Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Heart Is Filled With Gratitude

Elijah Harrison was born yesterday morning at 6:46 a.m. He weighed 8 lbs 3 oz but the weight off my heart far exceeded eight pounds.

After we lost James and Jake a little over two years ago, I have been afraid for Beth and her family. We have a history of midterm and full term losses in our family that is greater than the law of averages and I was so afraid that Beth would never have another child. And when she got pregnant I was even more afraid that she would suffer another loss and I didn't know how she (or any of us) would get through it.

The only bad thing about being a mother is that sometimes we have to endure our child's unhappiness and that is a painful feeling like no other.

But God has put all that behind us now. The pregnancy ended successfully yesterday morning at 6:46 a.m. when Elijah was born.

He's perfect and beautiful and (unlike his older siblings) won't spend even one minute in the neonatal intensive care unit. He's in the room with his glowing mother and loving father and that's just how it should be.

So right now, I thank God from the bottom of my heart for this gift, this miracle. I'm grateful beyond measure.

And you can see why. Here he is at one hour old:

And then bathed, dressed and rooming with his mom at about four hours:

I have to go now. I have some one important to see and hold in my arms. Oh, and I'm going to hold Eli too.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Have To Admit I'm Getting Better

I get emails pretty regularly from Firstborn Army Son in Iraq. That helps so much.

I finished my clear liquid diet and the craziest thing is that it worked. I feel a lot better even though my doctor wouldn't prescribe even one single pill no matter how much I thought he should. So that's all good.

And, after being inspired by some of the cast of Shrinking Jeans like Bacardi Mama and by Sharon from Mom Generations (and her 5k runs), I actually got out and walked tonight.

It was cold, and so was I, but I'm so glad I went. There were a couple of really neat things going on. One was a little, busy group of ducks. They swam quickly, bobbing on the waves and zigzagging all over the place. Then I noticed that the size of the group varied constantly and it was because they spent so much time diving underwater. Here is a series of pictures taken within about a ten second span:

They were such a busy, important little group that I decided not to disturb them further.

Next I found the swans' nesting spot.

And I saw this muskrat:

And this sunset:

And then I went home, frozen, but exhilarated that I'd finally felt good enough to get out and start walking.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

You Capture - A Moment

Is it Thursday already? Wow! It's amazing how a clear liquid diet can make the days fly by.

My first thought was that I wouldn't be able to participate this week because I just don't feel up to looking for photo ops right now and finding and capturing "A moment" requires some work and some luck; but, then I remembered the walk I took Monday evening before I fell ill and realized that there were a couple of moments that I had recorded.

The first one was a moment that I impulsively snapped and when I walked just a little farther to try another angle, I realized that the moment had passed and hoped the one I snapped was a good one. I think it was:

Two more of the moments while I was out there that day involved birds. I loved the first one because he had his bill open and I can almost hear the loud quacking that accompanies a duck flyover.

And the second was the quiet red-winged blackbird presenting a perfect silhouette in the fading light.

All in all, I loved those moments as well as many others that I encountered on that chilly walk. I'm grateful to Beth and her You Capture that I've become aware of moments like these and that I catch pictures that I wouldn't otherwise have caught even when I'm not out "on assignment".

There are lots more "moments" to see at Beth's Ishouldbefoldinglaundry. Visit. You won't regret it!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Can I Have Some Cheese With My Whine?

Oh wait. I can't have cheese...or wine for that matter.

I'm on a clear liquid diet. Have you ever tried one of those? You can have coffee and tea with no cream, jello with no fruit, broth with no substance, juice with no pulp, and water. How can that be a diet you ask? Like this:

Breakfast: One glass fruit juice
One glass water
One cup of broth
One bowl of gelatin

Lunch: Repeat

Dinner: Repeat

Snacks: Coffee or tea - no cream and one bowl of gelatin or a popsicle.

That's it. That's the whole diet. But the good thing (or bad depending on how you look at it) is that you feel so lousy when you have to be put on one of these diets that you really don't want anything else. So it's okay. As long as it has the desired result: It's designed to keep your stomach and intestines clear, limit strain to your digestive system, and keep your body hydrated.

Evidently the doctor thinks my digestive system needs a rest. I agree.

So I bought a book, New Moon, the sequel to Twilight and I watch TV when I can keep my eyes open and I don't do anything else.

But there are signs that I'm recovering - the first of which is that I'm writing this post.

See? I told you I wasn't feeling well.

Friday, March 19, 2010

So Many

I wrote a post the other day about my overwhelming sadness that my son was going to go to a combat zone for a year. I couldn't bear the thought of him being away from his family for so long and I couldn't bear that he was going to a dangerous place.

Beth tweeted about it and wrote about it and mentioned my post in her post.

Since then, there have been so many comments, so many comforting words, and so many good wishes. From so many people in the same boat or even worse boats and from so many people that just appreciate what he does and feel empathy for the impact it has on him and his family.

Don't get me wrong. I am still indescribably sad to have him over there but my heart is comforted by the words of so many.

So many people offered virtual "hugs" and I felt like I could feel them. They offered prayers and those prayers became my prayers. And they offered love and my heart was filled with love. They reminded me of how proud I can be of my son and his values. And expressed gratitude for what he and so many other men do for us and our country. And, most of all, one after another, let me know that they were thinking warm and loving thoughts of our family right now. And I felt them all.

After a very long trip, he arrived there about five hours ago and as Amy T said in her comment, "Big hugs and allow yourself to be sad at first, than throw all that sadness out the window and focus all your energy on care packages and letters and love for your soldier! Thank you to your son for defending our freedoms" And I have to say that Amy T nailed it. She expressed everything I knew but forgot to think about and more.

But that doesn't take away from the reminders of faith and prayerful good wishes of everybody else.

I doubt that very few could know what an impact your comments had - not just on me but on our entire family.

So thank you to everyone that thought of us or commented or said a prayer. But I have bad news. I think we're going to have to do this again soon. When, over the phone, I cried on the shoulder of second born Army son (firstborn's identical twin), and told him that he better not be going anywhere, he reluctantly told me that he would be leaving for Afghanistan this summer or just before Christmas.

I hope you'll all hover nearby because I (and my entire family) am going to need you sorely when there are two of them deployed. Then I'll really have something to cry about.

It reminds me of my dad when I was little. He'd think my crying over some small thing was uncalled for and would often say, "stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about".

When the day comes that they're both deployed, I'll go back over the comments that you've left on that post and I'll think about the wise, supportive, comforting words of such a multitude of beautiful people. And I'll be comforted.

And I'll thank you all from the bottom of my heart once again.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You Capture - Reaching

I'm almost hesitant to participate this week because it's so hard to put a post in front of the post I did yesterday. I did that one because I remembered that my blog is for me and I needed to express my pain and anxiety. And I did it with a lot of trepidation (because I felt like I was just feeling sorry for myself) but Beth encouraged me and then she pointed to me and a world of love and support descended around me from so many people. Thank you to everyone who offered their shoulder, their prayers, and their support.

Now on to You Capture which I'm doing because a) it's therapeutic and b) I need to shift my focus to include everything that my son would want me to include. Because he's generous and loving like that.

I thought 'reaching' would be hard but with a little guidance from Beth who said, "think Spring", I've once again got more photos than I should but, I promise, I've eliminated dozens!

First there was the group of brilliantly colored crocuses all striving to be the first to access the sun's rays.

Then there were the two, different but the same, reaching for each other in a common endeavor to feel the sun.

With this picture I'm acknowledging that not just the flower but every part of the flower, especially the stamen, needs the sun and reaches for it to fulfill its mission.

That's all the biology for today. Now on to the daffodils. Some have to work harder than others to reach the sun.

And some dafs have to power through whatever obstacles stand in their way.

The peonies are just reaching the crest of the earth but their unmistakable color promises some real beauty in a few weeks.

Everything reaches in the Spring. Everything needs the sun. But fortunately for You Capture and me, the colors are never more vivid and glorious than in the Spring.

And all winter long these pine boughs have been stretching and reaching but now that the sun is warmer and closer, they seem to shine with new life. And that's why they got included in this post.

Now to see reaching from many other perspectives and photographed much more beautifully, visit Beth at Ishouldbefoldinglaundry and join in. It's so much fun to share your photos!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

He's Leaving Soon

I have been gripped by melancholy, depression, frustration, and fear. It's consumed my mind every day and these emotions have intensified exponentially as his departure date approaches.

There are happy things that should distract my mind from his departure. like Beth's baby; but my soul is still consumed with the sadness.

I could dissolve in tears at the drop of a hat - at the mention of his leaving. I pray constantly for his safety and I feel his resolve to do the tour to the best of his ability and as safely as possible and return home - hopefully to never leave again. I think I feel his frustration and sadness. And I'm consumed.

I don't feel well. And when I read about my symptoms, they can be related to stress and I've no doubt that they are. I don't feel well physically or mentally. I'm agonizing about something that can't be helped by agonizing.

And with all this I can't imagine what it must feel like to his wife, his kids, him. It's just too hard.

He shouldn't have to do another year away from home. He's done three tours already - all shorter but all too long. Four is too much to ask of anybody.

But most of all I just need him to be in a safe place. I need to not open my web browser every morning praying that no one has been killed over there. I need to never start to worry because I haven't heard from him for too long when it's probably just a service glitch in that backwards place.

But I still can't shake this despair. Maybe once he's there and I can starting counting the days until my firstborn Army son get's back, it'll get better. I hope so.

Because right now I'm too indescribably sad.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Grandparent Gift

On Friday, March 11th, two of our grandchildren, the ones from Belleville, Michigan, spent the day with us. I looked forward to it with my usual trepidation. I'm always worried that we, as grandparents, won't live up to our unearned reputation as the residents of the best place in the world for any kid. I'm afraid they'll be disappointed, or bored, or just wish they were somewhere else. By some miracle, that hasn't happened yet but it's always in the back of my mind.

So last Thursday Mr. Right and I tried to think of something to do with these wonderful grandchildren that would be in keeping with their expectations. He thought going to lunch would do the trick but I was looking for G rated movies at the IMAX and other activities more exciting than lunch. But there weren't any G movies and we couldn't think of any amazing activities.

They came at 6:45 a.m., ate the breakfast designed just for them, and entertained themselves for a few hours. We decided to go ahead with that lunch idea but enhanced it by meeting Aunt Beth at a restaurant that we'd all enjoy.

At lunch I suggested that maybe when we got back to Michigan City, we should take a walk at Striebel Pond and the kids seemed enthused. However, by the time we returned and I felt that cold wind and saw the temperature, I realized it wasn't such a great idea. But the kids weren't having any of my waffling. To my surprise, they were all about that walk. I really tried to get out of it by saying, "no, it's too cold, your jackets aren't warm enough, and I don't think Grandpa wants to". But the traitor said he did, they insisted they'd be warm and I realized it would be healthy for all of us. So we went.

And we had such a good time. It was chilly but the kids didn't seem to suffer unduly and we saw lots of interesting things. Best of all it was quality time spent with a couple of kids we just don't see enough of.

Of course, there was a price to pay because when we got home, Grandpa and I needed a nap - not just from the walk of course but from the previous late night and early morning. Fortunately, the kids were tolerant of our exhaustion and took our naps in stride.

And guess what? There was nothing special or spectacular that day. But, still, the kids loved being there. So, I guess, this grandparent thing comes with a gift enclosed. It's the gift of undeserved, unconditional love. And it just doesn't get any better than that.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ethan James

Five years ago yesterday, on our 37th wedding anniversary and Matthew's 3rd birthday, we were in Louisville, KY getting ready for the birth of our fourteenth grandchild and ninth grandson. These numbers, however, in no way diminished our excitement, in large part because our youngest child was having her first child.

She entered this new experience with a resolve to 'go natural'. In other words, no epidural. But she was also very practical. She reserved the right to change her mind at any time.

With this in mind, Beth and I practiced our doula skills, or lack of, on the way to Louisville on the 9th. Sarah had gone into the hospital on the 8th because of high blood pressure. Her doctors administered a cervical softener and let it work overnight before starting the pitocin drip on the morning of the ninth. Sarah labored valiantly and was probably through much of the roughest part of labor when the high pitocin levels left her without a break between contractions. Being nothing, if not pragmatic, she was at four centimeters when they dangled that epidural before her, and she sensibly and a little reluctantly, decided to have one. After that, things got a lot easier.

The difficult part was that the nurses seemed to speed up the pitocin drip and slow it down without rhyme or reason and it started to seem like some of them were trying to manipulate the birth time a little bit so that it would occur when it was most convenient for them. I'm sure this was just a figment of all our imaginations but that's how it seemed.

And despite their suspicious manipulating, Ethan James was born exactly when he was supposed to be in the wee hours of the morning on March 10th. I think he just didn't care to share his birthday with anybody.

He was big and beautiful and loved beyond measure from his first breath.

Here's Beth getting acquainted.

Ethan laughed early and often and has kept his sunny disposition to this very day.

He's full of information, can tell you anything you want to know about Mario and friends, and loves magic. He's helpful and loving to his younger siblings and a joy to be around for all his cousins and aunts and uncles.

With his big oreo cookie eyes and beautiful smile, I'd call him the odds on favorite for any handsome little boy contests he'd enter.

I recently got to attend grandparent's day with him and he took such excellent care of me that I never got lost or even confused for a second. I enjoyed watching him in school and was so proud when he was always the one paying attention and carefully doing his teacher's helper tasks.

And then, thanks to providence and Beth's surprise baby shower, we got to celebrate his birthday up here in Northern Indiana. And it was so much fun.

So Ethan, thanks for bringing us so much joy and love and a Very Happy Birthday to you.....even if you weren't born on our anniversary.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Matthew Clinton

Eight years ago today we were at Ft. Stewart, GA visiting Second born Army guy and his family. That was one of those bonus years too because we were also visiting First born Army guy and his family because they conveniently lived right across the playground from each other.

But the main reason for our visit centered around Second born Army guy because he and his wife were expecting their third child.

Everything was going so well that day. As the daylight hours progressed it became increasingly apparent that labor had begun and that our beautiful daughter-in-law was determined to remain at home as long as possible. She had not been able to get an epidural with her second baby and appreciated the experience so much that she didn't want to be tempted with this one.

At her previous doctor's appointment, everything looked good. The head was engaged and the baby seemed to be poised for a grand entrance. But a couple of day's before the 9th, my two daughters-in-law and I had taken a brisk walk to maybe get things moving. We were walking very quickly when my daughter-in-law caught her toe on an uneven sidewalk and she went down - hard. With every bit of strength and will power that she had, she protected her baby and landed on her hands and knees but we didn't know then that there would be some serious ramifications.

I was so impressed with her home laboring. I could tell she was getting close but we were only minutes from the hospital so she persevered at home as long as possible. She was incredibly strong and brave as she worked through every contraction. Finally, she was ready to go, and she and my son headed for the hospital with my other daughter-in-law and I close behind.

We arrived at Labor and Delivery in time to see a lot of commotion in the room where they'd been taken. There seemed to be an air of restrained panic and we heard someone say something about an arm and a leg presenting.

She was between 7 and 9 centimeters when we got there but the fall that she'd suffered had dislodged the baby and he was now ready to come out sideways which, of course, is not possible. The doctors tried turning him to no avail and finally Matthew arrived via emergency c-section.

All's well that ends well and here he is not enjoying his first checkup.

He was big, strong, and healthy and he's been on the run every since.

Matthew is a sweet, loving, smart boy and a natural athlete who plays with an intensity that you seldom see in one so young. He's equally skilled in soccer, basketball and football.

He also has a great sense of humor, an aptitude for math, and a sweet spirit. Along with these incredible attributes, he was born on our wedding anniversary.

So please join me in wishing this extraordinary anniversary present a happy birthday!