Category Archives: Graham {from the Gray House}

Five Minute Friday | Breathe

Ready, set, go…

Last year, I was tucking Graham into bed when he started a difficult conversation. One I wasn’t yet ready to have. We had just lost Laurence and Flannery the day before. 

“Mama, I’m so sad our babies died, but I’m glad I get to sleep in yours bed. How long we gonna be so sad? And can we be sad and happy? Cuz I wanna be sad sometimes and happy lots of times. Will we get babies again in your belly? Can we be mean to people? Cuz I wanna be mean to people. Am I still your favorite boy? I’ll be okay if you get more favorite boys. I’m so happy you aren’t in da hospital again tonight cuz I missed you last night. Someday you gotta tell me about the dead baby surgery. Da hospital was pwobly too quiet, huh?”

“We will be sad when we need to be sad and happy when we want to be happy. We can be sad as long as we want to be, as long as we don’t hurt ourselves or be mean to other people. That’s not being sad, that’s other things that aren’t showing God’s love to ourselves and others. I don’t know if we get to have other babies in my belly. But I love all five of you so much! And, yes, you’re still my favorite boy. And I’m so happy I’m home with you. The hospital was very quiet, which was nice. But I missed all our noise.”

“You forgotted da surgery part.”

“When you are older.”

How that was exactly one year ago yesterday, I’m not sure. Time is so strange when you’re 33-going-on-34. 
We made it through the anniversary of the twins’ birth and death. I had been dreading February 1st, but it ended up being easier than I thought it would be. Partially because my kids kept me completely busy and I barely had time to think about it. And partially because I decided to place zero expectations on myself. 

I didn’t make plans to commemorate it at all. No tattoos. No visit to the cemetery. No “one year later” post. Just regular life. Just breathing in and out. 

My word for 2017 is breathe. For whatever that’s worth. It came to me at the very end of December. 

Yesterday, in conversation with Nicole, while our kids were running through the house laughing and screaming, I realized I had found my word for 2017. Nothing profound. But the last several years have been more difficult than not, and I’m choosing to focus on the basics in the new year. Breathing in my husband. Breathing in my children. Breathing in new baby smell. Breathing in friendship. Breathing in the Holy Spirit. “Nicole, I think next year is my year to breathe.” She nodded, then we cleaned some weird orange goo off Graham and Thatcher’s hands, changed Adelaide’s diaper, hunted for Chandler’s missing drink, and averted a near disaster as Bess stuck her head into a birdcage. I was breathing in motherhood, and I felt alive.

I breathed my way through February 1st, the anniversary of losing two children. And I breathed my way through February 2nd, the anniversary of coming home from the hospital empty-handed. And I breathed my way through preschool drop-off and pick-up. I breathed my way through homeschool and pottytraining and dishes and laundry and calling in prescriptions. And I breathed my way through making room for another baby. A baby brother. Who probably eased some of the pain on February 1st. But in the words of Graham, “Getting a new baby doesn’t make me miss our dead ones less. I wish we could have all free of dem!” We’re all breathing our way though pregnancy after losing children. One breath at a time. 
Time’s up.

Join me over at katemotaung.com with your own five minutes of raw and unedited thoughts on the word “breathe”…a safe place to share. 

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Grahamism | Bad Things

“Mama, I know da Bible says God will use all da bad fings in our lives to turn em to good. Like in Joseph’s life. How his brovvers meant harm, but it ended up good. And how Moses was gonna get killed when he was a baby, but he got picked up by Pharoah’s daughter and saved God’s people. But I don’t fink it counts so much when you are just doing stupid fings. Cuz Samson was always just doing stupid fings he wasn’t supposed to do, like loving women he wasn’t supposed to love, and breaking all da fings God said not to do. Even dough Samson used his last strengf to destroy wicked Philistines, he kinda spent his whole life backwards. He made lots of bad choices for himself. So I fink da working good fings from bad fings doesn’t count if you keep marrying bad ladies who you know are bad. Dat should be in da Bible or somefing. ‘Do not expect God to make good fings come from marrying bad ladies.’ Dis is just da fings I fink about when I’m not trying to figure out how to be a real life Mario or how Black Holes work or how I’m gonna make mine own turkey dinner when I can’t use da oven yet.” 

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Grahamism | Thankful For…

“I’m fankful for LIFE! Dat God gives us life, even before anyone can see us in a Mommy’s belly. And we can live fowever if we believe all da verses in da Bible about it! God gives us life from da beginning to da end!”

I was feeling guilty that this year’s Thankfulness Project was so low key. But what a beautiful reminder that truth doesn’t need pomp. Just a pumpkin. And a Sharpie. 

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I’ll Be The Waiter!

Me: “Daddy says we’re going to a restaurant! Let’s get our shoes on and be ready when he gets here!” 

Graham: “Yay! Were pretending restaurant tonight! Let’s get fings ready in da kitchen! I love when we do restaurant!”

Me: “We’re going to a real restaurant tonight! Let’s get our shoes on!” 

Bess: “I be the chef! I help Daddy make food! I love pretend restaurant!” 

Me: “I know we pretend restaurant a lot, but tonight Daddy is taking us to Cheddars! We are eating at a real restaurant tonight! Let’s get our shoes on. He’s almost home!”

Graham: “I’ll be the waiter! I love being the waiter! Let’s go get the restaurant ready before Daddy gets home!”

Me: “Does anyone understand that we need shoes? Daddy is taking us in the van to Cheddars! Please put on your shoes!”

Bess: “I make menus! You pick pizza?”

Me: “I give up. Adelaide, are you ready to go to a restaurant?”

Adelaide: [crawling to the door] “EAT! GO! EAT! READY!” 

Me: “One down. Two to go!” 


We had such a fun time! It’s our new October 31st tradition. The restaurant was pretty empty. Our service was amazing! Paxton, a lovely young lady, was so attentive and conscientious of Adelaide’s needs. She even brought treat bags to the kids. Tiny candy for Adelaide, allergen-free candy for Bess, and ‘big boy’ candy for Graham. 

Cheddars is one of our go-to restaurants when we do eat out, because Bess has no issues with their food, Adelaide has plenty of room, and Graham’s extremely loud ‘inside voice’ phases no one in a place so loud. 

What a fun new tradition! Even though we absolutely love our pretend restaurant nights. Our little people are simply the best. 

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Grahamism | Than

Me: “Write the missing number. Jon has 1 more.”

Graham: “One more what?”

M: “It doesn’t say.”

G: “Well, dey should tell us what it is. Is it good or bad?”

M: “We don’t know. They didn’t tell us in this problem.”

G: “Jon has 1 more than who? You can’t just say 1 more. I gotta know the than part. Every more or less gots a than. That’s how English works.”

M: “Jon has 1 more than Max.”

G: “So it’s 16. We don’t know what it is, but Jon’s got 16. Cuz 16 is one more than 15. I can prove it on da number line.”

M: “Awesome work! Ana has 1 less.”

G: “1 less than who? Max or Jon or Mia? It makes a big difference when dey don’t tell me da than! If Ana gots 1 less than Max, it’s 14. If she’s gots 1 less than Jon, she’s got da same as Max. 15. If she’s gots 1 less than Mia, it’s 4.”

M: “Yes, Ana has 1 less than Mia.”

G: “Well, da answer is 4. Dese people really gotta use than in dese problems. I’m not a mind reader.”

Touch√©. 

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Pregnancy After Miscarriage | Semi-Coherent Thoughts

We’re having another baby. We found out in July, before the 6 month anniversary of losing Laurence & Flannery. And my first thought was, “What if I lose 3 babies in one year?” But Graham’s fears about becoming a Hermit-Man taught me some things about myself. Dave and I were equal parts elated and nervous-out-of-our-minds. We decided to keep it between us. 


We needed time to process. I needed to process that I was going to be pregnant on the due date of my dead children. Surreal. Or maybe I wouldn’t be. Maybe we would lose this baby and I’d be having another D & C on their due date. My mind was full of muddled emotions. 

With Graham, I was excited from Day One. With Adelaide, I was excited from Day One. With Bess, I was overwhelmed. Excited, but scared. Would my third baby also have disabilities? How would I handle that? A double wheelchair? How was I going to handle three kids, even if it didn’t have any abnormalities? Pregnancy hormones sent my brain in a hundred directions. 

When I became pregnant with the twins, I was happy and nervous. Because it never felt the same. My body was off. I remember feeling two babies quicken just days before we lost them. One felt strong, one felt weak. And then they were gone. 

This time, I found myself almost unable to celebrate. Still reeling from the trauma of burying my children in February. 

I decided to be proactive. Long gone were the days of showing up at my 8 week appointment and feeling normal. I requested bloodwork. Right away. They squeezed me in. 

One of my best friends dropped everything to watch the kids. Heather bought popsicles and set up a kiddie pool. No questions asked. 


And the first batch of bloodwork was great. 


We announced to family, but decided not to tell Graham. He has always had Baby Fever and I couldn’t put him through that again. We weren’t going to keep anything from him long-term, but wanted to avoid a repeat scenario of Mommy leaving the house pregnant and coming home, well, not. We decided to wait. If the baby died, we would tell him later. That was our plan. But we were starting to feel optimistic. 

Then my second batch of bloodwork came back with issues. There was talk of baby being ectopic. If not ectopic, my uterus was not doing its job to keep the baby. I needed to go on meds right away in order to give baby any chance of surviving the first 3 months. 

Basically, my fears had come true. They scheduled an ultrasound. We were expecting to see a tubal pregnancy or no baby or, my worst fear, a baby who had already passed away. We had family praying, but I told Dave I was keeping my expectations as low as possible. I bawled through church. Praying verses over my growing belly, hidden under my clothes. I cleaned my entire house, because I just knew I was losing my third baby in one year and our LifeGroup would bring food. That’s what LifeGroups do. You live life together. And you bring food when life ends. Our LifeGroup leader came to watch our kids. Knowing we were most likely getting bad news. That’s bravery. 

The day before, I took my first baby bump photo. Decided it was probably the first and last. The only photo from my final pregnancy. We had no idea if there was anything alive in there. 


We went to the appointment. It wasn’t all smiles and peeing in a cup and happy times. We barely talked while we waited. I had been praying Baby would make it, but I couldn’t bring myself to hope for it. We went through the motions and I was literally holding my breath as they put the gel on my belly. I prayed verses over Baby. And then we saw something. With a heartbeat. And she said, “There’s a fetus in the uterus!” 


And I’ve never been so overcome with joy by six clinical words. Dave and I were crying and laughing. Our worst case scenario visit had suddenly done a 180. They did measurements and checked everything: uterus, sac, umbilical cord, and baby. Everything looked exactly the way it was supposed to look. But I’m not naive and I knew there was still a chance for loss. The medication was working, but would it continue to work? We left and I got a Sonic drink. We were still in shock. We went home and had breakfast with Jenny. Our kids running around and playing. All of us just breathing a sigh of relief. 

And that afternoon, we got the call from the fetal specialist reviewing all our images and video. He was more than pleased. We dropped to a 3% chance of loss. 

And that should’ve been the end of my anxiety. But I focused on that 3%. Because pregnancy changes after miscarriage. I was still struggling with the fact that we would most likely have a child in our arms on Resurrection Sunday. But we might not. 

Graham was getting really suspicious of my growing midsection, but I didn’t want to tell him. And I tried to hide my belly from him. “I know you and Daddy are keeping a secwet fwom me.” Bess started talking to my belly and said she had a Baby Brother in there. 

On August 25th, I went to see my hair stylist. And she said something that changed me. “Lyndse, you could lose this baby. We can all lose babies. But if you don’t, and you’ve spent your whole pregnancy dreading the loss, you could be holding a baby in April, but full of regret from never celebrating your last pregnancy. Celebrate. And you’ll have good days and bad days, but live the days. Don’t regret not living them.” 


So we decided to go public that weekend. On the twins’ due date, we announced that we were having another baby. On the last Friday in August, I mourned two children and celebrated another. 


We were blessed with calls and messages and congratulations from so many people. Some people didn’t congratulate us. At all. Either dealing with fertility issues or loss or just didn’t care. I chose to focus on the people who joined us in celebration. They were the same people who had been there during our grief, and I was blessed by their commitment to mourn when we mourned and dance when we danced. Family, friends, and people we’ve never met. They joined us in praying over this Baby. 

We told Adelaide. She asked for fries. She’s definitely my daughter. 


Then we announced to Graham and Bess when they returned from a sleepover at Grandma’s house. It was something I will treasure always. 


Graham’s excitement and smiles. His questions about the twins’ death and this baby’s chances at life. “Mommy and Daddy can’t promise, but everything is looking good with this baby.” 

Bess was too tired. Proclaimed she didn’t want to be a Big Sister. But changed her tune about 40 minutes later and hasn’t stopped talking about the new baby. 


Everyday, Graham asks if we’ve lost the Baby yet. I hate that my 6-year-old says yet. Expecting loss. I keep reminding him that we celebrate. We can’t know exactly what will happen. 

Today, I went for another follow-up appointment. We were checking to make sure the medication was still doing its job. And I saw my baby kicking and moving and the heartbeat was thumping away. 


And everyone was so happy. Nurses were congratulating me. And I wanted to put that 3% out of my head. But then they said I needed to stay on the medication longer, just to be safe. “We’re not taking any chances.” But I fill the prescription and I keep celebrating. No matter what happens, I’m celebrating my last time carrying life in my womb. Pregnancy after miscarriage is a whole new world. And I thank the person who thought to put a box fan in the OB room. Bless that person forever. 

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The Ballew Orchard | My Unedited Thoughts On Our Due Date


When I was a child, I moved 13 times in 16 years. At our last house in Colorado, I planted a rose bush by the mailbox. I thought I could will us to stay put with those roots. Everything else I had ever grown was for a single season. Gardens full of fruits and vegetables that only lasted for so many months, before plowing them under. But the rose would ground us. 


And three years later, I said goodbye to that rose. And moved from magnificent Colorado to muggy Missouri. In an August heatwave. And I hated my life. I told the rose I would move back when I was 18. Dig it up. Take it to my new Colorado home. But I never moved back. 


I ended up loving Missouri. My birth state. I grew accustomed to the heat and the humidity and the mosquitos and a shocking lack of drivers who understood how to use 4-way stops. I fell in love with the trees and flowers and green everywhere. And I fell in love with my husband. At first sight. 


We bought our house ten years ago, and I wanted fruit trees. But I had this fear that I would plant trees, only to leave them behind. All that work for naught. So I pushed the thought out year after year after year. 


I’ve lived in my home for ten years. Which is twice as long as I’ve lived anywhere else in my life. Dave brought stability and security in a way I never imagined as a child. 


We came home from our honeymoon to this home. We learned we were pregnant with each child in this home. We drove from the hospital to this home. Three times with a newborn babe, and once with a condolence packet from the hospital. 


And that was when I decided this was the year for trees. Ten years. Five children. I was planting an orchard. 


After the twins died, someone anonymously gave me $100 and said I couldn’t spend it on medical bills, gear for Adelaide, or anything for anyone else. It was solely Lyndse Money. So I tithed and spent a solid 24 hours thinking of all the things I could do with $90 whole dollars. 


Earrings, clothes, haircuts, wall art, socks. My list. In that order. And in that 24th hour, I said, “Fruit trees.” And I tucked that money into a zipper pocket in my wallet and it sat there. Through medical debt and curriculum shopping and so many Adelaide needs. It was off-limits. 


I knew Mother’s Day would be difficult. I volunteered us to work in nursery, because I couldn’t stand to be in service when our sweet Pastor acknowledges all the moms who are grieving this year. I’ve always been the proud beaming mom during the part where he talks about what a gift children are. And now I find myself with a foot in each camp. The smiling mom, surrounded by adoring faces. And the weeping mom, with children in a cemetery. 


My children are buried in Mt. Hope. Hope. My word for 2016. For a year that was supposed to bring all things baby and so many joyful moments. And we’ve managed to find that joy buried in grief, but the year felt anything but hopeful. 


For Mother’s Day, I asked my mom to plant trees with me. We took that $90 and ended up with five apple trees, a watering can, pruning shears, flowers, soil, and a rose bush. 


What I realized was this: we could leave this house. Move closer to a children’s hospital for Adelaide. Relocate for an incredible job offer. We could lose this house. It could be flattened by a tornado. Destroyed by fire. But this house is like carrying a child. You don’t know what will happen. Sometimes you carry that baby for 39 weeks and end up with an emergency c-section after almost 20 hours of labor. Other times, you have an uneventful scheduled c-section to deliver a breech daughter who ends up changing your life at her 9-month checkup. And then you vomit every single day with your third. And you go into labor, but choose a c-section, because your track record isn’t so great in the pelvic department. You are surprised with a precocious mite who most likely could have been born without help. But you’ll never know. Other times, you go to the hospital to return empty-handed. Empty-everything.


My house. My trees. My children. I can’t hang onto any of them with tight fists. They could be gone in an instant. All I can do is enjoy the time I have. We don’t know how long our kids will live, but we still do the mundane with the majestic. I could argue that we don’t know Adelaide’s life expectancy, so I’m going to keep her home and enjoy every second of her life. But I don’t. I have hope that she can learn new things everyday. I send her off to school, where they try to teach her to hold a crayon. Because holding a crayon isn’t a necessary life skill. But it’s worth knowing. Or at least having the opportunity to try to know it. And I don’t spend 12 hours a day holding Graham and Bess, even though they could both die at anytime. Because they need clean clothes and vegetables and books. We spend our days doing a hundred little things and a few big things. 


And we planted trees. Not because I have the assurance of seeing them grow and bear fruit, but because I don’t have that assurance. None of us do. We planted trees to remind me everyday that it’s fleeting. But still worth it. There’s still hope in a 2016 that started with fireworks and onesies and then sputtered to an August Friday of remembering two children gone before they could breathe their first air. 


Five trees. One for each of my children. My Mother’s Day gift to myself. A gift I’ve wanted for most of my life. But too afraid to risk loving something only to lose it. But February 1st showed me that I had done it and survived. I had lost something worth more than any tree. Any house. Anything this world offers and screams, “You want this! Go buy it!” I lost life. Children. 


And Flannery’s tree has apples. I think they will be eaten by a bug this year and that’s fine. It’s fitting for her first fruits to be taken. It’s not the end of it all to lose some apples. Maybe it’s what I need this year. For Flannery’s tree to just be. But the trees are all staked and pruned and watered and lovely. This balance between caring for something that needs me and letting it just exist. Teaching a child to read, but mostly letting him play. Putting her in diapers just a bit longer, but making her put her pink cowgirl boots on the right feet. Taking a daily school photo before I push a wheelchair through double doors, when I would rather just soak her up every minute she’s awake. 


I ordered tags for the trees. From a college friend’s wife. Because each tree belongs to one of my children. Graham mentioned that he wanted to take apples from Laurence & Flannery’s trees to their cemetery bench next year and have a picnic. I agreed that this was a fabulous idea. But I wanted to give the caveat: if the trees make it. And then hoped that the trees weren’t lost to disease or drought or neglect. Because Graham has lost so much this year. A six-year-old who fell in love with a Baby Bump. But I need to teach him that we take risks. We love when we aren’t given any promise that it will be returned. We speak to a girl who may not answer back. We replace kitchen cabinet doors when a house may not be standing next week. And we learn addition facts and how to use a screwdriver and brush our teeth. And we continue to love babies in the womb, even though there is always a chance to lose them. And even if you do, you still get up from that hospital bed and brush your teeth. And you brush them everyday. Even on August 26th. Because life keeps going. 

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Graham and the Hermit-Man

“Mama, I’m so worried I’m gonna gwow up to be a hermit-man and never have fwiends and never leave my house.” 

This started a 5 hour obsession with becoming a hermit. Tears, constant questions, and incessant reassurance that he would never become a hermit. 

“HOW DO YOU KNOW? You can’t know! You don’t know mine future!”

“Graham, if you try to become a hermit, Daddy and I will stop you. We will get you out of your house.”

“What if you ares dead? You aren’t gonna live fowever, Mama!”

“Bess will not allow you to become a hermit.”

“What if all mine family is dead? What if all mine fwiends are dead? What if I CAN ONWY BECOME A HERMIT?”

“Graham, that is not going to happen.”

“IT MIGHT! You don’t know mine future!”

And it went on for hours. And I gave him rational answers. I gave him Scripture. I asked for help from God to deal with the barrage of hermit-man-related questions. 

And as we were praying at bedtime for God to protect Graham from a life as a hermit, he looked at me and said, “It could happen. Dey are weal. People choose to be all alone and have no fwiends and become hermit-people. What den?” And I said, “Then it happens. And you figure out how to not be one. You pray, ask your family and friends for help, and you move through it.” 

And he was content with that answer. 

We can’t get those minutes back. The Hermit-Man tears can’t be uncried. 

And then it hit me in the face. 

I am Graham and the Hermit-Man. 

My ‘what ifs’ aren’t as far-fetched, but I’m a 6-year-old crying in God’s lap. “What if we get pregnant again and we lose that baby, too? It happens. It happens to lots of people!” And God says, “Then it happens. And we figure it out. You talk to me…I’m always here…and you ask your family and friends for help. And you move through it.” 


Photo credit

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Graham Reviews “The Secret Life Of Pets” (Contains Spoilers! It’s Mostly Spoilers.)

“I went to see Da Secwet Life of Pets wif Mema, Aunt Kita, DJ, Jasmine, and Annaliese. 


It’s about a dog named Duke who has a good home when he was a puppy, but den his guy dies. But he doesn’t know he’s dead. So a lady gets Duke, but she’s alweady got Max. Max wants to help Duke find da guy dems don’t know is dead. Dey gotta have a weason to leave da house cuz da lady is always working. I don’t know her job. I don’t fink it matters to da story. But Max and Duke eat sausages from a sausage factory and da bad bunny is doing bad fings, but turns good at da end. I don’t want to ruin da movie, but Duke goes back to Max’s house to live. Da owner isn’t old, but she isn’t a kid. She’s just a lady who works. I don’t fink we knows lots about her. It’s mostly about da pets and all da fings dey do. It was a long movie, but I liked it. Mostly cuz I got to eat at a restaurant when we was done.


If I was gonna get a pet, I would tell him his old owner was dead so he wouldn’t run away. But dat’s how movies go. You gotta have pwoblems to solve. Now I’m gonna sing for you da Mario 3 underground song. It goes like dis: ticka-ticka-ticka <proceeds to sing the entire song>. But Mario 1 goes more like uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh <proceeds to sing the entire song>. Let’s talk about how dey are diffwent and alike.”

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