Things I Have Survived

20 Sep

My First Summer Working Since Having Kids

I got a job. Have I mentioned that? I’ve been working for nearly a year at a small family-owned plumbing company. I do office stuff & it’s perfect. Super flexible, great co-workers, and it’s interesting. I had thought working during summer vacation would be a drag but it really wasn’t. I left for work each morning by 8:30 and was home by lunch time. That meant the kids had 3 hours to not do their morning chores and scramble to get them done before I got home so we could go about our day. I was still able to take our long family vacation but this time, when we got home, I got to escape all the togetherness for a few hours.

Summer Vacation

This year we headed west. J~ has been working on our Yellowstone trip since January and it showed. We had great campsites, interesting hikes, fun activities, and great weather. We hauled my dad’s new house on wheels. Having grown up with camper envy,  we traveled all over with a decrepit pop-up, it was strange to pull in to the campgrounds with one of the nicest campers rather than one of the worst. My favorite campsite was Curt Gowdy State Park in Wyoming. I’d love to go back there and explore some more. Such interesting topography and great trails. I’d highly recommend a stop there if you’re ever in southern Wyoming.

A Breast Reduction

I’ve been dreaming of this for a solid decade. I finally did it. The only regret I have is waiting so long. Surgery went well. Recovery was relatively easy. The worst part was and will always be finding bras to fit my freakishly small ribcage. At least now my cup size is in the first third of the alphabet rather than the middle third.

E~’s First Car Accident

Picture it: J~ is out of town, I am volunteering for a band function, E~ was left in charge of taking G~ to his percussion lesson. Around the time I’m expecting E~ to show up at band, I get a panicked call, complete with yelling and crying, that he was in an accident.

Just typing that I can still feel the panic and fear.

He was fine. Gavin was fine. The other driver was fine. E~ was on a very busy road, a mere 3 blocks from our house and didn’t leave himself enough room to react to a driver who stopped short. He rear ended the car in front of him. He wasn’t on his phone. He wasn’t speeding. He was just too close. The car he hit will need a new bumper. E~’s car was totaled. He was devastated.

In the end though, there was much good found in this accident. The driver he hit was super calm and kind. She even hugged E~ before she drove off. Because the accident happened in our neighborhood our village showed up. A friend was a few cars behind E~ and saw the boys and pulled in to the first driveway and stayed with the kids till I got there. Another neighbor saw the accident and came up to stay with the boys too. Our car guy neighbor came and helped get the car home to our house. Both E~ and I were getting texts all night long from friends who had seen the accident aftermath and wanted to check to make sure we were all fine. We ended up replacing E~’s car with the same type of Saab, just a year older. While we were working all that out, I was driving a rental and thoroughly enjoying driving an updated vehicle. I felt it was unfair E~ kept getting nicer cars than my van while I was driving my annoyingly fine minivan. There was nothing wrong with it, it was just old and clunky and loud and annoyingly fit to drive. So J~ and I decided to explore trading in the ol’ Trusty Toyota and getting something new.

Car Shopping

I had my heart set on a Volvo XC90. Used obviously. I’m all about safety now. Volvo’s are always first in safety and their older vehicles have features newer cars are just getting. The XC90 seats 7, so it would fit all of us and a couple of friends. And then we drove a couple. Not a fan. I really, really wanted to like it but driving them, they felt squishy. Plus for some reason, the only safety feature not standard in the models we were looking at were back-up cameras. We also looked at a couple of Subaru’s. We kept coming back to the Outback. It has some punch to it (helpful when getting on the highway after work. The road my office is on joins the 4-lane highway just after a corner. More than once I’ve felt like I was going to be eaten by a truck in the minivan), it was roomy, it wasn’t squishy feeling, it sits surprisingly high, and I could get the features I wanted in a price I could afford. The downside is it only seats 5. Since we figured we’re just about out of the family hauling business anyway, seating 7 wasn’t a deal breaker. If we’re all going somewhere long distance, we usually take J~’s truck, the extra kids I usually haul moved north, and if we have any vacations with the 5 of us, we can rent a bigger vehicle. So we bought an Outback and I love it!

Will We Survive:

J~’s Master’s Finish? We’ll know by Dec. 1.

Stay Tuned!

K~

 

 

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What?! Two Posts in a Row?!

15 Feb

Yes. I’m feeling fine AND I’m not even avoiding a more pressing task! I got it done already!

img_44271The only time the dogs have ever shared the couch ended with Kenai manspreading & interrupting Junie’s afternoon nap.

 

Not Normal Grief

14 Feb

My mom died a little over a month ago. She’d been sick for a very long time. Her death was not unexpected. Honestly, it was a relief.

And that makes it weird.

The outpouring of sympathy almost seems misplaced. I’ve been missing my mom for years, the absence of her body from this world doesn’t really change that. In some ways, I wish people would have been sympathetic when we were losing bits of her everyday. That’s not to say people weren’t sympathetic – it would be exhausting, it WAS exhausting to lose her bit by bit, year by year. People really need a marked occasion to acknowledge grief. But it does make the memorials & such feel a little overdue for those of us who have been doing this for the better part of a decade.

Sorry. That sounded very complainy. What I mean to say is, thanks to those who were in this for the long haul & for those that walked with us for any part of this journey.

In the end, the end was nothing like I had feared. My mom slipped away quietly, surrounded by the people who loved her most. Earlier in the day my sisters & I had discussed whether we wanted to be there at the end or not. But we really didn’t have to make the choice. It was very clear early in the evening that she was transitioning. Her breathing became different & we knew she wouldn’t make it through the night. Her final transition was not marked by choking and struggling for breath, something I know I feared. In those final moments, there was no one else who needed us more. It was as if the rest of the world fell away & the only thing of importance was in room 28 at the nursing home.

Sadness & relief. Those are the emotions I felt immediately & still today.

Has it only been a month? It feels like a year.

In other grief news. We have found our dog Kenai a new home. He’ll be leaving at the end of March for New Hampshire to live with a retired couple who loves intense dogs. We’ve been debating re-homing Kenai for a while but never could quite commit. When the NH place became a reality, we took it.

The kids are not happy. I’m not really happy about it either but I know it’s best for all of us. I hope someday the kids will understand that.

On that depressing note, I’m going to sign off & try to think of something happier to post next time.

K~

 

 

The Reason We Have Rules

6 Jan

Years ago, a wise person once said that dreading the teen years was setting yourself up for failure. If you expect to have a rough go at it, you will. I took the advice to heart & decided the teen years were nothing to be scared of, they’re a stage like any other. Some stages are more difficult – I’m looking at you age 3, and others are delightful.

E~’s middle school years had some bumps. There were times I was worried we were raising a sociopath or that he would never be gainfully employed and have to live in the basement. More than once he needed the threat of me coming to school to sit with him in class to make sure he wrote down the day’s assignment before doing it himself. Maybe it’s hindsight, but I don’t recall those years being too stressful. I’m sure some of my walking partners from those years might disagree with my recollections 😉

G~’s middle school years have not been so smooth. I don’t know how a kid can go from being so loving, kind, organized, & thoughtful to the monster he is now. G~ has an interesting relationship with truth – he subscribes more to Stephen Colbert’s Truthiness than actual Truth. He has attitude & plenty of sass to go along with it. He is above the things of mere mortals – bedtimes, courtesy, rules, and other niceties. It’s exhausting trying to parent this tire fire. I go to bed most nights wondering what challenge he will present us in the morning.

I know, it’s all part of the process. His brain has shut down for remodeling. His new brain will have some great features like impulse control, empathy, rational thoughts, & an improved decision making center. We just have to survive the remodel.

Our current survival method is to hunker down & refine our parenting skills. Sneak the iPod into your room at night? BUSTED – no electronics EVER! Lie about practicing music at school so you don’t have to practice at home? BUSTED – double practice time! Constantly pester your siblings? BUSTED – Lecture about the importance of sibling relationships delivered. Sure he’s tuned it out & I’m foaming at the mouth & rocking in a fetal position but what else can you do?

Seriously, what else can we do? I’m open to suggestions.

This parenting gig isn’t easy and anyone who tells you it is is lying, probably has adult children who are gainfully employed & live independently, & need to pick a better moment to deliver their “you’ll survive this too” pat on the head.

If you’re also in this middle school swamp, you’ll find me over in the corner, sucking on a wine bottle. We’ll get through this together!

K~

 

The War That Is This Blog Post

18 May

Books have power. This is no secret. The school librarian put a book in T~’s hands this spring and if ever there was a book that needed to be read at that moment, it was The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

It’s a story that’s been told a thousand times a thousand different ways & yet this time, this telling, cracked open a window for T~. That crack, and a little mental maturity, has caused monumental shifts for T~ & for those of us that live with her.

A brief description of the story: Ada is told her whole life she is one thing & through a series of events, she realizes she is not who she thought she was.

The shift in Ada’s thinking. The shift in her perspective. It is all beautifully told in the story. What else is told is the cost of that shift. It is huge. All her life she wanted one thing to be true. But it wasn’t. That caused monumental hurt & uncertainty. The shift changed everything.

T~ & I read the book at the same time (she started it, went to bed. I took it, started & finished it before falling asleep. She finished it the next day). I’m so thankful we did because we had some wonderful conversations. For the first time, T~ found a book where the mixed up emotions she feels were put into words. She could relate to Ada’s confusion. Ada knew things were good but they still made her anxious, fearful, & unsettled.

T~ feels like that. Days J~ & I love, Referralversary or Za Ding Day are days of conflicted emotions for T~. She wants to please us by being happy, but she does not see these days through the same lens. When J~ & I think of Referralversary, we see what we have gained. T~ sees what she lost. I cannot change her perspective. It is hers as much as mine is mine. She cannot put on my glasses and see what I see anymore than I can wear her glasses and see what she sees.

A long time ago I read a blog post about how parenting is grinding the lenses through which our children view the world. I loved the analogy. We help shape how our children experience life. With my boys we started from the very beginning.

Hungry? Mom will feed you.

Lens grind.

Tired? Dad will rock you to sleep.

Lens grind.

All those grindings shape the lens so my boys saw safety, comfort, & love.

T~’s lens was ground differently. Maybe they started out being ground the same way, but eventually, her lens took a different shape.

Hungry? There’s not enough for you.

Lens grind.

Need to be held? No time for that.

Lens grind.

T~’s perspective of the world was of insecurity, anxiety, & stress.

We are doing the long, hard, exhausting work of grinding & adding filters to T~’s lens. She feels her trauma & losses deeply.  So we adapt and parent differently. We parent by book and by touch. We sense shifts & adapt as quickly as we can. We bring in experts who help us navigate the troubled waters & help us steer clear of other stormy paths. Some days we get it right. Others we get wrong. Some days we think we might survive her childhood. Other days we hope she’ll finish high school without becoming pregnant.

Good thing there’s grace!

And psychiatrists.

*insert funny segue*

To sum up.

Read The War That Saved My Life.

If you’re in the trauma/loss parenting trenches, we’re right there with you!

But you should really take some time and read The War That Saved My Life & then we can discuss 🙂

K~

 

 

I’m Not Good At This

25 Feb

Not blogging. I’m not sure I was ever good at that 😉

T~ is home sick today. That’s 2 days in a row. She’s not terribly sick, a fever & a case of the mopes. She’s fine on Advil but spikes a fever as soon as the meds have worn off. We’ve been watching lots of movies, reading books, & she’s getting lots of time to make stuff on her rainbow loom.

I am bored. I am not used to being home. My days consist of school stuff, work, volunteer things, errands, walking dogs, etc. I’m rarely home. I don’t know how I did this when the kids were little and we were home all.the.time.

In other news, E~ started drivers ed this week.

Someone hold me.

K~

For Marlene

11 Feb

Last week I was reminded that I no longer blog. I can’t promise I’m going to do this more often, but for those of you still reading, here’s an update!

IMG_2782E~ is now in high school. Yikes! So far high school has gone well. He started the year with Marching Band, which we all loved. Marching Band is a big deal here. The season was full of morning practices & competitions & football games & hanging out with great kids. When season ended, the letdown was a bit much, so he joined the swim team. I was pretty conflicted about swim team. It was a huge time commitment (3.5hrs of practice every day, plus school breaks) & E~ isn’t fond of being busy. I was picturing having to drag his butt out of bed for 3 months at 5:45am for morning practice, listening to him cry every night about not having time for anything HE wants to do, & I was fearful he’d lose too much weight. He had finally stopped looking like a naked Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. In the end, we let him make the decision & he made the right one – he joined the team. It was a great season. He rarely complained, found time for homework & Lego’s, & ate like a horse. The biggest benefit was an attitude change. The swim coach is big in positive thinking & our little Eeyore is no longer our most negative child. Maybe by the time he’s a senior, he’ll be more positive than negative 😉 One can only hope.

IMG_2990G~ is a big 6th grader. And by big, I mean he’s a full inch taller at the start of 6th grade than E~ was at the start of 8th. He wears a size 12 shoe at age 12. If this kid isn’t taller than his dad, we’ll be shocked. G~ was very ready to move on from the neighborhood elementary & has loved everything about Treetop Jr. High except the bus. If there’s a club to join, G~ is in it. His favorite class is band & he’s excited for Jazz Band to start in 7th grade. G~ swam for the neighborhood team again this year & is still playing soccer. Currently he’s playing his last year of Upwards Basketball. As always, G~ is more swagger than skill, which makes him hard to watch at times. In fact, he told me once it would be hard for him to decide between playing varsity basketball or being in the pep band. I bit back the laughter & said it sure would be. Sorry kiddo, it’s pep band for you!

IMG_2773T~ is in 3rd grade. She is back in the same classroom with her bff, EL~ which is great. T~ swam her first season with the ‘hood swim team & loved it. I think we’ve raised some fish. She loved swimming the butterfly & can’t wait for season to start in June. T~ played softball this summer & hated it. She was ready for ‘real’ softball & instead got another year of ‘everyone gets a hit & a base & no one gets out’ She was frustrated by it, as were we. The bright side is we may have no one playing ball this summer, which would be awesome. T~ is a huge reader & we’ve had to ban books from her bedroom at nighttime & from the bathroom. T~ is also playing basketball for Upwards again. She is by far the quickest kid on her team – she’s always the first kid back on defense. I think she’s finally getting the game & it’s fun to watch her. If nothing else, T~ will always play her hardest.

What else? J~ is still at the same company. I finished another season at the apple orchard & will start seed filling for J~ in the next month.

I know! We got another dog. Mostly because we’re nuts. Our friends in IL have this amazing golden retriever named Stella. They had been hoping to breed her & we were first on the list for a Stella Puppy. It took forever for Stella to get pregnant & we are not patient people, so in February of 2014 we got Kenai, the Ginormous Puppy. IMG_1239He was 100lbs at a year & as tall as my hip. He can counter-surf without his front paws leaving the floor. He is a lot of dog.

On our last day in Saigon, we got a message from Stella’s owners that she’d had puppies & they were saving one for us. I blame jetlag or trip re-entry, but we said yes. In March of 2015, we brought home Junie. Junie is a much smaller dog but very devious. She sees fences as a challenge rather than a containment device & heaven help us when she’s bored! Good thing she’s cute!

IMG_2378

So there you go Marlene. That gives a little bit of what we’ve been up to since last winter. Nothing too exciting – Just living the dream!

K~