Friday, August 26, 2016

Evan's 1st Day of 4th Grade

Yikes!  I can't believe we already have four years of elementary school behind us and only two more to go before the dreaded middle school is upon us.  It has been a crazy four years, but I think this year has started out about as smooth as we could have hoped with two kids in school.  I do think it helps with me being home and not having to worry about other childcare arrangements right now.  That was such a stressful part of our lives during Evan's first years of school.  So for now, this lifestyle is working out okay even if it does mean a few sacrifices here and there.   Now that sports is also in full swing with two busy boys, our schedules during the week do get pretty crazy.  It does seem like their school days are very long because even though they don't have to be at school until 9:15 in the morning, they are there until 4:00.  With sports practices starting at 6:00, that doesn't leave us much time to get them fed and do homework in the evenings.  Since Evan started back to school on July 11th, we are currently less than three weeks away from our first quarter break in September so we are definitely looking forward to that.  For Evan, he has just matured so much this past year in all areas.  I have been so impressed with his physical abilities as he has been through some pretty intense conditioning training to get him ready for his first season of football.  I can really begin to see the teenage years approaching fast, and I definitely have mixed feelings about that.  Sigh.  I think 4th grade in our state is a pretty fun academic year.  Evan will enjoy learning lots of NC history and will get to go on some fun field trips.  I still remember our 4th grade field trip to tour our state capital, Raleigh.  For us, it was a fun "far away" trip since we didn't live in the Raleigh area.  I know that it will be different for him, but I still think it will be fun.  It is like a "rite of passage" trip for fourth graders in our state.  Evan is also proud that he is finally on the last Harry Potter book, the Deathly Hallows, although he is also excited to read the newest book/play too. He is just growing up so fast!

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Family pictures!
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I made him stop and pose for a picture on the way into school. 

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Yes, he wants to be some kind of engineer and thinks nuclear engineer sounds cool.  We do live down the road from a nuclear power plant.  Haha!  We also finally gave in and let him get Minecraft when it was available for Wii U.  He still doesn't play it on any other devices.  He and I have built a pretty impressive city with skyscrapers, roads, apartment buildings, suburbs with houses, and even a Target, grocery store, movie theater, and gas station.  Haha!  Hey, I may be pushing him more towards being an architectural engineer. 

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He loves being in a pirate themed room this year.

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Getting to work.

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I think I was most excited to see his stack of textbooks for the year. 

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His teacher sent us pictures of their first group project of the year making a model of North Carolina out of yummy treats that represented different aspects of the three regions of the state, mountains, piedmont, and coastal plain.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Confessions and Forgiveness

How do you even begin to forgive people who are not sorry for the endless hurt they have caused you?  Hurt that goes beyond anything most people could even fathom?  How can you ever really trust them again when they let you down in the most incredible ways?  I have never had a very supportive family.  That’s my life.  My parents who adopted me had not really supported me since I was a young teenager.  They were always too selfishly wrapped up in their own concerns and doing what they wanted.  Yes, they behaved like children instead of parents and adults.  They never developed the ability to put others’ needs before themselves.  I was alone so much of my adolescent years.  I reached out to others (yes, even boys) in somewhat unhealthy ways to cope with the loneliness.  I escaped to college and was enjoying my first year with the freedom to live my life for me. 
Then, I met a boy who had come from similar circumstances.  Parents who were too selfish to ever care to accomplish anything for themselves or their children.  A selfish father who abandoned him at the first opportunity when he was a teenager.  I believe he only stuck around as long as he did for the “free ride” of living off his in-laws who had helped support them their whole lives.  Who knows where his son would have ended up without his grandparents’ support?  His mother continued to live her life selfishly barely getting by in a dead end job and not trying to better herself.  After the loss of her supportive mother, she just got worse.  Her house was a mess.  Her son escaped to college as his grandmother had wished, and we met during his junior year.  I think what I was drawn to most was that he could understand a little of what my life had been like.  I fell in love hard and fast.  Our final years of college were a whirlwind, and we knew we needed to get married as soon as college ended because we had no one but each other.  Eddie was finally blessed with his first job in his chosen career field as a forester during my junior year of college, and he proposed shortly thereafter.  He worked hard to prepare a home to provide for me for when we were married.  We were so happy to be married.  Even without loving and supportive families, we felt we could accomplish anything together and with God’s help. 
The next few years were difficult but still happy.  After two years of renting our first home together, we decided to put down some roots and buy our first home.  I was working about an hour away from home, but we were making it work.  Then, after over a year in our new home, we decided to add to our family and were expecting our first baby.  We were nervous how my job and long commute would work out once our baby arrived.  We knew we would have no family to help us care for him.  We just trusted God to provide a way.  Eddie had been applying for many other jobs within his career field and prepared to move to wherever a good opportunity opened up to better provide for our family. 
Finally, while we were in the labor and delivery room bringing our son into the world, Eddie received the call about a job transfer to Charlotte.  He knew it was only a lateral move, but he also hoped that we would all have better opportunities in that bigger city where I could eventually obtain a better paying job closer to home.  He also hoped it was a stepping stone to better opportunities for growth in his profession.  So soon after welcoming our newborn son, we prepared to relocate across the state.  With little to no help in the months ahead, life was rough but still happy.  We listed our first home for sale and prayed that burden would be lifted from us, but a downturn in the economy and a very poor area made it impossible to sell a house we had only purchased brand new just two years before.  After several months of a difficult transition to his new job, we needed to permanently relocate to Charlotte.  We moved into an apartment in Charlotte while continuing to try to sell and later rent our house.  We finally secured some renters, but the rent was still way below the monthly house payment.  Eddie did what he could to support our family during this time and went out west to fight wildfires to make extra money. 
Despite financial difficulties, our first year as parents was still filled with the sweetest memories as we watched our precious son grow.  I finally obtained a better job opportunity that would allow me to work closer to home and afford to put our son in full day daycare after he was a year old.  I was so sad to leave him, but we had no other feasible options.  We had no one else to help care for him or support him.  He totally depended on us for all of his needs, and we weren’t going to let him down.  We had been let down too much by our own parents.  I decided after a year of working that our family needed me to further sacrifice to hopefully provide better opportunities for us so I chose to go to law school at night while continuing to work full time.  It was so hard being away from my husband and young son all day and many nights. 
Despite all of our difficulties with work and going to school, we decided to give Evan a baby brother after four years.  We welcomed our second son at the end of my second year of law school.  How could I ever regret that decision?  We continued to trust that together and with God’s help, we could accomplish anything.  Our boys made life feel so blessed.  We enjoyed making so many happy memories together, and we really didn’t feel we could complain despite the fact that we knew we didn’t have many of the blessings most young families have like a lot of family to love and support them.  We still had to rely on outside childcare help and tried a succession of nannies for years who just never worked out.  Our first nanny was a blessing until her health took a severe turn for the worse after almost a year with us.  Then, we had several younger nannies who just really didn’t want to do anything with our kids all day which made us very sad for them.  We felt we were paying them a decent salary out of our hard earned money and that our children deserved more. 
Still, we decided we wanted to try for one more baby before my law school career ended, and I moved on to hopefully starting a new career.  We were so excited to be expecting our first baby girl right after I graduated from law school and celebrated our ten year anniversary.  It was a difficult year being pregnant, working full time, finishing law school, and still having no support from anyone but my husband.  Even my brother and his wife who lived in Charlotte were always too selfish to care very much for us or our children.  Oh but she had such a hard life staying home with her kids and having a nanny to help her.  They couldn’t even be happy for us expecting our third child and first girl after we had supported them and even babysat for their four kids occasionally while they went out together.  Finally, my due date arrived, and I reached out to my sister-in-law to have a girls’ day together having lunch and getting pedicures.  Yes, I reached out to her even though she really didn’t care very much to be there for us or our new baby.  Oh, she would act happy when we came to visit them, but they left to head to the beach that week even though I was overdue to have our baby with no other family close by to help us with our boys if I went into labor.  I was not scheduled to be induced until 41 weeks. 
At 40 weeks 6 days, I awoke to intense and regular labor contractions.  My husband didn’t seem to be aware of how serious natural labor can be which may be in part due to us having two previous late term inductions.  I told him several times we needed to prepare to head to the hospital and begged him to call his mother to get there to watch our boys.  He called her that morning, and we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Through some very severe contractions that my husband didn’t seem to understand were quite painful to the point of not being able to walk or move through them.  He insisted we needed to go eat lunch and get haircuts for the boys.  I didn’t think it was wise and I told him so, but he insisted.  Now you would think a husband would be more concerned for his laboring wife’s concerns.  I knew that even though the contractions were only ten minutes apart, they were very regular and very intense.  My water had not broken, but I had never been in natural labor before.  I was concerned with how intense the contractions were.  I had to stop in a parking lot on the way into the restaurant in the middle of one very intense one.  He went on inside with our oldest son while I was holding the hand of our young two year old and trying to get through a contraction so I could walk.  I still cry thinking of this day since I don’t know at what point my precious baby girl left us.  Any of these intense contractions could have been her last movements.  I was confused about what to do.  I knew I needed to go to the hospital, but Eddie’s mother still hadn’t shown up and he didn’t seem concerned about getting to the hospital.  We made it through lunch and took the boys to a hair salon.  I tried to go in, but I had to go get back into the car because of more severe contractions.  I felt so alone.  We got back home and still Eddie’s mom had not arrived.  I laid down and just tried to monitor contractions as we waited.  I went ahead and called the doctor to tell him my progress and that we would be coming to the hospital shortly as contractions were now five minutes apart.  Finally, after 4 p.m., Eddie’s mom arrived.  What kind of loving and supportive parents and grandparents don’t hurry to be there for the birth of a grandchild?  And where were my parents?  Well, besides being physically incapable of doing anything to help us or support us, they arrived sometime that night to stay in a hotel.  Nope, they weren’t there to help watch their grandkids.  
So it was about 4:30 p.m. before we could kiss our kids goodbye and head to the hospital.  It started to rain as we were leaving.  Contractions were getting more frequent and were 2 to 3 minutes apart.  By the time we arrived, I needed a wheelchair to even make it up to labor and delivery.  Upon arrival, I am taken into triage and told to give a urine sample and get into a hospital gown.  No, they didn’t immediately start monitoring me.  I had to suffer through several contractions while trying to pee in a cup by myself in the bathroom when I had difficulty even standing on my own through contractions.  I’m not even sure why they needed the urine sample. Maybe they needed proof that this huge 40 week pregnant woman was in fact pregnant.  Sigh.  It was a very incompetent hospital that night.  I finally made it onto a hospital bed where a nurse started using a Doppler to try to find the heartbeat.  Seconds and minutes ticked by with no actual words from her.  I guess they had paged my doctor who finally showed up to hook up an ultrasound machine.  So after all of this loving and supportive care from everyone, I get to hear those lovely words “there is no heartbeat.”  Like a huge, full term baby was nothing at all to them.  A baby who should have been delivered already.  After a long night of crying through an emotional labor in which I delivered our 8 lb. baby girl naturally, I felt even more alone. 
Our “families” finally showed up to act like they cared.  You know, going through the motions of pretending they had any real emotional connections to us.  Well, at least my mother didn’t pretend.  She was so “out of it” it was just like another regular day to her.  She barely even acknowledged the baby in my arms as she rattled on about who knows what.  Finally, I had to make everyone leave us.  Our young sons were confused.  Evan was heartbroken over seeing his baby sister’s lifeless body.  He went home to try to rest with this grandmother.  We kept Brody with us for the night, and Eddie used that as an excuse to not come near me all night.  He slept ( I guess he slept since I heard nothing from him all night) with Brody on the couch in the room.  I laid in bed holding our daughter and crying and praying and even screaming out all night.  I had never felt more alone in my life.  I couldn’t imagine how a person who had already been denied so much in life could be expected to suffer yet another tremendous loss.  I had longed for this baby girl as a way of having a mother daughter bond that I had never known for myself.  My husband never came to me at all that night.  Did he even hear my cries?  Did he even care?  How can I begin to believe even he really cared for me when he couldn’t be there for me during my most difficult day?  Did he even take any responsibility for not caring about me during labor and getting me to the hospital when I had begged him to do so? 
The next day, I had to do everything I could to hold it together and “enjoy” the only moments I would get to hold my daughter on this earth.  I wanted pictures to remember her.  I showered and got dressed so that those pictures would be a beautiful reminder of our daughter as a part of our family.  I didn’t want anyone to ever deny she had existed.  Of course, I think most people around us at this point do try to forget she existed.  My brother and his wife had showed up to act the part of caring family along with my parents and my husband’s mother.  That was it.  That was everyone who showed up to “meet” our precious daughter.  I finally had to urge them all to leave so I could have a few minutes alone with my husband and daughter before the hospital made me leave.  I was in the hospital less than 24 hours and for most of that time, they were constantly checking to see if I was “ready to leave.”  Didn’t they care this was the only time I would get with my daughter?  The anger and resentment was growing stronger by the minute.  After finally handing our daughter over to a nurse, we did leave.  I had tried to get a few minutes for my husband to hold me and our daughter.  He had barely even touched much less held our daughter since she was born.  He laid on the bed with us for a few minutes before he said we needed to leave.  Didn’t he care at all about his daughter and never seeing her again?  Didn’t he want to remember her beautiful face or how soft she felt in his arms?  I couldn’t understand it.  I thought he wanted a daughter but now I wasn’t so sure.  I wasn’t even sure he wanted me anymore.   So we headed home with empty arms and an empty car seat in the backseat.  A future I had looked forward to with such promise had shattered in an instant.  I didn’t know where to go from here.  Yes, part of me wasn’t sure I even wanted to go forward, but of course, the thought of my sons with no one to really love them but me did make me move forward.  I wondered how my relationship with my husband would ever heal from this.  I felt abandoned by him after that night in the hospital.  Throughout this pregnancy, we had suffered some rocky times as he wasn’t understanding of all I was going through.  I was unknowingly already suffering from health issues that were also causing me extreme exhaustion, but I guess I am a “strong” person who managed to handle it all without help so I must be okay, right?  Why would my husband need to be concerned about me? 
The following week was a whirlwind in which I planned our daughter’s funeral.  I planned what would be said.  I made a video so that “family” and “friends” could see our beautiful daughter.  I went to pick out flowers.  Who else could do this but me?  Who else cared to?  In the days following the funeral, I couldn’t stop or even slow down.  I had to be there for my other children.  Who else could we depend on?  No family came to stay and help care for them.  No “offers” of help materialized.  People said flowery words in cards and on facebook but no one actually showed up.  It was the same old story.  We were totally alone. 
In the months and years that followed, I have held these feelings inside as “family” and “friends” continued to “disappear” from our lives.  I thought having another baby would help us heal, but even that wasn’t going to happen easily this time.  After months and months and some unexplained physical changes, I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroid which I suspect I had for a while during my pregnancy with our daughter.  After getting that under control, we did finally get the “happy” news of our rainbow baby.  Who did I care to share that with?  Not many.  My brother and his wife had decided to have a fifth child after our daughter passed.  How could I be there again for them when they had stayed away from us and offered little to know real support for us and our daughter?  I haven’t seen them since, and they haven’t met my precious little rainbow.  Why would I care to expose my children to more selfish people who don’t care for them?  And to the “cousins” who are being raised to be as selfish as their parents.  At this point, I may never see any of them again.  They continue to live in their selfish little worlds which only revolve around them.  Yes, you may expect better from the only real blood relation I have, but my brother has always only looked out for himself.  We were never close growing up.  He didn’t care to be around us during the 8 years we lived in Charlotte unless he needed something from us.  It is always about them, and after losing Mattie, I don’t need that kind of “family” anymore.  I doubt any of our family realizes any of the real hurt they have caused us because they just don’t care enough to consider others’ feelings.   They have only cared about themselves their whole lives.  My mother died, and my father is living his life the way he wants it.  He has nothing left from his whole life spent with his wife and children.  He has no savings.  He didn’t want to step up and be a dad and grandfather even after his wife passed away when he could have moved in with us to help us with our boys and get his finances straight.  He preferred living in an overcrowded house, even in an unfinished and unheated basement, with his son who lives the same selfish way he does and doesn’t make him try to be financially responsible.  My husband still wasn’t a super supportive husband during my rainbow pregnancy, but I fought for better medical care and an earlier induction to get my baby boy here safely.  He did help bring some joy and healing back into my life, but the fact he still has so few family to care for him makes me more bitter and sad.  I question why my life was “blessed” with so many disappointments and so few people who care for me, but then I think it has made me a more loving and caring mother to my own children.  I hope they will forgive me for any bitterness and anger they see in me because I am not perfect.  I still feel the resentment and anger, and I still have trouble forgiving.  How can I forgive a family who failed me at the most critical time of my life and doesn’t even seem remorseful or sorry for their actions?  I know God forgives us for so much worse, and I need to begin the forgiveness process so that I can move forward.  I just don’t know how.    
You may question why I am writing this.  I think that holding it in for years has really made it very difficult for me to release the bitterness and anger and start the forgiveness process.  I hope that by writing about my feelings where anyone who does care can read it will help me begin to let go of some of these feelings that are weighing me down.  I know that forgiveness is more for me than for others so I want to begin the process for me. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Brody's First Days of Kindergarten

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Yep, I know this post is over a month behind, but my OCD would not let me write out of order.  I am slowly getting caught up on my blog posts list.  I am very happy to report that Brody's first days of kindergarten have been a huge success with no tears.  He continues to love going to big school, and I have been so impressed with the progress he has made already.  I was very happy to see they use a good phonics program that Brody really loves called Letterland.  Each letter is represented by a little character, and they watch videos for each character and learn about the sounds they make.  He learned all of the characters very quickly and can now help me spell words based on sounding them out.  He also loves doing his homework every night.  He usually has a worksheet to practice writing his letters or numbers and then we read a book together and answer some questions about the reading.  He is really starting to pick up some sight words now and sounding out words by knowing the letter sounds.  He calls the letters by their letterland character most of the time, but I am not going
to be too picky at this time if that's what works for him.  He received his first progress report already and got top marks in all areas with phonics and reading, of course, being the areas to concentrate on.  It has been such a relief to have another child who loves school so much.  Let's hope this trend continues! 

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For the night before the first day, we were all prepared with our clothes laid out and our backpack ready.  Of course, that is not the case the rest of the year.  He has been taking his lunch every day because I don't want him dealing with going through the lunch line yet.  He can be a slower eater at times so I want him to have plenty of time to eat.  He loved his little love note in his lunch box.  That is definitely his love language.  He picked out the book to read the night before which continues the tradition started with Evan. 

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When did this baby get so big?  Holding his chalkboard that he wrote his name on again.

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All ready to go.

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Trying to do big brother's pose with his foot on the wall.

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Big brother was so proud.

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And so was little brother.

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But Mommy just can't believe how big all of her boys are getting.

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Daddy is proud.

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Walking to class.

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Brody found his class.  This was a staggered start day with just a few kids from each class.  They didn't meet in his classroom this day. 

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Brody chose to make some numbers with the cubes as his first morning work.

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Showing his number 5.

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Little brother wanted to help.

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I think I could have left them both here, and they wouldn't have cared.

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Working through his numbers.

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With no tears, he gave me big hugs and said he was ready for me to leave.  *Sniff*

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He only went to school one day his first week and then we went to meet the teacher night to hear about the plans for the year.  Brody had to do a little classroom scavenger hunt including cutting lines on papers.

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Checking off his list.

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Counting bears.

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And building with blocks.

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This little calendar is how Brody tracks his daily behavior.  Purple is the highest and this day he earned double purple.  His teacher says he always gets extra credit for actually napping at rest time.  He is one of the only kids who sleeps.  Haha!  He always gets top marks for good behavior just like his big brother, and he has earned his first big reward of getting to eat lunch with his teacher next week.  We hope this is all just a foreshadowing of the good things to come!


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