Tuesday, October 29, 2019

This Phase

A little over a year ago when my mother in law passed a way, I was in New York with the kids and my husband called to let me know. No matter how aware we were that this was coming, we were still unprepared for the actual moment we learned she was really gone. My kids were being entertained by cousins in another room, so I sat down to take in the news. As my husband and I cried we felt a depth of pain we had never felt before. I told him that I can't believe that we have to go through this three more times. This is the way life is supposed to go and if we are lucky our parents live a long life and then we have to say goodbye. It doesn't ease the pain though. Loss hurts!

Together with his sisters, my husband is about to go through this pain again. My father in law has Parkinson's and when his wife died he began to rapidly decline. Over the last year there have many close calls, where my husband would get in the car and drive down to San Diego thinking it would be his last chance to spend time with his dad. He has been able to be with him week after week for a few days each time. Some visits he has been lucid and talkative. Other visits he hasn't done much more than sleep. The last few weeks though, it has become obvious that the end is near. Once again, my husband and his sisters surround the bed of their dying parent. I am not positive this time they will all be together for his final breath the way they were when their mom passed, but they have been able to be together for so much of this and that is a gift.

Each drive back to LA from San Diego is like a wave breaking at the shore -- it pulls a piece of my husband back with it. He comes home exhausted and emotionally spent. The time he spends with his siblings in the house they grew up in awakens more memories each time he is there. When he leaves and sees people outside in the world going about their day it becomes clearer that this amount of sadness he is living with is heavy. It reminds me of that drive we took to the hospital when I was in active labor. I saw people having coffee outside and didn't understand how they could just be so relaxed and normal, while I was literally exploding. In times of great sadness it is difficult to walk around while your heart and head are screaming and just pretend to be okay like everyone else.

My friend's sister is about to have a baby and she is past her due date. When I called my friend a few days ago to ask if there was any news, she said no and that she was on baby watch. I put down the phone and thought about the similarities and the differences we are both feeling while we wait. One of us for death and one of us for new life.  When the real call actually comes in the reactions will hardly have any resemblance though. No matter how prepared we are to hear that someone we love is gone, it is still a kick to the gut. The finality, the goodbye, the knowledge that you will not lock eyes or arms with that person again is shocking. My father in law was the definition of a gentleman. He was smart, caring and loving. He was a successful engineer and a dedicated family man. We bonded over chocolate and all things Italian. I always learned something new from him. He always made me feel a welcome part of the family and I loved him. The world loses a good man when he goes, and he will be missed.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Juliette Binoche says to Daniel Day Lewis, "We should get a puppy, it will make us happy" in "The Unbearable Lightness Of Being." My husband and I saw the movie together when we first met fifteen years ago, and we quote that line often. We joked about it all the time, but we never got a puppy. That is, until this past weekend.

My husband and his family have been having a hard time recently. There has been so much loss, illness and sadness. It has been a dark time so when my daughter and he called me from a pet shelter to tell me they found "our" puppy. I didn't say no right away. We knew we would always get a dog at some point, but we thought maybe in the next year or so when things settled in with middle school. We were planning on taking a few months to travel this spring and considered getting a dog upon our return. I wasn't quite expecting this call because my husband doesn't normally call and say he would like to add a new family member, and also because we have had so much on our plates. I trust him though and if he says this is the dog we were waiting for, then bring her on home.

I have never had a puppy before, and I have heard it is hard. I have heard it is like having a baby all over again. Sleepless nights, accidents all over the house, furniture damage, and a constant need for supervision. My husband keeps reminding me that it is all worth it, but we have only had this dog two nights and I have already cleaned up so many messes and done so much laundry. I had a mini meltdown last night and I am a bit terrified about what we just got ourselves into. Having a puppy is also expensive -- between the gear, the adoption costs, the food and if I do it, the puppy training class.

This puppy has grabbed hold of our hearts already though. We are in it now, so I need to figure out how to make it work. Our children are in love and hearing them giggle with this sprite little prancer is a wonderful thing. I am the slowest in this house to embrace this addition. I wasn't quite ready and I am definitely not prepared.We have spent the weekend trying to find a fitting name. We are all smitten by her green eyes, so for now we have landed on Hazel. I have a lot to learn about having a puppy, but what I was least prepared for was while I held her yesterday, I kissed her head and said "I love you." That was fast!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Middle School Just Stole My Little Girl!

The jump from elementary school to middle school is seemingly bigger than I anticipated, and believe me, I anticipated. First off, it is so much larger in size than elementary school, like more than three times the size. Secondly, the expectation that the kids handle responsibility themselves is much bigger than it has been up to now. It is called middle school, which implies that it is in between elementary and high school, except it so far resembles high school much more than elementary. From the first day at drop off, it was apparent that a parent is no longer welcome to walk their kid into school, which I completely get, but it still felt jarring and abrupt. At pick up, there were still so many other kids around that there was no reunion hug, but rather a cool nod hello.

More than anything else, my daughter cares about what her peers are doing. She will have no part of any activity that doesn't involve a friend. She cares so much about this that it dictates her decisions about things she loves, and causes her to forgo doing those things if a friend isn't with her. She cares more about what other people think than she did a week ago. She suddenly has an interest in certain types of clothing, not because she likes it, but because so many people are wearing that kind of shirt at school this week. I understand that peers play a huge roll at this age and I know this is a completely natural phase, but I want to make sure her own opinions about herself and who she is, don't get tarnished along the way.

This is quite possibly the most uncomfortable age physically and emotionally. Hormones and body changes are not fun. Feelings are bigger than they used to be, yet the expectation to play it cool and be chill are also bigger. Drama is bigger too. Whether it is a bug bite or confusing homework assignment, the reaction is catastrophic. I made the mistake of trying to lighten the moment the other day and instantly made it worse. I am trying to be patient and kind, but sometimes it is challenging for me to abstain from saying what she is going through isn't that big of a deal. I need to remember that it feels big for her and that being neutral and calm will help shrink the size of the problem sooner.

She seems to be pulling away from me more and more, on a daily basis. After school, she walks with friends while they all wait for their younger siblings to get out of elementary school, and they hang, buy blended drinks at the little cafe on the corner, and play on their phones, that a few of them have. I want to give her a bit of rope, but I am unsure just how much to give.  I am of course concerned about the content they are looking at on the phones, and I wonder when I see them taking photos of each other where those photos will end up.  I am also feeling such a loss of influence, when I see her buying junky after school snacks so she can eat the same things as her friends. I’m hoping that a healthier afternoon plan will begin when the school library is open for them to do homework in, but for now, I am giving her rope quite a bit of slack, while fighting my own urge to grab on tighter.

There are two very different kids I’m getting to know these days. One is the kid who gets worked up about what to wear to school, when she’ll get her own phone, and doesn't hold my hand as much. The other is the child who is

still a child, runs back to me in the morning before drop off to get one more kiss before anyone sees, or cries to me at night because she misses her old school, and still crawls into my arms asking me to cuddle her. We both have our feet in two different worlds right now and that feels pretty unstable. Middle School is called Middle School for a reason, but I hope and pray that getting her footing doesn't take all three years. I know the kid I sent off to the first day is still in there, but I miss her already.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Take Heart

With the rush of the morning routine, two different pick up times and demanding homework, it is ever so clear summer is over and the school year is in motion. We are not all ready to call it our new normal, but we are getting closer. This year's changes were bigger than most, so it is taking us a little bit longer to get comfortable. Change has never been my strong suit so I am striving to see the bright side of it. In the past, I viewed change negatively, and then a close friend reminded me that we are changing everyday. With that knowledge, I am looking for the positive changes I am seeing in my family right here, right now.

My son is becoming a kid, and not as much a little kid. He still cried on the first few days of school, but was the first one to get himself acclimated. He speaks up for himself more now. When a classmate asked him why always cries on the first day of school, his response was "Why do you have to be so rude?" I was pretty impressed with his quick comeback and after that the boy never said anything again. He is also learning so quickly now, and I love how much he loves reading. He has a solid, kind teacher and is really happy about school. That makes me happy.

My daughter's whole world was rocked when she started middle school. She went from being "home" in elementary school, to literally getting lost every day in middle school. She is being so brave and with each week that passes, she is a bit less scared of going to school. She is navigating a lot more independence and friendships remarkably well. She is learning that not every teacher or adult is kind and figuring out when to not let it bother her. She is faced with situations and dynamics that I still haven't faced. She may not want to admit it, but she is liking things about her new school. I bet with a bit more time, she might feel comfortable enough to say she is enjoying it.

My husband is impressive. He is producing a television show, and this is pretty new to him. He came up with the concept, built the team and kept working until it got picked up. This is the second version of his show that is being produced and it is pretty magical to see it come to life again. He is an inspiration to me on all lessons of hard work paying off, believing in yourself, and try and try again. He manages this while he cares for his ailing father, mourns his mother, a supportive brother to his sisters, and a present father and husband.

As for me, I am soaking it all up right now. I am not sure what exactly is next on the horizon work-wise, but I continue loving my part time work with senior citizens. I love witnessing my children take care of each other. This morning I overheard my son check in on his sick sister before going to school and he was so genuinely concerned with how she felt. I am grateful for the privilege of being their mama. I love being connected to my family in NY, visits to them and from them, and daily phone calls. Change is inevitable and while I can try to settle in, the next change is on it's way. For now, everything is just as it should be. I will keep taking inventory and taking heart.