Friday, August 23, 2019

Back To School?

It's that time of year - endless "first day of" photos and bemoaning the end of summer. A year ago we felt the pre-school pressures at this time of year, and here it comes again.

It's so easy to get pulled into the hype around finding THE BEST pre-school and giving our kids THE BEST opportunities and advantages for the next stage.

After a few frantic evenings, we're realizing that we don't have to join the craziness just yet. Everett has two more years before he'll start kindergarten, and he doesn't need two full years of pre-school.  Instead, we're planning to keep him at day care with his sister for at least a few more months.

Playing thanks to Messy Play Kits - 8/11/19

He's often the oldest kind at daycare, but he still loves it there and is still learning a lot while he plays. Do we sometimes feel we are taking the easy way out and not given in the absolute best start? Of course! Those momentary doubts aren't changing our minds though. The positives Everett continues to get at day care - including spending all day with his sister - are enough for us for now. The fact that it gives us some more time before multiple drop-offs and constant searches for "after care" is just a bonus.

Sometimes they get along - homemade ice cream prep - 8/16/19

So what if our kids aren't prepped in the most perfect way for kindergarten? They'll be fine. There's no way to avoid every rough transition they will go through, and we will be there for them throughout their lives.

But we aren't going to obsess over them. That doesn't work for our family.

Practicing those driving skills - 8/3/19

(Truth - occasionally we obsess because we are parents after all... but we won't let it get the best of us.)

Really though, they're fine. Imogen, not yet two, says things like, "Mommy, can I have that back?" or "I really, really, really want the phone." She spontaneously breaks into song (Bingo and Five Little (insert random stuffed animal name)s are favorites). Both of them love playing pretend - whether it's Paw Patrol, Bolt, or Dino Trucks. They love (LOVE) reading, and Everett is starting to sound out letters when he talks (c-c-cat starts with a c!). He's almost always right, but those soft c's like cinnamon still get him. He also makes up stories about his favorite characters and has started showing an interest in tracing letters (why no, he did not get Sharpie on his neck today). Oh, and the other day Everett pushed us to explain what our bodies are made of, and when Elizabeth found a book that talked about it, they both listened - completely enamored. Also heard in our house, "Mommy - did you know planets are made of dust and rocks and gas?"

They're fine.

Maybe our kids will lottery into a science-forward school, maybe they won't. Maybe they'll get interested in a really awesome extra curricular activity, maybe they'll bounce around trying to see what fits. Any which way, they'll be just fine. And we'll be here to help them navigate, doing our best not to rush them.

Our family - 8/8/2019

Nails did - 8/11/19


Picking tomatoes at the neighbor's garden - 8/11/19


Oh yeah, we turned 35



Monday, July 29, 2019

Getting Older, Getting Smarter

Everett (as he will tell you) is now officially three and a half. His interaction with other kids, his independence, and his capability all continues to amaze us. Watching him interact with our friends' kids is especially heartwarming. Going to Michigan gives us the opportunity to do that.

Swinging - July 4, 2019

While Imogen is only one and a half, she's also much more social than the last time we were in the state. Her verbalization is CRAZY. Full sentences, pretend play, and wanting to sing by herself (I don't want Mommy to sing it) are just a few of the ways she amazes us these days. She played with and was entertained by her cousins, and sometimes - sometimes! - Chris and Elizabeth could sit back and enjoy the show.

Having a blast at MiSci - Detroit, Michigan - July 5, 2019

This July, that show also included Everett endlessly climbing and sliding down a 20-foot waterslide in Elizabeth's cousin's back yard. The kid is growing up - it's obvious.

One of probably a thousand slides - July 6, 2019

It isn't just the "typical" growth and maturity though. Everett, in his increasing understanding and insight, has been talking about death more and more. We've been trying to navigate how much to bring it up to try to make sure he has a safe environment to talk about it with overdoing it. We try to answer in age-appropriate ways, but it's difficult on the spot to respond to things like, "I won't be able to talk when I'm dead and that makes me sad" or "I don't want my body to come apart when I die."

On the way to day care last week, Everett spontaneously transitioned from, "I never want to give my toys away" to "I will have to give my toys away when I die and that makes me sad" to "when I die, it's ok if you give my toys away."

(Yes, we've been reading the Toy Story books lately, hence all the obsession with toys and giving them away - or not.)

What do you say?

We said things like, "Everett, you're not going to die for a long time," "you don't have to give any of your toys away if you don't want to," and "maybe someday you'll want to give your toys away, like when you to go to college like Andy, but Mommy and Daddy will not make you do it - it will be up to you."

Trying to parse out what is normal toddler fears (losing toys) with what is more serious (worrying he will die and what happens when people die) is tricky. Both topics are safe for him to discuss with us, but we don't want to turn everything into its most serious version. He knows death is sad. He tells us he is sad that Obie died, and he starts crying whenever he thinks about it, but it feels more like he is linking sad things together without really understanding fully. We do our best to answer the questions he asks directly, and trying to redirect him to ways to deal with the sadness. We share how we remember the joy Obie brought into our lives, and how we love to spend time with the people who love him. We share how finding yellow and bees in the world helps us remember and share Obie's life.

This will not necessarily get easier, and it shouldn't really. Oberon's absence doesn't change - it persists. Life goes on, but death goes on too. 

At Obie's memorial hives installed by Bees In The D - Detroit, Michigan - July 5, 2019


With Grandpa Fiorani - July 5, 2019

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Waddle Walk 2019

At one of the support group meetings we went to, a bereaved parent said "I didn't think I was doing any better, but when I see people here with fresh loss - I know that I am." 

Things are different now. Different from life before loss, and also different from those first years after. While we don't need as much day-to-day support and understanding, we are keenly aware of those that do. Every day, more parents become bereaved parents. More families have to learn to cope with life after loss.

Although it is emotionally taxing, this is the reason we've stayed connected to the resources that helped us when we didn't have the tools to help ourselves. Today, we participated in the first Waddle Walk to raise awareness (and funds) for Pregnancy After Loss Support. 

It would be easy to just not do it. To claim that moving forward meant detaching from the loss support community. Many do just that, as it feels right to them.

For us though, it doesn't feel right. There's another saying, that when you lose a child there is a net of loss parents ready to catch you and support you. Nothing is expected of you, and if you are lucky you find support without judgement, the kind that can only be provided by someone who has been there. Now that we've been supported in such a meaningful and human way, it's our turn to be there for others who will experience the loss of their children. It's our turn to be resilient, advocate, support, listen, and yes, fundraise.

Stopping for lunch in the Hay Barn on our Waddle Walk - June 29, 2019

So we do it. For Oberon. And for everyone else navigating life after loss.

The Waddle Walk itself was a three mile hike that we chose to do at Deer Hollow Farm, part of Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. It was a morning that started a little later than planned and the sun bore down a little hotter than we'd like, but it was good. We met up with good friends who joined us on the walk, and we had a nice morning. Sometimes we got the kids to quack or waddle, but mostly it was just a morning outside - hiking, running, chattering, and looking at the animals. 

Oh yeah, and a dance show.



We'd love even more company next year!

Immy watching the sheep - June 29, 2019

Immy loved the chickens - June 29, 2019

Reading the sign - June 29, 2019

Pool party at our house - June 1, 2019

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sharing

For the past few months, we've been really trying to say "the bedroom" instead of "your bedroom." Everett has been sleeping on his own in the bedroom for nearly two years.

Until now, that is.

In early May, Imogen moved in! So far, so reasonable. Some nights they bicker and scream and run around like crazy beasties, and others they snuggle and chatter, falling asleep next to each other.

Every night, Evie asks if he can snuggle Immy in her bed, and every night, she gleefully says "no." He wants the new shiny thing, and she loves being in control. It's marvelous to witness how much they are both learning about each other.

Rachelle Haun Photography - May 18, 2019

Story time has been hit or miss. They rile each other up so much that sometimes sitting still and calming down is just not in the cards. It's frustrating for us because we miss out on the calm time reading stories with them.

Most nights they do OK though, and we each pick a story. Everett rotates his favorites, often picking Disney stories (he likes A Bug's Life right now), Meet the Cars, and various books about trucks or construction equipment. Imogen on the other hand, loves monkeys. Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed and Wild Baby ("Monkeys") are the far and away most popular for her, with Jabberwocky following behind.

She now demands to read Five Little Monkeys to us, turning the pages and saying some of the words. It is breathtakingly cute and she does a fairly good job for a nineteen month-old still learning her letters. It isn't just her cuteness that makes us catch our breath with that book, it was a gift for Obie. Elizabeth got it from a friend at her baby shower in Michigan and there is a sweet inscription.

We can still sort which books were bought for Obie and which came later, but not many have inscriptions. Not many have hopes written out for a boy who would never realize them.

With or without inscriptions, those books are Obie's. They are shared with his siblings. While some moments it really hurts, on the whole it is a good thing to have items meant for Oberon used by his brother and sister. He never got to meet them, let alone share a room (or even see the house we live in now). Still, we told him he would have siblings, that we would love them fiercely for him.

And like every big sibling there ever was, he has to share.


Rachelle Haun Photography - May 18, 2019

Monday, April 29, 2019

Finding the Balance (Bike)

Imogen turned 1.5 this month! We are all having a blast with her personality showing more and more. We've got more language, more dancing, more snuggles, more reading, and yes, more screaming and crying. Where she is developmentally shines a huge light on the extremes of joy and frustration, and learning to find a balance between them. It's got us thinking about the current balancing acts we have going on.

Beasties on balance bikes - April 28, 2019

Gifting and Spoiling

We recognize the privilege we have that these are thoughtful decisions we can make. Do we give things to Everett and Imogen simply because they want them (or we want to give them)? Do we limit gifts and expenses to avoid spoiling? Right now we are somewhere in the middle, but it's a struggle. We want to give our kids things that make them happy, to share things that make us happy.

We probably give them too much stuff. To try to hold ourselves a little more accountable, we attempt to tie new items and gifts to... something. A holiday (Easter!) or an achievement (chores!) become excuses to give them things we've stockpiled. We're also taking advantage of the half-birthday. 


Half-birthday cake - April 29, 2019 

Imogen turned 1.5, and to celebrate we had cupcakes and gave her a gift. From us she got a balance bike, a helmet, and a stuffed animal (she loooooooooooves stuffed animals). She's getting bigger and much more curious about scooters and bikes, so it made sense to get her one and we are happy to have an "excuse" to tie it to.

Work and Life

We've done pretty well at protecting our "life" time. We leave work on time most days and we stay off our phones and computers until Everett and Imogen are in bed. Even then, we have to watch it. Too much night time work takes away from our time together as a couple, takes away our recharge, and makes the evening chores more rushed and stressful. 

Both of us are traveling more now for work. We deferred on a lot of trips the past few years, but now we don't have a solid excuse to keep opting out of travel. That said, we try to limit it to meaningful travel. 


Happy Hollow - April 27, 2019

Then there's the weekends. We protect those mightily. Those days are our key times with Everett and Imogen and we take advantage. We go on adventures, take gym and swim classes, play, talk, read, all the things. Sometimes the return to day care and work on Monday feels like the break after a jam packed couple of days.

Grief and Joy

The waves of grief are mostly predictable now. We expect them at certain times of year or when other triggers crop up. We've had years learning how it feels, and now we can spot some of the precursors a little better - when the balance is starting to get out of whack. It's not a problem to be fixed, but a reality to acknowledge.

Sometimes we are just more sad. Sometimes the baseline pulls down a little and our energy turns inward.



Egg hunt - April 20, 2019

On the other side of the balance, the joys are sometimes more extreme as well. We can sit more with the sweet side of bittersweet a little more often. We can remember and love Obie without breaking down.

If we actually stop and think about that fact, it hurts. Sometimes it is easier not to analyze and assess everything, and just move through the time. Not always, just sometimes. You know, balance.

Loving her new balance bike - April 28, 2019 

Waiting for the Easter Bunny - April 13, 2019

Imogen LOVES climbing around - April 28, 2019

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Words We Say

This dual life, it goes on.

March has been... a month. Life, death, hope, despair, visits, missing. There have been so many heavy things this month, but these are not our stories to tell.

We are better at supporting people during tough times now. We know that it doesn't matter if someone has it worse, if you have something difficult, scary, or heartbreaking to go through - you deserve support. You deserve an ear, a hug, and validation.

But it is not easy. Showing empathy and truly caring about others takes a lot of emotional and mental energy. Listening to others in their darkest moments is hard, but necessary. Being mindful of our words takes work, but it's worth it. Often our words are the only thing we can offer, the only way to respond. If we had a nickel for each time one of us typed "sending a hug" or some variation... you get it.

It's impossible to say the perfect thing all the time, but that doesn't give us license to stop trying. Words matter.

Now after that seriousness, the duality of our lives steps in. There are few things that can reinforce being careful with what you say like living with a toddler can. While Imogen parrots our words, Everett uses our reasoning and phrasing against us days (or weeks, or months) later.

Every parent must say this, but these kids are smart. Today, Imogen went form "mahhh" to "mango" to "mango, please" to Mommy telling her to eat a piece of broccoli before she can have another mango - promptly eating the broccoli then repeating "mango" while pointing to the mango pieces in a bowl in the middle of the table. She's not even 18 months old yet.

Imogen at the park - March 30, 2019

When Everett had his 18 month appointment, the doctor asked us if he had two dozen words or more. We had to count and thought it was maybe about that. Wah-wah, ball, peez, etc. So let's do that exercise with Imogen. This evening alone we've had mango, swing, chicken, milk, down, monkey ("monk"), plate, shoe, jacket ("jack"), minion, Mama, Dada, Everett ("Eh-beh"), please, sock, night-night, pup, lion, book, turtle, fish, doctor, Dumbo, jump, shirt, pants, horse, sheep, cow, duck, help, and go. She does all kinds of animal noises and names them. She asks for specific songs - including "weiss" for Edelweiss.

If you've ever met Everett (or seen a video), you know he's incredibly verbal. Imogen is ahead of where he was at her age, and we are excited and a little apprehensive to see what will happen next.

Everett repeats what we say, and he does it appropriately. "That's not an option." "I need you to focus on me right now." "You aren't listening to me." "I have another idea, how about..."

"Batman" climbing at the park - March 30, 2019

It's a built in reminder that how we speak to them is how they'll learn to speak to others. We have to be mindful to ask instead of demand, suggest instead of steamroll, and truly offer choices - or better yet open-ended opportunity. We've also found that when we use their language - "can you use your super Everett muscles to help clean up the toys?" - we have better luck. Thank goodness for wikipedia so we can figure out who the villains in PJ Masks are, or what the puppies are named in Paw Patrol.

Playing with Rubble, Rocky, and Zuma - March 22, 2019


We'll be choosing our words carefully, in many places and for many reasons.

Slide! - March 30, 2019

Museum fun - March 16, 2019

Stretching to fit - March 16, 2019

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Siblings Living And Not

Everett and Imogen are at a ridiculously adorable stage. There's no over-selling it, they are the cutest. It seems every day they start doing something else to relate to each other. It's heart-melting and often hilarious too.


Rough and Tough Construction Play - Feb 2019

A few of the frequent activities at our house these days:
  • Everett asking Imogen for a hug
  • Imogen giving out hugs to everyone upon request
  • Both of them checking on each other when they cry (sometimes at our request, sometimes not)
  • Tackling and giggling
  • Having conversations with each other
  • Imogen getting out or putting away Everett's shoes for him
  • Everett decreeing what Imogen wants (Immy wants to walk!)
  • Mimicking
  • Imogen wanting to play with whatever Everett is into
  • Everett often doing a good job sharing
  • Imogen trying to do Everett's chores
  • Everett then insisting that she should get chore stickers too
Sometimes we feel like we're writing the same things over and over. Everett is becoming a little kid and comprehending at a much higher level, Imogen is learning tons of new things every day, and it feels wrong that Oberon isn't here.

When Oberon was at home in hospice care, we sometimes talked about the future. Through the tears we talked about how he was making us better parents, and that we were going to give him siblings. Now that our living children interact so much, it's hitting us hard that we've kept that promise. At least the siblings part.

We have no idea how our living children will relate to the one who died as they continue to grow up. Surely there will be times when they are frustrated and feel overshadowed, other times they will be sad and feeling that life isn't fair, and probably they will have phases of aloofness and irritation (if not worse).

Reading that paragraph, it could almost exactly apply to Everett and Imogen's relationship with each other. They will also go through a variety of sibling phases - frustration, feeling overshadowed, sadness, aloofness, irritation (if not worse). Our hope for them is the good phases outpace the bad, and they have a bond that continues throughout adulthood. Our hope for their relationship with Oberon is similar - that the good associations outpace the bad and that they develop an understanding of the preciousness of life and the endurance of family.

For now, we're loving every adorable moment between these two amazing kids, and missing every moment they won't get to share with their big brother, Oberon.


 Evie feeding Immy - Feb 2019


 "Immy, can I sit with you while Daddy cleans up the mess?" - Feb 2019


Let's have a race! - Feb 2019

Blurry Sibling Hug - Feb 2019 


 Going out for a walk - Feb 2019


Daycare Hugs - Feb 2019 


Happy Breakfast - Feb 2019


Evie found a great hiding spot - Feb 2019 


Evie found a better hiding spot - Feb 2019