Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Funeral Fashion

Overheard at the funeral home just before Dad's service...

Blond twin standing in front of Grampa's casket:  "Gramma, why is Grampa wearing the same clothes he had on yesterday?"

Gramma:  "Well, he didn't get them dirty yesterday, so he wore the same thing."

Blond twin:  "That makes sense.  Plus, he likes the Blackhawks, so why would he change it?"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Living in Limbo

There's this weird time between when someone dies and when the services are held that is like living in limbo.  In our family the time is a bit longer than normal because we're spread all over the country.  You have to allow people a few days to arrive before anything can move forward.

We've used the time to finalize Dad's wake and funeral, of course.  We've also tried to take care of a few small house projects that have been neglected.  We took care of some errands and did some cleaning. 

The big change to come from this limbo time is Daddy assembled the girls' bunk beds.  Their birthday present went from ready-to-assemble to ready-to-use.  There were a lot of little parts that looked alike to me.  It took him better part of one afternoon and the next morning to make happen, but he stayed focused until we rolled them into bed last night.

The really big news came from the girls' end-of-the-year golf camp bar-b-que.  The brunette twin won first place in the golf skills competition.  She bounced into Gramma's house beaming with her trophy in hand.  When we left yesterday, we forgot the trophy, so we had to go back to get it.  She won't leave it out of her sight for a moment.  She is so thrilled to have a trophy of her own.

Sometimes when we're staining the patio chairs or cleaning the kitchen we can forget that we still have Dad's wake and funeral coming up.  Other times I start crying just because something reminds me of Dad.  It's one of the things that makes this time so difficult.  You can try to make it seem like business as usual, but there's sadness always in the background.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rest in Peace Dad

When I met with Mom and the hospice nurse on Monday, I called to tell both my brothers about the conversation.  She didn't sugar coat how close to death Dad was.  She also didn't make a prediction about when he would pass.  I told them both I hoped it was soon so Dad's suffering would be over.  I know that sounds callous, but it was really hard to watch my strong and independent father struggle for breath.

The call came today just after I brought the girls home from their first day of school.  By the time I arrived, Dad was already gone.  Officially the hospice nurse declared his time of death to be 4:00 p.m.  He was gone.  His suffering was over.

People kept telling me to talk to Dad about whatever was on my mind so I wouldn't have any regrets.  Last Saturday, probably the last really lucid day he had, I leaned over to kiss him goodbye.  I said, "I love you Dad."  He smiled and said, "I love you too Shari.  Kiss my girls for me."

I'm not sure I could have any regrets with that as our last conversation.  Rest in peace Dad.  I love you and miss you.

The First Day of Second Grade

It's so hard to believe the girls are in second grade.  They are so much more mature and confident than I thought they would be at this age.  They walked into the crowd and marched confidently to their class line as soon as they saw their teacher's name. 

The good news is their teacher is also a twin.  She talked to the girls about being a twin.  She talked a bit about how close she and her sister remain to this date.  I really like that she's a twin.  I don't have to explain anything about being a twin to her.  She gets it. 

It took a few minutes, but they faltered a bit.  I stood with them for a while, chatting with their new teacher, greeting children we knew from previous years and talking to other parents.  When I thought they were set, I said, "Is it okay for me to go home?"  Surprisingly, the blond twin grabbed my hand and said, "Please don't go yet." 

Of course I stayed.  They are growing up, but they are still my babies.  I'll stay as long as they want. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Parenting Version of Oversleeping a Final Exam

You know that nightmare college students have about sleeping through a final exam?  I figured out the parenting version of it today.

The girls, Oreo and I walked to their new school.  We walked around the back and talked about how I'd leave them on the playground in the morning and meet them in a specific spot after school.  I'll have Oreo, so I don't want to wander into the crowd.  I'll stand a little to the side.  Given the brunette twin's fear that we're going to leave her somewhere, I wanted to make sure she knew the system and was comfortable.

We were walking back when I saw one of their friends all dressed up for the first day of school with her backpack and a bunch of flowers for her new teacher.  My first thought was "Why is she going to school?  Do they really have school today?  How did I screw up the first day of school? AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!"  My second thought was "Okay, they cannot have school today because there isn't a crossing guard at the corner.  It's only Tuesday and they start school on Wednesday.  I don't see any other kids, so it cannot be the first day of school.  Breath.  Relax.  It's not the first day of school.  Breath.  Relax.  It's okay.  Breath.  Relax." 

Even though I knew it wasn't the first day of school, I felt a momentary panic.  The adrenaline rush stayed until we arrived home and I checked the calender.  I was certain, but I needed that black-n-white confirmation. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Five Months and Counting

When Dad went into hospice back in March, the doctor said, "No more than six months.  He's just not strong enough to make it more than that."  The hospice team took Dad off most of his medications and he seemed to rally.  He was more mobile, more alert, more like his old self -- a sicker, frailer version, but still his sense of humor and memory returned.  For a while we thought the doctor was wrong.  A six month deadline just wasn't going to happen.

During the past week, we've come to the realization that my Dad is nearing his end.  He has been struggling to move around.  He has been having a harder time breathing.  He is a funny color.  He is not hungry.  He's tired all the time.
 
Today really put it all in perspective.  Mom called to say that she didn't think it was a good idea for us to bring the girls over.  She said, "They shouldn't see Grampa like that."  What she meant was my Dad slept the day away and wouldn't wake up for more than a minute or two when she tried to talk to him.  He didn't want to eat.  He didn't take his medicine.  He just wanted to sleep.

By the time I arrived, his hospice nurse was there.  After examining Dad, she said he was as good as he could be.  She gave us new instructions about not taking him out of the house.  She discussed his swollen arms and legs.  She talked about the progression of the disease.  She said nothing was "imminent," but she didn't give false hope.  Dad will have better days ahead, but they will be far and few between from now on.  He's failing in front of our eyes. 

The six month deadline is coming up and it looks real now.  No matter how much we hoped he was wrong, the doctor seems to be on track.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finally, the Beginning

I have to admit there were many times I thought this day would never come. This morning the concrete guys arrived to break-up the old patio and sidewalk. It's the first step in really finishing our backyard project.

It's a noisy step too be certain. We warned the neighbors that the demolition was starting today. Sure enough the first thing to show up in the backyard were the jackhammers.

The girls are sitting at the patio doors watching them work like it's a TV show.  They are full of comments and observations.  Who knew watching people break-up concrete was so interesting?

I've already taken some painkillers. There's no place in the house that you don't feel the vibrations and hear the noise. I'm sure there are more painkillers on the schedule today

The thing I hadn't thought about was how long this will take. I figured they'd be here early and out quickly, but I just realized I'm wrong. One of the crew just unloaded their lunch cooler and water.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Moving On Up

The girls have been obsessed with bunk beds ever since they spent a couple of nights in bunk beds at Walt Disney World.  They have asked for bunk beds over and over and over and over and over again.

They finally wore us down.  For their birthday, we're getting them bunk beds.  We spent some time in furniture stores, but ended up buying them from Target for a fraction of the furniture store price.  The furniture store bunk beds were beautiful, solid pieces of furniture.  If we thought this was a long-term purchase, we would have spent the money.

The reality is the girls are turning eight years old.  If they stick with the bunk beds for four or five years, I think we'll be lucky.  We're going to let them decorate their bunk beds with butterfly stickers that we recently picked up.  The stickers are for walls, but that doesn't mean they won't be adorable on the beds.

We're also letting them do a bit more redecorating.  They declared their curtains and wall decorations to be "for babies."  They are big on removing anything babyish from their world.  Of course, a lot of it was pink, which was recently banned from their world, so I'm sure that didn't help save the curtains.

The girls spent several afternoons with Jayne going through stores and deciding on colors.  They chose lime green and bright blue as the new color scheme.  We bought new rugs at Ikea and curtains at Target.  I told them they'd have to live with the bright yellow paint on the walls.  I'm willing to swap out rugs and curtains, but painting is bigger project. 

Their new bedroom should be ready by their birthday.  It's the first time they made their own decorating decisions, but I'm sure it won't be the last. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Second Grade Sneaky

The girls think they are so sneaky, but they are in that innocent sneaky stage still.  They giggle because they think they are getting away with something without realizing they've forgotten to cover their tracks so eventually they will get caught.

We find things like candy wrappers stuffed into their toybox and juice boxes in the basement garbage can.  They try to sneak some contraband like markers or pens upstairs by putting it behind their backs and trying not to laugh.

Today I opened the freezer to get some ice cubes.  I saw the M&M bag open.  We have been keeping a big bag of M&Ms in the freezer during the hot weather.  I hadn't eaten them and I'm pretty sure Oreo didn't suddenly develop the skills to get into the freezer.  Even if he did, I doubt M&Ms would be his first choice.  One of the girls sneaked into the freezer to grab a handful.  Instead of wrapping the bag back down, the top was completely open.  

I know I should be mad, but I find it so funny.  They are trying so hard to get away with something.  What's really funny is I'd probably give them the M&Ms if they asked. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Plastic Please

***An original post for the Chicago Moms blog***

Once upon a time I was quite green. I collected reusable bags of all shapes and sizes. I had heavy duty plastic bags, insulated bags, mesh bags, and more. You name the reusable bag and I had it. I carried them everywhere. Plastic bags no longer graced our recycling bin.


About a year ago, my collection started gathering dust in the back of our mini-van. I rarely even look at them anymore. What changed you ask? We adopted a dog. We didn’t just adopt any old dog, but a beautiful, black-and-white Husky with the palest blue eyes you’ve ever seen. I always say he has the whitest eyes I’ve ever seen on a dog.

With a dog comes responsibilities such as cleaning up after the dog on walks. This is how my reusable bags ended up covered in dust. We use all kinds of plastic bags to do our duty as responsible dog owners, but the best bags are the ones you get at a store. Whether it’s a grocery store or a department store or a pharmacy, those bags are the best for what we need them for these days.

Yes, we do use the plastic sleeves newspapers come in. The problem is that is really thin plastic. After all, how much does a newspaper weigh? More than once my nails have broken through and, well, let’s just say there was a lot of soap and a nail brush involved in the aftermath. This never happens with a bag designed to hold all your heavier items. I’ve never had a breakthrough with one of those bags.

So, these days I’m in line asking for plastic bags. Even as the cashier at Target tells me that I’d get money towards my purchase if I’d bring my own bags, I smile and say, “Can you put those in two bags, please?”


Don’t judge me too harshly. I do it as part of my duty as a responsible dog owner. In a way I’m recycling by using the bags more than once. Even if I couldn’t take that as my effort to be green, I’d still collect plastic bags. They are the perfect size and strength for doggie duty — and I’m too cheap to pay for doggie waste bags.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Improving Their Musical Tastes

As soon as the movie Gnomeo and Juliet came out I started planning to take the girls.  First, it looked cute.  Second, it featured the music of Elton John.  A story they'd like with music I'd like?  What's not to like about that combination?

We went and it was fun.  The best part of it has been the after effects.  The girls are now interested in hearing more Elton John music.  They associate the songs with Gnomeo and Juliet, but also are intrigued that he plays piano.  We talk alot about how he can write the words, create the music and play and sing each song.  This is amazing to them.

In my world, the more Elton John the better.  We've seen him a couple of times in concert -- alone and with Billy Joel -- so we're fans.  The best part is it ups the music quality in our house.  It's not all Kidz Bops and Justin anymore.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I am NOT Curious George

The blond twin is not taking to the idea that she is actually Curious George.  Today she made an impassioned argument that she is actually Olivia.

"I'm bossy like Olivia.  I like to draw like Olivia.  I like to dance like Olivia.  I'm whiny like Olivia.  I like to read like Olivia."  She went on and on and on and on about why -- if she has to be a cartoon character -- she should be Olivia.  To her credit, the blond twin mixed Olivia's good qualities with her less-than-perfect qualities.

I finally said, "What's wrong with being Curious George?  You just said monkeys are your favorite animals."

She replied, "He's a boy.  In case you haven't noticed, I'm a girlie girl."

Oh, now I get it.  I guess we'll have to call her Curious Georgia.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Our Daughter Curious George

We were watching cartoons one day when I realized that our blond twin is Curious George.  It's a perfect way to describe her.  Curious George is smart, so is the blond twin.  Curious George is always getting into trouble because he's, well, curious and so is the blond twin.  Curious George is always forgiven for the problems he causes because he's so cute, so is the blond twin.

She wasn't amused when I told her that I thought she was Curious George.  She won't answer when she does something goofy and I call her George.

Most of all, though, she's obsessed with which cartoon character is most like the brunette twin.  Since I started calling her George, she's been offering her own suggestions.  I keep telling her that it doesn't work like that.  We cannot just decide the brunette twin's cartoon character.  It has to come to us, just like we realized she is Curious George.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Five Ways We Grieve

A few months ago I receive a review (aka free) copy of Dr. Susan A. Berger's book The Five Ways We Grieve.  At the time I was interested because my father had just gone into hospice.  It seemed like something I should be reading.

Her basic idea is that people grieve in one of five main ways:  
  • Nomads who don't really deal with their grief
  • Memorialists who spend their time preserving the lost loved one's memory
  • Normalizers who try to figure out how to live in the new normal
  • Activists who try to help others dealing with the same disease or issue that took their loved one
  • Seekers who adopted a new life outlook to give their lives meaning
I didn't even have to read the entire book to know that I'm a normalizer.  From the time we knew Marlene died until now, we've tried to keep the girls' world as "summer normal" as possible. We want them to talk about Aunt 'Lene and remember her, but we also want them to do the fun things seven-year-olds do.  

Dr. Berger talks about how people experience loss and how they develop a grieving type.  My type came from my high school experiences.  When I was a sophomore in high school, four of my classmates died in one year.  It was a frightening time for all of us.  Wondering who was next consumed our thoughts and conversations.   In those days, you went to the wake, the funeral and the next day went back to take a math test.  We didn't have counselors in the school.  We just moved on.

I'm not sure this is the healthiest way to deal with the death of a loved one.  I don't know which other way I should be dealing with grief, but normalizing is what I do.

I think it's what we all do in our family.  All I know it's the way we're wired.  It's a series of choices we make to adapt to something that rocks our lives like a death. 

The Five Ways We Grieve was an instructional way to think about grief without tying too many emotions into it.  I found it an interesting read that helped me understand my personal grief style and how it affects me and my family.