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The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My $20 custom made dress

Last year, I asked a number of moms where they bought modest dresses for their pre-teen/teen daughters.  Tabby needed something  to wear to church and it seemed all we could find (that was affordable anyway) were "hoochie-mama" type clothes.  Really.  First there are very few dresses/skirts on the market for pre-teen girls.  Second, the ones that are there, are are ultra-short and clingy fabric stuff and tiny straps.  Yuck.  At the opposite end were the modest but frumpy looking bag like dresses.  Another problem is she's at one of those in-between ages - she's now 13.  Some things look too babyish on her and other things way too mature.

I know, I know, there are some nice things out there.  But Tabby has a really awkward build right now and it renders the few decent looking things hopeless.  (She has very broad shoulders and wide hips yet she's super skinny.)

OK.  I didn't mean to get into a lament, though I will say - if you have a daughter who loves to sew - there is a market out there! for modest but stylish clothes for pre-teen and young teen girls!

We solved Tabby's dilemma by pairing some skirts and tops, found at thrift stores.  She altered some herself.

American Goldfinch - photo by Tabby
Some friends told us about a website for a company in India called eShakti.  This mother and daughter bought dresses from them and spoke very highly of the company and how they worked hard to make sure their clients were absolutely pleased with anything they purchased.

So I took a peek and loved what I saw.  Many of the clothes have the vintage flair I like.  Think ModCloth but made to order in your exact size.  ;)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - photo by Tabby
I needed a dress this spring/summer so after combing the thrift stores and not finding anything, I decided that I was going to get a dress from eShakti.  By signing up on their website, I got a $25 off coupon from them.  I also learned that I could get my first purchase altered for free.  (It's normally only $7.)  I found a dress I liked  (wow that was hard - so many cute ones!) and selected what style of sleeves I wanted (I picked cap sleeves) and what length.  I typed in my measurements.  Then checked out.  Lo and behold there was also a spring time sale going on so I got an additional 35% off!

Bottom line was, the dress only cost me $20.  Plus $10 shipping from India.  It took 3 weeks to get here, and as definitely worth the wait as it fit perfectly.  How often does that happen with clothing today?!

Here is the dress - I can wear it with the tie, or without.  I have some red flats that match the buttons perfectly.



I didn't realize the photos didn't turn out good until I loaded them.  And well, I'm too lazy at the moment to re-do them.  But you can see a good picture on the eshakti website here.  :)  So, I definitely recommend eShakti!   (www.eshakti.com)  I've since met several other people that have ordered from them and were pleased.

On a completely different note, yesterday Solomon observed Frank was wearing a hat as he mowed the grass.  Solomon asked for a hat so he could go out and "mow" on his battery powered tractor.  Tabby took these cute photos:





Monday, July 21, 2014

When Mama's sick

I was sick all weekend: fever, aching lower back, and torn up stomach.  I'm a "get things done" person, so it was really hard to only be able to lay on the couch for what seemed like forever.  (Guess I needed a lesson in patience.)  My stomach is still a mess this morning, in spite of my repeated taking of charcoal and ginger but thankfully the fever and aching is gone and I can sit in a chair.  Yay!

As I slept off and on, the past two days, it struck me, just how dramatically the atmosphere of the house changes when mom is down and out.  (I don't think I'm making this up just to feel more important.)  Solomon would come and stare at me, puzzlement on his face.  When I went to bed early he came and looked at me and burst into tears.  Hunter, my compassionate child, frequently put his hand on me and said "Oh poor Mama!  I feel so bad for you!"  Several times he grabbed my hand and said "Let me pray for you" and then proceeded to lead the sweetest prayers for my healing.  Tabby grilled me often on my symptoms, trying to judge if any improvement had happened.  Yesterday evening, Frank said exhaustedly "Sunday is NOT a day of rest if you have little boys."  I so appreciated everyone helping out when I couldn't.

Up until this weekend, I have had several productive weeks of painting rooms inside our house.  I really don't like painting very much, but have been so pleased with the results.  One of my favorites has turned out to be our laundry area.  It was a pinky whitish color and is now green:


I painted a side table the same color as I painted our dining room.  I just LOVE it:


Last month, Solomon helped me pick mint and then we packed it into a jar and filled it with Vodka.  Every day we dutifully shake it.  By the end of the month, we will have homemade mint extract:




After Frank built bookcases for our living room, he started building a tree house.  Solomon loved "helping":



Much to my amusement, Sherlotta spent a lot of time hanging out by the tree house and watching:





Last week, we received a birthday present in memory of Lilly from Cassie.  Cassie also made a picture collage, compiling several pictures of her little sister Hannah and Lilly, both wearing the same outfits.  We were so very touched by this beautiful gift.



Speaking of Cassie, Solomon has enjoyed wearing the hobbit cloak that she made last year for Hunter:



Ok that's enough.  Time to go lay down.  :(

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our rebellious chickens

I never thought that reporting we finally got rain yesterday, would be blog worthy but it is!  We have barely had a sprinkle of rain for weeks.  Our garden has dried up and died.  Flowers that did bloom were withering.  Even the leaves on many trees were shriveling up.  Temperatures in the 90s, blazing sun, and no rain is not a good combination.  But finally ... finally ... late in the afternoon yesterday, it poured.  And it rained all night long.

Solomon had so much fun playing in the rain:





I never thought I would say how much I enjoy having chickens around, but I do.  I hate their mess on the front porch (they love to come up and share the dogs water, in spite of having their own watering stations scattered around the yard).  But other than that, I find them so funny and of course love their daily gifts of eggs.

The chickens we bought this spring are almost all grown up and should start laying eggs in about two more months.  I think they are nearing the end of their teen age time and are young adults.  ;)



We recently had a spell however, where there were no "daily gifts of eggs" to be found!  Other than 2 or 3 chickens, the rest were refusing to use their nesting boxes to lay in.  In fact, the main use the nesting boxes were getting was at night time for sleeping in.  Some of our chickens prefer to be in the boxes to sleep, but the others perch on the ladder in the coop, or on the table in there.

There must be something charismatic about our hen Roger Williams - every night 2 or 3 of the younger hens - ones of similar colors - insist on sleeping in the same nesting box as her.  (Of course this cracks Tabby and I up.  The real Roger Williams was the founder of Rhode Island and he was always accusing others as being heretics.  So we joke that the young chickens are part of his latest little Christian circle and live with him in R.I.)  (Ok - and why is a HEN named "Roger Williams?"  Tabby names the birds whatever she is interested in or learning about at that time.)


So for several days, Tabby was only finding a few eggs in the coop to collect.  I was getting worried!  I like having an abundant supply of eggs!  And Tabby has been selling a couple dozen eggs a week and needed them.  So we decided the hens needed some retraining.

Instead of letting them out of their coop first thing in the morning, she made them stay in there until they had laid their golden eggs.  Only the "teenager" chickens were let out.  That gave us our egg supply back.  We did this for a few days.  But then we hit a couple days were temperatures were close to 100 degrees.  Even though the coop has windows, it was still too hot to "coop" them up in the "coop."  So we had to let them out.


At this point, more were laying in the coop, but not all.  (For whatever reason, our Ameraucanas have never liked to lay in the nesting boxes very consistently, which is a shame because I wanted that breed because they lay light blueish-greenish eggs.  Tabby says their just a more wild bird.)  Then coop laying dropped off again a few days later.  But thankfully I found that they were laying in our woodshed, on some bales of hay that are in there.  That's not where they should "officially" be, but that's OK!  We know where to look now.

For some reason, our hens tend to all lay in the same nesting box.  Or, outside the coop  in the same pile.  I wonder why?  And which hen gets to decide where the eggs are going to be laid that day?  Maybe in the morning they pass around the word secretly.  "Hey - today's egg laying will occur in the woodshed, in front of the wheelbarrow!  Stay tuned for word about tomorrow's laying location."


I'm sure we must have piles of eggs in various parts of our yard that we have not found yet.  Tabby did recently find one stash in the goat shelter.  They were under the milking stall - right in an area that Tabby did not see every morning when she milked the goats in there!  She brought me the eggs and I tested them to see if they were still good.  Thankfully they all were.

Here is how you test eggs to see if they are still OK to eat.  Put them in a bowl of water.  If they float - throw them out.


We have eggs for supper at least once a week.  In an effort to branch out on egg recipes, I recently got a copy of The Farmstead Egg Guide & Cookbook by Terry Golson.  It is filled with all sorts of yummy egg recipes.

Aren't you glad that eggs are no longer demonized like they were in the 80s?  They were said to cause high cholesterol and people were terrified to eat them.  What a shame - eggs are the most perfect protein there is!  Thankfully now people are recognizing the what a mistake that was.  And even that all this high cholesterol worry is unfounded.

I'll leave you today with a funny picture that Tabby took of one of our Jersey Black hens in our egg gathering basket:



Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Book List - June

I am thankful to have been raised in a family of readers and to now have my own family of readers.  Just this afternoon, Tabby read a 288 page book.

Solomon has taken to swiping Frank's reading glasses lately.  Tabby and I usually make a run for the camera when he does.


After reading French Kids Eat Everything by Karen LeBillon several months ago (see my blog post about the book here), I kept encountering the book Bringing Up Bebea book on French parenting, in things I was reading.  I finally bought a copy and found it fascinating.  So first on my list of books I read last month:

JUNE:

Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman - This book was written by an American journalist who is living in Paris with her family. The book was so interesting as it was a glimpse into child raising norms in France.  There are some major difference between French and American parenting for sure, though parents in both countries love their children.  If I ever have another baby, I plan to follow the French parenting method of helping babies sleep through the night by 3-4 months old - done without letting babies "cry it out."  (Tabby slept through the night early on but neither of my sons did.)  I also like the way French parents teach their little children to "wait."  They intentionally "frustrate" their little children - teaching them to how to wait - and guess what.  It is apparently rare to ever see a French child have a tantrum in public.  (It's the American or English children having the tantrums there, not the French kids!)  There are a number of other things I learned from the book that I am using with my kids.  But there are also some things, just like the author, that I just don't understand.  One example is that French mothers stop nursing after only a few months.  This seems so strange since so much research shows the enormous benefits of nursing through a baby's first year.  There are a couple other things that I would never choose to do, as a homeschooling Christian mama.  But from what I understand, Christianity continues to decline in France.  And I'm not sure homeschooling exists.  (As an interesting aside, I recently learned that there are only 2 countries in the world that have a huge homeschooling population - the United States and India.)  Aside from the things I didn't agree with, there is quite a bit of French parenting that really is very wise.

Bebe Day By Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman - I liked the above so much that I read the author's other book on French parenting.  This is a shorter book that is a summary of Bringing Up Bebe.  It's a good review if you've already read the other book and it's a good, concise "just the facts ma'am" type book for those that want to read something quick.  I liked it but I liked Bringing Up Bebe best because it had all the details and the full story.


The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions -- Today by Julia Ross, M.A. - After Tabby took "The Mood Cure Questionnaire" online (see here), I got this book to see about giving her some supplements to help her in some health/emotional areas.  The book was interesting and was similar to Female Brain Gone Insane, a book that prescribed amino acid supplements that REALLY helped me to feel better when I was dealing with depression over Lilly's death and postpartum issues with Solomon.  (You can read my blog post about that here.)  I think The Mood Cure had a lot of useful information in a lot of areas of health.

Montessori From the Start: The Child at Home, From Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen - In looking for activities for Solomon on Pinterest, I kept coming across some labeled "Montessori."  (See my Montessori Pinterest board here.)  I knew very little about Montessori so I checked out this book at the library to learn more.  What I read was so intriguing that I've been reading more and more about Maria Montessori's methods.  (I will share some things in a future blog post, as Solomon is loving the Montessori type activities I've been giving him to do.)   The authors quickly dispelled a common misconception that I believed (and they once believed):  children in Montessori programs are not "free to do as they like" but "they are free to 'work': to engage in sustained and productive activity while, at the same time, learning how to behave in a community of others." (p. xi)  Though this book was rated well within the Montessori community, I've read a number of people saying this probably isn't the best book to start with.  It is rather heavy at times.  But I did learn a lot.

(If you have a Montessori background, I would love to hear from you.  What did you like?  Not like?)


Happy reading!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book on Grief: I Will Carry You by Angie Smith

Several months after Lilly died, I received the book I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith in the mail.  The book was from a complete stranger, a woman that had read about Lilly's death in the Samaritan Ministries newsletter.  (Samaritan Ministries is our alternative healthcare.  It is an awesome group to be a part of and yes - almost all of Lilly's medical bills were paid.)  The woman enclosed a card which read:

When I read about the loss of Lillian in the Samaritan Newsletter, my heart broke for your family.  While I have suffered a miscarriage in the past, I won't pretend that I can imagine what you are feeling, the pain of losing a child you have held, loved and cared for.  Angie Smith's story has been a vital tool on my journey to healing, not just from the loss of our baby, but also from the many hurts and disappointments this life has dealt.  When the time is right, I pray God can use her book in your life, too.
I now understand that many of us come to you feeling the need to help "fix" how you feel with our words and even scripture, but the simple truth is, we can't.  I realize "our faith gives us the sure hope of seeing [Lillian] again, but the hope does not take away the pain." (Gregory Floyd)
So I close with a long-distance hug and assurance that I and many others have been and will continue praying for you.

Isn't that such a sweet note?  Of all the books we received on grief, this is the one I wanted to read the most.  Yet I was unable to even read the back cover without crying.  I picked it up numerous times in the last 2 years, teared up, and put it back down.  Finally I determined early last week that now was the time.  Lilly's 4th birthday was coming up, making it her 3rd without us, and I just felt like I was ready to read it.  That I needed to read it.

First night of reading - no tears.  Accomplishment!  After that, I cried off and on while reading, but overall handled the story well.  I finished the book without crumpling into a heap on the floor. That made me feel triumphant.  It means that I've healed some.

Angie Smith is the wife of Todd Smith, the lead singer of the Christian group Selah.  When she was 18 weeks pregnant, they found out Audrey had a number of conditions that earned her the dreaded label "incompatible with life."

Angie described the roller coaster ride that her pregnancy was.  She cried.  A lot.  I was struck by this and all the many similarities between what happened with her family and Audrey and our family with Lilly.  But I dealt emotionally with some things differently than Angie.  Honestly Angie probably took the more healthy approach.  She cried and talked about what was happening a lot.  I didn't so much.  While pregnant with Lilly I put my numb/detached wall up and refused to think anything other than "I will bring this baby home from the hospital."

Audrey was born by c-section.  She was tiny - 3 lbs.  And much to her family's delight, she lived for 2.5 hours.  They loved on her, talked to her, sang to her, and extended family was at the hospital to meet her.  They dressed Audrey up and had beautiful pictures made with her through Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.

[NOTE:  I got all the photos used in this blogpost today from Google Images.]

The Smith family with Audrey
They were so thankful to God for that time with her alive in their arms.  When Audrey's little damaged heart finally stopped beating, she slipped away quietly.  Look at her beautiful little face:

Audrey
One thing the Smith family did during Angie's pregnancy with Audrey that I really really think was a great idea was that because they did not know if Audrey would live, they enjoyed doing things with Audrey while she was still in the womb.  They talked to her, sang to her, read to her.  They took her to the theater, movies, the ballet.  Todd's group Selah recorded a song for her - "Audrey's Song."  When the song was recorded, they put headphones on Angie's belly so Audrey could hear the song.  The Smiths' 3 other girls wanted their sister to go to Disney World with them.  The family made the trip.

Notice the hat for Audrey
Angie discusses the story of Jesus, Mary and Martha, and the death of Lazarus in quite a few places in the book.  She took great comfort from that story and analyzed it in ways I have never thought of.  Very interesting and comforting.

In the back of the book, there is a section that Todd wrote for fathers.  I think this was such a good idea to include that since I think in general, fathers do not get the attention and help that mothers do, in the grieving process.

Angie also has a chapter on helping children grieve.  As we've done a number of things that she talked about, I can say that "yes" they are things that helped.  Angie noted that her girls often drew pictures with coffins in them.  That reminded me of how Hunter went through a phase of playing funeral.  He would "bury" his stuffed dog Sam.  Hunter was 3 when Lilly died, and in the 6 months proceeding her death, we had also buried Frank's father and uncle.  Then a few months after burying Lilly, a baby at church died and Hunter asked "Oh, did that baby have Trisomy 18 too?"  Hunter was 4 when he cried about Lilly.  Children process things differently, depending on their ages and maturity level.

And really, adults process things differently at different stages too.  I doubt there are two people in the world that grieve in the exact same way at the exact same time.

Finally, Angie has a section of helpful resources.  Books, websites, and memorial ideas.

You may recall that earlier this year, I gave away Angie Smith's children's book Audrey Bunny for Trisomy 18 Awareness Day.  (My post is here.)   This is a book about a bunny that has a mark on her heart and she tries to hide it.  But when her "owner" finds it, she loves the bunny anyway.

This bunny is based on the real stuffed bunny that Angie and Todd bought for Audrey when Angie was pregnant.  They had found a bunny with a mark on it's heart and in spite of pressure from the saleswoman at the gift shop to buy one without a mark, they bought it anyway.  It was the perfect bunny for their little girl with the heart issues.

Angie and Todd took the bunny home and showed it to their little girls and explained that Audrey's heart had "a boo boo."  The little girls put bandaids on the bunny's heart.  Isn't that sweet?  And I think a very helpful tool in teaching those little girls about their sister.

I'm so thankful I finally got the courage/strength to read this book.  Tabby took it from me the day after I finished it and read the whole book in a morning.  She liked it too.  I think it is a helpful book for anyone.  Even if you haven't lost a child,  I Will Carry You can help you better understand those that did and how you might help.

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. - 1 Corinthians 4:16-18

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note: This blog post contains amazon.com affiliate links. If I ever make any money from book purchases through these links, the money will be used to bless others through the Lilly Memorial Fund. :)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Traditions

First, the winner of the two Lilly colored pillowcases in honor of Lilly's birthday was Sandra A.:


Thanks to everyone that participated in the drawing!  And thank you Cassie for making the pillowcases for me.  Check out Cassie's blog - http://kwantclancrafts.blogspot.com/ - for other pillowcases and things she has for sale.  :)

a new lily blossom opened yesterday in Lilly's garden
"Tradition, tradition!  Tradition!
Tradition, tradition!  Tradition!"

Well those are the only lyrics I remember from the song "Tradition" from the old musical Fiddler on the Roof.  But those words have been stuck in my head the past few days.

As most of you are aware, Hurricane Arthur swept of the eastern coast last week.  It was supposed to hit the day we were to leave for our now traditional annual trip to Lilly's grave.  Lilly celebrated her first birthday with us, but as her last two have been in heaven, we have gone to stay with my mother-in-law, who lives near the town where Lilly is buried.  (Lilly is close to 3 hours from us.)  We leave home on the eve of July 4th, stop at the Dollar Tree in Washington, NC and buy Lilly's birthday balloons, and then meet my mother-in-law at my sister-in-law's bakery/grill in Belhaven for lunch.  Then the next morning, we go to the town of Belhaven's 4th of July parade.  After that there is a family cookout at one of our relatives house, and after eating, we all sing "happy birthday" to Lilly and eat birthday cake.  Then we pack up and head for home, stopping at Lilly's grave on the way to leave her a gift and send up balloons to her in heaven.

Obviously only doing that for two years in a row does not make it a set in stone tradition.  But it is a routine that gives us comfort.   And last week, when Hurricane Arthur threatened to change these plans, I was quite thrown off.

I bought the metal patriotic owl for Lilly's birthday this year, to take to her grave
After a number of discussions, weather map watching on the computer, and some prayer, we decided to make the trip as usual.  But we didn't decide that until Thursday morning.  Which meant one thing was already not following our traditions pattern.  I had not made the traditional angel food cake I had made the past two years.

At breakfast that morning I told the family about the cake issue and said I could just make it when we got back home the evening of the 4th.  Tabby spoke up and was adamant that we have a cake with the relatives because "that's what we've always done!"   As we discussed it, I realized that the cake tradition was Tabby's favorite part of the Lilly's-birthday-tradition.  Frank said we could buy a cake.

So off we went.  First stop:  bought 4 balloons at the Dollar Tree in Washington.


Next stop:  Gingerbread Bakery & O'Neals Snack Bar in Belhaven to meet my mother-in-law for lunch.  YUM.  My sister-in-law seriously makes the BEST double cheeseburger I've ever had.  Tabby can't get enough of her vegetable beef soup.  The boys devour her chicken chunks  And if only we could eat every dessert she had for sale ....

Lunch was the same tradition.  But what followed after was different!  We helped prepare the place in case the coming hurricane hit hard.  (Last time there was one, water came inside and was standing several feet high.)

Solomon outside Gingerbread Bakery
Next we stopped in the local Food Lion to buy a birthday cake.  It originally had a variety of bright colored candies on top.  Frank had the idea of replacing them with red and blue M&Ms, to make a red-white-blue cake.  Here is what the cake looked like after I did just that:

I wrote "Lilly" with a gel icing pen
That evening, the hurricane hit.  But it wasn't bad.  It was thunderstorms with high (but not terribly high) winds.

The Fourth of July parade in Belhaven had already been canceled and rescheduled for Saturday.  That was rather disappointing that the parade part of our tradition wasn't going to happen as usual.  We found things to do at my mother-in-laws house instead:




Lunch was at my sister-in-laws house and we had cake after.  Tabby lit the candles and Hunter blew them out.  Tradition.


Next we went to Lilly's grave.  I staked her owl down and tied the butterfly birthday balloon to it.


Then I found out Hunter's favorite part of the Lilly birthday tradition.  Watching his balloon for her go "up up up."



As for me, I was just happy that we got to be at Lilly's grave.  I like to check on it and clean it up.  I was surprised to find that the pink spring tree I had left for her in March looked awful.  The ornaments were all bloated and warped, and the tree was no longer pink but silver.  Yuck.  It was NOT pretty for my pretty little girl.  I'll add that to my list of what does not work for a grave decoration.  Hopefully the owl will last until fall:


Traditions.  There can be so much comfort in them.

But I have learned, this time around, that I need to be prepared to change them if necessary!

"May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant." - Psalm 119:76