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Thompson Says

family, fashion, teaching, and everything in between

A lesson from my 4-year-old daughter

Parenting teaches you a lot of things. Like how much you value alone time. How to love unconditionally. What your own parents must’ve felt all the time. How to be overly specific in directions so that no confusion can be possible. Who am I kidding? That last one never happens. But nonetheless, just when you think you have reached adulthood and have all of this wisdom to impart upon the apples of your eye, BAM! They turn around and teach you more than you ever realized they would. This week has brought with it some particularly valuable lessons from my oldest, double-dose-of-independence-daughter, Aubrey.

Earlier this school year, Aubrey had pictures for PreK-4. Excited about the opportunity to dress up and smile pretty, she and I set out on a shopping adventure to find the perfect outfit. And perfect outfit we found- a teal green and white striped turtleneck swing dress with the cutest brown floral belt. She would top it off with her favorite pair of boots. Not only did she have the perfect outfit, she also had the chance to show off her new bob haircut. All was right with the world.

Fast forward one month to the day her pictures came home in her folder. We went out to eat that night as a family, so I had to wait until right before bedtime to see her pictures. I had seen all of her cousins’ beautiful pictures posted on Facebook, so I knew they were sitting at home in her backpack awaiting my oohs and aahs. Imagine my shock when I opened the folder to see the adorable smile I recognized, the perfect teal and white stripes on the turtleneck we had picked, and a foreign plaid headband I had not purchased for her nor planned as part of picture day holding her hair back from her face.

Confused by the added accessory, I called to her and asked why she wore the plaid headband in her picture.

“I wanted to, Mommy.”

Hmmm…okay.

Immediately, I called my sister to ask when retakes would occur. In my mind, she had to take new pictures as the plaid headband messed everything up. After all, I spent $40 on these pictures, and she would forever be remembered in the yearbook as the little girl who wore the headband that didn’t match her outfit…and she possibly stole (I’m still not sure where it came from).

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Now, let me pause for a second to add, she is absolutely beautiful in the picture- mismatched headband or not.  The part that posed difficulty for me was that she had added to our perfectly planned outfit- without asking me.

I think as a working mom, I experience guilt that I probably shouldn’t but do nevertheless. I leave every morning before she gets up and goes to school. We do hair and lay out clothes the night before, but sometimes bedhead happens, and I’m not there to fix it. Sometimes, I get caught up in working late and forget to check her folder, missing the announcement that she is responsible for snack this week, and our pantry is bare. I don’t take her to school or pick her up from school. Working moms often have to miss Thanksgiving parties and Christmas parades and Pumpkin Patch activities and field trips. This school picture was one more reminder that I don’t get to be there all the time.

As our family gathered this weekend as we so often do, the pictures came out and everyone loved Aubrey’s precious smile. What they loved even more was the story behind the headband- how totally Aubrey to find a way to add her own stylistic flair to what Mommy had planned for her. That’s when it hit me. I had been so caught up in the “imperfection” of the picture, I had failed to notice the statement my little one was making. She wanted to wear the headband, so she did. She didn’t give it a second thought. I was the problem in the equation, not her (or the headband).

 

Therefore, no retakes are in our near future. Her pictures are absolutely, perfectly Aubrey.

I would love to say that after this, I won’t stifle her independence ever again, but I don’t think I could make it through that statement with a straight face. However, I am working on it. I am working on understanding that everything doesn’t have to be “perfect” by some arbitrary standards all the time. If I stopped thinking about how many things aren’t “perfect,” I would realize just how many things are.

The Things I Carry

“They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.” – The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

My AP seniors have been reading The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien over the last three weeks.  Teaching the book has brought forward two very major revelations for me:

  1. Stories are our paths to our past. They keep those who have left us alive- not in body, but in spirit.
  2. We all carry so much more than we realize- both tangible and intangible.

Through the course of reading this powerful book, I have stopped to ponder the things I personally carry.

  1. My Aggie ring- a symbol for the countless hours I spent studying and reading and at Northgate with friends and standing during every second of Aggie football games and bleeding maroon and giving t-sips the horse laugh and beating the hell out of our opponent that week and sharing my love and pride for all things Texas A&M
  2. My engagement ring- beautifully designed by my husband and presented on Thanksgiving Day 2009 and blessed in the church on December 4, 2010 forming an unbreakable bond between the two of us ’til death do us part
  3. My two wedding bands- one to represent each of our daughters
    1. Aubrey Murl’s with simple, yet stunning diamonds in orderly rows to match her desire for everything to be according to her plan
    2. Maycee Jo’s with an alternating pattern of round and rectangular diamonds to showcase her big personality that changes with the wind
  4. My wallet with too many credit cards and not enough cash
  5. Sometimes I carry a backpack with me to school filled with everything I need to be a good teacher:
    1. Mechanical pencils
    2. Student papers- some I have graded, most I have not
    3. Annotated copies of what we are reading in class currently
    4. My laptop and charger
  6. Other times I carry an Anna and Elsa backpack with diapers, wipes, and snacks…all the snacks.
  7. The book I’m currently reading- you never know when the opportunity will present itself to turn a page or two
  8. My cell phone in case of emergencies- like when Maycee decides dinner is taking too long at the restaurant and needs a distraction from her screaming.
  9. The lipstick or lip gloss I am wearing that day…and the one from yesterday and the day before.
  10. My sunglasses- when I remember them- because the Texas sun is brutal all year long.

Beyond these tangible items I carry on the daily lie the things I carry that people can’t see.  These are the things that weigh so much more than the physical things I carry, and these are the things that make me who I am- even if some of them are pretty tough to carry.

  1. Mom guilt of whether I am making the right choices for my girls- like the choice not to force my two-year-old to stop sucking her toe or my four-year-old to sleep in her own room.
  2. The haunting loss of our first baby
  3. Sadness that none of my grandparents were alive to see me marry the man of my dreams
  4. Memories of my childhood that fill me with nostalgia that hurts because I can’t ever go back in time
  5. Regret that I didn’t follow my earliest dream into the world of fashion
  6. Embarrassment that I use technology to entertain my girls when I just need a break.
  7. Fear that my parents will not be here forever, and that I haven’t said all I want to say to them yet
  8. Stress from the tiring efforts I put into teaching my students in the best way I know how, all the while worrying that it isn’t enough
  9. Frustration that nothing is ever “done”—there is always something else to do
  10. Immense pressure to not make mistakes—or even worse, not to learn from them

However, the beautiful thing about life is that while I could focus on the heaviness of these burdens I carry with me everywhere I go, I could also focus on the things I carry that warm my heart with love and fill my soul with joy.  Those are the things I gladly carry daily to lead a blessed, fulfilled life that has surpassed my wildest dreams.

  1. The forgiving and unconditional love of my Lord, Jesus Christ, who sees in me imperfect perfection- even when I fall asleep in the middle of my nightly prayers
  2. Thoughtful gestures from my loving husband who has only wanted one thing in the twenty years he has known me- my happiness- even when I complain and whine about my day more than I should
  3. Hugs around the neck and squeaky “I love yous” from the two girls who give me worth and purpose- even after I have put both of them in timeout seven times in a row because my patience has run thin
  4. Protection and guidance from my loved ones in Heaven who watch me daily with pride and compassion
  5. The passionate thirst for knowledge that keeps me reading, writing, and searching with fury and ferocity
  6. A foundation so strong in genuine love- modeled by my parents and siblings who have stopped at nothing to stand behind me every day of my life
  7. Laughter and smiles from my circle of friends who keep me grounded and choose me time and time again, even despite my faults and flaws
  8. Words that float around in my head and spill on the paper allowing me to cope, process, and share
  9. Pride in watching my former students, but forever kids, march into their futures with vigor and confidence, finding their own voices and taking the world by storm
  10. Confidence in knowing that my life has been one filled with many more good times than bad, and gratitude because I am one of the lucky ones
  11. Excitement for what the future holds—brilliance and brightness shining from the numerous blessings coming my way

I hope that you will take the time to read the book by Tim O’Brien about the soldiers of Vietnam and the worlds they lived in before, during, and after the war.  It is such an important book not only to understand the war and soldiers who fought in it, but also to understand humanity and why we must continue to read and tell stories.  While you read it, I encourage you to stop and ponder the things you carry- both tangible and intangible- and search for a newfound appreciation for the life you have been given.

And so I leave you with this quote from The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien:

“…and for all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry.”

 

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.

What I’m loving right now

One of my favorite parts of the day is when I first wake up in the morning and pick out my outfit for the day.  In fact, some mornings, it is the only reason I can muster up the strength to actually get out of bed.  Let’s be real- I am a working mom of two precious, but often exhausting kiddos…ages 4 and 2.  #thismommaistired

Selecting my outfit usually begins with staring at my well-organized closet wondering which pieces will win the war that day.  This pensive period of time is almost always followed by several wardrobe changes.  After about three trips between my closet and the full length mirror, my husband shoots me “that look.”  The look that says, “Not again.  I just don’t get it.  What was wrong with the first outfit?”  Some mornings, when I let my perusing run too long, his look adds, “You know you wouldn’t be late to work if you didn’t change clothes ten thousand times.”  What does he know anyway?  The other day, he came out wearing plaid shorts and a striped polo.  Together.  With a straight face.  Thank goodness I stopped him before he hit the door. #whatwouldhedowithoutme

If it is a really good morning, one piece jumps out at me and becomes the foundation of my look.  Sometimes, if inspiration is sparse and grogginess prevails, I perform a quick search on Pinterest to find ideas about how to wear my #ootd.

I’m still recovering from grading over 400 essays this past weekend, so I was in desperate need of some serious #pinspiration this morning.  Lately, I have been feeling my army green skinny jeans.  When I searched Pinterest for “olive green pants outfit,” I found exactly what I needed to put together my super cute outfit.    **Side note: If you don’t have a pair of army green pants in your closet, drop what you are doing and get them.  They are seriously the cutest neutral for this Fall.**

pinterest-olive-green-pants-outfit

My “Pinspiration” today

 

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The look from my closet
I bought this top YEARS ago at Express (although they still have have it here) and the skinny jeans at Francesca’s toward the end of this summer.  I decided to top my look off with my black ankle booties for a Fall feel.

I consider it a total victory when my high school students, who are completely in tune with the hottest trends and styles, compliment my outfit.  One girl even went as far as to say that I am #lifegoals, and my outfit today was #onfleek.  Let me translate the teenager talk- I rocked my army green skinnies, polka dot blouse, and black ankle booties today. #micdrop

On a more serious note, I can’t wrap up this post until I take a moment to talk about this necklace.

I inherited this necklace from my grandmother, Dodo, when she passed away in 1997.  It has not only become one of my most prized possessions, but it is also a staple in my jewelry box.  I wear it when I want a piece that transcends all trends and never goes out of style.  I wear it when I want to feel her hug my neck.  I wear it when I know the day is going to be long and tough, and I need her strength.  I wear it so she can continue to see the world.  My world.  Just like her, this piece is timeless and will ALWAYS be a piece that I love…long after right now fades.

 

 

Forever Mine

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to start a blog.  I have also known for a long time that this would be my first post.  Miscarriage and Stillborn Remembrance Day on October 15th allows me the perfect opportunity to dive in to blogging head first.  Below you will find the raw account of my miscarriage 5 years ago.  It took me 3 years to feel ready to write about it and 2 more years to feel ready to share.  What I learned from my experience was that so many women share in my grief, but so many of those same women remain silent.  To do my part in breaking the silence, I will take you on my very personal journey of losing my baby physically, but holding onto it both emotionally and spiritually.

“Everything is fine.”

My husband and I had felt the joy of seeing “pregnant” on the little screen.  Hugging each other and crying—well, I cried, he just smiled—we were ready.  With every ultrasound came more excitement as we watched our energized baby spinning and bouncing around in my belly.  It was June 9th, and everything was fine.  Doing what looked like baby aerobics, our baby didn’t have a problem one.  Healthy heartbeat.  Healthy movement.  Healthy baby.  Everything was fine.

“Let me try something different.  I am not seeing any movement from the baby.”

Fast-forward one week to June 16th.  One short, innocent week.  Our 12-week ultrasound had arrived.  Secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of the baby’s sex, we couldn’t wait to witness its fervor again so soon.  No fear, just sheer joy.  After all, what did we have to fear?  Only one week ago, we had seen our healthy baby.  Lying back on the table, I cringed at the shock of the cold nozzle.  Even the nurse’s constant adjustment of the ultrasound wand didn’t alarm us.  That is until she added the words, “Let me try something different.  I am not seeing any movement from the baby.  Megan, roll over to your side.”  I did as I was told.  Nothing.  Just a motionless dot that had sunken to the bottom of the screen.  False justification filled my mind. “Maybe our baby is sleeping.  That’s why there is no movement.”

“There isn’t a heartbeat.”

That’s it.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  That is all she said.  Like a punch in the gut, her words sucked the breath out of me.  Tears flooded my cheeks.  My husband’s embrace only made them fall faster and harder.  Gluing my eyes to the screen, I hoped she had made a mistake.  I was sure it would move if I just kept watching.  As I quickly realized, I was wrong; it was over.  My baby was dead.

“I’ll give you some time.”

Time?  Time for what?  Was time going to bring back my baby’s heartbeat?  Time had not been our friend.  A week had passed, and that was enough time to kill my baby.  I didn’t want more time.  I wanted my baby to move.  I wanted to hear its heartbeat and return to the anticipation of possibly finding out if it was a boy or a girl.  I wanted to wake up from the nightmare I was living.  My mind raced with thoughts of the recent week.  What had I done to make this happen? Meals—maybe I ate too unhealthy; water intake—maybe I didn’t get enough; vitamins—maybe I forgot to take them.  I needed a reason, an answer, something to blame.  I wouldn’t find one.

“It is very common.  We will schedule a D and C for next week.  It is a routine procedure.”

My doctor had come to console us and share our next step.  She assured me that miscarriages happen often, and although she knew that would not wipe away my pain, it should help me know it was nothing I had done.  If they were so common, why was my mom the only person I knew who had one?  Why didn’t other people talk about it?  Even if others had experienced this, they couldn’t possibly understand what I was feeling.  She continued explaining that the only way she would run any tests was after my third miscarriage.  Three?  I had to lose three babies before I could know why I was losing them?  The reason my baby didn’t survive would remain a mystery until, God forbid, I had two more devastating ultrasounds.

“Missed Abortion”

The days that followed brought on a rollercoaster of emotions.  My doctor told me that I might experience some cramping (my body’s way of getting rid of the fetus naturally), and if I began to bleed, I should go to the hospital.  The last thing I wanted was to lose the baby my baby at home.  Fighting through the cramping in my abdomen, I made it to my appointment on Tuesday.  Minutes ticked slowly, and my trepidation grew.  Finally, a nurse walked me into a coldly sterile room where she put a stack of papers in front of me.  “I need you to sign these before we get started.”  I turned the pages and signed on the appropriate lines until I got to the page where two bolded words stopped me dead in my tracks.  “Missed Abortion.”  What?  Bewilderment covered my face.  I protested, “I’m not having an abortion.  I had a miscarriage.  I did not choose to abort my baby.  I wanted my baby.”  I couldn’t stop the tears.  The thought of signing a paper that implied I had chosen to end my pregnancy brought back the “punched in the gut” feeling I had felt only days ago.  The nurse explained that an abortion is the removal of a fetus from the uterus.  I was not ending my pregnancy, but the baby would be aborted from my uterus.  I didn’t have a choice.  I had to sign the paper to have the procedure.  While it went against every ounce of my morals and values, I didn’t want to experience the alternative—losing my baby at home—so I signed the paper.  When I woke from the surgery, I also awoke to the reality that my baby was no longer with me.  Just minutes prior, it had been removed from my uterus.  It all became very real.  I wanted to go back; I wanted my doctor to give me back my baby.  Dead or alive, I wanted my baby with me.

“I’m so sorry.”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I could’ve paid for my D and C.  As the word spread, my inboxes filled with emails, messages, and voicemails.  Because I couldn’t bear to answer the phone, I just let it ring.  “I’m so sorry.”  It is the go-to phrase when you don’t know what to say, and people didn’t know what to say.  I’ve said it.  You’ve probably said it.  It is what people say.  I appreciated the sympathy.  I still do, but at the time, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  One person didn’t say this to me.  Her words made the difference.  She told me that it was okay to be sad, that my baby was still a part of me.  I didn’t have to give that up. Ever.  I didn’t have to “feel better soon” or “get back on my feet” if I didn’t want to.  She also told me that I was already a mother, and that was making it hard.  I felt it in my heart and had lost the baby I had come to love and nurture.  No wonder my heart had been ripped in two.  I needed to hear that.  I needed someone to justify my feelings, tell me it was okay to get sad at the thought of the names we had picked out, the bedding we would purchase, or the Father’s Day gift I had already bought for my husband.  All of these emotions were completely normal, and they were all part of the road to recovery.

“You’ll get through it.”

Lie. Lie. Lie.  You don’t get through it. Or over it, or in front of it, or on top of it.  All of these imply one thing—you can or should put it behind you.  That one day, you will wake up and not feel sadness at the thought of the baby you lost.  Thankfully, it is a lie.  I didn’t want to get through it.  “Getting through it” or “over it” meant I would forget in some way.  I didn’t want to forget.  That baby was real.  It made me a mother.  It was, and always will be a part of who I am.

“How far along are you Mrs. Thompson?  Wow! You aren’t even showing yet!”

I survived the summer and welcomed the new school year with open arms.  Anything to take my mind off the tragic summer I had endured.  I walked into my classroom with a newfound confidence.  Work would provide the distraction I needed until my husband and I got the all clear to try to expand our family again.  Shortly after I took my seat at my desk, the students started pouring in.  All my sweet angels from the previous year came in to see my pregnant belly and request that we choose his or her name on the birth certificate.  To their surprise, my belly had not grown an inch over the summer.  High school students lack filters, usually one of my favorite things about them, and they proceeded to ask me why I was not showing.  Through tears, I had to explain to my students that my baby had not made it long after school had ended.  Their sadness hurt my heart.  They apologized for bringing up the touchy subject, and I assured them it was okay; they couldn’t have known.  These conversations continued as the day progressed until the word spread through the hallways not to mention the baby to Mrs. Thompson.  My students weren’t the only ones who made this mistake.  Several of our friends missed the news and asked us about our pregnancy.  Every time ended with the same look of embarrassment on their faces and an empty promise of our well-being.  Despite the awkward encounters it caused, I wouldn’t change how we handled our pregnancy.  We were overjoyed to become parents and wanted everyone to share in our excitement.  It just meant we had that many more people to share in our grief.

“I’m in the arms of Jesus, and He sings me lullabies.”

So, how did I move on?  On my darkest days, I looked for a new perspective.  I had to understand in some capacity why this tragedy happened to me.  Desperate for answers, I turned to poetry and literature.  First, I came across a poem by Claudette T. Allen, which describes the loss of a baby beautifully.  I found solace in the lines that read, “You see I’m a special child, I am needed up above.  I’m the special gift you gave Him, a product of your love.”  Knowing that my baby was with God gave me a sense of peace.  I have always been strong in my faith, but it wavered in this dark time.  Questioning His plan, I wondered how He could give me such pain.  Allen continues in her poem:

“When you see a child playing and your heart feels a tug, don’t be sad mommy, that’s just me giving your heart a hug.  So Daddy, don’t look so sad, and Momma, please don’t cry.  I’m in the arms of Jesus, and he sings me lullabies!”

After finding Allen’s poem, I looked for more inspiration.  I stumbled upon a poem by Jennifer Wasik called “What Makes a Mother,” Wasik brilliantly captures the essence of motherhood in her poem about the loss of a child.  She writes,

“I miss my mommy oh so much, but I visit her each day.  When she goes to sleep, on her pillow’s where I lay.  I stroke her hair and kiss her cheek and whisper in her ear, ‘Mommy, don’t be sad today, I’m your baby, and I’m here.’”

Allen and Wasik’s words provided me with confidence that my baby will find ways to make its presence known to me.  I will always see it “dancing in the rain” or among the stars.  I often read this poem and remind myself that I can see my baby anytime I want; all I have to do is pause long enough to look.

Heaven is for Real because our baby is there.

Finding hope in times of pain proves difficult.  My strongest sense of hope came from the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo.  Among the letters and emails I received was a book suggestion to read “just what I needed.”  I downloaded Heaven is for Real and enjoyed its message about a boy who went to Heaven and met God.  The book affected me in a number of ways—it solidified what I had believed all along, it gave me hope that I would reach Heaven one day, and it reinforced the miracle of faith.  It wasn’t until I reached Chapter 17 that I realized the remarkable power this book would hold for me.  In Chapter 17, Todd’s son describes another encounter he had while in Heaven to his parents.  He informs his mother that he has two sisters- one still on Earth with him, the other in Heaven.  Shock overwhelmed Todd and his wife, Sonja because they had never told Colton of the miscarriage they had before he was born.  Colton had met the baby they had lost in Heaven, and it was a girl, novel information to Todd and Sonja.  Since my miscarriage, I have often regretted not asking my doctor the sex of our baby.  I longed to know if my baby was a boy or a girl.  I wanted to call it “he” or “she” instead of “it.”  In addition, I wanted our baby to have a name.  Names give people identities.  We never named our baby, and I wish we had.  The Burpo family got that chance, and reading this chapter gave me hope that one day, we will, too.  Also, the Burpo family strengthened my faith that I will meet my baby someday and until then, it is in good hands.  My baby is right where it needs to be.    Whether it was sick, weak, or simply too beautiful for Earth, I find unbelievable comfort in the thought of my baby walking with Jesus in Heaven, awaiting the day we will meet in joy, share stories of our adventures, embrace in unconditional love, and walk the golden roads hand in hand.

A note to end on… Even five years later, my first baby remains at the forefront of my daily prayers and thoughts.  I do find peace in knowing had I not lost my first baby, I would not have my two precious daughters, Aubrey and Maycee.  It doesn’t make it easier or less painful, but it does give me faith that God has a plan for every single one of us, including my first baby who lives with Him in Heaven.

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

“In the Arms of Jesus” by Claudette T. Allen

“What Makes a Mother” by Jennifer Wasik

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