Feeding Grandma

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This is the last scene I had to share from grandma's house.  He's a funny baby!

However your 2013 went, I hope that 2014 is much kinder!

Natural

Monday, December 30, 2013

One day, his fans will be telling his story:

Mo Leviss was visiting his grandma and her boyfriend, Ken, back in December of  '13, when they stumbled upon some neighbors with a toddler on a neighborhood walk.  The neighbors invited them inside and they saw that the kid had a drum kit.  Mo just walked right over, picked up the sticks and started playing as if it was something he had been born knowing how to do.  The neighbors stared on in amazement and wondered how Mo knew instinctively knew how to play at 17 months old.

Mo's grandma and K-pa knew right then what they had to do.  They ran to Walgreens and bought the last Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toddler drum set and brought it back to their house.  The rest is history!


Oooooooo Vegas!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ted and I both LOVE Las Vegas. We love gambling and free drinks and people-watching.  We got a really good deal on a suite at the Hard Rock and came here for the night yesterday for Ted's birthday. It's our second whole night away from Mo! He's staying at grandmas house and from the videos we've been sent today, it looks like he is having a blast! (Of course!!)




Ted and I decided to start our winning as soon as we got here and decided to head out to our old favorite casino - O'Sheas!  Oh ya! It was cheap and grungy.  Only, we got in the cab and found out that O'Sheas is no longer...  We were momentarily confused and thrown off course. The taxi driver recommended some place that he described as new and trendy that he thought we'd like. "No!", we said, "we like old and dirty!"   "Oh!  Then, you gotta go to Ellis Island", he said, "it's MY spot! Where all of the taxi drivers hang out".  Pulling up, we realized we'd been sent to the right place!! Very unglamorous! Just like we like it!


I rolled the best game I've ever rolled. When we left, I was feeling very proud of myself. We somehow found ourselves next at Planet Hollywood where I promptly lost everything I'd made AND simultaneously became Teds kryptonite, causing him to craps out whenever I made my approach. So I sat down to play an hour of video poker at the bar while Ted rolled 45 minutes of winning numbers. His winning streak ended as soon as I got close but not before winning everyone at his table hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Ted walked away a cool $600+ richer.  Good thing too because dinner was not cheap!

Ted and I, like any good Top Chef fans would, made reservations at Tom Coliccios's Craftsteak at the MGM. Pretty delicious and definitely overpriced! My night was MADE when Anthony Bourdain showed up with his wife and sat down two tables away from us.  I am never excited about celebrities but I seriously considered telling this man how much watching No Reservations while I was in the pit of hell contributed to my sanity. His gritty unapologetic love of travel, food, booze, tabacco and late nights was a reminder of all that is good and lovely in this life.  Oh Anthony - how I love thee!  He was clearly there for the fight last night (between someone named Silva and another guy) with his Brazilian boxer wife. I recognized her from the episode when they went to Brazil for one of her matches.  She trained, grunted and sweat the whole time they were there, while he ate roasted pork, guzzled cocktails and lazed out on the beaches of Ipanema. Heaven.


On the way back to our hotel,
we chatted with our taxi driver. I asked him if he'd ever been to the Ellis Island Casino and bar.  "That's my spot!", he replied. Somehow I knew that's the answer we'd get. Consider yourself now in know about where the Vegas taxi drivers hangout. Just In case you'd been wondering......

In my pre-mom days, I would have set up at some table right after dinner and played until the wee hours but last night I found myself more excited about my fluffy white hotel bed and TV.  That's how I found myself exactly here before 10:30 pm:


Today we start the day $700 richer (Teds winning streak continued on after I went to sleep - he's younger than me. He can still stay up late.) Which is why I'm dragging myself down to the spa this morning while he goes off to watch football.  Could this trip be any more perfect?

I was thinking on the way into town yesterday how at this time last year, I couldn't have even imagined this being possible. I was hugely debating even attending a New Years Eve party in CT and felt totally on edge just thinking about being in a "good time" situation. It's amazing the progress we've made. Simply amazing. Having fun doesn't always make me feel guilty anymore. And it doesn't mean at all that Max isn't still in every thought I have .... all of the time. 

Resemblance

Friday, December 27, 2013

When Max was born, he looked like Ted. Later on though, he morphed into me.....at least, that is what my brother likes to say.  When Mo was born, he looked like both of us (mostly like Max) and morphed into Ted.  My mom still insists that Mo looks like a mini-me.  Then, the other day she sent me this photo with the subject line: "Can you see the resemblance?"



Come on!  You've gotta admit.  Kid looks a lot like I did as a kid, no?  He's still a mini-Ted.  Just nice to see a little of myself in there too.




12.27.13

Happy Birthday to the WORLD'S BEST DADDY AND HUSBAND!  
We love you Teddy!




In our room

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Mo still sleeps in our room.  I meant to move him ages ago, but it just didn't happen.  I probably need to move him soon or he is going to be like, "Why are you putting me to sleep in the playroom instead of in the big cozy room with you guys?"  I am confident enough in my sleep training skills that I think I could retrain him but I wouldn't bet much on it.  I think it is time........soon.

Only, I just can't imagine not having him in here with us.  I check on him all throughout the night.  I love waking up to his squeaky cries (even when they start at 4:30 am like they did today).  I love not having to move much to bring him into bed with us.  And, I don't know - for no good reason at all, I am nervous to have him sleep in his own room.  Max started sleeping in there at four months!  Mo is 17 months old!

Part of me wonders if he might sleep in a little later if he was in his own room (though we are very quiet and in fact, totally asleep when he wakes up in the morning).  That would be really nice actually.  I imagine sleeping in until the luxurious late hour of six am and I already feel all excited and well rested!  Though I know we'd have at least a few days of night long wakings while he got used to his new space.

It's time isn't it?  Or, should I keep him in here with us just a *little* bit longer?




Christmas

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I'm lucky - We don't celebrate Christmas over here.  Because as far as I can tell, it is the hardest day of the year (outside of birthdays and anniversaries) for parents who've lost a child. I can understand why. The whole season is full of "cheer" and children, their innocence and happiness is the prime focus.

Knowing that I'm Jewish, people have asked me for my whole life at this time of year why I am not "getting into the Christmas spirit".  I've always found it a little more than annoying.  I feel like my Jewishness should be an appropriate tip off.  When I was working as a real estate agent, very briefly, I can remember being in the office with another agent on a Saturday who was dressed in her Christmas sweater, with Christmas earrings, and Christmas socks. She was greeting all of the walk-in potentials by calling out "Ho Ho Ho", in her silliest Santa voice.  And while I could appreciate her enthusiasm, for me it was just another Saturday.  At some point late in the afternoon she expressed her disappointment in my lack of Christmas spirit. I thought it was pretty ignorant for her to not understand how being Jewish kind of took me out of the whole Christmas thing.
Looking back and knowing what I know today, her offense was pretty minor...considering the stories I hear from other bereaved parents.  A woman who lost her young daughter only several months ago was greeted at work by a Christmas sweater wearer who asked her where her Christmas spirit was.  A Holiday card sent to another bereaved parent with the message, "We hope this is your Merriest Christmas yet!!". Fat chance! Loads of Christmas greetings with mention of everyone in the family except for the deceased child - thrown straight in the trash.  Though Christmas cards just about killed me in the year following Maxie's death, they don't anymore. We like them. But we don't have a display on our mantel and we definitely aren't sending out cards of our own. How to sign them? Which photos to put on them? Why bother anyway? We aren't Christian!  

What I'm saying here is that Christmas is hard for those who celebrated, or couldn't wait to celebrate it, with their children. It's more than hard actually. And even though I am lucky not to have to deal with it at all - I get it. I'm so sorry you have to face this day without your beloved babies. This hurdle will be over soon.  And for those of you in the Christmas spirit - Merry Christmas. Just know that we are counting on you to carry the spirit for us, because we don't have it ourselves...for a number of reasons.  XOXO

Newsfeed

Monday, December 23, 2013

"To compare is to despair" is what our grief counselor told us over and over again in our weekly sessions.  Ted likes to repeat it to me when I am feeling especially full of despair.  I like to say "To compare is to be human", but I think my phrase misses the point somewhat.  The point of the grief counselors saying is that to find true happiness, you must work to transcend normal human feelings about life.  Of course to compare is human - but it can also cause great angst, which is where I find myself more and more these days.  And, once again, the source of said comparing and angst is Facebook.  I think I really hate it.

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with my niece at our family Hanukkah party.  We were talking about the amazing goal she scored that was caught on video.  We looked at it on her mother's Facebook page together on my iphone .  If I remember correctly, there were 63 likes.  I pointed that out to her and she was over the moon.  She was thrilled to know that 63 people had seen her game winning goal.  She felt like a mini-celebrity.  And, then I made a HUGE mistake.  I told her that I remembered seeing that her dad had posted it on his page too.  "Let's look at how many likes you got on his page," I said - like a GIGANTIC effing dummy.  It never occurred to me that we would find 5 likes.  Who knows why people "like" what they like?  Honestly.  But, I was thinking it might have to do with the fact that he lives on the other side of the country and perhaps his friends just don't know my niece like they know his other children.  Right below her goal video was a picture of his other daughter and it had many, many likes....I can't remember how many.  The excitement of the first 63 likes we saw was gone.  She was momentarily crushed.  Ugh.  I felt AWFUL.  I scrolled down quickly, in a panic really, to see if there were any pictures of my sweet and beautiful niece on her daddy's page that had a lot of likes and luckily, we found one.  "There," I said, "I think people in New York are just too busy to watch videos.  They really like pictures better".  Stupid save - but a save nonetheless.  It helps that she is six so whatever I say, she just takes as a fact.  And, anyway, maybe I was right.

My mom lost her beautiful dog very suddenly last week and composed a very poignant farewell, complete with photos for him on Facebook.  I was scrolling through and noticed that there were over 73 comments on her FB eulogy for Ben.  Many of the comments said stuff like "It's so sad when we lose our babies".  I felt sick to my stomach, though OF COURSE I know what they mean, because our dogs become part of our family and it is so so awful and sad.  I only have to think about "Marley and Me" to start bawling my eyes out.  But, like a complete idiot and glutton for punishment, I looked back to see what people wrote about Max.  Hardly anything, which is actually appropriate in some ways I suppose.  Facebook isn't exactly a sacred space in which to truly express a heartfelt condolence to someone on the loss of their only grandchild.  Intellectually, I know this, but it still hurts my heart and I don't know why.

Even though I do actually know why.  I worry that people breezed too easily over Maxie's death.  I worry that they don't recognize what I great loss to the world his death is.  I worry that they don't care.  

I find myself comparing in lots of other ways too.  I repost a particularly poignant quote from The Compassionate Friends and then scroll through my newsfeed to find someone else bragging about their kids fun weekend and I compare - "Why her and not me?", I think.  I can't help it.  I see posts that read, "This is officially the worst morning of my life", and I am filled with jealousy and unexplainable sickness.  I see updates that are meant to be uplifting that just make me feel inadequate.  And on and on it goes.  And, still, I like seeing what is going on.  And, it does ALL make me crazy.  But, I continue to compare and it throws me into a despair.  What's a girl to do?

The trick is to shut off that part of me that wonders "WHY ME?  WHY MAX?  WHY US?"  but it is so so so hard - because I am a human being and this is what we do.  The same disappointment that I saw in my niece's eyes when she found only 5 likes on her posted goal is one that I feel over and over and over again each day - as I write this blog and I know it isn't being read by many of the people who matter most, as I read the Facebook newsfeed and know that spilled coffee and a flat tire will never ever be my worst morning ever again, as I see the photos of everyone's happy families and know that mine will always be incomplete.  Perhaps recognizing this flaw is the first step in correcting it.  Jealousy, envy, anger - they are all so human - but also so toxic and they hurt me so much. 

Approaching the new year, that is what I am looking to do - transcend.  Last year, I kept my New Years resolution pretty simple:  take better care of my hands.  I think I did ok.  I wasn't diligent enough with wearing gloves while doing the dishes or lotioning after every hand wash, but I did those things a whole lot more than I ever had before and that is progress.  This year I will try to remember that to compare is to despair and to remember not to read too much into stuff.  This is a MUCH bigger challenge for me.  I have always been very sensitive and take things much too personally - an incredibly bad combination for a bereaved parent.  The fact is, I have enough to despair about as it is.  I am going into this knowing that I will slip, that I will read too much into something unrelated to our situation, that I will compare myself to others who seem to have it so much easier than we do, that I will despair at the inequity that I perceive.  I forgive myself for being human, because I believe that it is also important to be kind and go easy on myself.  I know that many other grievers feel the same way I do and this time of year is especially hard.  Be kind to yourselves and maybe, every few days, take a break from that Facebook newsfeed.  I promise it isn't going anywhere.

Different

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Let me tell you why losing a child IS different than other kinds of losses.  Though I really cannot imagine that you wouldn't just know this in your heart.

You love your child more than you love anyone else.  You just do.  No matter how much you love your parents or your spouse or your pets or your friends.  You love your child more.  It's unconditional in every sense.  And, the greatest pleasure in your life is watching that child develop - a personality, a sense of humor, new skills, their own identity, their own ideas....  It is better than anything in this world.

You EXPECT to your child to outlive you.  You don't know if you will outlive your spouse, you know you will probably outlive your pet, you try to prepare yourself for the day you will lose your parents (though I suspect there is no amount of preparation that is enough - no amount of time that is enough - that the hurt will knock you off your feet no matter how prepared you think you might be).....but you still expect to outlive them.  You do.

And because your whole life happiness depends, in part, on theirs.  My dad always says that you can only be as happy as your most unhappy child.  Even if you are having the time of your life, if your child is unhappy or sick, your mind will be preoccupied with that.  It is biological.  I am guessing that my parents at times feel a little torn when they are truly enjoying themselves, knowing how unhappy I am.  It is built in to care for your children more than you care for yourself.  At least, that is how Ted and I feel.  Maxie and Mo are the most important things in our lives.  Nothing compares.

And so when your child dies - not only is there the missing, and the grief....there is also disbelief - because it wasn't supposed to be this way.  And, if you are only as happy as your most unhappy child - how can you be happy when that child is dead?  Honestly - that is the heart of the matter.  How can I be happy when he can't even experience happiness?  It's not right.

When Max was born, I remember feeling this sense of foreverness.  We would be together, in some sense, for the rest of my life.  It was a sense of forever that is not entirely unlike a marriage except for with a whole lot more certainty.  That it ended so quickly, that my love for him only happens now in my heart, that I cannot hug him and kiss him and watch him grow.  It is devastating.  ALL OF THE TIME.  And, whenever I feel like I've made just a little bit of peace with the situation, I realize that there is no peace.  It is just emptiness.  Forever.  I guess I can at least count on that.

I am aching for this little monkey.  More than words can ever express.






Ben

Friday, December 20, 2013

Did I ever mention that I lived at home briefly as an adult?  When I was 32, I moved from New York back to Los Angeles and lived with my mother.  My plan was to save enough to buy a place of my own, but instead I met Ted and about 8 months later, we moved in together.  Living at home also meant that my pets were living there too.  My mom became very attached to Jakey and when we left, she decided she needed a Goldendoodle too.  Mom got Ben on sale just a few months later.  The gold pups went like hotcakes but the black goldendoodle was $500 off.

 This was the first night I met Benny

I liked to joke that Ben was my nemesis.  He was very excited and jumpy whenever we'd come over.  He also liked to get right in my babies faces.  Tremendously excited for a while until he'd calm down - then he was a cuddler.  Goldendoodles are VERY cuddly.

The last few times I've been over there, Ben has been REALLY mellow.  SO unlike himself.  My mom has been pushing her vet to figure out what is going on.  A few days ago, she took him to our animal acupuncturist veterinarian, who took a biopsy.  Mom called me in tears last night to tell me that Ben had lymphoma.  She sounded incredibly distraught.  My mom adores her dogs.  She has 4.  Big ones.

My mom with her dogs

She asked for the name of the vet who did Jake's radiation and I texted it over to her.  I hung up feeling worried.  A few hours later, Ben died.  Without warning really.  One minute she was trying to feed him under the table, the next minute, he was gone.

My mom LOVED Ben!  Two years ago, she lost her dog Stella - a sassy, athletic standard poodle.  All of this on the heels of losing her only grandchild (which obviously is in a completely different category) - but, it's just too much.  These years have been tough.

Despite his former nemesis status, I will miss Ben.  I will mostly miss my mom's babying him.  He could do no wrong in her eyes - whether he was dragging little cousins around the house by the arm with his teeth, or sniffing the neighbors crotch - he was a perfect angel in her eyes.

Ben - 2007 - 2013



The Cartoon says it Better

Thursday, December 19, 2013

One of the most awful things that I experienced after losing Maxie was going back to my office for the first time.  I've only been back twice since then....in two and a half years.  I am not sure why, but my colleagues were told to pretend that nothing happened, to treat me as they had every day until Maxie died.  Nobody mentioned a thing.  People came into my office to talk about upcoming events and things I'd missed while I was out.  There were no "We are here for you"s or "I'm so sorry"s.  Nothing at all.  I felt so alone and all I could think for months afterwards was - "Is this how it is going to be?  Do I have to spend the rest of my life pretending that he was never here?"  I'd honestly rather die than pretend Maxie never lived.  Being his mother is something that I miss deep deep deep in my soul and to deny that it ever happened to save other people from feeling uncomfortable was more than I could bear.  I still think about that experience at my work every day.  I worry that other parents will have to feel that.  I envy parents who feel uplifted by their community and workplace.  Thank goodness - I have a boss who saved my life in some ways by getting into the dark hole with me, listening to my cries and truly walking parts of this journey with me.  I'm not sure what would have happened without him. 

Today is my 1000th blog post and I realized yesterday, after being sent this short video, that I have used 1,000,000 words to say what this cartoon says in less than 3 minutes.  (Except for that the cartoon can't tell you all about my beautiful, wonderful, spectacular baby boys or my amazing husband).  I posted it on Facebook yesterday so forgive me for the repeat if you already saw it there.

Most of the people in my life have stayed comfortably in the "sympathy zone" and that is fine.  I have known that they cared but that they couldn't connect to me and that we probably won't be able to connect again for a long time.  It has been the empaths that have saved me though....and I mean, REALLY saved me.  Maxie's death has been the most isolating, lonely experience I could have ever imagined.  It's been the human contact and connections that have gotten me through. 


Fix it

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ted was away on a ski trip this past weekend so Mo and I were on our own. We packed our weekend with activities. We met my mom at Griffith Park on Saturday and visited Shane's Inspiration, the Merry Go Round and the Southern Train Ride. We spent a lot of time on Sunday playing on our deck outside. And- I even went out on Saturday night while our nanny watched Mo. That was a big one for me for a number of reasons - out without Ted, out at all, Mo with a "babysitter" (yes, she's his nanny but she's never babysat him at night), I stayed out late, I went to a party where I didn't know most of the people there.  I recognize these things are completely non threatening to an average person but I'm not myself anymore.  I'm feeling socially awkward, even around people who I've known for most of my life...and I'm not used to being away from Mo.  Anyway- it was fun. I'm glad I got out of my comfort zone for the night.

That being said, I was happy to get back in it on Sunday morning.  Here are some videos from the weekend. Without Teddy around, I worried there would be nobody to fix stuff around the house.  Luckily Mo is his Daddy's boy!!!!




Died

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Died.  It is so hard for me to say that word in reference to my child.  He died.  I HATE saying that.  I say "We lost our baby" or "He passed" because I need to take the sting out of it for myself.  I hate that it softens the blow for whoever I am talking to - why should everything be softer for them?  But, the words hurt too much coming out of my mouth.  They hurt no matter what I say but the word "died", it is just too too much.  Another mother I have gotten to know since she lost one of her children stopped talking to a friend who described her daughter as "dead".  Of course the friend meant no harm, she was simply stating the situation as it is.  The child died.  But the bereaved mother's ears hurt, her heart hurt, her whole body shook at hearing the word.  It feels too unreal.  It hurts too much.  It is too effing awful to be real.  But, it is true.  I did not "lose" my baby.  He did not "pass".  What happened is too awful to say.  It's too awful to think.  And, yet, it is the truth.  My child died.  And, it's just eating me alive to think about.  This pain is unsustainable....and still, we go on. 

Curious

Monday, December 16, 2013

RIP Paul Walker

We've lost a legend: Lou Reed

Your thoughts are with the family of Nelson Mandela

Your heart is broken for the family that lost their child whose story went viral. 

These are the posts I see on your Facebook page....and yet, I've never once heard from you since my son died.  And, you know me. 

I just find it curious is all.

Mos last haircut

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My mom fancies herself quite the haircutter. She regularly cuts my brother, her boyfriend Ken and some of the neighbors' hair. I must admit she's pretty good. She is my go-to gal for trims and the only one who cut my hair for two years after losing Maxie (and until I was in my mid-twenties). She's been itching to cut Mosie's hair, even though I keep warning her, it won't be easy.  It became clear that she wasn't backing down, so I brought him to her for his last cut.


As you can imagine, this method took a while.  Surprisingly, his haircut actually turned out pretty good, especially considering she took one snip at a time over the period of about an hour.  Still, I think we are going to wait until he can sit still more more than a few minutes before we bring him back for his next grandma haircut.

Mo's visit with Santa

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mo's nanny took him to the library yesterday, where they bumped into Santa, who was reading stories to the kids. I guess Mo was acting pretty interested in Santa and so they got closer.



It looks like Mo wasn't a fan. This Santa would scare anyone I think.  By the way, check out Santa's sandals. So bohemian! 

My role

Ted and I watched the 60 Minutes piece about Nelson Mandela on Monday night.  I remember when Mandela's great granddaughter died at the start of the World Cup but I honestly had no idea that he had lost two adult sons - one in a car accident and one to AIDS.  "Mandela compared his grief [when his son Thembi died in the car accident] to that suffered by a tribal chief savaged by a lion, whose wounds had to be cauterized with a red hot spear."  I found this quote this morning in this article, where I also learned that Mandela had lost a nine month old daughter 21 years before the loss of his first son.  Three children!  I am just overwhelmed at the thought.  The 60 Minutes piece focused on Mandela's strength and how he never stopped smiling through all of the oppression.  I can understand his strategy in smiling at his oppressors - it was his way of making sure that they didn't win.  But, I couldn't help but wonder why he felt that he needed to smile through such gigantic personal losses.  It probably has something to do with the public's expectation of someone so larger than life.

Is it weird that I feel comforted when I hear of other people who've lost children?  It isn't that I am "glad" that they've lost.  It's that I think, "If they've done it, I can do it!"  

Even as a regular person, I feel that there is an expectation of a role I am supposed to play.  People want to see that this woman made it through the awful loss of her son and is now living a happy and beautiful life.  I sometimes feel like my role, among the people who know me (but don't really know me), is to demonstrate the strength of the human spirit.  We are incredibly resilient creatures, it's true, but I am nowhere near close to being healed.  I am STILL taking it one hour at a time.  And even though I am smiling on the outside, I am often still dying on the inside. 

While I am on the subject......

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I've written for the past couple of days about how I believe that Mo (and his future siblings - fingers crossed) can and will have happy childhoods despite the fact that there will always be a missing big brother that their parents mourn and miss.  I have been, in some way, defending my parenting to anyone who believes that I cannot possibly give my children a normal childhood because of the loss that I have suffered.  I've probably also been giving myself a little pep talk while writing all of this - in effect telling myself, "Many others have walked this path before you - you can do this!"

But, while I am on the subject, there is something that has bothered me since the start of this journey.  Why do we feel the need to pretend that bad things don't happen?  Why can we not honestly and with thought and purpose teach our children that pain and suffering exist?  Does it all need to be Princesses and Santa Claus and Happily Ever After?  I mean, are we actually preparing our children for real life?  If we never teach them, how will they grow up to be compassionate people?  How will they manage their own lives when unexpected sorrow or tragedy happens to them?  I'm just putting it out there.

Let me be perfectly clear (yes, I am talking to YOU, "Anonymous"!) - I am not talking about explaining in detail the horrors of death or danger, I am talking about saying "There are children who don't have enough to eat, let's feed them" or "Our friends baby got sick and now he is in heaven, we need to go comfort them because it is so sad."

My nieces understood that Maxie was gone and they expressed their sadness in various ways to their mothers for a long time.  I think that my sister in law and stepsister handled it in the best way possible.  They spoke openly with their daughters about Max.  They put (or kept) photos of Maxie up around their homes.  They spent time visiting and mourning with Ted and I.  There is no way of getting around what happened....I am just not sure I understand the value in pretending like it didn't and sweeping it under the rug.  Children are very smart and intuitive.  My experience is that they handled Maxie's passing more honestly and maturely than most adults.  My nieces still talk about Max all of the time because they want to (first of all) and because they know we like hearing them talk about him.  They are smart enough to know that it might make us emotional, but our emotions don't scare them, like they scare adults.  We could learn a lot from kids.

We are so scared of the bad things that happen, that we try to convince people, who are going through the impossible, that their trials are no big deal.  I am going to tell you something that might blow your mind - heartbreak, loss,  suffering - it's real....whether you acknowledge it or not.  And here is something you really aren't going to want to hear - you will feel it too someday - whether you want to or not.  It may not be heartbreak on the scale that I am experiencing it, but your heart will be broken someday.  You will experience a loss that will affect you profoundly.  I don't think very many people get through this life without it.

I don't believe that I need to shield Mo (or his future siblings - god willing) from all of the hurt in the world.  I know that he will have to experience hurt in some form or another himself at some point as well.  I hate it that he will know pain someday, but I know it to be true.  And, when he does - I will be here for him.  He can confide in me and cry to me and I won't pretend like he isn't hurting.  I don't really see the point in that.  If he is hurting, I want to comfort him, not dismiss him.

I guess I am just saying - I wonder if we would be able to cope better with heartbreak in our lives if we were a little more prepared. 






Lessons

Monday, December 9, 2013

(continued from Damaging)

Enough people had mentioned their worry for Mo while I was planning Maxie's Benefit this year, that I had to pause and wonder if honoring Maxie's memory would somehow screw up Mo.  I was talking to my friend Kim about it and she shared a story from her own life with me that solidified the way I feel about the whole subject.  

Kim told me that she had an uncle who died before she was born, when he was just a kid.  Every year, her grandparents put together a large fundraising event in his honor.  She told me that her whole family would get all dressed up and sit at the head table and the whole room would be filled.  She said that she knew the whole event was to honor her uncle's memory and she felt very special to be a part of it - she loved that she and her family were the guests of honor on that day.  She knew that it was meaningful and important.  This is something that I will carry with me - this story of Kim's uncle's benefit.  My intent is that Mo and his future siblings will be proud of being Maxie's siblings, that they will see themselves as the guests of honor within our Maxie tributes and memorials, and that they will know that they are a part of something very important.  

I made a new friend last week with whom I had an instant connection.  She wrote me a couple of months ago in response to my post about whether I needed a carseat for vacation and offered to lend me her Sit N Stroll.  I took her up on the offer and then went over to her house last week to drop it off.  We ended up hanging out for a while, sharing some inappropriate stories and jokes, laughing A LOT and talking about some heavier stuff too.  It turns out that her parents lost two children - a three month old baby before my friend was born and an older child in his twenties when my new friend was a preteen.  There were a lot of things she shared about having this experience in life but one thing that stuck with me most was that her parents have survived.  I know that sounds crazy - because OF COURSE they did....but sometimes it still seems like I won't, even though I will.  My new friend is hilarious (and you know how important that is to me) and well-adjusted (seemingly - I mean I don't know her THAT well ;)), but she knows that bad things happen to people in this life.  She knows about loss and compassion. 

Someone in one of my Facebook grief groups shared this post that she'd read the other day that really touched me.  It is written by a woman who lost a sister who was only eight weeks old when the author was only two.  She has no memory of that baby sister, only memories of honoring and memorializing that sister.  The post is about a very vivid dream she had in adulthood about that sister.  "Shortly after the dream", she writes, "I asked my mom about the decision to make Rachel such a part of the fabric of our lives. Many families experience a miscarriage or the death of a young child and do not discuss it openly or often as we do. She told me something I’ll never forget. She said, 'I wanted you all to grow up knowing that bad things happen, for no reason, things you think you can't survive, but you can, you do. We did.'

What I really want - need - long for - dream about - is for Mo to KNOW Max.  For them to grow up together, to play together, to argue and make up.  They are so much alike.  Mo has the same disposition as Max did.  Raising Mo through babyhood was so much like raising Max that I get  their idiosyncrasies mixed up.  I know that they would have loved each other.  I KNOW that with all of my soul.  And, they would have only been a year and a half apart - best men at each others wedding, travel buddies, best friends.  It guts me to think about it.  But, I recognize that what IS is that Mo may feel very little connection to Max as he gets older, just that his mommy and daddy loved this boy and that he is gone and we celebrate his life with various rituals....and that's ok.  Let's face it - none of it is really ok but it just is.

What I hope this tragic experience will give Mo is the knowledge that horrific things can happen in this life but that people can and do survive (and even thrive), that having compassion will enrich his life and may make a difference in someone else's life, and that no matter what happens, we will always love and adore him.  And, even if he doesn't get any one of those lessons from Maxie's legacy, I hope he will always feel proud of being a guest of honor whenever we memorialize his incredible big brother.

Damaging

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I didn't tell people about my pregnancy with Mo until I was five months along because I didn't really want to hear what people had to say.  I didn't want to hear how excited they were that we would be happy again (as if the hole left behind by Max would be filled by this new person) and I definitely didn't want to hear that Ted and I were not ready for another child.  Too many other bereaved parents had shared their experiences with me about that - the unsolicited advice about "getting over" grief before having more children.  Ted and I both knew that there would be no getting over the grief in this lifetime - the best we could hope for was that it would soften with time.

As soon as I announced my pregnancy, I got a lot of both kinds of responses but mostly, I got a lot of sincere love from friends and family who knew that our hearts were still broken and that at the same time, we were thrilled to be expecting another child.  Thank god!  Many still expressed their concern for the new child - could he/she be happy with us for parents?  What would we tell our future children about Maxie?  Generations before us didn't share as much or even went so far as to keep the child that they had lost a secret from their subsequent children.  That could NEVER be us.

We knew that Maxie would always be a gigantic part of our lives and that our subsequent children would know how much we loved their older brother.  It is important to us that Mo knows how much we love Maxie.  It is just as important to us that Mo knows how much we love him.  This isn't even an issue for parents with more than one living children.  Yes, children get jealous at times - but parents can love ALL of their children equally without being judged.  Some have suggested that our love and remembering of Maxie could damage Mo.  I feel very much the opposite.

I believe that it is SO important for Mo (and any other children we may have) to know that death does not stop us from loving and remembering special people with all of our hearts.  I want them to remember their grandparents after they are gone.  I want them to remember us when we are gone.  I believe that it is important for them to know that no matter how far they are from us physically, they will ALWAYS be on our minds and in our hearts.  I believe these are important life lessons.  The people I have loved in my life and lost are still very very special to me.  Their death did not end my love for them.

When those who I thought loved Maxie unconditionally seemed to move on easily, it felt very confusing to me.  Was love this transient?  Could you really get over another person this easily?  And, by the way, would they take my photo off the mantle if I died?  Would they stop mentioning me?  Would they never remember that I was missing from holidays and events?  Would their hearts not be broken if I died?    How they feel about Maxie's death directly reflects how they feel about us and about Mo - honestly, how could it not? There is no way they just didn't love Maxie.  I don't ever want my children to feel that way.  Can you imagine growing up and knowing that you'd had a sibling that died that your parents never mentioned or kept a secret?  What does that say to your living child about a parents' love for their kids?  I'll tell you what....It doesn't say much....

I hope that our children will also learn that horrible things can happen in this life and that people DO get through them.  That the pain softens.  That joy returns.

A friend wrote me a panicked email a while back with the subject "What about Mo?".  The content of the email was basically a bunch of questions about how we would tell Mo about Max.  How would we make sure that he didn't grow up completely damaged by this loss?  My response was basically that life can hand any child a number of unfortunate, life altering, and downright crappy incidents and we do the best with what we are given - divorce, death, disease, poverty....children grow up with all of these things and there is no reason to think my child can't thrive despite the legacy of his brother.  I BELIEVE that Ted and I know more than most the value of having a happy and healthy child.  I believe that Mo will know our unconditional love always.  I believe that knowing how much we continue to love Maxie, in spite of his not being here with us, is an incredible lesson about the power of love.  I believe that with everything that I am.

Mo is only 16 months but this is what I can tell you about him - he is a happy baby.  He loves hugs and kisses and cuddles (and that is a really good thing because he gets smothered in them ALL DAY LONG).  He is well adjusted in that he approaches other children of all ages, he likes being around other people, he enjoys learning new skills, loves being read to and plays well by himself.  I am sure that there will come a time when he will wonder more and more about his older brother and we will be happy to tell Mo all about Max - with all of the love in our hearts.

To be continued.....

Mo's Wonderful Nanny

Friday, December 6, 2013

Over the past few years, I've heard a lot of smack talk about the Millennial Generation.  I've heard about how selfish and entitled they are and how they don't understand the importance of civic engagement, volunteerism and philanthropy.  I've even seen it with my own eyes.  There are some really annoying millennials out there!

Just as there are annoying Baby Boomers (oy), Generation X'ers (my own people - they embarrass me so!), Generation Y'ers (don't get me started - as a side note: an ongoing battle of Ted and mine is when I tell him he is Generation Y and he insists that he is Generation X - the battle continues).

I try to judge people by who they are and not their age or generation.  I find that when I do this, I feel much more comfortable with my own age as well, since I end up with friends from all generations.  I can see where I've been and what I've got coming and the future looks a whole lot less scary when you can find a few "oldies but goodies".

This post is really about Mo's nanny, Jessica.  She is 24, with a wise old soul.  I can't tell you how much I love this young woman.  She is so good with Mo, so easy to be around, so responsible.  She is always reading about child development and looking for new ways to engage our baby.  She is also deeply compassionate and I love that about her.  Since she started working here, there have been many days where I just couldn't stop crying.  She has patiently listened to me talk about Max, and grief, and life after death, and my medium experiences and my anger, and on and on and on.  Poor Jessica!  I'm not sure she knew what she was getting into.  But, she loves Mo with so much obviousness.

For the past two weeks, Jessica was in Ethiopia, visiting care sites for orphaned children and children in need.  She spent her hard earned money to get on a plane and go across the world for what will likely be her only real vacation this year, to sleep in a guest house with 3 roommates, bring much needed supplies and make sure that the money she has been sending monthly for the last four years is indeed helping children.  Her monthly gift to Children's Hope Chest sponsors a little girl with money for food, textbooks and supplies and medical care.  She was the youngest solo traveler in the group (there were several teenagers in the group who were traveling with their parents.)  Most of the friends she made while in Ethiopia were my age or older.

Before she left, Jessica could see that Mo was about to start walking.  She was sad that she'd likely be missing his first steps.  She texted me from Ethiopia to tell me that she missed him so much and asked if I would send photos.  I told her he hadn't started walking yet - he was waiting for her.  And, indeed he did!  His first day walking was her second day back with him.

I love that my kid isn't the only one that Jessica is taking care of every single day (and I am not just referring to the fact that she takes care of an adorable 6 year old girl every afternoon after she leaves us). I know she'll be going back to visit with her Ethiopian friends for many years to come.

One of the group leaders wrote this post about their trip, that includes so many wonderful pictures from their trip.   



One of the schools that Jessica visited is looking to buy textbooks so that each child there will have one.  Currently, they are sharing one book for every 4-5 children - happily.  If you would like to help the school (Trees of Glory) purchase books, you can click this link to make a donation: http://bit.ly/TOGbooks

One Step Forward, Two Days Back

Thursday, December 5, 2013

As I mentioned yesterday, Mo started walking on Tuesday.  He spent that whole day walking all over the place.  He seemed happy and proud.  Then the last two days - nothing.  He is completely over it.  Our nanny took him to the petting zoo yesterday so he could finally walk (and not crawl) in there, but unless she was holding his hand, he was right back on the ground.  Don't get me wrong, I am not worried, just feeling like I need to come clean after all of the excited responses to yesterday's post.  I can't really guarantee that you will get to see him in an upright stance the next time you see him.  He is an enigma wrapped in a riddle.  I don't know what is going through that little head of his.  Regardless, it still looks like he enjoyed the zoo and even stood for a minute or two (assisted) so he could feed some straw to this little goat.


Mo's Walking!!!!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

If you are Facebook friends with my mom (and a lot of you are!), you already know that Mo is walking!  He started yesterday.  He is so proud of himself - and so are we!  We love this guy so much!!!!!!


Thriving

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My friend Glenda wrote me the other day after receiving my post about surviving and said that in more recent years, she has gone from surviving to thriving.  The idea both scares and excites me.  I can't even imagine thriving again.  I thought a good activity for me today might be to make a list of all of those parents who've lost children and who have managed to find a way to thrive again.  I am going to start with Glenda.  My fear is that, of course, there are people who look like they are thriving but who may not actually be.  We bereaved parents become very good with time at fooling the rest of the world.  Regardless, I will do the best I can to put my little list together.  Then, when I am feeling like I just want to give up, I will be able to pull out my list and try to channel some of their strength. 

Co-dependent

Monday, December 2, 2013

I've always been pretty independent.  I lived by myself for years before Ted and I moved in together.  I've traveled all over the world by myself.  I have always had a lot of friends but never felt like I needed to call, or text, or hang out with someone all of the time.  I've always really enjoyed alone time.  But, something has changed for me in these past two and a half years.  I think I've become co-dependent.

Ted works long days.  He also goes through periods of longer work weeks too.  I knew this was a part of his job description when we first started dating.  Before we lost Max, it was something I was used to.  In fact, the first year we lived together, Ted worked every Saturday.  I made plans with friends, or went to the gym, or hung out with my family. 

Since losing Max, I miss Ted more every day.  I start missing him early in the day - like mid-morning - and by the time early evening rolls around, I am counting down the hours.  I feel so alone in this world, Ted is the only one who really understands me.  He is the only one who feels like I feel.  He is the only one who doesn't try to keep me from thinking of Max - because he is thinking about Max all of the time too.  Other than writing about it here, I feel like Ted is the only one I can really share my feelings with and not worry how he will react. 

For more than a year after Maxie stopped breathing, Ted and I had a hard time communicating.  He preferred keeping all of his feelings bottled up inside - I couldn't stop myself from crying and screaming and talking if I tried.  I felt like the pain was tearing my insides out and the only way to manage it at all was to talk about it.  Talking relieved the pressure that was constantly building just a little bit. 

Now, I talk a lot less and Ted talks a lot more.  We've almost met in the middle (I say "almost" because of course, he'll never talk as much as me - most people don't).  Our marriage has grown stronger.  We are a team - working towards the same goals - hoping to find a way to create happiness again.  I get so lonely without him.  I know it is crazy.  I know all couples need time apart but I feel like a part of me is missing when he is gone.  I feel so alone without him.  And, even though I am playing with Mo and we are enjoying each others company, there is a 2 hour window every evening before Ted gets home where I feel like I might lose my mind without him.  Music helps a little.  Sometimes Mo and I watch a movie or TV show.  Sometimes we read.  No matter what we do though, I cannot settle down until Ted gets home, which is probably a lot of pressure for him since I start texting him at 5 with messages like "Come home!  I am so lonely without you!" or "#lonely!" 

Poor Teddy - long hours and a co-dependent wife.  I'm not sure what to do.  It's still morning and I am missing him already.

My distraction

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I've been feeling so blue.  So lost without my first born baby.  Having fun with Mo and seeing him smile is the best (and often only) distraction for me. He lights up my life and reminds me how important I am as his mother. He looks so much like Max to me these days too.  He reminds me so much of what I am missing while making me grateful for what I have.





He is so perfect!!  I love them both more everyday.

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