November 26, 2014

Joe, the Emotional-Shark Boot-Wearing Turkey

Finn's school put on a little Thanksgiving performance yesterday. Each class dressed up in something relating to Thanksgiving (turkeys, Indians, Pilgrims, etc) and would preform a little song about Thanksgiving or act out a little skit. Finn's teachers told me he would be dressed up as a turkey named Joe and that they had been working on a couple songs. Sure enough, he's been signing "Gobble, Gobble, Gobble, Gobble says the Bird" (sung to a similar tune as "If you're happy and you know It) and he would sing (to the tune of "Brother John") "Mr. Turkey, Mr. Turkey, make it fat, make it fat. I am going to eat you, I am going to eat you, just like that. Just like that."

Joe the Turkey
The performance took place in the chapel and when Finn's class walked out front, I crept up front to take some pictures. It rained all day yesterday, but Finn had wanted to wear his rain boots, but it did slow him down a bit climbing up a few rows in the front of the church. Each turkey went around and introduced him/herself and Finn did a great job saying clearly in to the microphone, "I'm Joe," but then they started to sing the "Gobble, Gobble, Gobble" song and stage fright took over. I could see Finn's Disney eyes scanning this big room and all these strangers looking up at him and it just got a little overwhelming for the poor kid. He did see me, but at this point his eyes started to well up with tears and he just covered his face. I was trying to get a cute picture for Miles, but was mostly just staring at him saying, "it's ok, it's ok."

He did manage to turn around and shake his feathers at the end of the song and then his class was done and one of his teachers scooped him up and comforted him which was really wonderful to see.

After all the classes preformed I went and found Finn and asked him if he got a little scared up on stage. He said he did and I told him that it was ok to be scared, it's overwhelming being in front of a lot of people and that I was really proud of him.

We went downstairs and ate some pie that the kids helped make, and then went outside where there were puddles to be stepped in and all was right in Turkey Joe's world again.


November 20, 2014

Heavy Conversations with Little Kids

I recently had a really nice conversation with a new friend here in Savannah who shared with me that her mother had lost a child (a two year old) before she was born and she always felt like she was an inadequate replacement for that child. It really struck me to hear her say that. She went on to compliment the way I parent Mary and Finn despite losing Cale, which really meant a lot, but it really had me thinking about the importance of parenting after loss and how hard it can be.

A big concern of mine is that I do not project my emotions on to my (living) children any more than I normally would, had we not lost Cale. What I mean is that I don't want Finn (and Mary, though I'm starting to see it more with Finn since he's older) to mistake my feelings for their feeling, but at the same time I do think it's important for children to learn empathy and I think part of the way you do that is you have to teach kids how you feel and hope it helps them better understand how they feel.

Our kids will always grow up knowing who Cale is, and helping us celebrate and remember him. When Finn asks to see his pictures, I show him. I don't want Cale to be forbidden or off limits for Finn, but at the same time I don't want to push him to talk about Cale or love Cale in any way that isn't his own.

We have a book, Someone Came Before You, which is a short children's book about a couple losing their baby and going on to have another baby. Finn occasionally will pick it out to read and is becoming more aware at the emotions and the story - "Oh, are they sad?" "Did they miss their baby like you did?" things like that. He will ask me if we were sad when baby Cale died and I will tell him yes, we were very sad and once when my friend Amy asked him how he was he said he was "sad because we lost baby Cale." Which, don't get me wrong, I think is very sweet, but I honestly think that was more a reflection of a recent conversation and not really him being sad or feeling like he was missing Cale.

About a week ago Finn was flipping through a book we used to read a lot when he was just a new toddler called, What's Up, Duck? A Book of Opposites, and he came in the room to ask me "is that duck sad?"

I said, "yes, he's sad."
"Why is he sad?"
"I don't know. Maybe he's sad because he was naughty or maybe he's sad because he was in time out."
"I think he's sad because he lost his baby duck."

When that occurred we had not been talking about Cale recently so I found it interesting that he associated the duck's sadness with losing a baby. Again, I think it's sweet, but I also want to ensure that he understands that being sad  can be associated with lots of things. And I do I think he grasps that - he will tell me he's sad when he misses mommy or daddy or when he's in time out or that he's sad for other logical (and illogical) reasons.

I recently hung up the sketch of Cale and Finn came over and said, "ohhh, is that baby Cale?"
"It sure is, buddy."
"Is Cale my broder? Did he died"
"He is you brother, honey and yes, he died."
"He's so little."
"He was. He was just a little baby."
"He will grow bigger so he can't die"
"No, sweetie. I wish, but when you die you go bye bye and you do not come back."
"Sometimes you do"
"No, honey, you can't"
"Do you want to go downstairs with me?"

And so we went downstairs and left it at that.

I want to talk about Cale, but don't want to force a conversation on him. I wish so badly Cale could grow bigger so he won't die and I love that Finn asked that question, as heartbreaking as it was.

I just hope that Finn (and Mary) never, ever feel like an inadequate replacement for Cale. But I also don't want them to feel like an adequate replacement either. I want them to know how special Cale was and is and how special each one of them are simply for who they are.


November 11, 2014

Veterans Day {2014}

Several months ago I was driving when Finn randomly said, "when me was a baby, da nice ladies took care of me." He had recently found some pictures of him from daycare, so I knew where his train of thought was going. I said, "yes, honey, when you were a baby, Mommy was in the Army so some nice ladies took care of you while Mommy was at work."

"Mommy was in da Army."
"Yes, sweetie, but now I get to stay home with you."
"And Daddy is in da Army."
"Yes, he is."
"When me's bigger, I can go to da Army too."

I don't remember what my reply was. I think I had a mini anxiety attack and thought, "noooooooo!!!!"

Now that I am a parent I understand the reservations that even my extremely patriotic parents had about me joining the military. But I also know, just as my parents feel, should any of my children decide to join the military I will be extremely proud of them.Of course I never want them in harms way nor would we ever push any type of career on them. But I do hope they do something they are proud of and find satisfaction in and if that happens to be through service to their country, I will fully support that decision.

One day they will understand the significance of Veterans Day. And they will appreciate it in a more personal and meaningful way than most. At least I sure hope they do. But for now, a fun parade with trucks and trolleys and bands and flags will do just fine.

Thank you to all who have served and are still serving.

The old Vets on the front of this train/truck were so cute!
On the phone with our favorite Veteran 
America. Nom. Nom.

November 5, 2014

Mike's Hiking for Heroes

I had a really neat encounter today which is worth sharing/documenting. Yesterday my mother in law called to tell me about a West Point grad and veteran who is hiking one kilometer for every single man and woman killed during the Global War on Terror. His name is Mike and he is doing this to not only honor the fallen, but to raise funds for his charity, Legacies Alive which helps Gold Star Families honor their fallen family member. Legacies Alive helps honor the fallen through support, recognition, memorial funding and dedication, etc.

Mike's journey started in Washington state where he travelled down the west coast to southern California before making the long trek east, all by foot. When my mother in law called, she let me know that Mike was recently in Savannah, just having arrived at the Atlantic ocean and she was hoping if he hadn't left yet, I would be able to link up with him and pass along one of Daren's KIA bracelets. So I got in contact with him and was able to meet up today as he left Savannah heading north to South Carolina.

I had hoped to join him for a mile or two, but the highway he was walking along wasn't exactly stroller friendly, so the kids and I just stopped to visit for a bit instead. Mike was walking with two Gold Star family members who ended up being the parents of a classmate of mine, Sara Cullen, who was killed in a helicopter crash last year. It was special getting to meet them as well.

Mike graciously accepted Daren's bracelet stating he would be honored to wear it for the reminder of his hike which will end in Baltimore at next month's Army Navy game. He also let me add Daren's name to the American flag he carries with him which by the end of his hike will list every single fallen Soldiers name.

If you would like more information about his journey or how to help, please visit his website Mike's Hiking for Heroes or his Facebook page.

I am so glad I got to meet Mike, and so grateful he is helping to honor Daren and all of the fallen.