked.

"no, i broke up with him.  i knew it was just for the summer, and honestly wanted it to be over even before i left,"  i explained.  "oh!  i almost forgot!  i have something for you, in my car,"  i blurted out, then felt embarrassed as he asked,

"in your car, for me?  how long have you been hanging on to it?"  his voice was surprised.

instead of answering his question, i walked to my car and pulled out the picture.

"it's um, nothing.  you know....uh, a late birthday present!  it was a few weeks ago, right?  happy birthday!" i tried to downplay the gift, worried with the thought that the day we had spent together meant more to me than it had to him.

"that picture!  it's the one we liked!  wow, i can't believe you remembered,"  he said.  "thank you so much."   and awkwardly hugged me.

i watched him drive away, taking the warmth of the sun with him once more.

weeks went by before i ran into him again, our paths crossing for the second time in the hallway at church.

"i was hoping i'd see you here,"  i heard from behind me.  i was smiling before i turned around.

and within 5 minutes, he told me that he and his girlfriend had not been able to make it work, and it was a hard break-up, but he felt it was for the best.  he asked if he could see me again, sometime this week?

suddenly, i was nervous.  the faces of the boys before him flashing through my brain, knowing that this would be something different.  because he was different.  i could look ahead and faintly see the possibility of us.

"yes,"  i said, before realizing the word had actually come from my mouth.


it has now been a decade since the day of tall sandals, and walking, and laughing, and deep conversations in parks, photographs and gyros, and sunsets on the day i wore pink.

so much has gone between us.  homes and jobs, cars and crashes. feeling heaven open three times as small cries filled a room.  victories and disappointments, loud sneezes, worried glances over hospital beds, apologies and forgiveness, songs in the dark, back scratches and seizures, school and more school, bloodshot eyes and exhaustion, "vomit mode" and "business tone," cheezy teezies, late to church, facial hair and inside jokes, desperately hanging on, crazy teenagers, empty bank accounts, tears of joy, physical pain and emotionally heart-wrenching moments, staying connected, decisions to not give up, cold feet meeting under covers, being pushed to limits and not breaking because we are us.  

and always, laughter.

tonight we played a spontaneous game of baseball, with a few slices of stale ciabatta bread.  i was the pitcher, and stood across the kitchen as ben the batter stood at home plate with a large kitchen knife to bat with.  we laughed as i pitched again and again.

"hey, i think i'm going to write about you," i said a few minutes later.  "about the day i knew i loved you."

"oh yeah?  which day was that?"  he asked.

"you have to guess,"  i replied.

he thought for a minute.

"well for me,"  he said, "it was that day in jackson hole.  before anything really happened. it was after that day, i knew."  

"same for me,"  i replied.  and we both smiled.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

opening and closing an overwhelming pandora's box

i've been writing, in pieces.  i tell you what, it's really hard to open up pandora's box for small increments at a time, to be interrupted to change a diaper or feed a small mouth, or pretend that i'm one of the members of little einsteins and prepare myself for a ride on a rocket as we take off for another rescue mission.

after shushing my kids while riding in the van, and asking for just 30 seconds of peace, only to be interrupted after about 6 seconds by leah, who wanted to let me know that there was an airplane-or-possibly-a-big-jet flying in the sky, and then immediately following with caleb asking why i needed 30 seconds of peace, i explained to him what the word "overwhelmed" meant, as much as i could on a 6 yr-old level.  letting him know how even though i need quiet sometimes, and feel like i have there is just a lot, that there is nowhere i would rather be, no one i would rather spend my time with.  even if i do get overwhelmed.

to feel like there is never enough of me to go around, never enough time in the day.  never enough, yet constantly trying to trick my brain and heart that what i do is always enough.  because they are always my priority.  over laundry, and dishes, and returning phone calls to my friends, and showers, and all of it.  it is how it should be, at this moment in my life.  i just need to remember to everything there is a season, even if it is a season of being overwhelmed for a day.  {or a year.}  i love being their mother, there is nothing better for me in this life.  

then i fed them, read to them, held them, put them to bed, and before i got going on all that was ahead of me, sat for 10 minutes to read these words.  she is so much one of my favorite writers.  because more often than not, it's like she's in my home, or riding along in the van, or peeking in my windows {in a non-creepy way of course} and then writing down what i cannot.

i know that what i'm currently in the middle of writing is adding to this overwhelming-ness.  emotions are surfacing that i've pushed down because i have to not only function, but enjoy my life.  so it needs to be done.  finished.  anyone have 4 consecutive, un-interrupted hours they can lend me?

i will go back to digging through pandora's box, trying to get in to the flow of what i want to communicate, so that it's fluid and not misunderstood.  so that those who need to read it will feel connected with me, as i reach out.  i'm sure there will be fall-out, whether it's positive or negative.  can fall-out be positive?  i guess i'll know soon enough.

the past day or two, as i attempt to get back into writing during many distractions, i continually listen to this song.  i thought it was quirky-weird-sad when i heard it the first time or two, but couldn't get it out of my brain.  now, it opens up something.  and i can tap into those buried emotions quicker as i listen.  {disclaimer: it has absolutely nothing to do with what i'm writing about}

don't worry, i initially dismissed it too.  listen to it 3 times, then judge it.

see what you think.

my favorite time of day.

in the morning, before the other kids have woken up, 
this is where you'll find me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

the moments that really make a marriage last.

before things get deep, let's have some fun, shall we?

i haven't blogged about my hilarious husband lately, but this is one that i just couldn't resist.  he's totally going to kill me for doing this, which is exactly why i'm going to....{young married folks, this is what marital bliss is made of.  humiliations galore.}


since having june, my post-baby hormone hair has been falling out in droves.  so instead of clogging up the drain with my nest of hair, as i'm shampooing and conditioning, i grab the loose strands and put them up on the wall of the shower.  YES I KNOW IT'S GROSS.  but then when my shower is over, i gather up the wall hair, and throw it away.  it's not fun for me either, okay?  but i do what has to be done.  cleaning out the drain of the shower is MUCH worse.  

the worst part is, every now and then i shower without my contacts in and am seriously, tragically blind without them.  so occasionally, when i can't see, i absentmindedly forget to get my hair off the shower wall.  STOP GAGGING, I GET IT.  and i feel badly about it, i do!  it's not on purpose! 

but of course, when ben happens to see my wall hair in the shower, he freaks out.  and makes sure to not only go on and on, but he leaves it there for me to see the next day.  {marital bliss, i tell you!}


ben is not mr. perfect himself.  every time he trims his beard over our bathroom sink he leaves his trimmings allllllll {imagine my hands sweeping around myself, indicating about a 4x4 foot square around me} over the counters and sinks.  without!  cleaning!  it!  up!  and he doesn't have the excuse of being blind as a bat like i do.  he can totally see the mess!  bleeeeech.  so of course, i do what i have to.  and go on and on about it, and leave it for him to clean up the next time he comes into the bathroom.  

well, there's the backstory.  

this morning:

i woke up, and walked in the bathroom to brush my teeth, when i saw this:

what is it??

oh, just the extension cord we use to plug in our outside christmas lights, plugged in and leading to the door of the shower.  

my fuzzy, just-woken-up brain tried to make sense of this.  ben is in the middle of writing his proposal for his dissertation.  he's been working hard, he's been stressed, he's been staying up all night.  my brain did its best to process.

.....he wasn't trying to.....contemplating......considering......

nooooooo....not ben.  he wouldn't.  couldn't!!

i didn't get to talk to him until around 2 p.m., when he had a break. 

"so, heeeeey," i said slowly.  "ummmm, what was with the extension cord in the bathroom?  right by the shower?  are you, you know {gulp}.....okay?"

he started to laugh.  "oh, yeah!  no, i finally came up with a genius way to trim my beard hair without getting it all over the sink and counters!  i hooked up my electric razor to the extension cord, and trimmed it in the shower!  before the water was turned on, of course.  great idea, huh??  now you won't complain anymore!"  

he sounded so proud of himself.  

"seriously ben?  what on earth??"  i was baffled.  

"yeah, what's wrong with that?"  

"well, i mean sure, it's a great idea.  it's just, um......can't you just clean off the counters and sink after you trim your beard???"  i laughed now.  i actually thought it was hilarious that this was his solution, even though i couldn't believe the lengths he would go to in order to not have to do a 5 minute clean-up job.  

"yeah, but now i'll never have to!!"  he was triumphant.  

"i was legitimately worried about you for about 30 seconds!!  i thought you had decided that writing your dissertation wasn't worth it, and you were ending things early!"  i tried to sound exasperated. 

"no, dear.  you'll know i mean business when you see the extension cord WITH a toaster plugged into it."

"you're such a dork!  i'm totally blogging about this!"  which i knew would ruffle his puffed up feathers. 

"oh, you'd better NOT.  no one will understand!  you and all of your lady blogger friends will make fun of me at your little book clubs, and girls nights.  why can't you write about the sweet things i do?"  he begged.

"because who wants to hear all of the romantic and sweet things?  it will just make those who don't have it so good, feel badly.  i want to be uplifting!  make them feel better about themselves!  THIS is the good stuff," i teased.

so, not only am i blogging about it, but this is what ben is facing in the bathroom when he comes home:

and when he asks why?

i'll tell him that i came up with the genius idea of vacuuming my hair before i shower so that i no longer have to clean it off of the wall.

outdone again, dr. strader.  outdone again!  

ahhhhhhhh.  marital bliss.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

nonsense it all is.

today, i want to write.  i'm just feeling it, you know?  but there may be a cost to this writing because what has already formulated in my head is pretty raw and vulnerable...more so than i think i've ever written, and i know i've been vulnerable many times on this blog.  this writing involves more than just me, and leaving others out of what i write is something i work extremely hard to do.  i want to only tell my story, no one else's.  but some of my story is wrapped up and integrally connected to others that it's difficult to figure out how to weave around them.  so i'm currently trying to come up with a metaphor for what i'd like to write, and i'm wishing my brain would work a bit quicker so i could get it out.  

life is good here, this is just stuff coming up from the past that i'm still working through.  things happen, and it triggers old hurt.  then after experiencing therapy, instead of ignoring the old hurt, i go through the "figuring out where it comes from" method.  i do like to figure myself out.  i like to figure others out.  i wonder why people are cruel, or get offended easily, or enable sickness in themselves or others to continue with justification and pretending not to see.  

i'm not one to just "leave it alone" because for me, that's running and hiding in the coward's corner of denial and i don't want to see this.  maybe that comes across as pushy?  probably, but once i woke this side up, i don't know how to get it to go back to sleep again.  i do it to myself and others, i push.  but it's only with the best of intentions, you know.  

anyway, all of that was writing about writing, which is pretty much nothing.  we'll see what happens.

i also have a house to clean, and taxes to get going on.  and a sweet june's half-birthday to discuss and show off some adorable pictures of baby eyes, fingers, toes and belly button.  

here's a sneak peek:

and how sometimes i look at her and see her sister, then others i see a complete {only chubbier} carbon copy of her brother.  

well, it looks like the taxes have won for today, though i'm going to keep working on that metaphor.  it's time for it to be written.

thank you so much for reading, even if it's just nonsense like this sometimes.