Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Yikes, It's Been a Long Time...

In January of 2013, I stepped onto life's crazy train. Mike's back surgery fiasco last year was just the beginning of it all. In August the medical board process began. We knew that he wasn't going to be allowed to stay in the USAF, but we didn't know how it would happen. We figured that he would have a medical retirement, however we still worried about the possibility that he would simply be cut loose. The difference between the two separations are enormous. With a retirement, a USAF member retains their benefits (military ID cards, base privileges, and medical insurance for their family), receives a tax free paycheck for the rest of their lives, and allows me and the kids to continue to have benefits if Mike dies, which with his permanent infection gives me some piece of mind. If he were simply cut loose, we wouldn't have any piece of mind.

For months and months, we stressed as we waited for each step of the process to be over. Finally, in May we knew exactly what was going to happen. Mike was medically retired and given 90% disability. Thankfully, he also graduated from University of the Incarnate Word with a degree in Human Resources a week before he retired. Now, the job search is on like Donkey Kong.

As if the stress of separating from military life wasn't enough, in September my mom was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. It was already an advanced stage three. My mom had been experiencing symptoms for two years with no success in having anything diagnosed. The cancer didn't show up on any scans and was only identified through the ascites build-up and a CA-125 blood test. In December, we found out why.

My mom went in for surgery on New Year's Eve. The doctors found enormous gelatinous tumors and took out everything that they could see. Unfortunately, they left microscopic cells behind, and the aggressive cancer regained control of her body in a very short period of time. The gelatinous nature of the tumors made it completely invisible on scans, so the doctors only had the CA-125 levels to determine how the cancer was reacting to her treatments. With every new variety of treatment, it looked like it was working for the first round, and then would fail after that.

I flew out from Texas to see her in California in December just before her surgery, and then again for her birthday in April and the difference in how she looked and behaved was enormous. In December her spirit was strong and hopeful, but in April we both knew that her death was quickly approaching. Her complexion looked lavender, and she was throwing herself down stairs because she didn't have the strength to walk down them normally. We cried together.

Not even two weeks after coming back home to Texas, I was on board another flight to go be with her. I arrived on a Saturday at the end of May and the following day hospice came. For three weeks I helped my aunt take care of my mother. I hugged her, danced with her, and talked with her until she couldn't do those things anymore. Then, I bathed her, massaged her, and essentially became her death cheerleader. She and I were both ready for her to go home. She suffered with horrendous pain for long enough.

On June 6, 2014 my mom peacefully took her last breath on this earth with her husband and children holding her hands and her four grandchildren playing in the front room.

Currently, we are spending the summer ( or at least a part of it) with family in California. We are living life one day at a time right now, because it is too overwhelming to do it any other way. Hopefully, I can focus on the brightness of life this summer. Life is too short and unexpected to do anything else.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Cleaver Phenomenon

You always hear that you shouldn’t expect to financially live up to the Jonses. It’s an unhealthy and unrealistic expectation. So, why should families have to live up to the Cleavers? What makes the expectation of being a perfect parent or having perfect kids any healthier? Isn’t it impossible to obtain? Who in this world is perfect?

Real families have real problems to work through. They have real burdens, real emotions, real imperfections, and that’s okay. So, why is it taboo for mothers to express the reality of life? Why do we have to gloss over things so that we look perfect all of the time? Motherhood is messy and stressful. Of course, there are good times that happen every day, and they should be cherished. But there are also some really rough times, and it should be okay to admit it.

Some days I clean the kitchen until it gleams, and I feel great! But, some days I’m exhausted, and I don’t want to vacuum. So, I don’t. Some days I dress nicely, make sure that my hair is done, put on some jewelry, and even apply a little makeup. However, some days I wear my pajamas until noon, and I don’t shower until the evening. My house isn’t dust free, my kids have holes in their jeans, and sometimes dinner is a PB&J sandwich with some baby carrots on the side.

I make mistakes every day with my kids. Some days I yell a lot. Have you ever tried to get a child with ADHD to put on his shoes? Lord, help me! Some days I’m so frustrated that I want to break down and cry. Other days though, I feel like the best parent in the world. On those days, I’m patient and kind...and well rested. We cook dinner together, and play cards, and dance in the kitchen. I really listen to their stories and we talk about life’s lessons. Usually, the days are intermixed with a lot of love and a lot of frustration.

I wonder if I’m doing an okay job over all. My kid’s teachers enjoy them. They tell me how respectful and how helpful they are. But, at home the boys talk back, they roll their eyes, and they whine. My kids have extremely good grades, but they complain about homework every day. We have endless arguments about procrastination. 

I’ve listened to my friend’s stories and I know that I’m not alone, but sometimes it feels like I am. My kids have good friends. They play with the neighborhood kids on the weekends, and of course, they get into mischief (probably more often than they get caught).  I’m pretty sure that my kids are normal. So, why am I sometimes made to feel like they're not? 

Why should I ever expect them to be perfect? Why should I ever expect that I'll always be the perfect mother? We are human. We make mistakes. It's okay to be imperfect.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Mommy is tired, do we really need to go to the park?"

I didn't go to bed as early as I should have last night. Every morning I'm up at 4:45am to go to the gym. I'm trying to take care of myself like I should.

By 4:00 this afternoon, I felt like I could fall asleep standing up. Mike's back went out this weekend, and he can hardly move, so it wasn't like I could stop for the day.

BB#3 begged and pleaded with me to take him to the park. So, I did, even though I silently whined about it. We played and played. I would sneak up on him and say, "Boo," and he would scream and laugh manically.

I looked at him as he climbed on the play structure, and I realized that he is a person with his own thoughts and he expresses them now.

He says thing like, "Mommy! I don't want help," or "Mommy, come with me. We're going to go find dinosaurs. Oh no! There's bad guys! Get on my ship, I'll save you!" I think my favorite was when he said, "Mommy, I'm going to go to college and fly airplanes."

This afternoon he told BB#2, "I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to mommy," when BB#2 was butting in.

These photos show a sweet three-year-old toddler, but his ideas and play seem so much older than he is.

It's amazing how quickly they grow up. I still don't want anymore, and I don't want him to stay little forever, but I should cherish these times a little more.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Teacher's Words Make an Impact

I'm so stinking proud of my boys!! The older two brought home their report cards. Their grades are always good, so that's not why I'm excited. I'm excited because BB#1 is described as, "caring, friendly, and kind to all of his peers," his teacher also said, "He has shown significant improvement in completing class work and is actively participating in classroom discussions. He enters class with a very happy demeanor which gives me joy."

Yippee!! Those words are like music to my ears this year!! He has struggled so much to keep his grades in the B range and has done fabulously well, but knowing that he is more confident and happier while doing it is a gift.

As if that's not awesome enough, BB#2's teacher said, "he is often a role model with following the teacher's directions." Not every teacher can see BB#2's strengths and positive attributes. So, I'm thrilled that this one has all year long, and that BB#2 is excelling in all areas. Yay for positive teachers!!

My kids push my "I'm going to lose it if your daddy doesn't come home soon" button from time-to-time, and they are busier than busy, but they are really good boys. I love knowing that they are using the values that they have been taught when I'm not around. I'm beyond grateful for the words that their teachers have written on their report cards. I'm not sure if they realize it or not, but they make an impact. 

Wrist Licking Good Po' Boys in Louisiana

What could be better than a po-boy sandwich? Nothing! Especially, if it was made at Darrell's in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Darrell's is a bar that is nestled between train tracks and industrial lots. It's not a place that you'd think to take kids to, normally. However, it has a drive-thru in the back, so it's totally legit. It reminds me of the best burrito place that my Grandma H used to take us to in California when I was little. We had to walk through a scruffy looking bar in the middle of Oakland to get to the food. It was worth it every time! I promise that Darrell's is worth it, too. Just keep imagining Po-Boys that are so juicy that the gravy drips down your wrist and all you want to do is lick it off so that it doesn't go to waste. They are that good!

You might be wondering how I found this hole in the wall place. Well, I did a google search for food just as we crossed the boarder from Texas into Louisiana. I found Darrell's on yelp and the locals swore by these sandwiches. I thought, who am I to resist the temptation?

So, as we passed through the area at 10:30am, we decided to stop and wait the half an hour until they opened. I hear that the line can get pretty crazy, so I wasn't going to complain. We were first and we had stellar treatment (trust me, that means something when you have three kids yelling at you from the back seat)!
So good that you'll moan. Seriously.
Once they were open, the waitress came to the window and said, "What can I getcha, baby?" in a thick southern drawl. We'd never been there before, so she walked us through the menu and helped us choose the perfect sandwiches for our family. The boys all had shrimp, Mike had roast beef, and I had the special. The bread was tender, but not soggy. The jalapeƱo mayo was just spicy enough. It didn't overwhelm my senses. The cheese was real cheese, and not that overly processed stuff that I hate so much. I swear, the only thing you could hear from our car were moans of pure food bliss. These sandwiches are the best of the best food porn. Just look at it! You know you want one...

I promise, you won't be sorry if you go!! I mean, not only am I NOT getting paid for this post, but they don't even know that I wrote it! It was just so awesome that I had to tell y'all! :o)

Finally! I see it!! (Post from last year)

Sometimes, as a parent you question if anything you are trying to teach your kids is actually sinking in. Then you have moments of seeing those lessons in action, and you rejoice until they drive you crazy again.

BB#1's teacher and I were communicating back and forth about a project that he was doing. Her final comments were, "Can't wait to see how it turned out. I am always telling him how impressed I am with the quality of his work."

Not to mention that in his last Chess Club meeting he won four times in a row! He said, "Mom! I can't believe it! I kept trying like you said and I'm finally good at it!" When he first started Chess Club at the beginning of the year, he didn't know how to play the game at all, so he never won a game. He would get super frustrated. I reminded him of how it was when he first learned how to play checkers. He could never beat me, until all of a sudden, one day he could! After that reminder, he decided that in his spare time (when he wasn't out playing with friends), he would get on the computer and practice playing chess.

Yesterday, I was out in the back and noticed that BB#2's plants have doubled in size despite the fact that I haven't watered them once. BB#2 has taken his responsibility seriously and has watered them every single day without me having to prompt him. Woohoo! He is showing responsibility!!

Then, yesterday afternoon BB#3 was playing on the playground and began to run behind the school. I called out to him and told him to stop right there or he was going on time out. He actually stopped!! He turned around and ran right back to the play structure. Amazing!!

Real Life from Last Week

Today was a really hard day. It was the kind of day where I want to drown my sorrows into a wine glass. I won't. I have active kids to look after, but I will eat a chocolate ganache cupcake, because it's delicious and the salt from my tears will enhance the flavor.

BB#3 woke up in a crying fit this morning. He wanted to watch videos on my computer, but he didn't really want to watch videos on my computer. He just wanted to click the buttons and see what he could do.

I hurried the older BB Boys to school. I think they may have been a little late. BB#3 didn't want to put his pants on.

By noon, I decided that BB#3 is at the age that I will need to plan an out-of-the-house activity every single day. At least if I want to stay sane. And I do. I really, really do.

So, I took him to the park to keep him from getting into everything under the sun. We looked for turtles, listened to the birds, watched butterflies flutter by, and then he played on the swings and slides for a little while. It was really peaceful.

Memories of BB#2 at this age started flooding into my mind. I remembered the first time that he learned how to pump his legs on the swings, I remembered the time that he shaved all of his hair off and looked like a chemo patient, I remembered taking him to the zoo with a hat covering his sensitive skin, and I remembered him climbing onto everything and making my heart jump out of my chest.

I let the memories float behind my eyes as I pushed BB#3 on the baby swing. I smiled, and I remembered that memories like these will last for years.

We had some time to spare before we had to get the older BB Boys from school. So, we came home and had a snack. That was a big-big-BIG mistake.

He wanted cheese and then he didn't want cheese. He wanted an apple and then he didn't want an apple. He wanted a drink, but he didn't want an orange cup, he wanted something different. He just didn't know what that particular "different" was.

Then, when it was time to go pick up his brothers, he darted away from me into oncoming traffic. Thank the Lord the car that was coming saw him and stopped.

I loaded him into the car, and he was quiet. He fell asleep.

A few minutes later the older BB Boys rushed into the car and had nothing positive to say.

I decided to take them all for ice cream. Activities like that can turn around a bad mood, and really, I just wanted a chocolate ganache cupcake.

All was okay until we came home. Then, we started into the homework routine. BB#1 asks for help, and then he refuses to believe me when I tell him how to do it. So, we google it, and then he argues with google. Eventually, it all falls apart into tears. Mine and his.

Today was a hard day.