Saturday, June 16, 2018

Jacob's Anecdotes vol. 4

Jacob had a dentist appointment a couple months ago. He did about as well as could be expected for a four year old. His favorite part was being able to squirt water from the little water spray thing. But anyway, throughout the appointment, Jacob was being told how well he was doing, to keep it up buddy, you're doing great, etc. When his appointment was over, he went out in the hall and looked into the room next door, where someone else was having their teeth cleaned. Jacob immediately peered in and said, "You're doing good, buddy!" Sweetest and cutest thing ever!

***

The other day at Easter dinner, Jacob decided he was done eating. The problem was he only ate his ham, a bun and a bunch of pickles. And so I told him he needs to eat at least one bite of corn and one bite of potatoes if he wants dessert. Well, at first, he just told me he didn't want dessert. But then he came back. He asked where the potatoes were and I pointed to the cheesey potatoes on his plate. He immediately said "nope!" I put one little cubed hashbrown on his fork and asked him to try it. I just held the fork in front of his mouth because I could see him working up the courage to take a bite. He took the bite and all was good. After eating a bite of corn he exclaimed "I get dessert!!" He told me he wanted the "white, chocolate and pink ice cream, becuase I like the pink ice cream now Mommy" When we sat back down at the table, Jacob put a small piece of the strawberry ice cream on a spoon and held it up to my face. He said, "Try it Mommy, just one bite. See how YOU like it!" Oh my gosh, I just died laughing. And of course, tried the ice cream! :) 

***

Jacob and I were recently at one of his therapy appointments. He was asked to play a game of Bingo. The therapist would call out an animal and told Jacob to see if he could find that animal on the bingo sheet. If he found it, he should cross it off with an "X". She called the first animal. Jacob looked down at his sheet for a few seconds and then drew one big X across the entire page and says "womp womp womp". It was hard to keep a straight face!!! 

***

This isn't really one story... but Jacob has started to make up his own songs. He'll tell you he has a song for you and then sings and dances around, making it up as he goes! And I have to admit, they're pretty good songs! Always a good story! And, he's got a pretty good voice! :) 

***

Jacob and I are helping "pet sit" Boomer the electronic dinosaur for my friend Brandon. One of the first nights, Jacob comes over to me and says, "Boomer just told me thank you for getting him away from the bad man. Brandon was the bad man." I think he's trying to convince me that Boomer needs to stay! Ha! 

Friday, June 15, 2018

M&J Adventure: Elm Creek Park Reserve

Jacob and I went on another one of our Mommy & Jacob Adventures! This time, to a new park!

I spent a couple hours in the early morning 'torturing' Jacob by having him smile nicely for his 5 year old photo shoot. My promise was that as soon as we were done, we'd go find a new park! And that's exactly what we did!

We loaded up the car and headed north - all the way to Maple Grove! We went to the Elm Creek Park Reserve which had an amazing play area. The ground was that bouncy rubber and was full of slopes and hills for kids to climb up or roll down. There were rocks and ropes for climbing, tall tunnel slides, a sand and play area for smaller kids, some unique swings and a wide variety of other equipment. 

Jacob was super impressed! He took off running and didn't stop once. "Mommy, over here! Mommy, you can't catch me! Mommy, you're too big for this!" I thought he might be a little hesitant to try to tall tunnel slides but he zipped right down! Until one time, while taking his time going down the tunnel, a few girls came in after him and Jacob got a foot to the head. He was down with the slides after that. 

By far his favorite activities at the park included "swinging". One was a round disc that kids could sit or lay down on while parents swing them back and forth. The other was almost like a zipline... they had a chair kids could be strapped into and could push the chair back and forth along the curved path. I was very impressed by fellow kids and parents - we had no issues with rude kids and all the parents were doing a great job about making sure kids were sharing and taking turns on the equipment. 

The weather was cloudy and a little bit chilly, but I was still sweating following Jacob all around, so I would say perfect weather for the park! After the park, we found some lunch and McDonald's and then I had promised Jacob a stop at the big yellow barn for some candy. 

Jacob fell asleep about 7 miles before the Candy Store but woke right up when we arrived. This was our first time stopping since the remodel and man, that place is just huge!! All the fun painting and decorations were super cool and of course, you can't beat the candy collection! 

We managed to get home by about 4pm where Jacob decided he wanted to help Nana mow. So I would say it was a successful adventure day at Elm Creek park! They did have a swimming area so we might have to check that out if we get back up there! 






Grief

Last night the tears came hard and fast. I hadn't been myself. Apparently, I have appeared down. But I couldn't quite put my finger on it right away. 

Then it came. The grief. The overpowering sadness. The realization that he's gone and can't come back. The unfairness of it. It all arrived quickly and knocked me down. The tears wouldn't stop. I struggled to catch my breath. 

There didn't seem to be any noticeable trigger. Instead, it appeared like a sudden downpour on a cloudless day. It felt raw and fresh. I'll admit, I was surprised by the intensity. The ferocity of pain and sadness.

I wanted to wrap myself in something of his. A sweatshirt or a t-shirt. The loss felt so distant and I craved to be near him again in some sort of sense. I had to stop myself from crawling into bed with Jacob and holding him as I cried, the one thing that will always connect us. 

And on top of all of that, the knowledge that it will never get better or easier. It will become different. The pain may be spread farther apart, but it will always be there. Lurking just below. 

Even today, it continues. A grief hangover. My eyes puffy and red. There's a heavy lead something in my chest, holding me down. Even my arms and legs feel hot and heavy. 

I feel alone on my island of grief. But that's okay. There's seems like nothing anyone could say or do to help me through this wave of grief. It'll pass and it'll come again. I feel like I need to just experience these emotions when they come. I don't need your pity. When I need your comfort, I'll come to you. But this pain and grief feels like mine alone. And mine alone to work through. 


I think with Father's Day on Sunday and Jacob's birthday around the corner, I'm stuck in a place of ... I don't even know. Sorrow of what he's missing out on. Mourning what Jacob is missing out on with him not around. And fear that I alone am not enough for Jacob. 

So no, I guess I'm not okay. But that's okay. I don't need to be okay right now. And I hope you can be okay with that too. I ask that you just keep letting me process my thoughts and feelings as I need to. I ask that you just let me be not okay sometimes. I promise that if it gets to be too much, I'll reach out. Maybe check in sometimes if you feel you need to, but try not to be upset if I only give noncommittal answers. Sometimes, that's the best I can do. 

I've often thought in the past few months that even when I wasn't doing okay, it was better to just act like I was. Easier for people to think things are fine. Easier than trying to answers questions about how I really feel when I can't even explain it to myself. But I'm just not sure I have the strength to do that anymore. 

I'm realizing just how tricky this feeling of grief can be. I will probably never understand it. But it is completely a part of me now. And I guess I'm just trying to figure out how to be okay with that. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Jacob and His Bike

I bought Jacob a bike. I've been feeling rather behind on this childhood milestone for awhile now. What five year old kid doesn't know how to ride a bike? Or even pedal? Mine, apparently. 

Jacob, for his part, kept asking why we couldn't just go for bike rides where he gets pulled along in the bike trailer. He kept insisting this way was best. 

My answer stayed the same. "You're getting too big for the trailer and I'm not strong enough to pull you." You see... it was always his dad who would pull the trailer. I think another part of me didn't want to take this memory away from Jacob. It's one of those memories he might actually remember well about his dad. 

Austin was so excited to get Jacob on his own bike. We almost bought him one for Christmas but Jacob was showing little interest in them so we didn't. I wish now we would have bought one then. Now, Austin will never get to see Jacob on his bike. He wasn't there the first time he climbed on. The first time he thought he was going to fall over before the training wheels caught him. The first time he managed to pedal across the driveway. He won't be there when those training wheels (hopefully) come off one day. Or for the many adventures Jacob will (hopefully) have while riding bike. 

I knew one of the things Austin was looking forward to so much was teaching Jacob how to ride a bike. I was excited for him to teach Jacob. I knew it would be such a great father/son bonding experience. 

But that's no longer an option. And with Jacob turning five, knowing that this birthday would have been the one we probably got him that first bike, I went ahead and purchased a bike. And Jacob. Well, Jacob cries every time I make him get on the bike and try to ride it. I'm not sure if he really just doesn't want to ride it, or if he can pick up on my emotions trying to teach him: "this should be your dad. your dad should be here." It's bittersweet every time I force him on that bike. I hate seeing him cry. And I hate seeing him struggle. But I also hate the fact that Austin isn't there to see it all too. 

Jacob and I will keep on truckin'. I'll keep forcing him to get on that bike. I'll make sure he learns how to ride. But I'll also make sure he knows how much his daddy wanted him to ride a bike and how much he would have loved going on bike rides together. 

And to end this post on a slightly more humorous note... One evening my dad and I were trying to get Jacob to bike across the driveway. He was crying and screaming, tears running down his face. He struggled to pedal. My dad said, "Jacob, you've got chicken legs!" And Jacob, bless his heart and through his tears, started clucking like a chicken. 


Thursday, May 31, 2018

M&J Adventure: Sea Life

One of my goals or priorities of self-care is to take some quality time with Jacob and go on some adventures! Mommy & Jacob Adventures! It's surprising almost how many amazing and fun things there are to do within a 3 hour drive! I've a got a list ready for the summer so we'll see how much fun Jacob and I can have! 

Our first adventure was to visit Sea Life at the Mall of America. Neither Jacob or I have ever been. Jacob was excited the whole drive up for his adventure - he didn't yet know where we were going. Once we go there, he wasn't quite sure what to think but got excited again when I said there sharks!

He loved watching the sting rays, following them with the camera viewfinder. He loved the jellyfish and this one tank that had seahorses and a crab. He loved seeing the sharks in the tunnel but after a while just wanted to keep walking. I think I could have stayed there for hours watching all the fish swim by! 

At the gift shop, because I'm a sucker, Jacob got a snapper shark toy (pull the trigger and it open and closes it's mouth). He loved it. 

We had some food at the Rainforest Cafe and Jacob's favorite part of that by far was when a "thunderstorm" would happen. Oh man, he loved that! 

It was a fun afternoon adventure and we got some fun pictures to remember our visit! 




Wednesday, April 4, 2018

My Not-So-Perfect Life

I just finished reading a book. Like, it's 10:30pm and I should be in bed sleeping but I just finished this book five minutes ago and can't turn off my brain so I'm sitting in the dark blogging. It was a novel - My (not-so) Perfect Life. It was a cute and fun read.

Warning - potential spoiler alert! Basically, the book is about this woman who tries to make it seem like her life is perfect when clearly, it isn't. Mostly done by posting glam'd up pictures to Instagram. In the end, she creates an Instagram account called "my not so perfect life" and posts *real* every day pictures.

At the end of the author's acknowledgements, she writes, "I hope your life lives up to your Instagram posts..." or something to that effect. But I think she's got it wrong. I think we should be saying, "I hope your Instagram lives up to your life." (me attempting to be a philosopher - HA!)

We all do this. We all look at someone else's social media posts and pictures and think, "Wow. They have a perfect life." We look at their pictures and think they've got the fancy house, they go on the fun exotic trips, they've got a big loving family, they've got the ideal job, etc. And in turn, we take a look at our own lives and can only see the struggles, what's wrong, what we don't want but have.

We get trapped in this spiral of jealousy and desire. We get stuck thinking about how our lives are so awful and not what we expected and how does everyone else get so lucky to have it all? But in reality, that's not true.
"Every time you see someone's bright-and-shiny, remember: They have their own crappy truths too. Of course they do. And every time you see your own crappy truth and feel despair and think, 'Is this my life?', remember: It's not. Everyone's got a bright-and-shiny, even if it's hard to find sometimes."
A quote from the book.  Seems so simple but so incredibly hard.


Let me tell you, I've been stuck there before. I've been stuck there too often. I let myself become trapped. And I didn't want to escape that mindset.

But here, in the dark, at 10:47pm, a light goes on in my head. I literally wrote about this in my Word of 2018 post. And my word for 2018 is HOPE. I need to look at my life with HOPE.

HOPE that things will get better.
HOPE for God to give me strength and comfort.
HOPE in trusting God and His overall plan.
HOPE in understanding that I am beyond blessed in my life.
HOPE in knowing that the tomb didn't stay sealed and that Jesus has Risen!
HOPE as a confident expectation of future blessings based on facts and promises.
HOPE IN GOD.

One thing that honestly helps when you're feeling trapped in self-pity and despair - write down at least three things you're grateful for. Or write specifically about something you're grateful about from just that day. I know this works.

And I need to take my own advice and start doing this again. But in addition to writing down something I'm grateful for, I should start adding something I'm hopeful for, as a reminder to keep that HOPE. To understand that HOPE is the same, whether the day has brought joy or sorrow, triumph or tradegdy,  bright and shiny blessings or the quiet, hidden blessings.


Back to Instagram and social media. Maybe don't post only the perfect, edited pictures. Maybe don't strive to make it appear you have it all together. Post the struggles, the heartache, the frustration. Post the silly and undescribable. Post the love and the blessings. Post a little bit of everything. And maybe one day you'll be able to look back at all those posts and think, "Wow. My life was so much more, much more full, than even these posts can show." 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Holy Week in Grief

Holy Week. It comes every year. Lent is always one of my favorite seasons of the church. I appreciate the idea of embracing the darkness because in the end, Jesus will save us all. His light shines brighter than any darkness. No matter how bad you think things are. He will always win.

I've never experienced a Holy Week like this one. Ironically, it's not the first Easter surrounding the death of a loved one. Just one year ago, we lost my Grandpa during Holy Week. But we also knew that his time had come. I understood that his pain and suffering would soon be over, that he would be reunited with my Grandma again and stand in the presence of God. There was grief. But not like a shocking grief.

This Holy Week. There were a lot of feelings. A lot of thoughts about Austin. A lot of thoughts about what it all means, how it all works.

The message on Maundy Thursday was one of love. Throughout the last supper and that last evening, Jesus showed the same love to every single disciple, even Judas, who he knew would be betray him. Jesus tells us, "Love one another as I have loved you." His final commandment.

We will never be able to love as truly and deeply as Jesus did, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. It's not our place to judge others. Our job is to LOVE. All. Always.

I know this message. I think of it often. I remind myself of it when life gets hard and frustrating. But on Thursday, I felt ashamed because of that message.

I thought of Austin. The last few months we had. We had our differences and disagreements. I would get frustrated and angry. I wasn't living out that commandment. I should have been showing Austin love. He didn't deserve to be treated any differently just because we were having issues. He didn't deserve to be judged. Obviously I didn't know all of his struggles. I should have at least shown him God's love.

But I can't change that. And I'm ashamed of some of my actions. But what I can do is resolve to do better in the future. To treat those I disagree with or get angry at with love. Show them God's love and grace. "Love one another as I have loved you"

Good Friday. That was hard. I couldn't help but think of Austin at his ending. What led up to his ending. Did he feel abandoned? By those he thought loved him? By me? By God? Did he feel alone? And I think that he must have. He must have felt those things. And I can't imagine that pain.

I also thought about those of us who love Austin and who were left behind. "No chance to say goodbye. No way to ease the pain of parting." And this prayer: "For the times when we have not loved, even when we could, failing to carry out the simplest act of mercy, we ask the Father's forgiveness."

Then Saturday. The day that doesn't really get talked about. Unless your life is currently stuck in Saturday. Sometimes others will write something that so clearly states what you can't put into words. A friend, Kayla Becker, wrote something on Facebook that did just that: 
I’ve never really identified with the “Saturday” of Easter before. That silent day in between “Good Friday” and Easter Sunday. The day between the shocking grief and the stunning reality of what His brokenness healed. This Easter I’m stuck in Saturday.
We wear our grief like a cloak now. We’re no longer shocked and disillusioned. The weight of loss is just wrapped around us. And we are reeling as we try to put our lives back together around the trauma of loss. And I understand Saturday in a way I never wanted to.
We know the whole story. We know eventually the stone rolled away. The wounds became what healed us.
For as long as I’ve known the grief of the Friday of Easter I’ve also known the joy of Sunday.
But as for the ones actually written into that story, they didn’t know Sunday was coming. They didn’t know the stone would roll. The only knew the enormity of their loss.
In the blur of the visitation and funeral there are a few things people said that I remember vividly. One more than any other. Dear friends of ours wrapped their arms around me and said with more compassion and grace than I can muster...
“We know loss.”
And it was so simple. And it was so profound. When your heart is breaking, sometimes the most beautiful thing another human being can give you is the knowing. They were not indifferent to our pain.
And here they were years from the initial shock of it. And yet, it was still written into them. The knowing.
But in their knowing, I saw hope. They were not unscathed by their grief. They were not the same people they had been before loss. They did not pretend to be. But they knew something we didn’t yet. They knew Sunday was going to come. They used their wounds to heal.
And hasn’t that always been the way… brokenness is what heals. It’s the bridge between Saturday and Sunday.
I have not yet known heartbreak like this in my entire adult life. I am devastated. And I refuse to lie about that.
I won’t pretend this hasn’t rattled us. His death was traumatic and unexpected, and in ways we feel like we’ll never recover. I won’t pretend we haven't asked all of the hard questions. We lie awake at night, our faith deeply shaken.
I have exactly zero answers for all of the painfully difficult questions being asked. I won’t pretend that I haven’t questioned and tried to make sense of it. But it doesn’t make sense. It feels cruel and unfair. It feels painful, awful, and impossible. Because it’s still Saturday for me.
But the impossible beauty of living on this side of the Easter story is that I know eventually Sunday has to come. Even if I’m still living in Saturday. I know.
We might be shaken. We might be a bit like Thomas, begging to touch the wounds so we can believe it’s really true.
Sunday will come.
Wounds can be used to heal.
God is not indifferent to our pain.
Jesus is the bridge between the Saturday we’re in and the Sunday we believe will come.
And I don’t know if I’ve ever really been able to celebrate Easter in the way I will tomorrow.
Sunday will come.
As I was doing some reading, I learned about a Seder tradition of leaving a place set at the table for the prophet Elijah. "We have faith in his eventual return at the same time we acknowledge his absence. The empty chair at the table is both lament and expectation. His absence makes a very physical presence."

The presence of love and the presence of grief. Together. Acknowledge both. Welcome both. Leave the door open. Allow the emptiness a place at the table.

And then. Sunday. Easter. A day of celebration. Of rejoicing. To be honest, it felt odd to celebrate something so amazing as the resurrection of Jesus when I was still grieving the loss of Austin. Throughout the morning, I realized that I need to focus on where Austin is now.

In heaven! For eternity! For Austin, there is no more pain, no more tears, no more sorrow. There is only the absolutely joy of being with God! And that's because of the Easter miracle. The suffering has ended."The great promise of Easter had prevailed." Truly. Easter makes all the difference. And I can celebrate that.

He is Risen. He is Risen indeed.