I think that in our new age of technology and media, there is so much pressure to be a perfect mom. As much as I understand this in my head, my spirit can't seem to find the rational thinking needed to give myself sufficient grace.

These days are hard.

I woke up today, and after having promised myself to try to check facebook far less often than I do, I checked facebook. I justified the top-of-the-morning check by saying that I would only check it once in the morning, in my room, and leave my computer in my room. Anyway, on facebook, there was an amazing post from an amazing blogger about starting your day as a busy mom. It was short but concise, and I really felt good about being intentional with my day. I wanted to be kind and patient, and be a good mom, and play with my kids, and enjoy them, and enjoy the day. Did I mention patient? I really, really wanted to be patient.

But it was not to be.

I feel like I spent the whole day just below boiling, and reaching full boiling point a couple times. But I wanted it to be different. It's so hard on these days. The days when I have such good intentions, and want to try so hard, and want to be better. It's hard to feel like I don't have control of myself, or of who I really am. I am trying to become a better mom, but the struggle to be the mom I want my kids to have is really a hard one.

My crappy day ended at the pool. After the 5 year old bopped his sister with his beloved pool noodle for the umpteenth time, I told him that it was being taken away. I told him several times to go put it on our chair. And while this pregnant lady chases a one year old, her tolerance for repeating herself is apparently maxed out at about 5 times. So, after telling him several times, I plunked him out of the pool onto the side, and told him again to go put it down. He wasn't pleased. He was ticked off that I physically moved him, and probably not as gently as he would have liked. So he threw his pool noodle on someone else's chair, and after spying an open package of graham crackers, he picked one out and started to eat it.

I was mortified. It wasn't as if I hadn't fed them. I did. I got them supper at the pool, which in our world is a major treat. He was doing it to express the rage.

And then I got mad.

So the mom guilt really hit home when he was asleep in bed by 6:20. He was clearly exhausted. And while he is almost five, he is still just four. So what do I expect from a seriously tired four year old who has had a rough week? What do I expect him to do with a tired and pregnant mom who has such a short fuse on some days? I expect too much.

I am tired. I can't sleep at night, and have so many things to do that I can't get done. I am so frustrated with myself, and with life things that I can't control. I am upset, and searching, and hurt, and isolated. I have the biggest job in the world, and wonder if I am doing it well enough. I wonder if I would send my kids to me to take care of them. I wonder if they are going to look back and think that they had a crazy and unpredictable mom who yelled too much. I wonder if I am honestly sane, or if my up and down is something aside from normal. Because how am I supposed to know what normal is?

And I really wonder if tomorrow really can be a better day. Here is to better days.


Here we go again...

Nothing like taking a year off, I guess. I'll spare the effort of trying to think of all the big things that have happened in the last year and a half.

Or will I?

Obviously, the biggest life event was tragic. On Oct. 9th, it will be the one year marker of the death of my only nephew. Nephew. It sounds so distant. He wasn't distant to me. He was very important to me, and his mother is one of the most important people in my life. I've known her all my life, so to watch someone you care for so deeply go through something so big is, well, it's hard. It's too big for the right word. I can't come up with the right word. I have decided against: terrible, unbelievable, sad, tragic, horrible, unfathomable. It's all of those, obviously, but really, it's none of them. It's beyond words. It's beyond Webster.

So in a way, that has been the marker of the passing of time for the last year. Usually it's a birthday, or an anniversary, or something joyfully monumental. But for my family, we have thought of all the months that have passed since the last day with DJ, all the moments he missed, all the milestones he lived without passing. And now, it's been just about a year. I have said that "I can't believe it's been a year since..." so many times in my life. Since graduation, since we moved, since I got married. It has been true each time. A year seems to pass as a mere moment in time, and we look back, and realize all we've done and felt and thought. We come to the sudden realization that we aren't the same as we were just a short year ago. Many times we have known someone who has passed away. It's so raw, but so common.

And yet, this time, as I say "I can't believe it's been a year since DJ died", it has such a different meaning, an all-together different typeset in my book of life. It seems longer. I remember the events of last October with such vivid clarity. I remember thinking of "next year". I recall the precise time I left the hospital to begin my long drive home. Without the aid of a calendar, I would promise that 12 months had not passed.

But it has.

And we're all different. I'm different. A dear family friend talked with me as I struggled to process the events the unfolded before me. As I watched, for days, the life drain out of this beautiful boy, I had so much turmoil and grief and sadness that I didn't know how to cope. I had no tools to deal with this mess. I walked into a gas station one morning, it was the first step into public I had taken in days, and I felt overwhelmed by the normalness happening beside me. People were stopping for their morning cup of coffee and their pack of smokes. The clerks were at work. They were working today. My daily routine had morphed into wandering between a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, it's waiting room, and the cafeteria of the hospital. I had spoken to nurses, family, doctors, my children over the phone, and a few strangers. But I was overwhelmed by this gas station clerk who asked me how I was as I placed a granola bar and a ridiculously large cup of coffee on the counter. I didn't know. I wasn't good.

So I spoke with the family friend on the phone after the coffee buying experience. He gave me the insight to go to Church, which I did and it helped tremendously. He told me that God could do something great out of this, even though he doesn't create pain or tragedy or death. He told me I could learn from this baby, and I could be a better person. I could grow. He could change the world through the people he touched. It sounds cliche, I know, but it's really true. I don't want to be the person who took the little things too seriously. I don't want to be the person who misses the moment, who forgets who she loves for a few days, who ignores the important things in life to dwell on the petty. I want to be the person who strives to live my life with the goal of being ok with the way things worked out when it's all said and done. Because as I sat in a downtown hospital for a week, with no distractions, watching as death inched his way forward, I received a dose of perspective I'll never lose. Nothing really matters like we think it does. The extra five pounds, the clean kitchen floor, my latest failings as a mom. I'm going to spend my days trying to love my extra self, walking upon bread and cheerio crumbs, and forgiving myself for not being perfect.

I can't fathom the loss of a child. He wasn't mine. Part of the grief process for me was grieving without guilt for grieving. How could I be this sad, or how could I wear the cloak of mourning, when I know his mom and dad have it so much worse?

I felt terrible guilt because as I watched them suffer, I knew that I would never offer to take their place. People say that sometimes, and maybe they mean it, in certain circumstances. I would take my spouses pain, I would take the place of a young cancer victim. I don't know. You empathize and wish you could take it away for that person. But as much as I hurt and as much as I love my nephew's mom, I would never, could never, take her place. The love of a mother is more than anything else I know of, and nothing could make me give up a child. I love many people, but the sacrificial protecting life-giving love I have for my children is in a different category. I felt so guilty because I knew that I would never sacrifice my child so hers could live. The mere thought of doing so took the breath out of me. And in the same breathless moment, I understood with painful clarity that her love was just as strong as mine. And yet, here she was, watching her son die.

And although it took many, many months, I finally thought about this from the perspective of Christ. I had thought of it before, but recently, my heart was able to digest the meaning of DJ's death in the larger picture. I have spent my whole life hearing of God's sacrifice of his son. I would feel safe to bet that I have heard of it more times than of anything else in my life. But realizing how much a mother and father love their son, and knowing what is lost with the death of him, I had an overwhelming understanding of God's love for me. He loves me more than I love my children. I now know how much I love my kids, not because of the day to day life I have with them, but because I watched a mother lose a child, and I was able to stare through the window into her grief with just enough clarity to be terrified of walking through her shoes. My love pales in comparison to God's.

I think of DJ often. I think of meeting him when he was this itsy-bitsy dude. I recall dressing him and feeding him and telling him how happy I was to welcome him to this world of ours. I remember watching my own children meet him, and becoming mesmerized by him. I have the pictures of my daughter watching intensely as he was bathed in the kitchen sink. I have all those memories. I remember my last days with him. I remember his little body slowing down, his movements stopping, and his eyes ceasing to open. I remember clutching his chubby hand and bidding him farewell. I remember wondering what life was like with all the angels and saints, and wondering about all the wonders of the life to come. I remember the great spiritual events that happened in my life in the days following his death, and the certainty I had that these were raindrops of proof and hope from heaven, wherever heaven is.

So now, as I prepare to meet my own new baby, in less than a week, I pause and remember the baby that I said good-bye to. As many cliches as I have come to understand during the last year, none is more true than "lost, but not forgotten."


Hey cous-

After much anticipation, the newest addition to the Holman clan joined us on March 3rd. The children met and were very cordial, and I think that baby DJ (short for David James, both family names) did not want to go back home. Just a hunch.

This is a favorite picture of mine already. The baby is so darn cute, and my baby looks really big.

Emma was on cloud nine from the moment of his arrival. She was a big help to Aunt 'K K', and was actually pretty good at it. (Right 'K K'?) She perched on the counter during bath time, and couldn't really be bothered to look at me for a good pose.

Now, don't get me wrong, little dude enjoyed having some company as well. He said, "It's a baby!" and then tried to poke him with a toy he was carrying around. Ok, he wasn't as good at helping, but he was interested. Ok, he was a little jealous, but he was good natured about it. He did pretty well at not sitting on the baby, and began to understand that the littlest addition won't be romping around him anytime soon. But in the next few years, these guys will be buddies for sure.

Emma was taking her job (one of her favorites) very seriously.

This is the blanket that I made for DJ. Thanks to some wonderful help to a wonderful far away friend, I think it turned out ok.



A couple of weeks ago, we finally put up a For Sale sign on our yard rock. Doing so was good advice given to us by a man who has sold many things successfully. Thank you!

There were a couple of interested people, and a few skeptics too. One guy walked by and sarcastically asked if we delivered. Well, it was good fortune that a guy who owned or had access to this amazing thing-a-ma-jig wanted our rock, and came and picked it up three days after we put the sign on it. And, I will admit, it made me snicker a little because all those people who laughed at us walked by the next day and saw a clean yard with no dumb big rock in the middle. Not that the rock wasn't great, I am sure it looks fantastic in Mr. Tractor's yard. But, now we don't have to worry about our kids running into it and getting a concussion.

The guy drove the forklift thing from town somewhere. He just swung in our yard, scooped it up, strapped it down, and off he drove with it.

Having this guy drive up made me feel a little "country", but that isn't all bad. :) This would not have happened in our last location!

Good-bye yard rock. We made sure that you went to a good home, or at least another home. May the moss grow on you, and your surface be warm for many more years.

Last week we were out for the morning and found this little guy by the gutter. I will admit, with a bit of shame, that I did make some sort of little girl squawk when we saw it for the first time. But, redemption was mine as I borrowed my son's stick and picked it up for my kids to see.

Emma thought it was really neat, and Owen wanted to pick it up. We admired the way it stuck it's tongue out, how it slides to move, and how it was getting really mad at me for poking it and picking it up. It was really fun.

When I was younger, my mother found a snake in our basement. She thought it was a toy, but then it began to slither, so she yelled and ran across the basement of the old farmhouse. After waiting for a few minutes, she realized that rescued, she would not be. So, she put on her Miss. Resourceful hat and got to work.

Grabbing an ice cream bucket in one hand, and some sort of tool in the other, she got this thing contained and brought it upstairs. I was enthralled and insisted that we let it go outside. I was a bit of an animal guru at that time. (I had numerous pets through the years, including several rodent pets and an iguana.)

Some days later, with great sadness, the poor snake was found dead in the horse pen, with a telling hoof print across its body. Obviously the old Appolusa had not shared in our interest of the snake and taken care of business.

The next step, obviously, was to bag the dead thing and haul it away to church, where we were great friends with a dear man named Mr. Baker. (I once got to help Mr. Baker stuff a dead gopher that I took home in a paper towel tube, marked with an arrow so the fur-ball did not get taken out in the wrong direction, lest his coat get mashed up.)

Mr. Baker looked at the snake and was in great awe (really, he was) because the particular snake in front of us was a blue racer. They are very fast snakes, thus the name racer. He was impressed that my mother caught the thing, and determined that he must have been really cold and had not been able to move at full speed. I don't recall what happened to the snake after that, but it was the end of our family adventure. So, it would be a great disappointment to Mr. B to learn that I was so girly when I found our snake last week. Between you and me, the head of the thing is about the size of my pinky finger knuckle.

Sorry Mr. Baker.


I almost gave up on blogging. Half the time I think there is nothing new to talk about, the other half I just can't bear the guilt of sitting down to write when my list is waiting. But, here I am.

The spring is off to a wonderful start. It is so much easier than last year. Emma is so independent, and really does her own thing really well. She also listens really well. Last week I left her in the front, at her request, while I ran inside. The window was open so we could still talk, and of course I kept an eye on her. I don't think I'll do that all the time, but it is nice to know that we are in a different stage. She can be trusted a little more, and can make more of her own decisions all the time.

Owen is a mover and a shaker. He loves it outside. He tries to open the door while we are inside, and carries his shoes around, saying "shoes, shoes". He likes to be on the go out there. He cries when it is time to come inside. He can run and walk so well, and has become a master of stairs, so it is easy with him too. We all go out, and just hang out. It is much easier than trying to keep him from crawling off the deck (we fixed it so it is completely impossible for a child to fall off of it now) and helping them both up and down. I can even work on a simple project while we are all outside. Whoa. That is different.

I am really getting into garden mode. I have some seeds started inside, and our really amazing neighbor is tilling the ground for me. He is really kind. So, I am going to get some peas in and get to work. It must be in the blood, because I really like it.

Yesterday I grabbed the kids and marched outside with the kite. The wind was really going, so it was a great night to fly it. Owen wasn't all that into it, but he was better than the first time. Emma enjoyed it a little more though. We got it really high, and she got to hold onto the string. She did a really good job. She used two hands and we both had this really great bonding experience that she'll remember for the rest of her life. It was so great.

Until she let go. In her defense, I don't think it was really her fault. She happened to be looking at the ground, and the wind came up and ripped it out of her hands. The same thing happened to me just a few minutes before. The difference was when Emma was holding it, it was as high as it had ever been, and the wind was really strong. So, of course, it flew away, into the neighbors tree. Not the tilling neighbor, the other one. So, I didn't want to leave this plastic kite in their tree all summer, it would look pretty crappy. I walked over and opened the back gate, and worked to get it out of the high maple. It came down. Wonderful! There was so much string though, and the wind so high, that I couldn't wind it up in time, so I had a mess of string, and the kite flew into the next tree. Emma was really excited, she wanted to come into their yard too. I was not as gooey as I was trying to explain that she couldn't come in, it wasn't our yard, and trying to get this dumb kite down. But, I did. It broke a little, but it is an easy fix, so we'll no doubt try again. It was a fun adventure for me, which is really important to me for some reason. It somehow resets my clock, as if I go from one adventure to the next. And, this one only cost less than three dollars.

My previous adventure dealt with a stack of wood being picked up and stacked from across the street, and the city thanking me for my efforts by throwing it onto their truck that was being used to haul all the dead wood out of various public access points . Never mind that me and my precious children had worked for a long time, well, half and hour, to drag it close to our mailbox so we could burn it in our fire pit. Thanks city. But, we won't go into that now.

So, spring has sprung, we're all happy and healthy, and life is still good.



Two for today-

1. Emma, and Owen, got to watch Barney today. This does not always fit into our schedule, so when it does, she thinks it is a real treat. She doesn't watch a lot of TV, so she gets pretty excited when she gets to watch her show. I don't know where she got confused, but sometime along the way, she got the words to the opening song mixed up.

Rather than, "Barney is a dinosaur from our imagination", Emma sings, "Barney is a dinosaur from our abomination." She is very sincere as she sings this, and it's darn cute.

2. Emma and I are settling her in for a nap. As usual, she wants to read a book, which we always do. But today I was hungry, and didn't really feel like it. Yeah right. Try to convince a three year-old to switch up the routine on a whim. I know, I know, I am laughing at my own foolishness too. So, she fought back. She didn't yell, she didn't scream or cry.

Matter of factly, she begins to point towards her fan and says, "Ok, I want the fan off, no music, and the door open." :) This girl. Of course, (need I explain?) we always have the fan on, turn on the music, and close the door.

She fought me with logic today. Whoa. I relented, because she made sense, and there is nothing wrong with reading a book for naptime, geesh mom!


Baby in bed

I sat in Emma's room, patiently waiting for her to come in and read a book before she got into bed. She finally came in, carrying her carseat, and her "baby". She had been getting the baby ready for bed. She began to put the baby in its own bed, and it was then that I saw the baby that she was so tenderly caring for. I took her "lentil" baby away today, but she obviously isn't terribly distraught. She has imagination. My personal favorite detail is how her baby must be placed "upside down".

Three year-olds rule.


My peanut is three.

Emma had a birthday! It is actually on Tuesday, but we celebrated over the weekend.

I made a cake for her, which was pretty fun. It took a lot longer than I had expected it to, but all in all I think it went ok. We put up a little banner, and a little decoration over her door. She really knew her birthday was coming, and all week she was excited. It is so much fun to celebrate with children. Their joy is fun to watch and participate in. My own joy for my own birthday seems to be dwindling, but I suppose that is expected.

Emma had several of her little friends over, so we had a full house of little girls. Owen was the only boy, but I think he enjoyed himself despite the excess level of estrogen. The little girls all had fun too. Emma was very good, and welcomed her guests just as we had practiced all week. "Welcome to my house, let's go play!" At the end of the party, she did a very nice job of thanking them, and helping them pick out a balloon to take home with them.

I have a hard time believing that she is 3! It goes really fast. I know I know, we hear that all the time. But I think over the last three years of my own life, and it just seems really long ago that I didn't have a little Emma, but it also seems like just yesterday. So much changes in a little person in that time period. She is no longer a baby. I am going to look back on these years and just miss the tar out of them. I am going to gaze into the air and try to remember what she was like when she was just a three year old. She seems so old to me now, but obviously, she is just a little peanut. It is like savoring something that you know you can't save forever. You have to eat the cake, or it is going to rot. I know that these are amazing years, and I need to focus on enjoying them as much as I possibly can, rather than fret about missing them tomorrow. Stopping time isn't an option.

Emma says to me the other day, "Mom, you're big, you're not a peanut. I'm small, I'm the peanut!" So she is.

A few Emma facts:

She will only wear short sleeve shirts. No bribes, treats, begging, convincing or sternness will change this. She only wears short sleeves.

She dresses herself by herself everyday. I don't help her pick out her clothes or take off or put anything on. She gets everything right. This makes her very happy.

She likes to eat her breakfast out of the red bowl with the red spoon. Every morning, she breezes into the kitchen, fully dressed, and asks on her way to the table, "Mom, is the red bowl and the red spoon clean?"

She has two babies that she is in love with, that no one is really allowed to touch or mess with. One is a bag of lentils that gets replaced every so often, when I have to cook it, and the other is a little eye pillow. Both of her babies are much more special to her than the "real" babies she owns.

She loves real babies, like the human kind. She loves to hold them, look at them, and talk to them. Her own babies, like the lentils, are named after the babies that she knows. She takes very good care of them.

If you are related to Emma, she knows where you live. We have a little state book, and she knows, South Dakota, Washington, Nebraska, and Iowa. Our state is green. ;)

She still enjoys music a lot, and likes to sing.

She is a sweet little thing, and most of the time, we have very good days, and a lot of fun.

Emma saw G'ma and G'pa on her birthday. She got a little tea cart that she is in love with. This has been added to the "no touch" category of toys. Little Owen knows this, and proceeds with caution. But, he is a boy, and boys are daring, so he has taken it for a spin a time or two.

Emma opened some gifts at her party. She was happy, can you tell?

Mmm..blue frosting. Thankfully, none of this beautiful blue frosting made its way to our beautiful white chair or ivory furniture. All of the children did have blue tongues and lips though.

All the party goers enjoying cake.

The birthday song. She loved it. Too bad birthdays are only once a year. I think I enjoyed myself as much as she did.


An actual cake, with actual candles and actual fire.

We were preparing to place the candles into cake.

"Where do we put the candles children?"

The unanimous decision, including Emma's say, was Cookie Monster's mouth.

Happy Birthday dear Emma.

Emma with her cake.

The cake.

My dear Emma-

Emma has a wonderful ability to stick to her guns. I am hopeful that this means that in later life, it will translate into standing up for what is right, and for being a protector of her siblings. Always the optimist, I am.

Right now, what she sticks to, are her own ideas. This particular day, she would not yield to my request, and chose to sit in time-out rather than to listen to her mommy. She was very sweet about sitting in time-out after a bit. I checked on her periodically, and asked, "Are you ready to listen to Mommy yet, or do you want to sit in time-out?" She replied, "Time-out." After an hour and a half, she fell asleep, and this is how I found her.

"Dear Emma,
You are very stubborn. I hope that you had a good nap.

Emma wanted to share her snow suit with her baby. So, naked Emma puts baby in snow suit. :)