Ungrateful.

I really try to appreciate what I have.  To be thankful for the many many blessings in our life, big and small.  Especially the small ones.  But some days are just harder than others, and today is one of those days.  Some days I don’t care about everything I have and can only focus on what I don’t have.  I question the “everything happens for a reason” bullshit.  Although honestly, that part isn’t different from any other day–I always believe it’s a load of crap.  Things don’t “happen for a reason”–they just happen.  Just like the whole “seeing signs” thing.  They’re both just bullshit that people tell themselves to try to get through their tragedy.  Which is fine; I’m glad that coping mechanism works for them.  But that’s not ever been something that I believed in or was able to take comfort from.

We’ve been trying to get pregnant ever since Zoe passed away.  Nine months of trying and nothing.  I try to focus on the fact that for some people that’s a drop in the bucket, and 99.9% of the time that works.  The majority of the time I’m grateful that my other 3 pregnancies were pretty much “Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.”  Jordan took 3 months to conceive.  Carter, the longest, was 5.  Zoe was only 2.  And I didn’t do anything special for any of them.  No charting, no ovulation tests, no nothing beyond good old fashioned trying.  After 6 months without results this time around, I started doing everything I could think of.  And, as of last night, still absolutely nothing.

Each month that passes means another month’s difference in ages, which is a gap I never wanted to begin with this time around.  It means another month that I have to go without having a baby.  For awhile I took solace in the fact that if Zoe hadn’t passed, then the next baby wouldn’t exist.  Now with each passing month without results, that becomes less and less true.  Adding to all of that, there’s a very good chance that if we go where we think we’re going next, Jeff will be deploying soon after our arrival.  So each passing month now means one less month he’s going to be around to help.  Soon he won’t even be there for the birth.  And even after he gets home, he’s going to be working 20 hour days so it’s not like he’ll be around then either.  This is the worst possible time we could be trying to have a baby.

All I can focus on right now is how perfect everything should be.  The age difference between Zoe and Carter was exactly what I wanted.  Jeff is home all the time and would be around for the first year and a half of her life to help with everything.  By the time he deployed, everything would be running smoothly.  When he returned it would be great timing to start trying for a fourth, if that’s what we wanted to do.  Or even if we had gotten pregnant immediately this time around.  Then I would be giving birth any day now and we’d have a child cursed with the dreaded Christmas birthday.  We’d have nearly a whole year together.  But that’s not how it is.

For the last 14 hours I’ve been vacillating between sad and angry.  Because you know what?  This is bullshit.  I’m owed.  I deserve a baby.  And fuck you for not letting it happen.

And then while browsing Facebook a little bit ago, I stumbled on a post on one of the military groups I’m in.  A stranger posted that her friend just became a Gold Star wife.  Two kids, a 3 year old and a 5 month old, will now grow up without a father.  And I’m sitting here whining and carrying on because we’ve been trying to get pregnant for 9 months without results?  I already have two healthy children.  A happy marriage.  A good life.  I need to grow up.  I know that tomorrow I will read this post and think about how incredibly selfish I was being.  I’m going to hate that I wasted a whole day wallowing on what I don’t have, instead of focusing on what I do.  I’m sure I’ll regret letting everyone know that we’re trying to get pregnant when I’ve been keeping that under wraps.  I’ll hate that I let everyone know how selfish I truly am.

But that’s tomorrow.  Today I’m going to cry and kick things.  Today I’m going to own the anger and sadness that I never let myself feel.  Today I’m going to wallow and be selfish.  I at least deserve that much.

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Thankful.

Today marks 9 months.  Right now at this exact moment in time 9 months have passed since we sat in that tiny conference room surrounded by the best doctors we could ever hope for, doctors who did everything they could for Zoe, doctors who were giving us our pitiful options.  9 months since we had to make the most impossible and devestating decision of our lives.  9 months since the moment our lives changed forever.  9 months since experiencing the most excruciating and indescribable pain.  9 months since being told we made the most selfless decision a parent could ever make and that it was the right decision.

For the most part we’re all doing okay.  Sometimes it’s hard to think about how things should be…to try to make sense of why it happened.  That’s something that I grapple with every day—why?  If everything happens for a reason I still can’t puzzle this one out.  And I have to come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably never know why.  But this post isn’t about how I’m doing; it’s about being thankful for every single thing that I do have. Without everything on this list, plus millions of other things that I’ve forgotten or never even realized, I never would’ve made it through these last 9 months.

I’m thankful…

  1. …for my family.  Jeff is the best husband and father, hands down.  The kids and I are so lucky to have him.  I have two amazing, wonderful children (who are complete shitheads.  Like the one who was up at 545 am, dancing and twirling in her room.  Or the one who is supposed to be taking a nap right now, but instead is in his crib belting out a hilarious rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle”) that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  I have a dog whose face just makes me want to smoosh him.  It’s not complete…it’s not perfect…but it’s mine.
  2. …for the Army.  Moving was one of the biggest factors in healing.  Being able to have a fresh start, especially so soon after everything, helped tremendously.
  3. …for my friends.  For the ones who have been through similar stuff and the ones that haven’t.  For the ones near and far.  For new ones and old ones.  My support system may be small, but it is powerful.
  4. …that I can hold a baby.  I held my first baby about two weeks ago and I honestly didn’t know how it was going to go.  I knew for weeks beforehand that it was going to happen and I didn’t know what to expect.  But I did it, and not only did I survive it, but it felt good.  There was sadness, sure, but there wasn’t any anger or jealousy.  It felt good to hold a teeny tiny baby.  It felt good to see him smile and coo.  To sing to him and cuddle him and kiss him.  But mostly it felt good to have that monumental hurdle over with.  To now know that I can hold a baby without falling apart.  To have that trepidation dissipate.  It just felt good.
  5. …for the gym.  In the beginning that was all that held me together.  To put on a pair of headphones, blast music and workout so hard that I couldn’t think about anything at all beyond taking my next breath.  Now the days that I need that are few and far between, but they still happen.  And every single day I end my workout with the same song, one that makes me think of Zoe.  It’s my favorite part of the day.
  6. …for my tattoos.  I love both of them.  I love their location.  I love their meaning.  I love being able to look at them and think of Zoe.  I love when people compliment me on them.  I love when people ask me about them because it gives me a chance to explain them without it seeming awkward.
  7. …for this blog.  I still don’t like talking about my feelings.  I’ll talk about Zoe, about the situation, about anything else except how I’m doing.  And that holds true for absolutely everyone in my life, in person and online.  I really need to go back to writing more often.
  8. …for my life.  Every single part of it–good and bad, big and little.  It’s our experiences that make us who we are.  Ever since Jordan’s health scare 6 years ago, I’ve appreciated the little things and have been grateful for what I have.  I try to see the good in everything and everyone.  I try to not complain or sweat the small stuff or dwell on things that can’t be helped.  I try to not judge.  I try to have a sense of humor.  Because at the end of the day we only get one life.  Bad shit is going to happen to everyone; it’s inevitable.  It’s how we handle it, what we take from it, that makes the difference.  The very first time I watched Friday Night Lights the voiceover from Coach Taylor at the end of the first episode gave me chills.  Who would’ve thought it would have such a large impact on my life 8 years later?  I know I post it all the time, but truer words have never been spoken:  “Give all of us gathered here tonight the strength to remember that life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives… fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts… that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.”
  9. Mostly though I’m thankful that I’m still here.  That 9 months have passed and we did the impossible:  survived.
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Happy half-birthday Zoe Bear! And yes Jeffrey, half birthdays are a thing on this house, no matter how much you try to deny them.

6 months. Wow does time fly. So much has changed since we lost you. The big things–a new home, a new state, a new car, new friends, new adventures. A ton of little things–your brother now talks just as much as your sister; J started first grade; a billion and one other things I can’t think of at the moment.

How are things up there? Have you started crawling yet? Both of your siblings were very late with all of their gross motor skills. I didn’t think either of them would crawl, that they’d skip right to walking instead since it was taking so long. Turned out they were just a bit late to the game, that’s all.

What makes you giggle? For J it was the sound of a zipper going up and down. Man, that used to crack her up! C loved (and still does) any funny noise we make. Nonsense words are his favorite. That and tickles. Tickles are an easy way to get a spectacular giggle out of both of them.

Are you happy? I don’t think you could possibly beat your brother on that one. Carter takes his Canadian roots very seriously and is the happiest, most laid back kid ever. Your sister on the other hand is…well…fun. Let’s go with fun. Are you a mix of the two? Are you a people-lover like your siblings were at your age? They definitely didn’t get that trait from your father 😉

Any teeth? I’m an awful mother and am unable to remember when either of your siblings started sprouting them. How dare I forget something so significant?! It’s recorded somewhere…I’m just too lazy to look. Especially since your brother and sister are actually playing very well together at the moment and I’m terrified that if I move they’ll notice me and the peace and quiet will stop.

Are you sleeping through the night yet? You would be if you were in this household, that’s for sure! Cry it out starts at 6 months here and doesn’t end til you know only to cry if you actually need something. Mama values her sleep. If you can’t get on board, then you get sold.

Please don’t tell me you hate riding in the car. I’m still traumatized by months and months and months of your brother screaming every time he was strapped in his car seat.

How about food? Found anything you enjoy yet? Your brother loves food so much that the very first time we put that spoon to his lips and he got his first taste of “people food” he started shaking like an alcoholic craving a drink and he hasn’t looked back. We made you half a birthday cake since today is your half birthday (even though your father doesn’t believe in half birthdays. Which is why I don’t think he should get a piece of your incredibly-messy-but-hopefully-very-delicious half birthday cake). But let’s be honest–I wouldn’t let you have a bite of it any way. No desserts til you turn 1! Both of your siblings destroyed their first birthday cakes at their photo shoots and are now sugar-holics. No idea where they get that one from 😉 And then you can follow in your brother’s footsteps and start screaming “WHOOPER!!! WHOOPER!!! WHOOOOPPPPERRRRRRR!!!!” the moment you’re strapped into the high chair for dinner. That phase lasted a good 3 months and I do not miss it one bit.

Hopefully someone is singing songs and reading books to you. Both your brother and sister love books and songs and can’t get enough of either. I’m a bit sick of princesses and trucks though, so hopefully your tastes are a bit more diverse.

The details don’t really matter though. What matters is that you’re happy and no longer suffering. Although I would give anything in the world to know every single detail of your personality, I never will. And it is what it is. Just know that we love you and we miss you. And although disastrous looking, your half birthday cake was absolutely delicious. Happy 6 months Zoe Bear!

The results.

I’ve been feeling very on edge the past few days.  I’ll be perfectly fine one minute and then highly irritable the next.  I was attributing my moodiness to the fact that I have spent practically every waking moment with Jeff, J and C for the last two months straight and the family time is beginning to get on my nerves.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love all three of them, but the lack of a schedule is beginning to drive me insane. Scratch that–completely driving me insane.  Everyone (minus myself, of course) is sleeping until 9 am.  The kids are staying up until 930 pm.  We need to get back to a 730/830 schedule.  Jeff needs to get back to work.  Jordan needs to make some friends.  And Carter needs to be back on his schedule so he can stop being cranky.  I love my family, but two months is entirely too long to never not see them (how do you like that sentence??  See, I’m going so crazy that I can’t even form coherent thoughts anymore).

At least that  was what I’ve been blaming my moodiness on.  But as J is watching a mini Jake and the Neverland Pirates marathon (“Jake and the Neverland Pirates…and ME!!!!!” My insanity train is gaining speed…) while C sleeps and Jeff works in the basement, I’m still feeling irritable.  I started working on some DIY projects I have on my plate, but am just not in the right mood for them and I feared they were only going to make my mood worse.  And then it hit me…do I need to write??  To take some time to confront my underlying feelings about Zoe?  Because Lord knows that unless I sit down to write about it, I blatantly gloss over anything I’m feeling.  It’s probably definitely time for a heart-to-heart.

So, the results.  Man, all of this happened so long ago that I’m not even sure if I can remember it in the proper order.  Basically, I finally bit the bullet and called the decadent affairs office at UVA around the 110 day mark (this all happened while we were still in Virginia.  I think the week before the movers came?).  I really didn’t want to make the phone call; I felt like I was badgering them, even though the window they gave us was “60-90 days”.  But at the same time I was worried that we had slipped through the cracks; I didn’t want to be forgotten about either.  The person who answered the phone at decedent affairs (doctor?  receptionist?  I have no idea) checked my file and said Zoe’s autopsy was indeed complete.  According to their system, a letter would be mailed to us within the next week stating the autopsy results were in and a doctor should be contacting us to go over them.  He suggested going ahead and contacting the doctor ourselves now since sometimes people slip through the cracks, just as I had feared.  And I’m not in anyway blaming anyone or bitter about that; they kind of have more important things going on…like trying to save all of their patients that are currently alive.

After hanging up the phone with decedent affairs, I then called Zoe’s main NICU doctor from UVA, Brooke.  I left her a voicemail during which I immediately burst into tears and could barely get out what I was trying to say.  It was incredibly mortifying.  I don’t know where it even came from–I had been perfectly fine prior to making the call.  I’m sure it was just everything catching up to me.

Brooke called back a short time later.  Her first question was to ask how we were doing.  I hurriedly reassured her that we were, in fact, doing fine, contrary to how I sounded in the voicemail.  That was two months ago and I’m still embarrassed by that message.  The she dove into the results.  Or, I guess I should say, lack thereof.  Basically, there were no answers.  There wasn’t anything discovered in the autopsy that could give us more of a clue what happened.  Zoe was born with a thick heart, but no reason why.  It was all very anticlimactic.  I didn’t feel any different after having the results than I had previously.  And I think that’s part of what took me so long to update everyone–it didn’t change anything.  The results don’t matter.

Jeff was very dissatisfied with the lack of answers.  Obviously.  We still don’t know how or why it happened.  Or if this something we need to worry about going through with another child.  I, on the other hand, was perfectly fine with the unknown.  Not until we heard the words “we don’t know” did a huge weight completely lift off of me.  I don’t know what I would’ve done if she had come back and said, “I’m so sorry, but you did this or that wrong during the pregnancy and that’s what caused the problem.”  Or “One of you have a major genetic flaw and are very likely to pass this onto another child so we recommend not getting pregnant again”.  Or “It’s highly likely J or C also have a thick heart and may drop dead at any second”.  Or any one of a million other answers that meant we caused this.  We inflicted all of this pain on Zoe.  worked out too hard or slept wrong or the doctor-prescribed-pills I took for morning sickness during the first trimester caused this.  Because any of those answers would have been unbearable.  I wouldn’t have survived.  It might have been anticlimactic, but not knowing was a-okay with me.

Brooke said that she was going to pass Zoe’s case on to a cardiology geneticst at UVA.  Just because she didn’t see anything didn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t an answer to be had–it just wasn’t anything obvious.  She said to expect a call from him within a week.

True to her word, the geneticist called about a week later.  He was absolutely phenomenal and both Jeff and I are disappointed that we won’t be working with him.  He explained that there is a very fine line on which we must balance.  We need to look into finding an answer, but at the same time not go overboard with it.  The first step is for all four of us to go to a cardiologist to have all of our hearts checked out.  If none of us have an undiagnosed heart condition then most likely the question train stops here.  Most likely it was just a freak happening.  If the cardiologist does find something in any of us, well then that’s a whole different ball game.  We explained that we were in the process of moving and he said that he would put together a list of cardiology geneticists in the KC area for us.  He also recommended getting a copy of Zoe’s full health records for ourselves to make things simpler every time we see a doctor.  He said that if UVA tries to charge us for the records to let him know and he would request them instead and send them to us himself.  See why I was disappointed we won’t be working with him?

With all of the moving we haven’t had a chance to get a referral to a cardiologist.  Zoe’s autopsy results came in the mail last week, and with it a letter to give to our PCM explaining the situation and the recommendation for all of us to get echoes and ECGs.  Hopefully that will make the process easier.  I’ll find out for sure on Tuesday when I see J’s PCM for her school physical…

The actual autopsy is filled with a bunch of medical mumbo jumbo.  I’ve tried to read it about a dozen times but can’t make it more than two or three sentences in before I give up.  Her final cause of death was cardiomyopathy, which just means “diseases of the heart muscle”.  She was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is slightly more specific and means a “thick heart”.  Since this can occur at any time and to anyone, there aren’t any signs or symptoms, it’s important for myself, Jeff to get checked every 3-5 years and J and C every year.

I cried pretty much the entire time I was writing this.  Just goes to show that I really did need this.  Hopefully this was therapeutic enough that my mood will return to how it normally is–mostly good with only a few bouts of unexplained irritability. After all, I am female.

Zoe’s Tree Planting.

I finally opened the photos from Zoe’s tree planting. I hired a local photographer, a friend of my someday-sister-in-law (if my brother ever gets his act together and actually proposes before she wises up and dumps the doofus!) to come out and take pictures for us. It seemed a bit weird to hire someone, but I didn’t want to ask any of the guests to take them, plus I wanted everyone who was there to actually be in the photos. I’ve been super anxious to see them. The CD arrived a few days ago (no fault of the photographer’s…we needed an address first, hahaha) but the moment I saw it my excitement was replaced by another emotion. Not dread…not sadness…not depression. Anxiousness maybe? I can’t even put my finger on it. This was it: the final photographs.

It wasn’t just that it was the “end” of it all either. I wouldn’t say I’ve been avoiding thinking about Zoe, but I’ve been focused on so many other things at she hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind like she was the for the first two months after her death. And looking at the photos meant reliving it again. Confronting the thoughts I’ve continuously pushed away.

We went to the library in town for the first time today (this has something to do with Zoe, I promise!). I misread the schedule online so we got there just as story time was letting out. Being confronted with all those moms with multiple children all of varying ages brought everything rushing back. There were babies and toddlers everywhere. That and the teeny tiny 2 week old baby that was there. Tears sprung to my eyes watching the mom corral her two other children while breastfeeding the baby at the same time. That wouldn’t be me right now (Zoe would be 5 months on Thursday and on a rigid schedule by now 😉 ) but it SHOULD have been me 4 months ago. This was the first time I was in public with the kids in a child-centric setting and I was totally unprepared for its impact on me. What a surprise.

After my experience at the library this morning I decided I was done procrastinating looking at the pictures. It was time. And looking at them turned out not to be emotional for me at all. Granted that could’ve been due to the fact that I HATE Jeff’s laptop with a passion (seriously, I’m incapable of using anything that’s not a Mac anymore) so I spent the entire time muttering swear words under my breath instead of focusing on the photographs. But whatever the reason, I’ll take it. I smiled remembering how J crawled into the hole and walked all over Z’s ashes when I asked her to place the bear at the bottom of the tree. I remembered reading the poem that came with the butterflies and recalled how perfect it was for our situation (and wished my copy of it wasn’t packed away because I can’t remember exactly what it said). I shook my head remembering a couple of inappropriate comments made…like when one of the kids threw a shovelful of dirt in the hole and yelled, “Die, bear, die!!!!” while laughing maniacally. How we got started 20 minutes late because unsurprisingly one of the Sunday clan was running behind. How amazing Jeff’s pulled pork tasted and that it turned out to be the perfect amount of food. How I made Jeff wait until everyone was there to drop the tree into the hole, instead of doing that part earlier in the morning. How we told Tyler a 6 foot oak and instead he showed up with a 20 footer…about 20 minutes before the tree planting was supposed to begin. How creepy it sounded when I passed out the butterfly envelopes, hearing their legs/wings scratching at the paper, trying to get out. How the majority of the butterflies didn’t have use of their wings yet and plopped straight down to the ground when we released them so we had to be careful walking on the grass so as not to trample them. I was just happy that the majority of them were alive! It probably wouldn’t have been a good omen if all 30 butterflies were dead upon opening the envelopes…

But mostly I remembered how nice it all was. The weather was perfect. Everyone was able to make it, minus just a few people. We spent some great quality time with family and friends that we don’t get to see often enough. We were able put our baby girl to rest in a beautiful, peaceful way. There are a handful of times when Jeff comes up with a REALLY stellar idea, and this was one of them. I’m glad we have the tree to come back and visit every time we go home to see how much Zoe has grown. I’m glad we had to wait for a few months for the weather to warm up so we had time to come to terms with our grief. I’m glad I hired someone to take photos and that she had the brilliant idea to get a group shot at the end (although I do wish it would’ve occurred to me to get one of just the 4 of us too. And that I had taken a photo of just the kids by the tree before we left. Those would be great family photos to mark everyone’s growth as time goes by! Guess I’ll just have to start that tradition the next time we go home…). I’m glad that all of our friends and family were able to participate in burying the tree, her legacy. I’m glad we did this.

My favorite moment of all was when I asked J if there was anything she would like to tell Zoe after her ashes were spread. She looked at me and said, “No. I talk to Zoe a lot at night before I go to sleep. I tell her all kinds of things then.”image

The “What-Ifs”…

It’s been awhile. About ten billion things have happened, all cementing the fact that moving/stress/a new environment is definitely the way to take my mind off of things. And timing-wise it all worked well. Going through everything we have the last few weeks on top of still majorly grieving any earlier would have been impossible. I needed time to process Zoe’s death and to go through the roller coaster of emotions. But any longer to dwell and I would’ve gone crazy. I haven’t cried in weeks. I think of her often, but never with gut wrenching sadness. I still have times when I have to catch my breath when she slips into my mind, but it’s not completely debilitating. I’m over the worst of it. There are still going to be plenty of bad times, but I’m okay. We’re okay.

All of it made me wonder what it would’ve been like if we had a 4 month old to worry about on top of it all. How would my sleep deprivation effected my dealing with the unbelievable stress of our stuff packed like shit? Seriously, I can’t even describe how horribly our stuff was packed. For me the icing on the cake was our 50 inch plasma TV (which is in the military moving contract that it has to be crated) shoved into a box the packer made by taping broken down boxes together. He didn’t even wrap it in paper before sticking it in there (not that it would’ve survived even if he had used paper, but still!).

Tv

Tv

When we were finally blessed with the 2 most amazing packers I have ever seen on Friday morning (the day we were supposed to be leaving, not still packing and loading) to completely repack our house, exclamations of “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!” and “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!” were heard all morning. We were continuously asked if it would be okay if they took pictures to show their bosses and other professional packers the shitshow our boxes were.

Box that popped open all by itself.

Box that popped open all by itself.

This is how the majority of our boxes looked.

This is how the majority of our boxes looked.

How all of my lamps were "packed". Lightbulb and all.

How all of my lamps were “packed”. Lightbulb and all.

My TiVo. In a suitcase.

My TiVo. In a suitcase.

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At least this box had paper…even if the breakable things weren’t wrapped in it…

I asked Deshawn what he thought the worst part was and he told me “The kitchen, hands down. They didn’t use a single piece of packing paper in any of your kitchen boxes.” Just so you know, every single plate, cup and bowl we own are glass. I know Jeff’s breaking point was when we discovered his $1,000 dress mess uniform crumpled in a ball at the bottom of a box under a bunch of shoes. Especially sncece he had specifically told them to pack it with care.

The dress mess is under all that crap.

The dress mess is under all that crap.

I have never seen him so angry in my entire life. I nearly lost it when I found my iMac desktop at the bottom of a box under a bunch of other stuff. It goes without saying there wasn’t any paper in that box either. All I can say is thank god for Jason, our driver. Even at 6 pm on Thursday night when he was running around like a madman trying to repack our house himself, not knowing if he was going to get paid for his hard work, and Jeff and I were beyond caring and told him to load everything as-is, we’d just buy new stuff, he said “Absolutely not. I still care about your stuff and I’m not letting it all get destroyed.” Sorry babe, but Jason is my new hero.

I can’t even imagine how things would have gone if I was waking up every 3-4 hours to breastfeed Zoe on top of the whole ordeal. I was already sleeping like shit from the stress of it all; that would’ve made it even worse. If you know me well you know that I can be a real bitch when I don’t get enough sleep, so I can only imagine what my repeated messages to the moving company would’ve sounded like. I tried to keep it civil in the beginning, knowing it wasn’t the contractor’s fault, but by the end it WAS their fault because they didn’t do anything to remedy the situation, even though we gave them a full 36 hours notice to fix the problem. When the second crew (aka two guys) was sent out to fix the problem and one of them was from the original crew, I called TMM in a panic and requested more/different people. I was told, “Well I’m 99% positive there isn’t anyone else to send. Everyone is booked so I’m not going to try. You’ll just have to hope that they retrained him and now he knows the way he packed before is wrong.” Okay I need to stop thinking about this. I’m getting all worked up again…

And what would’ve happened with the cleaning? The truck pulled out of our driveway at 11 am. Move out inspection was at 2. Fortunately we had the presence of mind to hire a cleaner, so instead of heading off to a leisurely brunch while J was in school, C was at hourly and hired help cleaned our home, we pitched in instead. We finished in the nick of time. What would we have done with Zoe though? I wouldn’t have put her in hourly, figuring she doesn’t talk or walk so she wouldn’t trample on our adult time, hahahaha, so I wouldn’t have been able to help clean (or at least not as much). Would we have finished in time?

What about on the road? How would we have split the kids? Would Jeff FINALLY have had to take a child during a PCS?!?! We were already stopping every 2-3 hours for fuel, so feeding her wouldn’t have been an issue. But would she have followed in her brother’s footsteps and hated riding in the car and screamed the entire 1100 miles?

How would the different sleeping arrangements in the camper effect everyone? J would be on the table, C would still be in the bottom bunk, Roman would be in bed with Jeff and Zoe and I would share the top. Would Roman be less annoying since he was on the bed? Would J still be sleeping til 9 am if she was in the middle of the camper? Would I have broken my neck trying to climb in and out of the top bunk?

And the biggest what-if: housing. Housing for students is a cluster fuck. It’s all on a first-come first-serve basis. Houses can’t be filled until the last class gets out. Move companies are completely booked. There are two housing areas that are available immediately, Old Oregon (which is tiny) and Infantry Barracks (which is historic, doesn’t have a garage or a yard, and in an apartment setup so half of the units are upstairs). If you want any of the newer housing you’re looking at a 2 week wait. And then an additional 2 weeks after that for household goods. It’s only 11 months so we already knew we were going for Infantry Barracks. And the moment I walked into the first house we looked at I fell in love. High ceilings, real wood floors, open…it’s gorgeous. image image imageEven if I had the choice of the new housing, I would’ve picked Infantry. However–we’re on the second floor. It’s barely possible with a 140 pound dog and a two year old. There’s no way we could’ve done it with a dog, a 2 year old, an incredibly lazy 5 year old (I’m already bracing myself for all of the complaining…) and an infant to boot. Lugging the stroller up and down. Having to carry her (and Jordan). Not possible. So what would’ve happened if we would have had to wait for other housing? Or for a bottom unit to open up? And the bottom ones are only 3 bedrooms–would we be able to make that work?

I am not in any way shape or form trying to insinuate that things are better because we didn’t have to deal with the stress of a 4 month old. That never once crossed my mind. I would still give anything to have her here with us; we would’ve figured everything out with her just as we did without her. I just wonder how it all would’ve been different. Just like every time we move and we have to make a choice between our top two housing choices–how would our experience differ if we had chosen the other one? If we had lived on post at Fort Riley? If the adorable house in Narberth had called a day earlier saying we were approved and we moved in there instead of the second floor apartment in Philly? If we had lived off post at Lee? I don’t regret any of those choices (well maybe the apartment in Philly…that was just awful), but I do wonder how completely different our experiences at each duty station would have been. And that’s just a house.

Oh and we do have results from the autopsy. Bottom line: no idea. More to come about that next time…

The solution? Moving.

As I was driving C to the Children’s Museum this morning I realized that Zoe would be 4 months old today. And I’m okay. Unlike the previous months I didn’t wake up in an awful mood this morning, not knowing why. It hasn’t been on my mind constantly for the last week, knowing the date was looming. I’ve finally solved the problem on how to not dwell on it–MOVE! I have been completely wrapped up in moving. What do we need to pull out (ha–who am I kidding…what do *I* need to pull out. Jeff is completely and totally useless when it comes to moving) to survive for the next month without our stuff? For the beach? For an empty house? In the camper? What are we going to eat? Wear? Watch? Do? What do we need to clean the house? What can I sell/donate? What route are we taking? Where are we stopping? When are we leaving? Those and thousands of other questions need to be answered. And once I finally sit down and stop moving for the night I’m utterly exhausted. I barely have the energy to zone out in front of the TV, let alone think about the upcoming milestone and what it means.

And now that I do have time to think about everything, now that the packers are (finally) at the house and zooming through all of our worldly possessions, I’m okay. It’s difficult to imagine how things would be if she was with us. She would be 4 months old and becoming an actual baby now, not a blob. I’d be getting more sleep. She’d be starting to fall into a routine. So unlike the early days when I knew that everything would be different because I would be a sleep deprived zombie, now I have idea what things should be like. My first thought is now no longer “how should this be” every time I go somewhere or do something. My brain is finally beginning to accept that this is normal. My heart doesn’t stop every time I see a teeny tiny baby. I’m not insanely jealous of every mother is see with three kids.

Of course that’s not to say that on Friday when all of our stuff is gone and we say goodbye to this place that everything won’t come flooding back and I’ll have a breakdown (or ten). When I take our traditional goodbye picture in front of the house and there are only two children instead of three. When the 22nd comes. When the 14th of July comes. When we show up at Leavenworth and qualify for a 3 bedroom instead of a 4. When I meet a mom whose baby girl is 4 months old. And when any (or all) of that happens, it’s okay. Because I know now that this is survivable. That the bad phases are just that–phases. And although what happened will never be okay or right, it is what it is. We’re different people because of it. Hopefully better people because of it.

People who commit horrific acts have always baffled me, and now even more so than ever. People like the Orlando shooter who have obviously never experienced any kind of senseless tragedy. If they had they would never want to inflict that kind of pain on anyone else. I am dumbfounded by what our society is becoming and hope now more than ever that people will come to their senses. Develop empathy. Appreciate the preciousness of human life–all human life. There’s enough “natural” tragedy in the world–why would you intentionally cause harm to others? All I can hope is that my children could never fathom intentionally causing harm to others, physically or mentally. And if they are ever in a terrorism situation they’ll have the presence of mind to stay calm and do what they can to help keep others safe. It’s a sad world we live in now and the only way we can fix it is to raise the next generation right. It’s a simple as following the Golden Rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. Respect. I saw this somewhere (probably Pinterest) awhile ago and it stuck with me. It’s especially relevant today and a lesson I hope to instill in our children. And in ourselves. imageHmmm, kind of got off topic there. Nobody should be surprised.

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Okay so Felt Mats are Just as Addicting as Quiet Books…

After making a road felt mat for C for his 2nd birthday I wondered if I could make a princess version for J.  In case you’ve forgotten (oh, if only I could forget…) she is completely obsessed with the Disney Princesses.  She has a bunch of these pop up board games that came with tiny princess figurines to play.  I think we played the games about a dozen times before she completely abandoned them and now just carries the princesses around with her everywhere.  Between those and her sets of felt people, I thought it would be fun to make a princess mat for her to play on!

I started off like I do with all projects:  Pinterest.  Unsurprisingly these aren’t nearly as popular as the car mats are.  I found three possible inspirations.  First, a Tangled one on My Decoupaged Life.  Although I loved it, I didn’t want to focus on just one princess story.  In retrospect I do kind of wish I would’ve got this route instead–made a small felt mat for each princess.  I just might do that down the road…

The second one I found was a little bit different.  Instead of focusing on the outside, All the Joy made the inside of the castle.  I stored this idea away for the future.

The one I relied on the most for ideas was A Girl and a Glue Gun.  I decided to make a mat that included something from each princess story.

One mistake I made was to make this project while J was home sick from school for a week.  I got a lot of input from her, which was both good and bad.  Like she wouldn’t let me include anything for Mulan, Pocohantas or Merida, even though that had been my original plan.  She’s only had the mat for a couple of weeks and she’s already complaining that they don’t have a home.  I knew I shouldn’t take advice from a 5 year old!

When making all of the buildings I referred to Google images for pictures of what they looked like in the movies and then did my best to replicate them.  I did a better job on some…  The animals especially turned out rather interesting…

I started off with a piece of dark green felt for the background.  I added a square of white for Elsa’s kingdom and dark brown for the woods.  Together those two were the same length as the dark green.  I cut a strip of light blue for the sky that was the same width as the dark green/white.  Last, I cut some dark blue for Ariel’s ocean.  I cut the top so it resembled waves.

I also wish I would’ve made it bigger.  I didn’t realize just how much larger C’s mat was until I had already cut the background felt for J’s mat and it was too late to make it bigger without having to scrap the pieces I had.  It didn’t need to be much bigger, but a little bit would’ve been nicer.

But here’s the final product, warts and all!

J requested the North Mountain first…no surprises there.  I made an Ice Castle for Elsa.  I used blue and white puffy paint to embellish it a bit and glued just one side of the door down so it “opens”.  I cut out a sleigh and Sven, a bunch of white triangles to represent mountains or snow mounds or something.  The light blue is a path for the princesses to walk on (J requested markings on the part leading up to the castle for stairs).  Marshmallow is guarding the castle and Oaken’s Trading Post is in the bottom corner.  diy-princess-felt-mat-north-mountainNext we worked on the woods.  I made a stream that leads to the ocean.  There’s a bridge that crosses over it.  The woods are supposed to represent Pocahontas, Merida, Snow White and Aurora all at once.  J requested a bench, an owl, squirrels and the three fairies from Aurora (just in case you were wondering what the hell those shapes were, hahaha).  The orangish/brownish felt is the path.diy-princess-felt-mat-woodsThe ocean scene was up next.  This one turned out to be waaaaay to spacious.  I should’ve made Ariel’s castle a lot bigger, but I didn’t realize how small it was until I had already glued it together and I didn’t feel like starting from scratch.  But this section has Ariel’s underwater palace, Eric’s ship, sunken treasure (I just needed something to throw in there!), Sebastian, Flounder (not sure where he is…), Ursula and her lair.  I also made Flotsam and Jetsam but by the time I was ready to glue the underwater scene down I had lost them.  I think they ended up getting swept up with all of the other felt scraps.  I haven’t gotten around to making another one set of them yet.  diy-princess-felt-mat-ocean

And then the rest of mat all crammed together.  Aurora’s cottage and spinning wheel.  A bookstore and fountain from Beauty and the Beast.  The Snuggly Duckling, tower and cave from Tangled.  The Wishing Well from Snow White (J had me add a blue sapphire ring at the bottom.  There’s a short story about Cinderella we read once where she lost her ring in the well and the mice had to retrieve it).  A pumpkin and carriage from Cinderella.  Tiana’s Palace (which I had to fight J tooth and nail so I could add it).   The magic carpet from Aladdin.  And, most importantly, Cinderella’s castle.

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I also added a back to the mat.  Since I used a bunch of different felts to make the different backgrounds I figured it would help to make it roll up easier.  Although really this mat isn’t large enough to roll.

I finished the edges of the front and back with some ribbon.

Voila, finished!  J uses it all of the time, just like I thought she would.  I really am considering making a different mat for each story.  Hmmm, maybe I’ll start that right now…

75%

I’m doing just fine 95% of the time.  Well I guess technically it would be 75% of the time–the 8 days between the monthiversary of Zoe’s birth and her death are nearly impossible to get through.  And it usually takes me about half of the day on the 14th of the month to even realize why I’m such a shitty mood.  I may not consciously be aware of the date (as a stay at home mom I can barely tell you what day of the week it is, let alone the date!), but my subconscious certainly knows and my mood is absolutely horrendous.  For those 8 days I’m short tempered, sad, irritable and don’t want to talk.  So in other words a complete joy to be around.  Although then again I don’t know how much of that is different from every other day of my entire life…seriously how anyone puts up with me is a mystery.

I think part of the problem is that I am doing so well the other 3 weeks of the month.  I feel like I’m healing and getting better…and then the 14th through 22nd rolls around and I’m right back to where I started.  I know that’s not true; I’ve made a ton of progress.  But it just feels like any progress that it seems I’ve made is completely wiped clean on the 23rd.  I have to start from scratch again.  And I think that’s why those days are so rough; it feels like the other 22 days of the month are just a lie.

Now that I’m over the hump for the month of May things are going well again.  We’re still anxiously awaiting the autopsy results.  The coroner’s office told me 60-90 days is typical for infants and we officially passed the 90 day mark on Sunday.  I’m going to give it the rest of the week and then call on Tuesday.  I don’t want to be a hassle but I really would like some answers.  Even if the answer is “Sorry, we need another month for more results to come back”.

We’re going home this weekend for Zoe’s tree planting.  I can’t remember if I mentioned this before or not, but Jeff had the absolutely brilliant idea to plant Zoe’s ashes at the bottom of an oak tree on my dad’s property.  Then she can grow and thrive like she was unable to as a baby and we have somewhere to visit her.  Not that I need a place to go, but you know what I mean.  So on Saturday we’ll have our tree planting “ceremony” (for lack of a better word) with immediate family.  We’re also going to release butterflies.  I know it’s super cliche, but I don’t care.  We’re going to have a photographer come out and capture the moment for us.  I think it will be nice.  I’m actually really looking forward to it.

Someone recently posted on the local army wives page that their daughter (who passed away from the flu when she was 9 months) would have been turning 3 on such-and-such date.  She was looking for a little girl with the same birthday who was also turning 3 to send a gift to.  I absolutely adore that idea.  I think it would be great to give back to someone in need and to celebrate Zoe’s birthday in a positive way.  There was a ton of feedback on the post and a few people mentioned how they write a letter to their deceased child, put it in a balloon and release it on his/her birthday every year.  That’s another tradition that I want to incorporate.

Honestly I don’t really have much to say.  I just felt the need to write a post when I’m feeling good–not in a pit of despair like every other time.  To let people know that we’re doing just fine.  Slowly but surely.  Surviving.

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The Original Quiet Book, Part Four. Hooray!

Okay, this is it!!!  My last three quiet book pages I made for J’s original quiet book (check out parts one, two and three if you haven’t already), the cover and some general musings about the whole process.

Mailbox page is up next.  quiet-book-original-mailbox-page-2 quiet-book-original-mailbox-page-3 quiet-book-original-mailbox-page-4This one is a two-parter.  The left page has a pocket to hold a few markers/pens and a pocket for a small notebook.  The opposite page is the mailbox.  These pages are everywhere so you really shouldn’t have a hard time finding one you like.  I modeled the pocket page off of this post and the mailbox from this one.

do not like these pages.  The pen and notebook both fall out of the pocket all of the time.  And the mailbox is junk.  Which is due to my novice quiet book making status and sewing skills, not to Imagine Our Life’s instructions in the slightest!  As you can tell from the picture below, my button and ribbon combination did not work well.  J was never able to loop the ribbon behind the button, which I’m not sure if that’s due to the button being too small or the ribbon too thick or what.  Either way the ribbon is falling off now.quiet-book-original-mailbox-page-1Technically the rest of the page works but I just don’t like how it looks in general.  I made a similar page for Nolan’s quiet book, which I think turned out much better.  You can read about it here.mailbox-supplies-quiet-book-page-2 mailbox-quiet-book-page-2I need to ask Amanda how everything is holding up, and if it’s good then make a carbon copy of that page for C.  And in J’s new quiet book just include a place for a small notebook and pack of crayons to be stored somewhere.  You’re never too old to color!

The next set of pages are two that I added a bit down the road.  When she was 3 she was absolutely obsessed with playing doctor for about 6 months.  And I mean totally obsessed.  The moment Hubby walked in the door until bedtime that’s all she wanted to play with him.  She has a My Life doll we named Wendy and poor Wendy was constantly in fires and needed to be fixed up.  It’s been two years since she’s asked Hubby to play it with him and I think he’s still burnt out on it.  But I thought a Doctor’s Kit would be a great addition to the book.
quiet-book-original-doctors-kit-page-2 quiet-book-original-doctors-kit-page-1Ugh, this is another one that makes me cringe when I look at it.  I couldn’t find anything online that I liked and apparently this is what happens when I design a page myself.  On the left page I figured out a way to attach the stethscope.  I took four rectangles of fabric about the same size, added velcro to each end and sewed half of each one directly onto the page.  And then you simply slip the stethoscope piece into the flap and fold the other end over and secure the velcro.  It works really well.  The thermometer doesn’t actually go there (all of the loops are for the stethoscope) but J must’ve popped it over there at some point.

The opposite page is just three pockets to hold doctors supplies.  The only thing that I found in there now is some gauze, but it used to hold a thermometer, a medicine dropper, a reflex hammer, an eye-checker-thing (obviously that’s it’s official name), gauze, two of those huge bandage things that you can use as a cast/wrap your ankle/sling/etc, and some bandaids.  Oh and a few surgical masks.  All of the stuff I either bought from the Dollar Tree or was duplicates of what she had in her doctor’s kit at home.  And let me tell you:  bandaids are a brilliant idea for keeping toddlers occupied either at home or in the car.  J would spend hours putting bandaids on herself, her stuffed animals and us.  Of course she was a good kid and all we had to do was tell her one time that bandaids don’t belong anywhere else except those three places and she remembered (and followed) that forever.  Other kids may not be so good…

Although this page is perfectly functional I hate the fabric that I used.  I tried and tried to find some doctor’s-type fabric but to no avail.  I had a bunch of this crappy yellow stretch knit and figured it’d work fine, which it does…it’s just not appealing.  And this is another example when it was a waste to use up two pages.  One would have been sufficient.

I made a similar page for Nolan’s quiet book, which turned out much better.  Minus the fact that I majorly messed up the pocket so all of the stuff is going to fall out, hahaha.  If C gets into the doctor thing I’ll make a page like that for him instead.  You can see how I made it here.quiet-book-doctors-kit-page-6Last but not least, the rainbow and name page! quiet-book-rainbow-and-name-page-2 quiet-book-rainbow-and-name-page-2 quiet-book-rainbow-and-name-page-1This one is okay.  I got the idea for the name here.  I saw a few sites where I could’ve used velcro instead, but that seemed too easy and there was a ton of velcro throughout the rest of the book, so I wanted something else.  I think the buttons were too hard for J though, because she only ever laid the letters on top.  And although I liked the idea of felt rainbow and thought it looked really neat, she only put it together once or twice.  Either because she didn’t care or it was too difficult for her.  Obviously she knows how to write her name now so this page can go into the garbage.  I’ll probably make one for C down the road but find a different way to attach the letters.  Maybe snaps?  Nolan will get a page like this first so I’ll experiment on him 😉

So that’s it for the pages.  Let’s talk cover now.  I researched the crap out of how to make a quiet book cover.  It’s been so long since I’ve made it that I really can’t remember much about it…except that I cried and seam ripped a lot.  One thing I know for sure is that I did not like the ribbon for handles.  It isn’t sturdy enough.  Otherwise the cover is okay.  I put a ton of pockets on there, which is good since a lot of my pages wouldn’t actually hold the pieces so I needed some extra storage, haha.  j-quiet-book-cover-4 j-quiet-book-cover-5 j'-quiet-book-cover-1j-quiet-book-cover-3 j-quiet-book-cover-2This one and this one are two of the four blogs that I have saved that the links still work that I used as a reference…I have no idea what I took from where.  However, you can read all about how I made Nolan’s quiet book cover here.  That should help tremendously if making your own.

General thoughts:

  1. Hate the ribbon as a handle for the cover
  2. The pages are too big.  I think I went with 12×12?  So once they were finished about 11×11.  Although great when spread out on the floor, it’s just not practical in the car.  Way too big.
  3. Felt, iron-on Heat n Bond and muslin are not friends.  As you probably noticed while looking at my pages, a bunch of the felt letters fell off.  Which is fine…in retrospect the pages didn’t need titles anyway.  Now ironing fabric on with Heat n Bond works great.
  4. Close/secure all pockets.  It doesn’t matter what’s being stored in it or how big it is, it’s going to fall out.
  5. 3/8″ grommets are way too big for the pages.  I couldn’t find anything smaller until I finally bought my Crop-a-Dile, which uses eyelets instead.  Game changer.
  6. Making quiet books is extremely addictive.  Going through and writing these posts have made me itching to make some more pages.  We currently have three books:  J’s Original Quiet Book, the ABC Quiet Book and a mini Baby Quiet Book (that C never played with even though I tried my hardest to get him to.  Bastard.)

I think that’s it!  Hope you learned lots of what-not-to-do things and got some ideas on pages that might work for your little one!  Check back to see future posts about the ABC and Baby books!