April 17, 2014

3 Things a Funeral Taught Me About Myself

Three weeks ago today, we lost my mom.

Three weeks seems like a lifetime.

Remember when you got married (those of you who have), it seemed that the #1 piece of advice given from just about anyone was some form of this: "Take a moment to soak it all in and enjoy your wedding."

On the complete opposite of the spectrum, I don't think anyone should be advised to take a moment and enjoy a funeral but I feel almost as if the same thought process might apply. I don't necessarily want to remember and focus on a sad moment in time, but there's something healing about being able to recall the visitation and the memorial service and saying goodbye.

That being said, as I've been reliving those days, some discrepancies have popped up in my head about how that time went by and I discovered a few things that I never realized about myself. These are more or less notes for future reference and maybe for others who have never had to attend a funeral from "loss" side of things

1.  I pretty much hate the phrase, "Blah blah blah...sorry for your loss." First of all, my apologies to anyone reading this who actually did write or say those words to me. Secondly, I understand that it's incredibly difficult to even know what to say to someone so these words are easy to use, show remorse and could not in any way be offensive. I know that's why people use it and I think just acknowledging the family's "loss" is like a long-distance hug or handshake. I honestly didn't know I hated it until recently, really. Although I actually never use those words myself because they sound so cliche and robotic.

Anyhow, I'm just rambling now. These words just aren't for me.

2. Send plants not flowers. At my previous job, it was my responsibility to send a floral gift on behalf of the company whenever there was a death, birth, etc. regarding one of our associates. I had nothing against flowers, but especially when there was a death, we always sent a plant. Flowers die. Plants (if under the proper care) can live on for a while whether potted or planted. Now, having been the recipient of a myriad of flowers and plants in honor of my mom, I was overwhelmed at the outpouring of love just visible through the amount that were sent in. There were so many beautiful arrangements and any concern we had about the memorial service being decorated with displays were null and void.

What I did not expect was the aftermath of those beautiful arrangements. On the day we drove to the grave site, the funeral home brought along with us any sprays that were on stands or arrangements not in glass vases. They placed them around the canopy where we sat with my mother's coffin waiting to be lowered. Before we left, my sister-in-law and I took a few stems from the spray on the casket, we returned to the limos and drove off. When we arrived back at the church, what was left were all the plants and maybe two arrangements that we were able to choose from to take home. All those beautiful flowers stayed with my mom and perhaps that's the way it needed to be. Going forward, I realized that we'd been right all along at my old job to send plants and it's something I will continue to do myself. If I'm the only person to send a plant, at least I know the family will have one to take home, care for and keep as a reminder.

3. Honoring a funeral procession by slowing down and pulling your car over if you're driving actually feels incredibly meaningful. I will never not slow down for a funeral procession again. As we rode in the limo toward the grave site, I was deeply affected seeing other drivers pulling their cars over as we passed; even the vehicles driving in the opposite direction. It's difficult to articulate in words the appreciation I felt watching complete strangers honor our family by foregoing their own agenda just for a few seconds in order to pay some sense of respect. I have no ill will toward those that did not stop or couldn't, but it's a phenomenal practice that I hadn't always participated in. Only now do I realize just how important it might be to the family riding behind the tinted windows.



The husband and I brought home three plants. It wasn't until later that I discovered who sent the actual plants and I was pleasantly surprised that the ones we chose to keep were each given by a family or group of people that hold a very special place in my life. I don't have a natural green thumb, but I'm planning to do my best with what we have and cherish them for a long time.




April 3, 2014

Silent

We buried my mom yesterday.

Part of me wants to write about the facts. No one saw this coming therefore I feel a need to share what all has transpired over the past few months/years. Part of me knows I should write about and share with you that we believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she is healed and whole and in the presence of Jesus and that one day we will see each other again. Part of me wants to scrap this entire idea of even trying to compose this blog post because I'm afraid the words I type won't seem as elegant and meaningful as they sound in my head and feel in my heart. Then again, part of me doesn't care. Part of me just wants to talk about my mom.

Maybe I'll do a little bit of each.

My mom was a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed and fought and overcame Hodgkin's Lymphoma three times before I was barely in grade school. The first was when my brother was born in '79. The second, when I was born in '82. The third, in the mid-80s when I was old enough to remember that she wore bandanas but without comprehending why. Growing up, I barely knew the stories or details or the fear that was associated with cancer. All I knew was that mom was consistently in "remission" and "thank you God for another year of health". In a way, it was a naive optimism that I carried, never once imagining cancer would touch our family again. I had never experienced it the way my mom and dad did firsthand. Though neither of them lived in fear that it could return and that is testament to our faith in Christ. As my Dad shared with me weeks before Mom passed away, they've lived 30+ years knowing that God is the One who truly knows the number of our days and with that comfort, although it may be hurtful at that moment in time, we can cast out fear of death and fear of the unknown. Everyone will have that day. I'm pretty sure there's no going around it.

This past December, my mom's physician ordered extra tests due to something abnormal that turned up during an appointment: cancer. This time it was non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. My parents waited until after the holidays to tell the family and close friends and pretty quickly my mom began chemotherapy.

She didn't want me to see her get chemo, but I needed to see it. I felt like chemotherapy was this giant monster that I had no context of and almost an even greater fear of compared to the cancer itself, and that I could not find a way to wrap my brain around it. I needed to be there. I sat with her for her very first treatment and we watched the movie Warm Bodies (of all things) on my portable DVD player, sharing one set of headphones because I'd been remiss to think of bringing two pair. We started the movie right as the first drip was hooked up to her IV and instead of dreading and waiting for any symptoms of the chemo to take effect, we spent two hours giggling quietly in our chairs over this genius zombie chick flick. (And if you knew my mom, she did NOT watch anything with zombies - this was one the exception.)

Over the past two months, I took mom to her chemo appointments when I could and some additional hospital visits as well. We talked on the phone every day and even got to bring the boys over to the house for a short visit. My sister-in-law and I went wig shopping with her and helped try on beanies and crazy turban bandanas and hats. Mom finally finished Downton Abbey too with all the time spent at home and she'd get so upset over the plotline for Anna and Mr. Bates saying, "I just want them to leave Anna alone!"

The weekend after Mom's third chemo treatment (one of those days in which I got to take her and even make a Walmart run after), she came down with an infection that without any immune system landed her in the hospital and slowly began to take her away from us.

We spent as much time, every day in that ICU room with her. Tuesday evening, my brother and I just sat for a few hours and watched some of her favorite shows with her that were on that night. (I still can never understand what is so great about NCIS.) Wednesday, we were there again but no TV, just words said. Words spoken that I never wanted to speak. Words to convey a lifetime of memories and love just hoping that they were enough. And final words that I would hear from a voice that I would never hear from again. Forever treasured and locked away.

We were with her on Thursday when she left us.

You know that feeling you have when someone has been to visit for a while and then you drop them off at the airport and afterward it's almost like you don't know what to do with yourself for the moment? You know that person is off to their own journey on their way home but you're just still...here.

I miss my mom. The urge that I get to call her or text her when the boys do something funny or sweet or cute - I don't ever want that to go away. This past week I've cried when I opened my first Dr. Pepper because that was her favorite drink and never once did we meet up together without one of us bringing a bottle along for the other. I cried when I heard a song by Franki Valli and the Four Seasons because we were going to get awesome seats at the theatre when Jersey Boys came back in town. She was my go-to theatre person because she also gave me a love for theatre. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was one of our favorites and although it took me years to come around, so was Fiddler on the Roof. She shared with me the classics and I in turn introduced her to current shows as they came around.

We went on two glorious Mom/Daughter cruises together in the past 5 years. My one regret being that we didn't get to do one more. I can close my eyes and remember a moment on our first cruise together as we just sat on the top deck, lying in the shade, napping and reading books and enjoying the gulf breeze and beautiful weather. We sat there for hours.

There are so many things I want to remember and share and tell the whole world about. I have told my husband for years that I always knew that when I grew up and moved out of the house, got married, etc., that my mom and I would be friends. I knew that mother/daughter relationship would expand. How I knew, I'm not sure. But I'm so thankful that I have had the last 10+ years being a daughter and a best friend to my mom.

It wasn't until now that I realized how much I want to be so much more like her.


January 8, 2014

Two Boys

The older my kids get, the more they'll have to say and you better believe that I plan on writing down some of those choice phrases and funny thought processes that will eventually come out of their mouths. There's even some fun ideas seen around Pinterest on creative ways to store/display those memories. But until then, we're still discovering words and ideas and how to use them. For now, at the most, Noah will combine maybe 2-3 words to communicate certain things with us.

One phrase he recently started on absolutely melted my heart the first time he said it.

We have a two-story home and Noah is adept at going up and down unassisted. Aaron can make his way up (with me hovering) but he's always carried downstairs. Lately, Noah hasn't wanted to go down by himself so either we hold his hand or he asks "carry?" and I'll swoop him up from the top landing and head down - usually with Aaron in tow as well.

For the past week, when I have done this (carted both kiddos down the stairs at the same time), Noah gives me a big smiles and says "Two boys!"

"Two boys! Two boys!"

My heart smiles.They know they have their momma wrapped around their little fingers.

December 16, 2013

A Blue Birthday

I find it odd for a toddler to have a favorite color but lo and behold, mine does: BLUE

I had been brainstorming all year long for a theme for his party; and yes, I honestly admit to the "all year" part. I love throwing parties for my boys! Besides, I only have a few good years where we (the parents) can decide on a theme or party type until they become a little more opinionated. For the longest time I wanted to do Yo Gabba Gabba for his second party but as the months flew by and I've been on the brink of feeling overwhelmed constantly at just life in general, I decided to go easy on myself. I took a page from my nephew's party a couple of years ago and went with a color theme...ergo we picked the color blue.

We kept it small again, just family really and I like it that way for now. My only problem was finding a menu of blue food items to serve as snacks. There were so many unnatural suggestions I found when Googling the idea (i.e. blue mac and cheese, blue mashed potatoes). Pretty sure blue is not the most appetizing of colors so I had to be creative. Our cake was blue and I had some blue candies and blue Koolaid, blue jello and blueberries. Other than that I dip some strawberries in blue chocolate (white chocolate with blue food coloring). The rest consisted of a normal snack selection free from dye. I didn't need to be that overkill with blue foods. However, we did ask all the guests to wear their favorite shade of...you guessed it...blue!

The party was fun and simple. Everyone snacked and then we broke out the cake. Noah is a pro at blowing out candles and equally a pro at smearing icing all over his face. It wasn't as elaborate as his first birthday smash cake but it made for some good pictures.

We moved him right along to presents and only had one short meltdown in the process. I find it hilarious to try and get a toddler to open gifts: you open a present then take it away from him for the next one. Except he doesn't understand why you're taking this new awesome toy away and won't focus on the next gift right in front of him ready to open. Haha! It was all good and in the end everyone was heartily playing with the new toys.

I cannot believe that this week I will officially have a two year old! It boggles my mind really. I think about the kids I used to watch at my first job in a daycare...I hated working the two's class. I avoided it at all costs. Noah's showing signs of the terrible twos but so far we've been able to manage and tiptoe thru the tantrums and confusion. Unlike the babies at the daycare, I'm at least able to find all the good and positive things about this age and everything he is learning and being exposed to for the first time.

There really is a silver lining to the twos.

(Except for next day's diaper after consuming all things blue...)

We told him the bow goes on his head. :)

Blowing out the candles. Yes, I painted even my nails blue!
CAKE!

Daddy helping open the first gift

The "big" gift from Mommy and Daddy

Every kid needs a magna doodle!

December 12, 2013

Aaron - Ten (and a half) Months Old!

Long story short, my camera lens broke the weekend of Aaron's 10-month picture. I delayed for a week due to Thanksgiving (who has fun taking pictures of people stuffing their mouth with food anyhow) and then found a local shop to diagnose and fix the issue. $100 later and I have my camera back! Oh and I would have had it back last week but due to Icemageddon, I did not return to the shop until it was safe(r) to drive.

So here's my 10-month-old sweet, cuddly baby boy!


































 Likes:
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow video by Iz (Hawaiian guy)
- Spaghetti/Noodles
- When Daddy comes home
- Going outside
- Eating
- Playing the piano
- Did I mention eating?

Dislikes:
- Second nap
- Big brother coming within 3 feet of him unless it's on Aaron's terms
- Being scratched by the cat
- Baby food (unless it's fruit)

December 9, 2013

Icemageddon

We live in Texas. 
Six days ago it was 80 degrees.  
Five days ago it turned below freezing with an ice storm blowing in that garnered 4-5 inches of ice...everywhere. 
I have only left my house once in the past four days.

This happens every few years and the city is literally shut down due to the fact that no one can possibly do any good on the road. Northerners make fun; but this is not snow. This is ice! The city does not have full resources to keep up with the demand (and even if we did, it's money spent on something that is a rare occasion). Highways are, at most, passable but it's the neighborhoods that keep folks from leaving their homes. 

To give a small example of the situation, just north of us drivers were stuck on the highway for more than 24 hours. Cars stalled or ran out of gas and with temps dropping and no one here keeping supplies in their vehicles, the stranded were all transported to shelters. Yikes.

I made haste last Wednesday (pre-Icemaggedon) and stocked up on some groceries and supplies for the boys. I'm thankful I didn't wait!

I've never been prone to cabin fever but now that we're on Day 4, being holed up with two kiddos is very straining for my sanity. So to all my friends who don't understand why people feel cooped up when there are so many books to read and movies to watch - you're welcome to borrow my children.

The husband has 4-wheel-drive so he took Noah out to the store at one point (my regular delivery of infant formula did not make it in time) and we got out for breakfast yesterday. But other than that we've sat tight.

We did have a spot of fun yesterday! There's a small, open plot of land that runs between our home and our neighbors with a slight incline that is perfect for sledding. We bundled up, grabbed a few cardboard boxes and had a great time shooting the kids down the hill. Noah was charging down the hill and crashing and burning over and over and loved every minute of it. Aaron even went down a couple of times but we couldn't tell if he was enjoying it or not. 

Roads are still awful today and schools are closed with the husband working from home. I really hope there are some openings tomorrow...I need to get my kids out so I can get stuff done!

In the meantime, I'm enjoying our photos and videos from our Icemaggedon sledding escapades.




November 20, 2013

Sam and the Firefly

Noah has been a little bored of his board books for a while now. If he could recite them word for word, I'm sure he could do it. We do have a stash of regular kids books (a.k.a. tear-able pages) that were either given to us or we picked up along the way, so yesterday I pulled out the classic book Sam and the Firefly. We've read it at least 20 times in the last almost 48 hours already! I'm slowly learning the art of skipping a couple of pages here and there that I know he doesn't find as interesting (thanks Mom, for admitting you did the same with us as kids).

















There's something about reading this book that gives me vivid memories of reading it as a kid...everything but the actual words to the story. So I wonder if I'm actually remembering "reading" it before I could really read or what. Honestly, it sounds silly but there's a lot of emotions and imaginative wonder resurfacing as I'm looking at the artwork.

Yeah, sounds dumb.

Anyhow, I love reading to my kids and love when Noah asks to read. Aaron has loved books also for a while now and the kid is only nine months old! When Noah's taking a nap and Aaron is roaming the house and it's all of sudden quiet, guess where I find him?























I'm dead set on introducing my boys to the wonderful world of literature!