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I don’t want to do this anymore.

That’s how I’ve felt about this space since my last post in early July.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

There has been so much. So much change. So much transition. So many moving parts these past six months that, recently, the thought of attempting to capture them here has felt daunting, not therapeutic. Overwhelming, instead of celebratory.

Since I last posted, we’ve found new homes for Penelope Pig and our flock of chickens, as part of a much larger picture to simplify our lives and conflicting demands of time and energy.

We’ve spent a full week of summer vacation on Cape Cod without my mother. It was filled with beach lounging, ocean swimming, bridge jumping, corn on the cob eating, movie watching, sand castle building, sand island playing, and sunset boat cruising. So much time in the water and sun. With family. And there was so much joy and memory making, and yet everything is diminished by her absence. Forever, diminished.

We packed up and sold Cartwheel Farm. A decision not easily made, but solidified when we found buyers in under 72 hours of listing. In the name of simplicity and convenience, we needed to let go of our dear farmette. We had to say goodbye to the place where I buried my sweet Ursa, where I last saw and held my mother, the last home in which she ever knew me living

We weathered a week of homelessness in sending the dogs and girls off to my in-laws, while James, Sanderling and I relied on the hospitality of friends, and mentally prepped for our move into our new home.

We moved into our little village, walking distance to school and work and daycare, and most significantly, loved ones, our support network. Upon filling our 1875 Colonial with all of our worldly possessions, James and the girls boarded a boat to Bermuda with their Bermudian great-grandmother and Sanderling and I flew over and met them island-side. A tropical, gorgeous, breathtaking break from our chaotic reality back home.

Sander became a teething, squawky five month old. Courtland turned into a Kindergarten-ready five year old. We marked six months of life without my mother’s.

And now, I sit here typing with breast pumps attached to my chest as I attempt to physically and mentally and emotionally prepare for Sander’s introduction to daycare tomorrow morning. The first of my children to be sent to full time daycare before age one, and a symbolic demarcation of all that has changed in such a short period of time. From the beginning, he has been my anchor, and the thought of being apart from him for an extended period makes my gut turn with nausea. I’m not sure how to weather a day without him by my side, providing perspective and comfort and presence. It is a necessary step in my grief as we prepare for my return to work in September, but for now, I feel raw and exposed and unsettled. I know that he will be fine, social butterfly that he is. It is me about whom I’m concerned.

Last night, I had my first visceral, ugly, hysterical outburst of grief in months. I screamed and sobbed and moaned, “I don’t want to do this any more. Please, I just don’t want to do this anymore.”

And by that I mean, I don’t want to exist in a world without my mother another day, another second. I want this grief to be over. I want this hurt to stop. I want this world without her to no longer be my reality.

The foreverness of it undoes me. Trying to make sense of forever, to wrap my head around that, is so physically devastating that my whole body aches and yearns and mourns. I need my mom. I just need my mom.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

I was called to return to this space thanks to a beautiful, loving email sent by a fellow member of the Dead Parent Club (one of the shittiest clubs to join). It was a reminder that these words can be helpful, not just for me, but for others who are navigating a similar devastating forever.

I may not want to do this anymore, but I can. And I will.

Lake Tour // 2016

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Any creative energy I once had is pretty zapped these days. As if parenting three children, including a breastfeeding baby, weren’t exhausting enough, grief is an entirely different level of trying and tiring. Between the exhaustion and the anti-depressants, my creative mojo is nil. And so, I have little interest in or ability to inhabit this space. I trust my therapist when she says that one day everything won’t feel so devastatingly terrible all the damn time, but for now, I’m moving through the awful as it comes.

On our recent vacation, I opted not to bring our dSLR camera as I knew it would go largely unused. Fortunately, iPhones are pretty darn great at snapping the action, and in two of our destinations, we had friends with great cameras who snapped photos on our behalf.

Here’s a peek at our Lake Tour 2016, right before we head to the coast for some much needed ocean therapy.

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First stop, Lake St. Catherine in Poultney, Vermont. Here, we celebrated the 4th of July with plenty of tubing and swimming and fireworks. It was a house filled with children and adults alike, so the girls had a blast playing with friends, while James and I had the chance to catch up with our own college pals.

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^^Boating and breastfeeding FTW!^^

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We then headed to New Hampshire to Silver Lake. It was a quieter scene, but equally filled with water fun and dear friends.

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^^One morning, my friend Kendra and I attempted some Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga, and I haven’t laughed so hard or had such fun in quite awhile. There was plenty of falling, but also plenty of zen among this absolutely breathtaking scenery.^^

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Next, we stopped off for an afternoon with friends who recently purchased a summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee.

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And finally, we hit the coast of Maine to introduce Sanderling to his great-grandparents. Which was simultaneously wonderful and heartbreaking as he’ll never get the chance to meet his grandmother.

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This photo kills me. I swear we had a great time at York’s Wild Kingdom, despite what the above two images suggest.

“THERE’S ALWAYS MONEY IN THE BANANA STAND!”

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Our final stop was to the Hubble Lighthouse, for Lobster Rolls, as Momar would have wanted. Lobster was far and away her favorite food.

Sanderling // Four Months

My darling Kewpie Doll,

This letter comes nearly a week past your Four Month Birth Day, and that’s kind of a metaphor for life as the third child. While I’m doing my best to keep up with marking and noting your milestones, it’s admittedly far less frequent and detailed as it was for your sisters, particularly your oldest sister. But rather than feel guilty about this, I find myself far more present in your babyhood than I ever was with your siblings. It’s perspective and wisdom that have taught me to slow down, enjoy, and just be in the moment with you. Because it moves far too quickly, and if I don’t stop and take in that delicious baby smell, or the comfort of that soft, fuzzy peach head, or the way you gaze up at me with those insanely blue eyes and greet me with those big, open-mouthed, drooly grins, it’ll be gone before I blink.

You’ve gone from being a grunty, wrinkly, cross-eyed infant, to a strong, social, busy baby. You grab with such intensity, often causing your female house mates to lament the epic fistfuls of hair that find their way into your grasp. You roll from tummy to back and back to front, and hold your head with such steadiness for a babe of your age. You arch and kick and flap and it’s clear that you are one adept and strong little one (little is relative, given that you are off the charts for height, but that’s no surprise given your genetic history). Which makes you all the more capable of handling the onslaught of hugs and squeezes and cuddles from your well-intentioned but overly-enthusiastic second sister. Both of your sisters love you so much, and they often quell your cries far faster than mommy or daddy. They coo and smile and sing and dangle toys and find as much joy in you as you so clearly find in them. It is so deeply meaningful for me to witness your connection and bond to one another, and my only wish is that you all continue to bring comfort and happiness to each other throughout your lives.

We took you on our first road trip as a family of five this past week. We visited friends at their lake houses in Vermont and New Hampshire, and then capped off the trip with a stop along the Maine Coast to meet your great-grandfather. While we’ve hit a bump in sleep thanks to the unwelcome four month sleep regression, you were amazingly adaptable as we dragged you from house to house. You road on boats so your sisters could go tubing or your daddy could go canoeing. You saw your first fireworks. You delighted everyone with your raspberries and giggles.  You’re like a cartoon character, your face is so very expressive like your dad’s. And it never ceases to amuse and bring smiles, even when I may be feeling low or having a hard grief day.

Staying at your great-grandfather’s nursing home for an evening was particularly challenging for me, as I couldn’t help but feel resentful that you get to meet him, and yet will never meet your Momar. Being surrounded by a community of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s made me ache with yearning and disappointment and anger. How is it possible that I’ll never know your grandmother as an old woman? How unfair and cruel it all feels.

But you have a way of pulling me from my darkest thoughts and shining light when I need it most. Our country needs so much of that right now. It is a scary time, both personally and nationally, and I’ve felt such anxiety about the state of the world in which I’ve welcomed you. But everyday, you and your sisters are a bit of hope and light and goodness that my life, this world, so desperately require. Thank you for continuing to be my anchor in the storm.

Happy Four Months, my Sanderling.

143 Mama

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Ballerina Ladybug

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This weekend we watched our recent preschool grad dance in her inaugural ballet recital. She, with an array of other 3 and 4 year olds, danced on stage in lady bug costumes and stole the audience’s hearts with the level of adorableness. As I said yesterday, this kid loves to perform. And she, along with her fairy godsister, won the award for “Dance Excellence” in her class. I have a feeling that that just means that she is enthusiastic about dance and follows directions well (she’s only four after all), but it made both the recipient and her mama proud. Here they are pictured together almost exactly three years apart. Age 1 versus age 4.

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My dad and sister and my mom’s dearest friend from childhood drove up for the performance, and while my heart ached from my mother’s absence, I was grateful to have this grouping of family together. While it will never be the same without her, we are all trying to celebrate and enjoy one another whenever the opportunity presents, as she would have wanted.

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Preschool Graduation

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Courtland graduated from preschool two weeks ago, and it was as adorable and as heartwarming as one expects such things to be. She wore the dress that Sunny wore to her preschool graduation, a gift from my mother. They sang songs, including a tune in Spanish, as they’ve been taking weekly lessons from a classmate’s mother all year. Courtland, ever our performer, was so very enthusiastic about the chance to sing for a crowd.

Our little bear is all ready for Kindergarten!


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^^Her siblings dressed in their finest for the occasion.^^

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Father’s Day // 2016

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I am feeling especially grateful for these kind, caring, loving, generous men in my life who are so very present in the lives of their children. And my heart extends extra tenderness to those for whom today is particularly painful. These holidays are raw and lonely and heartbreaking for many, and I do not take for granted how fortunate I am to be able to celebrate my own father and the father of my children, two men who have taught me so much about love and partnership and commitment to family.

All I can say is thank you for all the times you kept seeing me until I was big enough to see me myself.

I love you, Dad. You have always been there for us when we’ve needed it most, and we will always be there for you. We are so lucky to call you our Doda. Mom would be so proud of your care-taking and nurturing and generosity with your children and grandchildren during these life-altering months. I know it’s not the same without her, but we need you more than ever. 143. Always.

And James, there will never be proper language to capture the gratitude and love that I feel. These past four months you have demonstrated the depth of your love in capacities previously unknown. I found myself re-reading our wedding vows the other night, and you have truly gone above and beyond those words that we promised each other nearly eight years ago. This in particular spoke to me.

Each day, I will choose to love you when I wake, I will choose to love you as we fall asleep, and through all the uncertainties of the future, and the pressures of the present, I will love you.

I will give my deepest care, compassion and understanding, my constant comfort, all my strength and support, all my joy and happiness, to make your life more beautiful.

I will celebrate your triumphs; guide you through life’s stumbles, my hand in yours.

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Sanderling // Three Months

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My beguiling Three Month Old,

You are our ray of sunshine. Our cheeks hurt from smiling back so unabashedly at your constant stream of open-mouthed, rapturous grins. You are on the brink of the giggles and that is only going to amplify the joy and happiness you so readily bestow upon our household. Your bath time routine of stomps and splashes and coos with Daddy and PINK HIPPO! are arguably the zenith of your joy each day. In the face of our grief, you are our balance. Our light. Our anchor. And you radiate that light outward to those we greet in public – the baristas, pharmacists, colleagues, friends, teachers, yogis, darling elderly gentlemen, are all so smitten with your sweet smiles of connection and contentment.

This precious ensemble arrived from a beautiful French knitwear company, Miou Kids, and I can hardly stand how adorably that bonnet magnifies that round, squishy face of yours. Those bally cheeks (just like your Momar’s)! That dimple! It makes your smiles all the more irresistible. If it isn’t already glaringly obvious, I am positively taken with you, my darling. There isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t feel humbled with gratitude and love for your presence in our lives.

Your easy-going nature continues, as you have (for now) mastered sleeping through the night. You go to sleep with ease at bed time. In fact, I often lay you down still awake, and you merrily suck your thumb (we hear great slurping down the hall) until you drift off to sleep. We then don’t hear from you again until the following morning. If a wet diaper or a hungry belly awakes you before 6am, a quick change and/or nurse session is enough to welcome another 2-3 hour stretch of sleep. I cannot fully articulate what a gift this has been, for all of us. To be rested. To not have to stress about long bedtime routines, or prolonged middle-of-the-night feedings, or restless, sleep-deprived children and parents is particularly welcome during a time when life feels so hard and confusing. Thank you for that gift.

While I know that your daddy and I are far more relaxed and comfortable now that this is our third crack at parenting a newborn, it’s also a testament to your adaptable, laid back personality. It makes carting you around to all of your sisters’ extracurriculars, school performances, appointments, rehearsals, shows, etc. a breeze – not to mention the slew of activities and errands you find yourself running alongside your mom and dad daily. Securely discovering your thumb this month has certainly helped you manage self-care when needed. You’ve recently shown a tendency to blow out your diaper mid-errand, so we’ve gotten very skilled at stripping you of poop-soaked clothing in the mini-van. But if that’s the most challenging hurdle I have to face with you these days, I’ll take it. Baby poo stained car seats and all.

We’ve survived the fourth trimester, my friend. Two bouts of mastitis (the engorgement from your epic sleep stretches is to blame for last week’s infection, but again, tough to complain given the reason), a slew of challenging milestones in the wake of your Momar’s passing and your mama’s adjustment to life postpartum unmothered – but we did it. And I can’t imagine having weathered these three months without you curled up against my chest, a puddle of drool beneath your chin, and sweet sighs emitting from those lips that suck on air as you dream. You are an ever-constant reminder to remain in the present. To soak in the current moment. And revel in the love and comfort and gratitude it brings.

How I wish your Momar could see how much I am positively delighting in you. But I like to think of her as your guardian angel, and I trust that she knows, even if it’s just in the security of my own heart.

143 Mama

Shop Sanderling’s gorgeous hand knit outfit from Miou KidsCotton Overalls in Teal; Cotton Moss Bonnet in Sea Foam ; Crochet Booties in Sea Foam

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Memorial Day // 2016

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A few more snaps from our Memorial Day parade adventure in Williamstown. We’ve been keeping busy, falling in to more of a routine with Sander and wrapping up the school year for the girls. James is taking the majority of his paternity leave after the girls are out for summer on June 20th. We’ll have nearly two months off from our usual routine before I return to work after a much needed 6-month leave (death and birth happening congruently sure fucks with one’s world). I continue (and will continue) to feel so so sad, and angry, and confused, and devastated. My mother is constantly at the fore of my thoughts, but I’ve been keeping up with self-care – daily yoga, weekly therapy, and regular dates with friends and loved ones occupy my time with sweet Sander by my side. It’s an antidote to the grief, and I’ve found myself adjusting my perspective and place in the world as I reflect and adapt to my life unmothered. I’m seeking simplicity, in all facets. And being far gentler on myself and those around me.

And these children of mine are ever my reason for facing each day anew with gratitude and love.

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20/52

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“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

Sunny: Looking like such a moody teenager at our local Memorial Day parade. She enjoyed it, I swear. And she’s rocking a festive star tee from my childhood.
Kaki: I adore that American Flag dress, also an Ulmer sister childhood ensemble. My mother was a sucker for anything patriotically spangled.
Sander: Baby’s first parade, wearing a hand-me-down from my boss and his four sons. 

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series visit here.

42 Years

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My parents would have celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary today. I find myself so angry and heartbroken that they don’t get that chance, and yet so deeply grateful and humbled by the strong, amazing marriage they shared over the course of my mom’s lifetime. It’s a rare and precious thing to have a relationship like theirs, and I am so fortunate to have been raised and loved by two people who loved one another as fiercely and deeply and truly as they did.

For their 40th wedding anniversary, I compiled a book my mother wrote about her and my dad titled The Mermaid and The Oceanographer. I added photographs from where the story left off, through their life up until that anniversary. I ended it saying, “Here’s to many, many more happy years!” My heart aches every time I re-read those words with the sting of hindsight.

I hope you know by now, no matter where you are, that the way Life sings through us into the whole, wide world is something like magic & you will always be the reason I’m not afraid to love.  – StoryPeople

Happy 42nd Wedding Anniversary, Mom and Dad.