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

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

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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

My Mom Job

I am getting close to 20 years into the mom gig.  That’s child’s play compared to some gals, but I’m not exactly a beginner either, am I?   I have been thinking about mom skills a lot lately; I’m trying to assess what I have learned from my years on the job so far.  (Please, let me have learned at least one thing.)

Yesterday, Scott and I were talking about how our parental roles were quite clear when the kids were young. He says it boiled down to two things:

  1. Safety
  2. Activity Director

Simple.  We liked that.  Sure, those roles required stamina.  They were physically demanding, and often led to exhaustion, but what doesn’t feel better than a hard day’s work?  Moms with young kids go to bed weary, and wake up the next day knowing they get to do it all again.

Eddie is our oldest; that poor boy.  He has to be the first to teach us everything.  Scott and I have noticed that at some time in the last year, he crossed over a line.  Eddie is leading us into unfamiliar terrain, and Scott and I are trying to get our parental footing down.

One night after work last week, Eddie sat on the couch and talked with us about work, and what has been keeping him busy lately. Then, he played us a new song he’s learned on his guitar.  I don’t think two people exist on this Earth who could provide Eddie with a more interested  and engaged audience than Scott and me.   That moment was my awakening.   Listening and a bit of encouragement is all a son who’s almost a man really needs from his parents.  I really got it in me to do so much more, but  I can tell I shouldn’t.

I’m grateful that Zeke and Olivia are still wandering through familiar terrain.  It’s clear these two are getting so much closer to crossing over that line to join their big brother.  Once they cross over,  the invisible line that has them  tethered to us  snaps.  Then,  we are all in a free fall.

Zeke had friends over last week, and they wanted to go to a water park.   Zeke and a couple of the other boys do have a driver’s license, but they still have restrictions on how many passengers can ride with them.  They needed Scott and me to drive them.  Scott and I could not have been happier to be needed.  We relished in the moment.  When Scott and I mentioned to the kids that we were sad, because we knew we were just a year or two away from getting the axe, and not being included in their plans, Olivia told us she will never NOT want us to come to a water park with her.   Thank you, Olivia. It’s nice to know some kids are actually loyal.

I don’t know why Olivia likes us, because we can be kind of mean.  When we were at the water park, everyone split up into groups.  Scott and I went on the Lazy River.  On one trip around, we happened to see Olivia, her girlfriend, and a new friend that is a boy waiting in line on the bridge above us.  The kids waved to us, and then Scott had the good idea to pretend that he and I were about to make out.  The look of horror on Olivia’s face was magical.  Her girlfriend was laughing pretty hard too.  Scott and I enjoyed that moment, and congratulated ourselves for our quick thinking for at least the next four trips around the river.  I think that when you’ve put in all the long hours of parenting, you get to take these moments to humiliate your teenagers, and really enjoy them.   We should get something out of the deal,  shouldn’t we?

I wasn’t so mean to Zeke.   Zeke is 16 now.  I know he needs his space. I told him before the boys came that I would stay out of the way.  Privately, I also committed myself to being calm, quiet, and not even slightly embarrassing.  I had to give myself this speech, because none of that happens for me without effort.   I really would like to give myself some recognition here.  I pulled off an Oscar winning performance.   I thought I behaved like a serene and cool woman. Not one bit like myself.

I didn’t realize what an effort I was making until I was alone with Olivia and one of her best pals.  We started joking around, and before you know it, I was doing the running man, and some other, equally awesome dance moves, and it just felt so good to be able to be me.  I am thankful Olivia’s friends are silly and fun, and not opposed to crazy moms. I hope Zeke appreciates what I do for him.

I love being a Mom. I love it so much. I love thinking about it, and figuring out what I need to do better, and what is going right.  I know the Mom role evolves in a lifetime, but I don’t think it ever ends.  I was talking to two moms recently.  One mom has a grown child going through a tragic time. The other has an almost grown child going through an emotionally challenging period of life.  After talking to these two moms, I came to this conclusion:  In many cases moms feel their children’s pain with greater intensity than the child who’s actually experiencing the difficulty.  I know this is not true in all cases, and for every mom.  But, for many moms it is truth.

ed and mom graduation

You know the worst part about this?  Moms have to suffer in silence.  Most of us moms know that if we tell our kids how distressed we are over their burdens, it only makes the child’s burdens worse.  Nope.  Moms have to selflessly pretend to be full of courage and cheer, and tell our kiddos to pick themselves up, and march through that crap storm, because that’s good advice.  And, pulling your grown child on your lap, and snuggling them while you both cry is not an option, sadly.

At least all of us moms can hug each other.

Here…I’ll leave you with this.  Basically, the worst song ever made.  Almost certain to leave my Mom friends a mess. I’m sorry. I know we’re friends, and I just shouldn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

Anniversary Story

Hey!!!!!!  Are you mad at me?  We never talk any more.  Where you been?

It’s true. I feel like the wave of impulsive blogging has passed.  I guess it was a phase. That doesn’t mean I can’t stop back and say “Hi!”, does it?  Especially since now and then folks ask me why I’m not blogging anymore.  What nice people to ask me that. I even had someone offer up some ideas for subject matter, hoping to give me some inspiration.  It worked.

It’s tough to be me.  I’ve got that one part of brain that just loves attention.  I mean, I’m getting a little too old to pretend it isn’t true. Don’t you think? When I was a wee lass, I could often be found standing in the middle of my big family, hamming it up.  I don’t remember anyone else standing next to me.  It was just me, and an audience of loving relatives.  The audience laughed, and encouraged my nonsense. Really,  when it comes down to it, you can always blame your family.

But, then there’s the other part of my brain.  The part of my brain that is self conscious. The part of my brain that knows it’s weird to enjoy attention.  I think I’ve told you this before, but I am legit jealous of shy people.  I always have been.  I’ve always been drawn to the quiet people.  I married one. Sure, I like quiet people, because they’re less likely to interrupt my show, but I also like quiet people because I admire them, and wish I was more like them.  You always want what you can’t have.

Can we talk about this summer?  This thing is off to an incredible start.  Zeke and Olivia are on a missions trip this week. Eddie is busy being 19, which doesn’t require much from me, sadly. Scott and I find ourselves staring down the path of empty nestism.  Holy crap, does that all go quickly.

It is Scott’s and my 23rd anniversary today.  Last week, we were hiking and talking about the week ahead without our kids.  We decided we needed to make the week a practice run for the future when our kids no longer live under our roof.  Like most of the folks I know, Scott and I accidentally made our kids our whole life.   Oops.  Who are we without kids now? We have no idea.

On our hike, I remembered something.  I said, “Hey!  Sunday is our anniversary.”  We congratulated each other right there,  because I’m pretty sure for the last 23 years, or so, we have remembered our anniversary ON our anniversary, or AFTER our anniversary passed.

We decided to test our empty nest skills AND celebrate our relationship skills of the past 23 years with one trip.  We decided to go camping.  In a tent.

When the kids were very young, we thought we were going to be a camping family.  We were just getting rolling with that, and looking at possibly buying a pop-up camper when Eddie got very sick with Lyme Disease.  Eddie was bitten by a tick on one of our camping trips.  About a year into that helacious fiasco,  Scott and I decided we hated camping.

Well, maybe we don’t hate camping anymore. People change. Our camping skills are a little rusty, but we do watch “Naked and Afraid” A LOT.  So, how bad could it be?  We get to have clothes, and matches, and a camp stove, and a flashlight, and toilet paper.   It’s like the freakin’ Ritz.

We have a shelf in our garage reserved for camping stuff..  For the past 11 years we haven’t given that shelf much thought.  In fact, I think we came pretty close to dumping the contents of that shelf into the garage sale pile last year.  I’m glad we didn’t.

We have a plastic tub that is filled with a lot of our camping supplies we bought when the kids were young.  It was fun opening that tub.  I’m always surprised to realize I’m not as incompetent as I thought.  We have  decent stash of useful camping items. Good job, Miki.

I was really excited to sort through and organize our items for our trip.  At the same time, I was struck with  several waves of melancholy.  That bin was packed to prepare for a camping trip with two adults and three small children.  I started going through all the items and memories began to assault me.  If I was living a “Lifetime” made for TV movie (and, I wish I was), that would have been the  scene where I stared longingly into space before a  montage of family camping memories were shown set to sad music.

The montage would include me wearing Olivia in a backpack, while she cried because she was hot; the boys would have been rolling on top of each other in the dirt, and beating each other with sticks.   That montage would probably make you cry.  Tears of joy.  That you aren’t me.

 

We had some fun camping.  I was sad it was over.  Scott and I came to a conclusion on one of our hikes.  It’s really  hard to escape who you are.  Just because you think you might be getting kind of old, and you have been pretending to be a mature adult for more than half your life, doesn’t mean you are.

When I met Scott I was 16 and he was 19.  We bonded over sports, fitness, and sarcasm. We loved to have fun.  We loved to play almost anything.  Turns out, we still do.

We went to Perrot State Park in Wisconsin. We spent $100 on our anniversary weekend, and I’m trying to figure out how we could have had more fun had we spent $10,000.

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Perrot State Park.  12.5 miles of hiking trails.  I think we hit them all.

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15 mile bike ride through insanely awesome trails.  This is Perrot Nature Refuge.

 

 

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These are cows we saw on our bike ride.  Bet you’ve never seen cows before.

 

 

I think it’s okay that we made our kids our life.  When we start having more of those moments where they don’t need us like they do now, I feel pretty sure we’ll revert right back to the stuff we love.  We saw such incredible views this weekend.  My eyes couldn’t get enough of it.  Those views made me think of all the other beautiful views we haven’t seen yet, in Wisconsin and beyond.  I was thinking that when you’re very curious, it is hard to be depressed.  There’s too much to see. There’s too much to do.

Happy 23rd Anniversary to this freaky, fun guy.  The future looks full.

 

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I’ve been approaching this blog post  from every angle.  I want to say something.  I need to say something.  I’m pretty sure I’m SUPPOSED to say something.  But, there’s a decent chance that thing I say might not be said well.  I SO want to say this thing well.

I need to tell my blog friends a story.  When I witness goodness, faith and generosity, I feel compelled to share the story.  I was born to tell stories.  The reason for my pause is this: I don’t want you to misunderstand. This is not a story about me.  It’s not a story about my family.  It’s not a story about me asking you for sympathy for my family. This is a story about other people.  This is a story about faith.  This is a story about prayer, and answered prayer.  This is a story about witnessing the God of the Universe responding to real time requests.  This is a good story.  So, I’m tellin’ it:

Chapter One

Iowa

Long, long ago…back when Scott and I were just past being kids ourselves, Scott was a teacher and coach at a tiny school in Iowa.  About 50 kids per grade.  We LOVED this school, and this community.   After 8 years in this community, we got an idea that we were meant to leave.  So, we did.  We moved to Wisconsin, and it broke our hearts.

We built our lives, and raised our kids in Wisconsin, and life is good.  But, we never lost contact with our Iowa friends.

Chapter Two

Eddie Gets Sick

When we moved to Wisconsin, we had some struggles.  Eddie became ill.  His life wasn’t turning out like we expected.  Not at all.  Eddie battled a debilitating illness that kept him from school, and just life, really.  We told little Eddie that we would spend every spare moment and resource we had available to us to find a way to help him feel better. So, we did.

Chapter Three

Eddie Gets Better

I guess Eddie’s illness just had to run its course.  Its 12 year course.  Towards the end of high school, Eddie got up on his feet a bit more.  His life started to look a bit normal. We can’t actually tell you what made him better, or even what was wrong with him.  We just know that thousands of mouths petitioned Eddie’s cause to our God in Heaven.  God answered with a miracle.

Eddie IS better.  But, he has some things he missed.  Like, school and working.

Truthfully, he still has some ground to cover.  Staying upright and healthy for more than a week is something he is looking forward to achieving.

Chapter Four

Eddie Goes to College

Eddie has a unique spirit.  His spirit is both strong and flexible.  The spirit God gave Eddie allowed Eddie to find  a way to pursue his high school athletic dreams, while also carrying a  burden.  It was quite a display of courage.

Eddie is going to wrestle in college too.  He says he isn’t finished.  He wants a chance to fight to the top.

Chapter Five

Paying for Eddie’s College

When we were spending money on doctors and miracle cures, we weren’t thinking about college.  We were just fighting for the POSSIBLITY of college.  College is now possible.

When people have asked Eddie what he’d like to do after college, he hasn’t had an answer.  He told us the only thing he can really see himself doing is helping people.  He sees himself in an impoverished country, doing what he can to offer some relief.

Hear me now, it isn’t that I’m not proud. That’s a sweet thing to hear your teenage boy say. I mean,  I’m the one who told the little tiger in Kindergarten that we were lucky to be poor (relative to the kids Eddie knew).  I followed that statement up with proof.  I said that we couldn’t possibly enjoy everything we had as much as we did, if we had more than we needed.   I guess the little sucker chose that one moment to listen to me too.

I don’t know if Eddie will do this impoverished country thing.  We all have big ideas when we’re young, don’t we?  I was going to be a children’s author and missionary, oh, and a Ninja in my spare time.   But, I guess, based on what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be so surprised if Eddie didn’t do just as he plans.  He can be like that.

Chapter Six

Today

I have been praying this college thing over.  I have been attempting to turn every overwhelming wave of fear into a prayer.  On this very day, I told God I was going to fast and pray. I was going to ask him to help us figure things out.  Like, how Eddie can find money for college, without money for college.  And, how we could responsibly take out loans with Eddie’s extravagant plans to earn millions feeding the poor.  So, I fasted and prayed.

I know.  Telling people you’re fasting is breaking the rules.  No one likes a bragger, especially God.  But, I’m breaking the rules, because the story must be told.

I told God I thought he meant for Eddie to go to college, and I was asking for some direction.  I told God I would fast and pray today, and seek a sign of peace.

Chapter Seven

God’s Answer in the Mail

After a day of fasting and prayer, asking God for peace that we could afford to send Eddie to college, I came home and got the mail.  In the mail was a fat white envelope.  In the envelope was a long, long letter with pictures of some beautiful families, and faces from our past.  In the envelope was a check.

God used Scott’s former athletes and students to deliver a bright bolt of encouragement and confirmation into the lives of my family.  These beautiful families explained what it meant for them to have a teacher and a coach like Scott to invest in their lives when they were young.  They told us that Scott was a guy who was used  to help spur them on to their own great stories as husbands, dads and employers and employees.

These guys explained they wanted to express their appreciation with a check.  And, by the way, maybe we could use it for Eddie’s college.

I cried.  I cried a lot.

I know that in this story, I’m making God sound like a big magic Genie.  He’s not. That’s not how it goes. But, then, sometimes that’s just how it goes.  Sometimes we get to see the hand of God moving in our immediate atmosphere. Often he moves through Humanity.  I’m a witness.

 

 

Chapter 8

Scott is Weird

Poor Scott.  The kid takes a compliment kinda hard.  He can’t face it.  He really can’t.  He loved seeing pictures of his former student athletes, and their families, and acknowledging what awesome lives these guys are living now.  He’s so genuinely happy for them.

Scott will strongly protest any  compliments sent in his general direction.  He will stand firmly in his belief that it was NOT anything special on his part that helped any of these boys.  He has a sincere belief that it was, in fact, these boys, and the community that was special.  I agreed.  This community was special.   I also agreed with Scott that he was in NO WAY special.  Sometimes you just tell a guy what he needs to hear.

Chapter 9

To Whom Much is Given…

Do you know that verse in the Gospel of Luke?  “To whom much is given, much will be required”.  That is us. That is our family.  We have been given much.

We are rich.

We are rich in friends and family.  We are rich in faith.  We have been given much.  So, I guess that means much of us is required.   I’ll take that trade.

I pray we recognize what is required. Even if what’s required is impoverished, and in another country.

May God bless these boys, and their families.

 

ed co wrestlers

 

Vacation Lessons

I’m evolving.  I mean, my thoughts are evolving. I am coming to the conclusion that it may not be possible for me to hold a permanent position on most things.  There’s so much to consider.

My blogging is changing.  As in, slowing down.  Possibly, close to coming to a halt.  It’s hard to tell exactly when.  I don’t know if blogging is necessary now.  It used to feel necessary.     I’m not surprised. Isn’t that life?  We change and grow.  We can only live the chapter we’re in today.  The next chapter always holds changes in our story line. It’s fun to look back.  It’s fun to see how previous chapters build a plot, and create a context for what happens next. What happens next isn’t possible without all of the what happened before. I think I’m getting it.

In the past, I have blogged detailed recaps of our spring break trips.  Gosh. That was fun. This year, I will condense our spring break into the lessons I learned.  Gosh, you know I love a good lesson. Gosh, I love the word Gosh.

We spent the week of spring break in a few ways:  visiting a college in Kentucky for Eddie.  Reuniting with my oldest friend at her home in North Carolina, and a few days on the beach.  It was a happy week.

Here’s what I learned:

1.Hillbillies are not visible from the interstate.  It’s quite a source of pride for my children and their cousins to know that their descendants on my mom’s side are Kentucky hill people.  My mom has a picture of our kids’ great, great, great grandpa. He is a tall, handsome black man.  He and his white wife,  helped raised my grandma in the hills of Kentucky for a few years of her life, until she moved to Wisconsin with her parents.  I would give a great deal to go back and talk to these great grandparents of mine.  We thought that maybe we could get a glimpse of our history driving through the Appalachians.   Didn’t happen. Unless the hill people are residing in truck stops, Walmarts and sports stadiums, we didn’t spot anything that looked quite like Kentucky Hill People.  After one stop in Kentucky, Scott told me he thought someone at the gas station  looked like me.  He said maybe we were related.  Scott’s a sport.

2. Some college kids prefer to get drunk on fun.  Eddie visited a super cool college in Kentucky.  He has a wrestling friend there who kept Eddie up all night with his wrestling buddies.  They had crazy adventures that included long boarding down the hills of Kentucky (they didn’t see Grandpa either), and eating at a Waffle House at 3 am.  These guys have thought of a hundred ways to have fun, and it’s the kind of fun they remember in the morning.   I liked this school very much.

3. Flat tires. Boys become men.  I was skeptical that our ol’ van could make a long trip like the one we took. Scott had confidence in the “Blue Bullet”. Scott was right. The van served us well.  I really love that vehicle.  We did have one flat tire.  In the middle of nowhere.  Late at night.  In the middle of nowhere. Did I mention we were in the middle of nowhere?  We heard a bad noise.  I applied my solution for car trouble. I turned up the radio.  Scott got all picky about it though, and made us pull over.  When we realized we had a flat, I instantly went into parental problem solving mode. But then I quickly saw how my two teenage boys-becoming-men were all over this problem with their Dad.  I noticed none of the guys expected Olivia and I to get out of the car.  It seemed like the boys were kind of operating on instinct, and I am not ashamed to say that my heart swelled.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m about partnerships.  I’m all about how women can run the world, and run it well.  But, I’m not gonna lie.  I like knowing the men in my life feel a little protective sometimes.  I’m not even going to try to reason that out with ya’.  It’s a bit primal, but there you have it.  The truth is out, and that’s how I feel.

4.  Liking your kids + modeling kindness + correction = nice kids.  My oldest friend has triplet boys, and a daughter.  Her kids are so sweet and well behaved. We fell in love with them. I wasn’t surprised at all.  My friend is a few years behind me in the parenting game.  She’s at that stage where you have to referee and correct a lot.  Don’t get me wrong, her children were golden.  I mean, these kids had the best manners EVER.  I just happened to come around the corner in the morning to see my friend settling an argument her kids were having between themselves while playing a game in the yard.  I know. Huge shock, ’cause that almost never happens with siblings.  It made me chuckle to see the serious looks on the kids’ faces, and what a good job my friend was doing of reminding them to be nice, and could they promise to remember to be nice before she let them go play again?   It reminded me of how hard it is to be a good parent.  I wish I could go back, and offer my younger parental self some reassurance.  I’d say, “Hey Mik, these boys aren’t going to be beating the crap out of each other forever. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Keep up the silly lectures, and handing out the consequences,  because some day you’ll be glad you did. Some day, you’ll see that all your man  hours weren’t completely for nothing; those wildly aggressive puppies will some day become more like your friends.”

5. I’m easily influenced – After 24 hours in the South, I had a Southern accent.  I thought it to be quite authentic, and I felt it couldn’t be helped.  My kids begged me to stop.  Again, if I could help it, I would.

6. I’d rather eat better food than more food – My super awesome family indulged me on this.  I asked them if we could skip fast food, in favor of spending more money on higher quality food. They agreed.  The plan was a success.  We had some delicious meals made with local ingredients.  See, that’s another thing you couldn’t get  away with when your kids are young.  I like teenagers.

7. Vacationing with teenagers does not improve your self esteem.  We were in some close quarters on the road.  Someone always had to share a bed.  I made a joke about me sharing a bed with Eddie. Before I even got the joke out of my mouth, Eddie hollered in utter disgust.  Like I stabbed him.  It was obvious that this notion was the MOST disgusting event Eddie could conceive of in his mind. And, let me remind you, Eddie wears ripped sweats, that  you could crack in half from all the attached crust.  Really?  I’m THAT disgusting?

beach spring break 2016

8. Vacationing with teenagers will not improve your marriage.  It is best to have a strong relationship before you attempt to vacation with teenagers.  Teenagers will not abide any interaction between their parents that looks a bit like love, affection or fondness.  I believe at one point when we were driving,  I tried putting my hand on Scott’s neck, and I received a swift slap on the arm with an unopened Gogurt from one of the teenage ingrates.  I’m sorry. I lost my head.  I forgot that Scott and I were merely tour guides.  I didn’t let it happen again.

 

9. Families from Wisconsin can enjoy the beach in most weather – Zeke and Olivia had never seen an ocean. Eddie had been to the ocean once.  The temperature was in the 60’s,  and we had the best darn day at the beach.  We had the sunburn to prove it.

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Here I am in my Wisconsin Bikini.  It’s racy.

10. Trapped in a van for days with my teenagers, who at times find me disgusting, and who will not accept that I am in a non-platonic relationship with their father, is my favorite place to be on Earth. Seriously.  For real. This is the truth.  I had moments on this trip when we were laughing and talking with these teenagers, and my heart was so full.  I couldn’t express the love in my heart, because teenagers aren’t always up for hearing about how a mother loves.  But, let it be known.  I am keenly aware that my family is at the end of the time in our lives when our trips look like this trip looked.  These five people are likely to expand and grow.  Additions to the family will be a blessing, and additions will be loved. But, additions will be the next chapter.  I’m going to appreciate every word and moment in the pages of this chapter we are in now.  I LOVE this chapter!!!

 

kids spring break 2016

 

 

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