We just got back from a week at the Outer Banks with K's family. It was a good week overall. Lots of cousin time, games of Boggle, reading on the beach, skateboarding, nighttime ghost crab hunts and huge family meals. My parents came down for two days to hang with the kids. I think it was a first step to getting used to being at the beach without Jeanne and Mike. I think they had a good time. E was an absolute delight and going with the trend her sister was a handful. She spent her entire time with my niece who is 11 going on 17, so M continuously bent the rules (eye makeup, leaving house without telling us) and did a lot of talking back. I tried hard to spend some time with each of the kids individually during the week. M seemed like an elusive eel slipping threw my hands every time I tried to rein her in. The boys also missed her and were getting sick of my niece dominating M.
One afternoon, I was walking down to the beach with L, carrying all the assorted tools of the beach (beach chair on back, boogie boards, buckets, umbrella) all while trying to hold his hand. It dawned on me that this year the trek to the beach with him was more difficult because for the first time I wasn't pushing him in a stroller and using it to carry all the beach equipment. I then realized that I'm stroller-free. This made me really sad. My big boy is growing up. Moreover, we are most likely strollerless forever. This made me really really sad.
I'm 40 years old. When the accident happened, I was 38 and we definitely had not "closed shop" in the fourth kid department. There are 5 years between D and L and since the older boys are so close we thought about how nice it would be for L to also have a sibling closer to his age. It wasn't a guarantee that we'd have another kid, but taking in the girls has pretty much shut that door. I also know that there are many families out there that don't get their family the way they planned it either. We are lucky to have our three beautiful boys. But I also have memories of my sister S saying she wouldn't take the girls because she wanted her "own" family and that she'd resent C and I for getting our families the way we wanted. Sometimes I feel like saying to her, "well, guess what S, maybe we weren't done and this wasn't the family we planned either." Even if we didn't have another child, this is definitely not the life we had planned for our boys.
More and more our family is beginning to gel. Tonight the kids all played together happily and at one point D and E were curled up next to each other, sharing earphone and listening to a new song on E's ipod. Those two are always at each other and it's nice to seem them hanging out. August 13th was the first year anniversary of when K and I stood before the judge and legally became the girls' guardians. We had a fun, busy day and barely even remembered what had happened the year before. But I still feel like I'm grieving our old family and our plans for the future. I know I should be grateful for what we have. I know I should be honored to be able to take care of these two sweet girls. I also have to be honest with myself, though, and acknowledge that I still yearn for the what was and a little sad about the what won't be.