Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. We said farewell to our wonderful beagle, Ginger.

It was time. She let us know that. She was 13 years old, and we knew it was coming. I am so glad she made it to see another summer, to remember the feeling of laying in a sunny spot and soaking up the warmth. And she got to come camping one more time, take one more boat ride, enjoy the smell of summer (important to a beagle!) and all it has to offer.

She’s my “once in a lifetime” dog. I found her on the highway the summer before my senior year of high school. Long, funny, sweet story… but let’s just say that it was meant to be.

She’s been an amazing companion over the years. When I would cry she would climb up on me and rest her head on my chest or cheek. She always knew when something was up with me. I’ll always remember when I got my positive pregnancy test (my husband was out of town). I could hear her slow steps up the stairs and down the hallway to check on me. She knew something was up. She’s technically the first one I told! And we sat in the future nursery and she cuddled with me while I cried excited tears, and we plotted the future together. I’m so sad she won’t be there for that next positive test. For those next steps in our lives.

While part of me feels a little guilty that her last year was spent in the shadow of our son, I’m also so glad they got to meet each other. They are both amazing. One of his first words was “Ginger.” He loves to say it, which makes this even harder. He’s been looking around for her, especially this morning (first thing in the morning, he loves waking up and seeing the dogs wake up and excitedly walk around the room, waiting for pees and breakfasts). She loved to snuggle with him, and was so patient with him and his antics, especially for a cranky old woman!

He keeps saying his heartbreakingly adorable, high-pitched “Ging-uh!” While it makes it more difficult, I also love that he says it. I don’t want him to lose that word from his vocabulary. It’s a word I wanted him to know and say often, and it’s sad that it will start to fade. I will keep it going, somehow. We will remember her.

I’ve been through so much with this dog… from high school graduation, to college, to multiple apartments and houses, to our wedding, then pregnancy (she loved to cuddle on the couch with me during those long first trimester days!), and then baby.

I talked to my best friend yesterday morning, who was with me the day we found her, and she joked that Ginger held out for my son’s birthday, which made me laugh. Never one to miss a party, there for every milestone. I like that idea. That she wanted to see him turn one before she left us.

She had a wonderfully peaceful passing. She was outside on a beautiful day, in my lap being kissed while I told her how much I loved her. I’m so glad I was able to do this for her, and be there with her when she left us. While my husband couldn’t be there, my best friend was. It was fitting and how it should have been… she started and ended her life with the two of us.

My heart is just broken. It’s becoming so much more real. It keeps hitting me in waves and the reality, the FINALITY, of it is setting in. Being home is hard, with all of the little reminders around. Expecting to hear her get up for a drink of water. She won’t be jumping around howling at me, trying to convince me to feed them dinner early. I already miss her amazingly soft ears. Her sweet eyes. The way her white-tipped tail wagged. Her sassiness, even in her old age. She was amazing and awesome and I just can’t believe she’s gone.

I can’t stop crying, even now. She’s really gone.

I miss her. It breaks my heart to see our other dog (Kizzy) laying by herself on the big dog bed under the coffee table. They spent most of the day cuddling together. She seems melancholy today. She knows, I think. When I came home from the vet yesterday she was sniffing me like crazy (which she normally wouldn’t do unless I had been with a different dog, but not Ginger), then just laid down. I’m giving her as much love as possible. Cutting her a break. Being more patient. Cuddling more.

I don’t know how to adjust to being a one-dog household. We’ve done things in pairs for so long. We buy 2 toys, 2 beds, 2 crates, 2 types of dog food, put together 2 sets of doggy Christmas presents. We let the dogs out. We feed the dogs. “Honey, do the dogs have water?” I came home from the vet yesterday, and the first thing I see is the sign I made on the front door: “Shhhh… Sleeping Baby and Barking Dogs.” When my husband came home from work, he said it was so weird to only be greeted at the door by Kizzy.

Last night, I didn’t want to go to bed. As morbid and strange as it might sound, yesterday she was alive. I knew when I went to bed, that would change. I’d have to start out a whole day without her. There will never again be a day where she’s here with us. Where I can kiss her cheek or bury my nose in the scruff of her neck. Get her to howl that sweet sweet howl, where she’d sway back and forth.

This morning was really tough. I was hoping it was all a bad dream. Lying in bed, it was like I could pretend she was still just sleeping and would get up any minute. It was so QUIET, with just one dog. Without her pouncing around for her breakfast, or hearing the tap-tap-tap of her claws on the wood floor. Not hearing her snoring the morning away. Not watching her roll around on her back when she wakes up from a nap, making that funny “gator face” and snorting. All those little things, those noisy things… her absence is deafening.

We will keep her memory alive, and she’ll live on in our hearts forever. We’re already laughing about little things she did, even though those thoughts bring on more tears. She was one in a million, irreplaceable… but how lucky I was to have had the chance to know her.

Grant just woke up from his nap and the first thing he did was say her name. It’s heartbreaking. I was “prepared” for this time, but are we really ever? My heart literally aches. My stomach hurts. I don’t feel like eating. I don’t know how to handle the heaviness of these emotions.

Grant helps, of course. I can’t stay in bed crying all day when I have to chase after him. He needs me, and it feels good to hear him giggle and play. Life goes on, somehow.

Ginger, thank you for finding me that day. Thank you for giving me everything you had, and gracing my life with your presence. I promise I won’t be this sad forever, but it’s going to be really hard for me to relearn how to live without you. You’ve helped me get through so much, and I never fully realized what a rock you were to me until now. That’s just a testament to the amazing dog you were, and how much I loved (and continue to love) you. I hope you get to spend eternity sniffing around, snoozing in the sun, eating lots of yummy food without ever getting too fat, and having that spot on your neck itched. I love you, beagle butt. More than you could ever know.

I’ve kind of hit a brick wall with the Flats and Handwashing Challenge. It’s losing its novelty. It’s feeling like a bit of a burden at times. I’m still liking the flats part, overall. But boy, handwashing can be daunting at times.

I didn’t mind it so much the first couple of times. Especially when I was just home with my son during the day. But when you’re having a bad day (*cough*Wednesday*cough*) or you get busy doing other things… it’s just kind of a pain in the butt.

I’m so glad that I have a lot of flats, though. (Major thanks to Diaper Junction for giving me a dozen flats to try, I have loved and needed them!). I’m probably not going to get a chance to wash today, and didn’t yesterday, so I’m going to have a GIANT load to wash tomorrow. But it’s nice knowing I have enough flats to get me through, and don’t have to cheat, or skip out on doing something fun just because I really need to wash.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve almost given up a couple of times. I thought, ‘No one will know if I just toss this one load into the washer.’ I would really love to use our other diapers today, when we have to leave on a 30+ minute drive to visit the in-laws and will be gone for the afternoon before driving back home. But I’m pushing through, and I’m still committed. And then I feel like a total wuss after I read something like this.

This has given me a whole new respect for anyone who always does it this way. Perhaps it’s different if you always do, or you don’t have an “end” in sight (besides potty training). It does give you a skewed view of things, when you know that, come next week, you can go back to using your (beloved) washing machine. And modern cloth diapers.

I didn’t realize how oddly attached I was to our cloth diapers. A couple days ago I put away a load of cloth diapers that were clean but in a laundry basket (the last load of his regular diapers that I washed prior to the challenge) and I was surprised how much I missed them.

That said… I think I’ll be using flats a lot more now. I love letting my son go coverless, and they really are such a simple diaper. I already use them as inserts for all of my one-size FuzziBunz pockets. But this has motivated me to start pad-folding them more often into covers. And, yes, pinning them on. There’s just something classic and adorable about a pinned flat diaper on your baby… but I think it would be even cuter coming out of the washer and dryer!



Are You Sentimental?

May 23, 2011

Or, better yet, a big fat crybaby?

Man oh man. I’m sorry to write about this again, but a few days ago it hit me all over again. My boy is getting big.

I know, I know. I’m stating the obvious. I need to get over it. All mothers go through it, all children grow up, yadda yadda yadda.

But when it hits me, it hits me HARD. And, when it hit me late last week, it hit me harder than it ever has before. I was SOBBING. My poor husband had to try to console me while I talked about wanting to hold on tight, how sad I was at the thought of moving him into his own room, and don’t even get me started on the fact that he won’t be nursing some day. And remember how it was only yesterday when I was pregnant, and we’d lie in bed and feel him kick?

Good lord, I’m already feeling sorry for this poor child’s kindergarten teacher. I’ll probably just spend his first day driving in circles around the school (crying, of course) waiting for him to come home. And then a concerned citizen will call the police and my son will have to tell me about his first day of school over my one phone call.

Please tell me I’m not alone in this? This isn’t hormones. Right? I mean, I remember feeling out of whack and a bit hormonal after Grant was born, but this is deep in my gut emotion. Is this just motherhood? I’ve always been a sentimental person, and I’ve always been one to dwell on change and nostalgia and trying to hold on to memories… but this is a whole new level of sentimentality and emotion.

Don’t get me wrong, of course… I absolutely love the person my son is becoming. Today, for example, was one of those days where you look at them and they just look older. His hair looked longer, his face looked more mature. He looked less babyish (*sniff*). He was stronger and braver and did more. And it’s so damn exciting! He has such a great personality, and there were several times throughout the day where we looked at each other and both just started cracking up. He’s awesome. I’m genuinely excited to watch him grow. I have so much to look forward to, and I’m excited for so many things we get to do together as he gets older.

But, if you have any advice on letting go, and accepting that they get bigger, I would certainly love to hear it. I am hoping this just means that I am a good mother. I look at my baby and know that he deserves all of the love I have in my heart. He’ll just have to get used to the fact that, sometimes, I show it by crying buckets of tears or kissing him too much (is there such a thing?).

In other news… Saturday was the opening weekend of our local farmer’s market. The pickings were a bit slim, of course (it’s May and we live pretty far north) but it was still so nice to go there. The weather was beautiful, too.

Thank goodness for that Ergo carrier. I sure cherish that extra snuggle time, especially as he grows.

Reorganizing

May 15, 2011

First, thank you, Sun. It is nice to see you today, even if it’s still pretty cold out.

Second, thank you, Husband, for getting up with our son this morning and allowing me to sleep in for almost three additional hours. Wowza, did I ever need that!

I am in spring cleaning mode. I’ve been tackling some stuff that I’ve been putting off, such as our “guest bedroom” which has been the catch-all for all of the junk that we haven’t felt like dealing with all winter. It now has a floor again.

I also put the dresser back in my son’s closet, and am going through all of his clothes (AGAIN). However, it is different this time. His growth is (finally) starting to slow down, meaning he isn’t outgrowing things like crazy. I am also more heavily considering what I hold onto and put into his closet… meaning, stuff that isn’t our style and won’t get worn shouldn’t be in there.

I am also working on going through all of his outgrown clothes, which are in overflowing bins in our closet. You see, I get very sad when I pack things away; I am having a hard time letting go of Baby Grant and the fact that he is growing up. So when I have packed away his infant clothes (especially the first few times) I was very emotional and viewed his clothes emotionally. I kept pretty much everything, simply because he had worn it once. Now I am going back through the bins a bit more objectively, and only holding onto the things that I believe will truly get worn with our next child, or really does have a real emotional attachment (sorry, but that first pair of dinosaur pajamas are staying forever!).

It feels good, though. It’s part of a process, I suppose. Letting go and preparing for these next stages, which are exciting (but also bittersweet).

My husband has been wonderful this weekend, and has spent a lot of time with our son while I’ve been decluttering and reorganizing. It’s nice to have him put him down for naps and change diapers and play with him. I love watching their relationship grow, especially now that Grant is getting older and more “interactive.”

I feel like I still have SO MUCH that I want to get done (and I do!) but I’m trying to realize that it needs to be done one step at a time. Our dining room is still a work in progress, but I don’t want to ignore the rest of our house while the spring cleaning bug has bitten me.

Holy hell, am I glad it’s almost Friday.

Definitely had one of those weeks. My husband was out of town and just got home a little while ago. We’re watching the Red Wings game and I’m drinking a glass of wine. It feels good to have him home.

The funny thing is that, on Monday, I was thrilled that he was leaving. That usually happens every couple of months, and it always seems to do us some good to have a few days apart.

I’m used to doing most of the childcare, but I’m not used to also doing all of the dogcare. And I just can’t handle one of our dogs much longer. That’s a post for another day, but let’s just say that it takes a LOT for me to dislike a dog, and I’m really starting to borderline hate her.

Add in that my son was teething (tooth #7 cut through! holy crap!) and is in that fun whiny stage now, and that I’m on my period, and yeah. Fun fun week.

I don’t mean to complain. But I’m just exhausted and need a little me time. Even just some time to get some cleaning done, and to work on our dining room. Here’s hoping the husband doesn’t have any plans this weekend and can help a gal out.

This week wasn’t all bad, of course. On Monday I was invited to attend a “Mother’s Tea” at my niece’s preschool. Grant took two two-hour naps and only had two not so good naps all week (and one of them was due to the devil dog waking him up). He cut his tooth. He is doing GREAT with his solid foods and has really been enjoying sitting at the table and eating. My mom came over tonight to have dinner with us, and then she got to give him a bath. It was nice to listen to his splashing and belly laughs… and then she got him ready for bed so that *I* could shower. It was nice.

And the Red Wings just lost. Sad. Great series, though, at least they made it worth watching.

Viva la weekend! My husband should have tomorrow off (fingers crossed), so we’re going out to breakfast in the morning. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a productive but also relaxing weekend.

How about you?

Learning

May 3, 2011

Oh boy, has my son been learning up a storm these past couple of weeks.

In addition to learning how to fake choke (a skill he picked up months ago), he can now fake cough, fake cry, and throw fake temper tantrums.

He has also learned how to throw real temper tantrums.

He has learned how to empty out his toy bins. He has learned how to do an alligator death roll while I try to change his diaper or (heaven forbid) put some pants on him.

He has learned how to wake himself up after just a half an hour during his morning nap.

He has learned where the power cords are.

He has learned how to grind his cute little front teeth together, which he knows makes mommy’s skin crawl. He has learned how to do it on purpose just to get a reaction out of me.

He has learned that, when I am very tired or stressed, all it takes is a silly smile, or for him to pause for a moment while we play on the floor to “pet” me, to make everything okay again. To remind me of the other things he has learned… to giggle, to smile, to play, to amuse. To hug, to head-butt, to reach his arms to me when he wants me to hold him. To make me smile, to make me laugh, to make my heart swell. In turn, I am learning to relax more, to have more patience, to appreciate the little things. The moments I’ll never, ever get back.

We are both learning.

It’s Okay

April 21, 2011

Sometimes, it’s just okay. Take a deep breath, pour a glass of wine, and smile. Laugh at yourself. Appreciate the small things. Realize how silly life can be, how precious.

If you let your baby take a nap in your arms once in awhile, just to cherish holding them in your arms at that moment, it’s okay.

If your house isn’t always tidy, because sometimes you opt to play more, or make an impromptu trip to the park, or to visit loved ones instead of scrubbing floors and folding laundry, it’s okay.

If you make unreasonable to-do lists for yourself and feel like you can’t keep up with your own expectations of yourself (let alone other people’s), it’s okay.

If you feel frustrated sometimes, or get upset at something and then feel like a bad parent due to your impatience, it’s okay.

If you aren’t ready to sleep in a different room than your baby does, even though it’s been (many) months past the time you swore you would, it’s okay.

If you’re out to lunch, and your baby reaches over and spills your full glass of ice water all over the table (and everything on it), it’s okay.

If you don’t parent your child the way your mom did, or sister does, or your friends will… it’s okay.

If you do things as a parent that you swore you’d never do (or have judged others for doing), it’s okay.

I’m starting to learn some things about this whole motherhood thing. And one thing I’m learning–the hard way–is that we are way too hard on ourselves. I want things to be perfect, but that isn’t possible. One person cannot do everything. You cannot give 100% to every component of your life… some things will have to give.

What doesn’t bend, breaks.

So if you spend an entire day just trying to get your baby to nap, it’s okay. It isn’t what was planned, but much of life isn’t. Some of the greatest moments in my life have been a result of things not going exactly as planned.

See what I mean? Two things in my life that weren’t perfectly planned, but worked out perfectly. Life is funny like that sometimes.

Life is beautiful. Take it in.

Today I Am Thankful

April 10, 2011

I woke up today between my husband and my son. As a family, with both dogs, we came downstairs to start the day.

Today, my husband and I will have coffee together. We will argue about ordinary things. We will tease each other, and tell inside jokes, and fight over the remote control and who has to cook dinner this evening. Tonight, we will tuck our son into bed, together, and we will kiss each other goodnight.

And, for that, I am thankful.

Last night, a friend of my sister’s (and her husband’s) died unexpectedly. He was in his early 30s. He had two children (ages seven and nine), and a wife.

Today, his wife had to wake up without him there. And so did his children.

And they will never again argue over ordinary things, or tease each other, or tell inside jokes, or fight over the remote control, or who cooks dinner, or tuck their children into bed together, or kiss each other goodnight.

Those children will have to grow up without a father… they’ll never again high-five him after winning a game, or hug him on Christmas morning, or sit around the table and talk about their days. They won’t get to argue with him over who they date, or curfew, or why they can’t get the car they want. He won’t be there when they walk across stage and receive their diplomas. He won’t proudly take pictures of his children, all dressed up, as they scurry off to prom. He won’t be there to walk his daughter down the aisle. Their mother will be there, of course, and I can’t help but think about how all of those moments will be a constant reminder of what isn’t there, and how she has to do all those things without him.

I called my sister right away this morning, to check on her. She’s a wreck; last night they went to be with his wife, and I think today it is all really sinking in. I had met this family a few times, at birthday parties and BBQs, but I don’t know them. So, for the second time this week, I am left reeling by the loss of strangers. I cannot wrap my head around it. I don’t know how you tell your children that their daddy is gone. I don’t know how you can possibly move on from something like this. I don’t ever, ever want to know what it feels like to look at an empty pillow next to mine, and know he’s never coming back. I don’t want to know how strong you have to pretend to be because you don’t want your children to crumble.

So, instead, today I will focus on being thankful for what I do have. Because damn, it can be taken away from you just like that. Today I will kiss more, hug harder, fight less, and be nicer. We only have today.

Loss

April 3, 2011

Are you ever caught off guard by something… overwhelmed by the emotions of something unexpected?

Earlier this week I heard about someone who had died. I didn’t hear a name, just that she was 27 and had a 5 month old. I remember thinking how sad that was, how hard it must be to pick up the pieces after something like that happens.

But then today, I read the obituary. I saw her picture. It was someone who went to my high school and graduated just a year ahead of me. Someone I didn’t know but who was familiar to me; someone I knew but didn’t know. I read the summary of her life and what she was like, the legacy she left to those who loved her. She reminded me, in ways, of myself. Like I could relate to this woman somehow. Yet, if we had passed each other on the street a few weeks ago, we may have smiled politely but that’s all.

I fought back tears reading it. She had a baby. Can you imagine? That poor baby, that poor husband. I look inward, to my own family… and I can’t. I just can’t wrap my mind around it. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m the glue that holds our family together. Most mothers and wives are. How would they move on? How does anyone?

So here I am today, keeping her and her family in my thoughts, even though we don’t know each other. Because damn. DAMN.

This year has been really tough when it comes to death and illness. Too many people we do know. Our brother-in-law lost his mother and his sister in the last month. It’s been less than a year since my husband lost his brother. One of our friends just lost his father. There are too many others to mention. Is it always like this? Are we just getting older and this is something that is going to become all too familiar? Or is this just a bad streak of luck, of health?

Last night, as I sipped a glass of wine in the late hours of my quiet living room, I watched my elderly dog. She was up and down, up and down. Couldn’t get comfortable. I didn’t know what was wrong… was it serious? Was she just achey? Does she know something we don’t? I sat down on the floor with her and did my best to comfort her, to share with her my love and strength. Right now she is sleeping by my feet. She looks sadder today than she has in a long time. Is it just the change in weather? My biggest hope is that she will stay with us, make it at least a few more months so she can lay outside in the hot sun and sniff the summer air. I want her to remember how that feels.

It is April. A month of renewal. A month where we say goodbye to winter (at least up north) and welcome the early signs of spring. The rain, the grey. The cold but not quite frigid weather. And, if we’re lucky, patches of green grass and a sparse scattering of flowers, a hint of sunshine and a bit of warmth. Dry patches on the otherwise wet sidewalks.

Today, however, it is snowing. I know a lot of people are complaining but I’m not. Snow in April never bothers me for some reason. I know it won’t stick around. I’m feeling very, very ready for spring and summer. But I can’t help but smile and give Old Man Winter a nod, and admire his ability to try to hang on tight before losing out to the warmth and the life. He eventually loses out, of course, and must let go to allow the rest of us the ability to move on.

But we all know that’s never easy, letting go and saying farewell. Moving on.

Forgetting

April 1, 2011

I am terrified of forgetting.

The little things… you know, like the smell of a newborn. I can hardly remember it, less than nine months later.

There’s so much I don’t want to forget. Like the feel of a sleeping baby on my chest. The imprint of an ear left on my skin.

Baby giggles, his belly laughs. How I felt when he smiled at me for the first time.

The relieved, blissful look on his face when he’s hungry and finally latches on. The sound of a nursing baby, the swallowing.

The silly expressions; the way he raises his eyebrows and I can tell exactly what he’s thinking. (I hope that doesn’t go away.)

The weight of him in my arms, increasing every day. How he gets heavier as he gives in to sleep.

The babbling. The nonsense words. How proud he is when he figures out a new sound and has to repeat it over and over (and over) again.

His creamy skin and perfectly pink cheeks. The fatty folds in his thighs, the way his hair curls slightly just behind his ears.

Those quiet moments in the middle of the night, when it’s only the two of us awake. Sleepy, treasured time.

How bittersweet things can be. How proud I am when he figures out something new, but then have to fight back tears because he’s big enough to roll over, or cut a tooth, or eat solid foods. It’s like I have to pack away outgrown clothes and toys faster than I can pull out the new stuff. I can’t keep up.

I’m already forgetting. What was the exact color of his eyes when he was just a week old? What did I do that made him giggle for the first time?

I take pictures and pictures and more pictures, but they aren’t enough. They can’t capture the FEELING or the SMELL or the SOUND of this amazing little boy. How I feel when he shows his love in his own little ways.

But wasn’t it only yesterday when I got that positive pregnancy test? When I felt him move for the first time? When my water broke?

I look forward to the things we will do together in his life. The things we will learn, the things we will teach. Every day he gets more fun, more hilarious, more amazing. But damn it if it isn’t hard to let go of some of what we lose.

“Change is hard; you fight to hold on and you fight to let go.” [The Wonder Years]

So worth it.