Friday, March 2, 2018

Sleuthing

You guys, I am so on it!

I have a herd of wily, inventively deceptive people living under the same roof as me that think they can pull the wool over my eyes. But when it comes to moms, we always know.

**DO NOT share stories of all the stuff you got away with as a kid!**

I said don't.

I'm not listening.

Lalalalalalalalalala.

I can't hear you.

Let me have this.

Tonite I received an email from my web protection software thanking me for my feedback. My feedback read, "will you give me a password to unblock k9 i forgot mine and my email was hacked and stolen help plz" Sounds just like me right? The kid who wrote this is not winning at life right now.

Sleuthing is becoming my main activity as a parent these days.  It's all day long, following clues, sniffing out perpetrators, and unearthing my findings, Hercule Poirot style, with a long winded explanation and pointed J'accuse! Did they not get the memo that I'm the "cool mom" they can talk to and never have to hide stuff from?

Really, it's exhausting and I wish they'd just stop already. After tonites debacle I calmly explained that they weren't going to win this war on the technology battlefront. I'm not afraid to say it, I'm smarter than them. With the power of google and mom brains combined I've unearthed incognito web searches, secret chat room conversations, and the likes of which I will not sully this blog with descriptions of. All in the past few months. And this is not new, it just recently became more pervasive. And yet they keep trying. Points for perseverance I guess? Plus, they always seem to forget, I have an ace up my sleeve because my dearly devoted brilliant husband writes programs for computers! Anything google can't explain to me, he can. My resources are limitless. Still, they persisted.

It's not just in the ever evolving technology world that I'm called upon to utilize my Miss Marple like attention to detail. I frequently find myself running down the dirty details of who didn't flush, who ate the last tortilla and who let the dog out. I take it all on headfirst, filled with the vim and vigor that only the righteous can attain. I'm thinking of either starting to sport a monocle or buying a spy glass, can't decide which is more becoming... But it's time to let the world know that I may ver ywell be the next Sherlock Holmes.

They say you should play brain games to keep your mind young. At they rate they're putting me through this, my mind will NEVER EVER age. Or it's completely gone already, time will tell.

this image was copied from https://pixabay.com/en/deceive-deception-lies-1299043/

p.s. Mostly unrelated but you should probably know that the collective noun for a group of bears is a sleuth. I couldn't use that title and not share my fun fact. Mod Ohana has me knee deep in fun animal facts these days :)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Marching to the top of laundry mountain

I always hear people refer to their "mountain of laundry" and it makes me think of the Backyardigans song "Dragon Mountain." This is the link in case you're hard up for entertainment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsH6QN_JJT4
I'm a bit of a Backyardigans geek and I turn lots of my life into parodies of their songs. File that under things you probably didn't need/want to know about me.

Anyways... back to laundry mountain. It's insurmountable. It somehow manages to grow no matter how many loads you do. It'd a never ending enigma that can ruin you every time you're forced to look at it or deal with it. It's literally days and days of your life gone as you slave away at it.

Taken from https://i.pinimg.com/originals/3e/91/81/3e91812f4f0ecd35ef78895bae433d14.jpg

Or so I thought.

I used to have a laundry day every week where I'd do as much as I could, be overwhelmed by the idea of putting it all away and then try to forget about it til the next week. Then, I created a laundry system that consisted of 6 laundry sorters in my laundry room, several laundry baskets for transporting clean laundry and 2 laundry bins upstairs to collect dirty clothes. I switched to it several years ago and it took my laundry problem from insurmountable to merely never ending. I thought I had it mastered, as much as you could master laundry. Every day I (or one of my kids) put a load into the washer, moved a load into the dryer, and took the load in the dryer out to be folded and put away. With this method, the laundry stayed contained to the sorters(mostly) so it was organized chaos, and though the laundry wasn't always put away, we weren't completely running out of anything. I slowly started to realize that when I felt the need to buy clothes I should do the laundry first and see if I really needed it or if it was just out of sight, out of mind. Basically, my laundry routine started to have very adult like tendencies. Good stuff right?

Wrong.

I'm going to write another post about how I discovered the solution to the great laundry conundrum, but in a nutshell, it was "less clothes equals less laundry." I read this over and over in facebook posts during the past year as I was waging my personal battle with minimalism. A lot of times the post came with questions and doubters saying that you wear the same amount of clothes so your amount of laundry doesn't change if you have less clothes, you just have to do laundry more often. I sort of agreed with this for the first few months and laundry wasn't even on my minimalism radar yet. As  I reached the halfway point in my year of minimalism, I was really starting to see change in my life, and things were getting easier, so I started to think about other stuff that needed to be minimalized. Laundry kept appearing as a passing thought, but not a legitimate concern, after all I had it under control right?

Then we reached the last part of the year and decided that we were going to move and sell our house. All the last little minimalizing things that had been gnawing away at the back of my brain now had to be confronted immediately. All year I had been getting rid of clothes bit by bit, for both myself and my kids, but I hadn't really seen much difference. So, I made my most brutal cuts yet. My kids all had to go down to what would fit in a suitcase and I had to make my clothes not just fit in my closet but look nice (i.e. have some space or room to grow, like in a magazine picture.) The initial difference was remarkable. We quickly got better about putting our clothes away because there was more room to do so, it wasn't a stressful jigsaw puzzle of how to make it all fit. I found myself more excited than ever to pick out outfits because I could see them all (and I have always had a bit of a love affair with my clothes.)

The real amazement has happened in the last 2 months. We can't have laundry piles, filled laundry baskets in our rooms or even 6 completely filled laundry sorters in the laundry room. Although it is contained, it doesn't look (or sometimes smell) nice when people are viewing our home. We kept up our schedule of the once a day laundry cycle 6 days a week (Tuesday is my moms day to do her laundry) and quickly found that we were only needing 3 or 4 of the laundry sorters at a time. A laundry basket broke and we were down to two for folding and transporting clean laundry. We've found that we now actually need only one. Amazing how that works when you put the laundry away immediately. It's reached a point where now, even with washing our bedding, curtains etc... weekly (we have allergy issues that require this) we run out of laundry to do in just 4 or 5 days and have to search for something to wash. As all of our clothes now spend more time living in our closets and drawers, and less of their life living in our laundry room, we're carefully continuing to cull and if we want something new to come in, something old goes out.

It's an amazingly freeing thing to be out from under the spell of the laundry beast. It really came down to a little organization, a little follow through, and a lot less clothes. We're not doing capsule wardrobes, or flylady schedules or anything fancy. I never even read the actual Allie Cassaza blogs on laundry, just the comments about it that less clothes equals less laundry.

Who would have guessed.

Taken from http://www.thecoersfamily.com/family-closet/


P.S. In case you want the nitty gritty details:

15 minutes: It is Curly's chore to switch the laundry everyday and bring me the basket of clean clothes. He empties the upstairs laundry bins once a week when he's run out of downstairs laundry to do.

20 minutes: I fold them and put away the adult clothes and household laundry (towels etc..)

10 minutes: Each kid (even the 4 year old) takes their pile (if they have one) and puts it away.


Friday, January 5, 2018

First Post Since September?!?!?!

Wow!

A friend asked me today if I'd been blogging about what I've been up to lately and I responded, "Not in a month or two, but lots of thoughts brewing."

These words were swimming in my head and just wouldn't drown out so I had to log in and check when I last posted. It was September. September?!?!

It only took me a moment of looking at my blog post listings to see why.

I've been living a secret life.

There, I said it. Now you know. I am your real life Clark Kent.

I wish. It's nothing as glamorous as saving the world in my very own lycra one piece that I'm mysteriously always wearing under my clothes without anyone noticing. (you guys, the chafing would be unreal!!) I do look good in fake glasses though so that means I can't rule out my life going in this direction in the future.

The reality of my secret life can be seen as soon as you view my blog post listings. It is filled with Draft notifications. That is a true to life depiction of the word that practically shouted at me when I opened up my blog website today. Each of those drafts represents a secret. A story I needed to tell but didn't feel that I had permission to. It's so messy how our lives get all entwined with others.

Ewww, am I right. I may live on an island, but I am not one. My island is overflowing, in good and bad ways. I still haven't figured out how to share without the fear of what these people will think and feel about my words.

So, before I begin to tell you about where my life is now (and there's so much to say!), I feel that I need to fill you in on where my life has been this past year. It's a little dark and unfunny at times, but thank you sweet Lord Jesus for helping me make light of everything.

Here goes. **sound of bandaid ripping off** This is a small selection of last years secrets. Some I can share in their entirety, some are going to get a very broad overview. I spoke to the people involved to determine what level of sharing was acceptable and this is what we came up with together.

Draft - Living With A Child That You Can't Help - March 2017
Everyday you wake up and wonder, will today be a good day or a bad day?

You mentally go over your schedule and plan an out for every activity just in case you need it.
You tread lightly as you wake them or check with them for the first time that day. You don't want to be the one who sets them off. You pray every day that you can be their safe space.

Every grunt, sigh or groan they utter is immediately analyzed. Was it a normal teenage sigh? Was that groan the beginning of an anger shit storm? Does that grunt you heard from the other room mean they're hurting themselves or someone else?

As the day rolls along you get caught up in it and feel you can breathe more normally. You look around your house or your family and feel that familiar love, joy or contentment. Then you realize you can't see him. You mentally retrace to when you last saw them. You're racing through your brain in an uncontrollable frenzy, while on the outside maintaining the best semblance of calm that you can, as you quick step through the house looking for them. Sometimes they just got caught up reading in the bathroom, sometimes their hiding under covers and cowering, scared of themselves.

Every time they don't feel well you question whether they're faking, whether it's the meds or whether it's a common cold. You doubt yourself and feel you can't provide the care a mother's supposed to give her child. Whatever you choose will be the wrong choice. You're supposed to be 2 steps ahead but you always fail to see what's right around the corner.

Something triggers them and you search frantically for the source so you can protect them from it. Sometimes there is no source other than the paranoia in their own brain. Sometimes you're the source. It all feels insurmountable.

You watch them spiral and struggle to give them space as they grasp and fight to regain control. They ask to take a bath. Your first thought is yes! What a great way to calm down and feel better. As they head into the bathroom though you quietly put your ear to the door and hover. They saw a movie today where a kid tried to drown himself in a bathtub. Are they trying to copycat? You casually call out, "how's it going in there?" and try to hide the tremor in your voice.

You read another book, join another online support group and comb the internet one more time looking for answers, quick fixes, commiseration, understanding. You never find quite what you need.
It's their story to tell, not yours. You can't describe your struggle without theirs. When you finally confide, it's usually met with well intended judgement. People say it's typical teenage behavior, that they're manipulating you or that they just don't see it, your child seems fine to them.  

It all feels so alone but you go to bed with hope. Today they fought against it and won. They're still around to fight another day. Maybe tomorrow will be the day they find a magical cure or God performs a miracle. You turn off the light and climb into bed. Some nights you unburden your worries and fears on your partner, other nights you avoid it because you see the pain it causes. You will your mind to calm down and rest. You get up one last time to check in on them. They look peaceful and calm in their sleep and you feel like a crazy person. Maybe your just imagining it all. Seeing them calm helps your mind get the message to chill out and you drift off to sleep amazed at the ebb and flow of emotion that comes with each day in the life of a child with a mental illness.

**When talking with the child from this story about the possibility of sharing, he initially said no way. We talked more and decided that for now I need to leave his stories as drafts until they are resolved. Only then can I share in the hopes that maybe it will help others with similar struggles. I assured him that's its mostly my side of the story. He says he never wants to read these posts. We both may have cried, but I cannot confirm this, reputations may be at stake if I do.

This post is from when he first started self-harming. It was a very scary period. We sought help and through a powerful mix of God, support, medication and therapy things have gotten a lot better. He gets up everyday and fights through the negative thoughts that he can't control and strives to be the amazing brother, son and friend that we all know and love. Our relationship has grown so much closer through this process, that's something I'll always have mental illness to thank for. Other than that it kind of sucks.

Draft - 1st day of foster care - May 2017
I'm sitting and watching my sons swim during my first truly free moment of our first day providing temporary guardianship for a girl that I flew across the United States to get.
I've spent the first 1/2 of practice glancing at my son's occasionally as I put most of my focus into googling 1st time foster care. I read a lot of good suggestions and one that stuck was, document everything.
That brings me to now and writing this blog that I will never post. These unposted blogs help me get out feelings that I can't share or remember things that get lost in my turbulent life.
This girl is amazing. The journey of bringing her to my family was a turbulent one. She's an incredibly bright girl who seems to love everyone and everything. She has an infectious laugh and a very healthy dose of curiosity.
That being said, there are things that I'll be praying over and working on with her. She's incredibly independent. I mean that in an unsafe way. She doesn't stay with me when we're walking and she wanders the house alone and gets what she wants. She doesn't seem to have a concept of asking for things and being in a group.
When you correct her she tends to go completely blank faced or sometimes (especially if she's tired) you'll see her whole body shake or she'll whimper. She is going to need an extra kind tone and lots of reminders.
She says whatever is on her mind, and it's often inappropriate or unknowingly unkind. She is extremely appreciative of anything we give her and willingly shares everything. 
She is insistent on trying to call our littlest monster her sister and on reminding me that her mom is far away.
We're so thrilled to have her here and excited to get to know her better and learn how we can best help her in her journey.

**She's been living with us for almost 8 months now. Our agreement is to keep her for a year and then she goes back to her mom as long as all the conditions have been met. It's been a crazy rollercoaster adding a new person into our family and living everyday with the temporariness of it all. We'll know soon what is next for her. Her mom is doing well and trying hard. She is torn between 2 families that she loves and we are torn between wanting to keep her with us and wanting her to be with her mom who loves her dearly. Its a messy messy thing. I always thought I wanted to adopt or foster, but this whole situation has changed me. I find that I struggle daily to make sure I love her as much as my other children, treat them all fairly and to give her what she needs rather than what she wants. This has been a secret that you know if you're around us because you get to meet her, but not one for the world at large. The story is too big, the reasons are too long, and once again, it's not just my story to tell.

Draft - Downward Spiral - May 2018
Much like the Trump presidency, I feel I am witnessing the beginning of another downward spiral.
We've had 3 almost blissful weeks. You couldn't ruffle the kids feathers if you tried. He zoomed through months worth of schoolwork in days. He happily participated, planned and attended activities. He started wanting to make plans with friends. He got his first ever state swim time.
Then today he was up way to early. I knew it meant he hadn't slept well, but I tried to ignore it. We went to the gym and he had no goals. I saw him muddle through his workout and worried that he seemed off.
Throughout the day he checked in with me, notes of panic in his voice and eyes, double and triple checking what we were doing, at what times. Rehashing plans and seemingly grasping for control. I told myself I was overreacting.
He begged to go to the store with me. Now I know he was probably having one of his panic attacks where he needs an adult. At the time I couldn't figure out why he suddenly needed to go to Costco. My son, the finder, couldn't find basic groceries or figure out where we were in the store. It was like he was in a daze. I've never seen him like that. Ever.
Later his friends came over and I watched him withdraw. He tried to take a bath while they were still at our house in an attempt to escape. Long bathroom breaks, grunting replies and grinding teeth should have made things clear, but still I pushed him.
It's the end of the school year. He has days left to finish up schoolwork and get everything turned in. He hid schoolwork from me and knowingly failed tests, sure signs that things aren't well with him. By the time my husband made it home I was sure. I asked him to talk to our son, I was getting yelled at every time I tried. My husband didn't get it. He talked to him and played a game with him. The quality one on one time calmed our son but it didn't change the underlying unrest.
Finally, it's 10pm and he's crying and saying  he doesn't know what's wrong. Everything feels fuzzy and he can't concentrate. He agrees to email his counselor after I promise he doesn't have to go to school if things are still bad tomorrow.
But here's the thing, what if things are still bad tomorrow? I'm not sure I can handle another one of his spirals.  I'm now responsible for 4 other children and it's not fair how this affects them. I don't have an action plan. I don't know who to call or what to do. I don't know if it was just a bad day or the beginning of his next downward spiral. I'm terrified of tomorrow and finding out. I'm going to feel awful either way. I can't imagine how he feels. I just want him to be okay. He didn't ask for this. He doesn't deserve this. He needs a chance to just be a kid.

**This got scarier before it got better. He started hearing voices and getting extremely paranoid. We ended up changing his medication and everything improved. The thing that had helped save him months before was tearing him up. This one has been a big hurdle to get over. It's left him feeling crazy, his words, not mine. We all try to explain that medication did this to him, not his brain, not the disease, but it's left him feeling not in control and that's made him more guarded. There have been a lot of good months and he's made it through the bad ones like the champion that he is. But, it's hard to share. It's a big looming secret that doesn't have a lot of funny to it. I'm glad we've come to an agreement about ways that I can share, it feels like a weight off my shoulders.


Draft - It's not going how I thought it would go - all of 2017

**This one was all about my mom. She's been living with my family for almost 2 years now and I almost never say a word about her in the blogging world. There's a million funny stories and a million frustrating ones revolving around having her here with us. But, I still remain worried that she'll take something that I say wrong, we have very different senses of humor. For now these stories will remain drafts, until one day she reads them and okays them or she dies and I write it all as a memoir and pray that she can laugh about it all in heaven. For now just know that living with my mom is not going how I thought that it would go. She had another stroke this past summer and I was reminded that that is why she is here. So that we're close by during these emergency situations. She recovered amazingly well, the only side affect was a reminder to me that I need and want to keep her close by no matter what. That being said, she is ready for some independence and so am I. We are actively looking for housing for her where she can remain nearby but we can all gain a little space and perspective. I think it will make us all appreciate each other more. If not, than we're not very good people.

Draft - Health woes have me like whoa! - September through December 2017

** This was not the actual title, there were just a bunch of unfinished blog posts relating to my health. After my moms stroke, her doctor told me that my sisters and I needed to go get checked for a hereditary lipid disorder. The disorder lies at the heart of my moms medical problems and there was a chance that we might have it. It's a silent disease, you don't see the symptoms of plugged arteries, strokes and other problems until it's too late to fix them. I called my sisters and told them to get checked. I did not get checked. It took me several months to work up the courage to even make the appointment and then I had to wait almost 4 weeks before I went. It was agonizing and I had myself convinced that I was dying. As it turns out, I ended up finding a great doctor who was very kind to me as she explained that I was extremely overweight and ordered a million blood tests to check for the disorder. The results came in and the numbers weren't good. She instructed me to make some big lifestyle changes and to get rechecked in 3 months to see what the changes had done to the numbers. I thought she had explained that we wouldn't know if I had high numbers because I was fat or because of the disorder. I went back to see her 2 months later for something unrelated and discovered that I technically had the disorder whether I was fat or not. I was not prepared for this. I still had another month to go until I could recheck my numbers. I fell into a mental black hole as I tried to reassure myself that I wouldn't have strokes in my 50's, that I'd be able to walk and hike with my grandkids. My powers of persuasion were not strong. But...the lifestyle changes worked wonders. I dropped over 400 points off my triglyceride levels. They are still way too high, but I got into a respectable range for someone with the disorder. It means the lifestyle changes are going to be permanent and I'll have to get checked regularly, but I'm down 30lbs from when this all started and I am confident that I am doing everything I can to be as healthy as I can be, I hope it's enough, but worrying won't change anything. My family, especially my husband, have been insanely supportive as I've changed how we eat, the time I need to exercise, and on us all focusing on living healthier. I t just felt like a woe is me blog post every time I tried to say something so I never finished my thoughts or clicked post as the story unfolded last year.

Draft - The Big Move - September through December 2017

** Once again, this subject never warranted fully written posts because you can tell the internet world things until you've handled it all in the real world. People get very touchy about this stuff. Last year, my husband and I began entertaining the idea of moving from the island that we've lived together on for the last 17 years. We've talked about moving A LOT over the course of our marriage, but there are always insurmountable hurdles of one type or another that keep us here. This time was different. Everything kept coming up roses no matter how much we tried to find weeds. And so that brings us to the last, but not least secret, we are moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado in May 2018. There will be lots more to come on this subject but for now it feels good to get it out in the open. It was too many months of whispering behind closed doors and worrying about the sadness of the wonderful people that we're leaving behind. Now it's a new year with a new focus on the greatest adventure our family has yet to experience, moving across the country as a family of 7 with a dog, a mom and a sister in tow. Life is good.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tears

It starts like the slow drip of a faucet. Every once in awhile you wipe away the wetness discreetly. Maybe it's allergies. Something in your eye perhaps? You start to sniffle. What is going on?

You soon find yourself covertly wiping at your eyes and making the skin at the edges raw in a fierce attempt to hold the water back, to not let anyone see. It's too obvious to hide at this point, so now you agonize over what to say. Do you lie and say you got makeup in your eye? You mentally debate if you brought tissues and if you can slyly search your purse for them.

Here's the worst part about it, you really have no idea why the tears are there. It's embarrassingly ridiculous. That about sums up my life sometimes.

I never used to cry. I was one tough cookie. Funerals, sad movies, pain, nothing could touch me. My nickname should have been Stoic. Then I had kids and something inside me was unleashed. My faucet was permanently broken.

But the leak is very situational. I still rarely cry at standard issue crying moments. Nope, instead I make things weird. You see, I've always struggled with authority. Police, doctors, dentists, teachers, they're a bit hard for me to summon the strength to talk to. But...being so Stoic, I can generally muster up the courage, put on my brave face and push through when the need arises.

Now, there's nothing left to muster and no face brave enough, I'm just a mess. I walk into the parent teacher conference with a running mental mantra, "Stay calm, don't cry." Doesn't matter if the news is good, bad or inconsequential, the tears will flow and I'll be trying to say it's fine whilst looking like my dog just died.

Lord help the policeman that pulls me over. Again, doesn't matter if it's a sobriety checkpoint (I don't drink, so no worries there) or if I was speeding. I'm instantly flustered, constantly bumbling and moments away from full on waterworks. Needless to say, I have never received a ticket, maybe in this instance the tears work in my favor?

The dentist moments are extra ridiculous for two reasons. One, I can't wipe the tears because there are a million hands and contraptions all around my face, blocking me from erasing the evidence of my silent stream of shame. Two, it really freaks out the dentist because they think they're hurting me. I probably have really weird notes in my file about my crying problem, but they still always have to check, because, I mean, what if they were hurting me?

Finally, the doctors office. I just left there. I saw a doctor for the first time and there were clearly no notes in my file to indicate my tearitis conditions. I could feel them trying to burst out before I got into the exam room. As we sat and talked I tried a hundred different things to occupy my mind and body in the hopes that I could trick myself into staying calm. I almost did it. The first 20 minutes it wasn't more than a leaky faucet, I could have blamed it on my makeup easily. But as soon as she was ready to finish the appointment I could no longer hold it in. I made a beeline for the worlds scratchiest paper towels from the medical dispenser on the wall. Then it was awkward. She couldn't leave me like that and I couldn't explain. I recomposed myself as best as I could and hightailed it out of there. On the way home I berated my addled brain for doing this to me and tried to make myself sob to get it all out. Apparently that's not how it works and the body has a seemingly endless supply of tears.

So now you know. I worry about how
flawless I come across on a daily basis. I mean, my seeming perfection might make you feel bad about yourself right? So sharing this is my way of bringing things back down to earth. Don't worry, I have a lot more weird stuff that we haven't even begun to broach yet. The time will come. Anybody else out there have a weird struggle like this?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Mothers Day Homage

I was at a funeral recently where it struck me (again) that it seems sad to leave a eulogy for someone's funeral. People should get to hear the wonderful, funny and not-so-wonderful things that we, as their loved ones, have to say about them.

So, I googled eulogies and found a lot of how to guides for writing them, as well as debates on if they should be glowing or realistic. Then I googled eulogies for the living and found the word homage. Apparently that's what we should be doing to let the living know that we think they're great. Google noted that an homage is usually for when a person has received an award or is retiring, but I think it might be good for people to get them a little more often than that.

So without further ado, this is my Mother's Day homage (now that I know it's inappropriate to use the word eulogy for this sort of thing as long as the person is still alive.)

Dottie Istre has been my mom for 35 years. There's a lot more to who she is than just being my mom, but it's my pervue, so it's the focus of this homage.

She would argue that she stopped really being my mom when I became an adult but I regularly try to convince her that moms are forever and we always need them. You're welcome to try and convince her too, because so far I'm not winning this battle.

I'm the second in a line of 4 girls. That means she was a mom before I came along, but I wasn't there so I can't attest to her earliest mothering skills. I came along in the middle of the coldest blizzard that January had ever seen. My grandpa was teaching himself to crochet to stay busy in the waiting room with my older sister while my mom was busily attending to the business of pushing out a 10lb baby. She bred big babies.

All was successful and I came out with all my fingers and toes. I can't tell you much about those early years, baby brains and all that, but I'm pretty sure she did a great job, since it seems like any nastiness would have stuck with me.

Not long after I was born, our little family made the move to Kalispell, MT. We began life there in a big rented house uptown. My mom managed to keep our household afloat through a series of tragedies. My dad's temporary blindness, my older sister breaking her leg, my younger sister splitting her chin open and the arrival of my youngest sister (not that she was a tragedy, she was a blessing.)

Back then, she was still deciding what kind of parent she would be. She would try out different parenting styles. She and I went through a battle of the wills at that time. I was a horrifically stubborn and indignant child. She tried to get me to eat food, I mean she really really tried. I wasn't having it. She would send me upstairs to time out when I had disobeyed and I had to do things my way so I would only go to the top of the steps, never to my room where I'd been sent. She had such a level head as we endured these battles, I never remember her raising her voice at me as I worked my hardest to push all of her buttons. She seemed to love me through every bump I forced her to endure.

We moved outside of town to the Evergreen area just prior to me starting preschool. It was a very small apartment, in a very small apartment complex, where we all shared one small long skinny yard. It was directly across the creek from my grandparents house.

My mom kept her cool as she got my sister to school, me on the bus to preschool, handled the 2 little ones at home, and volunteered with our church. She allowed us a lot of freedom to explore and we felt the world around us was magical at that age. There was never much money, I know that now, but you never would have guessed it as a child growing up in my family. She made every birthday special and holidays were filled with family time.

We didn't stay in that apartment for a long time. According to my hazy preschooler memory, it was a little over a year. Then we moved into my grandparents basement temporarily while my parents were figuring things out. My sisters and I loved it, but I now know what a challenge it must have been for my mom. It's hard to ask for help and in her efforts to keep things separate etc... we lived like we were camping so as not to intrude on my grandparents life as much as possible. We were in close quarters during this time and I only remember order and quirky solutions to daily conundrums. No yelling, crying or frustration. If I had been the adult, this wouldn't have been the case. But that was my mother throughout my young life, stalwart, loving and filled with ingenuity and resourcefulness.

A few other bumps in the road occurred and brought my family to the place where we would purchase a yellow trailer with brown trim and place it on my grandparents property. This would be my home until I left for college. My mom would spend countless hours working to make this a home for our family.

Now that we'd finally settled, or maybe because I was a little older, I remember a much more complex mom during this time. I was in elementary school and I discovered that most mom's took their kids to school and picked them up after school. Not my mom. She had the hardest time waking up in the mornings. She would stay up all hours of the night, get up in the morning to help us get ready for school, and go straight back to bed for the rest of the morning. It's something she still struggles with today. She likes to say that her schedule runs opposite of everyone else's. She was also on a permanent diet. There was always some new eating plan to try, and we weren't included in it. She made her food separate from ours and we all knew that we were never to touch her diet Coke, some things are sacred.

My sisters and I filled life with challenges for my mom during the next few years. She met each one head on as she helped us navigate schoolwork, cultivated a love of reading in each of us and showcased her creativity as she regaled us with magical made up stories and read us The Chronicles of Narnia series with all the vim and vigor that she could muster.

I learned more from her during this time that any other. She showed me that you don't need money to solve problems, that everything can be researched and understood and showed me the value of hard work. She worked diligently with my grandpa on a garden that ran the entire length of our trailer. A lot of food came from this garden and we all helped here and there. But it was her love and passion. She was up every day working on it, checking on it, harvesting it, and caring for it throughout each spring and summer.

Reality had to hit at some point. I do remember my mom yelling during this time in our lives. It was usually related to chores that we weren't doing. She would rearrange rooms regularly as a way to get things clean, you never knew what to expect when you walked in our front door. She would draw out plans on graph paper and create a map to follow of how she wanted things to be. She always had ideas for how to make something that would make our lives easier or prettier. These ideas would go on my dad's and Grandpa's to do lists or we'd come home from school to find her like a whirlwind, whipping through a project that only she could envision.

My grandpa passed away when I was in 8th grade. He was my mom's best friend, she was his youngest child, and they had a very special relationship. From that point on my mom made it her mission to take care of my grandma as well as the four of us girls. It meant that she took a big step back in our lives as she worked to find her new balance. I think this was probably a very hard time for her.

As my sister's and I got older and started heading to college my mom let us forge our own paths, as long as they didn't spark her infamous "bad feelings." If my mom had a bad feeling about something, it wasn't going to happen, no matter how much you begged, pleaded or rationalized. That bad feeling was rarely every wrong and saved us from quite a few scrapes. I chose my college this way. My mom's bad feeling about my top choice led me to my second choice, where I met my husband and started a life here in Hawaii.

My mom poured herself into my grandma. She usually made my sister's and I check in on her daily, I think they got frustrated with each other sometimes and it helped them have breaks. She took her to all of her appointment's, shopping and wherever else she wanted to go. She completed to do lists, that my grandma would create, of ideas she had and things to be done. She memorized all her medications and preemptively knew when she'd want to go see a friend or invite family over.

In turn, my grandma helped our family immensely. She financially covered gaps and pitfalls and she hosted every holiday. I loved our family holidays. I miss our family holidays. Everything felt special, everyone felt loved and the focus was always on being together.

Then I went to college across the Pacific Ocean. As I mentioned earlier, my mom thinks motherhood changes at this point, which it probably does to some degree.

Over my years in Hawaii she would come to visit me. She was here for some of my most important moments, like when I got engaged and when my sons were born. She came and helped me as I began life as a new mother. Her role was definitely redefined as she became my support. Her support role holds true especially when it comes to prayer. My mom is a prayer warrior. She prays often and she prays fiercely. She helped me learn the importance of prayer and see how it brings us together in celebration and  support.

My mom weathered her mom passing away and moving out of that trailer that we'd lived in so long, and into uncertain rentals that wouldn't feel quite like home. She had a stroke and was diagnosed with a degenerative disease. She endured a brutal divorce and fought to find herself and support herself.  There were some very dark times where I wondered if I had lost my mom. But slowly she began to reemerge.

Her declining health, at the age of 62, brings us to the here and now. We just passed the one year mark of her coming to live with me. I get to support her and drive her to appointments in the same way I watched her support her mom when I was growing up.

She now has the opportunity to build relationships with her Hawaii grandchildren. I'm so excited for them to get to know my creative, hard working mom who is filled with ingenuity and God's love. She has a lot to share and a chance to rest and recover alongside a family that loves her. It does my heart good to have her here. We don't always get along now as we figure out this new life together. But we both are sticking it out and making it work. I don't say enough nice things to her so this is part one of my efforts to do that more.

My sisters, and other friends and family, may have different memories or perspectives on my mom so far. I'm not infallible and I'm sure I didn't get it all right. But I know that we can all agree that she love the Lord and she loves us and she always will. Being a mother is only one part of who she was and is, but it's the part that made me, so it's my favorite.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The joys of being a know it all

The other day I found myself discussing know-it-alls versus wise-asses, (bet you wish you came to our Sunday family dinners!) The discussion ended with my sister being the know-it-all who has an intensely real need to impart knowledge. My husband was labeled the wise-ass who imparts knowledge only if he knows it will screw with someone. I appeared to be a name caller in this situation as I inadvertently gave this conversation legs and labelled them each as such.

But I did it with a smile on my face, so it's all okay.

Cut to a few days later, and I found myself sharing knowledge on a topic that I had no personal experience with. I was basically regurgitating Google. My audience was in awe and lauded my expertise. I did not correct them.

I think I'm the actual know-it-all.

This theory was cemented tonite when I attended a trivia night in my hometown. When I knew the answer, I found that I couldn't just give it, I needed to share every detail of my life that added up to me knowing that fact in that moment. There was real pride in my voice when I  confidently announced that vanilla comes from an orchid plant.

When I didn't know the trivia answer, I had to give a run down of everything that went wrong in my life, leading me to the place I was now at where I didn't have the answer needed. There was real shame and devastation.

Guys, I think I truly love the sound of my own voice. I cannot shut up. A vow of silence would do me in. No one asked me for all of this information.

And so I now know that I am a know-it-all. I have an intense desire, almost a need, to devour as much information as I can. You never know when its going to be useful that you read the instructions manual for a handheld 1976 blender from cover to cover. The backs of restaurant menus can be informational gold mines. Don't forget to read the fine print on those prescription medication commercials (because they're funny, the information is kind of useless.) Heck, I stay at the end of the movie and read the credits. Why?

Because I'm a know-it-all.

Don't believe me? Ask me about it. As long as you have a couple free hours we can sit down and I'll prove it to you.

Now that I know, l'll see what I can do about it. It may not be the world's most desirable trait that I've acquired. I'll see what I can do to mitigate my responses, but in the meantime, you've been warned.

I have a lot of knowledge that needs to be shared with the world. And it mostly came from the backs of restaurant menus.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The elusive teenager in its natural habitat

I am one month away from being the mother of 2 teenagers. Our story is just beginning and it already has so many parts to it. Some parts are funny, many are ridiculous, some are sad and at least one smells.

You see, the moodiness of the modern teenager is not something to be trifled with. You can make a trifle for them but you better ask discreetly and not give it to them in front of other people in case it somehow embarrassed them to be loved and cared for in this manner.

Every day must begin gingerly. You approach the wild teenager with extreme caution to gauge if today will be a good day or a plague day. Don't trust anything that you thought you knew about your child, a good day can turn on you in an instant. Hypervigilance while giving the illusion of aloofness is key.

If it's a plague day, you, your ideas and even the cat will be treated as though you have been infected and must be avoided at all cost. I recommend lots of prayer on these days. Actually, I recommend lots of prayer everyday.

This covers the basics that I've discovered so far. But let's not forget some of the oft overlooked details of the day. The flip flop, the sneak attack and the dictionary will all make appearances in your daily life as a teenage zookeeper.

The flip flop moments can be identified by smell or by bathroom time. Teenagers have no middle ground, they are either unabashed stinkers who seem to lack the olfactory senses to realize why so many of us bathe and deodorize daily. Or they lack the olfactory and common senses to understand that less is more when it comes to cologne, hair gel and general grooming time. Flip flop moments are unpredictable, one day the stench has you frantically searching to find the onions that must be hidden somewhere and the next day the primping and preening time turns you into a screaming banshee as you try to get your kids out the door. I offer no advice to you parents of flip floppers, only my commiseration.

The sneak attack is as heart warming as it is unnerving. It's the random and inexplicable hugs, snuggles and kind words. You don't know where they came from and you probably never will. Sneak attack make you want to hold them close and cherish them,  it you know this action could end sneak attacks forever so you choose your moments carefully. In the midst of your elation you worry, somewhere deep down, that it might mean something really bad is coming. Ignore this feeling. It won't help either way. Take them for what they are in the moment, try not to overthink these sneak attacks. Thankfulness is key. But make sure it's silent thankfulness. If they sense that you appreciate it in any way it may never happen again.

Finally, the dictionary that is stuck on repeat. They will find a word or phrase and it will begin to appear everywhere. It often starts as cute or witty. Sometimes it's even eloquent. Sometimes they say "creamy poop" every time you try and talk to them. It will quickly take a turn and the constant use of it will cause you to rethink your views on capitol punishment. Just as you think that the good Lord has answered your prayers and made the word or phrase disappear, a new one will appear. These dictionary moments will last longer than you want but when they're gone, experts tell me that you'll miss them.

As a matter of fact, experts tell me you'll miss all of it when this season of life is over. So dig in your heels and prepare for the ride of your life. Rumor has it teenagers are worth it in the end.