Friday, September 30, 2011

Waiting

Life goes on all around us, traffic is moving, stores are open, the news is on.  My dad is ready to go.  He has been for quite some time, but the cruel reality is that he's still here, his heart is still beating, but he is gone.  Now we are here, just watching, waiting for the breathing to slow and stop.  It's cruel and unfair.  It's impossible to understand.  He's ready, God, come get him!  Hopefully his struggle will end today. 

Last night sister, mom and I went through photos.  We found so many fun ones, and had a bittersweet time recalling all the little moments we were seeing.  My dad was a fun guy.  We captured a lot of silly moments that will represent him well, and help us to remember those moments when we think of him, and not the moments we have been living the past few weeks.  My mom has been practicing during these few weeks to replace these dark times with happy memories, and I think it's going to work for her.  When I think about loved ones that I've lost, it's not them in sickness that comes to my mind, it's memories of joy and laughter.  I do hope it will be that way for all of us with my dad. 

I see the signs of life outside these walls, and I know my mom will be able to go out there again.  She'll feel the fresh air, she'll laugh with healthy people, she'll drive her little car with the top down, and she'll go shopping again.  She will mourn.  She will miss my dad.  She will cry.  But she's going to get new sea legs, and I'm confident she'll be fine.  The rest of us will start to heal from this pain too, and hopefully we'll learn something from it all that will help us in our own personal lives. 

But for now it just sucks.  Sucks huge.  It's hard to see him like this, it's hard to feel the constant changing emotions, from sadness to guilt to peace, and all the way back again.  It's hard to explain to people what's happening and why I've been so absent from my life. 

My dad was born in 1946.  He lived a pretty full life.  He had a terrible childhood, he was in the Navy and fought in the Vietnam War.  He married young and had four babies.  He lost a child in infancy.  He moved around often.  He battled his demons and found a way to raise three people to a pretty stable adulthood.  He laughed often.  He played guitar.  He was great at his job.  He was silly.  He was very skilled with a charcoal grill.  He loved the Minnesota Twins.  He used to dance to the BeeGees while he vacuumed.  He was proud of his family.  And he will be missed.  He was loved by lots of people, and they will all feel his loss.  But this suffering has got to come to an end.  I told him yesterday it was okay.  We've got this, and mom's going to be fine.  Hopefully in his mind he's already someplace happy. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday.

I spent the entire night last night tossing on the couch, hot, watching dad for changes in his breathing pattern.  Not a great night sleep.  But now I'm sitting here feeling strangely awake after just a half cup of coffee so far.  Weird.  I wonder when I'll hit the wall and pass out on the floor?  There's that scene in Tangled where Rapunzel whacks Rider (Eugene) on the head with her frying pan and he falls flat, landing directly on his face.  I feel like that's what I'm going to do at some unexpected time today.  Not the hitting, but the falling.  I love that movie.  I love how they nailed the bipolar feeling we get sometimes, when Rapunzel keeps going back and forth from how happy she is and how she's never going home again to what a horrible daughter she is and how much she hates herself.  I also love the scene in Julie and Julia where Julie is having the meltdown, crying on the floor of her kitchen.  If you haven't seen it, try to find it and watch it.  That is me.  Often. 

My three men came by last night and stole me away to go to Potbelly for a late night dinner and a shake.  It was great.  The boys came up to see papa before we left, and what a sight they were for my sore, sore eyes.  They had their football pants and cleats on and their tight little under armor shirts on from their football game.  They came in, and my sweet J walked directly up to papa and hugged him.  No nervousness, no fear, just a kid hugging his papa.  He's a remarkable kid.  My A hugged him as well, after standing with him and watching him for a while.  I can't help but wonder what is going through his head, after all the loved ones he's lost in his life so far.  It's heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. 

On the way to the car J said, "hey mom--remember the booty dance?"  And he started shaking his butt for me in the middle of the parking lot.  There was my life again, letting me know it would be there waiting for me after this fog clears.  What a good feeling.  We ate outside at Potbelly since they were near closing time, and it was so nice to sit alone with my family out there in the dark, feeling like everything else went away for a while.  And when we had to part ways I felt refreshed again, convinced again that they were fine, and that I was doing the right thing.  Dad is sleeping all the time now, making his final preparations for his trip onward.  He's comfortable and quiet, and it's very peaceful around here.  Mom is doing well right now, and I am again impressed with her strength. 

I was so tired when I got back last night, and we didn't watch any episodes of Modern Family!  So my plan is to watch several today during the day.  I don't think we have any visitors scheduled for the day, so that should work out fine.  Brother spent the night here last night as well, sister had gone home for the night and is headed back today, I believe.  Maybe brother will be around long enough to watch some with me.  It's such a surreal thing, to be sitting there giggling at a sitcom on the tv, all the while sneaking glances at dad to make sure his breathing pattern isn't changing.  You're so relieved for the distraction, but feel so guilty laughing at a tv show.  I think he'd appreciate it though. 

Therapy.


My other plan for today, if things don't get crazy around here, is that I'm going to take a shower, see if I remember how to do my hair and make up, and head home this evening to watch J's program at school.  Apparently he's doing a folk dance and he's supposed to teach it to his parents.  That should be interesting.  I told him I would be there, and he was so happy.  I've already told dad he needs to hang on until I get back from the program.  Let's hope he was listening.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Rambling

When you're living your life in a Twilight Zone, your perspective shifts a little bit.  I come in here in the morning to write my post, like my private little therapy session with the computer monitor.  The monitor sits there and stares at me, silently asking me, "how are you feeling today?  What would you like to talk about?"  And I think, "I don't know computer.  I'm just getting by, day by day."  I know the computer won't judge me, so it's a nice, safe therapist.  And the hourly rates aren't too bad.

Today as the computer is asking my how I feel I come up empty.  Life has officially become too strange for me to have an emotion about it right now.  I had a cup of coffee this morning that was very delicious.  That's what I'm thinking about right now.  We have a Keurig coffee brewer.  I say "we", because everyone in my family has one.  BIL3 (That's the hubby of my sweet SIL3) gave them out for Christmas several years ago, and almost instantly my parents had one, SIL1 had one, sister had one, even friends of our family had them.  They are that awesome.  So you can get the little k-cups in all kinds of flavors or brands, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, whatever, and you brew one cup at a time.  So if you get yourself a variety of creamers and some Bailey's, it's like you have your own coffee bar.  Life changing.  My life may be very simple compared to yours, but it was life changing for me.  The cup I had this morning was leftover from my mom's summer cups, and it was called summer raspberry.  Yes, raspberry coffee.  And with some sweet cream in it, it was super yummy.  So that's what I'm thinking about right now.
I have to figure out how to do this.  I might have time to try today....

Yesterday morning sister, mom and I had just finished helping out dad and getting him all situated when we finally sat down to start our exciting day.  We noticed a dollar on the counter that had ripped in half.  I think brother had left it here the night before.  We were very excited to tape it back together.  What a fun project for the day!  Then we had a chuckle about how bizarre our big plan was for the day.  But still, it was pretty exciting! 

I did get the chance to go to Sam's Club yesterday with sister.  It was a nice outing.  Of course, Sam's Club doesn't have a Sam's Club Bar attached, so it wasn't that nice.  Wouldn't that be a good idea?  I'm telling you, if I made the decisions in this world, it would be a much better place.  But nobody's listening to me yet, so sister and I had to suffer the aisles of Sam's without a martini in our hands.  The fresh air felt good, though, and it was good to see I still remember how to drive my car. 

Dad's got it pretty rough, folks.  I'm hoping this doesn't go on much longer.  It's horrible to see him suffer, and I'm sure he's so ready to be done with this.  I don't know why it has to take so long.  I wish you could just come to the decision that you're ready, take a deep breath, and walk off to your party with God.  But it doesn't seem to work that way.  As my dad retreats into his brain, he is nearly impossible to communicate with.  I'm praying that in that brain he is in a pleasant place, getting ready for his journey, and making peace with his life.  We're at peace with him, and we're ready for him to head on up.  This is getting unbearable for him and for us all.  He's fought the good fight, we've done everything we can, so what's the deal?  I wish there was some signal--"OK, Jesus, come and get him!  And make sure there's hot coffee and good mexican food up there!"  But again, nobody lets me make the decisions. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Finding the Positives

I feel like I need a three-hour long shower to wash this funk off me.  I'm getting out for a while.  It's just to Sam's Club, but it's going to feel goooood. 

It's like the Twilight Zone over here.  Dad's sleeping a lot of the time, but it's restless sleeping.  He makes strange movements with his hands and feet while he's sleeping, as if he thinks he's awake and active.  It's unnerving to watch.  He can't seem to get fully relaxed, and that's all we want for him.  He's off all his meds now except for pain control, and we're just doing liquid under-the-tongue stuff for him now.  Swallowing is very risky for him.  I had couch duty and I spent most of the night watching him moving around in very slow motion, and when he wasn't moving I was watching his chest for movement.  We've had him up a couple times, but that is a process.  I can't even tell you all how difficult it is to see him trying to get around.  It's breaking my heart. 

We are all going to come to the end of our lives.  It's never fair that some of us have to go through such a horrible time at the end.  I hate it so much.  Watching him go through this is gut wrenching.  But there really is a positive to every negative, and I'm really looking hard to find it these days. 

One positive is my mom.  She's really risen to this challenge and impressed me with her strength and character during this craziness.  She's been able to maintain a sense of humor, even though her heart breaks for him all day long.  I see sweet moments when she sits at his bedside and he just puts his hand on her arm, and she just smiles at him.  I know he knows she's there, and I know how worried he has been about her.  If there's one thing I'd like to get across to him, it's that she will be fine.  She is looking forward to starting her life again.  She will miss him terribly, but she's already talking about the time she'll be able to spend with the grandkids, the freedom she will feel to start over again.  I'm so amazed by her and proud of her.  She has a lifetime of memories with my dad, and she's allowing that to be a comfort to her rather than an anchor holding her to her past, and she is looking forward to making new memories in the next chapter of her life.  It's very inspiring, actually.  I think when you battle an illness for this long with a loved one, you are given such an opportunity to process it, to say all the things you need to say to one another, to tie up anything that needs tying up, and to prepare each other, that it is almost a gift.  She has certainly had plenty of time to deal with this, and the reality has not been easy.

Another positive is the time I've had to be thoughtful about my own life and my own family.  That saying "you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone"?  Well, I know what I've got.  I really do.  And I am able to be grateful for it, and to try each day to not take it for granted.

Wow.  I'm done being deep.  I'm sitting here in my pajamas, amazed at how accustomed I've become to looking like a slob.  Not that I'm a fashion plate in my normal life, but I've really let myself go.  I think I'll put on jeans today for my trip to Sam's.  And I might even put some mascara on.  SIL1 keeps stopping over here on her way home from work looking like the fabulous professional she is, all perfect and polished.  Then I REALLY become aware of how horrible I look.  I wish she'd do me the favor of mussing up her hair and changing into dirty sweatpants in the car before she comes in.  I mean, come on! 

Okay I'm all done for today.  I'm looking forward to my normal life again, when I can write about the regular crazy stuff, not always this sad crazy stuff.  But dad's not quite ready yet, so that's just the way it is.  Here's another happier days picture:

August 2008

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Thank You Note

After a great afternoon and evening with my family, and a good night's sleep in my own bed with my hubby, I am refreshed, restored, and ready to head back to mom and dad's and face the week.

My kids are fine.  I've been so worried about them, feeling like I've been abandoning them, like they miss me too much.  They were super happy to see me, I got a huge cuddle from J, and then five minutes later it was like I was never gone.  I know they need me, but I also know that Hubby's got this all under control.  I really need to try to let that part of my stress go this week, and trust that they're doing just fine, so that I can focus on things with dad.  I think it's going to be a rough week.

So right now I want to make sure I thank all you sweet readers.  I have had so many kind words posted on my facebook, so many offers of support and help, and such an outpouring of caring and love, that I really am touched by all you that are reading my ramblings.  I can't tell you how much it all means to me.  I started this page as just an outlet, a place to dump all the goofy stuff that floats around in my brain.  As things have become more serious with my dad, this has become my therapy and support group.  I am humbled and moved by the words of caring and all the love out there.  Thank you.  And I hope that I will get the chance to thank each and every one of you in person sometime soon.  But just know that I read every single word of support, sometimes many times over, and I pull strength out of those comments.  So thank you thank you thank you.  From the bottom of my heart.

Yesterday we went grocery shopping.  By "we" I mean the kiddos, hubby, and me.  Hubby has not grocery shopped with me in years.  A lot of years.  It was a bit weird and unsettling, but sort of fun.  We filled the kitchen with food for them for the week, easy meals, apples, stuff like that.  I got the laundry done and put away (the putting away part is usually a battle for me, so I did pretty well).  They are all set.  I have a funny feeling that I need to be prepared for a long haul over there.  Sister is there now, so that will be a giant help.  The nurse comes today, so that's all good.  I made it through the day yesterday with no crying.  We'll see how today goes.  But one of my friends posted on my Facebook page something about how crying is good, a healthy release.  And I want to thank you for that!  Because I realize that after both my big meltdowns (so far), I've felt better.  Relaxed, even.  I think it does build up in you until you've just had all you can take, and then you never know what will happen that makes the balloon pop.  So I have to let it go more often.  Maybe a couple tears now and then will be healthier than bawling while driving.  And safer.

We're out of Chex Mix over there.  I wonder if mom made more yet.....

p.s.  I think I'm going to start posting more pics of my dad.  Healthy.  So you all can know who he was then.  And so I can remember him like that instead of focus on what he is going through now.  So here's dad, with Nephew 2, from December 2002.  He is called Papa to them (and to us now too, I guess).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another Meltdown

Tough, tough day yesterday.  Dad seems weaker by the hour.  I miss my three men.  SIL3 had them overnight Friday night, and that's always such a big deal to them.  They slept with their cousins on the big sectional, watching Rango, playing ninjas and making card boxes.  They were treated to pancakes, eggs and sausage for breakfast in the morning.  Good thing my kids miss me too or SIL3 would be making me look bad.  They had a great time, and it was good for me to know they were having fun.  I met them yesterday at McDonald's where they were treated to lunch, and I forgot to thank SIL3 for the treat--so if you're reading, this, thank you.  For everything.  For being there, for loving my family, and for knowing my kids so well.  I wish you knew how much your support has meant to me.

J and A with Nephew5 and Niece.


After meeting them there, I took J over to his birthday party.  That's when the madness started.  He was so emotional in the car.  He's missing me, but I discovered that one of the main things he's feeling is sadness about his Papa.  He knows exactly what's happening.  When he told me he missed me, I said, "I know, buddy, but this won't last too long."  He said, "I know.  That's what is so sad."  And he was tearing up.  So we drove there, him holding my hand and playing with my fingers the whole way there.

The birthday party was at a giant waterpark.  What could be more fun than that?  But it was chaotic there, and he had never been there, and he was sad anyway.  I could tell he was unsure if he wanted to be there.  But he is such a good sport, and he stood up straight put his best face on, and said he would be o.k.  I told him if he wanted to come home, I'd take him home, and if he wanted to leave early, he could call me.  I had to take a deep breath and turn around and leave him there.  In an unfamiliar place, with a few familiar faces but way more unfamiliar ones, where he was left to fend for himself.  He's eight.  It was more than I could take.  I felt like I had to hurry back to mom and dad's.  Brother and SIL1 were there to relieve me so I could go see J and take him to his party.  I knew they had a big day with Nephew1's homecoming, so I wanted to get back quickly.  On my way out of the parking lot at the water park, I called SIL2.  She had been to the waterpark before, and I think I was just needing to know that the place was safe and fun.  She reassured me that he would be fine, and he'd have a great time, but I was already frayed.  I told her I felt like I was hanging on to my sanity by a thread.  As we were talking I realized I had missed my exit and had to take a different route back to mom and dad's.  This is not a long drive, people.  It should have been a 10-minute trip.  When I exited, there were detours and road construction (I love this state.  I love this state.  I love this state).  I ended up getting so turned around that I practically got lost in my own old highschool stomping grounds.  Hubby called me in the middle of it all, and I just fell apart.  I was sobbing in my car.  I told him I'm lost.  I don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going.  And I meant it in every way that statement can be meant.  He said he was so sorry, asked me to tell him where I was and he would lead me to where I needed to be, and he did.  In every way.  By the time I got back to my parents I felt like a used up dishrag.  Brother and SIL2, and Nephews 1 and 2 were there.  Of course they didn't mind the delay.  Of course they would have stayed as long as they needed without getting upset.  Of course they just want me to feel better.  Just seeing my nephews was enough to cheer me up a bit, and brother brought over Chinese food.  That's pretty much the best medicine there is, right?  And there was beer in the fridge.  And I didn't have to dip into Dad's Ativan.  And hubby brought the kiddos over for a visit in the evening.  All is well again.

I can do this.  I'm going to be fine.  This is tough, it would be for anyone, and I'm not the only one hurting.  My whole family is hurting.  Sister is coming back into town today, so I'll get to spend some time at home.  I'm going to go grocery shopping for my men today.  I'm going to fill the fridge.  I'm going to check their backpacks, make sure they have clean clothes for the week, and be a mom for a while.  I'll be all recharged for what's coming up next, and hopefully my next meltdown will have a quicker recovery time. 

So if anyone saw me driving around the neighborhood hysterically crying yesterday, no worries.  I'm all better now.  I've got this.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday.

Couch duty last night.  I'm still groggy.  Yesterday was a slow day.  Dad slept almost all day, and we're not sure what to make of that yet.  He's awake now, but we'll see how the day goes.

It's killing me to be missing all my tv shows, people!!!  Thankfully I have my DVR at home, but I will be so behind.  And I can't record everything I want, so I'm not sure what to do.  I might have to break out my dad's laptop and watch some hulu for a fix.  The desktop I use at my parents' place (the one I'm at right now) has no sound.  So tv wouldn't be quite the same...

I get to see my kiddos in a little bit!  SIL3 is going to drop by on her way to take them all to her kids' dentist appointment.  She's very kind, but maybe a bit off her rocker to be willing to do that.  I hope it goes smoothly.  J has a birthday party to go to this afternoon, so that's a fun diversion for him.

It seems so strange that life is going on outside these walls.  Today is Homecoming for my Nephew 1.  He's 15, and he's taking his girlfriend to his first Homecoming dance.  They are pretty excited over there.  I told my brother and SIL1 they better take pictures--I haven't met this girlfriend yet, and I can't wait to see a picture of them.  Nephew 1 is one of the best people I know.  I'm so proud of him (and all my nephews--and niece--) and the way he's growing up.  He's sweet and kind, has endless patience for my kids, and is unafraid to hug his geeky old auntie.  I love him so much, and oddly, it's not making me sad to see him grow up.  I think that's a job left to the mom and grandma.  He was my first baby.  I got to babysit him a lot when he was small, and until I had my own kids, he and eventually his younger brother were my kid fix.  And I had many opportunities for my fix.  I would have them over for whole weekends, pick them up from daycare, take them shopping, and not correct people when they told me what cute kids I had.  It was really fun.  And now that he's 15, I am alarmed at how quickly time flies, but so impressed with him and proud that he is a role model for my kids.  I remember being 15.  I hope he's better at it than I was.  I think he is. 

SIL1 and Nephew 1

So tonight the brother and SIL1 will be taking pictures of him and his date, SIL1 will try not to tear up, and they will do their best to not embarrass him.  Even though I don't think they could.  And Nephew 1 will take the lucky girl out for a night that the both of them will remember forever.  I better hear all about it.  SIL1 I know you're reading this, and you better call me as soon as you drop him off!!! 

I need to go get a cup of coffee.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Some Rays of Sunshine

It's officially Fall!  And it's Friday!  The kids got on the bus today all excited that they get to go to their cousin's house after school.  And it's a sleepover.  You'd think they were going to Disney World.  I love how much they enjoy going over there, it makes me feel so much better about all the time I'm away from them lately.  SIL3 is an angel for helping me out with them, and for all her understanding and caring.  She gets this whole situation like almost nobody can. 

I had a breakdown last night.  I knew it was coming, and was actually surprised it hadn't hit yet.  And then when I was going to bed (in my own bed at home) it hit.  I was feeling so overwhelmed by the baskets of laundry that I haven't folded, by the house that really needed a "mom clean".  By the kids' homework and keeping up with school responsibilities.  By how little attention I'd been able to pay to the hubby and the kiddos.  And by the twitchy feeling I have when I'm not with my dad.

So I was a wreck.  I was sobbing and unable to breathe or talk.  Hubby was just squeezing me, and he summed it up perfectly.  He said he knew exactly what I was feeling.  Like there was a magnetic pull pulling me to be at mom and dad's, and when I was there, a magnetic pull to be tending to my outside life.  He kept telling me things are not falling apart.  That he's got this, and I should feel fine about doing what I need to do.  Have I mentioned how perfect he is?  Well in case I haven't, he's perfect.

It's tricky because in some ways this is deja vu.  My little family basically moved in with my mom-in-law to care for her and whoever else while she was in the end stages of her life.  It was a horrible, stressful, sad, painful situation, but I could not have imagined being anywhere else.  Even running to the store was difficult because there was always a nagging worry that something would happen back at the house while I was gone and I wouldn't be there to help.  But at that time, my hubby and my kids were with me, along with SIL 3 and her sweet little kids (the ones my kids are staying with tonight).  It was hubby's mom, so of course he was more involved.  He was able to get a lot of time off to be there, and he went to work when he could.  I'm sure it was awful for him to leave.  My kids were in preschool so it wasn't too bad for them to miss some school. 

This situation is a bit different.  My kids can't be removed from their lives.  Hubby still needs to work as much as he can.  So when I'm here, they're not with me.  They visit from time to time, but they can't stay here.  It is comforting to me to know they are able to continue sleeping in their own beds, going to school, football, living their routine.  Life has to go on.  And the situation here at mom and dad's is different too.  It's very quiet.  There isn't much going on hour to hour, but there are flurries of activity when he needs something or when there are nurse visits, and that's when it's necessary to have the back up here.  Plus, I need to just be here.  Not just for my dad or my mom, but for me.  I feel that pull.  And I can't imagine being anywhere else.  I'm just grateful to my hubby for making it all possible.  And to my mom, sister, brother's family (thanks bro for the awesome tamales), and the MOH for all the additional care and concern and help.  I also want to send a shout out to the lovely SIL2 for the visit yesterday.  She blew in here with some fall treats, some HONEYCRISP APPLES and some flowers and coffee.  She sat here and chatted for a while, and it was like a breath of fresh air to have the break in the day.  I am so blessed.

And mom's going to make Chex Mix today. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Making a Memory

There are moments in life when you know you're experiencing something special.  When you make a special place in your heart and mind for that memory because you know how important it is.

I had a moment.  And it filled me with such a feeling of peace that I'm bursting at the seams to share it.

Yesterday in my post I mentioned that we were going to take dad on an outing.  I was worried about him, hopeful that it would go smoothly and comfortably.  He was so determined to go that we wouldn't have thought to deny his request, but we were concerned.  We had done the family dinner outing, and that went surprisingly well, but it really took a lot out of him.  But he was right about that one--we had to trust he was right about this.

Dad stopped treatment this past spring, after over two years of chemo therapy.  He had of course lost all of his hair.  My dad had the thickest head of hair, not a hint of any receding hairline, and he also had a well kept moustache in his healthy days.  Losing his hair was extremely traumatic for him.  It's such a cruel side effect of chemo.  As if cancer patients really need anything else to advertise their condition or make them feel less normal.  Since stopping treatment, he has finally been growing some hair back, and had some pretty ragged looking whiskers.  I think his new hair was making him feel just a bit more normal, but the dark irony of it is so unfair.

So he had decided he wanted a shave.  There is a place at the Mall of America called "The Art of Shaving" that they had discovered this past winter.  It's a very classy little place, with beautiful shaving equipment and wonderful-smelling shave products for men.  They have two small sections with barber chairs where you can get an old-fashioned, professional shave.  They had given MOH a gift card for the place at Christmas, and my dad was very impressed with the place.  His moustache had been very important to him when he had it.  So he had decided that's were he wanted to go for a shave.  The nurse who helps him with bathing was scheduled to come yesterday, and he had decided he wanted to go after he was all cleaned up.

MOH had called and made the appointment for 12:30.  Sister, mom and I loaded him and his wheelchair into the car.  He was so very frail.  He seems like he doesn't have any weight left to lose.  He has no voice left.  He has no strength left.  It is so heartbreaking to see him like that.  In his healthy life he was incredibly strong and active, always in great shape.  We took a deep breath and drove to the mall.

Mom knows the mall.   She knew just where to park so the Art of Shaving place was right inside the door near where we parked.  Hubby met us there, which was so sweet.  As we wheeled him in I saw people check him out.  He looks sort of shocking, so he draws stares.  I instantly felt worried and defensive.

But when we wheeled him into the Art of Shaving place, they treated him like he was just a regular client.  The ladies checked him in and told him they'd go get the gentleman who would be giving him the shave.

And then the guy came in.  I am kicking myself this morning for not remembering his name, but the moment was feeling so surreal to me.  He was the coolest looking guy.  He had an amazing handlebar moustache, a poufe of dark hair on his head, a beautiful plaid sportcoat and a bow tie.  He smiled at my dad with the kindest smile, and asked him to come on back.  We brought him back to the chair, and had to help him into it, kind of hiking him up into it.  The guy leaned him back, and just started his job.  My dad looked so comfortable.

And for the entire shave, he was smiling.  He rarely smiles these days.

The shave took a nice, long time.  We kept stepping in and out, wanting to give him privacy but wanting to check up on things.  We could watch from the window in the corridor.  He was being shaved with a straight edge razor, and the guy was being so gentle and thorough.  He used a hot towel on my dad's face to begin with, and it looked so relaxing.  My dad looked like he felt normal.  It was an amazing thing.  He had the full treatment, with a wonderfully scented cool towel on his face to finish the job.

The entire time he was in the chair, it really looked like he was able to forget about his situation.  I could feel how comfortable he felt, how he tasted normal again, and it tasted good.  I was moved to tears, standing there in the shop, and I honestly could not thank the guy enough for the moment.

We took our tidied up, fresh-smelling dad back home, and he rested the remainder of the day, hopefully satisfied.  I certainly was.  I will remember the day forever, and I'm so very happy we did it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's Too Early to be Interesting

Man, it's early.  It's still completely dark outside.  I'm sitting here at my own computer with the news on, enjoying the peace.
Me.  Right now.  It's really early and I haven't had coffee or a shower yet.

Last night MOH stayed and mom and dad's, and I was able to come home and take the kids to football and sleep in my own bed, allowing hubby to go to work.

So I'm sitting at the football field yesterday and realize I haven't talked to SIL2 in a couple days.  So I give her a call, and I'm so glad I did.  She answers the phone, and here's the jist of the conversation:

"Hello!"

"Hey, you!"

"How's it going?"

"Pretty good.  I just sat down at A & J's football practice.  It feels good to be here.  So fill me in on the news of the world--what's new with you?"

"Well, right now I'm stuck in my car."

"What?"

"My seatbelt is locked up and I'm stuck in the car.  Husband is trying to figure out how to get me out."

"That may be one of the saddest things I've ever heard."  (Trying not to bust a gut)

"How long have you been stuck there?"

"Oh, about 10 minutes.  I'm at the boy's football field.  I think he might have to cut me out..."  (Now she's sort of laughing)

Now I can't talk for a moment.  I'm doing that silent laughing thing because I've lost control and for some reason this is the funniest thing I've ever heard.

"I'm so sorry.  That so sucks."

"Oh!  I got it!  I got it!  I'm free!"

So she got out of her predicament and I thanked her for the best laugh I've had in a long time.  Then she tells me she has to pee and I told her not to use the biffy because with her luck she'd lock herself in there.

I don't know if this would have been quite as hilarious to me if I wasn't in such dire need of a good belly laugh, but I was grateful for it.  Too bad I have to take such pleasure in others' misfortune.  I wouldn't have laughed at just anyone in that situation, though.  I figured SIL2 was o.k. with it.

SIL3 offered to take my kiddos for the weekend, which really frees me up to spend time and mom and dad's without worrying about anything.  Her house is quite possibly their favorite house next to our own.  She has a son around their age and a daughter just a bit younger, and they are all very good buddies.  They will have a great time, and the best part is that she's just down the road a ways from my parents' place, so I can pop over to visit them if I need a good cuddle.  Perfect.  Hubby will be able to work his whole work week, which is great since he may need to take some time off soon.  Ugh.  It's painful to think about what the near future holds.  This is such a community effort, folks, and I've got the best community of people supporting me.  I would wish that anyone going through such a time has as great a network as I do.  It makes it so much easier.

So now I'm off to mom and dad's, and we're going to take him on a tricky outing today.  He is insisting on it, and we're not about to deny him.  Hopefully it will go smoothly and we'll be able to keep him comfortable.

Thanks for reading, people.  This is such good therapy for me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Happy Places

Mom had couch duty last night.  I'm uncomfortable letting her sleep on the couch while I sleep in her bed, but she insisted.  I guess since it's her husband we're all here for, I should listen to her.  They're still sleeping out there, and they're not late sleepers.  I hope it wasn't a rough night while I slept peacefully in the bedroom.

I was able to get to the kids' football game yesterday, which was great, and tonight MOH will be here so I can go home and hubby can finally go to work today.  I'll be able to take the kids to football, watch a couple of shows on my DVR, and kiss my kids goodnight.  Then I'll be back here at mom and dad's before the sun comes up tomorrow.  I'm so blessed that I'm able to spend so much time with my parents while they're going through all this.  But normal life will feel really good again, eventually.

I'm spending entirely too much time in my own head these days.  And that's sort of a crazy place to be.  It's amazing to me that the instant I'm in the same space as my hubby and my kiddos the crazy goes away.  Well, it's replaced by a different kind of crazy, but you get my drift.  I think I need a trip to Target.  That always makes me feel like me.  It's my happy place.  Some of you know what I mean.  Walking in those doors, smelling that smell, seeing those cheerful red carts, and checking out what's on the endcaps.  I know there is a Supertarget in Heaven.  I like to check out the weekly ad on Sundays while I'm drinking my coffee the same way men like to read the sports page.  And now that the kids are in school I can go there alone.  Seriously, it's like an antidepressant. 


When I'm home one of the things I need to do to have some normal is to watch a couple episodes of the Young and the Restless so I'm caught up.  I despise that show.  I've been watching it since 1986.  It has stolen countless hours of my life.  But like a bad drug, I can't quit it.  I get so mad at how horrible it is sometimes that I swear I'm done.  That never lasts more than a week.  I don't know what's wrong with me, but those wackos in Genoa City are in my blood now.  I'm not proud of it, people.  I just swore I'd be honest with you guys.  They're like super crazy in-laws that you can never shake.  Genoa City is a place where there is one floor of a hospital with one room and a lobby, one coffee shop, an athletic club, one nightclub, a dive bar, a bookshop, a bridge, and a strange little basketball court.  There are about five homes.  Everybody in the town is filthy rich, and although it's supposedly a major city--you see the skyline outside Victor Newman's office window--there are only two main families that all marry each other.  It's really pretty sick.  Sick and delicious at the same time.  Augh!  What's wrong with me?

Okay so this might be why I watch the dumb show...

I saw a post yesterday on Facebook that someone saw Christmas stuff beginning to make it's way on to the shelves at Target.  That is another happy place for me.  People, I will agree with you to your face that that is horrible.  It is FAR too early to be putting out Christmas decorations.  For pete's sake (who's pete?), the leaves on the trees aren't even peaking their fall colors yet.  Not only is it not even Halloween yet, it's not even October.  I will say yes, that's crazy.  And then as soon as the coast is clear, I will make a beeline for that Target and practically run to the back of the store to have first dibs at whatever red and green items they have put out so tastelessly.  Clearly I have my issues.  I love Halloween and Thanksgiving, and y'all know how much I dig the fall, it's just that Christmas trumps all.  That's just the way it is in my brain. 

So the other happy place that I need to visit soon is my fire pit.  I think before this fall passes too quickly I need to sit outside by the pit and have a couple beers with my hubby and whoever else can pop over.  That one might be too much to ask this year, but we'll see if we can make it happen.

I need some coffee.  Oh!  And Caribou!  That's another happy place, but pretty much only in the fall and winter for me . . .   

Monday, September 19, 2011

Life and Dental Care Go On

I slept at home last night!  Woo hoo!  I did feel pretty twitchy, though, being away from things at mom and dad's.  Sister and mom had it pretty well covered, and brother and nephews were stopping by, so I felt safe going home for the night so I could get the kids on the bus and go to the dentist in the morning.

I had a clean bill of health at the dentist, thank God.  I hate going to the dentist.  I don't know anybody that loves it, so I'm sure I'm in good company.  I've had tons of dental work in the past, root canals, crowns, fillings, and so forth, so now I take really good care of my teeth to try to ward off bad news in the chair. 


So now I'm back at mom and dad's.  The nurse just got here, so we'll see what she has to say, but folks, this is a long, slow journey, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.  We're at this point where dad's in really bad shape, but changes are coming slowly.  He seems stable a lot of the time, so it almost seems like overkill to have the place full of people like it has been.  It's just for those moments when there's an episode (such as falling last night), where we see how necessary it is to have the people here.  But it drags on.  He must feel like he's under a microscope with all of us checking on him all the time, it's quiet and hot, and sometimes it feels like a death watch.  So morbid.  We try to break it up with funny tv and chatting, but that only helps once in a while.

When I was home I saw the stuff I had been accumulating to start getting ready for A's birthday party.  Now I don't know what the plan is going to be with that, since we were originally planning on it being the first part of October.  Funny how your priorities shift when things like this are going on, and you don't give it a second thought.  My kids have had to learn some pretty adult lessons in their short lives so far, and for that I'm sorry.  I hope it makes them stronger in the long run.  I have no basis of comparison, since I didn't lose anyone close to me until I was an adult.  They have lost several loved ones.  So unfair. 

I wish I could write more today.  I think I will post again this evening.  I have more on my mind, I just can't get it all down now.  I'm not myself these days . . .

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Little Perspective

Dad's asleep.  I had couch duty last night, and we were up twice in the night so he could go to the bathroom.  Other than that it was quiet.  Very quiet.  And hot.  Very hot.  Now I'm the only one up and I'm sitting in the office where I'm just around the corner from him, and I'm listening to the air compressor for the oxygen machine buzz and pump.  At least it's cooler in here, and I can hear the birds outside.

My three men came over yesterday!!!  It was so great to see them.  J entertained us with card tricks and A entertained us by just being A.  I loved having them here.  And tonight, folks, I'm going home for the night!  I'll be back tomorrow, but I'll be sleeping in my own bed.  Ahhhh.  The only sucky thing is that it's because I have a dentist appointment Monday morning.  But oh well.  I'll take what I can get.

Yesterday morning I wrote an e-mail to the mom of the buddy that A had over Friday night.  I wanted to thank her for letting her boy come over and play and let her know what a good time they had.  I also mentioned the situation with my dad and told her what a good diversion it was for A and for us. 

She wrote back saying that he had a great time and really enjoys A, which warmed my heart.  But then she told me that it was a good diversion for her boy too, because his dad has recently been DEPLOYED AGAIN and so he's always stuck with her and his sisters and aunt.  DEPLOYED.  AGAIN.  People, I hung my head.  Here I am in my little situation, and they have their main man off fighting a war.  Seriously, I was put in my place.  We all have our junk.  This is part of life, what my family is going through.  Everyone goes through it in some way at some time.  But not all of us have our hubby or daddy go off to be a soldier. 

Now that I know the situation, I'm going to try to have the little dude over a lot more often.  If we can be a "diversion" for this kid, we'll do it as much as we can. 

On a lighter note, last night we watched some more episodes of Modern Family--that show is awesome.  If you haven't seen it, get the DVD's from season 1 and start there.  It's like therapy.  We were all busting a gut watching it last night.  And then after everyone went to bed hubby called me to tell me the Saturday Night Live with Justin Timberlake was on last night.  I love him.  So I fell asleep with visions of Justin Timberlake as a dancing bottle of beer last night.  Thanks, hubby.  Then I dreamt about the kids going to school, and I was having to meet with the principal about the fact that I was not involved enough with their education and they were missing all their homework.  It wasn't the real principal in my dream, but I woke up at 2 a.m feeling super guilty.  And hot.  Wonderful.  Good thing I'm going home for a bit today.  My brain is really starting to mess with me.  It could also be the copious amounts of coffee I'm drinking . . . .

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Night Out

Well, dad slept all night last night.  First time in a long time.  He is still sleeping as I type this.  It's amazing and strange at the same time.  I hope he's feeling peaceful in there.

I got to go home for a while yesterday and see my men.  It was great to see them, although I couldn't hug them uncomfortably tightly because A brought his friend home on the bus.  I got sort of half-hugs out of them, because it's not that cool to snuggle with mom in front of your buddies.  Oh well.  I'll take what I can get.  I cannot believe what a great job hubby is doing holding the fort together.  He really is amazing.

While I was home I got a call from my sister that things were fine at mom and dad's, but dad had decided that he wanted to take everyone out to eat at a restaurant.  WHAT???????  Folks, if you could see him you'd be seriously questioning that decision.  But he was adamant.  It is difficult for him to speak, so if he's going to be that determined about something, what can we do?  So everyone was called, and I came back in early so I could make it on time.  At 7:00 we had a dozen people meet at a restaurant around the corner from their place.  SIL1 wheeled dad down and got him into her SUV, and we all met there on time.  He treated us all to a lovely dinner, we were loud like we usually are, and he was watching over us all, seeming very satisfied and proud.  It really was nice.  Then everyone came back here to the apartment and hung around chatting and visiting for quite a while longer.  He had his medicine and lay down in his hospital bed, right there in the middle of it.  We were loud, but he fell asleep peacefully in the middle of the commotion.  He is still sleeping now, exactly in the same position.

I spoke with my husband last night after the crowd was gone.  He was imagining what it must have been like for us to wheel dad back in the apartment after dinner.  He must have been thinking, "well, here I am.  And I will never leave these walls again."  That bummed my sister out and she mentioned how we should try to get him out for one more car ride.  But then we were thinking, what about that cliche-  what would you do if you knew you had very little time to live?  Would you want your last outing to be treating a big pile of your loved ones to dinner and having them surround you with love and laughter?  Or would you want your last outing to be a car trip around the block?  So we decided he had made the decision for us, and he knew what he was doing.

I am happy with how peacefully he is resting right now, but also a little bit unsettled.  I wonder if he's feeling like he's ready now.  I guess we'll see.  But it was a lovely dinner, a lovely visit, and he was a lovely man last night.

So today I keep thinking:  What would I want to do for my last outing?  And it very well might be exactly what he wanted.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Just Babbling

Yesterday a neighbor of ours who has become a good friend to the hubby brought him a casserole and a loaf of banana bread.  He had told them a little bit about the situation with my dad, and well, that's something that folks do when they feel a need to do something.  It really was touching to me, and it did bring me a big warm fuzzy feeling.  Not only was it a sweet gesture, but I haven't been home.  And my hubby and the kiddos still had a warm, home-cooked meal for supper last night before football.  The kindness of people really is astounding, if you think about it.  I mean, we're all in this together, really, and the fact that it takes awful things like this for us to realize that is kind of unfortunate.

Last night was pretty uneventful.  We have a medication that we've started dad on to help him get some rest, because he's almost always pretty agitated and restless.  His body does not have the strength to do most of the things his brain tells it to do, which makes him a big danger to himself.  But last night he only got up once, at 4:30 in the morning.  Unfortunately, it ended with a fall.  By the time I came into the room mom already had him back up on the edge of the bed, but they were both pretty shook up.  He was not hurt, but it woulud have been SO easy for the outcome to be worse.  We're still trying to figure out how to deal with this situation.  He isn't an easy patient, and he'll freak out if we put one of those buzzers on his bed.  So I think from now on somebody is going to have to be mostly awake all night.  We're going to have to take shifts I think.

But I think I'll get to go home for a while today.  I miss my boys something awful, and I feel like I need a little normal today.

Oh good news folks!  A has a new buddy!  He exchanged phone numbers with a friend at school, and now the buddy calls all the time.  Today he is riding the bus home with A and they're going to hang out for the afternoon/evening, and we will take him home later.  A is SO excited!  I'm thrilled for him.  It's so cute to watch him, and I'm hoping this will happen more often for him now.

However, he also came home with a "sticker" from the teacher about how he didn't turn his homework in.  I had come home the other night and gone through his backpack.  I'm having a rough time figuring out what's expected of him so far.  The teacher has not communicated as much as his teachers in the past with me, and the notes A scrawls in his binder are impossible for me to figure out.  And when I ask him about it, I can tell he just writes down whatever his teacher writes down, and doesn't actually know what he's supposed to do.  It's very frustrating.  So we didn't know about the worksheet he was supposed to do, and he was very upset about the sticker, thinking he was in trouble.  I sent off an e-mail to the teacher asking him to clarify what A is supposed to be doing daily, and asking him if he and I could be in more regular communication so I can get a handle on the whole thing.  I just feel like this is the beginning of the same cycle that we go through every year with him, and it is so incredibly discouraging!  I thought we had a handle on it last year, and that he had a net of people around him, but now I wonder.  And this is not a good time for me to be meeting with the teachers at school all the time again.  Ugh.  So now I feel like I'm shirking my responsibility as a parent and A is going to fall out of the radar again. 

But it's Friday.  Today there is no football to worry about, he has a buddy coming over, and when I talked to J last night he was in a great mood because football practice went well, and it sounded like he was over the loss of his fish.  They can stay up later, I will hopefully get to see them and actually hug them uncomfortably tightly, and they can have some relaxing time this weekend.  I hope my dad has a quiet day today. 

I want to thank all my readers and my friends.  People who read my little blog and people who don't but still know this whole stinky situation have been unbelievable.  The support and love and understanding I have been feeling has made this whole thing so much more bearable.  I'm sorry for so many of you that I can tell know exactly what my family is going through, because I can tell you've been there.  I feel so blessed to be touched by all of you, and know that every word you write to me here or on Facebook, every e-mail, every phone call is precious to me.  I read every word.  Sometimes many times because they brighten my day.  I feel lifted up by all the kind words, and I pass them on to my family.  Thank you for your prayers and for just being out there for me to vent to.  I'm hugging you all in my heart!!!!!  xoxoxoxox

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Life, Interrupted

Dad has taken a turn for the worse.  Yesterday when I was on my way over to hang out and give mom a break, I called to tell her I was on my way.  She sounded stressed, so I asked if everything was all right.  Normally she says it is, even when it isn't, so when she said "no" my alarm bells went off. 

When I got there the nurse was still there, which was great because I could really get a handle on what was going on.  He is getting weaker by the day now, and things are beginning to "shut down."  What an awful thing to hear.  So he lay quietly in his hospital bed (which is in the middle of the living room at their apartment), sleeping.  He was exhausted from the trauma he had gone through with the nurse, just accomplishing the simple act of visiting the restroom.  I can't imagine how horrific it must be for my private, proud dad to have to succumb to having a nurse do those things for him and with him.  While he lay there sleeping, the nurse sits at the kitchen table with my mom and I talking about how he's starting to shut down, and how little time he likely has left.  No longer is my mom able to care for him alone, she will need someone here 24/7 to help her. 

I picked up my cell phone while I was sitting there and sent out a group text message to my hubby, my brother, his wife, my sister, and my MOH.  And people, again I was in awe of how blessed I am to have my family.  Within five minutes I had heard from every single one of them.  And within 30 minutes my brother was here, my sister-in-law was here, MOH was here, and my sister was in her car on her way from where she lives 3 1/2 hours away.  I had also received messages from my sisters-in-law on hubby's side offering love and help, and hubby had assured me that he's ready for whatever I need to do.  My mom was able to breathe a little bit, knowing that her reinforcements were there, and we weren't going anywhere.  I couldn't believe how in this misery I could feel so much comfort and love.

So we all hung out for a while, sometimes quiet (SIL1 had brought a bunch of food--she seriously knows me too well), sometimes talking about what the heck we do from here, and sometimes tending to dad.  I got to sit with my MOH for a while and have our own moment.  I went home for a flash to have dinner with my family and explain gently to the boys what was going on, then I packed a bag and came back.  My sister and I were going to bunker down for the night.  We don't know what's going to happen in the coming days and nights, but oh well.  I guess we'll figure it out as we go.

Late last night sister and I were sitting at the table talking about the whole day.  Dad was finally resting more solid, so we were able to chat openly.  She was telling me how she was talking to dad after she got here and how he was surprised she was there.  He didn't know she was coming to visit this week.  And it dawned on us that we didn't really talk to him about the whole thing.  I don't know what the nurse said to him while she was here, but she probably didn't say, "so you're starting to die now, so I'm going to tell your wife that she needs to start having everybody here as much as possible."  And of course neither did we.  And since I texted people and we were all talking so quietly on the phone, it seemed to him like we all just showed up yesterday.  Looking back on that, it must have been almost alarming to him.  I mean, I know he's aware of his own situation, but still.  I actually felt awful.  Imagine being in his position.  He knows he's getting weaker.  He knows he had a traumatic experience with the nurse that day, and I'm sure he knows that mom can't do this alone anymore.  But he must feel like, "oh, now I'm going to be dying soon, so they all are coming over to watch."  How absolutely hideous.  And I don't know how to fix that. 

This is torturous for him.  It is so unfair that people have to suffer.  But hopefully he will be able to see through all that and see that it is his family being here for him, for his wife, and for each other.  That he somehow built a family that is solid and supportive, and what a beautiful thing that legacy is.  There is no way to keep this situation from being horrid, but we can find sweet peaceful moments in it too.  We watched a bunch of episodes of Modern Family last night.  Dad chuckled a couple times, which was awesome, and mom was laughing really hard.  What better therapy is there than that?  So I guess that will be the game plan while we're here.  Deal with the yucky stuff, and while we sit here getting in each other's way, we can at least try to entertain each other and him. 

One more thing:  last night hubby called me, and I figured it was so I could tuck the kids in over the phone.  But he put my sweet J on the phone, and he was hysterically sobbing.  His fish had died.  I almost started bawling right with him.  I could hear his broken heart over the phone.  He had taken great care of the fish had absolutely enjoyed the fish, how the hell was he supposed to understand this?  And why does this crap happen when I'm not there to curl him up in a ball and hold him?  AUGH!!!!!!!!  I got  him calmed down, telling him we would get him two goldfish to replace his one beta, and I think he was happy about that.  So in the midst of the twilight zone that is going on over here, life is going on out there.  And I have to step out for a while.  Thank God for my hubby and the amazing daddy that he is.  Thank God for the fact that I know my babies and my house are in capable hands while I have to tend to my family.  Thank God for the strength He has given my mom to get through this.

And thank God for giving us humor when we need it the most. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Country Mouse or City Mouse?

Yesterday I had lunch with one of my favorite girlfriends.  She's a sparkly little thing that reminds me of a Chihuahua that hubby and I used to have.  I mean that in the sweetest way possible.  She's tiny like a Chihuahua, has the energy and sweetness of one, and I sort of wish I could carry her around in a tote bag.  She's very refreshing to talk to, and one of the topics we chat about a lot is living in a neighborhood surrounded by people like her, as opposed to living out in a rural area where your kid can run outside naked and nobody can see him (thank God) because nobody lives close enough.

Sometimes I worry that we are doing our boys a disservice living out here.  There are things they just can't experience.  They can't run over to a friend's house and ask him to come out and play.  It's hard for them to ride their bikes far on these gravel roads.  There isn't a park we can walk to.  They'll never ride their bike to school.  Kids just aren't around here.  At school, most of their friends live in neighborhoods where they have established friendships and easily pop over to each other's homes.  That's pretty foreign to my kids.  If we want to have someone over it's kind of an event, since arrangements have to be made to bring the kids over and bring them home.  I don't get to know other moms as quickly because there are none around, and I'm sure moms would like to know me before they let their kids come over for a sleepover, or have mine over there.  So that can be tricky.

I think some of the benefits of living in a neighborhood are huge.  You have people looking out for you, and looking out for your kids.  There's a sense of community.  You're closer to Target (yes, that's huge).  Your cars aren't always covered in road dust.  You can have a garage sale.  There are babysitters around.  Kids to play with.  People to borrow sugar from.  Do people really do that?  I like to imagine they do.  You can stand in each other's driveways and chat.  And, like my friend was telling me yesterday, you can walk over to a friends house with a bottle of wine.  And then you get to walk home.  Crazy!

But people also know your business.  They know when you're coming and going.  If you're yelling at your kids out the window while you're peeing, they hear you.  If they come over to borrow a cup of sugar when you're not expecting them, they might see your house messy and judge you.  If your kids are arguing outside, they see it.  If you invite one neighbor over and not another neighbor, you could be causing drama.  It seems like sometimes it can feel like living in a fishbowl.

Out here we do have total privacy.  My kids have been able to run outside and play for hours without me worrying about them since they were very young.  We can have huge fires in our firepit and not worry about getting in trouble.  We can have parties with tons of people and everyone has a place to put their car. The kids can run around in wide open spaces or go exploring in woods and climbing trees.

I can play my music obnoxiously loud and the neighbors aren't bothered.  I can sit out on my porch in a t-shirt and underwear if I want and never worry about anyone seeing me.  It may take me a while to mow the grass, but I have a sweet mower and I get to sit down while I mow.  We can have chickens.  We could have a huge vegetable garden (we don't but we could).  I have an absolutely clean view of the stars.  My sunsets and sunrises are amazing.  When we do have other kids come over they run around like crazy people the whole time, and go home super tired to very happy parents.

I have a tree-lined driveway.  That's worth saying twice:  I have a tree-lined driveway.

The hubby has lots of space for all his boy things, like a giant man-cave.  My sister had her wedding here, and it was really pretty.

Hubby and I grew up in the 'burbs, surrounded by lots of other families and kids, and we were very happy growing up that way.  Raising kids out here isn't something that comes naturally to us, we're just hoping it all works out.  We've asked the kids occasionally if they wish they lived in a neighborhood.  They know that if we did they'd have more access to friends.  But they say they don't want to leave.  So they must be happy enough here.  Hopefully it's not just that they don't know anything else, but who knows?  As for me, I think I'm pretty happy being a country mouse now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Impending Birthday Party Giddiness

My boys have birthdays in the Fall.  I think I've mentioned before how most of the beautiful events of my life take place in the Fall, for some reason.  Maybe it's because of my love for the season that I get so festive, but ever since they were born I get carried away at their birthday celebrations.   We don't have the regular Fall Parties like we used to, since parenting and life in general sort of got in the way, but I have the boys' birthdays.  One in October and one in November.  That makes up for the void.  Plus, we have such a large amount of extended family around, that having big get-togethers is unavoidable.  And since there were going to be 25 or 30 people at their birthday parties from birth on, I figured why not make it an event?

Then they started going to school.  And kids have birthday parties for their school friends.  So then I started adding ANOTHER party in between their birthdays, and combined it as an event for both of them to invite their school friends.  I figured it should be separate, because what little kid wants to go to a party and be bombarded with dozens of uncles, aunties, and cousins?

We were doing this little party where we would have buddies come over and carve pumpkins and eat cupcakes, and then just in general run around the place.  At least we have a lot of space for them to do that.  I think they enjoyed it.  But this year they want to do something different.  I guess they feel a bit old for pumpkin carving and cupcakes.  They want to have their party at Grand Slam, a place with batting cages and laser tag.  Sweet.

Anyway, I still have the family to contend with.  So I have the "big" birthday parties as well every year, and I get SO carried away.  I love love love to have parties, and what better excuse to have a theme party for the kids' birthdays?  So every year they pick a theme, and I go bonkers.  I make the invitations, which is half the fun, and start getting the stuff to decorate.  I know the decorating is more about me, after all I don't know that everybody even notices half of it, but I can't help myself.  It's so very much fun.  Every year they've managed to come up with a new theme, and some have tested my creativity.  We've done the typical Spongebob, Batman, and Hot Wheels.  But we've also done a Dead Pirate party and an Insect party.  Awesome.  So far my favorites have been the Dead Pirate party--very handy that A's birthday is during the Halloween season:


Dead Pirate Party!




And last year's Harry Potter party for J:
Oh, it's almost a sickness . . .

So yesterday I just started gathering things to do this year's parties.  A is having an Army/military party (which I had to help decide--he wanted an army zombie party, and I told him there's just something inappropriate about decorating with undead military), and J is having a Magic party.  This week I'll start making A's invitations.  That's probably my favorite part.  Camo paper and some block stencil lettering, I think.  Woo hoo!  

I already look forward to their graduation open house parties . . .

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's Tough to be a Minnesota Sports Fan

My kids have a big responsibility tonight.  They need to redeem Minnesota sports.  It's their first football game of the season.  After two weeks of practice, these young athletes are primed and pumped to take on the competition.  They have been learning their formations, practicing drills, and working out in preparation.  We have high hopes for a thrilling victory.

Well, they are in the third and fourth grade division, so it may not be a nail biter, but throw me a bone, people.  I have lost my faith in Minnesota sports.  Those of you that live in our fair state may be questioning why I had faith in the first place, but I am an optimist.  It was a sad weekend for Minnesota football.

We went to the Gopher game on Saturday.  This was a game that should have been an easy win, which should have been our first warning, now that I think about it.  It was HOT at the stadium.  I spent the whole game watching from the concourse with the boys because our seats were in the direct, blazing sunlight.  Hubby is a glutton for punishment.  Not only because he sat out there in the sun for the.  entire.  game.,  but because he is a die-hard Gopher fan.  It's almost sad sometimes how much hope he puts in them each year.


The game ended, not only with a loss, but with the terrifying collapse of our new head coach, who seems like a genuinely great guy.  Turns out he's going to be fine, but it was very scary and sad to see.  So we left that game to a quiet and depressed campus, to just head on home.  

Sunday we headed over to hubby's cousin's house to watch the Vikings game.  Again, high hopes.  And a big let down.  So then I started thinking, I'm done.  This is getting to be too much disappointment.  I'm close to giving up on Minnesota sports.  I mean, where do I go from here?  The Twins?  Not so much.  The Wild?  Um, no.  Timberwolves?  Do they still play in Minnesota?  

But I love football.  So now I'm pinning my hopes on the Raiders.  The third and fourth grade Raiders, that is.  Do you think they allow tailgating?



I wonder if I could get the Gopher Marching Band to play at halftime?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You?

My mom called me right after the first plane hit the Twin Towers.  I was ginormously pregnant with my first kid.  I was home, because I didn't work Tuesdays.  The phone rang and I was in the bathroom, wondering if hubby was going to answer it.  He didn't, so I waddled in there and grabbed it before the answering machine could.  "Turn on the news--it looks like a plane crashed into the World Trade Center."  "Seriously?  Okay, I'll call you later."  Turned on the TV in our bedroom as hubby was waking up.  I sat down on the foot of the bed, watching, not having any idea of the situation.  There was confusion, the cameras were turned to the building, and we could see the hole, the fire and smoke.  And then we saw the second plane hit.  All hell broke loose.  For real.  Strange how I remember every moment that morning until that second plane hit.  Then I think I went into a fog of shock, horror, fear, anger, disbelief, and even a little numbness.

The first feeling I remember having is fear for my little baby.  I was due in a month, and what kind of world was it going to be when my baby was born?  The rest of my pregnancy was completely filled with sadness and devastation.  The world was in chaos because of the attacks of September 11.  Our precious Aunt was in hospice, dying of breast cancer.  She was the sister of my mom-in-law, and another amazing, sparkly woman.  And the world was going to be less sparkly without her in it, and now this?  It was difficult most of the time, but I would concentrate on putting all the grief on a shelf for a while so that I could feel the joy I was supposed to feel about the impending birth of my first child.  I would feel guilty when I felt happiness, like most of our country.  And I would feel him in there, pushing around, getting his feet stuck in my ribs, innocent to it all.  He was my little beacon of hope.

My hubby is an air-traffic controller.  When the attacks happened his co-workers were tasked with the solemn chore of grounding every single plane in American airspace.  He still had to go to work, but there were no planes to control.  It must have been so surreal.  They put all these concrete barricades up all around the Center where he works, for security purposes.  Air Traffic Control Centers became a possible target of terrorists, and I had to let him drive there and be there every day.  He is not a New York Fireman.  He is not a New York Police Officer.  Or a rescue worker of any kind.  All of those families had to continue to let their loved ones continue to go to work, and I remember selfishly wishing I could keep my hubby home.

Going about my days seemed so different.  Television was stuck on coverage of the attacks.  No sitcoms, no football games, no commercials even.  I felt guilty about going to the grocery store.  I felt guilty that life had to go on.  The death toll was horrific.  It seemed like everyone in the country was affiliated with a lost soul that day.  I felt guilty that I wasn't.

My baby was born one month and one day after the attacks on September 11.  The news in my hospital room was still all about the attacks, but was now shared with news of possible Anthrax attacks.  Football had mostly started up again, but it was much more solemn, much more tentative.  There were signs of America healing.  But it was slow and careful.  I still felt hesitant about being joyful, and here I was, giving birth.  My mom-in-law and my hubby's Nana (his great-grandma) were among the visitors at the hospital awaiting the baby's arrival.  But their joy was tempered with deep grief, because Aunt J was getting worse, and it probably wouldn't be long until she moved on.  When the nurse brought the baby into my hospital room after getting him all cleaned up, I felt oddly detached--"oh my gosh, this isn't just the end of a pregnancy--I actually have to take a baby home with me now!"  And then feeling guilt about feeling like that.  From the hospital we drove immediately to Aunt J's home so she could see the baby.  Her children hadn't had kids yet, and we knew she wouldn't be able to hold her own grandbabies.  So we wanted her to feel like ours was hers.  A's first car trip was to her home, to be placed in her lap.  And she loved him!  That was one of my first joyous memories.  To see her hold him up to her face, to see her smile, and to see her whisper to him.  We went there every day after he was born for quite a while, so he could nap with her, so she could smell his sweet baby smell, so all the people who were spending time with Aunt J could also see the hope of the new life to help with their fear and sadness.

I didn't know anyone who lost their life in the attacks of September 11.  I don't know anyone who lost a loved one in the attacks of September 11.  But there were women who lost their husbands that day, who were pregnant with their babies.  I cannot imagine the horror they must have felt.  My fears and worries seem so insignificant and selfish compared to them.  But that day affected each of us individually, and our nation as a whole.  My first born is a blessing.  He was brought into this world in a dark time, just like all the babies during that time.  But they're all about to turn ten now.  And they are now the future of our country, and another reason to feel joy and hope.  He was born with such a huge amount of responsibility, and he's blissfully unaware.

I don't know when, but gradually I was able to feel pure joy again.  Laughter came easier.  Americans eased back into their lives, with our new sense of normal.  Partly because we all had families to care for, jobs to go to, homes to keep up.  But also because we are resilient, and humans were meant to be joyful. Today we are going over to the hubby's cousin's house today.  We are going to celebrate his 40th birthday by watching the Vikings.  We are going to cheer loudly, eat unhealthy food, and drink beer.  We are going to feel the happiness and comfort of just being together and being a family, and watching our kids play together.  I will pray for the families of September 11, and for our Country.  And I will feel unashamed joy as well.  It's a balance we've all had to learn.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Beautiful Fog

Everybody has a story.  Sometimes when I'm out in the world I get this rush about how much I love people.  Just everyday people, going about their lives.  I was driving into the Target parking lot--something I shouldn't admit to how often I do--and I saw a guy lift his little toddler out of the cart to put her in the car. Before he put her in her carseat, he tossed her up in the air and caught her, then kissed her face a bunch of times.  It was a simple little moment of joy, that I was lucky enough to catch.  It's those moments that make me feel like people are so beautiful.  Obviously there are a lot of unhappy, unpleasant people, but for the most part, we are all good, we are all doing our best to make a positive impact.  Who knows what kind of life that dad leads.  He may be an over-worked single father.  He may have recently lost a family member.  He may be out of a job.  He may hate his job.  But in that little moment, he was a happy man enjoying his kid.  And to me he looked like a perfect human being.

There's a man that works in one store that I go to pretty often.  Every time I walk in he greets me with a "Happy Thursday (or whatever day it is), young lady!"  He literally almost shouts it.  He'll follow that up with "anything I can help you with on this beautiful afternoon?"  And I end up thoroughly enjoying the store.  He always compliments me on my whistling (which I consider a bad habit).  Every time I'm there I leave in a better mood than when I came in.

My mother-in-law was that person.  She never walked away from anyone without trying to make them feel happier than they did when she walked up to them.  She was this force of nature.  She sparkled.  She loved her family with all her might, and she loved everyone she bumped into.  From the waitress at the restaurant to the stressed out mom on the bench at the mall.  She gave out compliments to everyone she interacted with, she never stopped humming, and she made all of our lives better for being in them.  She was sort of like magic.  I have tried to learn from her.  I try to remember to compliment people I see, especially if they look like they're having a tough day.  I'm not great at it, but I'm getting better.  And when I do it, I feel so good!

Her life was not perfect.  And since her passing four years ago, we are learning just how difficult it must have been at times, and how much she must have overcome to make her kids feel such love and happiness.  She made a conscious decision to be happy every day, to treat people cheerfully, to make the world a bit more sparkly.  It's a simple decision, but an incredibly powerful one.

So the people I run into out there that seem cheerful and happy brighten my day.  They probably have dark times, they surely have had to deal with loss and stress, and they may not be cheerful all the time.  But it spreads like a happy virus.  That moment that they appeared cheerful got into me, and hopefully somebody noticed it in me and it spread to them.  The people who trudge around with a scowl on their face, flip you off when you're driving, grumble when they wait on you or roll their eyes and huff at your kids, they're the ones who need it the most.  I try to remember that they're hopefully not always like that. That they have a story, and on this day it's not a great one.  We all have those days.

This weekend we all share in a tragic anniversary.  Talk about the contrast between the good and evil in human beings!  This weekend I want to remember to enjoy my life, remember that it is a gift.  I walked out onto my porch this morning because A said to me, "look how cool the fog is, mom!" as he's sitting out there in his underwear.  It was beautiful.  He is beautiful.  We are lucky to have our lives, our health, our families.  We are lucky to call ourselves Americans.  We are lucky to bump into people in the world and make a positive impact on them, and allow them to do the same for us.  Tragic things happen in our world and in our lives.  But right now, in this moment, find something to smile about.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Man of Honor

Yesterday I stopped by the liquor store because my man-of-honor had informed me that pumpkin beers were hitting the stores.  He and I have an annual contest to see who has the first pumpkin-related food or drink of the fall each year, and this year he sort of beat me.  I say sort of because of the lame way he beat me (I hope you're reading this, MOH).  So I got up to check out with my six-pack of pumpkin beer (they didn't have my preferred brand--I guess I have to go to my old fave store) and there at the counter they have Pumpkin Cream Liquor.  I think it's something like Bailey's, like you can put it in your coffee.  I didn't get it, but I might be heading back there . . .

Anyway, it got me to thinking about my MOH and I figured I'd make an attempt at explaining him to my little group of readers out there since I might mention him from time to time.  And I like the simplicity of the MOH, so I'm going to use that as his name on here from now on.


I met MOH in 1980.  His mom and my mom were on the same bowling team.  They had daughters the same age (my sister is five years younger than me) so they figured they'd get together.  You know, for what in the future would be called a "play date".  Well, the moms became instant best friends, and the sisters--who were very young then--hit it off too, but in a different way.  They were instantly like sisters, fighting like them too.  But that's where the story started.  She had a son, MOH, who is a couple years younger than me, but we hit it off instantly.  And a younger son, who was a toddler at the time, who ended up being taken under a wing by my older brother.  We all became an extended family, spending holidays together, camping together, sporting together, and doing pretty much everything together.  His parents were like second parents to me, and vice versa.


We grew up together, more like siblings than buddies, we were so tight.  I moved away when I was 17, and it was very difficult to leave him and his family.  But he came to visit me or I visited him every year, and then, because God loves me, he moved here after college to get a job and start his life.  He was my man-of-honor in my wedding (as I have mentioned), and he even lived with hubby and I for a while when he was first starting out here.  It was during that time that he came out to me, and what an honor I felt to be the first one he told.  Now he is living happily with his partner (who I also adore) in a beautiful home in Minneapolis, he is an engineer, and I get to share events with him again.  I don't get to see him as much as I'd like (again, I hope you're reading this, MOH), but I'm just glad he's nearby if I need him or he needs me.


He's very quirky, which suits me well, since I understand all his quirks.  He also understands all mine.  He puts me in my place when that's what I need, and he knows he can trust me with anything.  When he hurts I want to roll him up in a ball and take him home with me, and when I hurt he wants to do the same for me.  It's really a beautiful thing, and I wish all my girlfriends had a MOH.  It's like a genie in a bottle--I don't have him out all the time, but just knowing the bottle is there is a comfort.


Today I'm going to go visit my parents for a while, hang out so my mom can get out for some fresh air.  On the way home I think I'll get some pumpkin to make a pumpkin bread this weekend.  And maybe I'll watch Steel Magnolias while it's baking.  Maybe he'll want to come over and watch it with me.