Saturday, September 10, 2011

What is Grief?

A few years ago, I put to paper what my experience was on September 11, 2001. Like most, I can remember snippets of the day, television screens, quiet skies, disbelief. This ten year anniversary has brought to mind not the initial shock, though, but the feelings that followed and continue today when I hear the newscasters recount "the events as they unfolded." In actuality, my world seemed to stand still for several months following 9/11 as I wound my way through life on autopilot, unable to believe that there would even be a tomorrow (let alone a next year). I vividly remember a bike ride with Mike where I felt so overwhelmed with sorrow that I stopped on the side of the road and wept. When he asked what I was feeling I described it this way...the only thing I wanted to do at that moment was take my bike over my head and hurl it into the field. I wish I had accepted then what it was that kept me up at night and miserable during the day. It was grief.

My reaction seemed ridiculous to me at the time, knowing that I was safe in the Midwest, nowhere near danger. I scoured the lists of people who were killed convinced I should know at least one person...that would validate my emotions. But there was no familiar name, no face I recognized. Looking back it seems so obvious...much as I complained about the concrete and the oppressive crowds, I considered New York my city. People in Michigan always raise an eyebrow when I say I'm from NY, even though my hometown resembles Okemos more than it does Detroit. On September 11 there I was, hundreds of miles from "home," where my people were suffering.

My brother was working downtown during the attacks, and for several difficult hours I did not know where he was. My sister knew one of the firefighters that was missing, the father of my niece's friend. Once I could get a call to her (close to midnight), we sat and talked as we watched the horrific videos shown over and over again. In the months that followed, I was not only grieving the 3000 strangers who died, I had lost my sense of security. How on earth would I travel when I could never envision boarding a plane again? I thought I was pretty smart, and knew how things worked. But apparently the world can change overnight, and we are left powerless, small and terrified.

I still cannot fathom what some people lost that day...friends, co-workers, family. But having since experienced the death of my father, sister, and mother-in-law, I now have a clear picture of where my depression came from. I fought it because I didn't feel like I had the right to grieve, but I did. We all do. There is no sense in making an internal comparison of who lost more, or when. If I had owned my loss ten years ago, talked about it, asked for help, I might have been able to switch off the autopilot sooner. Really, I should have just thrown the bike.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My First Day of Kindergarten

No, I'm not writing this from E's point of view. In the hour and a half I spent in her classroom yesterday, I learned a lot. Tons. More than she did, probably. Now I know what people meant when they said, "Just wait til your kids start school."

On my first day of kindergarten, I learned...

  • I'm going to need an inbox for all the papers E brings home. And an outbox for all of my homework.

  • Although they deny it, they're expecting kids who enter kindergarten to know how to write their names, cut paper with scissors, and match letters with sounds. Gone are the days of tissue-paper-crinkle projects.

  • There is a big difference between "carline" and "parent drop-off."

  • My girl is so much like me it's scary. As I filled in the sheet describing her, it was as if I was answering the question, "What were you like, exactly, as a 5-year old?"

  • Put me in an elementary school and I'm immediately a teacher-pleasing machine. I hope she liked me.

  • The Pledge of Allegiance makes me cry.

This is going to be a big year for us. In the end, I hope my hard work merits a "satisfactory," but I'm betting on "needs improvement."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The (Cat) Gods Must Be Crazy

I cannot believe that I have old cats. How did this happen? I had no idea that Larry was 13 until I was forced to do the math for a new veterinary office last fall. That means that in this house, we have Larry, now aged 14 (or thereabouts), Bean, aged 14 or (gasp) 15, and Mac, who is at least 10. It shouldn't surprise me that they are accumulating health problems as numerous as their whiskers, yet I find myself truly expecting them to live forever. They HAVE to live forever, by the way, because E and baby M love them. These cats must never die.

Larry's Fall Adventure (short version) included six (or more?) trips to the vet, a feeding tube, two nights of saying goodbye (sure he wouldn't make it until morning), and a miraculous recovery. He now looks and acts like a healthy, young kitten with a new lease on life. E calls him "Lar-Lar." Rhymes with "Bear-Bear." Betcha didn't know even nicknames have nicknames.

Mac's Belly Bomb was diagnosed last month as either something like IBD or Lymphoma, take your pick. Either way, the Big symptom is lots and lots of puke and a big old tummy ache. He's been on medication that he takes rather well, and he probably will be on it for the rest of his days. He seems happy enough and the puking has all but stopped, so we're just thinking happy thoughts for now.

Bean's Sugar Shake started a few months ago, when he was looking thin and lethargic. I brought him in to said vet and he was diagnosed with (EEK) diabetes. During a tearful meeting, I blubbered that I didn't want to start insulin, I couldn't deal with another sick cat, couldn't we do anything else? Please? So we changed diets (high protein, low carb) and crossed our fingers. Bean improved for a while, but last week I saw how thin he was getting and decided that the insulin had to happen now, or never (if you get my drift). So I entered the vet's office yet again, full of angst and tears, and said that yes, I could probably TRY the insulin for a few months. If my quality of life was suffering, I would re-evaluate.

Well, dang it if that cat's blood sugar wasn't back in the normal range! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I think I did both. Though he IS skinny, it is probably due to the shift in diet, and he's losing the baby-fat that I had grown to love. I always called him "Big Boned," to spare his feelings when friends said he was overweight. Oy.

So the current plan is just to stop time altogether, prevent everyone from aging (kids included), and that will be that. We'll just live today over, again and again, Groundhog Day style. Let's, okay?

Sunday, August 7, 2011


When E asked me to go on the log flume at Michigan's Adventure last week, I had to pause for a moment to think about it. I was banking on a day without roller coasters...the kids are only 5 and 3 after all. Surely they're not tall enough to ride anything that would scare me, right? Absolutely wrong. With an adult, a kid her height could ride several of the larger rides, said flume included.

I know that the log flume is technically not a roller coaster, with only the one hill and all, but it's a big hill. It is. It's a lose-your-belly kind of hill, which I know because I accompanied E for three trips up the clickity-clacks, around the (leaky) river, and down the drop. Eek. "Why did you scream the whole way down, Mom?" Oh, did I? Sorry. I'll try to be quieter next time.

When she asked Mike to bring her on the smallest of the adult coasters, I was a bit nervous, thinking back to the time I took poor little Stephanie on her first coaster at Great Adventure. I was fooled by the fact that it looked like an innocent little train ride with a few actually turned out to be a moderately rough ride, and was, um, a bit much for her. If I remember correctly, it ended with crying and screaming about love and trust and never again.

Thankfully, E's experience was much more on the delightful side, and the only crying came when it was time to go home. Mike, ever the good Daddy, rode with her no less than six times, though I think he would have preferred to watch the action from the sidelines with a cold beverage. It was a great day trip for us, though I'm looking forward to the time when we can send her off with a school or church group to satisfy her enthusiasm for the biggest, fastest amusement park rides. 'Cause I'm NOT going on that bungie thing, or the coaster where your feet are dangling out the bottom. I'm just not.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Rhymes with Frustrated?

A transcript of a conversation at bedtime....I tried to get it about word for word.

Me: (saying a prayer)
Baby m: Is that a rhyme?
Me: No, not really.
Baby m: What's a rhyme?
Me: Well, like 'star' and 'far.' I think you know how to rhyme...what rhymes with 'red'?
Baby m: Strawberry!
Me: A strawberry IS red, but it doesn't rhyme with red. 'Bed' rhymes with 'red.'
Baby m: What rhymes with 'motorcycle?'
Me: Some people say 'Michael motorcycle.' That rhymes.
Baby m: What starts with 'tree?'
Me: You mean what letter does it start with?
Baby m: No. What does it rhyme with?
Me: Hmm...'tree' rhymes with 'me.'
Baby m: 'Tree' rhymes with you?
Me: No, it rhymes with 'me.' Say, "Tree rhymes with me."
Baby m: "Tree rhymes with me."
Me: So what does 'tree' rhyme with?
Baby m: It rhymes with Mom.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unplugged Project - Borax Snowflakes

We've been away from the Unplugged Project for a while, probably because we've been away from our blog! But we checked back in for the "Soap" theme, and made these pretty Borax crystal snowflakes.

There are many different sets of directions out there, with varying amounts of Borax added to hot (or boiling) water, but it seems that the gist is that you have to get the water super-saturated. Hang your pipe cleaner slow flake in the solution overnight, and in the morning you have lots crystals! In fact, they started to form in just about an hour. The kids liked the measuring and stirring, and checked on the progress quite a few times during the day...

Yes, it would have been more appropriate project at Christmas time, but we have had sleet and ice here in Michigan at least three times this month! Maybe we can hang these in the window to appease Jack Frost. :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Earth Hour Adventure

When a friend reminded me of "Earth Hour" on Facebook yesterday, I was so so so glad that I hadn't missed it AGAIN! I've heard about this event for a few years, and have yet to plan well enough to actually do it...turn off all the lights for one hour (8:30pm - 9:30pm) as a symbolic gesture about energy savings. Here, our electricity is powered almost exclusively by coal, so if everyone in Okemos took part (they didn't), we might actually save a pile of carbon entering the atmosphere. Besides the lights, we also took it as an opportunity to go low=tech, turning off the electronics as well. Here's how our night went:

  • 8:20 - At the end of Scooby-Doo and the Crocodile something or other, I turned off the TV, put away my computer, and all the lights I could find. It was not quite dark yet, but the kids were totally into it. Mike lit some candles, the fireplace already had a lovely little fire going.
  • 8:30 - I asked Mike about the timers on the outdoor lights (just out of curiosity, really), and he went out and shut all of those off too. :)
  • 8:32 - We looked out the windows to see if anybody else in the neighborhood was participating, and found that each house looked doubly bright now that all of our lights were off. I joked to M that we could start calling people to inform them that they should be turning off their lights, and E thought I was serious. She brought me the phone.
  • 8:33 - I called cousin S, whom I knew was also already sitting in the dark, and Grandma P, who said she would be very glad to turn off her lights and go to bed right away. E was pleased.
  • 8:35 - We found a flashlight for each person, and E immediately suggested that we play hide-and-seek in the dark. Then, just as abruptly, she said she might just be too scared to do that.
  • 8:45 - Deep into a game of hide-and-seek, the kids were now comfortable enough to creep around with their flashlights looking for M and much so that I felt okay jumping out from behind the furniture to scare them when I heard them coming.
  • 8:50 - Together, we took a tour of the house in the dark. We found that even without flashlights, there was enough light coming through the windows that we could see well enough to avoid the furniture. Downstairs, though, you couldn't even see your hand in front of your face. A few bumps and dings, and one little anxiety attack (E), but it was pretty fun, really.
  • 9:00 - We gathered in front of the fireplace with one flashlight and read two chapters of Mary Kate and Ashley, The Case of the Haunted Camp. In an unfortunate turn of events, the "ghost" turned out to be girl named Emma. Whoops. We changed her name to Grace.
  • 9:20 - Bedtime for the kids...E was pretty freaked, but we did try to get her to relax without all of the nightlights we usually use. Baby m had no problem..."I'm very brave, right?"

I would say this was a really nice way to end the day, and this morning E has already asked when we can do it again. She did have one nightmare last night, but it had to do with robots, not sleep-away camp. Though in recounting the dream (at 3am) she did use the phrase, "Never to be seen again..." - a direct quote from Ashley Olson. :)

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr