Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday

We pulled off the corny act today, all dressed up matching, but when else but Easter can we do that?

The girls' dresses were done in plenty of time! Though I will admit I had to redo the lace and rose on the baby's at the last minute on Saturday afternoon, and stitched the rose back on in the car on the way to church. That last part reminded me of Mom: after nagging her to at least get started on my wedding dress, she snapped back, "Have any of you girls ever gone to a dance, much less her own wedding DRESSLESS?!" As usual, she was right, and I nagged no more, showing up to my wedding in a gorgeous gown she made for me.

The weather in Austin was gorgeous today, despite the gloomy forecast. Even though it was windy, and not as much cloud cover as I was hoping for, we got some photos that don't make me want to cry. Almost. As the mother and photographer, I try too hard and make it not so much fun.

Levi and Troy got matching new white shirts with navy pants and orange ties, as if they didn't look enough like age-disparate twins already. I wore my navy floral skirt with white jacket and Photoshopped orange shirt (it's really a dark coral red, but hey, it matched one of the dot colors on the dresses! And everyone's Photoshopped-on heads to get one decent group shot will match the shirt, at least.) Julia and Livia loved their new white shoes, and Levi said, "Daddy and me look sharp!"
For a closer view of the girls' dresses, see my sewing site here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Grief is an odd thing: you feel what you feel whether it’s logical or “kind” or even appropriate. I’ve always thought I should let myself progress through any feelings I have during a grief phase as it helps me get over it faster! My mother is gone, and I needed to get what I wanted, something to make me happy, a brother for my son, and I didn't get it.

We struggled with infertility after our first was born, as have my sisters, so I well know what a blessing any child is, no matter the gender or even the health status! And yet, illogical as it is, I still feel “It’s too soon, I wanted a brother for Levi, etc, etc,” coupled with the “count your blessings, you have a boy already, etc, etc.”

My husband had a blessing years ago that said some things that really made me think we’d have 2 sons, and we have always both felt strongly about having 5 kids. I didn’t want another one and neither did he, but we both felt something pulling on us to have another, and I honestly thought it was because it was our other son “calling” to us. Coupled with my mom’s death, it’s hard to look on the bright side. Her passing has really shaken my faith in general, and I'm having a very difficult time seeing any sort of plan or reason to anything. When God doesn't bless us with our desires, It would be easier for me to say, "It's God's will," but I have no idea how I feel about that, if there is a "will" other than my own directing my life.

Here’s a scrapbook page I made after the first ultrasound, before we knew the gender, when I was trying to come to terms with the “too soon,” and now I’ll soon get over the “wrong gender!” I frankly was much more sad about our 4th child being another girl, I got over it. This one being a girl doesn’t bother me nearly as much. I’m just confused! Given my mom’s history we always thought I’d have my hysterectomy after this baby, my doctors all advise it before age 35, I do not want 6 children, we are done having children. I don’t mind at all that this one is another girl, I am not grieving at having a girl. I love little girls! I am just grieving we won’t ever have another boy! If that makes any sense…

" What were we thinking? Apparently not clearly enough!
I always wanted 5 kids, I think he did too. But now?
In the end, it doesn’t make much difference.
It would have been in a few months anyway.
Somehow, it’s so easy to forget when it was difficult,
to take for granted the miracle, to put too stringent
restrictions on when, what gender, where, how.
But in the end, it doesn’t make much difference.
You are ours now. We are yours. You belong to our hearts
and we forever to yours.
So how can we quibble when we see the miracle?
The beat of your tiny heart that has already captured us,
the waving of your tiny arms as if to say hello already,
the kicking of infinitesimal feet reminding me you are there.
In our hearts, forever."

Monday, March 17, 2008

One more girl

We're expecting another baby! We had our 20-week ultrasound today and found out it's another girl! That makes 4 girls and 1 lonely boy in the mix. We'll have to make a lot of pink walls and fluffy dresses, and some frugal weddings!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sewing with Mom

I haven't been sewing in awhile: I recently moved all my machines and my big cutting table into the computer room (left all the supplies in the other room, not enough space in here), hoping to be more productive near my computer and movies, and especially near Troy.
So far I've done only mending and a few small projects, which is definitely progress. I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to do another project with my mom, as we always spoke on the phone about what we were working on and trading advice. It seemed every project I'd call her with a question, even if she couldn't answer it (we work on very different types of sewing). I keep trying to pick up the phone and call her again, realizing she's not there, so I'm not sure if the decision to do a project "with her" is more painful or cathartic.
When we were little, she would put all 3 girls in matching dresses, usually different colors, and people would ask if we were triplets! She had some fun stories of making dresses of the same color and getting the pieces mixed up as they weren't exactly the same size, and that's why she changed to the same style and fabric in different colors! I have 3 daughters, and even though their age spreads leave no doubt they are not multiples, with Easter coming up making 3 matching dresses seemed only appropriate as my first project since Mom's death. It's almost like we're doing it together, and I'm definitely doing it in her honor.
Only one week left until Easter, and the dresses are well on their way, so I should be finished in plenty of time if my motivation doesn't abate. I'm excited to zip them up and do a photo shoot with my 3 little darlings. As for Troy, Levi, and me, I think we'll just try to get something that doesn't completely clash! Levi's Easter outfit is definitely coming from a store, though!
(see March 23 post for finished dresses, or my sewing site here.)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

In memory of my mother

Dee Satterlee Giles
June 1943-Feb 16 2008

On Valentine's Day, I threw a bunch of dirty laundry into my suitcase, snatched up my two littlest kids, and with a "hot off the press" same-day air ticket, rushed to Seattle to see my mother. I should have had a bag packed and ready because I knew her health was poor, that her cancer had taken over, but the speed of her decline that last week surprised all of us. Each day she seemed to progress exponentially worse, so on Monday when we last spoke there was talk of me not coming until March, and by Wednesday, when we had scheduled to speak again, she was unable to carry on a conversation and could hardly sit up when carried out of bed.
Friday morning I hurried over early, hearing that mornings were her most lucid times because she wouldn't be on any painkillers, but after 13 hours unmedicated she was hardly communicative, opening her eyes only a few times, and I'm doubtful she had even a short term memory of my presence. She answered my questions properly, seemed to know who I was, recognized my children's names, even made a few comments on what I was wearing, but it was all confused with her own mindless ramblings and nonsensical statements. I returned 3 times that day to a progressively worsened state: by lunchtime she was silent and appeared unconscious, after dinner was highly agigated and mumbling, and even making out a few words here and there was difficult. We attended to her until after midnight: she had become very dehydrated from lack of food and water, refusing our offers and being unable to swallow well. The hospice nurse visited Friday morning saying that was the last sign of "active dying" and she did not expect to see us again. At that, Mom interrupted her own mumbling to call out, "I don't want to die," and then returned to her other conversations.
That night, as she became more agitated, we rubbed chapstick into our mother's parched lips and nostrils, sprayed her mouth with a hydrating mist, and even near the end she would still respond to our commands of "open your mouth," or "do you want more?" between her mumbles and chatter. She moved very little those last two days, and the fluid being stolen from her blood and organs by the cancer cells was oozing into her tissue causing blisters, especially on her legs and feet. It was unclear whether she would die from cardiac arrest having no more blood pressure, or respiratory arrest from the pressure of the fluid on or in her lungs. After midnight, everyone was in the living room talking except me, as I had fallen asleep on the sofa near her. She woke me every so often with talking, and the last thing I heard her say before everyone came back in and all the sisters left was a slow moan of, "I just want to die." She had resisted death so hard, she feared it, felt she had not been able to fulfill all her earthly desires. Even near the end she seemed so unaware that was why she had come home from the hospital. I had always told her at the end, in pain, she wouldn't fight so hard, but it took almost until the last moments for her to surrender the fight.
After we left my brother and brother-in-law remained to care for her overnight. He arose every hour to give her morphine drops, dreading she might be in pain and unable to ask for relief. By 6:30 Saturday morning I received a call from my brother that Mom's breathing had "changed" and we should hurry over. No one made it: she passed away at 7:05am on February 16 at age 64 after a 6-year battle with ovarian cancer.
Her passing has left a hole in my soul. I found the past 2 years I purposely refrained from building any type of routine around her, like not calling at any particular time, or even resisting the urge to call knowing that someday I'd have to get used to not being able to talk to her. It was silly, like a pulling away so I wouldn't miss her so much in my daily life, and I knew I'd be sorry I didn't spend more time on the phone or sending photos to her. When Troy's mom moved to China, the first time I couldn't call her for some silly little question settled on me suddenly and heavily with the realization that someday my own dear sweet mother would be gone. No more phone calls, no more emails, no more questions, no more answers, no more sharing. Just gone.
My children have almost no recollections of her: Taya remembers a few visits, Levi and Julia will remember nothing, and Liv's only memory will be of her ill and unconscious grandmother whom she kissed on the cheek during a momentary visit to her room the day before she died.
My mother could do anything she wanted with an incredibly keen intelligence coupled with a drive and passion for learning and creating. In fact, we used to tease her the only thing she couldn't do was sing no matter how hard she tried. She took up the piano at age 50 and was actually pretty good, sewed amazing clothing and quilts and embroidery, even tiny 6" doll clothes after she nearly completely lost the dexterity in her fingers. She decorated cakes, wrote poetry, cooked, drew, painted, went to school, substitute taught, worked in nursing, knitted, crocheted, drafted and sold patterns, a computer whiz, and took up nearly every pursuit that caught her eye. We used to call her the walking dictionary and would never play any word games with her because she could snatch seemingly balderdash words from the air that were always found in the dictionary when we challenged her. We accused her of cheating, of taking advantage of our trust, but we never found a word she "made up" that was actually made up! She knew the answer to any question off the top of her head and could help us with any subject or level of homework we could bring to her. She was incredibly self motivated, never needing pushed to accomplish anything, even as a child, yet amazingly fickle moving from one project to another as the desire drove her. She did what she wanted, when she wanted, and did it with excellence.
Yet through it all, she was a wife and a mother to 8 children! Her real dream, her true lifelong passion was to have a large family, despite her family's discouragement. She cooked mountains of food and washed mountain ranges of laundry and dishes. She put up with our whining and our bickering, teaching us to control our impulses and look to the future, always keeping our highest priorities in view. She taught us about faith and trust in the Lord, about resisting temptation, and about dedicating our lives to something more than petty or selfish desires. She taught us to be good spouses and parents. She had faults, many of them, which unfortunately provided us with too much entertainment, but overcoming all she taught us to forgive ourselves for our own faults by never allowing her own to slow her down, always striving to improve.
Her legacy is not only left by the items she created, but stored in us, her family, in memories and values and lessons and love.
We miss you, Mama. Go with excellence as you always have.