Tuesday, December 1, 2015

So this is joy....

It's an odd year. That means my kids will be their dad this Thanksgiving and with me for Christmas. I am always thankful for odd years. Being without the kids on Christmas is a wound that doesn't seem to heal, but being without them on Thanksgiving always makes me see more clearly the things I am grateful for.

I was invited to my sister's for Thanksgiving dinner and planned on bringing mushrooms in a creamy garlic sauce and praline sweet potatoes. As soon as the kids left with their dad, I headed to Winco to get the ingredients I needed....the day before the holiday. If the day after Thanksgiving is a shopping free-for-all called Black Friday, the day before should be call Red Wednesday for the color you see when you drive through crammed parking lots and aisles full of people all trying to buy the same items. Traffic was horrific and parking was a nightmare. At some point, while sitting a in an unmoving string of vehicles all headed for the same store, I felt an (for lack of better term) out of body experience.

The sun was glistening on the frost that throughout the day, had never been free from shade long enough to melt. A cloud of steam could be seen bursting forth from the mouths of those passing by as they held conversations from their cars to the stores. It was cold, but nobody seemed to mind because they could finally wear their designer shades again. I stopped myself short as I was tempted to get frustrated by the traffic all around me. Turning up the oldies station, (which, by the way, now plays songs from when I was in high school! What the heck!) I relaxed, told myself I have nowhere I need to be, no kid induced urgencies, and no reasons to stress. So I turned away from the steady flow of traffic that was getting nowhere and approached the parking lot from the far side figuring I could use a good walk. I parked and strolled leisurely into the store with no heightened sense of irritation that usually comes when I am shopping in a crowded store.

Just getting into the building was a challenge with the cars and people with overloaded baskets exiting the store with looks of 'Get me out of this Hellhole!' I walked slowly and smiled at each person I made eye contact with. Although most people seemed to have a sense of instancy about them, nearly everyone was friendlyish. The aisles were jammed from one end of the store to the other. I made a conscience effort to soften the look of my face so I didn't come across as cranky. (This meme comes to mind).....

Then I took it all in. In produce, a couple argued over whether or not a sweet potato was the same as a yam. In dairy, a mother and daughter complained about the price of eggnog, as did two men when pricing hams. Mothers with a few children in tow looking anxious to be done shopping always catch my attention when I get to shop without my kids. I want to smile at her and say, "I know, I've been there."

People barged in front of others and others obliviously hogged the middle of the aisle so nobody could pass. Many people saw the humor in it all, however, one man even exclaiming to all in ear shot that, "It could be worse, they could charge for parking!" I walked slowly placing in my basket only the items on my list; brown sugar, pecans, yams, mushrooms, white chocolate chips...

I felt thankful for the dinner I had to look forward to and the time I would get to spend with family. I also felt thankful that the bulk of dinner was not my responsibility this year, that, I'm sure, contributed to my ability to stay peaceful.

Above all, remember that the holiday season isn't about the perfect spread of food on a fancy table, or being able to get your kids all they ask for, it's about being grateful for what we are able to do, what we have had in the past and all that we have to look forward to in the future, even if that is simply an eggnog latte, or a warm blanket. This season, I am going to try to remember that not everyone has even those simple things that we are thankful for and I want to do what I can to help those people find something in which to find gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone. God bless.

Monday, November 16, 2015

"Mom....mom! Listen to me! What are you doing!!?"

 I paused and thought about it as I stood in front of the stove reaching in the cupboard above for a cookbook. 

"I can't remember."

Four years ago, my oldest son took me by the hand and led me to the couch. I sat down and in a daze I realized my tongue was sore, extremely sore. My head spun and my temples began to throb with an oncoming giant of a headache. I didn't recognize the fact that my five young children, the oldest being nine years old, my youngest only three, were all scared, crying and in shock.  Slowly, the realization that I had just had a grand mal seizure began to sink in. I felt sick to my stomach, both from the seizure itself and from learning that my children had witnessed it for the first time.

It had been at least 12 years since I first found out I was epileptic. Still, to this day, although I have to take anticonvulsants twice a day, I can't even call myself by that word...epileptic. To me, the definition of that word is "someone who seizes uncontrollably all the time and has to take the bus and wear a helmet everywhere she goes." That's not a title I want to wear. The truth is (and this is a hard pill to swallow) I am epileptic, but I thank the Good Lord everyday that He has kept me safe and has allowed my seizures to be medically controlled.  As long as I take my pills religiously, day and night, I am seizure free. 

Going back to the night my kids saw me have a seizure for the first time...I have been thinking about that night a lot because for some reason my children have been talking about it recently. Hearing them describe the moments of time that are lost to me forever gives me the chills. I try to put myself in their shoes and can very easily imagine how horrified they were.

We were sitting around the table eating dinner. That is where my memory escapes me. I remember nothing else until I was brought back to consciousness standing in front of the stove. The only other thing I could tell you is my tongue was swollen and hurt like heck and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. 

This is the kids' version, told to me by Samuel and Benjamin:

"We were sitting around the table eating dinner and then all of a sudden you got stiff and leaned over onto the windowsill. We all thought you were playing around but when you didn't stop when we asked you to, we started to get worried. Then you fell over onto the ground and began stiffly shaking. We saw blood drip out of your mouth and everyone started screaming.  I (Sam) stepped outside because everyone was screaming and I had to get away from all the noise.

I (Ben) saw you stand up and thought you were fine, but then you went to the kitchen with a blank stare like you didn't recognize me. You went to this cupboard and began to look through these cookbooks that you never used.  Sam said he was going to call 911 but you said, "No, I'm fine." and then you sat down on the couch and started to talk to us."

The thought of my babies having gone through such a terrifying scene saddens me. I was supposed to be their security, their safe haven, their rock.... but they witnessed my frailty. I had been low on my medication for weeks and was taking half my usual dosage and sometimes skipping a dose altogether at that point. I had had trouble with my medical insurance and my pharmacy, and half the time, since I was feeling fine, I didn't even think about taking my pills. This is the pitfall of being epileptic but having the seizures completely controlled by medication. Sometimes, it would be so long since my last seizure that I would start feeding myself the fallacy that I was fine and probably didn't need the medicine anymore. The truth is, I do. There have been too many close calls and too many scares for me to even go down that line of thinking anymore. 

Having seizures has never scared me, how can I fear what I don't remember? The fear that my children have felt, however, thinking about that brings up an emotion I don't even have a word for.  It is an emotion somewhere between heartache and horror. One thing, my kids do for me, however, is they tell me their fears without giving me their pity. This I can handle. I can help them calm their fears but I don't handle pity very well. I don't ever want anyone to say, "Poor you!" I don't want to look into well-meaning, though pitiful eyes that feel sorry for me. 

Tonight, I had a scare of my own. While kneeling to pray the Rosary with our block Rosary group at my parent's house, Hunter fell flat on his face as we were praying the last prayers. I rushed to his side surprised, but knowing that he had fainted. He has a history of fainting, syncope they call it. But this time, as I tried to awaken him, he appeared to seize mildly, take a deep breath and then fall back into unconsciousness. He gradually, sluggishly came to, but it took him longer than I remember it taking him before. Getting him into the van, he was clinging to me as though he could barely walk. When we got home I opened the door and he was sprawled on the seat asleep. I had to wake him up again and guide him up the stairs and into his bed where he quickly fell back to sleep. I am praying he will feel fine in the morning.

Let's remember to thank our Guardian Angels for all the overtime they put in. I am convinced that not a day goes by that at least one of the six Angels that live in our household has not saved somebody's life without us even realizing it. Good night.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Morning in the Life...

5:30 AM
Din din din din din....din din din din din....
Grab my phone, tap snooze.
5:39 AM
Same thing
5:48 AM
5:51 AM
Totally ashamed, but, yes, ditto again.
6:00 AM
Grab my phone, actually turn it off and (hopefully) get out of bed. Stand in front of my closet for a good five minutes moving my clothes from the right to the left, and back again, as I try to pick out something that I haven't worn already within the week.
6:07 AM (on a good day)
Turn on the lights throughout the rest of the house thinking that it will make the transition from peaceful sleep to rueful awakening a little easier for the kids. Hop in the shower, awwwww, I finally feel awake!
6:25 AM
As I'm getting dressed in the bathroom, I can usually hear the girls whispering just outside as they coordinate with each other how they will surprise me when I open the door. They are both dressed in their uniforms and wait patiently (but not very stealthily) for me to open the door. This happens several times a week and I have to act surprised each time because it is their special gift to me.
6:27 AM
"Oh wow!! Thank you so much! You girls are so awesome!"
6:30 AM (now, I'm running a little late)
Enter the boys room in a sweet voice saying, "Good morning boys! It's time to wake up and get dressed." I leave to finish getting myself ready.
6:30 AM
Samuel knocks on my door ready to go, literally 3 minutes from his wake-up call. I hug him and beg him to turn the kettle on so I can have some instant coffee (how I long for a coffee pot that will have the hot, brown, liquid 'hug' ready for me when I wake up).
6:37 AM
I give Benjamin and Hunter another (not as sweet this time) warning that it's time to get dressed.
6:40 AM
I go through the sweet ritual of making my coffee. Put a teaspoon of the instant variety in my favorite mug, pour the hot water, stir, pour in the half and half, stir, sweeten it with a tad bit of Stevia, stir...sip...Awwwww! My day has officially began!
6:42 AM
Turn into crazed, almost feverish domestic version of a symphony orchestrator:

6:43 AM
"Get your breakfast, did I sign your homework sheet? Stop fighting and just eat your cereal! Does anyone know if Hunter or Ben have even moved yet? Can you go check? As soon as you are done eating, make your lunch. Have you brushed your teeth? Why are you following me around, no I don't know where your birthday guest list is...why would I, and besides your birthday isn't for another two months. Go brush your teeth, your hair too, while you're in the bathroom.  Can you put the load of laundry in the dryer, I think it's been in the washer for a few days now. Hunter and Ben!!! IT'S ALMOST TIME TO GO!!!"

7:02 AM
"Good morning, Ben, eat, make your lunch and get any papers I need to sign out for me."

7:14 AM

7:22 AM
"Good morning Hunter, you need to hurry, it's almost time to leave" (I say this every morning. EVERY. MORNING.)

7:25 AM
"Ok, everyone, get what you need to go and be ready to leave!" I toss whatever I can find to eat in my own lunchbox, brush my teeth, start turning off lights, walk down the hall to get something....what was it? Can't remember, walk back to the kitchen, remember, go back down the hall, grab my phone off the charger and spray on a fresh coat of deodorant because I feel like I just ran a half marathon.

7:35 AM
"Let's go!!"
"Mom, can you sign my conduct report?" "I can't find my lunch!" "I'm supposed to bring chips for our class party!" "I can't find my shoes."

7:46 AM
After a brief moment of losing it. I yell to anyone left in the house that I will be in the car and driving out of the driveway in ONE MINUTE!

The drive to school is usually a quiet time where each is taking the time to breathe, relax and prepare for the day ahead.

7:59 AM
Enter the classroom to find 12 Kindergartners and First Graders awaiting my arrival.

8:00 AM
Bell rings....time for the school day to begin.

Whew!! I got exhausted just recording my morning routine, no wonder I need coffee again by early recess and again at lunch. I'm sure most homes are just as chaotic trying to leave the house and get anywhere on time, give yourself a pat on the back for the little victories. Instead of getting down on myself when I'm two minutes late, I'm going to buy myself a latte just for getting out of bed and facing the next to impossible circumstances that I face once I do!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The 'Single' Most Difficult Thing

It's been a long dry spell when it comes to writing posts for this blog. I think it has become stale and may be time to think about doing something new. I've been mulling over in my mind what are the posts that I have gotten the most feedback for, what are the topics that touch the most people? Looking back they are the ones that reveal the most about me. The 'honest-till-it-hurts' type of posts that people really relate to.  Then, I began to think about the reason I started this blog in the first place, a memoir, more or less for my family, friends and especially my children. It became something more than I ever imagined; a little bit of laughter in someone's day, an inspiration to someone who thinks (quite rightly) if she can do it, I can too! And it became something else, my memory.

I will be the first to admit, I have an incredibly horrible memory. The other day I was on the phone with my car insurance and they asked me what my previous address was (the one we only moved from in June) and I couldn't for the life of me remember! The rep asked sheepishly, "You're trying to remember the one you just moved from, right?" To say the least, I was quite frustrated.  So, looking back at the details of things that I have done with the kids, those precious things they might have said, and the way I felt while raising them, to me, is priceless.

This year was a milestone for me. Cecelia turned 7 in August, which means I have been a single mother for seven years. My husband left in our seventh year of marriage. So now I have been a single mother for as long as I was married. The thing that surprises me the most is how fast the last seven years have flown by compared to the seven years prior.

I remember a specific moment when I had maybe two or three kids. A rough day was always made better by the fact that when my husband got home from work, he'd play with the boys for awhile, relieving me of being their sole source of everything! When that time of day came around, I could breathe a sigh of relief, parenting just got easier (at least until the next day). In a conversation about this with my sister, I remember saying to her, "I do NOT know how single mothers do it! It would absolutely be the hardest thing ever." She agreed.

Another memory I can recall was when I had four kids, and one on the way. I was sitting on the couch with my husband right after he told me he was moving out. "How can I raise the kids by myself?!" I said with a fearful heart and tears in my eyes. He tried to assure me I wouldn't have to do it alone, but deep in my soul, I knew he was wrong.

Another conversation comes to mind, this one with God.  The kids were in bed, my husband had moved out. I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom, tears streaming down my face. I was filled with doubt, fear and anger. I doubted my abilities, I feared my future, I was mad at God. I followed the rules of my faith, I had done things right by saving myself for marriage and got married to a Catholic man in the sacramental rite of the Church, why wasn't He saving my marriage!!??

I threw a fit right there on the floor. I pounded the ground with my fist and begged, "Why?! Why?! Why are you allowing this to happen?" Then I looked for comfort from the very God with whom I just doubted. I opened a book that was never far from my bedside, "My Daily Bread". The worn, little, red book has been a spiritual comfort in times good and bad. I did as I usually did, trusting God to move my hands to open to the page I needed to read in that moment. It was Chapter 78, it read:
My Child, believe in Me. Put your trust in My love and mercy. Many a time, when you think that I am far from you, I am very close to you. When you feel as though everything is going wrong, then it is that you can give your best proof of your faith and your loyalty to Me. You are not a failure just because things turn out differently from what you desired. Do not judge things by your disappointment or dislike. Keep discouragement out of your heart, no matter how hopeless matters may appear. Do your best and accept the results as My Will. I am your Maker and your loving God. Your most hidden thoughts are clearly seen by Me. Your eternal salvation is My main interest.....
and the last paragraph I finally understand;
What I do to you is done because I love you far more than you love yourself or anyone else. When I send you any trouble or affliction, do not complain or become sad. Peace and contentment will come to you as soon as it is for your best interests.
It was in reading this, that my conversation with God changed. It went from fighting His will to completely giving in. I flew the white flag of surrender over myself and insisted since this was His will He had to take care of us. I told God specifically, "You are asking this of me, now you have to give me the grace to get through it." I went to bed mentally exhausted that night, but the tides had shifted and I went from being a helpless victim to someone who was going to slowly begin to pick up the shattered pieces of my life and place them together to make a masterpiece mosaic, not by my own skill, but by the skill of the Great Artist.

That's certainly not to say that I didn't "complain or become sad" throughout the process. There were waterfalls of tears along the way. But never once, have I felt like God didn't have my back. Even through some of the most difficult times, I have been given the grace to be able to look back and see the reason behind it all.

So, was I right in thinking years ago that being a single mother would be the most difficult thing? Yes. But it's not as difficult as I imagined, and I don't consider myself single in the term of doing it 'alone'. I know I have the help of family and friends and, most of all, my Heavenly Father who promised He would be 'very close' to me. I feel like the 'peace and contentment' has come to me now in ways I'd never have imagined possible.

I had an insight the other day and the truth of it shocked me. I will share it in another post, because if I don't share it soon, I may forget it ;)

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Autumn Change and Summer Accomplishments

"All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven." - Ecclesiastes 3:1 

 It's the time of pencils, paper, chalk boards, early mornings, lots of coffee, smokey evenings, spider webs and sweaters (with sandals). The mornings are finally cool, but the afternoons still warm. Here in Washington, there is a haze and smell of smoke that hangs in the air from the tragic wildfires that have ravaged the eastern side of the state. Everyone knows someone who is fighting the fires. May God protect them all.  The filtered sun hangs like a red ball low on the horizon, it is a season of change.

The leaves are beginning to change from lush greens to brilliant golds, talk is changing from "What are you doing this weekend?" to "Did you have a good summer?" and now, our days are about to change from lazy and spontaneous to scheduled routine.

Lately our days have been spent at the school cleaning, organizing and rearranging the classrooms. The kids have spent just as much time as I have putting work into preparing for this new academic year. One day, recently, we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the school. I had to remind one of my sons (and myself) that I am lucky to get to spend the whole summer with them, footloose and fancy free, hours of dedicated work at summer's end is a small price to pay.

After our parent orientation meeting, I was asked, "What did you do this summer?" When I stopped to think about it, I was impressed with how much we did do. I won't go into to detail, as I already have in other posts, but I wanted to sum it all up for my children so they can look back on the summer of 2015 and remember all the good adventures we were fortunate to be a part of.

Here is a breakdown of our adventures:

States we visited outside of Washington: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico.

National Parks we visited: Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, and, of course, Mount Rainier.

Miles driven: over 5,000

On top of all that, I've run my first Half Marathon and the kids and I have moved into a new home! It was quite an eventful summer. We also got many memorable hikes and finally got to go camping with family for Labor Day.

Note: written weeks ago, but it started to gather dust in my draft section of posts, so I figured I'd post it anywhoo. Have a wonderful day.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Change of Pace

An occasion arose yesterday that required me to bring all five kids to Seattle. Now, I love going to the big city every now and then to take in the sights and sounds and even to smell the air...salty sea, mixed with yummy foods, tainted by the exhaust of traffic, but never did I think taking five kids to the bustling city by myself could be found anywhere on a scale of fun.

What I did find, however, is that not only taking kids to the city really was a lot of fun but that it wasn't all that different from taking them hiking in the mountains. 

It's a good idea to hold hands. To thoroughly enjoy the experience one must do a lot of walking!

Both have a way of letting you feel the beauty of insignificance.

You can find waterfalls in the mountains....as well as in the city. Both places give your legs a good workout!

Both off opportunities to practice your balance, and to climb like monkeys all over stuff.

Lots of opportunities to observe wildlife!

Both have signs to important places....

There are of course, some things that would never be seen in nature, and these things are what make the city a fun change of pace for us:

The Hammering Man stands tall outside of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

From top, clockwise: In from of Pikes Place Market, the biggest pizza we've ever seen, Ben showing his love of pigs, Isabelle excited for the Seahawks in front of the 'Clink' and again, Ben loves pigs.
And, of course, this is something you should never see while hiking in the mountains....but should check out while scoping out the city!!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lesson taught, lesson learned.

“Life provides ample opportunity to test our mettle. When circumstances call for it, let’s give ourselves a break and ask for help.” 

Moments that teach my children valuable lessons are usually moments that come at a somewhat painful cost. Like today for instance, two of my boys went out riding their bikes barefooted. I told them to put shoes on but they only really learned the lesson after they both hobbled home with scrapes on the bottom of one foot. Before I even had to remind them that "I told you....," they were saying "I know, I know".

When I have opportunities to teach my children things they will need to know, I prefer to make the most of them rather than let the moment be wasted. Well, I had the "opportunity", the other day, to teach Samuel how to change a tire on a car. It's a lesson that I would prefer their dad teach them, but I don't know if that "teaching opportunity" would present itself with him so I felt the burden had fallen on me.  

To start off the day, I began to make breakfast but was short something (I can't even remember what it was now) and when I started to back out of our driveway, I noticed it felt and sounded different. I got out to look around and saw right away that the back, passenger-side tire was completely flat. "Ugh." 

So I headed back inside the house to call Kia's roadside assistance hotline but stopped myself short when I understood I was presented the perfect opportunity to teach Samuel something he would someday need to know. The weather, though quite warm, wasn't wet and we were at our own home. These circumstances beat being stranded on a busy freeway in the pouring rain. So, yes, I decided to show my oldest son how to change a tire (then maybe next time I wouldn't HAVE to be in the equation at all)

Some of the steps I had to learn as I taught, like how to lower the spare from underneath the van, and where exactly to jack the van up from. Did I say it was "quite warm"? What I meant is it was pretty DANG HOT!! By the time we got the hang of the jack apparatus, we were both dripping sweat and frustrated for no other fact than that it was SO DANG HOT! We made sure to loosen the lug nuts in the right order, but not all the way until it was ready to come off.

"Phew!!" Flat tire off. We noticed a large piece of metal (bigger than a nail or screw) lodged in the tire tread. That explained it. Now to put the spare tire on. I read in the manual that the tire went on "Bevelled side out". What the HECK did that mean? Bevelled....who says that?!! I had no idea what bevelled meant in regards to a tire.....so I guessed.

We managed to get the tire on, screw on the lug nuts, lower the van....then, and ONLY then, we noticed the tire stuck out a good four inches farther than the other normal tires. "That does not look right." I told Samuel. We were worn out on account of the heat and filthy from the dirty tire, but the reality sadly sunk in and we knew we would have to take this tire off and turn it around. Before jacking the van back up I tried loosening the lug nuts. All but one loosened right up. One was being stubborn, it acted like the child who, upon not getting the exact piece of dessert he wanted decides to fold his arms and plant himself in the middle of the floor instead of heading off to the bathtub. NOTHING I did worked in moving this stubborn piece of metal. I tried one last time. We attached the lug wrench, I stepped up on it, jumped, and "FLOOSH!!" it was off, I was down.

I knew instantly that something was wrong. The nut had flung off the wheel and part of the bolt was now lodged in the nut...broken off of the vehicle. Upon realizing this, I sat down in exhaustion and felt tears well up. I didn't want Sam to see me so worked up so I abandoned the project and left for the house. After regaining my composure, I called the Kia Roadside Assistance hotline and they suggested that I get it towed to a shop. They asked what dealership I wanted them to tow the van to; the one five miles away or the one I got the van from, 16 miles away. Although, I would've preferred them take it to the farther one, I was too exasperated to care and simply told them, "Whatever's closest."

Long story short, my dad came over, the van got towed, they couldn't get to it that night, as they suggested, we went to the dealership for a loaner car, they didn't have one, the next day they told me the tire was unfixable and for a new tire and labor it would cost me $144. I called Dad, Dad called dealership, yelled at them, we went and got the van, took it to trusted dealership and they fixed it all for $20. What should've taken half an hour turned into a two day affair.

So, yes, a teaching opportunity arose. I took it. Sam learned to changed a tire but the real lesson was one I learned: Ask for help.