Saturday, February 2, 2019

Thoughts on Losing a Child

It's been 10 1/2 months since an officer showed up at my door and told me that Tanner was gone. It's therapeutic to retell the details of those first few days, but I'll leave the full story for another time. For the first few hours it felt like a nightmare. I must have said a million times that I wanted to wake up to find that none of it was real. And then a sort of fog came over me. I'm sure there are people who would say that God carried me through, that the fog was the comfort of the Holy Ghost. That's not how I would describe it. Whatever it was, my senses were dulled enough that I was able to kind of sleepwalk through the horrors we had to endure. Telling the kids. Getting Tanner's things out of his apartment, which involved plying hundreds of thumbtacks out of the wall with my fingernails, throwing the dirty socks and underwear in a garbage bag because there was no point in washing them, putting everything in the back of my car not knowing what on earth we were going to do with it all. Then there was the trip to the funeral home, where we talked about how to get Tanner's body to Utah for the funeral and burial after the memorial here in Spokane. Where we were taken into a huge room full of caskets and we had to decide which one was right for our son. I have no clue, not even a ballpark figure, of how much we spent on the casket. It is all such a huge blur.

I wish I were still in that sleepwalking phase. I think the fog must slowly clear a little each day. And that's the problem. Finding out is hell. I literally fell to the floor like some lady in a tv drama and yelled "no" several times. But I had no idea that it would just get more painful. Every day it becomes a little bit more real. There are new reminders that he's never coming back. And then there are the days when I wake up and think about calling or texting him. and then get the wind knocked out of me with the realization that I can't.

So I'm sitting here sobbing as I type this, and I am an empty shell. I have no idea who I was on March 15th of 2018, but I am not that person now. I went through a rebirth of sorts when Aidan was diagnosed with cancer. I was actually standing in the same spot in my piano room when I found out about Tanner that I was standing in when the doctor told me about Aidan on the phone. And there was that blur of talking to the doctors, and then 2 days after finding out, we were in the hospital starting the hellish journey that has lasted almost 3 years now. When Aidan got sick I cleared out all of the fluff that I had filled our life with. I'm not sure what all of that fluff was. I know there was helping out in the kids' classrooms, and taking people dinners, and making blankets for my friends' new babies. Most of what I can remember that I used to do was service-oriented. That kind of sucks. But life got filled up with so many appointments. So many appointments. So many trips to the pharmacy. Fighting Aidan to take his meds in the beginning. Then fighting him about every single thing in life. I became a different person. I remember trying to decide if I could let him sleep without me like a normal child. Was I supposed to live life as if every day was the last and be terrified to miss a second? Or was I supposed to believe that he would be ok and try to treat him like a regular kid? The only thing I could do was take myself to the darkest place I could imagine in my mind. I pictured him dying. I tried to picture our family dealing with that. I pictured families I know who have lost children and while it obviously wasn't an easy thing, they were all still alive and breathing. Smiling even, sometimes. I knew that John and I would band together and get our family through it. So I put Aidan in his own bed and started out a new life that I didn't recognize. I was a new person I didn't recognize.

Aidan's diagnosis came on March 30th, 2016. Tanner went to sleep on March 14th 2 years later and never woke up.

At some point after Tanner died (not sure when), my brain started processing things. I realized that I had lost all hope. I didn't believe anymore that Aidan would beat cancer. I didn't believe that another one of my kids wouldn't get hit by a bus or that John would make it home safely from work trips. And I realized that when I thought I had faced the idea of death head on, that I had absolutely no clue what it actually looked like.

So I cleaned house again on what we did with our time. I know that I cut out more of my to-do list after Tanner died to make room for grief. And once again, I can't tell you what I simplified. I don't know what we used to do. I know that we have even more appointments now, because I have every one of us in therapy of some kind, but I cut out a bunch of stuff, and I don't know what. And I lost me.

So here I am, this empty shell of a person. I take my kids to school in the morning. I try to keep up on laundry. I cook dinner sometimes. We get take out more often. I'm working on being better about that. I drag myself to the grocery store. I guess that's pretty good. For months I couldn't go to the store by myself. The first time I actually did I bought everything I could possibly think of because I couldn't fathom going back. It took 2 shopping carts to get everything to the car. And when the cashier asked me what on earth I was stocking up for, I couldn't help but tell him that my son had died and I can't grocery shop anymore. So I have that basic functioning part of my brain still. The rest of my brain must be gone. I have no idea who I am. Don't get me wrong, I have all of my memories. I have my family and some of my friends. But I don't recognize me anymore.

I guess this is a chance to reinvent myself. I could decide who I want to be, and then fill myself back up with that new and improved version of me. Any idea how to do that? Maybe I will be more able to do that as time passes. I'm still in the punch-in-the-gut phase of grief. We're still living all of the "firsts." First Christmas. First birthday. First every-tiny-little-thing as these new people who are missing one of their children. It's excruciating. So I'm trying to be very patient with myself. Can't make dinner tonight? Order a pizza and snuggle on the couch with the kids watching stupid stuff on tv. Can't bring myself to run errands during preschool? It's ok. Go lie in bed until it's time to pick up Xander. This is not the time for me to try to accomplish more. The only expectation I really have of myself right now is that I take care of my family. That I am here for my husband, and that I make sure my kids are as ok as they can be. Sometimes the weight of that feels crushing. Often I feel like I can barely breathe. So.......patience.

If I actually post this to my blog, I have to kindly ask to not hear certain comments. First of all, time does not "heal" in this case. When you lose someone, you learn to live with the giant hole in your heart. It doesn't go away. I really don't want to hear that I need to pray more or have faith. Also, Tanner is not in a better place. His place is with his friends and family. His place is at our dinner table on Thanksgiving. I'm not concerned with where Tanner is, except that he's not with us. Sorry, I've heard a lot of very un-helpful things in the last 10 months.

If you've read this far, you must be someone who knows and loves me. I realize that it's very garbled and rambling and makes little sense. And it's raw and awful and painful. So I appreciate you getting this far and being here for me and loving me. My relationships are the most important thing to me now. Much love to you for being a friend.

Monday, August 31, 2015

First Day of School '15

Katelyn, 6th grade
Carter, 4th grade

Aidan, 1st grade

I love these kiddos so much!! I can't believe another school year is here. This year we'll have four kids at the elementary school. Zach starts kindergarten on Thursday, so I'll have to take another round of pictures then. This is Katie's last year of elementary, which makes me sad. Junior high is so difficult, and I just want her to stay young and innocent. Carter is not at all excited for school this year. He's so smart, but he hates school and homework. If it weren't for lunch time with his friends and recess when he can play soccer, I wouldn't be able to get him to school at all. Aidan is very anxious about school, but that's normal for him. I can't recall a day last year when he didn't have anxiety for some reason. I hope that gets better with age.

I came down with a stomach virus yesterday, which got really bad last night. That made getting backpacks ready and clothes laid out a challenge. We just got back from a trip to Seattle and I didn't get laundry done yesterday, so I had to throw in a load last night. I made the mistake of washing Katie's new rayon jumpsuit, which I realized this morning isn't supposed to go in the dryer. So while the boys' clothes took about 5 minutes to dry, I spent quite a while with a warm iron working on the jumpsuit and then put it on the rack in the dryer. It actually turned out dry enough to wear and didn't shrink. Because of all of this, our morning was just as rushed as I was hoping it wouldn't be. It doesn't help that school starts at 8:30 instead of 9 this year. Katie and Carter decided at the last minute to take lunch from home, so I scrambled to make 3 lunches instead of the one I had planned on. (And of course I threw in some oreos with a note from mom.) I'm going to have the boys shower in the morning this year, so I got them up a little bit early. I consider it a miracle that the kids were all freshly showered, dressed in clean clothes, lunches and all necessary school supplies packed, and had smiles on their faces for pictures. My goal this year is to try my best not to yell in the morning so that the kids get off to school with a peaceful, happy start. It's so hard with all of the anxiety about going to school, fits that get thrown, things remembered at the last minute........I will do better this year. We'll prepare as much as we can at night, then I just need to remind myself all morning to keep my cool.

We missed the bus. I drove the kids down to the bus stop because we were running late, and we sat in the car and waited for a few minutes. We never saw the bus, so I ended up driving the kids to school. I'm pretty sure we saw their bus on our way, so I think it was running late. Hopefully we'll catch it tomorrow. Last year the bus ride was one hour to school, and one hour home. We live a mile and a half from school, so the kids could have walked home faster. I ended up dropping them off every morning and picking them up from school almost every day. This year they changed the route, so the kids should get off of the bus at 3:10. I hope it really works out that way - it would be nice to not fight the afterschool pickup line every day.

Anyway, the kids are all safe in their classrooms and I'm home with Xander, and Zach will be home for 3 more days before he starts kindergarten. We were supposed to go for a walk with friends this morning, but remember the part about the stomach virus? I'm lucky I was able to drag myself through the morning! We got home from dropping off the kids and as I was pouring milk in the little boys' Malt-O-Meal I dropped the full gallon on the floor (I'm pretty weak and shaky). So I got to clean up a river/lake of milk and the splashes across the entire floor and on the walls and cabinets. Now would be the time to snuggle up on the couch with the boys and cartoons. Unfortunately, the dog got sick all over the family room rug in the night. So I'm going to drag the carpet cleaner out and work on that for a few hours. At least the baby will nap this afternoon. Wish me luck until then!

* I apologize for such a detailed description of our morning. It's more for me than anything. I want to remember what life was like with all these kids when they're grown up and my memory is like swiss cheese! *

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Do you watch Duck Dynasty?

I do. Our whole family loves it. Yes, it's gotten more and more staged, and that's bugging me, but I still love those Robertsons. Especially Uncle Si! And I love that they're a large family with strong Christian values. But let's face it - they can be a little hillbilly-ish. Sometimes they say some ignorant-sounding things. And I think that applies to what Phil said in his GQ interview.

I think A&E may lose some viewers over the choice to suspend Phil. And I kind of hope they do.
Celebrities get away with all sorts of abhorrent behavior without consequences! I could try to explain my stance on the controversy, but I just found a blog post on this topic that I think is brilliant. If you don't have time to read it, here's my favorite quote from the post: "Jesus is the most real source of mercy in the history of time, and He loves us all with a fierce, indescribable love, and none of us deserve it any less than anyone else, and THAT is the shocking headline we should be proclaiming." If you do have time, go to Jen Hatmaker's blog and read what she has to say. Jen is very active in the Christian community, and somehow hers is the first Christian voice I've heard preaching love and mercy in this whole thing. I love the idea that, "Because I love mercy for myself, I can’t help but love it for everyone else, and I won’t cheapen it by imagining that my grace is free but someone else’s must be earned." If only all Christians could think, and ACT, the way she does.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


This is my little horseback riding daughter. Well, not so little, I guess. Katelyn will be 10 in December. She started horseback riding lessons this summer, and she's in heaven! We have the perfect setup, too. She takes lessons with her best friend, who lives almost across the street from us (which is miraculous when you live in the country) and is in her class at school. Their teacher lives very close and picks them up from school twice a week to take them to their lessons. She even delivers them right to our doorsteps when the lessons are over!
(Sorry the picture's so blurry)

Katie with her best friend Karin on Halloween
Grooming her lesson horse
So today Katelyn's spending the morning at the stable with her friend, grooming horses and taking a lesson. She spends every spare moment daydreaming about horses, and dreams about them at night, so this is a perfect day for her. And it would be for me, too! I love horses and would love to be taking lessons as well. Maybe when my little boys are all in school. But man, I would rather be spending the morning at the stable than catching up on chores around the house! Lucky girl!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hi, I'm Melanie, and I have HHT

HHT - Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia. It's a disease that's been passed down in my family for generations. All three of my sisters have it. My mom and all but one of her siblings have it. And chances are that my kids all have it. I'm not positive about Carter, but I'm pretty sure about the rest of them. Tanner, my stepson, got lucky because he doesn't have my genes.

HHT causes abnormalities in the blood vessels, usually in the nose and skin, and sometimes in the liver, lungs, and/or brain. Nosebleeds are the most common complaint among HHT sufferers. I've had nosebleeds for as long as I can remember. All of my teachers knew there was a chance that I'd run out of class with my hand cupped over my face. My kids are starting to deal with this now, too. Fortunately, it's really not a big deal.

But as I get older, my bleeding is getting more severe. It's particularly bad when I'm pregnant, due to the increase of blood volume. I've had some bad enough bleeds to make me weak for quite a while. And it can be pretty scary. I coat the inside of my nose with lanolin at least once a day, and I avoid the most innocent scratching in fear of bleeding. These things help, but I bleed often and without warning. Some days I can't get the bleeding to stop and walk around with tissue shoved up my nose. I just traded in a van that had a nice big blood stain on the driver's seat belt. (Sorry about that. I hope the dealership got it out before some poor soul discovered it in their new van, although it looked kind of brownish. Maybe they wouldn't realize it was blood?)

This pregnancy has gifted me with the 2 worst nosebleeds I've ever had. I bled like crazy for the first trimester! And then it almost stopped. Apparently the hormone shift in the second trimester worked in my favor. But as I move into my third trimester, it's starting back up.

Recently, I found a prenatal yoga class, and a good Groupon deal, and started taking yoga again for the first time in years. Yay! I love yoga! The first two classes were awesome - I loooove the instructor. But Thursday night I went for my third class and was sorely disappointed. As soon as I went into my first forward fold, my nose started dripping blood. I cupped my hand under my chin, and grabbed the box of tissue at the front of the class as I ran out the door. I spent some time in the hallway getting it stopped, and even shoved some tissue in my nostril for good measure. Thinking I was safe, I went back in and got into downward dog with the rest of the class. But to my dismay, blood starting seeping through the tissue and I had to run out again. I didn't dare go back inside until the sun salutations were finished. I spent the rest of the class only halfway attempting the positions. Even child's pose puts a lot of pressure on my face. And because of the tissue shoved up my nose, I couldn't get into the breathing properly, which compromised even shavasana at the end, which is my favorite part of the class!

I was embarrassed and ran out the second the class was over. I felt like crying as I drove away. I was definitely feeling sorry for myself. I thought about my grandma, who eventually died from the complications of HHT, and about my aunts and uncle, who have had significant problems due to the disease. They have had such good attitudes about it. And I realized that of all the hands to be dealt in this life, I would rather this than any other. Everyone has struggles, and I don't know if I could handle anything else. This, I can deal with. I can go to the drive-thru at Wendy's with Kleenex in my nose. I can teach my kids how to deal with nosebleeds. I can manage being really weak from loss of blood. Heck, I'm a pro at getting blood out of just about anything (except seatbelts, apparently). Research is being done and new treatments are being discovered. Hopefully this will become less of a burden, especially as my children grow older.

I'm not sure when I'll go back to my next yoga class, and when I do, I'll have to explain my nosebleeds to the instructor. She'll be nice and understanding, just like everyone is when I tell them why I'm gushing blood. And I'll remind myself that I'm grateful that I have a body that, even weeks away from delivering a baby, is healthy enough to do yoga. That I've been able to deliver relatively healthy children - as many as I've wanted. And maybe someday I'll stop being such a whiner.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Frustrations of Motherhood

Like every mother, I'm sure, I have one child who is more difficult than the others. They all have their quirks, and some things I know will be a struggle with particular children. But with my 5-year-old, pretty much everything is a fight. I can't even count on getting out of the car immediately upon arriving somewhere, because I have to coax him out. There's almost always bribery involved, and often I have to resort to threats. Just to get the kid out of the car!

Today was particularly trying. Maybe it was my fault for over scheduling, but I can almost guarantee that the second half of the day would have been the same no matter when we scheduled it. We started the morning with the first day of preschool for my 3yo and 5yo. It was only an hour, to get them used to the school and their teachers. Both kids had a hard time staying in class and letting me leave, but both also came out an hour later happy and excited to go back tomorrow. Yay! We went to McDonalds for lunch with some of their preschool friends, and then had to stop at the grocery store for a few things on our way home. The boys went nuts at the store, and I wanted to strangle them. It was the same super-hyper, not-listening-at-all behavior that they displayed at bedtime last night and that makes me crazy. They play off of each other and ignore me and I can't handle it!

In the afternoon, we headed to the doctor for well-child exams. The kids both needed shots, but it was our first time at a new doctor, so the nurse convinced me to schedule a nurse visit for the shots next week. We wanted their first visit to not be a super traumatic one. Well, that all went out the window when the doctor heard a murmur listening to my 5yo's heart. He said we needed to do an EKG, and I was surprised when the nurse wheeled in a machine a few minutes later. It should be such an easy procedure. But by that point, I had already had to coax him into standing on the scale, and then sitting on the table to have his checkup. He decided that there was no way a nurse was going to put a bunch of stickers on his body. I realize that fear could be a big part of his reaction, but I also know him well enough to know that this is something he would not cooperate with under any circumstance. So I held him down and tried to still him enough to get a good reading, which took a while.

We got through the EKG - my pregnant body was practically dripping sweat from the fight. And then the doc said that we needed to go next door for a chest x-ray. It seemed like such a simple thing. It only takes a minute, right? I knew that we were in for trouble. The x-ray tech had no idea what was coming at him. This tech tried every trick in the book, all involving trying to reason with my child, which I knew was not possible. I finally demanded that he stand where he was supposed to, and even got him to put his hands by his side (20 minutes had already elapsed by this point), but he refused to hold up the barrier to protect his boy parts, and the fight continued. I had to leave the room because of the radiation, and the poor tech took forever to finally get a picture that he said would be acceptable. I apologized profusely as we left, and promised my son that I would make good on my threats. No X-Box or Wii for the rest of the day, due to his disobedience.

Unfortunately, I found that he had hidden a pack of gum in his pocket at the store earlier, and we got to stop at the store on our way home. I got to have that mom moment when you march your child back in to the store, explain what happened, and have the child apologize. Thinking that he was going to earn back his video game privileges, he did indeed apologize. Outside of the store, I hugged him and praised his good choice. And we had a long talk about stealing. And then we went home to carry out the punishment he had earned at the doctor's office.

I got home feeling exhausted and discouraged. My child is willfully disobedient. I don't know what to do about it. I try to be consistent with my expectations, and to follow through on my threats. I try to use positive reinforcement as much as possible before resorting to the negative. But nothing gets through to him. What am I doing wrong?!

The thing about this child is that he is my most loving. He tells me hundreds of times a day that he loves me. He hugs me constantly. He tells me I'm beautiful. He takes time from playing to come over to me and stroke my arm or give me a smile. He is the sweetest thing! Until I want him to do something for me. Anything really. I'm at a loss.

We all have days when we question our ability to parent our children, right? You've been there too? Not that I would wish a day like today on anyone, but I'm hoping that I'm not alone....
My handsome preschoolers. So big!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Our bunny died on Easter

Seriously. Isn't that awful? It will make for great Easter memories, I'm sure.

Our German Shepherd puppy, Bandit, loves animals. He likes to hold the cat, the one who will let him, and the bunny, and lick them until they're soaking wet piles of fur. He doesn't mean to hurt them. Unfortunately, yesterday after dinner, Bandit opened the bunny cage (yes, he opened it by himself) and decided to take the bunny out. There was no blood, thank goodness, but the bunny didn't survive. Katie cried and cried while John took care of things and dug a grave. As is our tradition now (we've lost a lot of small pets in the last few years), we each said something we remember about our bunny Gretel, then we shoveled the dirt into the grave. John dug it nice and deep so we don't have to deal with Bandit digging it back up later. That would be awful!

I've nicknamed Bandit Lennie. You know, from Of Mice and Men? But it's not really funny. I'm just grateful that the dog didn't get the taste of blood. Now we'll have to watch him closely and not let him play with the cat.

So now we have the first grave in our new pet cemetery. Katie doesn't do death well, not that a 9-year-old should. But she still cries over small pets who've been gone for years. Her sadness is what hit me the hardest, but I'll also miss the boys carrying the bunny around and feeding it carrots and lettuce. It's really sweet seeing your kids being so loving to a little animal.