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

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Hello, 2019

It's taken awhile, but it feels like 2019 is finally in gear.

Riding in style - January 7, 2019

We had a protracted holiday season, and with that the typical pros and cons. We didn't have to have everything done by mid-December, but we were still sorting out holiday gifts in mid-January. Not to mention, someone in our house turned three!

 Party time - January 12, 2019

Actual birthday boy, with requested "red cake" - January 7, 2019

Oh yeah, and we had visitors. Grandma Fiorani was here for Everett's birthday, and the Thoma side came in force for his birthday party. Honestly, we're surprised how well Evie adjusted to the lack of presents after the non-stop Obie Xmas, Deel / Fiorani Christmas Eve, Santa / Family New Year's Eve, Evie's Birthday, Belated Thoma Christmas, Evie's Birthday Party.

So. Many. Presents.

The extended celebrating and visitors made going back to work a bit odd. It made finding the balance between work and life take a bit longer than the typical January. And now, January is almost through!

We're not really a resolutions family, but we did try to sort out some goals for this year. And we all know you're more likely to follow through if you say your goals out loud, write them down, and share them with others. Keeps us accountable. So here goes...

  • Remove the ugly bushes from our front yard and replace with a tree
  • Research preschool for Everett
  • Take more family pictures
  • Go on a family vacation
  • Add one health or sustainability focused diet rule (already doing Meatless Mondays)
  • Schedule more play dates
  • Host a summer party
  • Keep up with the Beastie Blog
It's daunting looking at it all at once. But, we have a year. OK, more like eleven months. We can do it. We've already been to one preschool open house, and hey - this is a Beastie Blog post! Time to go schedule a play date...

Before the chaos... there were 30 children at our house - January 12, 2019

Monday, December 31, 2018

We'll Take A Cup Of Kindness Yet

As we sit here while 2018 starts to disappear, it's natural to reflect on time gone by. From the mad dash last couple weeks to the past twelve months.

In 2018 we had two living children from start to finish. We went to Disneyland twice, Michigan twice, Tahoe, and SoCal. Chris and Elizabeth both had cross-country business trips (Chris even had one international). We spent the full year (for the first time) in our house. In fact, Everett was only slightly older than Imogen is now when we moved into this house. For whatever reason, that just blows our minds.

Family Photos at History Park - San Jose, CA - December 8, 2018 - Abby Alger Photography

We spent the holidays in Michigan this year. It was a longer trip than usual - a full 10 days! We saw lots of people we love, and missed some as well. The holidays are such a tricky time for us, and this year was no different.

For the most part, we compartmentalized and tried to focus on the present. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Oberon's absence is felt keenly.

As each year goes by, we find ourselves with fewer complete breakdowns. But those moments that catch the breath, that make the heart drop... they keep happening. Catching a glimpse of a photograph of Oberon. Noticing one of Obie's bees. A sibling, a cousin, a friend says his name...or consciously avoids saying his name.

Visiting Santa at Christmas in the Park - San Jose, CA - December 17, 2018

Our capacity reduces too. Keeping up the reasonably happy baseline takes a lot of effort, and we feel it. While we appreciate every message large or small thinking of our boy, we simply don't have the emotional capacity to respond sometimes. There is some guilt that comes too, and that doesn't make it easier to hold our end of a conversation (or frankly, relationship).

This time of year, we take more than we can give. It feels wrong to admit, and our inner Midwestern selves tell us to just suck it up and be nicer, but there it is. If you have kindness right now, we'll take it.

Friday, November 30, 2018

How Has It Been Four Years?

Four. Oberon would have been four this year. Longer than high school, longer than a bachelor's degree, exactly the amount of time we dated when we got engaged. Somehow that seems both exactly right and totally out of step.

This weird relationship with time continues.

November has been a weird month for our family. We've had some health scares (we're fine), ER visits (promise, we're fine), infectious diseases that kept the kids out of day care (they are fine), air quality so bad we had to stay inside, work travel, and then Thanksgiving weekend, which included Oberon's birthday. This resulted in Elizabeth barely going to the office for the better part of three weeks, and Everett and Imogen being home from day care for nearly two weeks. Our routines were all out of whack leading up to Obie's Bee Day.

Regardless of what's going on with the day-to-day, Oberon's birthday will relentlessly come each year on November 24. This year was no different. We actually took two trips to Uvas Canyon - one on Thanksgiving Day and the other on Obie's Bee Day. On Thanksgiving, we hiked the Waterfall Loop Trail and visited all the off shoots to various markers and waterfalls. Everett walked most of the way himself, and delighted in finding more and more waterfalls. We haven't hiked this section of the trail by itself in a while, and it was very healing to take our time and go to so many of these special places.

   Hiking the Waterfall Loop Trail - November 22, 2018

On Obie's Bee Day, we hiked the Alec Canyon Trail up to Manzanita Point (where Oberon's memorial bench is) and on to Triple Falls (which we almost never make it to). We talked a lot more about Obie on this particular hike. Everett was amazing and walked all the way to Obie's bench and then some (3/4 of a mile uphill). He voluntarily transitioned to the carrier as we made our way to Triple Falls and was mostly in good spirits the whole time. While we snacked at Obie's bench, we sang Happy Birthday to Obie, only realizing later that this was at pretty much his exact birth time, 10:21 AM.

Enjoying a snack and a rest at Obie's bench - Obie's Bee Day 2018

Elizabeth teared up a few times on the hike, only to have Imogen claw her neck or Everett venture too close to the edge of the trail and require reminding. Balancing the living and the missing.

Hiking all the way to Triple Falls - November 24, 2018

To round out the day, Elizabeth crocheted a bee during naptime and we all made birthday cake and frosting. We read a special new "birthday book" about how hugs can help us feel better. Earlier in the week, we had made sure to read some of our baby loss and Obie-focused books. Not all of them, and not all at once, but more than usual.

Obie's Birthday Cake 2018

Bedtime came, and it seemed like we were going to make it through the day reasonably well. As Elizabeth snuggled with Everett, they talked about the day. Elizabeth thanked Everett for doing such a great job hiking to Obie's bench and for singing Happy Birthday. Evie started tearing up and whining.

Everett: I'm so sad!
Elizabeth: Oh, honey, why are you sad?
Everett: The only thing that will make me feel better is for Obie to stay with us.

Heart. Drop.

After reassurance and cuddling, and acknowledging that it is sad that Obie isn't with us, and we are all sad about that, he seemed to calm down. And then...

Everett: Mommy, in a few days I'm going to die.
Elizabeth: Why would you say that? Is it because Obie died?
Everett: Yes.
Elizabeth: Darling, Obie was very sick. He was sick when he was born. But you are not sick. We checked you out very carefully and you are not sick like Obie was.

This was followed with more reassurance, but with subtle caveats that only loss parents truly understand. At this point, we called Chris in too and had some extra snuggle time. Finding the balance of toddler boundaries and routine with supporting Everett when he needs it was a bit tricky, but we tried to find the right place.

Of course there was falling apart after the fact. And discussions spanning the days since then. Are we doing the right thing being so open with Everett at this young age? Should we try to hide some of the more intense emotions? Ultimately, we think our approach is the one that works best for our family (open, honest, frank discussion). But that does not stop the self-doubt and guilt. Everett and Imogen should have sheltered, carefree, tragedy-free childhoods. That is what we would have wished for them, but it isn't our family.

As horrible and as tragic as it all is, we would never want Everett or Imogen to think that if they died, it wouldn't impact us in a huge way. Oberon's death impacted our family so much because we love him so much and he remains a part of us. The message we would send if he was hidden away seems worse. Admitting the pain validates the love and importance of all our children.

Hiking at Uvas Canyon - November 22 and 24, 2018

We made pie too - Day After Thanksgiving Apple Pie - November 23, 2018