Nov 18, 2015

At the Walmarts looking for a blacklight.

So last night around 7pm after cleaning up the first puddle up pee at the top of the stairs, I started to freak out.  In my mind, there is urine lurking all over my house seeping into the carpet, padding and boards underneath.  It is actually carpet eating bacteria and the carpet is getting eaten by this toxic sludge of urine that is surely now covering every inch of the house.
In the midst of my freakout I remember that backlights can reveal urine stains.
I headed up the street to Lowes to buy a black light.
Plan in motion.
Since I live a mere mile from my local Lowes, this little problem could be solved in a quick minute. I'll run in to the store grab a black light and get all CSI on my house in search of covert pee.
Find the pee, clean the pee, sleep well.
Although Lowes website advertised a blacklight flashlight they didn't have one.  Disappointed because my plan was squashed and the carpet eating urine was still at work back at the house, I decided to check and see if my local walmart had a flashlight.  I'm in luck, they sell them and according the website they have some in-stock.
I arrive at walmart around 8pm.  I notice the parking lot is super empty.  Yay!  I'm in luck.
I'm looking around the lightbulb aisle when I catch a glimpse of a guy with a cart coming around the corner at the end of the aisle.  I wonder "is that a worker?" because I wasn't having any luck finding a flashlight in the lightbulb department and I needed some assistance.
The guy passed me pretty quickly and headed for the emergency exit.
A blacklight lightbulb went off in my head.  Something isn't right here.  You can't leave through that door or the alarm will sound.  The sign says so.
And just like that the not-a-Walmart-worker pushed through the doors and sure enough the alarm starts going off.  I look around and think "uh people of walmarts the alarm is going off and that dude just left with a cart of stuff".  But nobody is anywhere around.
Then, my and justice shall prevail instinct kicks in and I take a good look at the guy.
He looks back.
I look beyond him and see that the cart he is pushing is headed straight toward the black getaway SUV that was conveniently parked outside the exit door.
A heist!
Holy Cow.
So there I am dead locked eye to eye with this guy and he's thinking "hmm what's this crazy chick doing to do?  Am I going to have to kill her?"
And I'm thinking "this is fricken walmarts, whatever that dude has isn't worth a splinter in my finger let alone an altercation with a dude in a heist.
So I run.
And I yell "that guy just stole a cart full of stuff and pushed it out the emergency door".
And then I hunkered down by the gun counter.
Not because I thought the gun counter could help me, but it was close.
The guy gets away, I crap my pants, give a description of the whole thing to the managers on duty, and then politely ask "so where are the flashlights".

I won't even go into the nitty gritty about how the computer says there are 4 flashlights in stock but not a one could be found in the store.
I head back to the flashlight aisle one last time and sure enough, there is one, on the floor.  Obviously, I mean where else do you keep your flashlight?

So by this point it is 9pm.
Dog peed, I was defeated at Lowes, pants shat at the walmarts, never-ending search for a blacklight and finally I find myself at a register.
Of course my first attempt at the self-checkout is a total bust.  It is flashing and blinking because my "bag isn't recognized".  So I head over to the 20 items or less checker.
The lady in front of me spends $66.  Or shall I say gathered $66 worth of stuff.  I'm not sure what all was in her hands but there were Oreos, fig newtons, baby formula and 2 bottles of seagrams gin.  She attempted to check out using her debit card but it wouldn't work.  So she tried another card.  She tried to split the order between the two cards.... after standing behind her for 10 minutes while she was trying to find some soduku equation to get all this crap paid for I screamed at the top of my lungs "HEY CRAZY WALMART WHITE TRASH PIECE OF CRAP WHY NOT JUST BUY THE BABY FORMULA AND THE OREOS AND MOVE ON".  I screamed using my inside my head voice so she couldn't hear me.
I finally had enough though and put my black light, vitamin water and chocolate in my basket and turned to find another check stand.  She was not happy about this and laid into me about being a rude bitch.
Obviously, I had to hit her over the head with the two bottles of gin, and take her baby's blanket on my way out the door.

So, if you needed a reason not to shop at the walmarts: crazy heists, soduku grocery payment.

Got the blacklight, came home, ate my chocolate an while searching the house for any hint of pee, the dog peed on the carpet.
I hit it with the blacklight and nothing showed up.

Just in case you think I'm just a bad dog borrower and I'm somehow the cause of all this flesh eating carpet eating urine....tonight I was playing catch with the dogs and the black one ran after the ball, stopped halfway before she reached it and peed on my carpet.

Is that carpet cleaner toxic?  Because I'm about 1 patch o' pee away from drinking the entire container while looking directly into the blacklight.

Nov 17, 2015

Big Decison

So today as I reached the top of the stairs to find a puddle of dog pee, I asked myself
"self, just what are you going to do?"

Option 1:
Wait until the day before the owners come home and feed the dogs a crap ton of people food so they get sick.  Apologize upon pickup "oops sorry" and then I'm automatically excused from dog sitting over Christmas.

Option 2:
Wait until the dogs leave and then burn all of our furniture and rip out the carpet, replace it all with new stuff that couldn't possibly have been tainted by dog pee or poop.

Option 3:
Kill the dogs.

Option 4:
Declare a pooping and peeing free-for-all.  No more worries about the dogs peeing or pooping outside or the boys peeing in the toilet instead of all around it.  Just embrace it all and become that house that nobody will ever come to because they are afraid of being asked to sit down on furniture or snuggle up with a blanket.

Option 5:
Tell the owners the truth, that these are by far the worse dogs we have ever dog-sat for and there is no way in hell I will ever invite them into my house again.  Even if the world were freezing over, and an astroid was heading toward the city and if simply inviting these dogs into my house would heat the earth back up and save the entire planet from complete disaster, my answer would still be no.

Option 6:
Letting the dogs live, getting the carpets and furniture professionally cleaned and never letting another dog in my house again as long as I live.

Nov 14, 2015

Toilet Seat Drama.

My boys are the messiest urinators in the history of all time.
It is disgusting.
I'm not sure where we went wrong.
Is it biological?  Perhaps the parts are dysfunctional?
Is it poor education?  Did the person with the same functioning equipment not properly teach the others how to use it effectively?
Perhaps it is simply laziness.  Is it too much trouble to aim?  Or is it just too much trouble to clean up when things take a wrong turn?

They rarely ever pee on the seat, it is usually a direct hit on the screws and screw caps that hold the seat on to the toilet.  And then what happens next is quite disturbing.  It drips.
I'm sorry, I know it is so nasty but it is true.
It drips down the screw and onto the base of the toilet.
It stinks.
It is wretchedly nasty.
And it is most definitely a hill that I'm ready to die on.

I have nagged, badgered, yelled and threw giant tantrums for the past few years regarding the nastiness of the toilet.  And nothing has helped.
I gave up on the kids aiming properly and decided that I would instead focus on the cleanup.  No success there either.

So today I finally gave in.
I am not going to worry about pee on the screws anymore.
I am not cleaning it up.

Am I leaving it there for all to see and smell?
I took away the seat.

The boys now have a perfectly clean toilet minus the seat.

Will they still miss?  Probably.
However, the hard part to clean, the place where the seat connects to the toilet, is gone.
Easy cleanup.

I seriously hope one of them falls into the toilet next time they sit down to take a dump.

Nov 13, 2015

Dogs like to pee on me and lick my face.

maybe not at the same time....but they quite enjoy both separately.
Dogs hate me.

We are dog sitting two poodles.
The owner came over with them a month or so ago to see how the dogs liked us and the house and kind of just introduce us to make the dog-sitting go better.
The dogs were amazing.  They do all these great tricks.  They dance, and shake, lay down, roll over, and ring a bell when they need to go poodle doo outside.
One jumped up on my lap and fell asleep while we were visiting.  The dogs are all snuggly and non-shedding and clean.
We were looking forward to these amazing little fur-babies' visit.

And then they arrived.

The first night went ok.  One of the dogs likes to clean her butt or suck her toes or something all night which was highly annoying.  And then the other one started having nightmares or something and was growling/whining/snoring in her sleep.
We made it through the night and I was greeted by a nice little puddle of pee on the wood floor in the morning.
Though irritated, I have a standard grace period for doggy guests of 24 hours.  They were probably a little uncomfortable with their new environment and I could not have understood her cues or perhaps she didn't know where she was suppose to go to ring her bell.  I cleaned up the pee made a second cup of coffee to get me moving and went on about my day.

At 3:30pm Gabe found poop on the carpet.
Although Matt was home ALL day, he claimed it was my fault that she pooped on the carpet.  Since I didn't tell him that she didn't go in the morning, he wasn't vigilant to watch for potty work and therefore he didn't encourage her to poop.  Somehow that logic makes it my fault.

I would like to point out at there is a "wee-wee pad" right by the door.  The owners said it was for emergency use in case we are gone a long time.

Floor wet.
Carpet pooped on.
Wee-wee pad dry.

Around 10pm I headed up to bed.  It was windy and chilly last night so I was planning to watch a show on the iPad in bed instead of on the couch.  I tossed the iPad onto the bed, got in my jams, and then came back and snuggled in.
But wait...
When I picked up my iPad to start my show it was wet.
And then I realized I was laying under a puddle of poodle pee.


Since we were all home all night, and readily available to answer to the dogs ding-a-linging the pee-pee bell, I am completely convinced this pe-incident was not an accident.  It was a calculated plan to strike out against me for some reason that I don't know.

Obviously, I freaked out.
I stripped the bed, assessed the damage, re-made the bed, yelled at the dogs and then cleaned the iPad.
Suddenly these well trained dogs lost their ability to even respond to their names.

Then I was furious.  Where else has the dogs peed or pooped?  Is there urine and feces lingering around my house just waiting for me to step in in?
I hopped out of bed and started Operation Find the Poodle Pee and Poodle Doo.  I searched the house top to bottom looking for any unwanted poodle waste.  I paid special attention to my Afghan rug that Matt bought me while he was deployed.  If there was anything hanging around, I didn't see it, step in it or smell it.

I finally went to bed at midnight.
I woke up at 6 and around 6:30 came out of the room to take the dogs down to go potty.  I noticed one of the dogs was already up, the other still sleeping soundly at the foot of the bed.

And then....I came down stairs and SURPRISE dog crap in the living room very, very close but not quite touching my Afghan rug.
That little brat had an "accident" in the 6.5 hours from midnight when we took them out last until 6:30am?
I think not.
The dogs are mocking me.
They hate me.
And they are torturing me.

I came home from work today and sat down next to Matt on the couch.  The white one was farting up a storm.  I thought that little beast might actually be crapping as she snored on the couch and then the black one hopped on my lap all loving and sweet.  And proceeding to lick the flesh off my nose.

Dog licks butt.
Dog licks my nose.
Dog may as well rubbed her butt on my nose.

Dogs hate me.

Nov 9, 2015

Late in the afternoon on August 1st I sat beside my grandma and opened up the Bible.  I asked her earlier in the week if she wanted me to read to her and she said "no", but this day was different, she was more aware and she welcomed the offer.
I turned to Isaiah.  The best thing about Isaiah is the second half of the book is super encouraging.  If you need a pick me up, its an easy "go to".  Do not start at the beginning of Isaiah, that is not encouraging at all.  In fact it is down right scary and that isn't exactly something to read when you are feeling uneasy.
So there we were in Isaiah.  I don't know where I began but eventually I found myself in Isaiah 61.  The last few verses of the passage talk about a bridegroom and a bride.  Every time I read this verse I remember a small part of a song that has stuck with me since I was young.
I went to church with my grandparents when we visited them on weekends.  At some point there was a pastor at the church that wrote a song taken from these verses in Isaiah.  After I read the scripture I told my grandma about my memories of the song and I how I can still hear and picture the pastor and his wife singing the song.  She smiled, she remembered, and she talked to me about the pastor, the song, and the verses in Isaiah.
It was August 1st.
I'll remember that day forever.
It is the day my grandma ate a few tablespoons of cottage cheese with peaches.  And it was the day we talked about things of the past, plans in the future, and what was going on with her health.
She told me "this is the hard part of getting old".  She held my hand, she comforted me, she looked deeply into my eyes and read my fear and sadness.
August 1st was the first day she could really have a conversation with me since last April, and also the last.  It was my bonus day before she slipped away.
Currently on my christian radio station there is a song by Christian Stanfill called "Even So Come" and there is a line in the song "like a bridegroom waiting for her groom"....  And every single time I hear that part of that song I remember August 1st.
And my heart breaks as I remember the conversation, and the days that followed, and her last breath.
It breaks, as I remember that day, and those fleeting moments with my grandma.
Then it is restored because the scripture we were talking about is written with anticipation of the greatness that will be reality when the Lord comes and those are the days Grandma loved to read about and waited patiently for.
My heart is restored because that greatness is also fulfilled when we enter into heaven.  "To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of morning and garments of praise instead of a spirit of despair".  Just 13 days later she entered into heaven.  No longer a bride waiting but she was there, in that place where all pain and sorrow are washed away.  Her struggle was no longer and she could finally truly rest in the peace of God her savior.

Nov 7, 2015

If you don't have anything nice to say.....

That pretty much explains my absence from this place.
Work schmork.
It has been a less than desirable start to the year.
I spend way too much time complaining about workplace drama.
I've shed tears of anger.
I've shed tears of frustration.
I've said some naughty words.
I've been a mean girl.
I've called Matt and asked him to come get me and take me home because I was quitting.
(The minor humor in that is, I drive myself to work and there is actually no legitimate reason that I would need him to come get me so I could quit.)
The only thing keeping me from losing my mind is that two of the people I work with are really awesome.  Like puts aside their own work to help me with mine and brings me fresh apple donuts and cider to my house on a a rainy Saturday.  Their awesomeness, and my commitment to them, keeps me from taking my stapler and stomping out the door.
It also helps that at this point I am just trying to get through this year.  I have no idea what the future holds, as far as where Matt and I will be next year, so there is no need to spend my energy thinking about whether or not I want to tie myself to this horse beyond this year.

I shouldn't let the goings on at my mess of a workplace take the joy out of other areas of my life!  Its my life and work is a part of it, not IT.  So I am moving on.  Mentally and emotionally starting today, I'm leaving my workplace mayhem at my desk and not letting it seep into the many things in my life that are simply awesome and amazing and beautiful.

1.  I went on a girl's trip to Canada with the ladies I developed a strong bond with in Germany.  We had a great time.  We laughed, we talked, I shed a few tears, we shopped, we ate, we hiked and kayaked, we caught up with each other, and laughed some more.  It is an amazing blessing that God placed us all together at that particular time and place in Germany and that each of us have remained committed to keeping this relationship alive despite the distances that are between us.  I am so incredibly thankful for these ladies and for our annual getaway.

2.  My girlfriend knit me a blanket.  If you have never had a blanket knit for you out of super cozy, cuddly, soft yarn in beautiful colors then you are missing out.  I cried when I opened the gift.  I was simply overwhelmed that my friend spent so much time and effort to make such a treasure for me.  It is amazing and I'm not sharing.  Seriously, if you are ever at my house and feel drawn to cuddle up with my giant blankie, resist.  Get your own friend that knits blankets.

3.  I spent my birthday with the cousins.  They came down to have lunch and cake with me and then we went to dinner and a Sounders match.  I had such a great day.  It was a nice mix of family, food, and fun sporting events.  I am so blessed that these peeps are so close to me and that we get to share so much of our lives together.
Another highlight of the day was some Facebook posts by friends and family.  A handful of people posted pictures of me and that person.  I loved it.  Pictures allow me to relive moments and remember the times surrounding them. So it was fun to have people remind me of great times I shared with them.
This is my last year in my 30's.  I really have nothing to add to that comment.

4.  I started my Christmas shopping.  I don't mean "hey I bought A Christmas gift".  I mean I have bought numerous Christmas gifts and I have a bunch of ideas for more, which makes me super happy.  I love giving gifts that are well thought out.  I love when I see something and a lightbulb goes off that says "hey give that to this person".  I hate last minute gift giving for the sake of slapping my name on a gift.  That isn't magical or fun at all.  So yay!

5.  This crap at work is teaching me some things.  It is teaching me some tough lessons about myself and how I take on adversity, it teaches me about others' integrity, and it is really challenging me to take responsibility for my own attitude.  I'm determined to come out of this integrity intact and a better stronger person.

Oct 26, 2015

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the National League Championship Series this year.
Matt has been a Mets fan as long as I have known him. The fact that a kid from California would become a fan of a notoriously bad baseball team from New York typically requires explanation.
His step-dad grew up in Jersey and was a Mets fan.  Matt followed in his footsteps.

Matt and I went to about 20 Mets games across the East coast, with the Mets as the visiting team, before we finally made it to the Mets' home field in New York, Shea Stadium. The boys were little and had no idea how important the moment was when we stepped into the stadium for the first time.  Matt had "an allergic" reaction when the National Anthem came to an end and the most famous words in baseball were uttered "play ball". The Mets lost that day, as they did often when we watched them play, but the losing streaks, the failure to make it to post season never altered Matt's commitment to his team.  Matt is a Mets fan through and through.
Just a few weeks after we arrived back in the US from Germany Matt and I headed to the closest ballpark to watch his Mets in action after the three year hiatus from America's pastime.

I never really watched baseball when I was growing up, I had no idea how simply perfect the game is.
So with a growing love for baseball and Matt, I too became a Mets fan.
Now, I do root for the Mariners, and I will cheer on the Giants but if either of those teams faced the Mets',  my loyalty is with the Mets.
All that to say, with NLCS was awesome!  The Mets sweep the Cubs and head to the World Series for the first time since 2000.  I distinctly remember that Series too.  The Subway series.  The only thing worse than losing the World Series is losing to the Yankees!!
So Wednesday night, game 4, bottom of the 9th.
Two outs.
3-2 count.
Mets' reliever Familia fires a final pitch to Fowler, its a strike the Mets are going to the World Series and Familia drops to his knees at the base of the pitcher's mound.

Familia looks to the sky, the team goes wild, and race to the mound to celebrate.

Familia dropped to his knees.  I think anyone who watched that moment would agree it wasn't a well thought out plan to go to the turf, it was a raw emotional reaction.
The same reaction has been witnessed time and again.
Runners win a race, a soldier comes home from deployment, exciting news is shared....the knees hit the ground.
The reaction is the same when bad news is delivered.  I got the 3am call that my grandfather died and I was on the ground, on my knees crying out before I could really even process what happened.  People in anguish drop from their chairs and their standing position to the ground below them.

It is seemingly such a natural reaction that our bodies fall to our knees when in great joy and in great pain.  When I watched Familia on his knees I wondered if our bodies were created to go first to our knees in our triumphs and our tragedies.  God created us to go to him first, could that really be played out in something as physical as our bodies dropping to our knees without intention when our mind knows we have something to cry out for?

Oct 18, 2015

I am a bit of a crazy sleeper.
As in, the sheets look like I attempted origami with them in the middle of the night. It really seams impossible that one person could cause such a disaster, but somehow I do it.
When I was younger my mom would find me with my feet up on the wall, laying the opposite way I started in bed or sometimes half off the bed.
I'm super messy and I sleep hard. 
Fair warning: If I am asleep on the couch, do not wake me up.
Its like poking a bear. 
I strongly dislike someone waking me up to tell me to go to bed.
It seriously makes no sense.
It is pretty dangerous to wake me up anytime before 4am.  My brain simply cannot handle the confusion of waking up before my full dose of sleep has been achieved.
So this mix of me sleeping like the Tasmanian devil and not waking up well causes some problems sometimes when I go to bed before Matt.

Allegedly, last night I was sleeping pretty hard and when Matt came to bed he found me startfish-pose across every inch of the bed.
He had to move me over in order to make room for himself on the bed.

Allegedly, he woke me up while shoving me over and I sat straight up in bed and proclaimed "the monkey ate my homework".
He thought I must have been messing around and responded "I hate that monkey".
He was waiting for me to continue the monkey conversation when he realized I had already rolled over to my side and went back to sleep.

Today Matt relayed this story to me and I almost pulled an ab muscle I was laughing so hard.  I don't know how he didn't pee his pants in laughter last night.  Seriously?  The monkey ate my homework?

So there ya go.

Oct 4, 2015

This weekend was so beautiful. 
The sun was shining, the fall colors are vibrant, and the children were fighting.
Wait what?

For the first time in a while, I looked at my kids, shook my head and said to myself "what did I do wrong?"

The boys were in prime form this weekend fighting and whining and screaming and sassing. The constant complaining and overreacting came to a big giant explosion on Saturday.
It is 5 miles from the baseball field to our house but it felt like 500.  The boys were so rude to each other and literally did not stop arguing for the entire ride home.
I dropped them off at the house and left to get gas.
Thats how bad it was.  
We were already out, driving right by the gas station, but the thought of them being together and/or near me for even 10 more minutes so I could get gas was too much to bear, so I drove home, dropped them off and returned to the gas station.

Once it was finally quiet and I could try and think clearly for a minute my thoughts all ended in one thing: who the heck raised those rude little punks?

I was disappointed in both of them.  Truly, deeply, disappointed. I was disappointed in myself, how did I let them become who they are?

I didn't have the energy or mental fortitude to take them on at the moment.
What would I say even if I did want to settle in for a heart to heart?

For so long my goal with the boys was to teach them.  Teach them how to be respectful, how to work hard, be responsible, live fully, eat healthy, laugh loudly, do their best, love others....  I worried about how to teach them to become great people.
But somewhere along the way I think lessons got derailed.
And now I find myself trying to right the ship, correct the course, figure out where things went wrong.  Praying for my eyes to see the mistakes I made and just hoping I have time to correct them.


Sep 28, 2015

About six months ago I was in the middle of my "lent walks".
That sounds weird.  
What I mean is that I had committed to praying while walking each day for the 40ish days of Lent.

Today I was on that same trail that I logged so many miles on last Spring.  I still try to spend some of my time during runs/walks praying.  It is a good time for me to think, and thinking often leads to praying.  I had already listened to some music, reflected on my day, and was just settling in to some prayer time.
I was on the path just past the park bench and not quite yet to the pond.
Suddenly I was overwhelmed.
My mind flashed to being on this path about six months ago, praying, praying for my Grandma.
This was long before we had any reason to think she was living the last months of her life.
I was praying for her trip.  I remember praying specifically that God would work out the details of her travels and praying for my parents as they were originally the ones who where going to be driving her around on a tour d' Washington during the month of June.  I remember praying one day for her health.  That she would enjoy her trip and the journey and that she would not be stressed out or too exhausted from the trip.
And my heart broke.
I stopped at the pond and cried.

Part of me is still broken over her death.
A sadness that she is gone.
And a little traumatized from sitting with her in the weeks before she died.
It was painful to see this once active woman, full of energy and never short of words, suddenly transformed.
It was hard to watch my parents and other family members linger at her bedside wishing for the inevitable to come, but not quite ready to say goodbye.
It shook me to see her pain and struggle.

My memories of those last days, weeks, are vivid.  They are in full color and sound.  I remember her words, her touch, everything.  The last time I fed her, the last time she responded to me, the last moment that she breathed.
I have replayed those days over and over.
Each time causing pain, but still not ready for the memories to fade.

While I wouldn't change those weeks, it was one of the most challenging experiences of my life.

As I stood in front of the pond wiping my tears away I noticed that the pond wasn't really even a pond anymore.  It was completely covered in grass.
To someone who had never been on the path before, it would appear that this area was a wide open field.

I decided that I was standing in this particular spot for a reason.  I was crying over my grandma and standing in front of a pond that was disguised as a field.
Surely there was some deeper meaning to this pond.  I just needed to listen.  There must be some answer or comfort hidden in there.
But there wasn't.
I didn't walk away with any deep meaning of the grass covered pond.
And I don't have any revelation as to why my grandma's last months of her life played out the way they did.
Maybe there is a pond lesson, maybe I am supposed to gain some great wisdom from my grandma's death, but right now it is just a pond covered in grass and a granddaughter sad that her grandma died.

Sep 27, 2015

Sometimes I consider myself a planner.
But then I meet a PLANNER and I realize I'm actually not as much of a planner as I thought.
I'm a planner in the sense that I know way in advance where I'm going to be on holiday weekends.  But I am not a planner in the sense that I know exactly what I will be doing at what time while on the holiday getaway.
Maybe I'm just a plan aheader.
I also don't tend to dream about what I want to do and where I want to go in the future.  Just the other day Matt asked what I dreamed I would do when the boys get older.  My answer "I never imagined them getting older".
I, of course realize that they will get older, but my imagination never went there.
They are my boys and they need me like it or not and I just never imagine a time when they don't.
I think the realist in me, and maybe denial, stifles my dreaming capabilities.
Or perhaps, up to this point in my life, my reality is already more than I could have ever dreamed, so I don't worry about dreaming.
So being that I don't plan small details of my life and I don't have big dreams it follows that I have never made a bucket list.
There has never been anything that I am so passionate about doing that I feel I simply must complete the thing before I die.
I did make a list of cities that the budget airline Ryan Air serviced and tried to tick off all of them while we lived in Germany.  Less about being a bucket list of places I had dreamed of going and more about the fact that I need a good bargain so I wanted to visit all the cities I could on the bargain plan.

Now, for the first time that I can recall, I have a bucket list.
Is it a list if there is only one thing on it?

1.  I want to witness a flashmob in person.

I see videos all the time of some amazing flashmob to welcome someone home, or ask someone to get married, or sing some awesome christmas carol in the middle of a mall.
I want a flashmob.
That's my bucket list item.

Sep 23, 2015

Princess Dethroned

I have waited a few weeks to discuss the momentous events surrounding the loss of her crown, out of respect for my husband, but the time has finally come to make a public statement about the dethroning of Pretty Pretty Princess.
There comes a time in every reign where a Princess is shaken.  Naked tabloid photos, scandalous dealings with the charity's expense accounts, a poorly chosen outfit for the naming of a ship ceremony, the list can go on and on.
Pretty Pretty Princess was on display in the Southern gardens when Matt bolted out of the garage in my van.  Suddenly the world stopped spinning and everything was i  n   s   l   o  w  m  o  t  i  o  n.  I screamed "Maaaaaaaaaattttt".
He looked at me like I was a crazy person.
Then he looked back at what I was freaking out about.
The old beater silver mini-van was introduced, rather abruptly and in quite a scandalous manner, to the Pretty Pretty Princess.
It was at that moment that the stability of her crown was first tested, and it was jolted off a bit.
There was a little paint transfer on the Princess and perhaps a minor dent, but it was mostly undetectable.  Of course it is always the commoners that get the real brunt of a scandal such as this.  Traces of the princess mar the rear end of the van.

I was horrified.  More about how much more could have been damaged than the actual damage.
I actually saved the world that day.
Those fancy side mirrors cost a dang fortune but thankfully my quick thinking and high pitched fit saved the mirror.
No longer pristine.  She had been violated. Image tainted. The Princess was suddenly not quite as Pretty.

Just when the dust was starting to settle in the great BackingUpGate of 2015 another blast was about to rock the kingdom.

A big truck aggressively encroached on Princess' kingdom boundaries and her royal highness became another statistic in the world of Pretty Princesses moving from the pages of People Magazine to US Weekly.  She can't seem to stay out of trouble these days.

The damage done this time was not exactly the kind that one could ignore.  Legal advisors were brought in and damage control was estimated at $4000 not to include the cost of a substitute Princess and other incidentals.

The Princess has lost her crown.

I will no longer park her out in the boondocks to prevent her from being banged up by wild paparazzi.  She loses royal treatment.  She's just another one-time pretty girl who dreamed of a place in a palace.

Out of respect for those closely affiliated with her, she can be called Dutchess but she has no crown and no curtsies are required.

Sep 21, 2015

Update:  Gabe's birthday shindig was a complete success.  Three buddies joined us.  Everyone had a great time and walked away with only minor injuries.
I'm not sure who invented paintball, but I am way more fond of a Nerf war.  What is wrong with a nice nerf gun fight in the woods?  What good can come of firing balls of paint 100mph out of an air-powered semi-automatic weapon?
I played.
I said I wasn't going to play but I did.
When we pulled up to the field nobody else was there. So it was just going to be Matt, Eli and the four 10 year olds.  I thought I was safe.  So I signed up, paid the fee, and got my weapon issued.  No going back.
Then a heavily armored tactical Toyota Civic rolled up with 4 of Tacoma's most revered backyard militiamen.  They had their own gear: weapons with multiple barrels and sights and extra ammo packs.  I was scared.
And off we ran into the woods.
The firing started, I was running through trees and over ant hills, around trucks and fake buildings to get to safety.  I peek my head out....nothing.  I start to maneuver around the building and whoosh. Paintball blast to the finger.  Yep.  A single finger absorbed the entire blast of a point blank shot of purple and green paint.
As I was making my way to the dead box, Gabe saw the pain on my face, the blood on my hand and he said "mommy, mommy, my precious are you ok?".  Or maybe he laughed in my face and said "ha what happened to you?"  Aden happened.  That innocent 10 year old shot me in my finger.  Gabe looked at his friend and said "dude look what you did to my mom" then the friend ever so politely and geuninely looked at me and apologized profusely.
And that was about 45 seconds into the first of many many rounds that ended in me being shot by some boy or man who saw me as the weakest link or baby antelope in the pack.  The easy kill.
I would like to say that one time I actually captured the flag and won the whole game.  Heck ya.  With just nine working digits I rocked that game, captured the flag and pretty much secured world peace.  You're welcome.
Gabe and his friends played hard, enjoyed snacks, played some more, had more snacks, and then played more, and ended the day with cupcakes.  We had enough cupcakes to share with the paint ninjas of death that played with us all day and they were kind enough to join in and sing a rowdy rendition of Happy Birthday for Gabe.
The friends said this was "the best birthday party ever".  That means a lot to me considering all of them had welts, some were actually bleeding, and one might have a minor head injury.

In unrelated news: I did some follow up on why this one kid was planning to be at church from sunrise to sunset.  Turns out his dad is the pastor and after church each Sunday they have Korean school where they teach Korean language and other cultural stuff.  I decided that was perfectly acceptable.

Sep 18, 2015

This year for Gabe's birthday celebration we are taking him and some pals to play paintball.  
By "we" I mean I'm going along and taking photos while Matt and the boys all pelt each other with paintballs and get disastrously muddy and wet.
Because we are knee deep in baseball, the dates we are available to play paintball are limited to Sundays.  I wouldn't normally plan a birthday party on a Sunday but options are limited.  We picked a date and hoped for the best.
The plan is for us to pick up all the pals and then head out to the paintball fields.  Since it is a Sunday, and a Sunday during football season, I wanted to increase the chances of the kids coming by offering to give everyone a ride to the fields.
We are waiting on one more response but at this point our pick up list involves picking up 2 of the 3 kiddos at different churches in town.  I'm a little amused by this. We have the birthday party van going from church to church to pick up party goers.  
I'm also curious.... why is anyone at church at 1pm.  Geez.  What about Sunday naps and football?
One of the kids is getting picked up AND returned to church.  I need to look into this church.   People stay there all day?  Is there food?  Are they teaching and singing the whole time?  Do they get to wear comfy pants?  The last is really the biggest question.
I'm really excited for this little adventure for Gabe.  He has wanted to play paintball for a long time and has never had the chance.  I'm also excited for this "party" because it is his first real birthday party with school friends.  There are a lot of reasons behind this: a September birthday is pretty early to establish friends you want to invite over for a weekend party when you are new to the school.  Unfortunately, Gabe has started a new school just a few weeks before his birthday 3 times.  He also just isn't my really social guy.  He has friends at school but he has struggled with really accepting people for who they are, including the good, bad and ugly.  He tends to get irritated with people or easily offended and then friends are just classmates.  He doesn't have "play dates" with other kids because most of his classmates are busy, just like us.  Sports, instruments, church, whatever .... time for inviting a friend over to hang out has slipped away.
So this is a big birthday for Gabe.  I'm praying that he and his buddies have a great time.  The weather is kind to us, and some deeper relationships are built as they spend the day together outside of school.
I'm super relived that his friends could come because I really didn't want to be guilted into getting my butt beat up playing paintball.

Sep 15, 2015

It is slightly, only slightly, embarrassing to admit that the smell of coffee makes me happy.  Or at least happier.
I have started a new, responsible routine where I prep the coffee maker the night before so that all I have to do in the morning is press "start".
Time out - two things:
I realize this isn't a novel idea. I just have ever been organized enough before to do.
And I also realize that there is a timer feature that would eliminate me from pushing the "start" button and affording me the luxury to come down stairs to already brewed coffee.  I just haven't figured out how exactly to do that yet.  I can't risk coffee starting at 04:00am, waking me up, and ruining my day.
Back to the new routine....

My nightly routine looks like this: I make dinner, load the dishwasher, do the hand washing, clean the kitchen, make lunches and finally prep the coffee.
I hate cleaning the kitchen and doing dishes and I loathe lunch making.
So I'm typically grumpy and wishing I could just sit down for a minute and take a breather from all the cooking, cleaning and other business in the kitchen when it is time to take care of the coffee.
There I am, tired, grumpy, and typically mumbling indiscernible angry sounds when poof I open the air-tight coffee canister, drop the scoop in to my grind of the week, and its like a magical puff of fairy dust enters my nose and makes all my troubles go away.
I swear I look like a folgers commercial.
In slow motion I take a deep breath, take in the roasted deliciousness, consider licking the coffee scooper, and then smile.  Ahhhh coffee.

My crankiness goes away, I'm done in the kitchen and free to join my family in whatever they are doing or take on mount laundry or whatever else is on the agenda.  But that scent of coffee warms my heart and raises my spirits.

Tonight as I was enjoying the smell of a really tasty Gevalia light roast I felt so sad.  Sad, for all those people in the world who don't like coffee!  They don't get to experience the pure joy that ground up little beans can bring.

Dutch Bros makes me happy too.  Not only does the place smell like coffee (obviously) but the people there are so stinkin perky (ha!) that I can't help but smile when I go there.  Sometimes on my way to work I just look at the Dutch Hut and think happy thoughts.  Even if you don't drink coffee, you should swing by Dutch Bros once a week because those people are contagiously happy.

Sep 13, 2015

We have been moving into our new classroom all week.  I don't think unpacking has ever been so dirty.  Every single thing we brought in to our classroom was covered in a layer of sheetrock type dust.  Even on the inside of boxes which is a little mysterious.  How does that happen?
While there are still a lot of disorganized shelves and cupboards, almost everything is unpacked.  There are two pesky cardboard boxes still waiting for some attention, but other than that the place finally looks like we are ready to start seeing students.
Since the classroom is new, the language arts curriculum is new, the format of the program is new and the responsibilities of our team is new, we have yet to lay claim to work areas.  In our last classroom we each had "our" table, chair, and storage area that we kept all of the curriculum and other supplies that we use regularly.  After a day or two in that room we all knew where we each keep our purse, phone, lunch, and secret stash of chocolate.  However, with all the newness going on in room 101, everyone just kind of throws stuff wherever for the time being.

This past week we were getting ready to leave and someone asked "whose keys are these?"
They were building keys, not personal keys, so everyone's keys look exactly the same.

I was across the room and responded "oooh if they have a bottle opener keychain on them they are mine".
Then I kind of buried my face a little into the cupboard I was organizing.
I just yelled that at school.

My co-worker responded "Sierra Nevada Brewing?"  

Oh dear. It gets worse.

"A brewery key chain that doubles as a bottle opener in case I have no tools around me other than my car keys and suddenly have a hankering for a brewski?  Yes. Those are mine."

Then I asked myself "really self?  Of all the freebie key chains that I have laying in that junk drawer at home, self had to grab the bottle opener from a brewery for my work keys?"

Homework assignment week 1: find a respectable key chain.  Like one with an apple. Or a little "I heart kids" written in chalk.

Sep 10, 2015

Yesterday Eli told me he liked old people.
I asked him if he could choose to spend a few hours with a 6 month old baby or an 86 year old grandparent who would he choose?
I thought for sure he would choose the baby.
He loves babies.  LOVES them.  He always wants to hold the little ones and play with the older ones.  When Mason was a baby Eli never let that boy out of his sight.  He played with him, fed him, held him when he was sad, he would pass up playing with his friends if Mason was around and wanted to play with Eli.  There was a time when Mason would go to Eli over anyone else when he was hurt, and Eli loved it.
So I was surprised when Eli said he would spend the time with an old person.
When I asked way he said "well I'd choose an old person over a baby because the old person isn't going to be around as long as the baby".
He continued to tell me that he liked old people because he liked their stories.

It made me think for a bit about what I would choose or rather what I have chosen in the past.  I have never volunteered any time to hang out with old people (with the exception of my own grandparents) but I sure love to help with babies.  I've spent hours in nurseries holding little kids but I can't think of a time that I even considered befriending some older folks.
While babies are cuter, I think Eli has a point here that I have missed.  It is the older generation that has stories to tell, life lessons to share and wisdom to offer.  And it is that generation that is quickly fading away.

Maybe I should find some older people that Eli and I can spend some time with.

Just in case you are thinking "that Eli is so awesome and sweet", let me adjust that thinking....
Eli was hungry but it was getting close to dinner time so I said "drink a big glass of water and that will help hold you over until dinner" to which he gave me the world's biggest eye roll and said "right like drinking water will help with my hunger".
I was a little shocked, isn't this tidbit of information common knowledge?
"Uh ya Eli doctors, nutritionists, like everyone says that drinking water before a meal actually helps fill you up"
He loudly huffed.  Moaned something like "why is this happening", and stormed off.
He isn't always nice.

Sep 9, 2015

First Day of school success.

We got up, ate what is considered a reasonably healthy breakfast, and got to our places of education and employment on time!

Lessons from day one.

First, I cannot use my grandma's alarm clock.
I love this clock.  It is super retro, except its not - as in it isn't something she got at Target to resemble something from ages ago, it is circa 1972 and sat on my grandma's bedside table forever.  Well, until I snatched it.  She doesn't need it anymore, no early wakeups in heaven, so I brought it home with me.  Everyone likes this clock.  The boys have each tried to snag it from me and Matt appreciates its strategic location that allows him to check the time from his side of the bed without it being so bright that you don't even need a light in the room.
However, the alarm sounds like a fire alarm and that is never a sound you want to wake up to.  Ever.
It does get you moving quickly.  But not really in the right direction.
Alarm goes off.  Eyes fly open. I drop to the floor on the side of the bed and reach my hand out to feel if any doors are hot.  Nope.  No hot doors.  All is well.  Just turn off the alarm. And quickly get to the toilet so that I don't have my own little fire suppression system go off if ya know what I mean.
Maybe this isn't exactly how it played out, but who knows.  It was 6am and the worlds scariest alarm clock just sent my brain into panic mode.  A few more seconds of that thing and I would have been tying sheets together to repel out of the bedroom window.
I prefer the much more soothing alarm of my phone called "uplift".  It gently uplifts me out of bed in a more reasonable fashion.

Second, keep the kiddo's crap contained.  (Whoa accidental alliteration there!)  Gabe is a hot mess.  The kid would not be able to keep track of his arms and legs if they were not attached.  He loads up in the car for the short ride to the bus stop and he sprawls out like he's going on a six hour road trip.  He got out of the car to get in the bus and after the bus pulls away I notice he left a book, a paper, and his water bottle in the car.  A 30 second car ride.  Thankfully, the bus is going to pick him up in front of our house from now on but still I probably need to ensure all items required for the day's journey are duct taped to his person.

Third, husband doesn't use logic unless instructed to do so.  I made a quick dinner (shortly after our first day of school stop at Dairy Queen - yum) and then headed out the door to take Eli to church.  Gabe was staying home with Matt.  I leave at 6:30 and Matt and Gabe were eating dinner.
I come home at 8:30 and the rest of dinner is still on the stove and the child is still downstairs watching tv.  School night?  That little thing ring a bell?  Apparently the fact that I was no longer in the building didn't kickstart any paternal instincts to put the leftovers away and maybe ask the kid to brush his teeth and get ready for bed before the time is 30 minutes passed.

Other than these minor issues, the first day was fine.  Both boys had a "great" day.  And I didn't really do anything so there isn't much to complain about.

One more thing.  I did not wear white pants today.  I have worn white pants the first day for the past two years, however I got a text from my boss last night that said "don't wear anything nice tomorrow, the building is a mess".  Boo.  Our school is about halfway through a major construction project and it is a dusty nasty place.  So, I wore closed toe shoes, not adorable yet uncomfortable sandals and no white pants.

Sep 8, 2015

You're welcome.

Biscoff cookie magic laced with Belgian chocolate.
This is a biscuit that could motivate me to get to work on time.

Sep 7, 2015

Dress rehearsal

The first day of school is Wednesday.
I'll spare you and myself the pain of reviewing all the things I didn't accomplish this summer.
Since Wednesday is the first day of the school that makes tomorrow dress rehearsal.  We are all going to bed at a reasonable hour tonight and then getting up tomorrow as if it is the real deal.
On a good day I make the next day's lunches and figure out what I'm wearing before I go bed.
Some days I don't bother with this and then frantically throw on whatever I can get my hands on, change twice, wake Gabe up late, and then put some granola bars in a bag and call it "lunch".
I'm either not taking the dress rehearsal very serious this year or I am trying to challenge myself. I did not make lunches, or ensure there is even groceries in the house for breakfast and lunch, and I have no idea what I am going to wear tomorrow that doesn't involve comfy pants (fine they were jammie's and I wore them all day today).
I set my alarm.
That is pretty much the only thing I did to prepare for tomorrow.
If I were analyzing myself, I would suggest this lackadaisical attitude toward dress rehearsal is a reflection of my attitude toward my job this year. I don't care what I wear or how late I get to work because my job is dumb.
Or maybe that is just the two-year old tantrum I'm throwing because I don't like a lot of what is going on with my job and it is easier to throw a fit than work hard to power through the changes. 
10pm has come and gone.
I guess I should at least get to bed so I can valiantly face tomorrow's challenge of the unprepared mom vs the day.

Sep 2, 2015

Yesterday Eli turned 13.
So now he knows everything.

His grandma called today to wish him a "happy birthday" but he was at baseball practice at the time so I told her he would call back later.
We got home from practice and after he showered to decided to call her.

"I have to use your phone to call Grandma"
"Because mine is dying, I only have 17% battery"
"So, plug it in to the charger"
(enter sarcastic tone and eye roll)
"Like I can talk on the phone while it is plugged in to the wall!!"
"..........(waiting for a lightbulb to come on)......"
"Oh I guess I can."

Talking on a phone that is connected to a wall?
Shocking idea.

Aug 26, 2015


Eli turns 13 on September 1st.
This is pretty exciting stuff around here.
An official teenager.

Matt and I have been tirelessly working, ok not really tireless, but much effort was put forth in planning a special event marking this milestone.

I'm not sure when one officially becomes a man.  Maybe 18?
But then again, I know a lot of 18 year old males and I'm not sure I would call them "men" quite yet.

For Matt and I, 13 means more than becoming a teen.  It marks the time where this kid is heading out on his path to adulthood.  This is the time where he is building a foundation for who he will be as an adult.  So many of the decisions made in the coming years will shape his future academically, spiritually, and socially.
So it is a big deal.

Matt and Eli will depart this Friday for their male-bonding weekend.
I'm so excited for him.
I've been praying for this event for months.
It probably won't be "perfect", this is life after all, but I do hope it will go smoothly and it will be a treasured event in his life that he will remember fondly forever.

The itinerary looks a little like this:
Day 1: Surprise!! You are going on a trip with dad.
I'll drop them off at the airport with a pre-packed bag.  Eventually, he'll figure out the destination is San Fransisco but he will still have no idea what is in store for him.
They arrive in the city, check in to a super posh hotel, and spend the first evening together bonding or whatever guys do.
Day 2: Surprise!!  Who is in the lobby of the hotel waiting for you?  Papa, Papa, Uncle Tommy, Uncle Tom, and Cousin Mike (also sometimes called Papa Mike but I can't explain why).  After the shock wears off, he will find out all these men in his life are accompanying him and dad to a Giants game with dinner to follow.
He will be ecstatic, and if he isn't he better do a darn good job of faking it!
Day 3: Surprise!!  Fishing Charter out of SF Bay with dad.
After fishing, hopefully some catching is involved too, they will have lunch together and head back to the airport.

Eli loves: family, baseball and fishing.
We fit it all in.
And so far we have done an amazing job at keeping the whole thing a surprise!
We finally told him that we have plans for his 13th birthday, just so he would stop planning his own version of a party that included tentatively inviting friends over.  But all he knows is that we have plans.  Nothing more.  No hints, no clues as to who, what, when, or where.  So he will wake up Friday morning and head off on an unknown adventure.
I think that is quite appropriate way to start of his teen years.  Isn't that just how life is?
We want to know what is up ahead, we want to know how the stories will end, but we just have to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Aug 25, 2015

The Greatest Compliment

I have found that sitting in the bleachers at the boys' games and practices can be painful.  Not just for my bum, but also for my ears.
I am regularly subjected to unwanted conversations.  For some reason I have a look about me that invites very proud boastful type parents over to tell me how awesome their kids are.  I cringe.  Not because I don't care to celebrate their child's accomplishments but because the parent who brags about how amazing their kid is usually has a kid who likes to brag about how amazing he is, and (shocker) the kid is actually only mediocre or sub-par.
I smile and nod.  And when I have the opportunity I say something like "that's great!  My kid just really loves baseball. I highly doubt he will play professionally but we enjoy the game and all the life experiences that come from it."
Then they cringe.
They realize I'm not one of those competitive parents which makes me no fun to talk to.  Because how can you have a pissing contest with someone who doesn't need to pee?
In my many seasons of sitting in the bleachers watching America's most awesome sport, I have discovered that the truly great kids are surprisingly humble and their parents are as well.  Sure they are proud of their kids but they are not the ones who spend their innings telling everyone who will listen about how amazing their kid is.

Last night was the first night I showed up at the boys' fall ball practice.  Matt has been in charge of practices up until then.  I spent the first half of practice with Gabe's team avoiding all contact with other parents and then headed over to Eli's field.  A few ladies introduced themselves to me and pointed out which kid belongs to them.  Oh no, here it goes.  They were very nice and spared me any attempts at making me jealous of their kid's skills.  They asked who I was there for and I pointed out Eli.

One of the mom's said "he always has a smile on his face.  Every time I see him at practice he is smiling".
A man that was sitting in the bleachers who knows Eli from last Spring season said "Eli is such a good kid."
I looked at him probably a little shocked and said "thank you".
The man must have sensed my confusion of why he would make such a statement for a kid he hasn't really spent any time with and he continued "he works really hard and always has a great attitude".

I responded "he loves baseball.  It doesn't matter what position he is playing, whether he just did something great or messed up, he loves the game and is happiest when he is playing I guess that shows".

As if I wasn't already feeling proud enough, the man went on to say "Eli was always there willing to help, cheering other people on, the first one to get on the field and do what needs to be done.  He's a great teammate".

And I melted.

Good fielding, great hits, an awesome steal, or a phenomenal block are temporal.  I highly doubt that Eli will be the one out of the millions of boys around the world that gets to play baseball professionally.  But he will most definitely be one that gets the opportunity to use these traits of being a good teammate, of loving something so much that he finds joy in the doing even when it isn't going well, and of working hard with a smile on his face.

Three practices and this one mom noticed that Eli was always smiling.
One season of sitting in the bleachers and this guy noticed that Eli was a great teammate and surmised he is probably a good kid.
Give him one year?  How about one lifetime?  What will shine through him?

Aug 24, 2015

In the past two weeks at two different churches in two different states I have heard two different pastors say this exact phrase "show me your friends and I'll show you your future".

Both times that particular part of the message was speaking to youth about their choices and challenging parents to stay involved and make a stand as to who their children would be allowed to hang out with.

I did a quick evaluation of Eli's friends.  Based on his current friends, his future will be filled with baseball, Minecraft, and card games.
The friends' favorite pastimes are acceptable, they come from involved families that don't put up with crazy behaviors, the kids are respectful, and really just plain old "good kids".  So far, good choices.

There are two things that are missing in his friends: smarty pants and church friends.

Eli is a smart kid however his friends are not, at least in the academic realm.  This is a problem.  I notice that Eli doesn't want to participate in any of the extra activities at school that are for "smart kids" because he doesn't have any smart kid friends.  He also seems to resist the possibility of being labeled a smart kid or over achiever, although he has never spoken negatively about these kids.

While Eli loves going to church and really has a great time there, enjoys his leaders and hanging out with other kids his age at church, he doesn't have any friendships there that extend beyond the walls of the church.

I want his future to contain both of these elements, working to his greatest potential academically and involvement in a church community, so if it is true that his friends predict his future, the absence of these two types of friends is slightly concerning for me.

However, what if a kid doesn't make friends easily?  What if they have no friends?  What does that say about their future?

Eli seems very outgoing but he is quite shy when it comes to making new friends.  He enjoys the surface relationships but he doesn't often push further to make a new friend to hang out with.

And that brings me to Gabe.  He has no friends.  He has kids he hangs out with at school but he has rarely invited anyone over to hang out with him outside of school.  He doesn't attend a kids' service at church so he knows absolutley nobody there.

I don't think Gabe is particularly unhappy about his friend situation.  He is definitely frustrated with the fact that he doesn't have any neighborhood friends, but the reality is the kids in the neighborhood would play with him if he chose to play.

I feel good about the friends that the kids choose, when they choose them.  So I guess the challenge for me is to facilitate and encourage the kids to build more relationships that will help carry them through tough times.

Just over two weeks before school starts...time to buckle down on some prayers for good friends!

Aug 22, 2015

Summer: Day 72

Just under three weeks left of summer.
Remember that whole plan about working on healthy minds and bodies?
That lasted a week or so.
I left town and working out was not a priority in California and it was melt-your-face-hot and these Washingtonians were not acclimated.  
The healthy mind thing didn't stick long either for one of the same reasons: priorities.

So here we are 3 weeks out and attempting to buckle down.  We'll see how successful that is!!

Aug 20, 2015

Summer: Day 70

70 days ago: my family loaded headed out on our first of many summer adventures: a cruise to the Bahamas.
That same weekend my grandma, parents, two aunts, and an uncle were in Eastern Washington to meet up with my great aunts and uncles, cousins twice removed, and other extended family in Eastern Washington.  It was a mini-reunion of my grandma's side of the family.
When I saw my grandma back in April she brought out a vest that she purchased to wear on the trip up to Wa.  She was asking my sister and I our opinion of what pants she should wear with it.  Still 2 months out and her anticipation of the event was growing.
Before I boarded the ship, I checked in with dad and he told me that everyone made it to Wa safety and was having a great time.  Grandma made the journey fine and seemed to be enjoying herself.
She walked with a cane.
I was out of communication for a week.
62 days ago: Shortly after I got off the ship in Port Canaveral, I received word that my grandma had arrived home from her trip and was demonstrating some very unsettling behavior.  Dad informed me that my sister took Grandma to the hospital and by the end of the week it was determined that grandma could not be left alone.  My sister stayed with her for a few days and then my aunt came to help out for another few days until my parents returned from their extended vacation.
57 days ago: My parents picked up my kiddos near my house and headed home. By the time they arrived, the decision was made to move my grandmother into my parents' home. My boys had a chance to hang out with grandma, they took a field trip to Leatherby's for ice cream with her.
A few weeks later grandma's decline was so great that the family was searching for affordable nursing homes.
She now uses a wheelchair.
29 days ago: I arrived in California at my parents house.
When I walked in to the house I found grandma sitting at the dining room table finishing her dinner.  I smiled and said "hello" and gave her a hug. She returned the smile and hug. In the coming hours and days I realized the struggle she was having to move from wheelchair to bed or chair, and conversation was minimal, if at all.
My heart was breaking.
27 days ago: she is taken to the hospital.  She is not eating, can barely keep down water and has slept for most of the past 24 hours.
The family gathered.
The diagnosis arrives.
Without food and water, her time is limited.
She is brought home for hospice care.
She can barely move on her own accord.
18 Days ago: my grandma speaks to me for the last time.
She never leaves her bed again.
12 Days ago: I head back to California.
She has gone 2 weeks without food and 5 days without water.
She is in a coma.
7 Days ago: she died.

70 days, not even the whole of summer.
Her path was quick but steep.

Aug 17, 2015

Blessed in the Waiting.

Waiting is so difficult for me.
It doesn't matter if I am waiting for something good or something bad, waiting for an event to take place or to receive news, the waiting is hard.
The waiting may be time spent trying to tame my excitement or hours or days of dread.
Waiting is helpless and can be frustrating.
There is nothing I can do to speed things up, all I can do is, well, wait.

I waited by my grandmother's bed for 5 days.
We watched.
We turned, changed, medicated....and waited.
We knew she would be dying soon, so we waited.

If we thought there was a chance of recovery, we would have been anxious, prayerful, and holding to glimmers of  hope, but we knew there wouldn't be healing.
We knew she would die.
All we could do is sit by her side, tend to her needs and wait.

While watching her linger in her earthly body was so very difficult, something unexpected happened in the waiting, I was blessed.

I consider it an honor to have helped usher her through the last days other life. It was painful, and ugly, but I was humbled to have the opportunity to serve her.
I sat for hours with my dad, mom, aunt and sister as we talked about everything under the sun and passed time. We laughed, we cried, we sang, prayed and sat quietly together watching and waiting. We formed a cohesive team. We made schedules for night watches to optimize opportunities for sleep, there were dinner makers, cleaner-uppers, coffee runners...every task shared working together in orchestrated harmony.  There is something remarkable, unspoken, and indescribable that occurred within us all over this week. I will treasure each moment for the rest of my life.

The days slipped into hours and the waiting was no more. I was sitting in the window beside her bed, and suddenly I realized I was witnessing her last breath.
And in the blink of an eye she was gone.

I speak with complete honesty when I claim that past weeks have been the most difficult challenge I have faced. And at the same time I argue that I have never felt so blessed.

I'm going home tomorrow.

Aug 8, 2015

Another drive another book....or two.
I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to books this summer to pass the time while driving.
I think I've read 3 and listened to 4 so far.
I have two more downloaded, ready for my next trip down to California.

I can't explain my desire to go.
I went, did what I needed to do, extended my stay and said my goodbye.
I vowed I wouldn't return until her memorial service.
And of the morning I'll be southbound on I-5 again.
I don't know why, but I feel an overwhelming desire to be with my family in the coming days.

I was conflicted.
Lots of phone calls to my sister, trying to figure out what I wanted to do.
Then a few days ago my cousin offered to take the boys camping for a week so I would be free to go back down if I needed to.
And then this morning I got a call to update me that breathing had become less frequent and labored.
Time was short.
My decision was made.
My cousin will take my ticket to the baseball game tomorrow then take the boys for a week to hang out by the lake, fishing, wake boarding, tubing, and camping.
And I leave tomorrow for Ca.

I don't know what I hope to accomplish.
I don't really know why I feel I should go.
And I even know that it is somewhat foolish to go back down.
But the draw to leave is difficult to ignore.

My husband is the most supportive guy out there.  He absolutely doesn't understand why I came back and why I am going down again but he genuinely told me to do whatever I want to do.
I struggled to give him a reason for leaving but he finally said "you don't need a reason just go".

Thank you to my amazing cousins to are making their relaxing week at the lake way more stressful by adding my kiddos to the mix, and to my husband for being awesome, and to my boys for being so flexible as the end of this summer has spiraled off to something so unexpected.

Thank to you God for His ever present peace and for the assurance that because Jesus died on the cross, covered our sins, paid our debt and set us free, my grandmother will soon spend her eternity in heaven.

Aug 7, 2015

About 12 years ago Matt and I were sitting in the office of a financial advisor in Alabama.  Most of the questions were expected and Matt and I were able to answer quickly and confidently.  Then the financial guy asked the question that stumped me "will you be taking care of your parents in the future?"
Me take care of my parents?
They are my parents...won't they always and forever be taking care of me?
I quickly called my dad.
"Dad.  Do I have to take care of you in the future?  The financial guy wants to know, and now I'm pretty freaked out and I want to know too!"

Dad assured me that he thought I wouldn't need to be financially responsible for him in the future.
Whew!  Prior to this moment that thought hadn't even crossed my mind.  College funds, our retirement, buying a house...those were on the list but I had never thought of caring for my parents.

Later dad told me that he figured Katina would take care of them.
That should have been a little clue about the favorite child thing (perhaps I falsely assumed that because I was favored he didn't want to burden me with things like geriatric care.)
I told him that I would gladly help Katina choose a good old folks home for him and mom.

We joke.
That's what we do because my dad and I find it difficult to be serious at times.  We have this odd urge to provide comic relief when situations are uncomfortable.

For quite a few years now dad has talked about how he has to be nice to me to make sure I will find a good home for him, and I respond that I promise to visit often.

This long standing joke provided great relief last week, a giggle when we needed it most.

Dad and I were in the kitchen preparing a dose of morphine for my grandma.
This was a very difficult task for me.
The morphine was delivered along with many other "end of life" medications a few days earlier.  Just the sight of it made me shutter.  It brings back sad memories.
We didn't use the word 'morphine' at first.  We called it "the other stuff" or "rexinal",  the brand name.
We hadn't needed the morphine for the first few days that grandma was at mom's house.

The fact that we needed a stronger dose of pain meds was hard for me handle.
That medicine being morphine made it even worse.

So there we were in the kitchen getting out the bottle and preparing the syringe.
Dad had the drugs and asked "how much?"
I replied "5-10".
After I answered I looked over at the syringe that dad had ready to start drawing the liquid and noticed that the whole syringe was only 1ml it was very tiny.  We both immediately thought "that doesn't seem right".
Thank you Lord for logic.
I looked back at the bottle for the dosing instructions "5mg - 10mg with is 1/4ml to 1/2 ml" is the proper dose.
I looked at dad with horror in my eyes.
He looked back equally shocked.

Then I said "See dad.  You have to go to a home.  You need SKILLED professionals to take care of you"
We both laughed.  For quite a while.  Not because overdosing anyone was funny, but because the whole thing scared me out of my mind.
I vowed not to touch any more medication and promised dad I would find him a very, very good home.

Aug 4, 2015

IF there were any little thoughts in the back of my head about being the favorite daughter they were completely dispelled this past weekend.
I asked my dad to log me on to his computer so I could buy some tickets on-line.  Instead of just keeping the password secret and typing away, he decided to start to tell me the password.
He said "its Katina (my sister's name) and then...." 
I interrupted him.
"WHAT?"  I said.  "Are you kidding me?"
There were some numbers and special characters following her name.  It may or may not have been "is#1".  He started to tell me the rest of the password but thought better of it.  So, that leaves me to surmise that it must be something he didn't want me to know.
I said "hey!"
He claimed my mom made up the password and maybe they made the password up right around Katina's birthday or something that made it seem like a good password.  There was a lot of mumbling and not completing any sentences.

So here's a little friendly public service annoucement.  If there is ever a possibility that you may have to tell anyone a password, it should definitely not be one that you may not want someone else to know!!
I came home and read my parent's will...just to double check and see if I wasn't cut out!

Aug 2, 2015

The Drive

I'm heading home.
It is just over 700 miles from door to door.
I've driven from Sacramento to Olympia about a dozen times.
3 of those earn the status of "extremely difficult".

January of 1997. My dad, Matt and I loaded up in a Ryder truck and headed to the first place Matt and I would call "home".  We were stationed at Fort Lewis and starting our life together as married adults.  I cried from Sacramento to Redding.  I was scared about the future and sad to leave home.

April 2014. The boys and I started North around 5pm.  It was a much later start than I had planned, but I just couldn't drag myself out of town any earlier.  Matt deployed a week before Spring break and  as soon as school got out the boys and I spent our vacation in California visiting family.  We had a great time with everyone, and the sadness and fear of the deployment seemed to be dulled by the joy and fun of being with family.  When it came time to leave I was overwhelmed.  With every mile that I drove toward the empty house in Wa, the further away I was from the loving support of my family in California.  With Matt in Afghanistan, California felt more like "home" and I just didn't want to leave.  Thankfully, I was bombarded with phone calls and texts that encouraged me and brightened my day until I got to Medford where we stopped for the night.

August 2015.  My five day trip to spend time with grandma has already doubled and still my stay seems too short.  Leaving now seems impossible.  And yet I feel it is the right time to go.  The bags are packed, the van is mostly loaded, and I accomplished the things I came for.  I spent time with my grandmother and helped my parents with her care for a week.
Other family members are arriving to take a shift helping with Grandma.  I've said what I need to say.  I've laughed, I've cried, I've simply watched her sleep.  There is nothing left to be done here, and yet I'm not confident I can physically pull out of the driveway and leave.
Unless God performs a miracle or I get back on a plane in a few days, I do not expect I will see my grandma alive again.  And that makes leaving unbelievably hard.
I also know that there will be tough days ahead for my grandma and my family and I desperately want to be here for them as they deal with pain that comes. It is hard to leave when you know there is still so much work to be done.
I loath my face being touched.  
When I was in labor with Eli I remember writing on my "birth plan" that under no circumstances would it be considered acceptable to touch my face.
A sure way for Matt to freak me out is for him to reach over an caress my cheek.  
He never does it as an expression of love.  He does it on purpose to make me crazy.
I don't know why it bothers me so much but I think it has something to do with my germ fear.  Hands are dirty and I don't want germy, dirty, greasy hands touching my face.

There are two circumstances that I welcome the face touching.

First: Face touching by a certified professional face toucher.  Such as an esthetician giving me a facial or sprucing up my eye brows.
Totally fine.

Second: the sweet, tender touch of my grandmother's hand.
I was blessed to spend all day yesterday with my grandma.  It was a good day for her.  For the first time since I arrived a week ago, she was able to speak to me.  Not just answers of "yes" or "no".  Or repeating "good night" or "I love you" after I spoke the same words to her.  But actual sentences that were clear.
We talked about the ever important subject of acceptable ice cream brands.  For the first time when I asked her if she wanted me to read the Bible to her, she said she did, and she listened as I read.  She talked to me about how she was feeling, and she laughed and smiled as we spent a good chunk of the day together.  
Later in the evening she was uncomfortable and I bent down beside her and told her how sorry I was that she was in pain.  She reached up and touched my face and settled her hand on my chin.  No words were needed.  Her eyes and her touch spoke to my soul.
Before I headed for bed I prayed with her and again, she reached for me.  I can still feel her hand move across my cheek and stop at my lips.  I leaned over and gave her a kiss and told her I love her so. She told me the same, and I know she wasn't just repeating the customary words this time.  I knew that she was taking in this moment just as I was doing the same.

Today…was a new day.  No conversation that made much sense at all.  A lot of confusion, discomfort, and no gentle touches.  Though I would have never thought I would want it, I found myself hoping for her to reach out to me again, and run her sweet hand across my face.

Jul 27, 2015

The Grey

Not really living but not quite dead.
It is the place nobody talks about until a loved one has entered the grey.
We talk about living, and we talk about death, but there isn't a lot of talk about the actual process of dying.
Dying is in the grey.
For some, death is a finite point on a timeline of life.  But for others death starts at one point and crosses a span along that line before it is complete.
I have seen the grey.
The grey is hard.
The grey is ugly.
The grey hurts.
There is pain, confusion, uncertainty, and sorrow.
There is struggle.
Struggle to walk, think, eat, or breathe.
The look...the plea, the fear, the discomfort.

It is one foot in death and one still in life.
The time it takes to cross over from one to the other.

The grey has moments of life - a smile, a glimmer in the eyes, a laugh.

Like a color photograph fading away.  Traces of the different hues remain, but vibrancy is gone and details stripped away.

Today I had a full dose of grey.
My grandmother smiled when I said hello, held my hand close, listened as I prayed with her, and even laughed a full belly laugh as joked around with her.
But along with all of that came the scary moments, terror filled both our eyes.  Peace replaced with panic, comfort with pain.

I pray that the time in the grey will not be long.

Jul 22, 2015

Summer: Day 41

Today I took the car to one of those expedited oil change places.
Last year, about this time, I took my car to one of these places and 10 minutes before I started on a 3000 mile journey I realized they didn't replace the oil cap properly and the garage floor was covered in oil.  Thankfully, I noticed before I was in the middle of Wyoming with a busted engine and no cell reception.  However, I did get a late start on what should have been an 11 hour drive - turned 13 due to frequent oil checking because I was not confident that the oil expediters knew what they were doing. That was an unpleasant experience.
I decided not to use them again.... well until today.
Last night around 11pm I decided I was moving my trip to California up to today.
As I lay in bed, going over my schedule and determining the practicality of a literal last minute trip, my husband decided to be the voice of reason.
He gently reminded me that the van needed an oil change and a fill up, and I hadn't packed yet... I think he may have also been thinking of the fact that I needed to go to the grocery store if I was going to leave him for a week, but he didn't mention that.  He very nicely explained that by the time I packed and got the oil changed it would be after noon and then I would be pushing it to make the drive in one day, resulting in a hotel stay and I wouldn't end up at my parents' until Thursday anyway.
He's right.
But that means I have to go to an expedited oil change place!
Matt convinced me it would be fine.
So I went.
And sure enough they did what they do best...try to up-sell a thousand services that I would never consider having done at such an establishment.
I have laundry and packing to do, the waiting room is hot and smelly, and this guy starts in on "Toyota recommended services".
Dude.  Look at my van.  It screams when it starts, the power door is disabled because the motor broke, a few of the floor mats are missing (surprising how an entire floor mat can fall out of the van while on a road trip and nobody notice), some of the windows screech when they are rolled up/down, it has 170,000 miles on it, the back wiper is broken off, and there are so many coffee stains in the front seat I'm surprised the van doesn't smell of a coffee house.  I don't really care if Toyota reccomends me draining every last fluid from this machine and giving it a transfusion of new and improved additive laden super juice.  Just change the damn oil...and mark up a brake light 200% and change that too.  Thanks.
I'm hoping that when I pull out of the garage tomorrow morning I don't have any surprises.

Jul 21, 2015

In just a few weeks I will make a trip that I'm frightened about making.
I'll hop in the car with the boys, drive 9 hours to In-n-Out in Redding, then continue a few more hours to my mom's house.
I've made this trip quite a few times in the past three years.
The drive is fine, I pop in an audio book and I'm golden.
The kids are fine, they are used to the long rides.
The frightening part of this particular trip is the purpose.

I'm heading down to see my grandma before all hints of her are gone.

In the past month or so she made a quick journey from living on her own in her home to requiring 24 hour care.
Physically, she is doing fine for being in her mid eighties.
Mentally, she has lost many of her capacities.

Last spring I decided rather last minute that I would go down for a visit.  We were saving up for our trip and it wasn't necessarily the best idea, but I felt I needed to go. Grandma was at my mom's house for Easter Sunday, we had dinner, the kids hunted for eggs, we chatted about whatever.  It was a normal day.   Later in the week I went over to her house for her famous chicken and homemade noodle soup.  It could be 105 degrees outside, and it would still be a perfect day for grandma's noodles.  She seemed fine.  She scooted along with a little less pep in her step, but she sure had enough gumption to give me a once-over for wasting water while I did the dishes!  She was talking about outfits for her upcoming trip and chattering on about daily business.  Sure she gets some facts mixed up and definitely teeters on the edge of conspiracy theorist, but who really cares?  She lived through the depression, the Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, the current wars, the invention of cell phones and the world wide web who can blame her?
We had a normal visit.  Just like many that I have had with her in the past. Nothing hinted that it would be the last time I really spent time with her.

I'm so glad I made that trip.

By the time we got back from our trip to Florida, my parents were breaking the news to me that she was going to have to move in with them.  

With every conversation with my family in California her capabilities and memory recall have declined.

My sister made sure that the boys had a few opportunities to spend time with her while they were down on a visit.  It sounded like she was still doing well enough then for the boys not to be uncomfortable around her.

So, I'm going home to see my grandma, praying that the woman that I love hasn't completely faded away.
Praying that I will see her one more time before going into a home.
Praying that she is at peace, even in what must be very dark confusing times.

Jul 15, 2015

Summer: Day 34

Our major summer travel has come to an end and it is time for us to start phase two of summer 2015.
We have 8 more weeks of summer. 
Our focus for much of that time will be stronger minds and healthier bodies.

Stronger Minds:
Eli is learning a new instrument this summer (a crash course in switching from the Viola to the Violin), in addition to working on research skills and analytical thinking/writing.  Gabriel and I have started a book club and he is working on analytical thinking/writing focusing on literature.  Both boys are working on typing skills.
My goal is to stay on top of the kids studies and practice for the school year.  I mentioned before, that as the kids grew older I felt I didn't have to be as involved in their homework.  In some ways I don't need to be as involved, helping them with the work, but in others I need to be much more involved.  I need to push them a little more, stay on top of the quality of their work, and make sure they are giving their best. We all have some challenges to work through this summer and my goal is to tackle them for about 1-2 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Healthier Bodies:
Yesterday marked the first day of our family fitness plan.  We have free access to really great fitness activities and facilities on post.  We never use them.  Matt goes to the gym just about every weekday, but the kids and I never head up to post to take advantage of the facilities.  Yesterday, we made the trek up there and have planned to meet Matt up there when he goes to the gym.  Eli is trying to build up some muscle to help him with baseball and Gabe and I need to lose the gut!  I'm trying to model and instill in the boys the importance of eating healthy and exercising regularly.  What better way to do that than to workout together as a family? My goal for this is 3 days a week at the gym and one family hike or bike ride each weekend.

Hopefully, by the end of the summer our minds and bodies will be improved and we will start off the next school year stronger!

Jul 14, 2015

Summer: Day 33

On the way home from Yellowstone yesterday we asked the boys a very important question:
"Of all the adventures you have had this summer, which was your favorite?"
There was silence in the backseat.
I thought maybe I should reword the question and ask again:
"5 day Bahama Cruise, 4 days in Disney World, one week at Camp Aunty, or camping in Yellowstone... which one of these adventures would you choose if you could only do one next summer?"

Eli said "its a toss up between Camp Aunty and camping in Yellowstone with the Mlacks".

These two trips were by far the easiest to plan, the cheapest, the closest, and the least glamorous.

My heart was warmed by the realization that this kid loves to be with his extended family more than anything else.   What speaks to him more than the glitz of Disney World or the beauty of Bahamian beaches is time spent doing fun things with the people he doesn't get to see every day.
I love that about him.
On our way home from the rendezvous in Ashland, a waiter asked Eli what his favorite part of his trip to California was? He played laser tag, went to a movie, went swimming, played in a Wipeout park, played at sky zone, played games, camped in the backyard, went to a show.... and on and on.  His response was simple "family".  That was his favorite part of the entire trip, just simply being with family.

Gabe was torn between the cruise and the camping trip to Yellowstone.

So that pretty much settles it - next summer there will be another camping adventure!