Friday, September 21, 2018

I miss Stumpy.

This morning we are burying my grandpa. He died just a few short months after my grandma, and one day before their anniversary. At her funeral he looked thin and complained of a stomach ache. My dad took him to urgent care and they thought maybe he had a hernia, and after a few more visits it turns out he had stage four pancreatic cancer. Which is unforgiving. It's relentless. But my dad settled in as caregiver. And then my mom. And then things progressively got worse really fast. What should have been a doctor visit turned into admittance into a nursing home. With hospice. We all hoped we'd get one more Christmas. Settled for one more Thanksgiving. It turned out we would get none of that and not even a week of being in a nursing home and he passed. The whole thing happened so fast I didn't get to see him. I had planned on popping in that weekend but he was gone before then. Grandpa was a gentle giant. I always remember him being a big guy, really strong, but so quiet and so kind. He was funny and he always listened to my kid's stories even if he couldn't hear a thing! He had great stories and he was so smart, he seemed to know something about everything. Needless to say my kids are bummed but you know what? It feels like it's the end of an era. For so long our holidays revolved around them and making sure they were with us. Every time we saw an ad for a new kid movie we made plans for Olivia and Jackson to go with them to see it. I've seen countless ads and I think of them every time.  And I get so angry at how they were cheated out of fun years together. They were supposed to have time to travel and not worry about anything. And just like that, it's all gone. He passed away while I was at the Bruno Mars concert and my whole drive home I cried and cried. I cried for him being gone. I cried because I was sad for my dad and I was sad for my mom. I cried because I was glad he wasn't in pain anymore and I cried because I was hopeful we really do get to see our loved ones again when we die and I really hope that's true because there's some comfort in knowing him and Grandma are together. It's been a heavy couple of months. But today we will celebrate him and we will see him buried with full military honors. He deserves nothing less for all that he has done. 


If you are a long time reader of the blog you know I'm a big cat person. We've had cats since I was five months pregnant with Olivia... so almost 14 years. Our first cat was Lenny and we had to put him down a few years ago because he got really, really sick and that was a really awful time. 

Then we got our cat Stumpy. He was part of a trio from the litter my inlaw's cat had. They were used in these cages as owl bait (they weren't going to be eaten for real, the DNR was using them to monitor wildlife) and I firmly believe that was mildly traumatizing and made them not quite right. Or maybe just Stumpy. But the super fluffy cat went to a little girl at our yard sale, I decided I wanted Stumpy right away because he only had a stump of a tail (born that way), and my mom took his sister, Bad Betty. 
We ended up getting Batman the next year, and Lola Louise the year after that. So we had three cats for the longest time. Then we got Ginger. And our dog Twinky. We had a FULL house of pets. Then I had my AFE and it quickly became apparent that I couldn't take care of four kids and five pets. So we started thinking about how to downsize. We ended up giving Ginger to Matt's brother Karl because she was the littlest and we were sure she'd do better in a home that didn't have loud kids because she was terrified of loud noises. And that turned out to be amazing because she's doing really well with Karl and is so much more social. 
But Stumpy, is and always has been, my absolute favorite. He cuddles with anyone. Even if you're deathly allergic or you hate cats completely- he will make you love him.  
No really, he will. He jumps up at you like he's a dog until you pet him and/or aggressively spank his butt. He really LOVES to be spanked. His little stump of a tail quivers and you kind of feel dirty but he's so lovable you can't quit.  
He was must absolute snuggle buddy. He'd jump on me no matter where I was. Always laying on or near me. He cuddled with me at night. He was always with me as I read. Wanted to sit on my chest completely. He was AMAZING with all of the kids. He let Penelope and Lucy tackle him and he never swiped or scratched. You literally could not have a better cat than Stumpy.  
But within the last year we started having problems. I thought they would get better as we downsized after Ginger left. We started noticing a cat would poop at the bottom of the stairs. It took us several months before we caught Stumpy in the act and so I diligently researched this on the Internet. We took him to a vet. He's medically fine. We have no new animals and he's been with the rest of these animals for seven years. We got new litter boxes and moved them to new places in the house. We moved the food/water dishes and changed those out. I got new rugs. We gave him more love. I called the animal shelter and did everything they told me to do.  
(There is his little stump of a tail) 
I was getting really upset because I knew my time with Stumpy wasn't going to be long if I couldn't get this under control. We have, no joke, been trying to fix this for about a year now.  
 Then he started peeing on the chair Matt sits at for dinner. It took me a little while to figure it out but by the time I did, the floor was legitimately RUINED right there. We're trying to find replacement flooring to fix it. But at the point, Matt was done with him. 

I tried a little longer and I thought maybe if I clean everything again, sanitize everything, use a different enzyme cleaner, things would get better. 
 But no. 

Nothing got better. At this point the vet said if it were him, he would put the cat down. Stumpy is 9, he is pretty old already but he could also live until he's 20 but he wouldn't deal with this any longer. 
So I was left with a decision, do I put him down (which broke my heart) or try to re-home him (which broke my heart but also scared me because what if the people end up being mean to him?)

One day last week I hit my limit. I had mopped the floor in the morning (which takes me almost 90  minutes to do the whole first floor) and he peed AND pooped in the middle of my office. I was done. Totally done. I can't physically mop and clean this much EVERY DAY. So I texted Matt and said we have to find a solution immediately. 

He found a new home with his co-worker's daughter and her family. They live in the country, Stumpy could be indoor and outdoor (though I've never let him out), they have kids who love cats (so I know he'll get endless spankings and rubs) and they'd love to have him. 

They took him that day. 

I didn't even get to say goodbye. 

And I absolutely, 100% KNOW this was the right thing to do. I just can't. There wasn't anything more I could do. I have to keep my house clean because I have to keep my kids and other pets healthy. My only hope is he's happy. Obviously the downside to re-homing him is I'm forever worried he's wondering where we are. I really hope they are good to him. I feel like I'm in between two really bad choices and neither make me feel good. 

So it's been a week. I really miss him. I went to read the other day and I patted the couch automatically and nobody came. That's when it really hit me. And I mentioned it in a cat group I was in (who I had asked for help and they gave me some great ideas) and a lot of them immediately shamed me for re-homing him. And I feel TERRIBLE. If you know me at all you know my pets are like my kids. Really and truly. Stumpy was my absolute favorite so you have to know the situation was beyond anything I could handle anymore for me to willingly re-home him. 

I still feel terrible. 

I still miss him a lot. 

I really hope he is chasing birds and bugs that he so wanted to chase but was trapped by the window in our house. And I know for damn sure I will never have another Stumpy. There isn't another cat on this planet like him. Not even close. Sigh. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

We threw on 24k gold because we're beautiful just the way we are

I feel like life is swirling around me and I'm forgetting things left and right. I just found my sticky note to remind me to blog about the Bruno Mars concert and that was already a week, two weeks ago? Good god I don't even remember. 

But I do remember I went! My friend Amy bought tickets and I drove down and it was really nice. I mean, as long as the drive is, I don't mind it like I used to. It's a few hours of time dedicated to singing by myself and thinking about things. Then I get to have fun, and then do it again. It's a few hours of freedom and it's really nice. I have a couple more concerts on my calendar between now and May 2019 so I'll have to keep my eye open for some more. 

We had a great dinner and it worked out really well because Amy ordered our food so it came not long after I got there so that was kind of an amazing idea. They have the slowest service ever but I guess if you're across the street from the venue you don't really have to be awesome because you're convenient. 
But Amy and I did our obligatory concert selfie! I kind of love this picture of us. 
 Biggest disappointment of the night- the opener. It was bad enough that Cardi B bailed, and she had a good reason and that's fine. But I saw it advertised as Ciara, Boys 2 Men, and two random acts and I was like, HOLY CRAP- it's going to be a 90's party!! 


You know who we got? Random Charlie Wilson. 

Like who the hell is that? 

I'll tell you who he is: someone who is feeling his damn self. He must have said his name 76 times during his set. It looked like a rainbow threw up on the stage. The backup dancers/brass section/backup singers (they were a three in one package) came out with jackets with sewn in glow bracelets and everyone LOST it. Like, have you people really never seen neon colors? Glow in the dark bracelets? Come on, no need for freaking out, this isn't cool. If it was 1993 this would have been banging, but it is 2018 and this is not cool. We do this kind of thing at little kid birthday parties and even they aren't impressed. 
 Anyways. So after he was done it was time for Bruno Mars. And I'm not a mega fan, but I have all of his albums and he's been on my bucket list of concerts I'd like to see. 
 Was I wowed? No. Was it good? It was. It didn't blow me away like it apparently did with everyone else. It was good, I sang along and the crowd was really fun. It felt like his concert was really short. Like the opening act sang longer than he did so that was weird. 
 He did sing live though, so that was really nice. He has a really great voice and he is professional through and through. Absolutely no doubt. 
 Maybe the second best thing about the show was being able to see stuff happen behind the scenes and the stage come apart. We were sitting beside stage but I've never gotten to see how the stage opens up to bring a piano up or down, see people walking around underneath, etc. So that was kind of cool. 

Drawback- holy EXPLOSIVES, Batman. I'm all for pyrotechnics and all of that but holy crap those were actual explosives. Which, OK, but literally no disclaimers anywhere. And maybe because we were next to the stage it was louder but it was SO LOUD. Thank god I don't have a heart condition because the sucker would have failed me. And my ears were absolutely ringing the entire way home. I had my stereo turned way up and it sounded so far away and when I turned my car on the next morning everyone started crying because it was so loud. I absolutely should have taken the ear plugs Amy offered. HA! 

Overall it was a really fun night. I don't know if I'd go out of my way to see him again but I definitely wouldn't say no. I'm just happy to have gotten out for the night!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Book Review: Yeled Tov

So hear me out: I know this book doesn't grab you. I know you have no idea what this title means. I know together you're not sure what the heck is going on, but let me tell you this was a pretty interesting read especially if you are someone who works with the LGBTQ community and maybe don't know how a religious dynamic plays into that.

Yeled Tov - Daniel M. Jaffe
1974 and Jake Stein wants to be a good Jewish boy, but he finds himself struggling to reconcile his traditional beliefs and his strong faith in God with his growing attraction to other boys. He lands a part in the school play, The Diary of Anne Frank, and while he should be imagining the suffering of the Holocaust, he feels real tsuris over falling for the kid who's playing Peter van Daan. Even college is no escape, as his freshman roommate happens to be gorgeous and rarely dressed. Author Daniel M. Jaffe's newest novel offers readers a compelling young hero trying to find a path between desire and devotion, often with advice from the voice of God, or at least how Jake imagines the Almighty ​would instruct a young man to do the right thing.
Ok so let's be honest, this book isn't going to be for everyone. I almost gave up on it around the half way mark because it is SO SLOW. I consider myself a pretty fast reader but I was really struggling to get through it. Thankfully the back half of the book does pick up a little more and it felt like we were riding downhill on a bike so that was good. Everything about the set up of this book, we have a coming of age boy living in a semi-Orthodox Jewish family who is homosexual but trying to deny/hide it. It's the 70's and when I think of the 70's I think of discos, Studio 54, sexual experimentation, drugs, questionable music, and even worse fashion. But for Jake Stein this isn't the reality he's living. He's learned at home and through religion that homosexuality is wrong on all fronts, that it's deviant behavior, and that it cannot be tolerated. He's growing up confused and it's hard to not be sympathetic to that. It's not surprising that this is semi-autobiographical because even in current day there are countless youth experiencing this fine line and walking it confused and scared.

Even if you can't identify with the seriousness of the subject matter you can absolutely appreciate what it's like to feel like you're living two different lives. You go to school, to work, out in the world with a smile and a "everything about my life is great!" facade, but then you come home and cry because you're alone and you're not OK. Jake is doing this except he can't just be himself at home either so he never really relaxes. He goes through great lengths to hide his homosexuality and sometimes it's pretty funny so it lightens the seriousness of the book and that's really nice.

I wish there were more funny passages, which sounds terrible to say because I understand the intent of the book, but I think more people would be inclined to pick it up if they knew it would be funny. I do think this is a really great read for a young man who is maybe in this same boat and really struggling. It's kind of nice to know someone has gone through this too and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Overall I'm giving this one 3.5 stars. The slowness of the first half of the book is what takes it down for me and though it does pick up, I don't know if everyone would hang in there in the hopes it does get going. But if they do, it's a great story. I really liked Jake Stein and I liked the people around them, as flawed as they are. The only other thing you should know is that there are a few fairly explicit sex scenes in this. This maybe isn't something I'd give a teenager to read just because of that and you know if I'm telling you about this... there is a reason. ;)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Penelope vs. Preschool

If you are a long time reader of the blog you know that I am basically at professional parenting expert level. Olivia and Jackson were AMAZING kids. They had their moments but in hindsight, they were really easy kids, very well behaved, never had any behavioral issues with them.

Then Penelope came along and she's her very own special kid. There is literally nobody like her and I really appreciate that. She's spunky, she's funny, she's sweet, she's lovable, she's difficult, she will make you want to pull your hair out, and she leaves you emotionally and mentally drained at the end of each and every day but she wouldn't be the same if she didn't. Since my AFE my abilities to parent my kids has changed and some days I do OK and feel like myself and then other days I really struggle and I feel like Penelope is falling through the cracks. I feel like she needs more structure and guidance than I can give her every day and I thought that a three year old preschool program would be beneficial for her. And for me because she is a LOT to handle on her own but throw in Lucy and it's overwhelming.

So we signed her up. We did all of the paperwork (well... Matt did) and my contribution was to take her to her first dental visit.
Which went about as well as you would imagine. She agreed to sit in the chair but she would not lay down. I had to open her mouth myself so the dentist could check her teeth and I had a question about how her teeth were coming in and he had to see in there and yeah, it was a rough ten minute visit. She was thrilled with the goodie bag but when the said they would see her next year she replied with, "Not so much." and we left. I already told Matt he gets to take her next year. 
We had the home visit from her teacher, who is absolutely lovely. She's so nice and so kind and she didn't even blink an eye when Penelope wanted absolutely nothing to do with her. She bounced off of furniture, got a dress up costume on, ran around like crazy, wouldn't answer questions, basically what you'd expect from a three year but one who was maybe amped up on sugar or something. 
We spent a LOT of time talking about school, picking out a back pack, sorting what would be school clothes, putting extra clothes in her bag, doing anything and everything we could to get her super excited for school. And she WAS. She asked every day if we were going and was endlessly distraught when she didn't go anywhere. 
So FINALLY the day came to actually go to school. She's only doing a half day program so it's only for a few hours and I really felt terrible thinking maybe she should be in a whole day program, maybe I'm being a fun killer. 
I'm not kidding, she was SO EXCITED. 
The first day was me kind of dragging her into the building. We got our stuff hung up and she was excited to see the classroom again and the teacher. 
We did a quick hug and I explained to her that I would go but I would come back to get her. Really pepped her up, really tossing out all of the cool stuff about school. 
She was pretty excited even still until I left. I had to peel her off of me and run down the hall kind of crouched down so she couldn't see me. I heard her cry and I just kept going and cried in my car. When I went to get her she was full out in meltdown mode and they said she'd been like that most of the day. 
The second day I expected to be a little better. She was GREAT walking in. Let me do the whole routine of getting her in the classroom and I didn't have to peel and run, but she wasn't happy at all. When I picked her up I could hear her crying from outside and when I peeked out the window, she was sitting at the bottom of the slide, crying, and rocking back and forth. Nobody playing with her, just crying.

It literally broke my heart, you guys. 
Then we had a weekend and so over the weekend we watched shows about school, we read books about school, I asked questions about school, I really kept up with the school theme because I don't want her to think I'm just dumping her somewhere.  So we went all of last week basically doing that every day. She did artwork at school and didn't really participate on the paint day, didn't do the chalk day at all. Hardly eats when she's there. Asks for me a lot.
The next week comes and I'm not even kidding- if there was ever a time that I felt like an absolute piece of garbage mom, it was Friday. I was on my way out and I see Penelope standing in the corner looking like she was going to cry. I just felt TERRIBLE. When I came to get her I could hear her on the playground saying, "I just want to go home" and I really left there thinking maybe I'm pushing her too much. Maybe she just isn't ready to be in a preschool setting. Maybe I have failed her as a mom. Maybe I'm not doing enough to help her get ready. Maybe I'm not socializing her enough. This is obviously my fault because we don't go on outings and stuff like I used to do with Jackson and Olivia.

I mean, the entire weekend I had a running list of things I'm doing wrong and every way that I'm failing her and how obviously I'm traumatizing here.

So this week it's gone better (so far). I mean, it's only Tuesday but so far, it's going OK. Yesterday I had to drag her in and run out but when I picked her up, she excitedly told me that she played with another girl, and she said goodbye to the little girl!!! She told me her friend is nice and beautiful while we drove home and I'm not kidding, I teared up because I seriously hope this is the breakthrough moment. She talked about group time, and how they brush their teeth, how gross the lunch is, that they play at a park, etc. I mean, it was like a totally different kid. So I'm hoping.

It's so crazy how preschool basically tamed her at least there. She's still crazy and loud at home, but it's like all of that is gone while she's at school. Which is probably a good thing because I guess I don't want reports of her jumping off the top of the slide and stuff, but it's such a strange change in her. So that's how preschool is going. It's early days and we've kind of been through a lot but I'm really hoping it gets better and better.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Changes: maturity vs death

I've noticed for awhile that my outlook on life has been pretty different. I think some of my long time readers have noticed, and maybe some on Facebook, but I have really noticed it in myself. I'm not as snarky as I once was. I don't always have a smart ass comeback. I don't always hit the funny mark- sometimes I try to be funny but I miss and it ends up being hurtful and I'll tell you- I really don't even know it's happening until someone points it out. I don't think the same way I used to, my brain doesn't actually function the way it once did.

Social issues that I used to be very black and white on have turned gray for me. I used to think people would get shot by police just needed to follow some damn directions or, better yet, not commit a crime. I used to think people who were on welfare just needed to work harder, stop looking for handouts, learn to help themselves. I would snicker at a fat person, or judge someone on what they were wearing.

I don't know what happened. Sometimes I think maybe I just matured, but sometimes I wonder if dying on the table did it for me. Maybe I had an epiphany or something.

I noticed when on Friday there was all of the hurricane coverage and I had several people on Facebook talking about how the people who didn't evacuate, even though it was mandatory, are idiots and shouldn't be saved. And it really struck a cord with me because if this was 3 years ago, I would have fully agreed. No question. But then after that hurricane hit Texas a year or so ago, I spent a lot of time watching the news and documentaries, reading stories on Facebook and interviews, and I realized that there were a LOT of people who legitimately couldn't go. They had no resources, no place to go, no way to get there, no money, they'd lose their jobs if they left for too long, etc. Then I thought about my life- would I be able to go if someone gave me a couple of days notice? Just pick up all four kids, and my pets, and go?

Not a chance.

And it's not like we are without means. Matt has a good job and a steady paycheck. BUT.... I don't have a job. I can't contribute to our family like I once could so all of the bills we have, our home, our car, was all based on both of us having some kind of income. And that's not our reality anymore. Nobody could have predicted I would have died on the table and come home impaired for life. It was such a freak thing, who can plan for that?

My aftermath truth is that I'm impaired. I rely on others to help me. I cannot work. I have health issues that affect my daily living. I cannot lose weight and I struggle with that. I'm not at all like I used to be. I have lost friends because they'd rather have me like the old Sara. I have been humbled but also blessed. I am able to understand the plight of people more. Not all, because I will never understand what it's like to be a minority in this country because I am white and I have privilege that comes with that. But I'm able to listen to both sides. I'm know what sympathy and empathy are now. It's really true that everyone has a struggle that you maybe can't see. People look at me and I can fake it and look normal. Look OK. Look happy. Look like I have it together. But I go to my car, or I go home, and it all falls apart. I don't want people to see my impairments because it is embarrassing.

Honestly? I'm grateful. I feel lighter in my life. I feel happier in that regard. I will help others until I have nothing left to give. I compliment strangers and it still surprises me the responses I get from those people. I enjoy my friends more because the ones still here mean the most.

So I don't know what the point of this post really is. But it really struck a cord with me because I see people bashing the hurricane victims, I see people support a President who is unbelievably hateful, I see people not understanding that a lot of people are really struggling out there through no fault of their own. Families are being separated and it's upsetting. Kids are struggling in their home life and then in school. People are working several jobs and still barely make rent. People are homeless and can't get the leg up to improve their life. There are so many things wrong in this world and I'm at the point where.... being a bitch isn't helping. I can't save the world but maybe I can make somebody's day a little better somehow.

I guess I just ask that before you post something on Facebook, ask yourself if there's a point to it. Or are you just criticizing because you can? Are you doing something to help the people you're criticizing?

Friday, September 14, 2018

Back to School. THANK GOD.

I know there are a lot of parents who really cherish their time with their kids and are sad when summer is done. I am the exact opposite of that and I love when school starts back up. It's not that I don't love my kids, but I really enjoy the routine and chaos. I love fall (but hate winter), I love hearing their stories about school and the flurry of papers that I have to go through. It's an evening ritual I really enjoy. I do best with a routine now so I have been anticipating back to school for awhile now.

So this week is the first week. Tradition calls for their photo in front of our door in the morning and last year I forgot to do Olivia's so I had to do it in the afternoon, so THIS YEAR I told her to come get me before she left for the bus. So she did.
But I'm really tired and I'm not trying to get dressed this early so I went out in my pajamas and Crocs. She wasn't impressed and told me to hurry and get back into the house.
So that's what I did. She was wearing matching sweatshirts with her friend Bethany because this is apparently a thing in middle school.

Monday was Olivia's first day and she got to go a whole day. Jackson had Smart Start on Monday which is basically a meet your teacher, unpack your stuff day. His first full day was Tuesday. 
I volunteered at the picture table but we got to meet Jackson's teacher and put all of his stuff away. His teacher is really great this year. He's at a really great school so I didn't expect anything less. And yes, I know his locker sticker isn't straight, HE put it that way so it would be easier to find his locker. Apparently reading the stickers or just knowing you're on the end isn't easy. Oy. 
He's a pretty patient kid because he had to wait around for two hours while I volunteered so he entertained himself by building this in the library. 
Tuesday was his first full day and he said he had a really great day. He seems pretty excited about his class. He's already trying out for a robotics club and filled out an application to be on the leadership team. He really likes getting involved in clubs and stuff so I hope he gets to be on one of those. Or both. Whatever he wants to do I'll make it work.

So we're off and running! Next week I'll tell you about Penelope and preschool. Let's just say it warrants its own post. (Not a shocker, is it?)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Book Review: A Good Time Cowboy

I'm slowly coming out of my reading slump but a Maisey Yates book is an amazing way to come out of one!

A Good Time Cowboy - Maisey Yates

When Lindy Parker lost her cheating husband, she gained a vineyard. She’ll do anything for Grassroots Winery, including teaming up with the hottest devil she knows, rancher Wyatt Dodge. Wyatt is her ex’s friend and has an ego as big as the bulls he rides. But in spite of that, disciplined Lindy has always wanted him…

Lightning struck Wyatt Dodge the first time he saw Lindy Parker. But there were two problems with that: she was married to his friend, and Wyatt doesn’t do strings. But now Lindy is free, and the two of them can finally explore the heat that’s burned between them for so long. But can Lindy make this good time cowboy decide on forever?

Alright, so this is the third book in the Gold Valley series, and of course, it's a stand alone but it's fun to read them in order because we see little pieces of the couples from the other books in this one. That and the story for Lindy is introduced in the other two books, we learn she's divorced and basically took her ex to the cleaners and took over the winery which was long held in their family, and some people are still a little bent about that. But in this book Lindy finds herself having to work with Wyatt, who is friends with her ex-husband, and she doesn't have positive experiences with him. She basically sees him as a man whore who has no regard for anyone's feelings, and Lindy is very much not a whore and has no desire to be another notch on his belt. What can't be denied though is that they are both attracted to each other, but neither one of them is able/willing to suck it up and give it a try.

The better part of this book is them working through their insecurities. She puts herself out that as very prim and proper, and ice queen. He is seen as the playboy without a worry in the world. As it turns out they are neither of those things but they fit into the roles others have given that. I really loved watching them work through that all while flirting and being stubborn, often at the same time. It's like one step forward, two steps back throughout the book. The event their two businesses are putting on obviously comes with it's own hiccups and challenges but watching them having to work as a team to pull it off is entertaining for sure.

Overall I'm giving this one 4 stars. It wasn't "oh my god" great to push it to a 5, but it was definitely more entertaining than a 3. I'm really enjoying this series so far and I'm looking forward to what's next. I will say though that of all three books so far Lindy was my least favorite character. Her insecurities lead her to be too much of a bitch at times and that didn't sit well with me at times. Nonetheless, this was a fun book to read at the end of my summer!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Cleaning, sorting, purging, not day drinking

If  I were a drinker, this weekend would have been an appropriate time to do it heavily. The season is changing and in northern Wisconsin that means you start The Great Wardrobe Switch.

Everything that is summer and cute needs to be moved or packed away and everything that is fall/winter and bulky needs to come out. It's taxing when you do your own clothes because you figure out what doesn't fit, what does fit, what will be donated, what can you maybe sell, etc. But as a mom that job lands solely on me and I hate it.

I hate that all of these lands on my shoulders. Because what if I die? Will this just never get done?

Probably not.

Thankfully Olivia and Jackson did their own dressers and closets about a month ago and we donated their old clothes to people we knew that could use them and it was really great to get all of that stuff out of here. This weekend though, I had to do Penelope and Lucy's stuff which just feels monumental because their things are so little. It's little and it adds up because you just need more stuff for kids that are slobs and hot messes.

It took me almost two hours to go through their dressers and figure out what still fit and then I threw everything else into a laundry basket that I would figure out later. Moved all of the stuff to their drawers, put the next size of stuff I have in their bottom drawers (I have this massive rotation I do and it's kind of working out really well). I haven't gone through the closet yet but their closet is just... it's a LOT and I need another weekend to do it. I have to psych myself up for it.

I then sorted out stuff we can sell and what I'm going to donate. Fortunately my donate pile is significantly larger and Matt took all of that on Sunday so my back porch is EMPTY. (It literally has been stacked with stuff all summer because I feel stupid bringing one bag to donate- if I'm going to do it, I will fill my entire trunk up and make it worthwhile.) My sell pile is going to a children's resell place that I've gotten a lot of Penelope's new school clothes at and that worked out really well.

But now my mission is toys. You guys- Christmas is coming. I know. I feel like a jerk for saying it because it's only September but I have to get ready. My house is huge, it really is square feet wise, but when you're in here it is over run with toys. I remember when Olivia and Jackson got to a certain age and their toys fit in their room and there wasn't anything in the living and dining room anymore. It was really glorious to have a regular house that didn't scream, "We have small children running the show here". Right now my house is just overflowing with toys. A lot of them are played with regularly so I'm not going to get rid of them. But I still have a lot of babyish toys that Lucy doesn't really play with and those need to go. Some of the toys that take up space need to go because I'm feeling claustrophobic in my own house. I emptied one toy box completely upstairs and now I really need to work on the stuff down here.

You know what is the devil though?


You guys, stop giving stuffed animals as gifts. Seriously. If someone gifts my kid a stuffed animal I will cut you. My kids only love a handful of them but everything else? Is going to disappear this week. That's all there is to it. I just can't handle all of these things taking up room on shelves and in closets and toy boxes. We all just need to agree that stuffed animals are pointless and stupid, no matter how cute or soft they are.

But it seems like every September I go through this major purge because winter in the northland feels like it closes in on you and I always hope if I make room maybe it won't get so bad.

The next project? My scrapbook stuff. I am going to scale down a LOT. I won't give it up completely but a lot of what I have is going to be donated. I'm not the crafter I once was and I don't think I'm going to go back. I'm learning I have to let some things go and it'll be OK but that I can't do it all anymore. It's a bittersweet milestone, that's for sure.

But how do you change seasons? Have you found an awesome storage solution for small spaces or bulky toys? I need help!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Book Review: Memories in Dragonflies

I have dealt a lot with death in the last two years. From dying myself and being revived, to knowing my grandma was dying and dealing with her passing, my grandpa being ill, and knowing several people who have all taken their turn at passing. I know life is full of life but it's also full with death and I don't think anyone is ever really ready to lose someone. I don't know if you can really prepare for that and understand what it means until you're right there. So that's why I picked this one to review.

Memories in Dragonflies - Lannette Cornell Bloom

Lannette Cornell Bloom, a typical, overworked nurse, wife, and mom of two, was forty-three when her mother was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. She quit her job and dove headlong into the familiar role of caretaking. This choice—to slow down and be present for the hardest year of her life—resulted in an awakening. In unexpected moments, as childhood memories flooded into the present, Lannette glimpsed bits of magic that existed just beyond the pain. Without knowing it, she was experiencing a mindful dying process with her mother—and it was a journey that would change the way she lived the rest of her life.

A touching and soulful memoir that gracefully uncovers the beauty that is often lost within the dying process, Memories in Dragonflies is a beautiful portrait of what it means to be human and a gentle reminder to enjoy every moment, because even the simplest ones bring lasting joy.

Normally at the end of a review I'll tell you who will like this book the most but I'm actually going to start with it. Everyone. Literally everyone should read this because we all have parents and grandparents, we will all face someone close to us dying. We might even be the caregiver, we might not know how to navigate the feelings of wanting to grieve what you're going to lose but trying to be strong for that person so you don't make them feel worse about the situation. But everyone can benefit from this book.

The book is relatively short, only 112 pages, I finished this in about two hours. The story is written by Lannette who becomes the caregiver for her mother who was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. I know we talk vaguely about death and say, "Oh they died of this" but nobody really knows what the process is going to be like. Or maybe we don't want to know. But Lannette frankly states that her mother's lungs will essentially harden and calcify and basically suffocate her. And when you hear it like that you think- who WOULDN'T be terrified of this process?? Her mother is determined to challenge this head on until she can't and the family respects her decision and her care turns from fighting to comfort care to hospice.

I don't know these people but I teared up reading this. She talks about how she struggled with wanting to talk about the truth they were all staring down but how the rest of her family didn't want to talk about it. How she struggled with being the caregiver and the feeling that nobody recognized what she was doing, what she was giving up, what she was going through because being a caregiver is really difficult. I know some people just cannot do it, and I can't fault them. A person knows what their limits are. But for the ones who are in the trenches doing it, they need some respite and maybe someone to check on them.

The other thing I really liked about the book was it touched on Lannette listening to her mom's stories and watching her end relationships with people. Asking them to carry on in her absence, and that was sad. But Lannette also struggled with trying to learn everything she could about her mom. What didn't she know about her? What did she want to ask her in this limited time? I mean, if you knew your parent was going to die soon, what would you want to know? What pieces of history or life lessons would you want to squeeze out of them? I don't think we can ever know too much about someone and I wonder if someone can pass and have had all of that information passed onto someone, or do they pass with some secrets never to be discovered? I don't know. But it makes you wonder. 

The greatest part of the story is this daughter's unending, never wavering love for her mom. It's a realization that as we decline it's like we revert back to childhood only this time our children are caring for us. Lannette struggles with helping her mother while maintaining her mother's dignity and man... what a fine line to walk.

The whole book reminds me of the Death Cab for Cutie song "What Sarah Said". It's a really wonderful song and it's one of my favorites, but there is a line in there that says, "Love is...watching someone die. Whose going to watch you die?" and man... isn't that the truth? The most loving thing we can do is guide someone at the end and bring comfort. To assure them it's OK, to not be scared, to know that it's OK for them to go.

I really loved this book and I just hope that when it's my turn I can do as much for my parents as Lannette did. And if you're reading this Lannette, your mom appreciated every minute of every day that you dedicated to her. You couldn't have shown her how much you love her in a better way. I couldn't think of a better way to have gone than what you were able to give her and I hope you know that. We all could only hope for that for ourselves.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Suicidal squirrels

We have a small pool in our yard for the kids to play in. The little girls had zero interest in the small wading pool for them because the big kids went into the other pool and these two think they're grown. 


So after our trip to Great Wolf Lodge, and I saw actually how good they were in the water, I decided that maybe I could loosen up the reins and let them go into the bigger pool with life jackets and the big kids in there to help them. 
 So one afternoon, when it was blazing hot out, we got our life jackets out, 
 and the girls got in. They were PRETTY EXCITED about it. 
 Penelope could not understand how an inner tube worked and really struggled with that for the better part of an hour.  
 Lucy also struggled mostly because she's still so little so she kept sinking into the middle hole which was probably awful for her but comedy gold for us. 

Then I realized that this pool is barely 3 feet deep when it's full and it definitely wasn't anymore so it was maybe 2 feet deep on this day? So basically, they could stand up with no problem in this pool so I felt a lot better. They ended up going into the pool quite a bit with Olivia and Jackson and we'd watch from our lawn chairs. It turns out this was the last year for this pool since the filter thingie was broke beyond Matt's desire to fix it, the cord was faulty and the pool itself was starting to sag and leak. We've gotten five years out of a $100 pool so really, we can't complain. We'll get something nicer next summer. Maybe a little deeper. 

Also new this year is our really amazing chain link fence. Matt's parents helped us purchase it and it is easily the best thing we've ever done. It is SO NICE to be able to open the door and let the dog out. Let Lucy play in the yard while I run Penelope in to use the bathroom. Or I can run in and get their drinks. We can swing one kid up front but know the other kid is playing safely and happily on the slide in the side yard. It's been really great. The neighbors put up a wooden fence so while at first I thought it was kind of rude and it really looks terrible to every other neighbor, we've kind of loved it. We don't actually see any of our neighbors now so it makes us feel like we actually have a private yard even though you can see in from the street, if that makes sense. It's been really great. 
But what we've noticed this summer, for the first time ever, is we've had several dead squirrels in our pool. Like floating away, all bloated and disgusting. I think Matt was getting really sick of sanitizing the pool, cleaning it, and constantly changing filters and adding chemicals because (rightfully so) nobody wanted to go in until he did all of that. Our only guess is that they tried running along the fence and fell in? I don't understand why they didn't try to climb out? There aren't tears or even scratch marks anywhere on the pool so they legitimately made no attempt to get out. Secondly, the squirrels in my neighborhood are LOUD. I can hear them making their squirrel noises in the tree, on the power lines, in the yard, it's a ruckus. Not one peep from the squirrels going into the pool. Wouldn't you think they'd be squealing and stuff? I'm not sure. But clearly, there is a mental health crisis among squirrels around here because we've had our share of dead ones. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Teen Alert! Teen Alert!

Just... excuse me while I play this on repeat today as I get over the fact that Olivia? 

Olivia is a TEENAGER. 
I could add probably every photo I've taken of her over the 13 years because she was the prettiest little girl. I don't remember a whole lot from then (thanks, memory loss!) so I am completely grateful that I scrapbooked all of it. 
 I was SO excited to be pregnant and even more excited to have a little girl. We were so  young, and completely naive and not ready to be parents, yet here we were. At 8:58 in the morning Olivia was born and literally nothing was the same. 
 It's funny how one moment can alter your entire existence. Everything you had been is erased and now you are put on a completely different path, one that absolutely nobody is ready for. I don't care how much you love children, how many kids you've babysat, how many classes you've taken, all of the preparations in place, the support system you have, or even how badly you want it- nobody is EVER ready to have a child. It's difficult, it comes with no manual, there is so much pressure on you to get it right and you only get one chance. I do remember holding her, completely terrified and stressed, and just knew that I couldn't do it. I was so afraid I would do something wrong. I was also entering some of my darkest times because I didn't think postpartum depression would happen to me. 
 I do remember this picture. It was almost midnight. Olivia was only... maybe three or four days old? It was the first couple of days home from the hospital. I felt awful, everything hurt, I couldn't stand but it hurt worse to sit. I was supposed to be bonding with her but all she would do was cry. She cried for HOURS. She wouldn't sleep. She projectile vomited everything I tried to give her. I didn't know what to do. Matt was frustrated. On the shelf behind me were all of my parenting books- I had an entire bookcase and not one of them was helpful. I called my mom who told me this was normal and I just cried. Somehow during my crying, Olivia stopped and I think I held her just like that for as long as I could. I propped pillows under me and just rocked. For hours. Crying. 

It legit never got easier. Within two weeks Matt decided he would get up with her at night so I could sleep because I was slowly losing my mind. 
 She bonded with Matt more than me, and that's not a shocker. She was a relatively happy baby though. We bought our first home right before she was born so our house was a disaster. 
 She really liked stroller rides, that blue monkey (I still have it, though the dog chewed it a little). She loved being on the floor with anyone, Baby Einstein movies, and things she could shake. 
 She liked being outside but it took her awhile to like grass. 
 She was a terrible napper and even worse at night. You'd have to carefully sway her into the crib, complete darkness, total silence. 

It was never achieved. 
 I don't remember any Halloween except for this one!! I found this chicken costume and I wanted her to wear it. It was warm and adorable. She HATED it. She kept falling over when I'd sit her down and she couldn't get back up. She was like 13 months old at this point. She cried the entire time we had it on except for two pictures I got. 

And this year... 
 she's 13. 

I feel so emotional about it. I don't feel ready to have a teenager but I know that life just keeps rolling with or without us. She's in seventh grade this year and it's going to be a good year. She's beautiful. She's smart. She's kind. She's helpful. She's adventurous. She's inquisitive. 
She's the best big sister any of her siblings could have had. Better than I could have hoped for. She's so appreciative and supportive. She never hesitates to ask if she can help and does the worst of the worst tasks with no complaints. She tirelessly entertains Penelope and Lucy, she's Jackson's best friend. I think back to those early days with her being totally worried that I was going to screw her up and that I would never get it right. 

And then I look at her and think, holy crap. I'm actually doing it. I'm for real parenting a human and they are turning out alright. I don't know how, I don't know why, but it's happening and it amazes me every day. As much as I wish time would slow down because memories are fading from me every day and I just want to hold them a little longer, I also can't wait to see what she becomes.