Friday, March 14, 2014

Ashes to Ashes

My grandfather passed away two weeks ago today. He'd been ill for several months, but it escalated pretty quickly. February 15th he went into the hospital with severe stomach pains and 1 day shy of two weeks later he was gone. I was very fortunate to have a close relationship with him. I spent a lot of time with him the last six months and especially during the two weeks he was in the hospital.

He told me he had no regrets about how he lived his life. 82 years and no regrets. I think that's a wonderful thing. He was himself right up to the end, cracking jokes and trying to make everyone else feel better. He was my favorite.

Since he passed I've stayed busy helping my grandmother settle some things, making final arrangements for him, etc. It's kept me from thinking too much about him being gone. I had a really hard time today, though.

He was very insistent that he didn't want a funeral. We had a wake - of sorts - the weekend he passed, but my grandmother had his body cremated as he wished, with no services planned. Today we were called to pick up his remains.

In 82 years, that man touched more people than he could ever have imagined. He always had a smartass comeback or dirty joke in his pocket, but he was also a no-bullshit kind of guy. The day before he passed his eye doctor stopped in to see him. He wasn't doing well at all then, but he roused when she came in the room. She said "you know you're my favorite, right?" and he said "I better be". She was sincere when she said it, too, and I know she isn't the only one. He was amazing.

Which is why I think I was so affected today when we picked up his ashes and they handed us a small cardboard box. Those ashes don't tell the story of the man he was. No one looking at the nondescript brown box could guess at the life of the man or the love he gave his family. 57 years of marriage and 7 kids. 34 grandchildren and 12 great-grandkids. Years of hard work. Pain and anger. Suffering and heartbreak. Honesty and integrity. Joy and laughter. Love.

82 years of life reduced to 5lbs of dust.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Stress

This past year has been pretty high-stress. MM took a new position at work. He's really happy with the move, but the hours are crazy. So is the training. In August he left for 6 consecutive weeks in Alabama. The year leading up to that was filled with classes and trips away.

Just before that, my grandpa got really sick. He had a giant mass at the base of his colon that turned out to be a cancerous tumor the size of a large melon. He had to have surgery to have it removed. Afterward it was discovered he had lymphoma. Because I'm a stay-at-home-mom and my schedule is more flexible that the rest of my family's, I spent months taking him to appointments and sleeping at the hospital with him. Bless my grandma - who is a strong woman - for taking care of him on her own. It isn't easy to see someone you love in such a weakened state. I'm happy to report he came through the surgery well, but he still hasn't fully recovered. He declined chemo and is doing fairly well for the moment, but we know it's temporary. Cancer doesn't just go away on its own.

My sister got engaged in 2012 and asked me to be her maid of honor. The wedding was this past October and there was a ton of planning and work that went into it. I love my sister dearly and I was honored she asked me, but there's no way in hell I'm doing that again. Good thing her and her new husband are perfect for each other.

 Having a toddler is more work than I remember it being. It's wonderful, of course, but I'd forgotten how busy toddlers are. Especially when there's no one around but me to distract her.

TG and LM are both in high school now. TG is taking 4 AP classes plus Pre-Calc and does marching band and swim. Her schedule is so busy half the time I can't keep up with it. LM is taking honors classes and Algebra II. He does soccer and track. Between the two of them I'm run ragged...not just because of sports but also keeping them on track.

For some reason they both decided to drop the ball this year. I have a strong suspicion LM purposely tried to fail his honors classes because none of his friends are in the advanced classes. Due to the way the school schedule works, he doesn't have lunch with them either. I'm pretty sure he thought if he screwed up enough he'd get dropped from the classes and be able to hang with his friends. Of course that wasn't an option, but it took him longer than it should have to figure that out. TG was doing great until about a month in. Then she missed a couple assignments here and a couple there and before I knew it her grades went from A's to D's.

For two extremely intelligent children, their grades are pretty damn ugly. A month ago I completely gave up on trying to get them to A's and B's and started focusing on getting them to pass, something I've never had to worry about from either of them before. Sure, we had brushes with C's in the past, but neither child has ever had a D. much less an F. Until this year. I never thought I'd actually be excited to see a D from either of them, but hell if I didn't give a little cry of joy when I saw LM's English grade went from a 55% to a 61%.

We hosted the holidays again this year (something we've done for 6 or 7 years). Both MM's family and mine came to our house for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We had 20-25 people for each. Since MM's grandfather is allergic to dust and dog hair and we live in the dessert and have 3 dogs, it's a major undertaking getting the house ready. Each room has to be cleaned from ceiling to floor. Fixtures, furniture, walls, floors and everything in between get scrubbed. Closets get cleaned out and organized. It's a PITA, but we enjoy having our family around so we make the effort. Of course there's the cooking to do once all the cleaning is done, but we won't talk about that.

Added to that - because that isn't enough - I've been in a weird funk. I don't know what happened to me, but last year (at the end of 2012, really) I just..disconnected. I lost whole blocks of time. I would look at the clock at 3pm and not know what happened to 1:00 or 2:00. I lost track of our finances and the household chores. By the time I realized it was something more serious than just the winter blues things had spiraled completely out of control, including my mental state. It was a major blow to realize I'd dropped the ball so much.

That's something I still haven't fully recovered from. I worked with my doctor and started taking an antidepressant, which helped tremendously, but I still don't feel like myself. The worst part is that I no longer trust my own feelings. Did MM really stop over the line with that comment or am I just blowing something small out of proportion? The truth is, I don't know. I don't know if what I'm thinking and feeling is a result of outside circumstances or my mind playing tricks on me.

The end of the semester is tomorrow and marching band and soccer have ended. My sister is married, the holidays are past and we're in a holding pattern with my grandpa's health. All of that means I can take a much needed breath. Except it isn't that easy. TG is starting swim and PB is potty training and MM is working crazy hours and..I'm still emotionally a mess.

So what now? I don't know. I guess I just keep going. One day at a time. Until I figure out a new normal.

If that's even possible.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Recipe: Homemade Mac-n-Cheese Squared

*I'm sort of just using this blog to post a recipe so I can share it with Twitter. I may come back to it someday, but I'm too overwhelmed with family stuff and my obligations to Book Binge. I'm on Twitter off and on if you want to keep up with me there!

This is my take on Yard House's (mac+cheese)2. For those of you who haven't experienced the awesomeness of (mac+cheese)2, I feel sorry for you. Luckily you can have something similar by trying out this recipe.

Warning: This isn't even remotely healthy. Trying to make it healthy will compromise the integrity of the recipe. I suggest using this as one of those once-in-awhile omg-who-needs-arteries type meals.

The great thing about the Yard House dish is the mushrooms and truffle oil. Because I'm cheap, I don't buy truffle oil. And because my family hates mushrooms, I only add a small bit of diced to the dish. It isn't as good as the real thing, but it's close enough.

You can use just about any cheese combination. Whatever you have in your fridge is fine. I would recommend using at least 4oz of Velveeta (or another processed cheese) to add creaminess and 2-4oz cream cheese for flavor. Even if you don't like swiss, it's a must. It gives the dish depth. Trust me. I wouldn't lie to you.



1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 2/3 cups milk
3/4 cup shredded fontina or Swiss cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack
4oz cream cheese
4oz Velveeta
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
8 slices lean bacon
1/2 cup of diced mushrooms (I use baby bellas. They give it awesome flavor)
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 chicken breasts, cubed
6 cups cooked pasta (about 3 cups uncooked) your choice (I generally use rotini or penne)
Cooking spray
1  cup breadcrumbs (I like sourdough, but you can use whatever you want/have)
1 tablespoon butter or stick margarine, softened

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Fry bacon in a large skillet. Remove from pan once cooked and drain on a paper towel, then crumble. Add mushrooms to the bacon grease in the pan and saute 1-2 minutes. Remove mushrooms from pan and add cubed chicken pieces; saute 3-5 minutes until cooked through. (Yes, cook mushrooms and chicken in bacon grease. I TOLD you it was bad for you)

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour in a large saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick (about 8 minutes), stirring constantly. Add cheeses; cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently (add more milk if sauce is too thick). Remove from heat; stir in macaroni, chicken, mushrooms, salt, pepper and half the crumbled bacon.

Spoon mixture into a 13x9 casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over mixture, then pour melted butter over the top. Bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle remaining bacon bits over the dish and serve hot.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday Princess Bowie!

*I scheduled this for yesterday but for some reason it didn't post. I'm posting it a day late instead.

Today PB turned one. I can't believe its been a year already. She's a very adventurous baby. She gets into everything and lately she's all about climbing. She climbs up bookcases, on tables and even uses her little chair as a stool. She's giving me gray hair.

She still isn't walking. She takes a few steps then gets scared and sits down. It makes me laugh how fearless she is when going up, yet she's a big fraidy cat going forward. She's adorable.

Still, it seems like yesterday when she was small ans cuddly. Or having a fit about Tummy Time. Or learning to roll over, then crawl. MM and I are both a little depressed today. It's definitely bittersweet.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Princess Bowie: 10 Months

Sometimes I share pictures of the baby on Twitter. This is one I posted to mark 10 months. Isn't she the most adorable baby ever? She has so much personality.

Can you believe she's now 11 months. On November 19 she'll turn 1. It's kind of drepessing.

She's super clever. This week she started standing on her own. As in, she'll stand up from sitting on the floor without using anything to pull herself up. I know she'll be walking soon. Which is also depressing. I'm not ready!

She loves to dance. Her newest favorite jam is Gangnam Style. She squeals and gets down every time it comes on. So funny.

She is still one of the happiest babies I've ever seen. She rarely fusses. We are seriously blessed.




Thursday, October 11, 2012

When Ted Attacks

(I could go into a long, drawn out explanation of why I haven't been blogging this past year. Instead I'm going to sum it up in a sentence - I had a baby. 'Nuff said. Rather than doing a series of posts catching you on my life, I'm just going to jump right back into it. For two reasons. 1) I'm lazy. 2) I have a baby.)


A couple of years ago MM and I went on a cruise with some of our friends (I think 6 other couples?). During our "at sea" day, I decided to relax in our room while MM went out and met our friends. We agreed to meet on the Lido deck at an arranged time. Only that never came to be. I waited on the deck forever. Then I wandered the ship - periodically checking our stateroom - before finally giving up and finding the bar (alcohol makes everything better, right?). 

I'm not going to lie - I was really annoyed with MM at the time. Hello, he abandoned me on a freaking cruise ship! And I just knew he was with our friends..somewhere. Eventually we did meet up and he said they'd been hanging out on the adults only deck (the only one I didn't check, of course), watching the sunset. He said they thought of me, however, and I shouldn't be too upset that I missed watching it with them. 

They were helpful and took a picture. 


He said this way we could photoshop me in. "It'll be just like you were there, babe!". He thinks he's so funny. (but he's totally not)

Flash forward to a couple months ago. MM and I went and saw Ted in the theater on Date Night. Seriously, one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time (though kind of bogged down and a little weird in the middle). We laughed for days. When we got home MM found a Ted app for his phone. It had quotes from the movie and who knows what else (I just rolled my eyes at him). 

One of the features of the app? Putting Ted in your pictures. I bet you can see where this is headed. 

 
Oh yeah. Replaced by Ted. 

Thanks babe. I'm feeling the love.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Welcome to the World, Princess Bowie

Me at 38.5 weeks  11/17/11
This post is 2 months overdue. I hadn't realized how long it has been since I updated. I kept meaning to write a new post, but you know how that goes.

The last few weeks of my pregnancy went fairly well. I was tired a lot, but I had my nausea under control. Our biggest concern was that the baby was still breech and was running out of room to turn over. At 35 weeks the doctor told us we'd most likely have to do a c-section. I was really bummed about it. I had both TG and LM naturally. The recovery time for a c-section is a lot longer. Yuck.

At 37 weeks we scheduled the c-section. One doctor was still optimistic that she'd flip, but the other didn't think it would happen. We were hopeful, but went ahead and scheduled the c-section to be on the safe side. We set it for Tuesday, 11/21/11 at noon, when I was 29 weeks. I was a little bummed that I'd be in the hospital for Thanksgiving, but eh..such is life.

On Friday, November 18, we had our last weekly checkup appointment. She was still breech. The doctor said it was possible she'd flip once I went into labor, so I should have an ultrasound to verify before doing the c-section. I could tell he didn't think it was likely. By then, I'd sort of resigned myself to doing the c-section. No, it wasn't ideal, but at least there would be less stress on her and to be honest, it was kind of nice knowing when it would happen. We were able to make plans for TG and LM and the dogs, etc, etc.

That afternoon I took my math final and came home exhausted. I made a list of all the last minute things I wanted to do before the c-section on Tuesday:

  • Get a mani, pedi and eyebrow wax
  • Pack hospital bag (I'd started it, of course, but needed to finish)
  • Clean the house from top to bottom (with help from MM and the kids)
  • Take MM grocery shopping so he could buy stuff he'd actually cook (MM isn't so great in the kitchen)

..and on and on it went. There wasn't anything major on the list, but there was stuff that needed to be done. That night I was tired and uncomfortable when I went to bed. That was nothing new. I'd been tired and uncomfortable for months. I woke up several times in the night to go to the bathroom and get a drink. The last time I went to the bathroom was about 3:30. After that I knocked out and had some crazy dreams. I woke up again around 5:00 and tossed and turned for awhile. I rolled over and faced MM and started to drift off. At 5:30 my back started hurting so I rolled over the other way....and felt a trickle of liquid run down my underwear.

I poked MM and said, "Either I just wet myself or my water broke." MM said, "You wet yourself. Go back to sleep." You wish, MM. You wish.

I had him haul me out of bed and as soon as I stood up there was a gush of liquid. Alrighty then. Not the most comfortable feeling in the world. My water didn't break with TG. With LM it did, but I was sleeping and most of it had leaked out before I got out of bed. This was a totally new - and pretty disgusting - experience for me.

Aside: Let me tell you something, there was a ton of fluid. A ton. No one told me there would be that much. I soaked through 4 towels and 3 large overnight pads. Plus some. And I leaked all the way to the hospital...and more when I got there. It was crazy.

But I digress. So MM hauls me out of bed and I realized yep, my water has broken. I told him to wake the kids up while I took a shower (which ended up being pointless because of all the fluid, but I didn't find that out until later). He was still in a daze and mostly asleep. It was funny watching him stumble around trying to pack a bag, get the kids ready and get himself ready. Also? MM makes really lame jokes when he's tired. In case you were wondering.

It took us about an hour to get ready to leave, by the time we fed the dogs, got the kid ready, got all our stuff and the baby stuff together, etc. By then my contractions had started, though they were pretty mild. TG had state finals for marching band and had to be to the school by 6:30. She decided she wanted to go ahead and compete so we dropped her off on our way, then dropped LM at my mom's.

We got to the hospital about 7:00am. By then my contractions were starting to get a little worse, though they still weren't too bad. Mostly I was just uncomfortable. We explained about the baby being breech and the scheduled c-section and were directed to the Triage center, just in case we needed to be prepped for surgery. After checking in and having an ultrasound, they determined she was still breech. I was also dilated to 3cm. Had she not been breech, my labor would have gone pretty fast.  It just so happened that my doctor was in the hospital doing rounds. He okay'd the surgery and they started prepping me for it.

There was some kind of snafu with the pharmacy and some meds I needed. By the time they got it worked out I was in full blown labor, with contractions coming less than 5 minutes apart. I was NOT HAPPY. One of the benefits of doing a c-section is getting to skip labor, right? MM was great, though, helping me breathe through the contractions and helping me focus on other things.

Around 9 a.m., approximately 4 hours after I went into labor, they wheeled me into the OR and I got my spinal. That was fabulous. Well, at first. Then it was just weird to not be able to move at all. While they prepped me for surgery, MM had to wait outside. They brought him in as soon as I was fully numb. The doctor was already making the incision when MM was led into the room.

The surgery went really fast. I don't know what I expected, but within 5 minutes of him starting. I heard the baby cry. Naturally I started crying then, too. While the doctor finished the surgery (I chose to have a tubal ligation..so no more babies for me) MM went with Princess Bowie while they cleaned her up. I could hear her crying, but hadn't seen her yet. Before they took her out of the room, the nurse carried her over and rubbed her face on mine. Since I was looking at her upside down, I didn't get a good look. I cried harder. MM took a ton of pictures, then followed the nurse out of the room so they could weigh her and all that.
Princess Bowie approx 9:58 a.m.

The next little bit is kind of a blur for me. I know they finished the surgery. What a strange sensation. It didn't hurt, exactly, but there was a lot of pressure while the doctor finished sewing me up. Shortly after he finished they took me into recovery. I don't know how long I was in there before MM and Princess Bowie showed up. As soon as they came in MM brought her over so I could hold her. She was beautiful. I had to ask MM how big she was, because he forgot to tell me.

As predicted, MM fell in love with her about the second she was born. By the time he met me in recovery she owned him. He spent most of the time we were in recovery texting all our friends and family about her. I didn't care since I was busy falling in love myself.

Princess Bowie
Born 11/19/11 @ 9:49 a.m.
6lbs 10oz
18.5 inches long


....to be continued

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