Sunday, January 22, 2017

SNOW! And the Beginning of Birthday Season

Oh my goodness!  All the snow we have had makes me so happy!  Our kids have missed NINE days of school, which is the most ever.  There are many years we don't even get snow, and this year we had over a foot!

So many memories which included a FIVE day game of Poke'mon Monopoly.  I might just be scarred for life!  Five days is too much!

And as you can see, there were plenty of pajama days!

We had midnight runs in the snow to play basketball at the nearby school, igloo building (attempted but not successful--the snow was too powdery), and photo walks.

Patrick and Mei Mei made deliciousness in a soccer-ball-ice-cream-maker--yum!

We read, went to movies (Lion and Sing!--LOVED them both!), and watched Netflix.  I am not a TV person, but I am now spending many hours of my life sucked into the family/foster/adoption drama of The Fosters. 

We also celebrated the start of our birthday season.

Vu is 15!  My little boy is growing up, but he is still the same kid, full of light and love!

Vu's birthday consisted of one of his favorite past-times--eating!  It included breakfast at IHOP and dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (waiting for a large enough table is part of the adventure).

Vu, I am so blessed to be your mom.  You add so much love and happiness to our lives.  You have such deep emotional intelligence, compassion, and a love for music and children.  You have strong faith and you are not afraid to stick up for your own beliefs, while also respecting others.  I love, LOVE you so much!!!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The White Girl With The Black Baby

Martin Luther King, Jr.  One of my heroes, along with so many other African Americans, including Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Maya Angelou, and Oprah Winfrey.  And on a recent trip to Texas I learned all about Barbara Jordan.  Wow!  Brave, determined, and inspirational.

We recently found this gem at the public library:

It's ironic that it's MLK Day, because just this week I was cleaning closets and found my precious baby, Angel.

I bought Angel when I was eight-years-old on my first trip to Disneyland--not your typical mouse-ears purchase.  I remember she cost fourteen dollars, which was a lot of money back then.  I earned my money by selling eggs for fifty-cents-a-dozen to neighbors and school teachers--eggs my grandfather gave me from his ranch.  That was a sweet deal for me.

Angel was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.

You couldn't buy dolls of color where I came from.  I was a white girl from a white ranching/logging community in a small town.  Growing up, I only remember one African American family.  Benita, where ever you are, I wish I had come alongside you more often, offering you true friendship in our hopscotch circle.

It wasn't until our life in the military that I had a chance to experience true diversity, and while I would like to believe that our world has come a long way in terms of racism and prejudice, I think recent events have shown otherwise.  Our discrimination is often subliminal and silent, yet as loud as writhing pain.  And I am not innocent; my white privilege is not lost on me.

I have so many happy memories with Angel.  I treated her like a real baby, feeding her with real baby bottles, tucking her next to me at night, and insisting that my mother wash her clothing with my own.

I also have one sad memory with Angel.  I was at the hospital visiting my grandfather. I think he had been kicked by a horse?  I'm not sure about that part.  But I clearly remember being in the small elevator with my mom, and an older man stepped in and struck up a conversation, then pointed at Angel.  He chuckled about me having a black baby.  I don't remember any of his words, but the message he conveyed seared into my core. Brene' Brown would call it shame.  I clutched my Angel all the tighter.

Our world has changed a lot since then.

And it hasn't changed at all.

But I hold onto those famous words, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that."  

Keep shining light.  Keep showing love.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Inappropriate. But funny.

Seeing that photo in my last post of Joe opening his dump truck brought back a hysterical memory about Patrick.

They both LOVED all things Tonka.  Patrick was an especially crazed fool about construction vehicles.  I am sure there are still many road workers who have nightmares about that woman in the 15-passenger van, driving through the construction zone again and again, pointing out every excavator and backhoe to the kid waving frantically in the carseat behind her.

Patrick (aka Bob the Builder) and Lizzy 
Celebrating Patrick's 2nd Birthday

Patrick was a late-talker, but when he started it seemed to be sentences.  In fact, by the time he was three he was part of a research project at the local children's hospital and he knew all 300 words on the list--except "trolley."  I am so sorry Mr. Roger's.  I failed.

Anyhoo, although Patrick had a huge vocabulary, he mispronounced certain letters.  And let's just say his older brothers had quite their laughs about certain words (who am I kidding--I distinctly remember his father and Uncles too).

Life was never boring with so many older brothers

Patrick especially LOVED dump trucks.  The problem was, when he said "dump" it sounded like "dumb" and when he said "trucks" well . . . he would substitute an "f" for the "tr."  His brothers would have Patrick tell everyone how much he liked dump trucks!  But of course it sounded like something else.  Patrick would get all excited and say, "I LOVE dumb  _ucks!"

And that is your laugh of the day!  You're welcome.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Learning to Celebrate Again

I guess this is my week to talk about Joe.  Our birthday.  December 30.  A day that used to be celebrated together!

When he was little, we would combine our candles and celebrate with the same cake.  So many memories of sweet times together.

Since we lost Joe nine years ago, our birthday has been difficult.  It didn't feel right to celebrate my birthday, OUR birthday, alone.  It was impossible to feel that I wanted to celebrate, even though that made it awkward for everyone around me.  My sisters didn't know what to say when they phoned me.

Happy Birthday?  Or not.  I'm sorry?

Each person was so sweet in trying to navigate the day that used to be so happy.  We tried to celebrate just Joe on that day.  We would go to an arcade, try to laugh, play games, and eat all his favorite foods.  We learned to get through that day by honoring Joe.

But that still left my family at a loss in how to celebrate my birthday.  I was okay just letting it pass, but that was especially hard for my mom and kids.

My sister, Amber, did find a beautiful way to celebrate us both.  A charm bracelet--giving me a charm each year on my birthday--with every charm depicting a special memory of Joe.  There's a dog bone for his love of pets, a baseball mitt, a globe representing his love of travel (and awesome trip to Mexico with my parents), a canoe for our adventures at the cabin.

I often say that the grief of losing a child doesn't get any easier.  Time does NOT heal all wounds. But we do learn how to bury that grief.  We learn how to live with it.  How to carry it on our backs in a way that doesn't bring us sobbing and collapsing to our knees daily.  

What choice do we have?

What I'm finding now is that, while there are times that feel as raw and painful as that first hour, the happy memories bubble up out of the grief more often.  And they come without that burning fire that usually followed.  

As the years have gone by, I've learned to celebrate my birthday, OUR birthday, together--for Joe.  He wouldn't want me to stop celebrating.  I did it for him.

But this year I was able to celebrate my birthday, OUR birthday, not just for Joe, not just for my family, but for me too.  

And I know that makes Joe really happy.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Jacket

We have been having some awesome snow days around here and the kids have been missing tons of school.

We rarely get snow, so this is a BIG deal!  I love snow days, but it means my kids often go to bed in the wee hours of the morning--long after I've stumbled to bed.

So I never know what I'm going to find when I wake up in the morning.  Usually lights and dishes.  I know you feel sorry for me that I have yet to teach my children to be adults.

But this morning?  I wandered into a flashback.  A pan of chocolate chip cookies.  Just one.  Patrick had tested his first ability at making cookies, and the remainder of the dough had ALL been consumed.  I assumed that since nobody had succumbed in the night to e-coli, all was well.  But it wasn't.  I wasn't.

When you lose a child you never know when the wind will be knocked out of your soul.

Joe used to stay up in the night making cookie dough and eating it.  A better description would be Joe coaxing Will to make cookie dough and then they would split the dough.  The deal was that Will would make the dough, and Joe would do the dishes.  Somehow, the dishes never seemed to get done.

But after allowing myself to feel that stab of loss, the joy of footsteps followed.  I love that Patrick walks in his brother's so often.

I know this may sound strange, but I find comfort in the similarity of these two boys, so much alike, not only in looks, and the sound of their voices, but also intelligence, quick wit, determination, and desire for adventure.  OH how they would have loved more years together.

But they are certainly each their own person.  And when Patrick asks, I often try to point out their differences, because I somehow worry that Patrick will feel a need to become someone he isn't meant to be.  I want him to be himself.  Especially now that Patrick attends the same high school as Joe did, Patrick hears the memories from teachers and coaches.  Patrick has even inadvertently been called "Joe."

I've talked to Patrick about it, and he seems to relish the similarities with his brother.  He knows he is his own person and feels confident in his own abilities, strengths, and personality.  But he also finds comfort in finding ways to honor his brother.  He knows their time together was prematurely severed.

At the beginning of the school year, Patrick decided to wear Joe's letterman's jacket everyday.

Memories. Grief.  Loss.  Joy.  Celebration. Love. Honor.

Brothers Forever.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Do You Feed All Those Kids? Sinful Potatoes

In case you put part of your Christmas ham in the freezer, this is a great side dish.  My sister shared the recipe long ago, and my kids LOVE this so much I usually make a double batch.

Sinful Potatoes

1 24oz bag shredded hashbrown potatoes
1 1/2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 Cups sour cream
1 can (10 oz) cream of chicken soup
1/2 C. chopped onion (I use 1 Tablespoon onion powder)
6 Tablespoons butter chopped up
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat 350 degrees.  Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl and pour into a 9 x 13 inch glass dish. Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes until heated through and lightly browned around the edges.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Someday I Will Just Burst Into Dust

Tonight we lit our advent candles for the last time.

If you know me, you know I'm kicking and screaming the whole way!  We had a GREAT vacation, relaxing, and being with family and friends.  Now it's time to regroup and reorganize.  I'll admit I'm just a bit excited to FINALLY use this Victorian planner.  I bought it several years ago on a trip to Salvation Army with my mother-in-law.  I think I paid 50 cents, but the calendar hasn't matched up to the dates until 2017.

My life is too full.  I wish there were more hours in the day and I've considered what I can cut out, but I always come to the same conclusions.  I remind myself this is a season, albeit very full with everything including work, family, and LIFE.  Lan Lan is still homeschooled part-time and other kids need extra support.  Hubby has a new job and he travels part of every week.  We still have speech and therapy and orthodontist and all-the-regular appointments.  I'm blessed to babysit my grandson 1-2 days a week, which I ADORE, but it makes the squeeze tighter.   

Work is a huge time commitment, and yet I love what I do.  I'm lucky in that I have flexibility in my hours, but that can also be my downfall as I often bring work home, especially when due dates loom. Even going on vacation isn't easy--last summer as we were walking out the door I grabbed my work computer "just in case" I had some free time.  One of my kids caught me and shamed me into leaving it home.  

It's so hard to find balance, and honestly, it's impossible.  I try to be intentional in dividing my time, taking on new commitments, and digging up all my time management tricks.  I'm REALLY trying to just be present more, focusing on the priority right in front of me--which is often a person.  And ultimately, we make choices in how we spend our time--there's no such thing as not having time for what we deem our highest priority.

But really, what I know, is that in the end I just want to keep living life, full steam ahead, loving every day, and keeping positive relationships in the forefront of my days.  

I recently saw this awesome quote:  

"When I'm taking my last breath, I want to look at how I used up the best of myself.  How much did I sweat, push, pull, rip, fall, hit, crash, explode? . . . My dream is to be so well used that in my last half-second, I just burst into dust."    ~  Elizabeth Streb