Wednesday, March 28, 2012

lessons for the girls

Abigail & Elizabeth,

I often think of things I want to tell you while I'm driving around town or washing my hair or other mundane activities.  I'll probably never actually get them all out, but in an effort to do so, I'm going to try writing an occasional post on these very important topics.

These are things I think you should know, that I want you to think about and remember.  Sometimes they are things that people told me, and sometimes they are things I figured out for myself.  In either case, they are things that will serve you well to know.

So, without further ado.

1) Develop a good handshake.  When you shake somebody's hand, you should always shake firmly.  Don't hurt them, but it's good to give a little squeeze to your handshake and to make sure it's strong - not loose and wimpy.  There are few things that ruin a first impression for me faster than a limp handshake.  Especially when people (usually girls) try to shake with just their fingertips.  I don't know, maybe somebody taught them that was the proper way to shake, but I'm telling you - don't do that.  When you shake hands with somebody - give a firm shake and look them in the eye while you greet them.  I'm sure this sounds silly - but trust me - it's a good skill to have, and it really does leave a good impression with people.  It doesn't really matter if you're meeting a future boss or a potential new friend.  Be genuine and strong in your handshakes.

2) Don't sweat the small stuff.  And, yes, most of it *is* small stuff.  You're not going to fully understand this one right now - or anytime in your teen years probably - and I'm still working on it, too.  But, here's a good way to think about things that upset you: is it going to matter in a year? If it's not - then, don't worry about it.  I like to extend that rule to 10 or 20 or 50 years years.  When you try to keep things in perspective - within the bigger, grander scheme of life - the little day to day dramas that you find upsetting lose a lot of their power to upset you.  I know, I know...When little Suzie Popular steals your one true, 6th grade, love away - you're going to think that your world has ended.  But, trust won't matter 10 years from then.  Another way to put it is - worrying doesn't do a lot of good.  And that leads me to number three.

3) There is a musical out there called Rent.  It's one of the best, and I recommend you learn it and listen to all the messages it has to offer.  There is one line in one song that says "The opposite of war isn't peace - it's Creation!"  And this, my dears, is important.  Despite my best efforts, I imagine there will be times in your life when you feel sad, down, depressed even.  I want you to realize that the cure to sadness isn't necessarily instant happiness - you can't just turn on a switch and be happy sometimes - but the key is in the Creation - the Action.  If you find yourself feeling down - create.  I do it through writing, and always have.  When my emotions were more than I could sort through in my head - I wrote them out.  It's why I blog now - because it helps me process things.  If you're sad or depressed - consider action.  I think this is best done through helping others.  Few things will make you feel better than helping others.  There's a quote by somebody famous that says "you have not truly lived until you have done something for somebody who can never repay you"  So.  In sum, my advice for you girls would be to go and do for others when you're sad.  Gone through a bad break up?  Go volunteer to feed homeless people.  It will help keep your life in perspective, it will keep your mind busy, and it will fill your hearts with good.

4) Having said all of that.  Never underestimate the power of a good cry.  If you need to cry, and you don't even need a reason, I recommend that you do it right.  I would recommend finding somewhere private where you can be alone.  Play some music that speaks to you - sad music is perfect.  Read sad poetry and boo-hoo into your pillow, or mirror, or stuffed animal.  When you find some composure, go get some ice cream and eat it straight out of the tub with a spoon.  And wearing PJ's or sweatpants helps.  I, of course, intend to keep you from all harm and heartbreak forever....but, should I fail, just know that it's ok to let that cathartic process happen.  It is good for you in it's own ways.  But, if you can't break out of it - refer to #3.

5) I referenced this earlier.  Read poetry.  I hope you can learn to read and appreciate poetry. Because, if you can, you will find so much worth in it.  You will find wisdom and familiarity and insight in it.  You don't have to like all poetry of course - there are many kinds - but you will find your niche if you look for it and learn it.  Take a poetry class in college - and when you study it in high school - take the time to study it and don't just blow it off as "that easy rhyming section"  As a bonus, knowing poetry will also give you an edge at cocktail parties and playing jeopardy.

Ok.  I think 5 life lessons are probably enough for one post.  My sweet, beautiful, wonderful little girls. I pray that you know how much I love you your whole life.  You mean the world to me, and always will.

Monday, March 26, 2012

11 months

Elizabeth turned 11 months old yesterday.  She has 4 weeks left until she turns 1.  ....sigh.

*insert cliche about time*

In the past week or two, we've all noticed a change in little E.  She's somehow beginning that transition from babiness to toddlerness.  The changes are subtle, but detectable.  Her face looks more defined now, her expressions are more expressive.  She tries to talk and she makes clear connections between things now.  She laughs at things that are funny and smiles when you do.  In fact, she still takes most of her emotional cues from those around her.  If Abby starts crying, E starts crying too.  She doesn't know why, but she always crawls over to where the commotion is and tries to crawl in my lap (usually while I'm holding Abby) for comfort.  Or sometimes, she'll cry and come over and try to touch Abby to see if she's ok.  Conversely, if Abby is running around jumping and laughing - E is sitting watching her cackling with laughter as well.

E is a great eater and will eat just about anything you give her.  She loves fruit and carbs (that's my girl).  She prefers finger foods to anything purred.  She's, luckily, not had any of the choking/gagging issues that Abby had when she was little.

I don't know how much she weighs.  My guess would be close to 20lbs.  She's in size 3 diapers and mostly 12 month clothing.  She has some little shoes that are size 4s that fit well, but other 4s that are too big, so who knows there.

She sleeps well, especially at night.  She goes down around 7 and wakes up around 6:30 most days.  Her naps seem to be shifting some, and we're trying to figure out what works best.  She usually still takes 2 naps a day, but the times change.  I don't think she's ready to go to one nap though - she seems to really need her morning nap.

She's a lot of fun to play with now.  She loves anything that involves peek-a-boo of course.  She's starting to stack blocks now (usually only 2, sometimes 3) and she's more and more interested in the book we read.

The girl is obsessed with climbing.  If there is a step, a box, a suitcase, a chair, etc...she's climbing it.  She has no fear of falling.  She's also pretty obsessed with getting in things.  Like, sitting IN the laundry basket, or taking the toys out of a drawer so she can sit in the drawer.  She often piles her toys in a basket and then uses that to climb on the couch....which pleases her immensely.  One day, I'm going to look down for 2 seconds and find her in the top of the pantry. The silver lining of having a climber is that she's very good at going up the stairs, and while we don't let her do it alone - if she were to escape our eyes and go for it - she'd be fine.

She's not walking yet, but she can stand unassisted and does a lot of cruising.  Abby walked at 14 months, but I wouldn't be surprised if E was strolling around before then.

Yesterday I was cleaning up after a meal and pulled E up out of her high chair.  She had food stuck to her pants and as I wiped her off I said "Yuck!"  She immediately mimicked me perfectly "Yuck!"  It was mostly coincidence, but very funny at the time.  She says ma-ma and da-da pretty regularly.  She can sign please and sometimes uses the "all done" sign

She's fun.

And with that, I'm out of time.  More on the older child next time.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ballerina chef

Sweet girl.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Soldiers Field Pl,Boston,United States

Friday, March 16, 2012

more thoughts

I'm not sure what to blog about.

It seems trite to blog about little things when we're still dealing with this fresh loss.  Cognitively, I know I should.  I mean, Kyle's mom, of all people, would be telling me to write about what the girls ate for dinner and the funny little things Abby says to make us laugh.  And I don't want every post I ever write to be....sad.  But, I dunno.  Maybe I'm not done processing this stuff yet, not quite ready.  Blogging like normal feels so - normal.  And maybe I'm not quite ready to resume all normal activity.

My boss was talking to me yesterday.  She lost her mother a few years back to similar circumstances.  She said that two of her sisters lived home and two of them lived out of state.  In her experience, it was very easy for the out-of-state kids to resume their day-to-day functioning, but it took them longer to "heal" in the long run.  Conversely, the kids who were at home had a more difficult time jumping back into their day-to-day activities, but once they did, were more healed.

And that rang true to me.

I think work provides a nice distraction and I stay busy and I'm fine.  I'm pretty sure Kyle feels the same way.  It's like it didn't happen.  Life is normal, everything's fine.  And then, you remember, and that wave of grief washes over you.  It's exhausting.

Yet, I don't know what else to do.  It seems like I just have to wait this part out.  That, perhaps with time, things will get easier.  I know they will.  The thing about time is - you can't rush it.

And I worry about Abby.  That these fragile memories she has will fade.  That thought is among the 4 or 5 that I keep locked away most of the time.  I intend to make her a book of pictures, notes, etc.  Something to use that will help reinforce those memories she has.

My mom posted a little quote on facebook the other day that said something to the effect of "the student asks 'what do I do if I'm uninspired?' and the teacher says 'inspire others' "  I can't remember if that's the right word they used - but it did make me think.  What do I do if I feel helpless?  Help others?  If I feel disenchanted?  I feel like there is truth in that.  If I can find a way to spend my energy helping others, that would be good.  I'd like to find a way to channel this sadness into productivity, charity, goodwill, or healing for others.  I've been thinking about ways to do this and haven't settled on anything yet.  But, I think there is potential in action for healing.

Thanks for reading.  Keep praying for Kyle's family.  For his dad, and his sisters.  They're such amazing people, every one of them.  And while I know they are strong, I'm sure they would appreciate any healing vibes you'd care to send.

And now, in an attempt to try on a little normalcy, a little story about Elizabeth.

She's the climber.  She's been more physical than Abby since day 1.  Lately, she's been stretching her climbing wings even more.  She's pretty good about going up the stairs now, I mean, I wouldn't let her go solo, but I rarely have to catch her anymore.  Abby has a few step stools that she uses in the kitchen to get things.  Yesterday, E kept trying to climb on them.  Now, the problem with that is not that she's climbing, but that she can't get down and will just fall and bust her head.

Yesterday, Kyle and I were talking in the kitchen when I noticed a bottle of salad dressing flying out of the pantry.  The doors were open, so I walked across the room and peaked inside.  Not only was E in the pantry throwing food off the shelf - she had climbed up to do it.  She had one foot on her bumbo and one foot on a water jug turned sideways.  She was holding on to the shelf with one hand to steady herself, and throwing out bottles and boxes gleefully with the other hand.  Sigh.  I removed her, and closed the pantry.

.3 seconds later, she's standing on the step stool next to Abby, reaching for stuff on the kitchen counter. After that I find her climbing a box of diapers, later she was trying to scale her jogging stroller.  Mark my words - she'll be in a big girl bed long before Abby was, because she's going to be the child who learns to climb out of her crib sooner rather than later.

She keeps us on our toes for sure.

And with that, I need to get back to work.  Love to all, and happy Friday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

For Ouma

Where do I begin?  And how.

This week has been the most heart-wrenching of my life.  And it is probably a good thing that I've taken over a week to gather my thoughts.  I wanted to write right away - during that first day when we got the news, but my words would have been too raw, and too painful to write.  And yet, writing has always been how I process things best, and I've been needing to get my thoughts out on paper - so to speak.

I struggle with what to share.  Do I want to document my feelings that day?  The white-hot shock that ran though my heart followed by the odd feeling that I was watching myself fall apart from across the room- like a movie, perhaps.  I was in parts.  The news hurt and I wasn't prepared for it - like a punch to the stomach - but harder.  Then there was the part of me that put up the force field.  No.  I would not let this be true.  No no no.  It's all I could say in those first moments.  My mind's eye can envision the terrible news bouncing off this shield that I had constructed to protect myself.  A million thoughts all at once, and not one of them helpful.  I hurt, deeply.  I was utterly lost.

I went to take care of the baby.  She needed a bottle.  It took me 20 mins to make the bottle as I couldn't concentrate.  We slowly made plans, called airlines, packed bags.  Told others.  Told Abby.

Abby's first question when told that Ouma had gone to live with Jesus was "did Jesus make her knee better?"  Yes, sweetheart, he certainly did.

I was mad at myself.  For not being stronger.  I should have been the strong one - for Kyle, for Brittany.  I couldn't sleep at all that night - feeling as if I were constantly on the verge of a panic attack. The next morning, we flew home.


And we were embraced.  And there was enormous comfort in being there, surrounded by people I knew and loved - as well as people I didn't know.  It didn't matter.  They all loved her, and we shared and supported and I soaked up the community the best I could.  And I found comfort in tiny pieces here and there and held on to them.  I was fragile, and I knew it.  I grasped at scraps of normalcy and happiness.  I tried to be strong for the others.  I failed, a lot.

Walking into the house was hard for me.  Seeing her chair empty was hard for me.  But I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.  

We went to see her the next morning.  We took turns while the girls played in the lobby of the funeral home.  She looked great.  Beautiful and so peaceful.  Content.  At rest.  But, it was hard.  Wearing what she wore to our wedding.

The visitation was that night, and my siblings watched the girls so I could attend without the distraction and responsibility of tending to them.  The receiving line was seemingly endless.  We gave hundreds and hundreds of hugs, shed as many tears, and shared smiles too.  The comfort that came from seeing the crowd there was - significant.  I've perhaps never fully understood the power of  a community to comfort until now.  Just being there was important.  I saw so many people - it did my heart good.  We prayed the rosary after a small homily and then 2 students spoke.  Then Kyle.  Oh Kyle.  He's the true strong one.  He got up in front of everyone he knew and spoke beautifully about his mother - on behalf of the rest of us who would not have been able to hold it together.  I just know she was so proud of him, everyone there was.

The funeral was the next morning.  There are a few moments that will stick with me. The first one is when the bagpipe started playing amazing grace behind us as we proceeded down the aisle.  The strong resonating vibrations of the bagpipe were a cathartic floodgate.  They undid all the neatly tied knots I'd tied around my composure to hold myself together.  I buried my face in Abby's neck as she clung to me and cried.  I let the notes penetrate through me, as we walked down and sat on the front row.  Abby slept on me the entire service, which was a blessing for sure. The music was beautiful, as were the words, and we all shared communion and prayer before walking to the internment.

The bagpipe followed us to the back of the church - again, providing the perfect accompaniment.  We sat, we prayed, we watched as they removed and blessed the crucifix and roses.  Watching her being placed to rest, in the wall and the spot that she had chosen years earlier, was difficult.  Abby was concerned that I was crying.  She stole flowers from various plots throughout the cemetery to give to all of us.  Cheerfully, yet cautiously saying "Here, I got these just for you - they can make you happy"  Sweet girl.

We all relaxed with a lunch provided by the church, and then, later, a bonfire and gathering at the neighbors house.  Again, all the while, finding comfort in numbers and memories and relationships.

One night we stayed up till 1am watching old home videos.  Laughing.  Finding more comfort.

We helped Briana address her wedding invitations, we drank wine, made jokes, enjoyed each other's company.  We cleared out a storage room, cleaned out the attic, and found comfort in physical labor and job oriented tasks.  We had a celebration dinner with friends and family on Saturday night.  More friendship, more comfort.  We all went to church on Sunday - finding comfort in being together and in an activity that was familiar.  The next day, we flew home.

to this home.

And, here I am.  Here we are - just over a week later.  Exhausted.  Adjusting to the new way of things in a world with a hole in it.  Adjusting to being away from all of those that brought us so much comfort.  Adjusting to new ways of thinking, new ways of doing.  Adjusting to a million things.

There are no words to express how deep my gratitude is to everyone who has extended their love, prayers, hugs, gifts, food, services, for me and for this family that I am beyond blessed to call my own.  There are, simply, no words.  -- Just as there are no words to convey how much I am going to miss her.

But how blessed we are.  Blessed to be surrounded by love now, and blessed to have loved an amazing woman - and to have been loved by her.

As the priest at the visitation service said - there is no doubt in my mind that our sweet Ouma was greeted warmly. Welcome home my good, and faithful servant. 

Rest peacefully. Until we meet again.