Monday, October 17, 2011

Internet ties

My first memory of actually using the Internet was when I worked at All-Phase. It had to have been around 1996 or 1997, based on the office I remember being in. We had all just received connections to the Internet and email addresses. It felt very advanced! I remember performing my first Internet search, using Yahoo, which I think was the only search engine at the time.

These days I cannot imagine being without the Internet. I use it for my job -- in fact, it is my only connection to my job. I literally cannot perform my job without have an Internet connection. I use it to search out information regularly. Whether it is the weather, a phone number, or event information, I would desperately miss such easy access to information if I had no Internet. I use it to shop. I have never really been a big shopper, so being able to buy things I need from the comfort of home is awesome.

Beyond all of that, over the past few years I have found the internet to be an amazing tool for developing friendships that has gone beyond anything I would have ever imagined. It all began when I was first pregnant. The newness of such a thrilling experience prompted me to thirst for knowledge, seeking out anything I could find on pregnancy. I stumbled upon a website called Pregnancy Weekly. It was full of information. I also found that they had message boards that were sectioned by your birth month -- the month you were due.

On the birth club message board you could post a message or question, and anyone else there could post a reply. In the early days there was a great deal of posting of symptoms, to receive confirmation from many others that they were feeling the same things. A lot of , “Am I allowed to…,” with lots of, “My doctor said…” in reply. It was great.

Now, more than six years later, I have bonds with many of those girls that I know will carry through our lives. What started as sharing of information on our pregnancies turned into sharing information about all aspects of our lives.

The group of girls on that site eventually moved off to a privately hosted message board site that was password protected. It was invite only, so we could ensure that it was just our group of about 150 people. We knew who was having more children, who was going through a marriage crisis, who was suffering from the loss of a family member. We knew who had a new job, who was thrilled to have bought a new home, and who was graduating from school. We also knew what we were making for dinner, what our weekend plans were, and posted pictures of our haircuts. Nothing was too big or too small to post about.

Now, my connection with this great group of girls is on Facebook. Just in the past week or so we created a secret group on Facebook which allows us to post just to our group. Beyond the computer, though, I have met with many of the group in person. I’ve had people come and visit me in my home, and I have visited others. This past summer I vacationed in Niagara Falls with women from the group and their kids. The connections have been incredible.

I actually wrote this blog post a long time ago, meaning to add onto it and post it. I forgot about it. I thought to write a blog post about the group today, though, and it jogged my memory of this one.

Our group today received a shock. One “of us” passed away yesterday, very unexpectedly, at the age of 30. She leaves behind her husband, son who is almost six, and her parents that she cares for. It is nothing short of tragic.

I am thankful that our secret page on Facebook was already up and running as it provided us with an outlet for grief and a way to process. I was fortunate to have met Larissa a couple of times because she lived outside of Chicago. I spent time today going through pictures of our times together.

One of the girls in my group posted the following tonight: “I thought about this earlier, and I think it's just amazing that we are this close. Of course, some are closer to others (which is completely normal), but we have all been there to support each other for six years. Pregnancy, birth of November babies and babies after them, funny times, divorces and marriages, arguments and family problems. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your support ♥.”

It sums it up so well. We are close. We have shared so, so much. And for the first time ever, we have lost one of our own. And it makes the love that much stronger.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Master Kyle

This summer was such a summer of "mastering" for Kyle. It's been so amazing to watch the boy Kyle is becoming. The things he is learning, the growth he is experiencing. While still a little boy, he is practically growing before my eyes. I think I would be so sad about the baby boy that is now gone, if I didn't love, love, love the boy he is now.

Kyle began the summer as a boy who still didn't like to get his face wet. He loved swimming, but under no circumstances did he want to jump in because that would require him to get his face wet. By mid summer Kyle took the plunge, literally! By the end of the summer he was a jumping fool and had no problem racing in for a huge splash, as seen here:
Kyle started the summer with training wheels. He had his outgrown bike with training wheels, and a cool new-to-him bike that was just his size -- but without training wheels. I thought the coolness of the new bike, and the smallness of the old, would push him to learn how to ride sooner. But no, he remained pretty content with it all for quite awhile. Until a huge meltdown that his cousin Jack had a big bike like his, but it had training wheels. Why couldn't his big bike have training wheels. And on, and on. I was going to get him training wheels for it, figuring he'd learn when he was ready, but he decided he was ready. He jumped on and never looked back. He sails around on his bike now!
And finally, Kyle also learned how to pump his legs on the swings this summer. He doesn't need me to push him anymore, but my sweet boy will still take those pushes any time I will give them!
And because it falls into the category of Kyle growing up, he also lost two teeth in the past month!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From lazy to fun

In general, being lazy is not a good thing. I try not to be lazy, but I have a lazy gene that likes to come out. Well, I blame it on genetics. Because otherwise, it would just be, well, laziness. And lazy, as I said, is not usually a good thing.

We get into Halloween in our family. We already have the inside decked out for Halloween, and the kids (well, Kyle) are champing at the bit to get the outside stuff going. I have decided on October 1 for that.

Last Halloween, as with virtually anyone who decorates outside, we had pumpkins adorning our porch. One would think that once the holiday was over I would have ditched the pumpkins. But, they weren't carved, so I decided to leave them out as Thanksgiving decorations. Well, then it got cold. And I don't like the cold. So, I have to admit, they didn't really get thrown out. Um, ever. Instead, the snow of winter came and they just sort of mushed up in the flower pots they had been sitting in.

Fast forward (or reverse as the case may be) to this past spring. I bought flowers to plant, and I scooped out the top layers of the flower pots, including any remaining pumpkin and seeds. I didn't want to completely refill the pots, so I left much of the dirt, and added some new with the new flowers.

The flowers grew. And darned if those pesky pumpkins didn't leave some of their seeds hidden in the pot. I had pumpkins growing in the pots and overtaking the flowers. So I moved them to the front flower bed that the dogs dig up, so I hadn't planted it with flowers.

I had NO IDEA that pumpkins grew the way they do. By August the patch had taken over literally a third of our front lawn. We'd placed a stake out there to stop it from crossing over on the front walk! (Which is did when we were on vacation, we had to wind it back around.)

They flowered like crazy, but overall we got probably half a dozen pumpkins. A few small and medium, and one big one. I now know a bit more about pumpkin growing, and I should have been thinning them out in a specific way to grow large pumpkins. They also self-planted way too early for Halloween; they should have been planted much later. A project for next year on the property I suppose.

So here are some pictures from our pumpkin journey. They kids really had fun with it, especially the big one. And it was fantastic when we arrived home from Tennessee on July 22 and an explosion of growth had taken place. As soon as we rounded the corner the kids were shouting, "Look at the pumpkins!!! Look, they're across the sidewalk!!"

So sometimes, lazy can turn into good times. ;-)
First pumpkin picked. We were so excited. We had an iced pumpkin cookie recipe picked out and were ready to go. We cut into it and I said, "It looks a little mushy." Then the stench hit me. The thing was rotten with a capital R. Phew!
Lots of flowers!Big pumpkin growing!Today we picked the biggest pumpkin. It's really nice -- one I would choose from a bunch for sale. And, since I saw a bunch out today at the farm markets, I think we'll make it to Halloween with it and be able to carve it.
Fun times!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

School: Bring it on!

It's funny how your mind changes as time marches along. By late May this year I was ready for Kyle's school year to be done. I was ready to drop the structured routine of our days and enjoy the spontaneity of summer. I was ready for lazy days at home, beach days, and day trips to places like the zoo. Bring on the summer!

Now it is the day after Labor Day... time to say goodbye to summer and look to the school year. By a couple weeks ago I was craving the very thing I wanted rid of in May. I needed some structure back in our lives. I needed routine to our days again. While I love summer, I was excited to put a sweatshirt on this weekend.

Last night we hit the routine of school nights hard. We ate dinner earlier than we did in our summer schedule. Water was running in the tub by 6:45, and kids were trudging up the stairs at 7:30. Teeth were brushed, stories were read, and kids were tucked and kissed. And they went to sleep. Ahhh.

This morning as we sat at the table eating breakfast I asked Kyle what he was most excited about and he said learning new things every day. (Just what I wanted to hear!!) I asked Erin and she said the playground. This worried me, only because after the open house we played on the big kid playground -- not the preschool one. I said, "Erin, you know that you will play on the preschool playground, not the big kid one we played on the other day, right?" She said, "I know. Next to room. It has a playhouse!!" Good, she got it. :)
The kids were ready early and wanted to get going, I actually had to drag out pictures and buckling in the car so we weren't too early. We dropped Erin off at preschool first. Erin has sign in things to do, and we put her backpack in her cubbie and checked out the bathroom. Kyle helped her out since he went there, too. She did great! Was ready to go with no issues at all.
With Miss Ehrenberg
With Mrs. Mitchell
Next was Kyle to Maple Grove. We went in, got his backpack in his locker, and settled him in at his desk. He was raring to go! It was exciting to see old friends, and he was looking forward to meeting the new ones.
With Mrs. Miller, his teacher
Both kids reported having great days. I am so thankful to have kids that seem to love school and want to learn. Kyle said his favorite thing from today was learning, and Erin's favorite thing was singing. My favorite thing is that they had happy days, which makes my heart happy.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Welcome, Tooth Fairy!

The tooth fairy is making her second visit to our home tonight, but it is the first "real" visit. In June Kyle had a tooth pulled, and she came for that tooth. (He'd had a small cavity in the fall, but in May it got infected through the tooth. In an adult tooth it would mean a root canal, but you wouldn't do that to a baby tooth.)

Kyle's two middle teeth on the bottom began wiggling just before we went to Tennessee, so for six weeks we have been watching the wiggle progression. They have been getting pretty darn wiggly! In the car this afternoon Kyle was drinking out of a straw and shouted, "Mom! My tooth!" I asked what, and he said, "It's out!! I dropped it!"

We immediately pulled over for this milestone occasion and found the tooth. We looked in his mouth. We did high fives. Yep, we make a big deal out of things like this. :-)
It actually makes me a little tearful. What a big boy he is becoming. He is losing his baby teeth, because he is no longer a baby. He's going to go through such a visible change in his appearance as he loses and grows teeth. The awkward stage of teeth that seem too big for his mouth, or are half grown. His perfect row of chicklet teeth will be a thing of the past. It hurts my heart a little.

But, baby teeth or no baby teeth, this boy will never stop being my baby.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

One year ago today

September 1. This is an anniversary of sorts. It is the date of my mom’s fall and her first subdural hematoma last year. While I didn’t realize it at the time, the date – 9/1 – would become my own personal 9/11, just without one of the 1s. I look back, and I wonder how in the world we got to the point we were on that date, and how we managed the events of the past year.

A friend of my sister’s said many months back, “Wow. You just can’t make this shit up.” It’s become somewhat of a mantra for Beth and I. As life became more and more unstable, and the bizarre continued to get more bizarre, we would think to ourselves that it was beyond making up. People have told us we need to write a book.

The thing is, I’ve also come to learn that nearly every family has some level of drama and heartache in it. Even the “normal” families have some member who skews the curve. I used to think that I grew up in a normal family. We were upper middle class, my parents were conservative and forced us to follow rules that would allow us to grow into responsible adults. My parents worked hard and were well educated. They passed along a good moral compass and strong ethics.

In 1996 my brother rocked “normal” in our family by having his life of illegal lies outed publicly – something that was enormously embarrassing for my family as our name was dragged through the headlines day after day. In the years since he has yet to hold a steady job in between his stays in jail. Yet still, with the exception of my brother, I considered the rest of my family normal. My sister and I both graduated from college and went on to obtain Master’s degrees. We both married and had children. We both held good jobs that provided us with a living and satisfaction. My parents had “done well” with us, anyway.

Fast forward to 2010. My mom spent more and more of her days in bed and the year went on. By summer she’d lost 40 pounds, took none of her medication, and never left her bed. My basement-dwelling brother was the root of most of her depression. No matter how much we begged her, she wouldn’t get out of bed. Two sessions with a therapist in July gave us all some hope, but then she deemed herself fine and quit going.

The fall occurred while my brother was “helping” my mom into the car to go to a doctor appointment. She lost her balance because of the weakened state she was in, and cracked the back of her head on the pavement so hard that her brain pressed forward into the front of her skull and bled. Between September 1 and December 1 she was in and out of the hospital. She fell more at home, her brain bled more. The blood on her brain caused seizures, and she went into a coma-like state with stroke-like symptoms.

December 1 she went into skilled nursing care. She never opened her eyes, she was in a wheelchair, she couldn’t feed herself. We were beside ourselves with grief over the way she had become, and fearful if she would ever be back.

December 1 to April 20 for my mom proved to be months of dramatic improvement. She progressed through therapy, ate more, was alert more, and earned herself the right to move to assisted care rather than skilled care.

The part that warrants a “you can’t make this shit up” has more to do with my dad. After a Christmas Day blow up he announced he was taking my mom home. Wheelchair, catheter and all. To a house full of stairs and alcoholics. My sister and I were horrified. There was no way he could care for my mom in the state she was in; he’d proven through 2010 that he wasn’t capable in the caregiver role period. With the support of all of my parents’ friends and our family, we were forced to seek legal guardianship of my mom.

The judge deemed our case an emergency, and an immediate order was placed that my mom would not be moved. Over the course of the next several months, my sister and I spent thousands of dollars and countless hours with our attorney to ensure that my mom could receive the care she needed to get better. Not only that, but to ensure her survival.

In the end, it proved too much for us. While we had no doubt we would win in court, we could no longer live through the pain and stress it was causing – not just stress on us, but on our own families. We backed out, and signed my mom’s guardianship over to West Michigan Guardianship.

Through the winter and spring my dad’s reliance on alcohol proved heavy, resulting in significant legal issues for him as well as hospital stays. We thought our mom had been our main concern, but my dad quickly took over as having the biggest issues. This I had never seen coming.

And now, a year later, my “growing up” family has been through hell, but I certainly can’t say hell and back. My mom is mostly better, but her 30-year home is not safe for her and she won’t consider anything else. My dad is through with court dates, but won’t give up the booze.

Through all my sister and I did last year – cleaning their house, bringing over food, living at the hospital and nursing home for days on end, spending thousands of dollars we certainly couldn’t afford, our schedule to make sure one of us was with my mom each and every day – my parents have at this point shoved us out of their lives. My letters to them go unanswered.

So of all the events of the past year which earn the comment of not being able to make it up, having my parents close the door on me – and their grandchildren – is the one I never would have seen coming. And the one I’ll never be able to get over.

Moving on, one year later

Part 2. The past year has been ROUGH. But, more than ever, I am working my way past this. My perspective is that out of all bad there is some good, and from all bad you can work back to good.

The good from the past year. My sister and I have become unbelievably close, and we both know there is an unbreakable bond between us. While we sat in a meeting with our attorney this past winter we answered three questions in a row in unison. He said, “Wow, you really are sisters.” I replied, “Sometimes lately I think we are the same person.” Throughout all the events of the past year we have been a united front. We have been on the same page at all times. While occasionally we may have taken a different approach to something, we always were willing to go with the other person – knowing we both agreed with either approach. There are no words strong enough to convey that I could not had handled the issues of the past year without her, the one person who could exactly understand the shoes I was in.

I have realized what a rock my husband can be. He has put up with a lot in the past year. He has put up with the enormous amount of time I was spending in St. Joe, at the expense of our family. For a while my parents’ house was cleaner than my own because I managed to do theirs more than ours. He has never said a word about the financial strain I put on our family, both through attorney costs and through all the times I had to hire a sitter. He has stuck with me through my impatience and temper, two things that have been ever-present during the depression and stress of the past year.

My kids are still amazing. They have been yelled at more than they deserved to be, they have heard me sigh with impatience as I tell them to hurry up, they have dealt with my crabby existence. And they still shine. They still smile and tell me they love me. As often as I have worried that I’m going to “break” them, they continue to be great kids. I hope they don’t remember the dark days of this past year.

I have become closer than ever to family members that, while they’ve been there since I was born, I didn’t have the bond I certainly do now. Family friends who have been in my life through my parents, have provided support and love in immeasurable ways. Mike’s family has provided love and support to me. My church family has prayed. And my group of mom friends have provided hugs, prayers, and, well, a night out when needed!

So much good surrounds me.

Where I have the most work to do is making me good again. I need to get out of the funk which had come to define me and move on. It is what it is – get over it!

Being a self-help book kind of girl, I’m reading two right now. Get Out of That Pit, and The Happiness Project. I joined Weight Watchers to get rid of this stress and depression weight I have packed on in the past year (well, and still baby weight in there, too!) We are eating healthier, and being healthier.

I WILL get there! Know it, my friends, I WILL!