Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Beginnings and Endings

God knows I am a broken record. I spice up our conversations with new material now and then.  But, most of the time, I default to what He has heard me say a million times before…my most fervent heart’s desire:

Part 1

Dear God,

Please help our kids recognize the gifts and abilities you’ve given them, and give our kids the desire and discipline to use and improve those gifts in a way that honors you.

Part 2

Dear God,

Please help the kids to know you speak in real time, and to be able to distinguish the sound of your voice.

That’s it. Those  are the two blessings I have asked God to lay on my kids for as long as I’ve been working the mother gig.  I heard one time that you’re not supposed to keep asking God for the same thing over and over, because He knows.  That has not stopped me.

The reason I ask God to give our kids some special help with hearing Him is because I have found this particularly difficult to do in my life. Scott and I are both very indecisive (for different reasons); coming to a concrete resolution on what manner in which we should proceed on any matter, large or small, is excruciating.  Ask our kids.  Figuring out where to go for lunch, or what yard game to play is always complicated.

Scott is burdened by his desire to make the EXACT. RIGHT. CHOICE.  One of his worst fears is regret.  I am burdened with something else.  I want EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. TO. APPROVE.     Wait. I take that back. Scott is also burdened with making the world happy. Poor guy.  He suffers a double whammy of decision making impairment.

I guess I am saying our only real trouble with making choices is that our choices must be PERFECT, and the choice must make everyone in the world happy.

How can we go wrong?

Let’s agree we have some issues.

I want our kids to have finely tuned God radar, because hearing is hard.  There is so much background noise.

I am one of those loons who believes God knows us.  Like, not just He is vaguely familiar, because He created us type of knowing either.  I think He actually participates in our lives.  He CAN direct our paths.  My belief should solve our decision making problems, shouldn’t it? If I know God is leading and I am following,  no second-guessing, hand wringing, or anxious thoughts are required.

When Scott and I made the decision to move to Sauk Prairie we were hardly confident in that decision.  This feels like it could be right.  Do you think it is right?  How do we know it’s right? I don’t know. Maybe it’s not right.

It was right.

Scott has made three big career decisions in our lives.  All three have been painful. The source of our pain was leaving something that made us happy.  It’s easy  to close the door and leave a place you don’t like. It’s scary to leave a place you love.  Very uncomfortable.

This summer, Scott and I started talking about what it would be like to have both our sons wrestling in college, and how we would feel about not being able to follow them and watch them wrestle.  Then, we talked about how Scott would feel about NOT being a head wrestling coach at Sauk Prairie anymore. Hmm.  Two bad choices.

At the end of the summer Scott was given the honor of inducting one of his former wrestlers into the Hall of Fame.  This young man was a Division 1 wrestler all through college, and is now a teacher and a coach himself.  His wife and children delighted me with their gentle, funny ways; it was plain this young man strives for (and achieves) excellence in every facet of his life.

Scott shared with his former wrestler a bit about our crossroads.  This young man asked Scott two questions, and shared one statement:

 

Question one:

Will your sons have more than one college wrestling career?

Answer: No

 

Question two:

Is it possible for you to be a head wrestling coach again?

Answer: Yes.

 

Statement:

I was a 22-year-old man wrestling in college and I NEVER grew out of my desire to have my parents watch me wrestle. It meant everything to me, and it would have felt like there was no point without them.

Sometimes you hear God’s still small voice coming out of the mouth of a young man you trust.  God used this young guy to give Scott some clarity. Once the wisdom of these words settled into Scott’s heart, he started to accept a new future.

Scott is stepping down as head coach of the Sauk Prairie Eagles after 14 of some of the most amazing and fun-filled years of our lives.   Our legs were shaky and our hearts raced at the beginning of this journey.  We had three little kids, and little confidence that we were capable of honoring God with what he had given us in this new place.

He carried us.

I have a montage of memories playing in my mind.  Memories of the faces we have grown to genuinely love and consider our family in the past years.   When Eddie was sick, our Sauk Prairie wrestling family covered us with their generosity and care.    Their love helped sustain me.

Many of the young men that Scott coached are still in our lives; we find ourselves cheering for them as they succeed in life.   They give us advice.

In my montage I see a little, stocky Eddie, his shadow, Zeke, and the pack of rascals the boys hung out with then, watching the big Varsity Boys wrestle.   I see these little guys  doing push ups after every varsity win.  Now I see these same boy faces on older, stronger bodies.  They’re wearing Varsity Eagle warm ups, and they are fighting together to win a Team State Title at the Field House.

Some of my dearest friendships were born in the bleachers as we all cheered for each others’ sons, while rooting for a common goal. I won’t get tired of replaying these memories.

The timing for Scott’s decision is right.  Not only because Scott wants to watch his sons wrestle.  We also can tell it is time to rest.

Do you know what happens to your body when you are…say, faced with an angry bear? Or, see a truck barreling down the road, aiming for your offspring?   There is a biological response that takes over called “Fight or Flight”.

When you see that bear,  adrenaline floods your nervous system, your pupils dilate, your heart rate increases,  you are temporarily  possessed with unique energy to improve your odds of survival.  You are hyper alert. You want to know the only thing you can NOT do in fight mode?  Sleep.  Or, relax.

Fight or flight mode is designed for rare occasions.  It is a back up plan meant for emergencies, it cannot be sustained as your default mode.

Scott does not possess the inner workings to exist as head coach in a state of Zen.  Scott’s been fighting a bear for 14 years.  He needs a nap.

I have always been a fan of introspection.  I want to know the hows and whys of things.  I feel like there is so much to learn there.  I have always been interested in more than just the facts.  That is why I wanted to share with our friends and family how we got here.

It is  silly though.  In the larger scheme of life, Scott’s decision to step down as head coach affects no one.   Statistically speaking,  the impact of this decision in the scope of humanity,  registers a “0”.

“Scott coaches?  Good for him.  Who is Scott, by the way?” (Direct quote from nearly every person in the world).

What I have written here is for the people we love and care about who have some of the same pictures I have rolling through the montages in their minds.  I have written these words for all the people rolling up their sleeves, pitching in and working together; to all the people who donate so many hours and so much effort  to help grow something special.

I’ve also written these words  for the sweet, tough faces of the ones who are right now watching the big kids,  doing push ups, and planning their own dominant reign as an Eagle.  All these people have their own stake in something good, and my words are for them.

Keep working and planning, my friends. That dream will be yours.

We are not going anywhere right now.   Scott hopes to continue to serve the Eagles in whatever way is useful and helps the kids grow; any way that does not include being in charge.

We do not know exactly what God has for us next, and we know for SURE that we are not enough.  But, thankfully, we do know God is.

In some cases, words just grossly under perform.  That is the case now, as I try to find the right way to express gratitude for the treasure of people, lessons and memories we found when we walked into this community and  wrestling program.  These have been some of the best years of our lives.

Go Eagles!

 

 

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Photo Albums

One Sunday, our Pastor was making a point about our insignificance.  He described this well known statue near Wisconsin’s State Capital.  When he shared details of this man made of metal, riding a horse, many people nodded that they were familiar with the statue.  The Pastor asked the audience of 800 or so Madison area folks who could tell him the name of the guy the statue was made to commemorate.

Crickets.

My day job involves promoting the city of Madison. I was blank; no idea who the guy on the horse was.

The point our Pastor was making was this:  Look at this guy that was so important, people made a statue of him for cripes sake. Yet, we don’t remember him.  What about all of the people who have come and gone who do NOT have a statue? What do we remember of them?  Who will remember us?

Not one person, eventually.

Gee. Thanks, Pastor.  That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard. I’m going back to bed.  I see no point.

I guess the Pastor actually meant this as a pep talk. Like, quit your worrying, pal.  Won’t be long before you’re dead and gone, and no one will care one bit about what you’re worried about today.

A real crowd pleaser.

I didn’t really mind this reminder.   I interpreted it as a message from God:    We’re not as big of deal as we think we are, and neither are the things we worry about. So, please.  Let’s all just calm down.

This week I helped my Mom move my Aunt into assisted living.  I tried really hard to act like one of my older sisters, and pull my weight.  I avoid being in charge.  I  did a medium job of it. I kept getting side tracked.  There were the best photo albums, and lots of stories.  I LOVE STORIES.

My Great Grandpa was an intelligent and well educated man.  He played basketball for the University of Chicago in the 1890’s.  He raised a family, and before he died he was the Superintendent of one of the largest school districts in Wisconsin.  According to my Aunt and Mom, my Great Grandpa was ambitious and curious. He was always reading.   His ambition led him to a variety of Administrator positions in education. He had little personal time. Most of the child raising was left to Great Grandma.

 

Great Grandpa Keller

 

One of the last big things my Great Grandpa tried to do was develop a new program called, “Industrial Education” (Tech Ed) in public schools.  Grandpa thought, “Wouldn’t it be useful to train students who were not likely to pursue secondary education in more useful skills like, welding, home economics, and auto mechanics?  Wouldn’t this training help prepare these students without the resources or inclination to go to college to find jobs that match their interests and skills after high school?”

The school board said that would NEVER catch on; they rejected Great Grandpa’s proposal.

This rejection caused Great Grandpa anxiety and frustration, but not enough to squelch his ambition entirely.  Grandpa soon went on to run for Mayor of the city of Eau Claire.  He did not win.

The only record we have of what happened next was Great Grandpa’s obituary.  The obituary actually says this, “He died of a mental breakdown after a short illness”.  He was 59 years old when he died. My Dad said that the back to back disappointments wreaked havoc on Great Grandpa’s health,  and mental health, apparently.

Thank you, God. For a glimpse of my Great Grandpa’s story.  It sounds like it ended in tragedy;  here I am living my happy life, having had no idea.

What if God could allow us to go back in time?  I’d love to whisper in Great Grandpa’s ear that he needn’t worry.  His sense of failure was only an illusion. Soon to be forgotten by everyone (until his Great Granddaughter blogged about it).   In the end, nothing he did, or said,or contributed would be measured or remembered.  The only thing permanent was his soul. I hope he took good care of it.

 

psalm144_4

 

Here are some good looking people for you to see.  That’s my dad with the glasses, and his cute little girlfriend (Mom), on his right.  My Grandma is next to her, and my Aunt and Uncle are on the other side of my Dad.

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Hello.  We’re models for J.Crew.

 

I found all sorts of pictures of my family standing around the piano, singing jolly ol’ tunes. The pain I endured.

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Is it just me? Or, does this all look a bit forced?

I’m sorry.  Maybe this is breaking the rules, but PULEEEZE, enough with the singing already.  It isn’t for me.  No one believed me in my family.  Every one of those suckers was born holding a musical instrument with a melody in their heart.   I swore to Mom and Dad they were wasting their hard earned money on me.  Not to mention the  years I took  off my  piano teacher’s life.

My protests fell on deaf ears.

Now my parents know.  They accept that I have no talent, and even less interest.

What no one wanted to admit, but what I always KNEW, was that I was born to do was Dance.   And wear sequins and fringe:

 

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This is what happiness looks like.

And, just because I can’t stop, let’s end all this with a look at Mom’s “Swiss Miss” stage:

 

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Christmas Recap

Post Holiday Blues.  I am suffering from this.

If you ask me why my 10 days of work-free (day job) living were so outstanding, my answer would not impress you.  Like 60% of the population in Wisconsin, I was sick for most of my break.  Some how, being sick did not lessen my enthusiasm.  Maybe being sick made my break better?

Weird.

If you are a busy gal with all sorts of responsibilities at home and at work, then I know you will hear me.  I pulled my weight through Christmas. I showed up.  We did all the fun Christmas stuff.  Our families politely ignored my hideous coughs, and hid their dread that I was probably for sure infecting them.  The day after Christmas I felt like I did not have another day of pretending good health in me.  I stayed home while my family hit our last gathering.

When Scott and kids returned that night, they told me they wanted me to go to the Doctor.  It was night time, which meant I had to go to the ER.  Meanwhile, my Dad was having my sister send me texts every hour on the hour, telling me to go the Doctor.

Can you tell me what is nicer than being a 45-year-old woman with a Dad who still worries?

I won’t lie to you.  I didn’t hate the attention.  Honestly, how many Moms spend time at the center of their family’s concern?  Just short of never, I’d guess.  The concern is usually going in the opposite direction. From us to them.

Going to the Doctor really isn’t for me, but that might change. Basically, I went to the spa.  These healthcare professionals are top rate.  They are all care and concern.

Them:

“Are you warm enough?”

“Oh, that cough sounds  bad.”

“Can I get you something to drink?”

“You should not work.”

“You need to rest.”

“Take this, it will help you sleep.”

Me:

“Are you sure you don’t need to keep me here for the night for observation?”

I tried to squeeze a few additional coughs out that probably were not legit so this would never end.

I did attend a two day wrestling tournament after the doctor visit, but otherwise? I did almost nothing that required physical stamina or thinking; it was GLORIOUS!

There is nothing hard charging about me.  Managing a busy grown up life takes all my concentration.  I’m not a natural, and I am not that good at it.  What I AM good at is Netflix, books, Farkle, puzzles and naps.  That is what I did.  Doctor’s orders. No guilt required.

Best vacation ever.

Eddie was home for a short visit over break.  We would have liked more time with him, but we take what we can get.  It seems that Eddie is about 85% man and 15% boy.  When Scott and I were first married, Scott still watched cartoons, dragged us to arcades,  and loved to play wiffle ball. So, I don’t expect Eddie’s man/kid ratios to change much in the near future.

Eddie and I were talking about how we all have transitioned to what seems like his permanent departure from his childhood home.  He told me again that he is a  bit surprised by how well I have taken it.

Eddie is old enough now that I can confide in him with some deep life truths.  I explained that those first 18 years of HIS life,  I was playing the most convincing role of MY life.  It was only my fierce love for him that could keep me in character for that long.

When the kids were born, I knew God’s job for me:  Protect them. Keep them safe.  Help them launch.  Do you realize how many details are involved in this job description?  Moms are drowning in details. We are eyeball deep before our feet hit the ground in the morning.   It’s so scary.

I told Eddie the jig is up.  He is old enough to know the truth.  I pulled back the curtain, and let him see that behind the “The Mother of Oz”, is just a kid pretending to be a grown up.  Don’t worry. I assured him I can tap into that adult when he needs her.  It’s not like I didn’t learn anything along the way.

But, mostly I told him I’m entirely relieved to hang out, have fun and be his friend.  Those things are super easy for me.  I never wanted to be in charge.

If you are my friend on FB, you may have noticed a lot of discussions about my family and shoes over the years.  Well, mostly talk of Eddie’s shoes. Lack of shoes. Silly shoes.  Rotten shoes.  It’s a thing.  I don’t know if the issue is the males in my family don’t value shoes, or if they value them too much.

Eddie wore tennis shoes the entire vacation with his toes peeking out of the large tears on the sides.  I asked if he lost the new pair of tennis shoes his Dad bought for him at Thanksgiving.  Without a hint of sarcasm, he told me he was saving those shoes for when the shoes he was wearing wore out.

Remember,  I’m not in charge of shoes or anything else any more.

Straightened up the tennis shoes by the door; I noticed Zeke and Scott are not innocent in this shoe game either.  What are these even?

 

old shoes

 

Happy New Year!!!

 

christmas 2017

 

Well hello, kids.  You’ve been awfully quiet, haven’t you?  Bet you thought you could hide from me. Ya little rascal.  You can’t, cause I’m not dead yet, and neither is my blog.  I am here to celebrate our friendship with my bi-annual, or every 8 or 11 months or so without fail, maybe, if I remember to do it, blog.  It’s just nice to know there are some things you can still count on, right?

My friend, Rebecca, told me she dusted off my old blogs recently and binge read them.  Seriously.  You think I’m making that up, but I’m not.  She actually used the word “binge”.

Never.  Never in my life did I ever think for a second it would be possible for me to create one thing in this world that was worth a binge of any kind.  But, I’m here to report one person says it happened.  I just thought maybe I shouldn’t keep Rebecca hanging.  You know?  I mean, how did my life turn out anyway?

I’m not going to say prison has been a breeze, but I’ve learned things here.  It isn’t as bad as you might think. I lead a Jazzercize (spell check doesn’t even know what to do with this word from yesteryear) class, and of course…Bible Studies.   Bloom where you’re planted, and all that.

Now you’re going to be disappointed;  I made the prison part up.  And Jazzercize.  And Bible Studies. Well, actually there have been Bible Studies since we talked last.  But, not with fellow inmates, unfortunately.

I was hoping to make things sound a little more exciting, so I could hold you here for a bit longer.  After all, prison did seem to agree with Teresa Giudice of “Real Housewives”.  She made it seem kind of fun. Like a retreat. So, I thought…

The real truth is, I’m just still here. Being me.  And that’s the only news I’ve got.  I’m sorry.

I guess a few things are new.  Like, Menopause.  Holy COW.  I just dropped that bomb on my poor male friends who may have wandered here. I’m sorry to do it to you, bud.   You can back away now if you want. This is a no judgement zone.

Frankly, I don’t get what all the secrecy is about.  Laws of nature seem sort of impersonal to me, and nothing really worth keeping shrouded in mystery.  And, definitely nothing to be embarrassed about.  Are we embarrassed that the sun is shining?  No.  It’s sort of out of our control.  So, why take it so personally? I think we can handle this conversation.

Humans will be human though, and we just act sort of dumb about some stuff.  The other day I started to say something to Olivia about my current hormonal sitch, and that girl cut me off hard.  See if I ever give birth to her again.

I’ll tell you instead.

The other night, I was sitting with a crowd at a very intense wrestling dual.  More than half way through, I realize that I had rolled up my short sleeve t-shirt and I was frantically fanning myself with a program, while complaining about the idiot who thought it was funny to turn up the heat  to 95 degrees in a crowded gym.  Kid you not.  Every single person within earshot turned to me and said they thought the gym was cold, actually.  Well, people, “actually“,   I didn’t ask for your input.

Then, I said, “well, I guess I’m so hot ’cause I’m nervous”.  One of my BFF’s near by gave me that knowing look. Like, sure honey.   If that’s your story, we’ll pretend to believe it.

Crap.

So, I’m getting older. That’s what’s new.  Are you happy?

Never one to believe I’m not capable of solving everyone’s health issues, I did a little research.  Here’s the good news about Menopause.  Wait.  Forget it. There is no good news.  Seriously.  NOT ONE GOOD THING.  I read through the list of symptoms: weight gain, lack of sleep, hot flashes, night sweats, crabbiness.  Excellent,  I guess you get to this next stage of life, more than half way through, full of wisdom from hard work and hardship, and life says, “Here you go. Congratulations on arriving here. Enjoy this bag of turds.” Superb.  I’m delighted.

I read all that and called out to our Lord, “Dear Jesus, can you please explain?”  To date, Jesus has not returned my call.

The moral of the story here, sister (and whatever brother was brave enough to stay), if God saw fit to create this natural process for woman to age, then I see fit NOT to suffer quietly.  I won’t do it.

Other things are new too.  Like, new things I’m learning.  I take it back about there being NOTHING good about getting older.  I think you do get a little smarter. But, still, it’s not like we couldn’t get smarter without sitting in a 130 degree Sauna 24/7.  It all seems so unnecessary.

But,  as much as you’d like to drag all this lady stuff out, we’ll have to talk more  later.  I’d like to end this commemorative, once every 8 or 11 month blog with something positive, and bit less about my personal life. Do you mind?  Frankly, you’re a little nosy.

With age comes wisdom.  I’m about to end my 45th year (Make a note. Send a gift.)  Here are a few random bits I grabbed along the way:

  • This is something sweet.  Getting older is AWESOME; when you are irritated you quickly get over it, because you cannot remember what irritated you.
  • Despite my GenX instincts,  I realized my parental duties do not include protecting my kids from every disappointment.
  • My parent duties do include comforting my kids when they’re disappointed.
  • Sometimes we make our problems infinitely worse by talking about them (Except menopause. That stuff is a must discuss type of situation. ) There is a big difference between problem solving and complaining/exacerbating.
  • There are a lot of creepy men in the world.  Most women have secret radar that give off creep signals with barely a word being spoken.
  •  It’s hard to believe there are so many creepy men out there, because I’ve hardly known any in my life.  Maybe that’s because my radar is working.  Once I’m alerted, I change course.
  • People who talk the most and the loudest can be wildly influential and inaccurate.
  • Dogs make life better.

I’m just going to cut myself off right there, because as your Sensei, I believe you have much to learn, and you must not learn it all at once.

Namaste and Merry Christmas.

Look at the olden days.  Before women could blog about the sun, moon, stars and menopause. What a crock.

menopause-sarah-vine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joy and Sorrow

I saw something on Facebook yesterday that probably changed me: a horrifying story about child abuse, and an overwhelmed system that failed a child miserably.  That child no longer exists here.

I was awake most of the night. Anxiety had flipped my adrenal switch to overdrive. What I saw during the day replayed on a loop in my brain…over, and over, and over again.  Big whoop!  I lost a night’s sleep because I was traumatized by something I saw. What about the people who live it?  What about them?  How do they sleep?

I couldn’t sleep, because I saw something that forced me to reckon with the reality of evil. It exists in the world. What about the tender little ones who know evil exists, because they live with it. It is sitting in the next room?

As I was considering the fragile state of my own sanity,  it occurred to me how improbable it would be to survive abuse with any optimism.

I prayed.

I’m not the type who thinks God will let me in on why bad things happen.  I’ve never claimed to have an answer for this.

I.DO.NOT.KNOW.

I just keep praying.

I will say, there is something about being face to face with what could only be the Devil to make me run the other direction.  There is no reasonable, earthly explanation for some of the atrocities that are taking place somewhere in the world at this moment. It’s a supernatural darkness.  I’m clinging to my belief that there’s an opposite. No. There’s a MORE POWERFUL, supernatural force for good at work as well. It is only a happy life that lulls me into a comfortable state of apathy, causing me to forget these deep truths.

Scott and I talked about all this for a long time last night.  He said I could tell him what I saw. As I spoke, I saw Scott’s body hunch over, and he bowed his head.

It’s the weight of it.

We talked about what we could possibly do about the problem of evil.  We came up with some ideas. Ideas that will take some courage.

Right now, what I am doing is something that doesn’t take courage. I’m filling my mind with sweet stories.  I’ve clicked on all the cute pets and kids I could find when I woke up.  Sometimes you have to hit “reload”, and fill up with positive images.  I need reassurance.  There really are kind and good people in the world.   People who understand that the mere existence of children and pets is a miracle.

Well…isn’t this a happy start to Mother’s Day? No need to thank me.  I’m just a regular walking greeting card.

I’m sorry.  Because, I’m not even done.  Even before I had a bad day, I was thinking of some other sad stuff.  I was thinking about Mother’s Day.   Mother’s Day is happy.  Except when it’s not:

You can’t be a Mom

You lost your Mom

You’ve got crap for a Mom

You’ve got crap for kids

You’re crap as a Mom

I mean.  This stuff happens.  All the time.  And, I’ve just been thinking about how my good intentions to publically celebrate motherhood, could  possibly be the equivalent of pitching salt in a sister’s wounds.

And, yet.  Motherhood should be celebrated.   It’s super hard work, and possibly the most impactful role some of us we’ll have on Earth.  Life is short.  The time to celebrate is now.

And, that’s the sum of it. These are my thoughts on life today.  Wish I could  tie it up neatly for ya. Mostly questions, a few answers.  Joy and sorrow.  Pain and wisdom. Cowardice and courage. That is life.

My Mother’s Day Wish:

May you feel love and peace this Mother’s day.  May the God I believe holds the Universe bless you with wisdom and purpose.  May the mother in us all see the ones who need our protection. May we have the courage to offer it, and may God protect us all.

courage

NOLA: Food and Fun

2017 spring break is in the books. I think this is my fourth spring break blog. I would like to recommend everyone blog after their spring break. I can’t think of a better way to make all the fun things you do on spring break last longer than writing about them.  Post those written memories on line, and those suckers are officially forever.  If you’re the drunk and naked spring break type, I take it all back.

This year’s spring break got off to a VERY rocky start. Well. Actually, our PRE spring break was rocky. See. We decided to go to New Orleans, NOLA for short (for all you people who need me to show you around the South). The reason we chose NOLA is because Eddie has a good friend and college teammate who lives there, and Ed and his friends were going to NOLA for spring break.  I looked at the calendar one winter day, and decided Zeke, Scott and Olivia had the same spring break as Eddie. What a lucky coincidence.  I told Eddie that we would go to NOLA too, and he and his friends could crash with us any time. Eddie, being Eddie, thought that was a grand plan.  What college kid wouldn’t want to spring break it up with their parents?

The week before spring break, I talked to Eddie on the phone.  He said, “Mom, are you sure we have the same spring break?”  Right then I knew.  I may have told you this before, but if there’s one thing I’m usually wrong about, it’s  the time or day we’re supposed to be anywhere.  Really. I’ve been wrong SO many times.  The most annoying thing about this flaw is how slow my family is to adapt.  They just keep believing me; we keep showing up at the wrong time and on the wrong day, and then I look at them like, “Well, this really is on you guys.  You should know by now.”

I checked the calendar again after talking to Eddie.  Sure enough. I had been wrong.  Eddie’s spring break was after ours.  I told the rest of the family, and they weren’t really surprised.  Olivia was a little upset, because she had some initial objections to following Eddie on his spring break.  But, once she warmed to the idea, she started getting excited.  When she learned Eddie wouldn’t be there, she thought I may can the whole thing.  I didn’t.  Reservations were already made.  I had no back up plan.  We were going to NOLA to enjoy Eddie’s spring break without Eddie.

When I realized that this would be our first spring break without the whole family. I took it harder than you’d expect.  The day after Eddie broke the news to me, I found myself not feeling very chatty.  I had this strange, bad feeling. I took some extra vitamins, and was wondering what was wrong with me. Then, I realized that odd feeling I was experiencing was sadness.  Jeez. Being sad is such a nuisance.

I needed a day or so to adjust to the new circumstances.  I adjusted.  Olivia, Zeke, Scott made our best effort to tear it up in New Orleans without Eddie. Sometimes a Mom just has to grow up.

Eddie’s friend who is from NOLA told us to call his Dad before we visited his great city. One of our main vacation goals was to try some of the food NOLA is famous for; we wanted to be pointed in the right direction.We forgot that NOLA is not just famous for food. They’re also famous for hospitality.  Our phone call to Eddie’s friend’s Dad, Guy, turned into not only a week of delicious dining experiences, but we were also provided with a cheater’s guide to the colorful city that is NOLA.

Here is a recap:

Night One:

Food and Bourbon Street.  Our local friends took us to a GREAT restaurant.  We ate fried alligator and crawdads.  The first of many crawdads  (by the end of the week I was sweating crawdads). We were instructed in the fine art of crawdad peeling.  I must say, I never really mastered this, but it was fun trying.  There is a lot of effort involved here, and your reward is this tiny, shrimp-like piece of “meat”.  It’s tasty though.

crawdad

The other thing we did on night one was get a tour of the various popular areas of NOLA, including “Bourbon Street”.  Coincidentally, while we were on vacation, I was reading a book set in NOLA.  The story took place in the 50’s. The woman in the book was walking down Bourbon Street during the day, and she heard a man come out of one of the taverns yelling in French, “Bourbon Street.  Disneyland for the alcoholics!”

I’m not saying I agree with that silly line. I’m just sayin’ I get it.  Bourbon Street kind of blew our get-up-go-to-work-come-home-go-to-bed minds.  Zeke and Olivia looked a little distraught by the end of the tour.  You tell your kids to live and let live, and all that.  But, I cannot deny that I found the combination of strip clubs,  boob necklaces, voodoo dolls, palm readers, and drunks to be a little soul sucking.  And then, the nail in the coffin for Olivia and me: the homeless folks.  Yes. These folks were sad.  Even more troubling were their dogs.  Thankfully, most of the dogs looked to be in pretty good shape.  But, towards the end of the night there were a couple of the dogs fighting while their owners were fighting over a blanket or something.  Just left you feeling a little sad about the world.

bourbon st

 

Day two:

Food, Audubon, More Food.

NOLA is a beautiful place filled with beautiful people.  If you want the night life, go to Bourbon Street. If you like the peace of nature, got to the Audubon Zoo.  I loved the Audubon Zoo area.  We didn’t actually even make it to the zoo. We just walked the two mile path around the park. We saw birds, and turtles, and grand old Southern homes that framed the park.  It was just my thing.

Along the path there were exercise stations. These were just Scott’s thing.  And, naturally, Scott made the kids join him in using every one.  The locals joked that we might be the first people to use those facilities.

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Whoever made Audubon Park, made it for Scott.

After spending time in the park, we went to this local place that is famous for fried chicken. Let me tell you, the folks at this little joint HIGHLY encourage you to try the fried chicken.

We had this nice waiter who wasn’t in a bit of a hurry.  We kept trying to order things like a grilled chicken salad.  It was on the menu.  The waiter came back and said, “Sorry.  No grilled chicken.  Just fried chicken strips.”  We thought that was fine.

A while later, the waiter came back.  He said, “I guess I was wrong.  We don’t have fried chicken strips.”

Scott (always agreeable) asked, “Okay, what do you have?”

“Fried Chicken,”  the waiter responded.

Obviously.

Scott said, “Okay, how about a salad, and an order of fried chicken.

The waiter complimented Scott on his choice.

When the fried chicken, and plate of lettuce came out, there was no dressing for the lettuce.  Scott wondered if he should ask if they have dressing. I said, “Of course they have dressing.  It’s called, fried chicken.”

Let me tell you something else, sister.  There’s a reason these folks only let you eat fried chicken.  It’s because they know you’re just ignorant when you ask for anything else.  I didn’t even know I LIKED fried chicken.  But, this stuff is wrapped up in a  buttery, crispy, spicy mix of heaven.  Really. I would use that fried chicken as salad dressing EV-ER-Y DAY!

You’d think after eating all that chicken, we wouldn’t be hungry again.  But, in NOLA, you don’t let a little thing like not being hungry stop you from eating.  Our precious guides, Guy and Marie, took us to a popular local restaurant that night called “Dragos”.

Guy told us we needed to try their raw and char grilled Oysters.  We did, and they were surprisingly good.  I mean, a raw oyster is kind of cold and slimy, but I might eat anything with cocktail sauce on it.  The char grilled oysters were buttery and delicious.  Our local guides knew the owner, so we were also treated to a buffet of unique desserts.  I think this could have been the highlight of the trip for my kids, especially Zeke.  After cutting weight all winter, in addition to the cruelty of having a mother who won’t bake, or even buy sugar and flour, this was a major jackpot.

I tried everything.

Oh.My.Gosh.

Who invented cheesecake, anyway?  Some genius, that’s who.  The cheesecake was piled on the plate like a scoop of ice cream.  Had there been any left, I would have put it in my purse for later.

Drago’s in NOLA…I’m giving it 5 stars.  Now that I’ve blogged about it, maybe their business will pick up.  They don’t accept reservations, because they’re so busy. But, still, they’ll thank me for this.  I’ll take an order of cheesecake.

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Raw Oysters.  When in Rome…

Day 3

Fontainebleau State Park,  Bridges and Yatzee

I don’t know who figured how to make this happen in NOLA, but they’ve got bridges over EVERYTHING.  Scott drove us over the 24 mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain.  Scott had to look his fears in the face to get the job done too.  Everyone in the family knows I’m afraid of just about everything.  I love vacations so much, but I’m not gonna lie.  It has come to my realization that I’m pretty much on alert for disaster every waking moment in a new environment.  Scott does not scare easily.  But, he does have a reoccurring nightmare that involves going up, up, up a bridge. When he finally gets to the top, he realizes the bridge ends, and it’s a free fall from there.  This NOLA Causeway is kind of like that, only the bridge actually DOES end on land.  There is no free fall.  You get to live.  Still, it was kinda scary.

We were so glad Scott pushed through his cold sweat and hyperventilation.  On the other side of the Causeway was a beautiful State park.  We just about had the place to ourselves.  We looked for alligators, and I even talked my family into taking the 5 mile hike.  Before we left for our hike, I suggested Scott throw on a pair of tennis shoes instead of his Crocs.  He said Crocs were kind of required apparel when you’re  looking for alligators, plus, he added that he could always whip down the adventure strap on the back of the Croc when things got rough.

He regretted that foolishness.

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When we got home from this awesome day at the State Park, we went low key, and played some Yatzee.  The kids have just recently agreed to play Yatzee again with their Dad. See, Scott scarred  them when they were younger.  He would try to micromanage their Yatzee playing.  A friendly game with Dad would invariably end with the kids in tears.  Scott would be disgusted with his children’s lack of desire.  He’d shake his head at them, and tell them he guessed they just didn’t want it badly enough. And, of course, he was right.  They didn’t care.

Now the kids are old enough to tell Dad to “shove it”.  It’s much more fun.

Day 4

Ocean and NOLA Hospitality

Olivia was dead set on seeing the ocean while we were in NOLA.  I looked at the map, and could see it was just over an hour away.  The funny thing was, every time I mentioned visiting the ocean to anyone familiar with NOLA, they gave me that look.  That look that says they’re pretty sure we’ll be disappointed, but they don’t want to be the ones to say it.

Well, I guess people from NOLA do not know just how low are expectations were, because we LOVED it!  We had water, palm trees, white sand, and long docks to explore.  The water was brown instead of blue, and I read that if you had an open cut, there’s a decent chance you’ll get e-coli, and lose a limb…or something like that. But, we we saw a few families romping in the water with their babies, and we thought, if it’s good enough for those people we’ve never met, it’s good enough for us.

Another silly thing I did was drive myself crazy, and wasted a lot of time looking for the address to the public beach.  In Wisconsin we have plenty of bodies of water, but it’s not like you can just access that water anywhere, right?  Much of the land around Wisconsin’s lakes is privately owned.  Well, guess what?  No one owns the ocean.  There’s an entire coastline to choose from, and any ol’ hobo family from Wisconsin can pull up in their rusty blue minivan, and have their fun.

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When we got home from the beach, Guy and Marie asked us to Guy’s parent’s house. This event was for sure at the top of our list of highlights.  We saw genuine Southern hospitality. This big, multi generational family showed us up close what the fine people of NOLA are like.  Grandma and Grandpa (and Guy) made us Jumbalaya, and shrimp pasta, and, of course, crawdads.  We had apple pie and rum cake for dessert.  Scott has not had a sip of alcohol in 20-some years.  His lips were numb from the rum cake.  He said it was amazing.  I’ve been dreaming about that cake.

Day 5

Shopping and a Tourist Trap

Day 5 was the only day it wasn’t sunny and amazing.  We did a little shopping, more Yatzee, coffee, and met our new best friends for dinner, Guy and Marie.  We had this groupon for a seafood place.  When I mentioned the restaurant, I could tell (like the ocean thing) Guy and Marie were thinking it wouldn’t be their first choice.  It was in a super cool location, by the Mississippi River.  But, I’m afraid we had been spoiled by all the delicious food we had eaten up to that point.  This is exactly why it pays to learn from the locals.

We had to say good bye to Guy and Marie this night. We were sad.  They were kind, and just so much dang fun.  Guy bought the kids some Zapp’s chips for the car ride home. Zapp’s is another NOLA classic he told us about. The kids spotted them in Walmart earlier in the week, and decided they knew why they were a thing.

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Day 6

Farewell, NOLA

Our last morning in NOLA.  We hadn’t seen the French Quarter in the daylight yet.  We decided to make a quick run at it.  It was an explosion of people and art.  One couple asked Scott to take their picture. While he was taking the picture,  the man proposed. That was fun.

The streets were very crowded. I am sure they always are. We drove up next to this guy. His head was practically in my window.  We had a nice chat. I asked him if he was happy.  He seemed unsure.

french quarter 1

 

french quarter

 

After our quick spin around the French Quarter that last morning, we left for home.

I would always choose to vacation with the whole family. We missed Eddie, but you make the best of it, right?  I think we did. At one point I heard Zeke suggest to Olivia that they leave their phones at the hotel, because they were kind of a nuisance.  I thought that sounded like a parental win to me.

 

Thank you for your hospitality, NOLA!!!  We love you and all your wonderful people.

Oh, my friend!  We have been growing apart, haven’t we?    It’s not you.  It’s me.  I’ve changed.  I’m not who I was.

I stopped blogging.  And, since not one single person has asked me why I’m not blogging anymore, I thought I owed you an explanation.

Every now and then I feel a little pang of an urge to overshare, and so here I am today.

I get these notifications on Facebook every week telling me a couple or so people are looking at my blog from three years ago.  If I ever need to prove to my kids that there’s no taking back what you throw on the interwebs, there it is.

Sometimes, after I see the notification, and feel the sting of my “why do I have to be such a loud mouth?” inner dialogue, I’ll go back and read what other people are reading.  I brace myself for what I assume will feel like nonsense, now that I’m older, and so mature.  I read it through, and then think, oh. I guess I’m okay with that. I thought it would be worse. I was wrong. I guess I haven’t changed.

Here’s hoping for more of that.

I have this almost grown family now.  My friend, Lisa, sent me this funny video a mother with three youngsters made. The Mom told a story about how she was at home, and she washed her face. She grabbed a hand towel to wipe her face off, and just as she was bringing the towel to her face, she smelled poop.  There was POOP on the towel.

This whole disgusting episode led this mom to a variety of hilarious questions and observations.  One question being: Where as a parent did I go wrong?

This was a funny Mom.

One of the best parenting tips I have learned is the value of a sense of humor.   Sometimes, you’re in a situation, and it’s awful.  Like, everybody is enraged and upset, and the circumstances seem ludicrous, but there is a teeny, tiny piece of your mind that whispers: you’ll laugh at this some day.

Most days of Eddie’s life were like that.

Anybody who knows Eddie, knows he’s always been a charming handful of parent atrocities.  Eddie’s in college now.  He’s not in jail at all. Scott and I high five each other every day.  We did it, man. We did it. We really did.  They didn’t think we could, but we did.

Here is a story:

When the kids were little, Zeke and Eddie slept in our unfinished basement.  It was kind of gross, and maybe part of the reason why Eddie was always sick. But, that’s a different story.

There was no bathroom in the basement.  Zeke told us he didn’t care for always trudging up the stairs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.  It was really cold.  Eddie never complained.  That didn’t surprise us. Eddie’s not big on complaining.  But, then we realized that’s because Eddie had nothing to complain about. Eddie decided to make short work of having to go to the bathroom in a basement without a bathroom; he started peeing in bottles and pop cans.  The kid is an absolute problem solver.

Once we figured out why Eddie wasn’t trudging upstairs to go the bathroom, we scolded Eddie. We said that was disgusting, and standing pee is very unsanitary, and not helping the ambiance of the dark, cold, crappy basement.  Eddie said he’d stop peeing in cans.

He did. Mostly.

One day, Zeke and I were in the kitchen.  Zeke picked up a can of pop and took a swig.  Zeke’s eyes locked with mine. Then, he looked kind of funny.  Funny bad. He asked, “What was that?!”

I don’t know how a mother knows. But, suddenly, I just knew.  There is no logical reason on Earth a mother would assume any human with even the tiniest capacity to think and reason would set a can of pee on a kitchen counter, but that didn’t stop me from knowing that’s exactly what Eddie did.

I said, “Zeke, I think that was Eddie’s pee.”

Zeke’s face filled with horror.  He ran to the bathroom, and tried to throw up. Maybe he did. I don’t remember that part.  Because, what happened next with me is this terrible thing that happens when I’m extremely tense, and find myself in absurd situations, the kind of situations where people expect you to behave in a serious manner. I started giggling. I swear, I did not think it was funny (then).  I was horrified and nervous by how upset Zeke was.  I just started giggling, and I couldn’t stop.  This enraged Zeke, as he understandably assumed I thought it was all a big funny joke, instead of understanding what I was really thinking:  my oldest son needs to be put in a mental institution.

Zeke was mad at me.  And, he was even more mad at Eddie.  I told Zeke that Eddie would be punished. Zeke said, “yeah right.”  He didn’t seem convinced, but then he suddenly just dropped it.  Like, he was done.  We weren’t talking about it anymore.  It almost made you believe he was over it.

Eddie tells funny stories about how growing up Zeke had a threshold of tolerance for Eddie’s antics.  Zeke is a nice boy. It’s kind of tough to make Zeke mad.  But, Eddie had a special talent for it.  Eddie tells other people that it isn’t in their best interest to make his nice little brother mad. Zeke can be scary.

A month or so after the pee drinking incident, we were all hanging out in the kitchen.  At that time, I had a big container of water in the refrigerator.  We would push the button on the spigot to fill our glasses with water.  Much like walking up steps seemed like too much of an effort to go to the bathroom, Eddie wasn’t much for having to walk to cupboards, and reach for glasses.  He would always open the fridge, lay on his back, put his mouth under the spigot, and drink water that way.   Eddie should write a book, “The Easiest Way to Do Anything”.

Eddie was getting a drink on his back that day, when Zeke dashed through the kitchen.  Zeke ran over to the fridge, and poured  a can of liquid over Eddie’s face and body while Eddie was on his back.  Eddie stood up, soaked.  He looked at Scott, and said, “Zeke just poured pop all over me.”

Scott looked Eddie over, sniffed him a bit, and said, “I don’t think that’s pop, pal.”

Eddie sniffed his wet clothes, and then he realized.  Zeke wasn’t over drinking pee at all.  Zeke was just waiting.  Waiting  weeks and weeks for the right time for revenge.  Zeke had decided pouring pee on Eddie while he took a drink of water would even the score.

Scott and I stood in the kitchen after this incident, and basically agreed we were not succeeding as parents.  When our children were younger, we didn’t anticipate this pee in the pop can situation.  We had no instincts to help guide us through what one does for a child who drinks another child’s pee.  Or, how to fairly administer consequences for the pouring of pee over another child’s head.  We just didn’t see any of it coming.

Good news.  We didn’t have any more pee related problems to figure out.  We had a whole bunch of other problems, but that was the end of the pee kind.  Zeke’s retribution on his brother eased his outrage. And, Eddie thought it seemed fair as well.

Your kids are probably sweet, and neat, and do what you expect.  I’ve had plenty of friends like you. Be thankful.  But, for the parents who are about to wipe their face with poop-stained hand towels, or are about to take a swig of pee, this was a story for you.

Buck up, Buckaroo.  Some day your kids won’t be in jail at all either.  Just like ours.  And, the only encouragement I have for you right now is to tell  you that some day your kids’ stories will make you laugh.  I mean, who wants to hear boring stories about the kid who did their homework and kept their room clean, right?

I know. It isn’t much, but it’s all you got right now. I’d offer more help if I could.

ed and zeke fighting

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