Sunday, December 18, 2016

That Time Of The Year

Here we are, in the thick of it.

Oberon's second birthday was spent much like his first.  We asked people to think of him and share with us.   We donated to the Pollinator Partnership and FNIH.  We went to Uvas Canyon and hiked all the trails we did when we scattered his ashes there.

Hiking at Uvas Canyon - 11/24/16

We also decided to donate to Uvas Canyon and provide a bench with a memorial plaque for Obie.  The bench is at Manzanita Point, a spot on the Alec Canyon Trail with a beautiful view of the valley below and one of the places with Obie's ashes.  We all spent some time on the bench, thinking about Oberon, enjoying the view, and letting Evie get out of the carrier for a bit.

Enjoying Oberon's bench at Uvas Canyon - 11/24/16

It was surreal.  While we have been back to Uvas Canyon a number of times, there were certain trails we hadn't retraced.  We hadn't been to the Old Logging Camp or Knobcone Point since that first visit.  Going back was heavy, but ultimately it was good for us.  Both physically (inclines!) and emotionally.

At Knobcone point - 11/24/16

Many friends, family, and acquaintances sent us messages or posts with #obiesbeeday.  Each one brought us a little bit of warmth, a little bit of comfort.  Truthfully, there were fewer messages than last year.  While not unexpected, it still hurts.  Most kids meet more new people and impact more lives with each passing year.  Oberon won't be able to do that, and it's likely that each year fewer people will be able to keep him close to the forefront.  It's understandable, but it's still painful.

Obie's Bee Day fell on Thanksgiving this year.  We didn't celebrate traditional Thanksgiving, but Chris did make a Bee Day cake.  Everett's first taste of cake was his brother's lemon bundt cake (he was not a huge fan).

Obie's Bee Day cake - 11/24/16

Chris also found an Oberon watch to buy on Obie's Bee Day, which seemed kind of perfect.

Obie's Bee Day watch - purchased 11/24/16

Obie's Bee Day triggers the "on this day" onslaught on Facebook.  The few posts from before we knew how bad things were, announcing coming home to hospice care, the NILMDTS pictures, after day being reminded of Oberon's short life.

After Obie's Bee Day, the next big milestone is Obie Xmas.  We celebrated again this year by giving gifts to our families to help take care of themselves.  Elizabeth had planned to have things for our family in Obie's stocking to open on Obie Xmas, but most of it didn't arrive until the day after.  It was disappointing.  Evie is still too young to realize, but it still feels like coming up short as parents.  We're pretty good at letting things slide and being gentle with ourselves in general, but the Obie-focused days are harder. We have so few things to hold onto, it feels like if we relax our hold it will slip away completely.  If we don't make it happen, if we let things slide, why even bother?

Even though some Obie Xmas gifts were late, we did have things to open from Obie's grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.  Evie had fun learning to open presents (his first occasion for such things), and we all got some odds and ends to keep us fed, clean, and warm.  Chris and Elizabeth talked a bit about their memories of bringing Obie home, using his nursery, and listening to the rain.

It's good to remember, and also exhausting.  It truly is like carrying a load.  Sometimes you can be distracted and it doesn't feel quite as heavy.  Other times you focus on it and aren't sure how you can continue to bear it.

The focus is on now, and we're also trying to balance planning Everett's first holiday season, travel, and our first snowy weather since 2013.  While we are excited to be going home for the holidays, we are also a bit anxious.  It's hard to predict how we'll feel or what triggers may pop up.  Will we emotionally "check out" to keep ourselves sane?  Will we be sobbing messes?  Will we need a lot of down time?  Will we feel pretty OK until guilt comes in?  Will we make Evie's first holiday experiences magical?  Will we get sick?  Will there be weather issues?  There's no way to know.

We do know:
  • There's a lot of pressure.  And there will definitely be at least one thing that doesn't go as planned.
  • We will get to spend time with people we love, and who love us and our boys.
  • Everett will see snow for the first time.
  • Travel is going to be stressful.
From there, we will be trying our best to focus on the good moments when they come and breathe through the tough moments.  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fun in the Sun(shine State)

Everett added another state to his list - Florida!

 Sanibel Island - 11/5/16

As Evie gets older, the strategies when flying with him change.  He's still a champion flyer, but more than 5 hours is starting to ask a little too much.  We booked a non-stop flight from San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale, hoping for the best.  He did amazing, slept a lot and was quiet (but happy) when awake.  The captains announced we would be landing soon, and we both breathed a sigh of relief.

Turns out, the trip wasn't quite over and instead, we were being re-routed to West Palm Beach, where we would be stuck until they re-opened Ft. Lauderdale airport.  In short, a package plane caught fire on the runway (seriously) so no flights were being allowed to land.  You can read more about it here, if you're interested.

What it meant for us was a delay with little to no real information.  The airline we were flying had no gates at West Palm Beach airport, so we were stuck on the plane.  Cue the rabble-rousing as people flipped out about being held hostage.  There were definitely adults on that plane handling the unexpected worse than Evie.  From our perspective, we were just trying to keep him happy and were starting to worry that we didn't pack enough snacks.

Luckily, the airport people did their jobs quickly and the delay only ended up being 2-3 hours in total.  While it put us in much later than expected, we didn't run out of food or diapers on hand (yay!).  And while Evie did start getting cranky and frustrated not being able to move around on his own, we really can't complain.  Snacks, toys that attach to things, nursing, and giving him lots of attention were the keys.  Not letting our frustration and irritation take over was the other major key.

At FLL airport, ready to be done travelling - 10/28/16

The next day, visiting began.  Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins!  Evie just loved watching his cousins and getting attention from all these new people.  We were a little concerned that "stranger danger" would have reared it's head by this trip; turns out that concern wasn't necessary.  Evie had a blast with his family.  One thing we were a little less prepared for was just how overstimulating the trip would be for Evie.  Once we figured out that we needed to force some down time here and there, his fussiness improved.

Visiting with cousins - 10/29/16

Thoma Family - 10/30/16

Playing with Grandma and Grandpa - 11/4/16

We talked about bringing Obie's Molly Bear for the trip, but again we settled on his yellow "O."  It comforts our hearts to see him included, but on the flip side it hurts when we forget to pull it out.  While we got lots of lovely photos of the kids with the "O," we did forget to bring it trick-or-treating.  This always brings guilt, maybe more than it should.

Speaking of trick-or-treating, it was a wonderful experience to be able to do that.  If we were home in California, there's no way we would have done it.  We wouldn't have even had a real excuse to dress up at all.  Everett's first Halloween would have been just a cute animal onesie and a photo op.  Instead, he got the real deal!  A full-out family costume and going door-to-door.

Pumpkin patch - 10/30/16

Pretty proud of how this turned out - Elliott, E.T., and the moon! - 10/31/2016

Evie had a lot of firsts on this trip - first Florida visit, first crazy air travel story, first Halloween, first trip to the beach, first cheese, and first Michigan-Michigan State game (he wore San Jose State gear, in case you were wondering, Go Blue and Yellow Spartans!).

Quick pre-game family selfie - 10/29/16

Another special first was meeting up with another rainbow family.  Evie loved hanging out with baby Louie, and we loved hanging out with Louie's parents.  Louie and Everett are less than two weeks apart, and their older siblings Piper and Oberon were born less than a week apart.  Although none of us had met in person before, we all had an enjoyable day.  There's something different about being with people who "get" baby loss, and we really appreciated the chance to meet Louie and his family in real life.

Flamingo Gardens with friends - 11/2/16 

#EvieAndLouieAdventures - 11/2/16

He must have really been paying attention to his cousins and friends, because the week in Florida and the days after included a huge increase in mobility.  He's an expert at the inchworm scoot and is pulling up to standing on anything he can.

This guy can scoot - 11/12/16

He's clearly starting the transition from baby to toddler, and it's wonderful to see.  A lot of parents express wishing their children would stay younger longer or asking "where did my baby go?"  We will do our best never to say those kinds of things.  We know what it's like to have a baby not grow up.  While we will reminisce about younger Everett, we will never ask him to slow down.  He will grow and change, our relationship will grow and change.  There will be challenges, and some day he'll tell us he hates us or some other hurtful thing.  And in the back of our heads we will be so happy that he's able to do that.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Finding Our Way Through Fall

Fall in California is not like fall in Michigan.  There isn't a sweeping color change or temperature drop, and while pumpkin spice everything is here - cider mills aren't.

It's still hot here.

We both have memories of jumping in a pile of raked leaves, sipping warm cider (while nibbling dense donuts), and going to college football games.  Those aren't the things we get to introduce Everett to this fall, so we've turned to hiking (still), blanket forts to avoid excess screen time (while Mom and Dad watch football), and more and more new foods.

Yes, this is a thing we do.

In some ways, September was the last month before the end-of-year gauntlet begins.  While that's true for most families, we mean it in a significantly different way.  October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  November is Oberon's birthday.  December is Obie Xmas and the anniversary of his death.  Last year was our first run through these special dates and anniversaries, and we aren't quite sure what to expect this year.

In addition to the dates and moments that revolve around Oberon, we have had and will have quite a few visits and special events this season that are focused on others - weddings, visits, and Elizabeth's first trip away from Everett.

All dressed up for the wedding of Hattie & Wayne.  10/7/16

While Chris has had a handful of business trips that took him away from Evie overnight, this was the first time Elizabeth was the one away.  It wasn't as intensely worrying as she feared, but that likely had a lot to do with the very busy trip.  Two flights, six pumping sessions, 8+ hours of dance team alumni events, and breakfast with the nephews kept time moving quickly.  That schedule combined with getting photo messages and a video chat kept everybody a bit calmer.  Evie is getting to the point where he very clearly recognizes people, and recognizing Mommy over video chat was a pretty cool moment.

Everett supporting Mommy all the way from California.  Homecoming - 10/22/16

It feels a bit like the calm before the storm.  Part of us wants to just opt out and wake up in January - it would certainly be less tumultuous.  But the other part has some things to look forward to - things like Everett meeting new friends and spending time with family, and honoring Oberon on his birthday and other important times.

At the same time, we are trying to remind ourselves (and each other) to be gentle.  We may not be able to make all our planned ideas come to be.  We may not have the energy to devote to Oberon's memory that we'd like.  We may not be as excited about Everett's firsts as we hoped.  We may cry a lot or a little, and we should try not to feel guilty either way.  But we probably will.

Everett with the University of Minnesota Quidditch Team

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Baby Got Books

We love books.  Books were an important part of our time with Oberon, they are an important way we remember him, and they are a staple of our interaction with Everett.

Reading 'The Sleep Book' to Oberon in the NICU.

Reading 'Snuggle Puppy' to Oberon at home.

Reading Seuss with Everett.

The books people gave to us when Elizabeth was pregnant with Oberon - especially those with inscriptions - are very special.  We tell Evie that these are his big brother's books and we talk about who gave them.

More than just sentimental, books are awesome.  They are a staple of our bedtime ritual - Everett gets to play with an interactive book (or two, or three), followed by Mommy or Daddy reading while the other snuggles him.

We thought we'd share some of our favorites in various categories, because googling "kids books" can get overwhelming very quickly.

Classics for a reason
  • Seuss - in general: They are fun to read, fun to listen to, and the illustrations are exciting.  We haven't met a Seuss we don't like, but our favorite is certainly The Sleep Book.  We read it many times to Oberon in the NICU and at home, and we often read it to Everett.  It's a little bit magic because 99 times out of 100, Everett is asleep by the end of it!  We've read it so much that we can nearly recite the 64 pages by memory.
  • The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear: The title says it all.  Elizabeth remembers loving this book as a kid, and it's been fun to read over and over again.
New and fabulous
  • The Pout-Pout Fish: A rhyming board book that's fun to read out loud with a little twist of an ending.  We may need to talk about consent, but other than that it's just about perfect.
  • Baby Lit: These board books are fun ways to introduce classic stories, characters, and themes to young children.  We've all seen primers on colors, animals, and shapes, but how about fashion with Anna Karenina?  Or weather with Wuthering Heights?  And our favorite, fairies with Midsummer Nights Dream.
  • Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink: These darling stories all have a little twist - such as a little owl that doesn't want to stay up late and just wants to go to bed.  They all end a little punny as well.
  • The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy: A tangent from the Ladybug Girl series, the imaginative Sam plays Bumblebee Boy and doesn't want to include his little brother, until he realizes how fun it can be to play together.  We got this because, bees, obviously, but were pleasantly surprised with how much we liked the book.  We've even gotten Ladybug Girl books as gifts for others.
  • I Dreamt I Was A Dinosaur: This book has a special place in our hearts as Grandpa F read it frequently to Oberon in the NICU and at home.  After Everett was born, we noticed it even has dragonflies in the illustrations!  A perfect book for both our boys.  
  • The Monster At The End Of This Book: Grover worries about the monster at the end of the book, but he shouldn't because not all monsters are scary.  This one is fun because Grover talks directly to the reader.
 Grandpa F reads 'I Dreamt I Was A Dinosaur' to Obie.

Grandpa F reads 'The Monster At The End Of This Book' to Evie.

Fun(ny) for the whole family
  • The Book With No Pictures: Probably our favorite book to read aloud, and definitely our favorite book to listen to others read.  Written by B. J. Novak of The Office fame, this silly book makes grown-ups say silly things, and that's all we'll say.  
  • We Are In A Book!: Especially fun with two readers, this is meta-children's lit.  The characters in the book realize they a book.  And with that realization comes the understanding that they can make the reader say word.  Giggles ensue.
  • Square Zair Pair: We found this book at Silicon Valley Pride, and it's delightful.  The zairs are a breed that pairs up - always one round and one square until one day two squares pair.  What happens?  We think you have a good idea.  
  • It seems we are a bit low in this category.  We have a couple others that have wonderfully inclusive and diverse illustrations, but they don't address the topic directly.  Looks like we have some book scavenging to do!
  • The Little Boy / Girl Who Lost His / Her Name: These books started being advertised on Facebook shortly after Oberon died.  We bought one for him immediately, and are so glad we have it.  It's a beautifully illustrated story, and it has his name.  
  • The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home: By the same company as the Lost My Name book, this one we had made for Everett.  Everett and his robot buddy, Hubble, get lost in space when their navigational system is broken.  The personalization doesn't stop at the lead character's name and gender, but also includes a Google Earth visual of your home!
Loss, grief, and tough topics
  • Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories: We have the first Chester Raccoon book, The Kissing Hand, and when we found this one we ordered it in case it was good.  It is very good.  A schoolmate of Chester's has died, and his mother helps him process his grief.  
  • The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm: This was one of Elizabeth's backer gifts for the Reading Rainbow kickstarter that blew up a couple years ago.  What a wonderful book.  It acknowledges big tragedies occur and shows that there are people to help support us.  
  • A Rainbow Baby Story: The Rainbow After the Storm: It is hard to find books that refer to the death of a baby without turning that baby into an angel in heaven.  This one does a pretty good job.  It tells the story of a baby bird who gets scared during a storm, and his parents return to the nest to keep him safe.  They tell him about the baby they had before and how that baby died, but will always be part of their family.
  • Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children: This book may look dated, but it isn't.  It describes in matter of fact terms that all living things are born and then die, and the time in between is their lifetime.  Some lifetimes are short, and some are long.
  • My Father's Arms are a Boat: This one is different.  A Norwegian book, it's not like most children's books we've seen.  A boy whose mother has recently died is comforted by his father's arms.  There is no neat tie up, no perfect resolution.  It resonates, because it accurately represents grief.
Bugs and beasties
  • UnBEElievables: Grandma and Grandpa T sent us this collection of poems, which are fun to read AND informative.  
  • Are You A Bee? / Are You A Dragonfly?: These books talk about bugs from when they are born until they are grown into adults, and also things to watch out for (like a duck!).  At the end though, the book assumes that it's probably a human child reading, and not a bug.  This is an accessible way to start teaching young kids about different bugs.
  • Beecause I Love You: This book has antennae!  And besides that is very sweet.  
  • A Tale of Two Beasts: We love this book because it's about a beast, but also because it gracefully shows perspective.  It opens with a young girl "rescuing" a little beast from the woods and taking care of it.  Unsurprisingly, the little beast doesn't see things in quite the same way.
  • We enjoy finding Obie's Bees (and Evie's Dragonflies) in our storybooks.  Some hidden bees can be found in Can You Growl Like A Bear?, The Biggest Kiss, and Hop on Pop, to name just a few.
Then there are cloth books, touchy feely books, finger puppet books, noisy books, and counting books, which we're not even going to get into here.  So many books, so little time!

Evie with the best touchy-feely book!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Birthday Month

It's not Everett's birthday yet, and it's not Oberon's, but it is ours.  August is both Christopher and Elizabeth's birthday month.  And this one has been starkly different than the last two.

Two birthdays ago, we were expecting our first baby, but there were already concerning things and we were waiting for test results.  While we both had some anticipation for a fun and celebratory 30th birthday, suddenly those carefree feelings were sucked out of the room.

One birthday ago, we were intensely grieving.  We were expecting our second baby, and were again waiting for test results (these ones precautionary).  Again, celebration was not something that sounded right to us.

Chris got to choose his birthday hike, 8/8/2015.  #obielovesyellow

This year, Everett is here, growing and thriving.  It's so different.  At the same time, celebrating our birthdays still feels pretty silly and unnecessary.  Birthdays also bring up bitterness that Oberon won't get to experience them.

As Evie grows, we realize we have to be more cautious and thoughtful in how we react to things - even things as silly as adult birthdays.  We want him to enjoy birthdays, and we want him to understand that everyone has them (even old people like Mommy and Daddy).

Evie's first birthday candle experience, 8/8/2016

Blowing out the candles, 8/19/2016

So we set our teeth and celebrated.  Everett watched us open presents, we sang "Happy Birthday", and we blew out candles.  Neither of us could remember the last birthday we had candles for, and here we are at 32.  And they weren't just candles, they were Obie's Bees candles.

Everett is getting more interactive and understanding more of his world every day.  This month he mastered sitting up, and also getting from sitting down to tummy or back without being upset about it.  He has conquered early finger foods, and appears to be a lefty.  He's pretty quiet (for a baby), but has started babbling more and more.  

Enjoying some sun with lots of Obie's Bees, 8/20/2016

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Everett Meets the Mitten

Everett made it to Michigan, just before he hit the 6-month mark.  Like most things these days, it was a bittersweet trip.  Constant reminders of what we should have experienced with Oberon, nearly constant smiles from our sweet Everett.

Everett's first time in the mitten - June 25, 2016

We got to introduce the little dragonfly to family on both Mom and Dad's side.  Everett attended a wedding, charmed lots of people, and was fascinated by small children.

Meeting lots of family in Michigan

We took him to MSU's campus to see Beaumont Tower, stroll through the Beal Botanical Garden, and meet Sparty for the first time.  (Don't worry Wolverines - Ann Arbor is on the docket for our next Michigan trip.)

Chris, Everett, and Sparty - June 27, 2016

It was special to see our loved ones interacting with our lil' beastie.  It warmed our hearts and for the most part we were able to keep it together emotionally.  But there were moments.  Like at a family wedding where there were rocks hidden with the kids' names on them.  We found Everett's, and kept our eyes open in case there was one for Oberon - not really expecting to find one.  After asking if they could make one for Oberon for us to take later, we found out Obie was already included - they were just afraid another child would take it not realizing.  These moments of remembering and thoughtfulness are extremely special to us.

A couple of days before we left California, we talked about whether to bring Obie's Molly Bear or not.  We landed on it not being a good idea to try to take such a special bear, that always looks weird to TSA, while traveling with an infant.  Once the decision was made to leave the bear at home, Elizabeth decided to steal an idea from many loss moms and bring an "O" with us.  We went to Michaels and ordered more from; we actually bought a lot of Os.

Meeting lots of family on Dad's side - June 26, 2016

And lots of family on Mom's side - July 2, 2016

The family pictures are changing as the years go by.  Children are born, people get married, and others pass away.  It makes us very sad that Oberon didn't get to be in a big extended family picture when he was alive.  Maybe that's why it's so important to us to include him somehow visually.

We've been back in California for a few weeks, and the trip already feels ages away.  Everett has already changed so much - he's now a pro at eating from a spoon, holding a toy in each hand, and rolling wherever he wants to go.  And new tricks like sitting up, babbling, and pushing up on his hands and knees are just about here.

Happy 6 Months, Everett - July 7, 2016

Mommy's payback plan for not going to Ann Arbor...this time

Friday, June 24, 2016

Living with Guilt

We've been feeling some guilt.

Going to take a wild guess and posit that every parent feels guilty at one time or another.  

The guilt we're talking about is probably a little bit different.  When a day goes by that we don't talk about Oberon, there is guilt.  When we pull back from coverage of tragedies because our hearts can't take it, there is guilt.  When we aren't doing everything we can to raise money and awareness for Obie's favorite charities, there is guilt.

Everett is growing and changing, and is currently a smile machine.  His giggles melt our hearts and his developments make us proud.  Some days, it probably looks like everything is perfect.  Some days, we don't talk out loud about why it isn't.

Everett - June 7, 2016

Living far away from family exacerbates some of the guilt we feel.  Not everyone got to meet Oberon, and many people haven't yet met Everett as he approaches six months old.  This seems ridiculous, but it's reality when you live thousands of miles from some of the most important people in your life.  Fortunately, we'll be traveling to Michigan later this month and introducing Everett to lots of people who already love him.  Even so, there is guilt with this trip because it wasn't soon enough for Everett to meet Nanny, his great grandma.  Nanny passed away two weeks before our trip, which feels like a cruel coincidence.

Nanny and Elizabeth pregnant with Obie, at his baby shower - October 2014

For Elizabeth, when the guilt comes up she pulls back.  It's hard to engage with your living child when you feel guilty about their sibling.  Thoughts like, "none of this matters", "how can I be happy when my son is dead?", and "I have no control over anything so why bother?" swirl around.  

Try as we might, grief isn't always healthy.  It isn't always able to be channeled into loving, productive ways.  Sometimes, we just feel shitty.  And guilt about guilt is a real thing, especially in a society that values a "stiff upper lip" and "making it work."  Of course we have to make it work, one day, one moment at a time.  But sometimes we just need to express what's really going on in our hearts, even if it isn't beautiful or positive.

Oberon - December 10, 2014