Happy 12th Birthday

Rebecca-

Happy 12th birthday!  For some reason I am really excited about you turning 12 this year.  Perhaps it is the fact that this past year you have really started to become more of a teenager.  Not that I am trying to make you grow up any faster but I am starting to learn how to love this new phase of life for you instead of being scared to death of it.  A few weeks ago you sat on your bedroom floor and played with your Barbies and the next day you offered to help me fold laundry.  The funny thing is, you don’t “help” with laundry like you did when you were little.  You can now fold towels to perfection and you put them away in the right spot.  It may seem minor to you but these are the little things that make me realize it is full speed ahead.

This was the first year your relationships have really changed with some of your boy friends.  You used to love to play with the boys and have slumber parties with them while building forts. (The downside of all my friends having boys.) I find you sticking to my side more when we are out with them and you look at them like they are noise covered in dirt.  The age gap is becoming more apparent and  your patience with them is thinning.  You look at it more as babysitting them than hanging out with them.

This past year you have also struggled with girls your age.  I think this is just something about this age level in general.  The claws come out and general meanness is something you are learning to deal with.  You have struggled with the fact that not everyone wants to simply get along and unfortunately I have had a lot of conversations with you that this is only the beginning.  There have been many talks about sticking up for yourself, dealing with bullies, not being a bully, walking away from situations, avoiding negative people and being a positive person.  I cannot tell you how many times I have to tell myself to take my own advice because we all struggle with this and I think kids are dealing with this at a younger and younger age.  And when you walk into school I pray that we have done everything right and given you the tools to handle situations.

Speaking of a million talks.  We have also started having more grown up talks about becoming a young lady in general.  I try to squeeze them in whenever possible and you are going to read this years from now and roll your eyes but you don’t roll your eyes now.  We talk about hormones and when girls start that time of the month.  You have announced that you are sure one of your friends at school gets her period because one day she is mean and the next she is nice.  So, we have a bit more talking on the difference between PMS, hormones and what an actual period is but we are getting there:)

Onto better things, this was the year we moved into our new home.  It took you some time and I know you still miss the apartment but you love this house.  You love having a yard, Fenway and your own bathroom.  You love sitting on the back deck with us and talking late at night.  We have slowly been decorating your room and you have made it into a rather cool tween room.  All blues and beach themed, it is pretty laid back and non obnoxious after a few compromises.  I know the hardest part about moving into this house was the fact that this house doesn’t have memories of your Dad and I in it.  One night when I went in to check on you before I went to bed, you were sound asleep and were curled up with two framed pictures.  One was of you and your Dad after one of his baseball games and the other was a picture of the three of us when you were about 18 months old.  You offered up a reason to me one day saying it fills the new room with Dad, like the apartment had.  You feel safer with that picture when you sleep and I’m not going to tell you no.

This past year you have also literally grown so much.  You have wanted nothing more than to be as tall as me and you officially are.  All giraffe arms and legs.  For a split second you wore the same shoe size as me but then those kept growing.  We have officially left the kids section and are now having to dig through some juniors stuff at the store.  There are even a few things in my closet that you can fit into.  I am totally fine with this right now because it is so much cheaper! It is also fun to see you get more of your own grown up style.  Gone are the days of little dresses and tiny shoes for sure!

You have spent a lot of time back at the farm this past year and your uncle and my Hubby have been teaching you about guns every time.  Normally you always sat on the sidelines but not anymore.  You are a pretty good aim with a 22 gauge at a beer can.  They also got you your first pink BB gun that you keep under your bed.  I have a feeling that BB gun isn’t going to satisfy you for too long as you have been eyeing a pink rifle at the store.  I’m sure a few more pleads and your uncle will buy that for you too.  You just aren’t to sure about actually hunting with him yet.  You are quite the well-rounded country girl.

In the past few months I’ve noticed how much more you are in to conversation.  You offer up much more than 2 word answers in response to questions or general conversation. You actually ask how my day went, remember details and follow up later.  You are also cracking us up with your quick remarks back at us.  It is just more and more of a personality coming out.

Part of a parents job is looking like we know what we are doing when half the time we have no clue.  We are winging this together most days and I think things are turning out okay.  I’m so proud of the young lady you have become and can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

We love you.  Happy Birthday.

 

 

Outside the Box: Definition of a Mother

It was your chubby hands that I was running my fingers over.  Not the chubby hands that most Mom’s remember of their infant, it was your 3, almost 4-year-old, hands.  I was trying to memorize them, the feel, the contour.  The right one I held, the left one was clutching a red balloon you got at the restaurant we just left.  There are moments that happen in our lives that are the most basic and mundane and for some reason my gut was telling me this was anything but ordinary.

From the outside we may have looked like a normal family, we weren’t.  Going down the familiar highway, I sat next to your car seat in the back seat of the truck.  My stomach turning, in knots.  Fighting back tears and losing the battle as some would fall down my face.  Your Dad driving, sunglasses hiding his own eyes, glancing my way in the rearview mirror.  We were silent as we drove.  I look back at those moments and wonder how we went through all that and yet couldn’t manage to keep our marriage together. The toughest times were yet to come to us and we were only 23 and 24 years old ourselves, thrown on a ride we didn’t ask for with no exit.

We knew our world was going to change that night and it did.  What was about to happen, well, if I knew, I would have had him pull over so we could stop it all but unfortunately time stops for no one and the future was coming straight at us.  We held you for the first time when you were 6 weeks old and life just happened from there.  You gave us sleepless nights, you took your first steps towards us, you gave us your first words and stretched those arms for us when you needed soothing.  You were ours and we were yours.

I prayed in the back seat of the truck that night that I would see you again.  I prayed to God for strength, for hope, for this to all go away.  I prayed that if He just kept you with us, made this okay, that I wouldn’t ask for another child.  All I needed was you.  I just needed this not to be the last time I held those chubby hands.  I had never been so scared but we were going to drop you off with your biological Mother.  We had done it before and we knew what would happen but this night was different.  We had called upon lawyers and drawn up papers.  We had to give you up to get you back and prayed you would be okay.

It went how we thought.  There were tears, screaming, arms reaching for us, and legs kicking.  You hardly knew her and acted out every time you were with her.  My Grandparents stood in the same room and the line was drawn in the sand.  They weren’t the Grandparents of my childhood.  They were making me and your Dad out to be the enemy.  Turning my back and walking out that night was one of the hardest moments of my life.  We both lost it in the truck.  I have no idea how we safely drove home that night, into the darkness, further away from those chubby hands.

To this day, when your 11-year-old hand reaches for mine, I think of that ride in the backseat of the truck.  I don’t take any day or moment with you for granted and send up a prayer, thanking God, for keeping you in my life.  When I see you hug your Dad, I thank God for putting that man in both of out lives.  Without him, I wouldn’t have made it through those years of court or nights of emptiness.  I am grateful that too much time didn’t pass with my Grandparents and we were able to find peace.  Through every negative pregnancy test I have taken in the past 19 months, I thank God I still have you and I wonder if the deal I made with Him that night in the truck is payment he took and you are the only baby I’ll have.

There are many definitions of a mother these days but I feel like many are left out and they deserve that recognition.  There are many fathers out there who are the mothers for their kids.  There are some out there who have outlived their children.  There are many that never got to hold their own child but heard their beating heart.  Some were able to hold their child but for a very short time.  There are some who feel they should be mothers in their hearts but are never able to.  There are some that may not be able to be with their child everyday but their thoughts are. These mothers come in different forms and have to bear difference circumstances.  For these mothers, this mother’s day, I applaud you.  I understand you.  My heart goes out to you.  May you see the joy of what was, is and can be in your own circumstance.

To my little girl, from chubby hands to a young lady, you taught me how to fight for what was right, no matter the circumstances.  You made me a person that can stand up to fear and fight it with faith, hope and passion.  You made me what no one else has, you made me a Mom in our own definition.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

 

Not Just a Dog

Over Easter weekend a good friend of ours lost his dog because it was hit by a car.  Obviously, him and his wife are devastated.  There are a lot of tears shed and it will understandably take a lot of time to be able to move forward.  Him and I have been best friends since we were 14 and have shared a lot of ups and downs.  He was one of those people who didn’t get people who thought of the pets as kids and then it happened.  The nutty fuzzball comes home and you can’t imagine your life without them.  Soon you are becoming that person who declines an invite to your friends’ cat’s birthday party because your dog is getting married that day.  Doesn’t everyone understand that?

Well, no.  But that is okay, I don’t judge them.

We got our furry lab, Fenway, after a year of trying to get pregnant.  There were a ton of reasons why we wanted a dog (Mainly I just wanted one) but there were reasons I didn’t realize in the beginning like I do now.  My husband is gone a lot.  Rebecca is not with us on a regular basis.  I struggle with this, a lot.  It gets damn lonely, a lot.

Enter this furry ball of energy who needs fed, walked and my constant attention.  Fenway gives me a reason to go home at night and not have the silence bounce off the walls.  She is someone who acts like she understands what I’m saying when I’m talking through a new recipe.  She is someone who dances around the kitchen with me to Kenny Chesney.  She is my shadow, my fitness pal, a listener and warm pillow to watch TV with.  In the past 18 months she has been my extra support, in this trying to get pregnant battle, that I never knew I needed.  She is someone who patiently sits next to me on the bathroom floor when I’m crying over that millionth damn negative pregnancy test.

Pets are a funny thing.  You think they need you but really you need them.  And then when they are gone, especially suddenly, everything changes.  So for everyone who has lost their side kick, I am deeply sorry.  For everyone who has theirs sitting next to them, give them an extra scratch and treat today.  They deserve it.

What have your pets done for you?

 

Spontaneity

I would love to claim to be a spontaneous person but I just am not.  I love to make lists, plan, organize and I just can’t help it sometimes.  This is something I have been working on though.  I don’t want someone to throw out an idea and my answer is always “no” just because my brain isn’t ready to mentally handle the fly by the seat of your pants idea.

This past weekend we finally saw Spring in a big way.  In the way that meant warm nights, 80 degree days and a sun that lasted later in the evening.  I had a weekend with no plans for once and a kid ready to fully enjoy the warmth upon us.  Instead of breakfast and coffee in front of the TV, that has become customary this cold Winter, we woke early to hang out on the back deck.  It was bliss, the whole day ahead of us.  Rebecca threw out an idea to go catch a Spring football game and I couldn’t think of a reason to say no.  Spring cleaning could wait and why not really?

Normally a trip like this would have made me need to plan well in advance.  Instead we called a friend to join us, made quick work of getting dressed, packed to-go lunches and jumped in the truck.  An hour later we were on our way, windows down, kids laughing in the backseat and a full day ahead of us in the sun.

The day went by with no problems and it didn’t matter that nothing was planned.  It just all flowed.  There was a random stop for ice cream that we didn’t eat on the go but sat and enjoyed in the fresh air.  We played late into the evening in the backyard, we dyed Easter eggs, we went out for dinner and lingered outside the restaurant talking to friends we ran into. I let go of my Type A and let the whole day and evening just happen.

Part of being able to let go.  Part of just living in the moment.  You know what I saw?  I saw the day from my daughter’s eyes.  The pure perfection of what kids can teach you if you just stop and listen to them more often.  They really do have some of the answers to the world.  Here is to being able to say yes more often than no.

Falling More in Love with Your Spouse

There was the beautiful bride in a princess dress, her groom standing next to her while candles lit the fireplace in front of them.  Behind them sat 250 people and in front of them the minister began to speak the words that would start them in their marriage.  There were some funny stories, a prayer or two and then the minister started to get a bit heavy into what he thought marriage was.  This part, was where many people in the room began to shift a lot in their chairs, while catching their spouses eye, wondering where this guy was going with this speech. We were all with him till he said the following words to the couple:

“How much you love one another, right now, in this moment, is it.  You will never fall more in love with one another because marriage is hard.”

He continued for another, very long, 20 minutes about how hard marriage is and how tough things are going to get and on and on and on.  Hey, I know, it is tough and you don’t have to sugar coat everything but woah.  Just woah.  I can tell you what people were talking about after the ceremony was over and it wasn’t about how pretty the bride was.  It was about how apparently none of us will fall more in love with our spouse but we sure as hell will start hating them more. I don’t know where this man got his license to marry anyone or what his marriage is like (he was fairly young) but I don’t think he could have been more wrong.

I can tell you I fall more and more in love with my husband.  Some days more than others but I can honestly say that I love him now more than the day we were married.  I can’t imagine standing there on our wedding day and someone saying what that minister said.  It was more than rude, it was appalling to those who were married in the room.  Your wedding day should be the one day that you and your new spouse can look with rose-colored glasses into your future and dream of perfection instead of hell.

How would you feel if that was your wedding day speech from the minister?  Or do you agree with him?

The Vacation That Just Wasn’t

Apparently there is such a thing as a bad vacation.  There is such a thing as regretting the thousands of dollars you spent to travel to another country.  There is such a thing as wishing you would have booked your tickets for another place, perhaps with a beach.  There is such a thing as sitting across from your best friend wondering what the hell has happened to her.  There is also such a thing as watching too many Friends episodes.  That last one really shocked me, but it all happened.

Our trip to England was set up to be a great time.  How could it not be?  Aren’t all vacations great because you are not at home or work?  It fails when your friend doesn’t take time off of work and owns a home day care.  It fails when you spend time changing diapers and the wail of a child outside your door wakes you.  It falls apart when you feel as though you are inconveniencing your friend by being in her home.  Then there were the nights where you were left on your own in the living room to be quiet as the household wanted to go to bed by 9pm. There I sat, with my sister, watching show after show of Friends and staying up till the wee hours because we weren’t tired after doing absolutely nothing all day.  It just went from there.

I tried to not be negative, I tried to relax and enjoy the down time but my sister finally spoke up and I knew I wasn’t the only one.  I texted my husband, feeling horrible for feeling this way but he agreed, it wasn’t really fair.  The last time we went to visit was quite the opposite.  If your friend is coming to visit, shouldn’t you take the time to spend time with them?  And that was just the thing, I don’t expect to be entertained but I would like to spend quality time with the person I flew a lot of miles to  visit.

We managed to get out a few days and see some sites but it felt forced and there was a gray cloud hanging over us.  I felt defeated and promised my sister another trip somewhere else one day soon.  Maybe a safari in Africa?  I was reading Chelsea Handler’s Uganda Be Kidding Me (Highlight of my whole trip) and quickly considered purchasing more wine and a new plane ticket.

I speculated about my dear friend, where she is at in her life and just what she might be thinking.  Her mind was elsewhere the whole time and while I saw glimpses of the person I know, it was few and far between.  We Skype every week, we talk on the phone all the time, text daily and yet here sat a person I didn’t know, treating me like someone she didn’t know.  I was lost…..and quite frankly a bit hurt, which is probably what it all comes down to.

My sister and I did what any normal person would do, we drank a lot of wine.  I got hammered the night before we left, as it was my sister’s birthday, and was still a bit drunk when we got to the airport the next day.  I’ve done this every time I have  left that country and figured I didn’t want to change things this time around.  We sipped mimosas at the airport and kept our buzz going with Delta’s free boxed wine on the flight while we Frozen like the real adults that we are.  We tried to keep with the motto “Hey, we are going to make the best of this vaca!” but we were really happy to touch down in the good ole US of A and call that vacation done.

My Sister.

There are those people who go on and on about their sisters and how they grew up being best friends, telling one another everything.  Then there is the story of me and my sister.  We did not grow up being best friends nor did we tell each other secrets late into the night.  I had other friends for that.  We shared a room in which we drew literal lines down the middle of the floor and often beat the crap out of each other.  Ok, she beat the crap out of me because I was really little but I tried to swing my fists when I could.  In fact we didn’t even start working on any type of a friendship until I was divorced. Who says good things can’t come out of a divorce?  Take that another step when my sister started on her own divorce journey and here we sit today.  While we aren’t sharing every deep dark secret, we do have a strong relationship now.

I remember going on a couple of trips after/during my divorce that were life changing for me.  The kind that open your eyes, change your perspective and restore your faith in the human race.  Just what my sister needs on the heels of learning she is officially divorced.  Time to move on and forward.  Which brings us to today and my quest for living better in the year 2014.  Through a series of events, that proves everything happens for a reason, I found myself booking a ticket to England without my husband but then realizing I could take my sister.  She deserved a break.

I broke it to her carefully.

Text to my sister: Is your passport valid?

Sister: Do we need bail money?  I can get an alibi.

This is how we have built a friendship that most are born with as siblings.

So in less than a month I’m “dragging” my sister with me to England to visit my best friend.  The best friend who has been my “sister” all these years.

This isn’t just any trip over the pond.  This is a trip that will change our relationship even more.  There is something about becoming older, realizing how precious these memories can be and being so grateful for the opportunity to spend this time together.  I’m happy to give my sister a chance that friends, bloggers, and strangers gave to me after/during my divorce.  The chance to get away and see the world again.  The chance to have that relationship that we weren’t born with.  We are even going to share a room and I don’t think we’ll need to draw a line down it.

30 Hours with my Dad

My Mom needed a break and her best friend called me to help.  She needed me to stay with my Dad so my Mom could go to a lodge in the middle of no where and learn to quilt with her.  I called upon my sister and she couldn’t come with me so I was on my own.  Sure, my brother would be 15 minutes away at his house if I needed help but he was always helping.  He already took time out of his day that he didn’t always have because Dad listens to him.  And Dad knows him.

I rearranged my schedule, I packed up, I drove two hours through a snow storm and walked in the door.  I sat and talked with my brother for a while before he headed to his own home.  That left me standing in my parents living room with my Dad.  This was only for 30 hours.  We could handle this, right?  He attempted to tell me to change the channel to a certain show.  He couldn’t remember what it was called and was struggling to find the name.  “Pawn Stars?”  I asked him.  “Yes!” I know this because this is literally the only show he will watch.  My Mom has 132 shows saved on the DVR.

I settle in knowing this is all we will do for the next 30 hours.  He asks me if I have ever watched the show before.  I tell him yes.  He ends up asking me this 14 times in the course of those 30 hours.

I glance over at him and see what has changed.  There is always a change and I just saw him 3 weeks ago.  He is just shy of 54 but looks 70.  Three years of Alzheimer’s is taking its toll.  He looks like an old man and smells like one too.  He hardly lets Mom bathe him but once a week.  He refuses to eat anything but M&M’s and ham balls.  The ham balls he picks apart, declares they taste like shit and dumps them in the trash.  The M&M’s he carries in his pockets and then asks if someone stole them.  There are trails all over the house of the colored candy.  Trails around the kitchen, blue ones kicked under the cabinets, yellow and orange ones on the bathroom floor leading to the toilet, one of every color around his chair in the living room and on the side table.

I notice he eyes me funny out of the corner of his eyes every now and then.  “How did you get picked to come sit with me?”  He asks.  He has two normal care providers during the week, he knows I am not one of them.  “I wanted to come hang out with you Dad.”  He has no idea who I am.  I can see it on his face.  They are selling a mini bike on Pawn Stars and he begins to tell me, in great detail, about a mini bike he had as a kid.  He later asks me if I want a tour of the house.

He spends his day chasing M&M’s.  I keep the fire going.  He gets up, wanders in a circle, sits back down like he has worked a 15 hour shift.  Pawn Stars ends and the DVR asks if we would like to delete the show.  If I’m in the other room he yells “Oh, Shit!  The TV broke.  The show wasn’t over!  It is asking to delete the TV.”  I go out and tell him I can fix it and I start the next episode on the long list.  Lord, please don’t let Direct TV go out on me.

I have a friend, that lives in town, come over that night with a bottle of wine.  I’m beginning to feel like I have been cut off from civilization and need some company.  So many hours of Pawn Stars and Pinterest and I’m losing it.  My Dad eyes her suspiciously when she walks in the door.  He used to love seeing her.  Her and I met when we were 10 and lived two houses apart.  For the first time you can tell he has no idea who she is.  He takes a sip of my wine, declares it shit and goes back to Pawn Stars. Her kids are not phased by his current state and seem to be entertaining him while we catch up in the other room.

Later that night I go through the bedtime routine my Mom instructed me to do.  His bed is located on one side of the living room and my Mom has been sleeping on the couch for months because he refuses to go to their bedroom.  He sees too many dead people in there.  After a lot of haggling and up and down I get him settled into bed and I settle myself on the couch.  I turn off the lights and tell him goodnight.  He answers back with a goodnight.  I’m exhausted but I know I won’t sleep much.

10 seconds later….goodnight.

Me: Goodnight.

Him: Goodnight.

Me: Goodnight (I feel like John Boy should chime in now.)

30 seconds go by. Maybe he is asleep.

Him: Goodnight.

Me: Dad, close your eyes and go to sleep.

Him: Ok…..Goodnight.

Three minutes more of goodnight and I hear him snoring.  I wonder where his mind goes.  It isn’t even here during the days as it is.  I try and recall the last time my Dad even told me goodnight in my life.  We just haven’t gotten along in so many years.  I hardly sleep all night.

The morning comes and he eyes me funny again.  He is in a shit mood and demands that show be turned on.  We sit and I begin the countdown in my head for my Mom to come back.  I have no idea how she does it.  The cats kick around the M&M’s that are littering the floor and I realize the huge bag of them is almost empty.  That could be a disaster.  I bring in more firewood, clean up the kitchen and walk around collecting lost M&M’s.  I put my stuff next to the door like it will make Mom come home sooner.  I text my brother and sister that we are still alive.

12 episodes of Pawn Stars later my Mom happily comes back in the door looking a bit more refreshed.  I was never so relieved to see her in my life.  We made it.  30 hours together and I can now go back to my own world.  He looks at my Mom like he thinks he might now who she is and she gives him a hug and kiss.  She goes about the kitchen like normal and starts showing me what she bought and the pictures she took.  This is her life now.  A husband with Alzheimer’s who knows who she is at times but most of the times these days he doesn’t.

Later that night the two will get ready for bed and she tells me they have a Notebook moment.  He grabs her face and says “Oh, there you are.  I’ve been looking for you.”  He calls her by name which happens few and far between now.  She said that look comes over his face where for a few minutes he is fully there and she tells him goodnight.