Friday, December 14, 2012

Hold on tight

I was out all morning. I heard the news on Facebook. I was stunned. There were no words to express the thoughts and emotions swirling in my head and heart.

I prayed. I cried. I prayed some more.

I grabbed my children and held tight. "Do you want ice cream? Hot chocolate? Anything you want, it's yours". You are here. You are safe. I am lucky. I am blessed.

I now sit on the couch with a kid snuggled in close on either side, sipping smoothies. Scooby Doo is in the TV. On Scooby the kids always win. They solve the mystery. They catch the bad guy. The bad guy is never truly evil, instead driven by greed or selfishness. The hair brained scheme is easily solved within 30 minutes. The meddling kids and their talking dog save the day.

I wish life was as simple as it is for the kids on Mystery, Inc. But it isn't. It's scary. The bad guys are evil, driven by hatred and mental illness. They no longer lurk in dark alleyways. They are hidden in plain sight. They have access to guns. They lack access to the mental health care they need.

Things need to change. Politicians need to find solutions. We need to add our voices to the debate.

And tonight we need to hold our kids a little bit tighter.

Monday, December 3, 2012


This weekend Frink lost his voice.  Communication with him was reduced to pointing and motioning for this or that. 

During a trip to Target, I had to introduce him to the notes feature on his phone.  When he wanted to say something, we had to wait patiently while he typed it out.  Bunny can read so he was able to communicate with her but I had to translate for Lion.  "Daddy said we are not buying any toys."  "Daddy said to watch where you are walking."  "Daddy said ..." well you get the picture.

As we were wandering the aisles, he held up two bags of M&Ms with a questioning look on his face. "Should we buy these?"  Dude, do you not know me?  Of course we should buy those.  Carry on.

After a successful trip, I opened the bag of white chocolate peppermint M&Ms so everyone could have a snack.  (Quick aside: Run, do not walk, to your nearest store and buy some.  They are amazing.)  Frink looked very excited when he tasted the candy.  He made some gestures, one of  which looked like pouring M&Ms into a bowl.  The other was more difficult.  He slid his hand into the imaginary bowl with a scooping motion.

I had no idea.  He repeated the gestures. Again, nothing.  Another round of gestures.  "You want to eat the M&Ms with a shovel?"

My response was met with a stare that said, "no, you idiot." 

One last time he poured the imaginary M&Ms into a bowl, scooped with his hand and flipped.  Oh. Ohhhh!  "You want to make pancakes with these?  That would be awesome."

Vigorous nodding.  Success!  This was followed by 5 minutes of laughing at anyone wanting to eat M&Ms with a shovel.  That is just crazy, handfuls shoved into your mouth are much faster.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Writing on the Walls

Bunny has always been a creative child. She can spend hours drawing and painting. She writes and illustrates her own books. She creates detailed scenes for her animals to play in. I am always looking for ways to nurture that creativity. I love to follow her lead and see what she can come up with.

A while back we watched the movie Tangled. Bunny loved the way that Rapunzel had painted her room. She asked if she could paint her room in the same way. It took a while for us to get our act together but she finally got to start this weekend. I wasn't sure what she would come up with but the outcome was wonderful.

We had recently organized her room so all of her animals had a place. She decided to paint a home for them.

A bird nest for the birds.

A stable for the horses.

She is working on a hospital for the injured animals. I also anticipate a dog house for her dogs.

When Lion found out that Bunny was painting her room, he wanted to join in the fun.

So he got a Captain America shield on his wall. It is totally bad ass.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Six years and one day ago, my family consisted of two people, just Frink and I.

Six years ago to the day, two became three. 

It's funny how the addition of just one teeny, tiny person changed everything.  One day earlier, I thought I knew who I was and what I was doing.  That day I knew nothing.  I didn't know up from down, left from right.  I just put one foot in front of the other and muddled through the best I could.

Three eventually became four.  I had successes and spectacular failures. I learned. I grew.

Mornings where I just wanted to throw in the towel and run away led to afternoons of laughter.  I think nothing of sneaking around the store like a ninja.  Stories I have heard over and over again become gloriously new when read to me by my child.   My house may never be clean.  I may not get a shower every day.  I won't know what I am doing more often than not.    But I know who I am.  I am a mom.  I am part of an amazing, crazy, perfect family.   Just Write

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Red Couch

There have been times I've wondered if it was the right one for us.  It's so red, so big. 

The back cushions are bulky and uncomfortable.  We've long since let the kids toss them off to be used in whatever building projects they've dreamed up that day.

But there is something about it, something that makes me love it.

It is red, so so very red.

There are times when I catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye and I am transported half way around the world to a hotel lobby filled with red couches.  Red couches where so many anxious parents took so many photos of beautiful babies.  These beautiful babies and anxious parents were now families.  Frink and I sat on those couches, taking pictures of our beautiful baby, creating memories of the time when we became a family.

Red couches mean family.

It is big, so so very big.

It takes up a lot of space but it provides lots of space too.  In the afternoon, I often (but not often enough) spread out and doze on the couch while Lion is napping.  Sometimes he joins me.  He curls into me, gets comfortable and sleeps the deep sleep of those without a care in the world.

There are times when we are joined by a cat or two.  And there are rare, special times when Bunny will join us.  She forgets that she is six.  She forgets that she no longer naps.  She surrenders to the warmth of the afternoon sun, the comfort of the couch and sleeps the deep sleep of those without a care in the world.

Big couches mean togetherness.
And that is how I know it is the right one for us.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


We've all seen her.  She is standing alone, struggling against an angry torrent.  Tears, screams, feet stomping, tiny fists flailing.  She tries in vain to soothe, to calm, to stop but she cannot.  Once the tantrum train has left the station, it is impossible to stop.

Tantrums are frustrating to deal with in the comfort of your own home.  Tantrums in public are heartbreaking.  You dread the stares  in the grocery store.  You fear the unspoken judgements of those around you.  All you want to do is to  run away, to scoop your child up and flee to the safety of your car.  No one can see you then.

But you aren't in the saftey of your car or your home, you are in the aisle of a store.  Your cart is full with needed items, milk, laundry detergent, diapers.  If you leave without buying these items, you know you'll just have to go back.  Do you stay and check out?  Do you leave and hope to return with out the kids?  There is no right answer, no easy thing to do.  You are alone facing a furious, heartbroken child.

We've all seen her. You want to do something to help, to let her know it's okay.

We've all been her. Wishing, hoping that someone, something could help, could make it okay.

I was her yesterday.  We were in a craft store across town.  I was buying things for Bunny's Daisy Scout troop.  It was too close to lunch, too close to nap time.  We'd been there about 10 minutes too long.  I knew these things.  I knew it could be a problem.  But I had to get the supplies, the meeting was the next day.  I didn't know if I could make it back.

So I pushed on and Lion pushed back.  It started in the checkout line.  We were so close to the exit, close to the car, close to freedom.  But it was too much and he lost it.  I tried to hold him, to soothe him.  I was rewarded with kicks and a tiny bit of hair pulled from my scalp.  Putting him down resulted in a bolt for the door or tossing some impulse item on the floor.

I was lost.  I was broken.  I did not know what to do. 

And that's when it happened, the kindness of strangers helping me, soothing me.  A mother with an infant let me skip her in line. She knew it would be her time soon.  She could be me, she would be me.  The cashier who followed me out of the store with my gloves and Lion's book.  I had forgotten them in my haste to exit the store.

Their kind gestures helped so much.  For just a brief minute, I did not feel alone.  I did not feel judged.  And for that I am forever grateful.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Clearing Out

I'm surprised at how easy it was. 

It seemed so big, so overwhelming.  Everytime I looked at it I would freeze up.  I.  Cannot.  Do. This.  So I would just close the door and move on.  The door kept it hidden from view but I knew it was there.

A friend came over.  She said she needed to get her mind off of her own stuff. She wanted to help out in whatever way she could.  Use me she said, I'm here for you.

I was embarassed to open the door to show her the chaos within.  But she didn't flinch.  We can do this.  It's not that bad.

So we did it.  We worked through the mess.  Toss or keep?  Toss, toss, toss, toss.  Keep.  Slowly but surely until the floor was clear.  The piles on the tables had shrunk to manageble size.

I cleared out the wreckage, the external clutter that had been keeping me down.  Now I no longer have to navigate a path to the computer.  It's no longer a room of doom but an office.  I can enjoy being in here.

I did it.  We did it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Feel It

I read a post today about feeling our feelings and grief that really hit home with me. With all of the physical pain I have been going through, I haven't really let myself feel the frustration and emotional pain. I always feel the need to be strong. I can't let you see any weakness in me. Feelings, grief and pain are weaknesses. I stuff them deep inside, never letting them out. Occasionally I will sate them with a bowl of ice cream or a box of cookies (okay maybe more than occasionally). So they stay hidden, if I can't see them or feel them no one else can.

I don't ask for help when I am in physical pain. I am superwoman. I can do it all. I am in control. Because of this it's hard for me to ask for help when I am in emotional pain. I can't ask for help, I don't know how.

So I do the only thing I can think of, I radiate the pain and discomfort out into the world. Looking at me you would see a giant wound. If you got close enough, you could physically feel the pain coming off of me in waves. You have to see the hurt. You have to feel my pain. You have to share my misery. You have to help me because I cannot help myself.

But at no time do I allow myself to express those feelings, to deal with them in a healthy way. I need to take the time to feel the physical pain, the limitations it has placed on my life. I need to feel the frustration of no diagnosis. I need to curl up in a ball on my bed with Bunny's stuffed dog in my arms (which I totally stole because I love it). I need to cry, big, huge, gut-wrenching sobs. I need to experience the pain, to name it, to own it and to move on.

I can't be the woman, the mother, the wife I want to be unless I take care of myself.

Friday, March 2, 2012


It started innocently. I was sitting in a meeting in a church basement, listening, learning and growing. The metal folding chair was uncomfortable. I shifted in my seat, trying to find a comfortable position. Eventually my right leg fell asleep.

I thought nothing of it. Things like this happen all the time. On my way to the car, I stomped my foot, hopping up and down trying to regain feeling. It didn't come. My leg felt heavy and sluggish.

At home, the sensation spread to my right arm and eventually the right side of my face. This was not normal. I was scared.

A trip to the ER in the middle of the night, allayed some of my fears. No stroke. No lesions. Nothing serious.

My primary care doctor thought it might be a pinched nerve. A referral to a neurologist led to multiple blood tests. I had MRIs of my neck and brain and and MRA of my neck. All of these tests revealed nothing.

Nothing. We don't know what is wrong.

I was still having symptoms. Numbness, pain, headaches, neck aches. The pain was real, I felt it. I continued feeling it for months. Months with no answers.

A referral to a rheumatologist revealed nothing. A painful nerve conduction test, nothing.

Nothing. No answers.

I began to question myself. If the doctors can't find anything, is there something really wrong? Is this real? Am I imagining it?

The seeds of my doubt had been planted earlier in life. Physical symptoms were discounted by doctors. I was told it was stress, depression. I was given anti-depressants with no follow up.

I didn't question. I thought doctors knew best. I was crazy. It was in my head.

But it was not. There was a real problem. There was a solution, a treatment. If it was true then, I have to believe it is true now. I cannot live in the unknown.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Moment

Our relationship has been tough lately. You are growing up so fast, hurtling towards 3 at a breakneck pace. You can do it, you want to do it, everything, anything in your own way, on your own terms.

You listen. I know you hear me. I know you understand. You are smart, very smart. Your brain processes the information and chooses to do the opposite, sometimes in outright defiance, sometimes because you feel your way is better.

The word no, or any correction in behavior brings forth a storm. You immediately lash out, hitting, biting, kicking or looking for something to destroy. I am the frequent target, it's only natural given how much time we spend together.

There are times I wonder if I am helping or hurting the situation. I know how to calm you, it could be so easy to soothe you and move on with our day. But often exhaustion and frayed nerves win out, I have to make a point. You will have a time out. You will finish it, even if it takes all night.

So here we are, both of us warily circling the other like boxers looking for a weakness. Time that could be spent playing is spent fighting, trying to win control of the situation. It's exhausting and it does not bring out the best in either of us. Resentments creep in. You run to daddy. I gravitate towards Bunny.

Just when I am ready to throw in the towel, it happens. On one of our many visits to Starbucks, you fling yourself into my lap, climbing up to make yourself comfortable. A finger goes into your mouth. The other hand reaches for my ear. You are calm.

I relax. The breath I was holding waiting for a tantrum is expelled. I see you, the real you. I press my face into your forehead. Tears prick my eyes. I whisper silent prayers seeking forgiveness.

How could I have ever doubted you? How could I have ever doubted myself? You own my heart.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Magic Snow

This winter in Wisconsin, my kids were yearning for snow. Every day Lion would ask if it was going to snow. Every day I would tell him no.

Instead of snow, we enjoyed 40s and even 50s. We went to the zoo. We played outside. We had loads of fun. But we missed the snow.

Finally last week the snow came. The kids were overjoyed. Snow pants, boots, hats and mittens were donned so they could get down to the business of playing. Tracks were followed. Angels were made. But most of all they wanted snowballs, oh how they wanted snowballs.

Snowballs to throw at trees and cars. Snowballs to throw at daddy. Snowballs to throw at mommy. Snowballs to throw at eachother.

When it was time to come inside, the snowballs had to come too. They must be saved for later, for that one special moment when it will be just right to throw. So the snowballs went into the freezer.

As the week wore on, our collection of freezer snowballs grew.
"This one is perfect momma."

"Dis insyde momma. I wov dis one."

"Momma look a heart shaped snowball."

"Maybe we could save enough snowballs to build a huge fort. Wouldn't that be cool?"

I think we are going to need a bigger freezer.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Bunny is six.

She is growing up so fast. Her days are filled with kindergarten, learning and friends. She runs around the playground pretending she is a dog. She laughs, she plays, she has fun.

At home she draws and plays with her Littlest Pet Shop. She makes up songs and stories. She shares her knowledge with us. She is silly.

She tolerates Lion, "he may be a jerk" but he's her brother. At times when we offer to do something with just her, she asks to include Lion because she loves him.

She is such an amazing girl. Everyday I am so proud to be her mother. And everyday I pray for her family in China, I will never forget them.

Happy Birthday Bunny!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Momma, What Would Happen If . . .?

Momma, Daddy and I are going to discover a new planet and call it Hubble. Hubble is such a funny word. Hubble. Hubble.

Daddy? What planet would crash into the Sun last?

Daddy? Is Pluto in our solar system? Is it a dwarf planet? Why isn't it a planet anymore?

What's that red thing on Jupiter? How many moons does Jupiter have?

Daddy? How do scientists discover new things? Could we discover something?

What would happen if . . .

The questions come at a rapid pace. The thirst for knowledge drives her. She has to know everything there is to know in this exact moment. Later is not good enough.

We answer the questions as best we can with the help of Professor Google. Answers are accepted. She quiets, returning to play. Her animals utilize the knowledge she has gained in their travels to distant planets.

Part of Just Write at The Extraordinary Ordinary