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birthday tears

Here I am again, trying to write. Again, Dad is on my mind. His birthday is tomorrow, he would be turning 65. Sixty five! Such a landmark joyous age, you worked your whole life, saved (he did great at that part) and now it’s time to relax, enjoy the grandkids, maybe travel or pick up a new hobby. But, no, not for Dad.

I have a tradition of making birthday cards for Mom and Dad and I finished them last night. At first I was just going to make one for Mom cuz, ya know, Dad’s dead. But then I decided I’d make one for him anyway. Usually I put his age on it, last year I made a big colorful swirling 64. But as I was making his card this year, it didn’t make sense to write 65. He didn’t make it to 65. He never was 65. But then I wondered… should I write a 1? Start over? I couldn’t figure it out so I ended up just painting a very childlike rainbow over the word “Dad” with lots of hearts and raindrops (though it’s possible the raindrops were really tears.) Tomorrow I will go visit his grave for the first time since we lowered him into the ground and I’ll leave him the card. I hope he likes it.

Since I wrote last we had another death in the family. My Grandma died shortly after her 86th birthday on March 8th, 2014. She died in her sleep. We were all grateful for an easy passing and plan to gather at her old home, High Hopes, this summer for a celebration of life. I cried for her when I got the news, but one can’t be too sad that she’s now free from her dementia or life in the memory care facility.

Still, three deaths in less than six months. Last year this time I had two grandmas and two parents, and now I have no grandparents and just a mom. But I am grateful for what I have and excited for all my family off on their great adventure into the afterlife. I just wish they’d send a note or an e-mail now and then to let me know how it’s going.

second chance

I had a dream about dad last night.  He was alive. In fact, he never died.  We were at a big celebration and performance, possibly involving Sam’s school, the kids were dressed up and dancing.  I got to see my dad and talk to him a little, but his seat wasn’t near mine.  Still, I kept my eye on him and yes, there he was.   I kept trying to understand how he was alive.  “Dad! I thought you were dead!”  I’d say to him.  “I know.  I thought so too.  But here I am!”  It was such a joyful time.

I remember feeling like we had a second chance.  “Don’t do the chemo!”  I was going to tell him.  And, I decided I would try to convince him to drink wheatgrass or do a raw food cleanse or give up meat wheat and dairy… anything to try to rebuild his immune system.  But as happy as I was in the dream, I couldn’t quite shake the image of him laying there dead in the hospital.  My mind wanted to believe, but it couldn’t forget.  The best I could do in my dream state was decide he actually WASN’T dead, and somehow he’d been cured after we left the hospital.  A stretch, I know, but, the mind can take giant leaps and ignore the obvious to find the results it wants.

passwords and back-ups

I had to reset my password, because it’s been that long, but here I am typing away at my old blog.  Some helpful child set the alarm on the digital clock radio (that by dad bought me as a kid, and still sits beside by bed) and it went off loudly at 4:00am this morning.  Unlike a few years ago, when I was seriously sleep deprived and could fall back asleep in an instant, anywhere, anytime, I knew after laying in bed listening to snoring for half an hour that I might as well get up.  I’m attached to the idea of doing yoga at 6am this morning, and I could feel that I would just lay there until, probably 5:45am at which time I would no doubt fall into a deep sleep. 

So, here I am in the quiet morning hours, alone at my computer.  It has been a while.  And, I have thoughts.  But I’m out of practice expressing them in anything longer than a facebook update so please forgive the lengthy preamble.

I could write about my kids, but what I need to process now is the other end of life.  Dad died about five months ago, and then Bubbe joined him a few months later.  Well, I guess she joined him.  Maybe they got on a different train?  Maybe they are together in the way all spirits might be together when not bound to physical bodies.  Hard to know, really, but sometimes interesting to think about.

When Dad first died I felt his spirit close and it brought me comfort.  After a couple months I felt a shift and I began to worry that Bubbe hadn’t been told her son was dead.  But, she knew.  And she followed quick as she could.  Coincidences are more likely unseen connections.  Wherever they are, here I am, still on earth occupying my body, raising my family.  And what am I to make of these feelings that come from losing two people I knew and loved my entire life?

Strangers take comfort in notions like, “Well, she was 90.”  Or they ask, “Was he sick?”  Yes, he was sick.  Well, ok then.  And it’s true, it’s less shocking when someone who is gearing up for their second battle with cancer dies of chemo than when a healthy young person gets hit by a bus.  But, it doesn’t make them any less dead.  With my dad we knew he was sick, but we did not know he was about the drop dead.  He went to work on Thursday and died on Sunday.  We knew he wasn’t feeling well, he’d been saying that for years.  And we all felt bad for him, but, vague comments about not feeling well doesn’t set off alarms that you’d better rush over and pay your last respects.

Last weekend I went to visit my mom, without kids, and helped her with the momentous task of clearing out the house they’ve lived in since I was five.  It’s not a giant house but it’s got two stories, four bedrooms, and a two-car garage.  And, my dad did not get rid of things.  So now we will sort, clean and do a lot of letting go.  But helping Mom last weekend I stumbled across a couple clues that made me think Dad had a sense his time was coming. 

For one thing, he backed up their computer hard drive two months before he died.  I know this because when I found the external hard drive it had a little yellow sticky note with the backup date neatly printed in his handwriting.  Later I helped my mom start her taxes using TurboTax and although this was always Dad’s job, she had found a printed sheet with all their important passwords.  He had helpfully noted the printing date- just a little over a month before he died.

Maybe he didn’t know, but he certainly suspected, and he always liked to plan for the worst.  Time is such a funny thing.  It passes without much thought most of the time.  But every now and then there are these moments that change everything.

family bike!

School has started!  Last week Sam had his first days of kindergarten, which he loved, but today is the first full day.  And, my master plan of getting Sierra to nap while he’s at school (11:20-2:05) worked! I may have over an hour+ of kid-free time at home most weekdays.   Amazing.  Look at me sitting here at my computer writing, even.  Tomorrow, I may pay some bills.  It’s exciting beyond belief.   But what is even MORE exciting is that yesterday we bought a tag-along for Sam that attaches to my bike.  It’s a nice Burley that can also accept paniers to carry groceries and stuff.  Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day which also happened to be the day of Sunday Streets, where they block off roads in a neighborhood and open them up to bikes and pedestrians.  And, it happened to be in our neighborhood this year! There was music, food and lots of people out and about.   The best part was riding up and down Hilyard, normally a busy street, on our bikes with no cars in our way.

I have been pondering how to ride with my two kids for a number of months now, and considered some fancy (and super-fun) options like an electric cargo bike.  Maybe someday, but we don’t have $3000 to put into a vehicle right now.  So I finally decided a tag-along for Sam with the front seat (goes under my handlebars) for Sierra would probably work fine.  And it does!  Though I have not tried getting groceries yet.

As usual, Sam did not want to try the shiny new bike when I petaled home from Arriving by Bike with it.  He wanted to play computer.  It was scary.  We were going too fast.  It took some serious prodding (and threats of lost computer time) but eventually we talked him into taking a short ride with us.  Ben came along, riding his bike by himself.  Well, the sea change in Sam’s attitude from start to finish was hilarious.  Once he got comfortable, he couldn’t stop talking about how much fun it was.  “Mom, this is sooooo fun!”  “Mom, can we ride this everywhere now?”  “Mom, are you having fun?”  “Mom, this is terrific!!” “Mom, you want a boost now?”  It was adorable and totally made my day.  I was having fun.  When Sam decides to petal, it really helps.  When he doesn’t I can still get us around fine.  The last hill before my house (which is very steep) I get off and push the bike up but that’s fine.  Sam gets off and walks (or runs ahead to unlock the door.)  Sierra loves biking too so I’m hoping from now on most days my car will rest in the carport while we get fresh air, exercise, and to and from our errands without expelling an ounce of carbon.

Sam was very excited to go to school today once he realized we were riding the bike.  It went so fast we took an extra spin around the block just for fun and to kill time.  Compared to walking, biking to and from school is going to save us a lot of time everyday.  Which is good since kindergarten is only 2.5 hours!  Okay, I’m off to accomplish one more thing before we pop back on the bike to pick him up.  Hopefully I’ll post a picture of us on our bike later today.

Lammas

My camera is broken so my only hope for remembering the magic of today is to write some of it down. It’s Lammas, and the full moon. After planting a seed to gather at the river with ladies under the moon, I retreated into a different vision. Equally called to honor the day, I decided instead to focus on making an activity filled harvest celebration for my little ones. My ideas came from Circle Round and Celebrating the Great Mother (two beautiful books by five magical women.) Last night I read the chapters in both books on Lammas (Lughnasa) and filled a notebook page with ideas. I knew there were too many to do, but I wanted to do as many as was reasonable.

Baking bread with yeast is often a big part of honoring the mother earth and the beginning of the harvest. Cooking yeast bread with children, I learned, is a magic-filled ritual all by itself. Sam is in homesteading camp this week but I decided to keep him home today so we could spend the whole day together. Unfortunately I didn’t plan ahead well enough to have everything I needed on hand, so we had to go grocery shopping first thing after breakfast. Next time I’d plan ahead better and not waste that energy and time on shopping during a ritual day. It would be more fun to wake up with the ideas and materials ready so the entire day could be spent bringing them to life.

When we got back from the store I realized I had forgotten to buy the most critical ingredient: yeast. The recipe called for two packets and I found three in the fridge. Two were open and half-used and all three expired over a year ago. “Are you still alive little yeasties?” I wondered. It was tense for a while, wondering if our bread would rise. Sam mixed the yeast with warm milk, honey and brown sugar. Soon, it was frothy and full of bubbles so we knew the little guys were doing their thing. “Bubbles!” Sierra said as she peered into the bowl about an hour after mixing.

Sam helped me with the first mixing, but later he was occupied and Sierra helped mix in the flour. Both kids came in to knead the dough and add flour. I set them up with chairs on the glass-top stove, each with their own lump of dough. It started out pretty sticky but I put a half-cup filled with flour between them and pretty soon they had turned sticky dough into a silky storm of white powder. I added flour and kneaded the largest piece of dough in the bowl while I watched the kids enjoy sensory bliss with free access to both sticky dough and fluffy ground wheat. I oiled the bowl, put all three blobs inside and covered it with a cloth napkin. Then hands had to be washed, clothes changed, and kids shooed off to play while I cleaned up the flour snowstorm In the kitchen.

There was enough counter-and-kid-hand-contaminated flour to half fill a measuring cup. Later, when Sierra was sleeping and Sam and I headed out to harvest from the garden for the altar, we figured out what to use it for. An idea from my reading was to offer a little cornmeal to the plant spirits for each fruit, flower or seed harvested. He took to the idea and put the flour filled measuring cup in a basket so he could follow me and sprinkle as I cut. The most beautiful and interesting thing to go into our basket was the giant purple artichoke flowers. It’s glowing purple petals were iridescent and interesting to touch.

At Sam’s urging, I got in the kiddie pool with him on the deck while Sierra was still sleeping. I figured he was being a good sport about trying all my ideas for the day, I should do what he wanted for a while too. Water is always fun, but I’m kinda big to do much in that pool. The kids however, were in and out of the pool all day, always laughing and splashing as if water was the greatest thing on earth. Which, perhaps, it is.

Before putting the bread loafs in the oven we painted them with egg and sprinkled them with sesame seeds and oatmeal. This step was fun for Sam and nearly euphoric for Sierra. She was so excited she dumped the entire jar of sesame seeds into her hand, and ended up with the thickest seed layer I’ve ever seen on a loaf. I thought it might burn or something, but all the loafs came out great. The smell was amazing as they baked in the oven.

When Ben came home we barbequed green beans from the garden, corn, tofu, tempe, tri-tip, mushrooms and onions. And bread was delicious. It’s possible Sam ate his whole loaf and nothing else. After dinner I had imaged we’d do a simple ritual, but I was running low on energy and still eager to make a harvest doll from the afternoon’s gatherings with Sam. I started with corn husks for the body, added oregano for the arms, lemon balm and grape leaves for the skirt, accented with with white yarrow flowers. For the hair I stick variegated thyme into the corn husk head. Then stick in two dried cherries (still with stems) as eyes. I showed Sierra and she said, “Pretty doll!” and then gave it several hugs and kisses. A cherry eye fell off almost immediately, but the remaining stem made a smaller and even better eye.

The sun was setting and although I could have sat and woven dolls until the last photons had disappeared, I sensed it was time to head in. For a few moments we lingered on the deck and I watched Sierra play with the doll. As she made happy noises and clapped its oregano hands, for an instant it seemed magic had brought the figure to life.

Today gave me hope that I can build family traditions that engage the whole family and honor the earth mother and the ever-changing seasons. I would love to do a small family ritual at the end of a day like today, and perhaps next time I can plan ahead enough to make it happen. But even without a formal candle-lighting ceremony today was filled with ritual and connection to the earth.

Also, someday, I want to have a day like today and invite friends and family to join us. But for now, making a special day with just the kids and Ben was enough. When my friends are here I want to talk and listen to them, and hence spend less time focused on the kids. It felt right to make this day for the kids. And perhaps it was good that I couldn’t take a picture, because it kept me present with them in the moment. Next time though, I want to keep Ben home so he can be with us the whole day.

Sierra at 20 months

It occurred to me the other day that when Sam was Sierra’s age, I wrote an in-depth blog about him at least every month.  Then I wondered, have I EVER written a blog about Sierra?  It reminds me of my mom telling me years ago that most families have hundreds of photos of their first child, and then maybe one or two of the second child.  Of course that was the days before digital photos, but its possible the same ratio applies today.  I didn’t understand WHY this was, however, until I had two kids.  Is it because you love them less.  NO!  Is it because they are less cute or interesting? NO!  Is it because the novelty of every teeny tiny developmental milestone has worn off? NO!  Then why is it you fail to document every precious moment of child #2’s life?  Because you’re too frigging busy!  I will make no comments about child #3, 4, 5, etc because I can not even fathom how those amazing mothers get through the day.

Anyway, Sierra, this one’s for you baby.  Sierra Boberra (as Sam and I lovingly call her) is 20 months old and quite possibly the most adorable baby-toddler that every lived (except of course Sam at her age and all the other baby-toddlers in the world.)  She loves balls, baby dolls (preferably naked ones), cooking (play food or real), dancing, running, doing yoga (she’s mastered down-dog using her head instead of her arms), books, Pingu and Signing Time, crafts, play dough, stroller rides, sandboxes and dirt of all kinds, water, people and kids, but most of all Sam, Papa and me.  She is the cuddliest little thing I’ve ever met and if someone else would just do the cooking and cleaning I’d go ahead and hug her all day long.

She’s very talkative these days, and often I can even understand what she’s saying.  These past weeks she’s been combining more than one word.  Today, I was having some chips and hummus and she climbed on my lap and used the same chip to take four big bites of hummus.  I decided a spoon was in order.  In between spoonfuls of garbanzo garlicky goodness she mastered the sentence: “More hummus.”  Her pronunciation of the word ‘hummus’ improved significantly by the time we’d cleaned out the tub.  She still can’t say s’s, so Sam is Am and Sierra is a finger pointing at herself.  Or, she says baby and rocks her arms making the sign for baby.  Of course baby can also mean a REAL baby, or, a baby doll.  She has many and often pushes them around the house in the doll stroller.  Her imaginative play with dolls and stuffed animals is remarkable.  She is a big fan of the play moblie set we got from a friend.  Sam was always more of a lego kid, but since watching Sierra he’s learned a few things and has even attached himself to a couple stuffed toys.  Cute to see big brother learning from little sis.

She loves kisses.  Kisses everywhere, but especially on the mouth.  I don’t think I taught her this, and Sam and I never really kiss on the mouth.  She however, loves kissing her mama’s mouth with big wet kisses and I’ve come to accept this form of affection.  I’m thankful we made it this winter cold-free and that she’s not a very snotty kid!  Before bed sometimes I’ll get four or five big wet ones right in a row.   Then, a big long hug and a finger pointing to her crib.  Time for sleep!  Both kids have been going to bed easy and sleeping great.  I’m so thankful, it’s been a long time coming.  She naps exactly (pretty much you could set your watch by it) two hours every afternoon, unless we’re at a party or on an outing or something.  And, sadly, wakes up every morning at 6:15am.  It’s fine with me because I leave for yoga class at 6am, but I wish she’s sleep a little longer for her Papa and brother’s sakes.

Many days she spends a good chunk of our at-home time without a diaper on.  Sometimes at breakfast she’ll stop eating and say ‘Poop!’ in which case we fly to the bathroom and make animal noises on the potty until all the poop and pee comes out.  She loves animal noises.  What does a bird make?  “Mama, bird, bird!”  I have a whole list a bird noises (none of which are very good) but all of them make her smile.  Of course bird comes up at other times too, mainly when she catches me looking at my phone.  “Bird!  Mama, ang-y bird!”  You can guess what that means I assume.  And yes, she can play, though the birds almost always fly the opposite direction of the pigs.  Which is hilarious.  Anyway, pee sometimes goes on the potty, and often goes on the floor.  Today I spotted her with wet unders and asked where the pee had come out.  She lead me to a wet spot on the hardwood floors and pointed.  At least she got off the carpet!  The worst was the other day when she crawled behind the couch, where we throw all our extra blankets and pillows, and peed.  “Mama!  Mama!” She hollered as she was peeing.  I’ve learned what my name in that distinctive urgent tone means.  Yea, that was a pain to clean up.   But mostly she does pretty good, and it’s been a while since we had a big poop accident.  Lately she usually lets us know when the poop is coming.

That little girl gets into everything.  I’m thankful that we seem to be passing the standing-on-the-table phase.  However, her new trick is pushing a chair up to the counter and climbing up so fast it’d make your head spin.  A couple days ago I was cleaning goodwill stickers off of new purchases with rubbing alcohol (why do they use those icky gooey stickers?!?) and she was in the other room playing.  I turned away to put a few dishes in the dishwasher and when I turned back around there she was, standing on a chair at the counter, already having poured out the entire bottle of IPA!  Luckily, she poured it into a bowl and didn’t spill a drop, but still, it was scary.

The weather has finally shifted towards summer, but in Sierra’s reality the last warm season was a lifetime ago.  Her annoying/adorable thing lately has been insisting we put coats on before we leave.  And not just her, me too.  Sometimes she’ll bring me my coat and if I say, “No thanks sweetie, it’s warm out today!”  She’ll cry and scream until I either put it on or just carry her out the door.  She ALWAYS wears her coat, so far.  I wonder if she’ll wise up once it hits the 90’s?  There was a day not too far back where we got into this coat / no coat battle (Mama says no coat, Sierra insists) and I gave in and put our coats on.  It was an evening walk, and to my surprise by the end I was very happy we both had an extra layer.  It’s humbling to be out-planned by a one-year-old.  Often she’s all ready to go, socks, shoes, coat and all before I’m fully dressed and certainly before Sam has his shoes on.  Many times she brings Sam his shoes, which he is less than grateful for but I find adorable.

Well, that’s enough for tonight, but I’ll finish with a few photos, and by saying… I sure love you Sierra!  So glad you’re still my baby.

bye bye baby

Look at me, up before 6AM without the little person waking me.  I suppose she’s been getting up early for long enough that my internal clock has been reset.  Or maybe it was the light streaming in through the window or the loud snoring coming from the other side of my bed.

Regardless, I wanted to take this time to reflect on a moment of sadness I experienced last night.  The weening has been going well, not entirely without fussing and boob-grabbing, but overall pretty smooth.  I went away last weekend to Breitenbush with Jody and no kids and had a fabulously relaxing lunar beltane soaking, hiking, sleeping and playing music.  I thought perhaps my milk would be gone when I returned home, but, it was not.  I nursed Sierra one time hoping there would be none, she’d give up, and that would be that.  But she did get some and so I realized I would have to simply say “no.”

I felt a shift last night physically, and then emotionally.  The physical shift was uplifting but the emotions were those of grief.  I suspect if I nursed her today there would be no more milk.  I don’t intend to have any more babies, but it’s hard to imagine life without one.  Especially my smilie little girl with the funny hair and glowing eyes.  After this, I know it’s a slippery slope further and faster away from having a little one to hold and cuddle. 

But I’ll honor the grief knowing these changes are coming regardless of when and how she stops drinking mama’s milk.  I could nurse her for another year, but it wouldn’t actually make her stay a baby.  I suspect this feeling I am having today is what makes people keep having more children.  They are hard to quit, those sweet little things.

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