Sunday, December 23, 2012

sleepless complaining about gravy

It's 6:30 am and I've had two hours of sleep: 1:30-3:30. I'm too anxious about what I have left to do for christmas preparations/gifts/laundry/holiday-video/packing-for-the-trip so I'm up doing laundry and working on the video. It seemed more productive than just lying in the bed with my eyes open. Though the argument could be made that sleepless rest would be better than laundry for warding off the crippling disease the kids have contracted and I'm desperately trying to avoid. I can't avoid it; who am I kidding? I'm fairly resigned to the idea that I will be in the throws of a 103* fever on the flight down to North Carolina christmas eve. Yeah baby.

Last December I had all sorts of plans for activities to do with the kids and I ended up with both bronchitis and pneumonia at the same damn time and nothing at all happened except I lay on the couch, operated the remote, and periodically crawled to the kitchen to put pretzels into bowls for the kids. I had to simply give up my ideas of crafts and baking and holiday fun.

This year it's the kids who have gotten sick. First the stomach flu, followed 10 minutes later by what is apparently The Flu - super high fever for now 7 days running. Frances's fever has dropped to 100 and she says she feels great, thinks she is well. Her yardstick is temporarily broken. Which is as much of a pain in the ass as 103 frankly, because she's up hopping around and wrestling and is also more quick to be defiant and get offended and scream in her brother's face. And she's MUCH more sensitive to physical pain. Having her (very very long) hair accidentally pulled causes tremendous trauma and wailing. I had to remind myself today that this is not the child I usually live with. Thank the lawd.

So, again, not many activities done. We were moving right along with salt dough ornaments and had gone so far as to even make salt dough figures for a nativity scene (very comical and more on that later if you're lucky), but now many are languishing without paint or modge podge or glitter. Some are half done, some just need ribbon for hanging (the ornaments that is). We never got to the gingerbread houses at all (oh I really wanted to do those!). I have one more day before we leave for NC and still need to get presents plus pack: myself, the kids, presents for family members and from Santa too. Dear god I hate christmas.

I've got to get my brain around the idea that none of this is really truly important. Death is important; love; kindness. Having gifts ready is just gravy. Nothing to stress about. Okay, so I know that with my rational brain. Somebody needs to tell my limbic system so I can get some sleep.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Our cat died. He was the family cat, but really he was my baby; mine. I got him from a FreeKitten box in the Boise farmers market on my 30th birthday, brought him home to Mitch, to whom I was engaged, and Mitch frowned at me and shook his head. But Mitch came to love that baby, who wouldn't? even though he swore he was not a cat person. Bosley was his name, perhaps the most personable cat I've ever met.

He'd been perfectly normal that morning. He ate his breakfast and meowed at the door to go out, then later he sat on his scratch pad while I gave him some catnip. He wasn't sick; he was just fine.

It was after school, and the kids and I were sitting down with a new stack of library books. We had just opened the first one when we heard a strange sound. At first I didn't know even where it was coming from, but it was the dining room, Bosley lying in his regular spot on the heater. When we got to him I was so confused. Why wasn't he getting up? Why was he yowling? I thought maybe his collar was caught and he needed help. I picked him up and he was limp in my arms, paralyzed. But he stopped crying while I held him, seemed to calm down a bit. His breathing was odd and raspy and I held him close. Then I realized things were bad, really bad, and I panicked, said out loud, "I don't know what to do!"In a moment I was able to collect myself enough to quietly soothingly shush him. Then he just died. Just like that. The whole thing was probably less than one minute.

There was one odd thing at the end - after he went still I exclaimed, with more than a little shock, "Oh my god. He died," and I looked up at the children's blank wondering faces. The kids began to creep forward, and then Bosley took one loud final in breath that startled all of us. The kids actually screamed and leaped away. I paused to watch and see if he really was dead, then I bowed my head and began to sob, and Clark across the room began to wail too. Frances was just perplexed, and later she asked Clark, "why did you cry?" I knew why he had cried. It was all very odd and confusing and sudden. I don't think it was because he loved the cat, but because he had no freaking idea what was going on.

I've been grieving and grieving. I loved that cat so very very much. Frances is worried about my grieving, keeps giving me hugs and kisses and wanting me to be ok. I keep telling her I will be, that it's all right for me to be emotional about it. On one hand I wish I could hold off my most intense grieving until she is not around, and on the other I see nothing at all wrong with her witnessing it, that maybe it's even good for children to see. See the grieving and then see that we are all right afterward. Frances asked me, "Mommy, would you be more sad if Bosley died or if I died?" See? It provides opportunity for these kinds of questions.

Frances always wanted to carry Bosley around, all 18+ pounds of him, which was a feat. I taught her how to hold him on her shoulder and support him under the rump, and she had learned how to carry him like a baby without his being too upset. Almost every night she carried him from his spot on the couch up to her bed where he snuggled up next to her. That day he died, around bedtime, she got sad. She said, "Mommy, my eyes are watering but I'm not crying." Little tears were running down her cheeks. I wonder if it was the first time she had cried without sobbing or wailing, as children do. She drew a picture of him and put it on her bed where he used to sleep.

Earlier she had written a goodbye note to him to put in the box with his body, as well as a picture she drew. On everything she wrote or drew she added the date. So interesting - I don't know that she saw that somewhere - I think it was just her instinct to memorialize it.

We had a funeral the next day, complete with bell ringing and a candle and prayers and a goodbye note Frances wrote to Bosley. He was in a box, and the kids had put his toys in with him, and some string because he loved to chase string, and notes. I asked Clark this morning if he thinks about Bosley at all, and he said "all the time," which surprised me though I don't know why. He's much more internal than Frances, I'm coming to realize. I asked him what he thinks about when he thinks about him and he said the funeral. He said he doesn't think about when he died, but about putting the box in the ground. It is a strange thing - to lower someone into the earth. He said he feels sad. "I really liked Bosley. Sometimes I see the speaker under the coffee table (one of Bosley's sleeping spots) and think it's him."

I'm glad this is their first real experience with death, and that it's an animal and not a person. I'm glad that they actually witnessed it rather than our finding him dead. Death: it's just a thing, just like other things in our strange beautiful confusing brutal world. It's an intense thing, and it was particularly traumatic for me not only because I loved him so very much, but because I was holding him when he died. I'm glad that I was, grateful that we were home so that I could hold him and provide him comfort. Still, a lot for me to carry in my heart.

Monday, December 10, 2012

this crazy year

Here I am again, in the garage while the ever faithful sitter Liz bathes the kids and puts them to bed. It's cozy in here - I have my water and my phone and therefore music, and it's not too cold to type. (We're about done with garage-blogging weather up here in the snow belt, however. Where will I hide then? The basement? I wonder if I have any gloves I can type in? Hm....) The downside is that both lights bulbs have burned out so I can't see a thing except this glowing screen. But I did bring a flashlight! Any event is more enjoyable if you attend to the details.

So. I haven't been here on the blog in a while. I've been trying to get here, longing to come visit this page, but life is, you know, doing that thing it does. I mentioned before that I have one kid in school in the morning, the other in the afternoon. I have about 25 minutes from the time Frances gets on the bus until I leave to pick up Clark. Someone is with me always. In some ways it reminds me of when they were so little. Someone who always needs my attention, never being able to finish a task (laundry, dishes) to completion, these ideas of fun projects (gingerbread houses, paper snowflakes on bunting) swimming around my head and never any time to fit them in, though it's unclear to me where the time actually goes. The biggest difference, besides the amount of contact I have with fecal matter, is that I no longer schlep things. As we were all leaving the house the other evening for Irish Dance I was acutely aware of my lack of preparedness with snacks and drinks. Then I remembered the diapers and wipes and burp cloths and changes of clothes of yore. My body does feel much lighter than in those days.

(This is actually a big point. I think when I was physically more involved in parenting - holding, carrying, lifting, rocking, wiping, schlepping - I was desensitized to the contact. It's these days that I get touched out, when I feel the need for physical space. Interesting.)

(By the way, this blog was created out of that experience - diapers and wipes and burp cloths and changes of clothes. And I've finally realized it really is time to be done with this blog. That doesn't mean I will quit writing. It's time to move on, another blog awaits. It's brewing. It's not ready yet. But just to keep you updated about that issue...)

By the time the kids are (finally) in bed I just don't have the energy for creation (meaning: blogging, or sewing, or painting, or often even email). Or for returning things to the mall. I could this minute go to home depot for lightbulbs and a new toilet seat for instance, but I just don't want to. So I'm here with you instead. A place I'd much rather be.

Anyway, busy schedule. Plus kids in Karate 2x a week and all that. So it's hard for me to get to the page. It's hard for me to catch my breath. I'm trying to figure out ways to make it work, to get the support I need so I can fully enjoy what there is to enjoy about this nutty schedule. I have another au pair situation with a college girl I adore but it's only a month while she's off for break. (but she gets here this Friday yayayayayyaay!) During that month I intend to find something more long term. (Please contact me if you have any leads.)

Even amid all that is frantic, I am also very present and aware it's only one year. It's a unique year, different from all the rest to come. It's hard for me, this year. I'm trying to let go of the dishes and of dinner (thank goodness for the new Trader Joes), and instead do puzzles and play Uno and make Magi out of salt dough as I did today. Next year Frances will be in school full day but Clark will still be home half day. The year after that they will both be gone full day. Oh my.

But I also love these days. I love having time alone with each child. I love running errands with them, letting them color or play around me while I cook dinner (at 10am because when else is that going to happen?), I love waiting for the bus with Frances and the ritual the bus adds to our lives. I love packing her snack in her backpack, love the way when she gets home she bounds off the bus with a smile, turns and waves, then runs to me. I love hearing about her day that is so foreign and completely separate from me. On days when Mitch takes Clark to school, I love that Frances and I walk the dog. We have a route of our own that involves a high wooden swing, and then we come home for hot chocolate without marshmallows because it is 9 am after all.

I love it. I love that Clark is learning to play by himself, entertained with his own sound effects, a lot of swooshing and blasting and kabooming as he zooms various cars or figures through the air. I love going to the library more often because I go with them one at a time rather than together. I am acutely aware that these days are but a moment in time, this year something that I will look back on.

Which is why I need support. Because I don't want this year to go by in a blur of dishes and laundry and rides to karate. I want to have enjoyed it, and to have paused and seen it. I want to feel it fully, and I want to be a good mom. In order to do that, given the set up, I need help help help. It's good to know what you need.