Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Here we are! Now where?

Hey, it was either going to be a picture of me or a mood-setting photo of a keyboard.


Writing this second post after breaking a long silence feels a bit like recording that all-important second album: some performance anxiety, a little bit of an identity crisis, and a strong sense that just about anything is better than nothing. If I can just put something out there, I can start cranking out blog posts like Frank Zappa released albums in no time.

One of the trickiest things is deciding exactly what it is I want to write about. On the one hand, I am still thinking about and processing a lot of things in connection with losing our son, but I'm  apprehensive to write too much about that here. I'm afraid that people will read my writing and think I am in a much, much darker place than I really am, and consequently worry about me (or be afraid of me!), when really, most of the time I am fine.

On the other hand, I don't want to write fun and frothy stuff and then have people think that I got over the loss of our baby like it was no big deal. It's not something I'm ever going to "get through", "get over" or "put behind me". It's something that will always be with me, but I have learned a lot about how to carry it during these past 14 months. But that doesn't mean that I don't want to be able to write fun and frothy things if that's what I feel like doing. I have learned that I am a fundamentally happy person, and I can't be afraid to let that show.

Summary so far: I don't want to be too dark, but I also don't want to be too light, but I also-also want to be able to be light or dark as the mood strikes.

"But Tamsin", I hear you saying, "your blog is for you, and you shouldn't care what people think! Write what you want to write!" I agree completely. And yet blogging is a fickle beast. As much as I tell myself that I am just writing for me, the reality is that I know that everything I post here will be read by an audience of a few hundred people. And I have chosen that! I have a blog because I want people to read what I write. If I wanted to write strictly for me, I would keep a journal or a really big, angst-ridden document folder on my laptop.

(The irony of writing a post this incoherent about how I write to be read is not lost on me, PS.)

Bottom line (or at least bottom paragraph): I've been through a life-changing event, so my blog is going to have to change with me. I promise it's not going to be all doom and gloom from here on out, but I also promise to talk a little more about the experiences I've had and the things I have gained from them. There will be knitting posts and food posts and maybe some travel posts. There probably won't be a lot of Pinterest worthy tutorials or posts about how you too can be as amazing and put-together as I am, because heaven knows the last thing you need is one more woman on the internet telling you how to live your life.

I will try to be fair and truthful and kind in my writing, because heaven also knows we could all use a little more of that.

I'll write again soon! xox

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A beginning

Feeling happy in a garden in England.


I have a little quiet time to myself today, and I am using it to write. I've wanted to write again for such a long time, but haven't felt quite ready. I think I'm ready now. 

When our little son Piran died, I took a big step back from my life. In order to survive those first days and weeks and months, I had to keep everything very small and very simple. Just the basics of being a mom to my children and, once I gained a little strength, a wife to my husband. Occasionally a friend. That was all I could manage. 

Now some time has passed and I am feeling ready to take that step forwards into my life again. To be interested in things, to take on projects and to say yes to so many things. I have put up a lot of walls and barriers in the past 14 months and kept a lot of good people at an arm's length, but now I believe it's time for those walls to come down and for me to start reaching out a little bit again. 

It's scary. 

It makes me feel a little vulnerable, and I hate feeling vulnerable. But I have spent so much time over the past year feeling fragile and broken and lonely, and I don't want to feel that way anymore. I don't want to be a living ghost, and I don't want to be a passenger in my own life. 

We spent five weeks as a family in England (with my mum!) this summer, which is a separate and genuinely happy story. We had a wonderful time. But I mention it now because there were a few moments on that trip that became little turning points for me. One was when we were walking along the street in London together, and I just suddenly felt completely present in myself. For the first time in months and months, I was part of that moment and able to do and enjoy everything that we were doing. Even though we weren't doing anything actually physically incredible, in that moment I just felt strong and capable and whole again. And it showed me that I didn't have to stay fragile and broken for ever. 

There were other, similar experiences like that: Playing on the beach with my kids and feeling completely happy. Discovering a new garden (like in the picture above). Hiking along a windy clifftop path and watching the moon rise with my husband. All little moments of joy, contentment, discovery and wonder that made me feel whole and like I was exactly where I wanted to be.

I think these moments would have happened at home too. But an extended trip away with the people I love most was an excellent catalyst to help me return home with the sure knowledge that my life is here for me to claim and live and love. 

So, that's what I'm going to try to do. Our little boy isn't here with us, so there will always be some hard days. We miss him so much. But there are so many other days to fill with family, friends, love, learning, passion, interest, goodness and life. That's where I'm going next. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Piran



I have been writing and rewriting this for months now. Trying to find the words that have failed me for so long while simultaneously sifting through all the words that need so much to be said. I have so much to say, and so few words to say it with.

Our son died.

Our sweet baby Piran came into and left this world so quickly and quietly, he slipped through our fingers like a little ray of sunlight. He was born one day and gone the very next.

My life and everything I loved was torn into a million pieces that day. That is how it felt. Grief filled every inch of our existence. The pain of losing our little boy was so intense it was physical. Seeing my two older children experience grief and pain that I couldn't take away or protect them from was beyond unbearable. I couldn't see how I, my family or our life could ever be whole again.

But as the minutes grew into days and the days into weeks, I saw that the best things in my life were unbreakable. Our little family pulled together and carried each other through those darkest days. Sometimes we cried and ached together, but mostly we learned to live and laugh and be joyful again. If possible, I love my children (all three of them) more deeply than ever before. My husband and I realized quickly that losing Piran would either bring us together or tear us apart, and we chose to turn to each other. And we continue to choose each other as we make our way together through this world that will never be quite the same again. I am quite private about my faith, but it belongs here, among the best things in my life. It has carried me, held my head above the unrelenting waves of grief, shown me that there is light in the darkness. When I have needed it, heaven has been so, so close.

It has been eight months now. Most of our days are good days: normal, happy and busy days filled with normal, happy and busy family life. We make Piran part of our conversations and include him in our every day.. He is ours and we love him. But not a day goes by where I don't ache for him. I often cry and cry for the little boy that I hold in my heart instead of my arms. If that is troubling to you, please remember that he is my son. What else could I possibly do? But just as I am learning to make room for myself to feel and to grieve, I'm also learning to set that aside when I need to. It doesn't help or honor Piran to lose myself in sadness. And sometimes I just need to dry my tears, wash my face and pick Gwen up from preschool. Life keeps on happening, and I want and choose to be part of it.

The worst thing that could ever happen has happened to our family. It hurts so much, and I was afraid it was going to destroy us. But it didn't. It hasn't. It won't. We are still standing, and we stand together. All of us.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Espen's Science Birthday Party

 Seeing as we're already in birthday mode, I thought I'd show you some pictures from the kids' birthday parties that both happened over the last few months. First up is Espen's science birthday party!

The theme of my life right now seems to be that I need to learn how to simplify things. I'm just too tired and grumpy to be really fun right now! So Espen's party was definitely a bit scaled back in a lot of ways.

To start with, instead of designing all of the invitations and party decor myself (or with the help of design savvy friends), I came across this fully printable, science party kit from Paper and Cake. The design was much closer to what I had in mind than anything I was able to find online (a lot of what I saw seemed to imply that you either have to be mad or nerdy to like science, which is honestly kind of lame), and I liked that it was such a complete package that I ponied up the cash and thanked my lucky stars that we have a decent printer.

The Birthday Boy himself liked his party, so that's a win. 

We kept the decorations really simple, and didn't really do much beyond this banner and a few signs here and there. In the past, we have always done helium balloons as decorations and party favors, but Espen and his friends just seemed a little too old for that this year (sniff, sniff). The kit comes with a million billion cute things you can cut out and make decorations from, but we just didn't feel the need for a 90 minute party for a gang of kindergarteners. As long as there is cake and friends, they're happy!

Goodness, this picture is awful, but it does show you what the banner looks like!

Bacteria blobs: jello and sprinkled in petri dishes.

While we kept our party decor simple, we did put some thought and effort into the food, including all the hokey names on the little labels. I tracked down some food-safe petri dishes (like these ones on Amazon, except I found them a little cheaper locally) and filled them with jello. Then we added sprinkles while the jello was still setting, so the colors bled and left a kind of cool, bacteria growth-looking effect. These were definitely the hit of the party!

Rice Crispy Clones.We just cut them as similarly sized as we could, and that made them cloney as could be. 

Our family also loves rice crispy treats, so we whipped up a quick pan of those, and they were gone before we knew it. I may, or may not have had a lot to do with that!

Purple protons: grapes. We removed the stalks so they would be easier to grab and look more sciency. 

I always like to add a lighter, healthier option, so we went with a bowl full of grapes. The kids didn't eat a ton of them, but the grown ups at the party (lead by the two pregnant ladies and Gwen) polished them off pretty quickly. I didn't get a picture, but we also had a bowl of popcorn (Molecular Munchies!) to counteract all of the sweet stuff. 

That's an Erlenmeyer flask! Apparently. 

Espen is really into citrus flavors these days, so I made him a lemon cake with layers of fresh strawberry jam (homemade, you guys!) and covered the whole thing in whipped cream. Then I babbled some instructions at Nick, who deftly drew this Erlenmeyer flask design and decorated it with sprinkles. You should know at this point, that one of my best friends in the whole world is the most incredible cake decorator, so I always feel like a complete idiot when I post pictures of anything I bake, but I'm going to declare this cake a success anyway. It was cute, fun, on theme and completely delicious, so I was very happy with it. 


Taking a break from the partying for cake and snacks.

 At 12 kids, this was the biggest birthday party we have thrown to date, and while Espen and his friends definitely loved it, it was kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, they needed zero entertainment and were happy to just play and run around for the duration of the party. On the other hand, 90 minutes of rampaging five and six year-olds is enough to bring anyone to their knees! We had planned to do some fun science experiments with the kids, but quickly decided that it would be too hard to try to gather 12 kids and hold their attention long enough for anything other than cake and presents. So I think we'll keep activities like that to smaller parties in the future!

So many kids! Espen got a Lego kit as a gift, and everyone wanted to help build it.
So they all took turns placing one brick at a time!

Thanks for coming to Espen's laboratory!

When it was time to go home, we rounded everything off with party favors. My favorite part of those were these test tubes (These are similar, but again, I found them much, much cheaper locally). You can't really tell from the picture, but they're actually pretty tiny. So tiny, in fact, that the jelly beans I had planned to put in them wouldn't fit, and we had to go with M&M Minis instead. I love how they look, and also like that the kids got to take home something they could play with and reuse once the candy was gone.

Thanks for coming!


Then we bagged them up with a few other sciency little things, like glow sticks and little maze toys and a few other bits and pieces and slapped on a quick laboratory label and called it a party!

As I mentioned earlier, it was definitely a lot simpler than the parties I have thrown in the past, but I am learning that turning myself into a complete stress ball over these things isn't always the best thing. I do sort of regret not taking more and better pictures, but at the same time I don't regret that not picking up the camera meant that I was a much more present mom for Espen's party. My family loves it when I make an effort to make their birthday special, but they don't love it if it means that I'm grumpy and preoccupied for days before the party. So I'm learning to find that good balance!

Most importantly, Espen got to have a fun party with a lot (a lot!) of his friends and enjoy the special day he'd been looking forward to and planning since his last birthday. And, almost as importantly, we're off the hook until Gwen turns four in November - when she has decided she wants a Superman party!
























Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Gwen is three

Miss Gwenyth Josephine also had a birthday a while back, but because I was in the depths of despair/morning sickness at the time, she didn't get her annual birthday picture post. So here it is today!

2012


2013

2014

2015

Oh, our Gweny! It's hard to even put into word what this little person means to our family: she is happy, funny, silly, busy, outraged, indignant, stubborn, and ever so independent. She jumps up and down when she's excited or happy. She throws herself on the floor with despair when we tell her "no". She is constantly making up songs and likes to perform them while running around the kitchen table at full tilt. She loves to make her big brother laugh. She is either giving everyone hugs and telling them how much she loves them, or refusing kisses and shutting herself in her room to be alone. Everything is done with passion and determination. And we love her so much.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Espen is six

Growing up before our very eyes:

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016
People always talk about how kids grow up so fast, and how childhood is so short, and they do, and it is. But at the same time I just can't believe that this funny, thoughtful, kind and crazy kid has only been with us for six short years. Was there really a time when Espen wasn't part of our family? There must have been less laundry and more leaving the house after 7:30 at night, which sounds nice, but there would also have been less bedtime stories, spontaneous snuggles, helpless giggles and philosophical pondering from a busy little brain that always wants to know. Espen, thank you for bringing so much to our family, we are so happy you're ours.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Resolved

Find this happy print (and others like it) at Alexa Z Design.
It's mid-February, and one of the busiest times of the year for our family between Valentine's Day (with all that entails now that we have two kids in school!), Espen's birthday and a three-day weekend, so naturally what I want to write about today is New Year's Resolutions. What, we're not still doing those? Psha.

I only made two resolutions this year, and they are as follows:

1. Make the world a little better. 
It is possible that it was just me (although I really don't think so), but didn't the second half of 2015 seem like a really dark and troubled time for the world? And I'm not just talking about Donald Trump running for office (ba-dum ching). Between the situation in Syria and the middle east, the global refugee crisis and terrorist attacks and all of the rhetoric and hate speech, I began to wonder what sort of a world is this to be bringing a new baby into. What sort of a world is this to be raising our little family in? I've already had to explain war, refugees, homelessness and the fact that some people aren't safe for children to be around to my sweet five year-old, and it hurts my heart to think about all of the hard conversations we have ahead of us. I so want the world to be the beautiful place filled with kind and generous people that my kids naturally assume that it is!
Then the thought occurred to me that if I want to see a change in the world, then I have to be that change. I can't wish that other people are going to be kind and generous without being those things myself. How can I expect other people to stand up for the things that are good and right in this world if I'm not willing to do that myself? 
So this year (and hopefully for many, many years to come), I'm going to try to reach out more, give more, do more to make this world a little more like the world I want for my children, your children and everyone's children. 

2. Make the time to play with my kids.
I have to admit that this one actually kind of sprang from a twinge of jealousy: if you were to ask any of my kids who is the fun parent, and who is the boring parent, then hands down, every time, they would say that my husband is the fun one. Which makes me the boring one. And guys, I'm not boring! I'm not! I'm just... busy. Although I'm here with the kids more or less 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I generally spend most of that time either trying to clean our put away our belongings, making or shopping for food or trying to eke out a little time for myself where I can clear my head and just breathe for 10 minutes. On top of all of the regular "home and family" stuff, being pregnant just makes me tired too! And so I find myself dodging requests from tiny people to play dollhouse or build Doc McStuffins' clinic or play Minecraft or boardgames, just so I can get to the end of the day feeling like I have accomplished something. 
To be honest, I don't feel like it's my job as my children's mom to entertain them and keep them happy at all times, and in all things and in all places. I believe in teaching them to be happy in their own company, and to be creative enough to make their own fun without me having to do it for them. I believe in the virtues of being bored and having to problem solve their way out of it. But I also believe in spending time with the kids to create memories, build relationships, take opportunities to teach and just have fun together! And nothing in this world makes those little faces shine brighter than when I take the time to play with them (and put away my stupid phone).
I've already discovered that it doesn't take much. Sometimes it's enough to make a game out of getting them out of the bathtub, and sometimes 20 minutes of building Lego is all they really want. I spent five minutes making a puzzle with Gwen earlier this week, and she was happy as a clam (why are clams so happy?) after that. I let Espen teach me how to play Minecraft on the iPad (so not my thing!) a little while ago, and he still talks about it daily. I'm really learning that it takes so little, but means so much, so I'm planning to make this a longterm habit too. 

Like the quote at the top of this post says, being happy isn't something you stumble across by chance, or are dealt by fate. It's a choice and and an action and a habit. So I'm choosing to make a few small changes that I know will make a difference for me.