Category Archives: Extended Family

An odd testament to love

My stepdad, Joe, passed away last Thursday.

It was a shock.

I visited him with Audrey and Fiala the night previous, as we’d gotten word that he had taken a turn for the worse.  He was mostly out of it, on pain meds, but we had some now-memorable exchanges… One was me asking him if he wanted music in his room — he LOVED music — and he did.  I made a mental plan to follow up on that the next day.  A sick man should have music.  He taught my children all sorts of silly songs over the years — he and my mom started dating when my 16 year-old was an infant;  they were married days after he turned one — and I asked him if he might have a silly song for my girls.  He replied, “Not at the moment.”  When the girls and I were about to leave, I told him I needed to go back home to nurse baby Jean.  “Do you remember baby Jean?” I asked, not sure how connected he was with what I was saying.  “Oh, yes!” he said, and his face lit up.  The girls and I prayed for him, I told him that I loved him, and he said he loved me, too, and we left.

We got back home, and I told my husband, “He looks bad, but he doesn’t look like he’s on death’s door.”

I was wrong.

He died early the next morning.

Perhaps this seems odd, but I think his passing might be a testament to how much he loved my mother, and that makes me feel a little bit better.

It had been a hard, hard year with Joe.  Well, hard ten months.  My mother passed on October 18, 2012, and for the month or so following, things were good with Joe, although he was terribly — understandably — heartbroken.

And then things deteriorated.

Much of the deterioration revolved around my mom’s will and the way estate law works in Arizona.

The short version is that he didn’t think that myself or my three siblings should inherit anything from my mother.  He genuinely felt entitled to everything she owned and saved, and felt that we weren’t taking care of him by signing our inheritances over to him.

My sibs and I couldn’t agree to his desires.  My mom appropriated some things to her children…  The bulk of the estate went to Joe.  There was much that estate law would allow us to keep, or claim — property which wasn’t exactly specified in the will — which we didn’t.  We siblings were trying our best to err on the side of generosity, to keep all fighting to an absolute minimum, to find common ground…  We simply were not successful, and Joe remained upset at us.  Angry, really.  He was angry with us.

So.

It had been a very, very hard time, a difficult year.

—————–

I had long said that Joe was the most involved grandparent that my children had.

And, it was true for 15 years.

And then, not true for 10 months.

There were a few, encouraging steps forward… and those would invariably be followed by some giant sliding backward.

I’m not angry at Joe.  The issue of inheritance was a very difficult thing that was only resolved about a month ago.  But, even when estate matters were resolved, things were still not good, relationship-wise, with Joe.  While he was in the hospital, my brother-in-law suggested to Joe, “Can we call a truce?  And then, when you’re feeling better, you can be angry again.”  Joe thought that was hilarious — my brother-in-law is quite witty, and I think it was the perfect thing to say.  And, Joe agreed, at least in spirit…

While my family was on vacation earlier this month, Joe — who had for months been complaining of an ‘upset stomach’ — was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  And, less than two weeks after his diagnosis, he was gone.

I wrote to some friends:

Everyone handles grief so differently. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking, “He just could NOT move on,” and that fits with something else I was going to say: he has always tended towards bitterness and suspicion and hoarding… and we didn’t realize how much my mom kept that in check. In so many ways, she must have compelled him to move on, to get past “it”, whatever “it” was. And with her gone, there was no one who could speak that into him, and he just spiraled out of control. I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but it seems like a testament to how much he loved my mom, how much influence she had in his life, what a difference she made in his outlook and approach to life… it makes me feel better. And even with his cancer diagnosis. I think he just might have given up. I think if she had been alive, he would have fought.

When my mom was hospitalized, my siblings and I frequently discussed how much my mom loved Joe, but how foreign to us were his ways of expressing love to her.  I found myself rather desperately hoping that my mom was loved as deeply as she…  well, I hate the word “deserve”…  Needed?  Should have had?  I’m not sure of the right word there.  I just wanted her to be loved by her husband.  That was really, really, really important to me.  And there were times when I found myself wondering.

Yet, this last week, I have been, indeed, struck with just how much he much have loved her… She made his life worth living.  She compelled him to go on.  She called out in him the things that were noble, and helped the ignoble to be manageable, far less noticeable.

I’m a mishmash of thoughts and emotions.

Such regret that relationship wasn’t restored by the time of Joe’s passing.

So sad…  Sad for my children.  Sad for Joe.  Sad for myself.

But, strangely comforted about my mother, whose absence is a deepening hole in my life.

I’m comforted that he loved her.

Mom and Joe

In which I complain — and other stuff

I am 31 weeks pregnant.  I had two and a half glorious months, post-morning-sickness, where I felt AMAZING.  Now, my large belly has caught up with me, and I am feeling rather crabby and swollen and it’s hard to breathe, and I generally feel uncomfortable.  I’m also getting exhausted in a way… well, prior to my diagnosis with Celiac Disease, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome*.  I remember how it felt in the evening, anticipating even ONE outing the following day, and having to fight despondency, because I knew that ONE outing would wipe me out, entirely.  That is where I’m at, now.

Until the last few weeks, the worst I could say was that the mass of varicose veins on the back of my right leg was giving me pain.  All things considered, being a 39-year-old pregnant woman, I figured that was quite good.  I got my stinkin’ expensive “pregnancy support garment” — which is very much like a girdle, or a compression garment.  On one hand, it’s a blessing:  It allows me to walk around without feeling like my leg is going to fall off;  it minimizes the pain and pressure, as well, from vaginal varicosities.  However… it is 80% nylon and 20% spandex which, apparently, my skin doesn’t appreciate.  If I wear it for too long, I get hives.  But if I’m NOT wearing it, I can literally be on my feet for maybe 5-10 minutes at a time.

I went to Illinois this past weekend.  I went to my maternal grandmother’s memorial service and visited my paternal grandmother, who is very ill.  I traveled with my sister (who lives in the Phoenix area, as well) and my brother (who drove down from Utah to travel with us).  It was, all things considered, a wonderful trip, in spite of the sad catalyst for the journey.  I could write for a very long time on my thoughts and the events of the four days, but I likely can’t:  My experience is so intertwined with others’, for whom I deeply care.  Telling my tale would necessitate telling theirs, as well, and I don’t know if they would appreciate me broadcasting their story;  it’s not mine to tell.

Still, in spite of late nights, days spent going hither and thither on necessary business, spending my days in the endless company of others (which generally drains me, as an introvert) — whom I needed to see and wanted to see and LOVED to see, cramming a couple of weeks of events into those four days, in spite of unending exhaustion of both body and mind, an aching leg, and the aforementioned hives, it was an exceptionally worthwhile journey.

IMG_20130420_100838_168

Views like this refresh my soul. It does, doubly so, knowing that this land, this view, has been connected to my mother’s family for nearly 200 years.

I love Illinois.  The above picture was taken from the back steps of my aunt’s home.  I took it, steaming coffee in hand.  The sun was shining, it was about 7 a.m., and the temperature was 35°.  The view is a corner of a field, which will likely have corn growing in it within a month or so, and a little pond beyond that.  In the timber behind the pond is the remain of an old road, likely last used in the early 1800s.  It had rained torrentially in Illinois, the day before our arrival, so the ground was saturated and impassably muddy in many places, and I didn’t own the boots which would allow me to go down that lovely road-path.

My husband, though, is considering having our family return to Illinois for our family’s summer trip this year — which would be our first time as a whole family — and I will most certainly meander down that road…

Anyway.

It shouldn’t be odd that, with the absence of The Mom, there are many things, upon my return, that have needed my attention.  Life does go on, even when I’m not here at home.  Laundry continues to pile up.  Children still need attention in their schooling.  The dog’s medicine runs out.

Today was much busier than I would have preferred, even if I weren’t pregnant.  So far, I have:

  • Gone to a grocery store — needed especially for milk and meat for the week.  (In related news, I got three gallons of organic milk for $4.99.  This was accomplished due to the fact that Shamrock Farms organic milk was 50% off this week, with the final price of $2.49 for a 3-quart container.  Two containers were near their “best by” date, and were marked $2.50 off.  In other words, FREE.  I figured that even if they went bad before we finished drinking them, no harm done;  they’re free.  I got two other containers, as well.  Four containers, three gallons total, $4.99 spent.)
  • Done two large loads of laundry — it’s still not folded, yet.
  • Overseen school with my three older children.  I will admit my first grader, Audrey, did pretty much nothing today, other than some self-directed art and Lego-building.
  • I fertilized my mini-garden with fish emulsion and epsom salts — something that should be done every two weeks, but of which I was very overdue.
  • I called LG for my washing machine — again.  It keeps having issues.  I’ve needed to call them for a couple of weeks now, but kept putting it off.
  • I ordered Algebra 2 on Teaching Textbooks.
  • I had an overdue, hour-long conversation with another homeschooling mom, helping her (I hope) with some issues she’s having with one of her children.
  • I went to Trader Joe’s for more groceries.
  • I returned some overdue library DVDs.  Yes, even with a smart phone, I kept forgetting to renew our family’s DVDs while I was away, resulting in $7 in new fines.  😦
  • I went to the pool supply store and got chlorine tabs and shock.  Our poor pool…  It really needs a new pump.  It is under warranty until July, but a repairman has already been out once, and he said that there’s really nothing he can do, under our warranty, until the pump breaks.  If it breaks entirely before July, the $400+ cost of replacement will be covered.  If it only limps along inefficiently, as it has been doing, we’re out of luck.  I must admit that I am tempted to sabotage the pump to “help” it completely break.  My husband, though, man of absolute integrity that he is, wouldn’t hear of such a thing.  But, it’s in the 90s now, and our pool-cum-pond is unusable.
  • I went to pick up more fluconazole for our dog, Tally, who is still recovering from Valley Fever.
  • I stopped by a used furniture store and bought a small chest of drawers for the new baby ($25 — it needs to be either painted or lightly sanded and revarnished — I haven’t decided which, yet).  I also bought a very solid, medium-sized bookcase for $35.  It has a blond finish, and appears to be from the 60s.  It is almost cool.  Tomorrow, I will clear out the beleaguered particle board book case which is currently holding most of our school books for this year.  It keeps collapsing.
  • I still need to shower.
  • I need to make dinner — which will be the Crockpot refried beans I made last night, reheating a roasted Costco rotisserie chicken, and likely some roasted beets from the CSA I host each Wednesday.  Easy peasy.
  • I need to pick out the worship set list for tonight’s small group.  It is definitely one of those nights where, if I didn’t have to go to small group, I probably wouldn’t.  Frankly, I’d rather put up my feet, watch baseball, and read my current book** during the commercials.  When I’m actually there at group, I always enjoy it.  Always.  But, right now, I am tired, and wish I wasn’t compelled to attend by my responsibilities there…

So, that’s it!  That has been my day.  Too busy for me.  Still not over.  But, life could be worse, eh?  All things considered, life is still good — many things have happened in the last week that are stellar, and on which I cannot comment.

If you’re still reading, thank you.  🙂  Since it has been nearly three weeks since I posted, I felt that this post was overdue, as well…  Not my best work, but it will have to do for now.

Blessings to all my readers, those whom I know personally, and those whose acquaintance I’ve only made through this blog…  I’ve been feeling particularly thankful for you, lately.

 

—————–

*Virtually all CFS symptoms disappeared when I went onto a gluten-free diet.  I do believe that the underlying cause of my chronic fatigue was celiac disease itself.

**In spite of middling reviews (which I have not read — only noticing it has only about 3.5 stars on Amazon), I am still very much enjoying it.  Well, I just peeked at some reviews.  It appears that those who love Anne Perry’s mysteries, set in 1800s England, are most disappointed.  Perhaps that explains why I like the book:  I don’t care for Anne Perry.  (I did read her four-book series which was set in WWI, but once the series was completed, decided that any more of Perry would be a waste of my time.)

 

Domestic bliss didn’t last… but that is (almost) OK.

I keep waiting for life to return to normal.

I used to think that “a rut” was the worst thing that could happen to one’s life.

I now have turned 180° — or at least 160° or so — and have discovered that there is a reason it is called “Domestic Bliss.”  That is because when home life is wonderful, it REALLY IS wonderful.  Philosophers can devise witty sayings about how boring healthy families are, but when it comes down to it, if you have one, it really is lovely.

This past spring and summer was perhaps my most wonderful ever in my 39 years.  Well, I was 38, back then.  Everything was just right.  Parenting was going great.  I thought my husband was fabulous.  I had the garden of my dreams.  I had enough “spare” time to sneak in novel about once every 2-3 weeks, which, in my experience and for my personality is just right;  more reading than that means I’m not getting enough done in my home and family;  less reading than that means I’m stretched too thinly and stressed out.  We had just sold our house for more than we thought possible and had found the exact right place — right size house, right size lot, right location — for an amazing price.  I had lost about 20 pounds and was feeling great, and down to the same size I was before I had my first child, 15 years prior.  Other family relationships and friendships were sailing along at a beautiful clip.  Friends even purchased tickets for our family’s first-ever Disneyland trip.  Can you get much better than that?

I don’t think I’m a pessimist — truly — but I am enough of a realist to realize, even in the midst of all this amazingness, that it would probably not last forever.  It was one of those seasons where my prayer was, “God, please don’t let me forget this lovely season, especially if You’re gearing me up for hard times.”

And hard times have, indeed, come.  But, not exactly in the way that I had envisioned.

The good news is that I still think my husband is fabulous.  I have, in fact, grown in love and appreciation for him in the last couple of months.

By early October, my mother was sick, in the hospital, and appeared near death.

We were also in the throes of a remodel — a MAJOR remodel of about 40% of our “new” home — which I envisioned would take us about five weeks.

We also had a serious issue surface with one of our children…  Really serious, the sort of thing where it is just a deep, hard ache in a mother’s heart.

Then our dog got sick, a resurgence of Valley Fever.

Then my computer broke (I’m typing on my husband’s laptop), on which my children do about 1/3 of their schooling.

And… other things compounded my various challenges — like a dear friend (whose two sons are the best friends of two of my sons) moving out of state.  And a few other dear, long-time friends feeling led by God to become involved in various other ministries — leading them OUT of “my” church.  This put a hole in my heart, as well as made things logistically difficult, as I am now the lone worship leader for the 6-12 year-olds at church;  no one with whom to share that responsibility…

AND THEN, I found out I was pregnant with our sixth child.  And while that has been a huge joy — theoretically — I feel like crap, 24/7, and that just makes everything… extra-challenging.

And my mother did die, on October 18th.  That was hard.  It still is, especially when my four-year-old, Fiala, pipes up at lunch, scowl ensconced firmly on her face, “I don’t want Grandma to live with Jesus any more.  I want her to be here.”

We are still remodeling, nearing our 11th week of that massive project.  The good news is that I have a working kitchen.  I still don’t have a back splash, there is still some touch-up to do, I still don’t have a working sink in our powder room, and the legs of our built-in breakfast table (envision a bar, only larger and more rectangular) still need to be trimmed and stained.  AND, as I was dreaming — again — of the massive yard sale I’d have to enable the purchase of new furniture, it hit me like a ton of bricks that my Furniture Money would probably have to become Pay the Midwife Money.  Maybe that’s stupid, but it was one of those reality checks that made me groan, “Aw, man…”

Crappy picture taken with my phone, that shows evidence of my girls watching TV as I blog, and my home rather untidy, but about 97% remodeled.

My child with the “issue” is now in counseling, and though we’ve just begun, I think that will be really helpful.  Sometimes, it helps a child to hear truth from a different, non-parent source.  My husband and I are fighting — and winning, I think — not to feel like Giant Failures in Parenting.  Still, it’s been a blow to my confidence as a mother to have to call in the experts…

Our dog is still ill, but at least she hasn’t died.  The vet said that he rarely sees dogs with her blood titer level, because, “Usually a dog doesn’t get to that level;  they die before then.”  But, she’s on antifungals.  Sweet pup.  We’re not out of the woods, and it was hard to admit to my husband that I didn’t ask the vet to call in a three months’ supply of meds, which we could have done, and which is less expensive than buying it month-to-month, because I’m still not sure she’ll make it three months…  We’ll see.

My computer is still broken, which is making me feel like a bad homeschooling mom, because my kids haven’t done math nor typed anything in about a month.  Grant and Wesley also read from the encyclopedia on my computer…

The Sunday before I had the spate of friends become displaced from my life, in early August, the presence of God fell on me very powerfully during worship, and I felt God calling me to serve Him, and Him alone, for His sake — not for what I get out of my relationship with Him or out of my Christianity;  not simply because I was following my pastor (though I have a wonderful pastor — two of them, actually — absolutely amazing men of God who are excellent teachers and amazing leaders…)  I just felt Him calling me to Himself, no matter who does what, and when, nor what goes on around me.

I have really been clinging to that, and thankful to Him for preparing me.

I’m 11 weeks pregnant, and I still need to actually TALK WITH and MEET WITH my midwife, rather than exchanging phone messages.  I don’t know why, but I think I’m kind of dragging my feet about that.  It’s just one more thing that will go on the plate…  Know what I mean?

I hope this doesn’t sound like a bunch of complaining.

And I keep reminding myself how LOADS of people — billions of them — have it worse than I do.  In many ways, things really aren’t bad at all!  They’re just challenging, and I don’t enjoy being challenged.  I really don’t.

So!  That’s where I’m at.

Thanks for reading.  I wish I had something clever with which to tidily wrap up this post, but my stomach hurts too much to think of what that might be.  I think I’ll go make myself a piece of toast.

 

The most significant bathroom break, ever.

“Jean Marie,” read the very short text from my husband.

I was at a red light when I read it, out doing errands with my 13 year-old son, Grant.  It was five days after my mother had passed.  Her name was Jean Elaine.

“Wha…???” was my response, aloud.

I called my husband.  “Are you saying that if we have another baby, you want to name her after my mother?  You know I hate the name Marie.”

Our youngest turned four in October.  I will turn 40 in June of next year.  I’ve wanted “just one more” for a couple of years now…  It just never felt like our family was complete.  I wanted one more shot at having a home birth.  I wanted one more baby to nurse.  I just… wanted another baby.

My husband?  Not so much.  I would bring it up about once every six months — enough to let him know it was still on my heart, but not enough so that it was nagging.  It’s not a good idea to nag one’s husband into having a baby, I figured.  We needed to be in it TOGETHER, wholeheartedly.

“It’s already too noisy in here,”  he would say.

“WHAT??” was my kind response.  “You’re vetoing the life of a child based upon the noise factor??”

“Yes,” he replied with finality.  “And I’m not ashamed to admit it.  One more baby would send me over the edge, noise-wise.”

I couldn’t help but persist, “But a baby doesn’t make much noise.  A three year-old makes a lot of noise.”

“Yes,” he agreed, “But that baby grows up to be a three year-old.”

“But by that time, Ethan [our oldest, who is 15] will likely be out of the house.”

“That doesn’t count,” he replied, “Ethan hardly makes any noise at all.”

I had to admit he was right about that.

So, when the thought would surface, as it often did, I would just submit the whole thing to God, to His plan, to His timing…  I spent much time wondering if that was just the way He made my heart:  That I would always long for another baby, and that I was to funnel that into encouraging and equipping other mothers in their efforts to birth naturally.  And, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I could be a grandmother before the decade is out.  Maybe He was preparing my heart for that.

——–

About a week prior to that text, I was at my mother’s bedside, praying.  She had been in the hospital for nearly three weeks.  She had had a series of strokes, plus the doctors had discovered a large, vegetative growth on one of the valves of her heart, which was likely sending off bits of itself around her body, resulting in the strokes, as well as threatening the viability of her heart.  She had been in poor health before those incidents:  complications from Marfan Syndrome, two extensive back surgeries, a nerve problem similar to multiple sclerosis (CIDP), a half-paralyzed diaphragm that caused one lung to continually fill with fluid… And on top of THAT, she had aspirated a bunch of fluid and now her good lung was full and not functioning well.

It was a hard time.  During the first two weeks, I was at the hospital nearly every day.  The last week, I was there almost 24/7.  She needed someone continually at her side, and as good as the care in the hospital was, they just couldn’t provide that.  My stepdad took many days off from work — he works part time as a school music teacher — and is not in great physical health himself.  My sister works a “part time” job that is just a few hours shy of full-time, plus has a two-year-old daughter.  My older brother flew in from Texas for a time, and my younger brother drove down from Portland…  But eventually, TJ had to fly back to Texas, and Brian felt like he was behind the eight-ball, knowing how to care and advocate for our mom.  Everyone pitched in as they could;  everyone spent hours with my mother;  everyone spent nights at the hospital.  We called on friends and extended family to fill in the odd hours when no immediate family could be present.  But in the last week, I was the one able to be there most often.

I was continually thankful, especially that last week, for children who are acquainted with our routine enough to manage fairly well without me.  My dear husband, too, felt very strongly that someone should be with my mother continually, and was very supportive of me being there so much.  I was also thankful that, with our move, I was less than two miles from the hospital.  And for us homeschooling, which lends a great deal of flexibility to our schedule, further enabling me to be there.

“And…” I reluctantly prayed, “I have to admit your wisdom, God, in not allowing me to have a baby, much as I have wanted one.  If I had an infant right now… or even a two-year-old, this would not be possible.  Instead, I am able to be here at my mom’s bedside when she needs me.”

I was incredibly thankful for that.

During her last weeks, my mom would drift in and out of lucidity.  She would often be asleep, and visitors and conversation continued in her room.  It was always pleasant.  One of my favorite things about that time is the peace and kindness present in the room, by the Holy Spirit and His work in my mother’s life.  I had so many great conversations with family members and with friends who had come to spend some time with my mother.

My husband and I have five children;  most of my parents’ friends know that.  And when one has “a bunch” of children, it is frequently asked of me, “Are you going to have any more?”  As a response to that question, one of the several times it was posed to me there in the hospital by a visitor, I responded by saying that only a few months ago, my mother had said to me, unprompted, “I know you and Martin aren’t likely to have any more children.  And I think that for most families, six children would be problematic.  But I want you to know that I think it would be fine if you have more children.  If any family should have more children, it should be yours.”

After I related that story, my mom, with eyes closed — I had thought she was asleep! —  piped up weakly, “It’s because you’re such a good mother.”

I cried.

……..

Back to the conversation following the text from my husband, I continued, saying, “I’m really glad you are… amenable to the idea of having more children, but I’m not pregnant.  I would know.”

He responded, “I was just going to the bathroom…”

Let me interject here to say that my husband’s work-bathroom-break-prayer-times have always been inspirational to me.  How often have I, as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five, thought — or said, “I just don’t have enough time for a ‘real’ quiet time.”  However, I have long known that Martin uses those few minutes of alone-time, purposefully to check in with God.  It doesn’t take long, really, to reconnect with Him.  Martin prays about what’s on his mind.  He listens to anything the Father might say in return, all accomplished within a few minutes in the middle of his busy day.  I now do similarly.

“…and I feel like God spoke to me,” he continued.  “If you are pregnant — and I think you are — and if it is a girl — and I think it is — we’re going to name her after your mom.  I’m not tied to the middle name, but her first name will be Jean.”

I was shocked.

“But I’m not pregnant!” I repeated.

“Go get a test,” he responded.

“What if I am?” I asked, “Are you going to have a hard time with it?”

“Nope.  God spoke to me.  I already dealt with it.  It’s all good.”

I really don’t like that saying:  “It’s all good.”  But in this instance, I did.

I also have to interject a positive note for serving a God who SPEAKS, a God who speaks TODAY to the people He loves, if their ears are tuned to His voice, not only through His Word — the Bible — but directly from His Spirit into our spirit, into our thoughts, into our lives, RIGHT NOW, words of significance to where we are in our daily lives, in our minute-by-minute concerns, in our current needs.  What if we didn’t?  What if my husband didn’t?  What if I got pregnant and he was upset?  That had been my lone concern about becoming pregnant:  I’d be thrilled, my husband would be distressed and worried, and I’d have to spend nine months reassuring him that it would be OK, and knowing that we weren’t in unity…  I didn’t know if I could handle that.  But, in a few minutes, within the space of a bathroom break, God spoke to my husband and changed his mind entirely on the subject.

“Go get a test,” he repeated.

I did.

And I am.

Baby Jean will be born likely the end of June, next year, just after my 40th.

🙂

What one thinks, when told one’s mother is dying

I wrote this yesterday, after an informative but discouraging meeting with five of my mom’s doctors, two nurses, and a social worker.  Also present were my stepdad and sister.  The unanimous consensus from her caregivers is that she will continue to worsen, not improve, and that her condition is not operable, in great part because her “rehab potential” is zero.  It’s complicated, but she has heart issues and has suffered at least two strokes in the last two weeks.  Afterward, I went to Starbuck’s for a few alone minutes, to collect my thoughts, which I always do best in writing:

My mom’s health history and current status is complicated, and so are my feelings and thoughts.  There are so many angles to consider — some of them disparate and competing — when contemplating the end of her life — contemplation from a practical perspective:  How do we best care for her?  And from a spiritual standpoint:  God’s sovereignty is impossible to quantify.  All I know is that He is the king of restoration, redemption, and love.  But how that is demonstrated varies considerably.  I want what He intends for her.  But I don’t know what that is.  Bot my sis and I feel that her time, her end, is near.  Yet, neither of us want to give up.  Plus, there is mother-daughter, sister, relationship care to consider.  And how do I minister to my children?  How much info is too much?  I’m not ready to mourn for myself.  I have wept.  And I would probably weep more if I had less on my plate and could just give in to curling up and checking out.  Feeling the love of God — both from His Spirit directly to mine and His love demonstrated by others — helps immensely.  I don’t feel alone, and I don’t feel angry.  I feel covered and loved, and that satisfies.  But there are still many unanswered questions, and I am still sad.

Events

 

  1. This is my kitchen, right now, as I type:
  2. We moved into this house in July with a plan to remodel about 40% of it as soon as possible.  “ASAP” has come upon us, much to my satisfaction.  People have been asking me, “Are you settled in?” and I have answered, “No, and I don’t want to be!  I can’t wait until the remodel starts!!”  I’m very pleased that I got to swing a sledge hammer and kick in drywall.  😀  Very cathartic.  I’m also crazy-excited about the finished product, which won’t be completed for another three weeks or so.
  3. You might be thinking, “How is she making dinner?”  The answer:  Crockpot, grill, and pre-cooked chickens from Costco.  I’m awfully impressed with myself that in 11 days of demolition and construction, we’ve eaten out exactly two meals.  My family is less than impressed, especially my kids.  They don’t see Costco roasted chicken and carrots with hummus (also both from Costco — the cilantro jalapeno hummus is all natural and VERY tasty!) as a real meal.
  4. To facilitate above-mentioned demo and construction, my father-in-law came to stay with us for six days, as he is a general contractor and pretty much overseeing the project.  He is a wonderful man, very easy-going, doesn’t expect me to cook for him, is totally fine with sleeping on my 11yo’s lower, twin bunk bed (though we tried to give him the master bed, and at least my son’s bed has a new mattress).  On a night when my husband was away at his Bible study, and the kids were all in bed, he looked at me and said, “I think we both deserve a Blizzard,” and off he went to Dairy Queen.  🙂  Hard not to love a man like that.  Hahahaha!!  However, even a house guest that is stellar company is still somewhat wearing, eventually, for a girl who tends to need some alone-time before bed each night, to maintain sanity.  He went back to Prescott for the weekend+, and is due to arrive again tomorrow.
  5. My mother is in the hospital.  She was admitted on the 27th of September, and is still there.  Long-time readers might remember that my mom has long had health difficulty.  Truly, I am SO VERY GLAD that she is still with us, in spite of a number of doctors’ very negative prognostications.  But, she averages a trip to the hospital around once every six months.  She is in ill health, indeed.  Even before her admittance, my sister and I were stepping up our involvement in our mom’s daily life, as she was frequently “getting into trouble”, so to speak, during the five hours that my step-dad is away from home at his part-time job.  It made me extra-glad that we moved close by my mom;  that is one of the reasons we picked this house.  She suffered a stroke, though it took a couple of days in the hospital for the doctors to come to a definitive diagnosis.  It doesn’t appear that it was a severe stroke.  However, we’re theorizing that this wasn’t the first one, as starting in February, after a surgery, she had difficulty recalling words.  Her health has never quite recovered from that surgery, and it has continued to decline markedly;  we’ve been in a search to find out what was causing it — her heart?  Oxygen depletion?  Early-onset dementia?  Conflict with medication?  Too many meds?  Not enough?  Is she just exhausted?  It still could be any or all of those, but the fact that she has had at least one stroke, and likely more than one, is now apparent.  The very good news is that she is already recovering mobility on her right side, and is no longer speaking gibberish, and is more aware of life and people.  There is light back in her eyes.  She is still in the hospital, but that is turning out to be a good thing, as the doctors are discovering things that are actually helping her… and her appetite, which has been gone for a couple of years, is returning.
  6. One of my dear friends just moved to the Pacific Northwest.  Their two boys are also some of my three boys’ dearest friends, and the whole thing has been wearing on me, emotionally.  I’m happy for them.  Heck, I would gladly move to Portland!!!  But, there is a hole of sadness in my heart, both for myself, and my boys.  They were some of my few homeschooling friends, locally, and we went to the same church.  I miss them.
  7. On Sunday night, two precious friends, who are also birders, went with me to a local birding hot spot.  There were reports of a Roseate Spoonbill there.  I had seen one, once, in 2004, on the Gulf of Mexico, in Texas.  They’re not supposed to be in the Phoenix area;  this one was clearly lost.  However, I’m glad that this particular Roseate Spoonbill made friends with a bunch of egrets and decided to travel with them, because the little trip to view him was such a precious time to me.  Spending time with friends who share a passion, just hanging out…  Talking about deep things and not-so-deep things…  Those two hours were a much-needed respite, and I thank God for good friends.

    (c) TPWD

Sheltered foodies

In some ways, the clichéd accusation is true:  my homeschooled children are sheltered.  Two events happened in the last 24 hours, though, that made me chuckle while thinking, “Being sheltered isn’t such a bad thing.”

  1. Yesterday, I took the five children to the Prescott area, about an hour and a half north of here.  Among other things, we picked up my nephew and went to Costco.  So, I had six children, ages 3 – 16, in the store with me, and everyone was fabulous.  I was so pleased with how smoothly everything was going, and wanted to bless them.  So, I decided that everyone could have a frozen yogurt or a berry smoothie.  Oh, I laughed as my children inadvertently reminded me how infrequently we do this sort of thing — both because of cost, the sugar, and because who knows what’s in “yogurt” at Costco??  I usually avoid that sort of stuff like the plague.  But, this was a special occasion.  “Chocolate, vanilla, or swirl?” I asked each child.  “What’s swirl?” replied two of them — my six-year-old, Audrey, and my 15-year-old, Ethan.  Swirl.  They didn’t know what swirl was.  Adding to Audrey’s confusion was the whole topic of “yogurt.”  She is familiar with plain, whole milk yogurt, which she very often has for/with her breakfast.  “Yogurt can be ice cream??” she marveled.  Once we got it sorted out what swirl and frozen yogurt was, we could proceed.  Ethan and Audrey both decided to try this novelty of an idea:  swirl.  I had chocolate and gave Fiala (my three-year-old, who has almost kicked a systemic, REALLY BAD candida albicans yeast infection) six little bites.  Everyone else chowed down, and by the end, two of my children were saying it was too sweet and they had a stomach ache.  Ha!  It was a learning experience for all of us, and a really good ~$8.50 spent.
  2. Yesterday, we also received a package from Riega Foods for us to review*.  Now, this isn’t the official review, but I had to share:  I wanted to finish cleaning bathrooms before getting lunch ready, and the clock was ticking, especially since I sat down after being 80% done and chatted with my sister for a half-hour on the phone, which I absolutely do not regret.  😀  My oldest, Ethan, was especially interested in the cheese sauce mixes, and asked if he could make some macaroni and cheese for lunch.  I thought this might be a good idea, especially since my dairy-free child is gone at a friend’s house for the day.  Well, we didn’t quite have enough of the right sort of gluten-free noodles to make a whole meal of it, but I decided that he could work on that to be a “lunch snack” while I finished cleaning the bathrooms.  Now, you need to understand something:  Ethan is my sous chef.  He is a great hand at food prep:  washing, chopping, slicing, stirring, flipping, mixing, pretty much anything I need him to do at the cutting board and the stove top.  Very often, I’m the brains behind making a meal, and he’s the brawn, doing a good portion of the actual work.  So, it’s not like he’s inexperienced in the kitchen.  However…  he continued to come to me to ask me a question or two or three about the process of making what is the (almost) natural equivalent of Kraft Mac & Cheese — powdered mix combined with ¼ cup milk and a couple of tablespoons of butter.  I was partly annoyed that he was having difficulty with such a simple kitchen task when it dawned on me, “He has very little experience following the directions on a package!!!”  We make virtually everything from scratch, and I can’t remember the last time a “cheese sauce mix” was in our home!!  He’s more accustomed to, “Slice these ¼-inch thick and sauté them in butter.”  I finally had to stop what I was doing, and go over in great detail how to make boxed pasta.  I also completely abandoned my annoyance, and was amused and rather pleased that, in his fifteen years of life on this planet, he has virtually no experience with “cheese sauce”.

————

*Stay tuned for a whole review and a giveaway!!!!

Thus ends the most French-filled blog post I think I’ve ever written.

You can’t afford a baby.

Please read this post, a short-but-slightly-snarky response to Suze Orman, a financial adviser who recently told a couple that they couldn’t afford a baby, with its $700-1000 monthly expense.

I agree wholeheartedly with Connie, the author.

Having a baby in America CAN be expensive, but it doesn’t need to be.  I’ll never forget when I told a former neighbor that I was pregnant with my third and she sighed and said, “You’re so lucky.  I’d love a baby, but we just can’t afford it.”  It was all I could do to not let my jaw hit the sidewalk.  She and her husband lived — by themselves — in a 2500 s.f. house, had an RV, brand new vehicles, two ATVs, two Jet-skis, expensive mountain bikes, and who knows what else.  In other words, they could totally “afford” a baby if they got their priorities straight.  AND, yes:  it can be difficult and expensive if you have to have everything new and fancy and trendy, bottle feed, use childcare for when you go back to work at 6 weeks, and use disposable diapers.  But, heck.  Even name brand disposables will run you about $40-60/month.  NOT $700-1000.

Maybe this is inflammatory, but I also believe our American culture which values independence over community is partially to blame.  We’re disconnected from our extended families, we don’t root ourselves in a church family either, and we value income and material wealth over family.  Even things like baby showers and hand-me-downs are most often provided by our extended community, which we as Americans have less and less of.

Don't YOU need a $5768.89 crib??

I have a wooden cradle that is “making the rounds” between friends from church.  This DELIGHTS me.  I bought it for $40 from Craigslist, used it for my fifth baby (as I had given away a previous cradle), and now a third friend is about to use it for her her newborn, due in Feb. But, if you have to keep up with the Jones’ baby who had a $2,000 Bellini crib (or this $5,800 one!), you’re going to have a pricey infancy.  However, if you breastfeed, raise your own child, and don’t mind having used or hand-me-down things, it’s really quite inexpensive to raise a baby.

EDITED TO ADD:  One other thing… (can you tell this has struck a nerve???) I’m not suggesting that selling baby things is wrong, but I have learned that you get back what you give — sometimes literally, sometimes from elsewhere.  I have given away cribs, strollers, swings, clothes, countless other baby items, partly because I saw someone in need, and partly because I thought I was “done” with having children.  But, whatddya know??  It has ALL COME BACK to me. I have, in return, been given cribs, clothes, toys, slings — I don’t use swings anymore! 😉 — everything I need for a baby, when I did have need.  My youngest is three and the goods still keep pouring in.  Someone just gave us three bags of virtually brand-new girls toys — voila! Christmas for my 3 and 5yo girls. Whether you call it karma or attribute it Luke 6:38, or whatever, if you give, you will receive.  We are a panicked, hoarding society, and often fail to recognize that if we are generous, we’re going to be provided for.

Thanksgiving family, friends & food; drooling over a seed catalog; a good/bad movie

  • So, Thanksgiving was awesome.  At one point, we had 21 people here —  some watching football, some snoozing, some chatting over coffee and pie, kids running around and playing,  spilling out into our courtyard, friends and family.  Perfect.
  • I made this recipe — Roasted Squash with Almonds and Cranberries — and it turned out so good.  I’m definitely making it again, and I probably won’t wait until Thanksgiving;  I LOVE root veggies.  I used parsnips, carrots, and butternut squash.  I baked it a little longer than recommended, and at 325°F because that’s just how it worked out with the other stuff that was in the oven at the time.  I made it about 1/3 bigger than suggested, and wished I had MORE.  Double recipe next time.  I also chose not to add the lemon zest at the end.  I guess I can’t make a recipe without messing with it.
  • On Thanksgiving, my mom gave me a seed catalog that she said would be right up my alley.  She was right.  Pinetree Garden Seeds is located in Maine, so many of their selections are for much cooler, wetter, more northerly climates than here in the sunny desert.  But, I can’t resist.  I’m making a list and hoping for the best.  They have all sorts of heirloom veggies, plus herbs for medicinal use and even plants for dying cloth.  Lots of other stuff, too…  I’ve been savoring the catalog, reading each description.  The seeds are really inexpensive, too.  So far, I have eight packets on my list, and the total is $10.30.  And their shipping is reasonable, too:  $3.95 for up to $19.99 in charges.  I have this book on companion planting, too:  Carrots Love Tomatoes.  ~sigh~  Makes me want to plant stuff.
  • The ones at Home Depot are the identical brand, but MUCH cheaper -- about half the price.

    I’ve been making my own cheapie windowsill seed starters for months:  You need a paper egg carton and a foam one.  Cut out the paper “egg cups” one at a time and place them in the tray of the foam one.  Fill each paper egg cup with seed starting soil, and place in your windowsill.  Absolutely free (except for the eggs!), but it’s easy to over-water (and thereby have water all over your windowsill), and they dry out really fast — no lid and all, and only 1-2 Tbsp of soil in each cup.  So… at Home Depot, I bit the bullet and purchased a ready-made flimsy, plastic, effective 24-plant windowsill “greenhouse” seed starter, complete with peat pellets that expand like crazy.  I now have lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower sprouts happily growing on my windowsill.  Bugs and birds seem to like lettuce and broccoli;  I haven’t had great success directly sowing them into the garden.  I haven’t tried cauli yet, but I figured if the birds like broccoli sprouts, they probably like cauli, as they’re in the same family…

  • Only (maybe) tangentially related to the above — just because we had wine at Thanksgiving — I wanted to mention that if anyone saw my little post on Facebook that said I was going to watch the documentary Blood into Wine and were interested, you may want to reconsider.  On one hand, the movie was REALLY interesting:  lots of wry humor, the fascinating process of growing and making wine in Arizona, and the relationship between the major characters (Tool’s Maynard James Keenan and Arizona winemaker and ecologist Eric Glomski).  I’m always interested in the… intersection of relationships.  Meaning, the events that conspire to bring two people of really diverse paths together.  I LOVE THAT.  I think of it all the time, and if you meet me in real life, one of the first things I will likely ask you is what brought you, here.  However, the movie was also full of f-bombs, sexual references, and way more all-out earth-worshiping religion than my husband was comfortable with.  I could have hung with the movie, compelled by the good parts and filtering out the other… but after an hour, my hubby asked that we turn it off.  And we did.

MoFiN and SooP

Saturday was the 17th anniversary of marriage to my dear, integrous, handsome, and highly talented husband, Martin.  We enjoyed a fabulous day trip to central Arizona, where we enjoyed wine tastings at Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery and Page Springs Cellars.  Javelina Leap was more instructional and intimate.  Page Springs was more impressive, large, and put-together.  Page Springs had WAY more wines, but I think I enjoyed the experience at Javelina Leap better.

There are other wineries in the area, but we thought we’d better halt it at two.  🙂

We also very much enjoyed an hour or more meandering around the Page Springs Fish Hatchery nature area walking on the close, wooded trails, and watching the birds in and around the ponds.  We saw a Black Phoebe, six or so Great Blue Herons, dozens of American Coots and American Widgeons, many Mallards, several White-Crowned Sparrows, and perhaps hundreds of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, which were a new add to my life birding list.  We likely would have ID’ed more birds had we given it more time.

We spent the late afternoon and evening in old town Cottonwood, where there was a festival of some sort with a variety of interesting people, booths, music, art, and general funky, small-town atmosphere.  We bought some Peruvian wool yarn for my sister, who was staying with my girls, and had dinner at the Tavern Grille.

It was a great day.

On the drive home, we stopped for Starbuck’s and watched the moon rise over the bare hills of central Arizona.  Perfect.

When we got home, we discovered that my sister nearly died watching my girls.  Not really, but she was in tears.  Of course, she never let on about any of this while we were gone.  😦  She requested that she never watch the girls again without the help of at least two of my boys.  We then sort of laughed over the apparent oxymoron of how it’s easier to care for five children than two.  Plus her own 15 month old daughter.  My sister Robin has a bad back, and she said that she realized that, most of the time she watches my children, she stays on the couch and gives orders to the older children, intervening when necessary.  🙂  Much easier than chasing around one-, three-, and five-year-olds, nonstop, for about twelve hours.  She was in pain and a little horrified how Audrey in particular took advantage of Robin’s less-than-availability, instead of sympathizing and helping more, especially in light of how Robin had carted Audrey around to all sorts of special things that day — a birthday party, a paint-your-own-pottery place, the park…

I felt badly for Robin, and badly about raising a daughter who isn’t appreciative of the good things provided for her.  I’m still sorting that out in my mind, and in a couple of conversations with my sister regarding parenting…

This provided a giggle, though:

When my sister was preparing dinner (“soop”), Audrey — who had attended a birthday party earlier that day with her own gluten-free cupcakes in hand — decided to petition Robin for a better dinner.  “Mofin?  Yes!  Soop?  NO!”  It’s a “sparkle muffin” with frosting and sprinkles (a.k.a. a cupcake).  Note the appropriately-placed smiley face and frowny face.

Overall, a good day.

Next time, I’ll definitely have mercy on my sister by leaving behind some helpers for her.  🙂

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