Goodbye, Gertie

Gosh darn it. I’m sitting here feeling a little un-tethered right now. In less than three month’s time, I’ve had to say goodbye to my last two grandparents.

The last blow came, initially, after my first week of teaching summer class (and the night before we took family pictures). My parents called to tell me that my grandma Gert’s nursing home had called them about wanting to have a meeting to put her on hospice care. They told me she’d been pretty out of it when other family members had been there the previous weekend, but Ben and I decided last minute Friday night to pack up the kids and hit the road Saturday morning post-pictures, so we could go see Gertie one more time.

Y’all, it’s a miracle those pictures are as good as they are because I cried a lot that night. This is all just so heavy heart making and also hit so soon after the loss of my Grandpa Cliff (just for clarity’s sake: Cliff was my maternal grandfather and Gert my paternal grandmother). And we knew it was a long shot that she’d be coherent enough to visit with us, but we wanted to try.

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The stop at the nursing home was tough. She had declined drastically from the time my dad had last seen her and we had allll the kids with us, so I was trying to keep my brave, light pants on even though I was shocked by her appearance. She was not awake but also not asleep, if that makes any sense, so we tried talking to her a bit with the kids, but then Ben and my dad took them on a walk through the facility halls so I could just sit with her for a bit. I put my hand on top of hers, talked to her a little bit, and cried. That’s really about all one can do in a moment like that. And I said my goodbye because I knew that if they were talking hospice, that meant the end was near.

Getting to do that was a gift, really, and it’s one I’ve never had before with any of my other grandparents prior to them passing. It doesn’t make the loss any easier but I am grateful that she got to hear from me my thanks and gratitude for all that she did for me over the years. I thanked her for loving me. I thanked her for giving me my dad. I thanked her for being my grandma.

I spent a lot of time with my grandma when I was younger. Their farm was always less than 10 minutes away from us (even when they moved to a different farm place) and I spent countless hours roaming around her house and yard (and outbuildings, which apparently my parents did not know about until a week ago) where she would let me pull all of the cans out of her cupboard and rearrange them (yes, I sometimes did extremely strange things for fun as a child) and was always sure to hide the Twix bars in the same spot so I always knew where to go to sneak one. She made me hamburgers and mashed potatoes for lunches (because, again, weird kid), and taught me the beauty of games like Solitaire and King’s Corner.

After I left for college, my grandparents moved to town, and on almost every trip home, I’d pop in to see them. When I learned, my sophomore year, to quilt, my grandma recruited me to helping her with various quilting projects when I was home for breaks and holidays. She was also forever trying to give us stuff from her house (I use that vague word because seriously, there’s no way to categorize the randomness of what she might try to get you to walk away with after a visit), and I’m convinced she continued to work night shifts as a nurse for years and years and years just so she could slip us some mad money whenever my grandpa wasn’t looking.

Grandma Gert was fiesty. I heard stories about her card games (oh my gosh. so many card games!) and her quick mouth from people decades younger than her who worked with her at the State Hospital and got such a kick out of her. I heard that quickness myself over the years, and I have to think that I learned something about raising a big crazy crew from her, the mother of five boys and one girl. If my kids get together and laugh some day as they tell stories like hers tend to do, my heart will in fact burst wide open.

Right now my heart feels cracked for a different reason. We know what comes next because we’ve been here before and really, not that long ago. We’ll gather our gear and load up the babies to make the trip to be with family and friends to remember and honor another life that was thankfully long but of course never long enough.

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Our last photo all together, from our SD travels last July. 
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Give Thanks

If you’ve been keeping up with the FB posts here lately, you’ll know that our Crazy May has indeed continued the last few days with RL taking another turn for the sickies Friday night (and then being totally OUT of it all day Saturday) and then Truman following suit (in the messiest way possible) late Saturday afternoon, resulting in more couch “sleeping” and So. MUCH. Laundry!

In the midst of all this chaos I realized I dropped the ball last week on Teacher Appreciation gifts (and also Mother’s Day cards, because adulting is hard), so the kids are taking them this week instead.

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Now I know in the past I’ve done “crafty” TA gifts because I’ve written posts about them (as if someone might pin them – *snort*) but clearly that’s just not happening in our world right now, so instead, a little truth for you. This year I went the “support local businesses” route instead, buying gift cards for teacher gifts (for coffee/alcohol, depending on their preferences – lol) and, a first, store bought (but still local!) cookies to share after LT’s preschool program.

Do I feel bad about this? Not at all. It’s what we could do and no one wants anything coming directly out of my house right now, anyway, so it’s all for the greater good.

img_0100Also for the greater good? Actually expressing gratitude (that gets hard when you’re low on sleep and immune systems), and by this I mean: writing thank yous.

Now. Writing thank yous is something my mom made us do always when we were growing up. I know I sometimes drug my feet a bit on it, but I’m pretty sure I always did them and the habit has stuck with me. I continue to send thank yous because I think they matter and I think they help us focus on the good in our life (and I don’t believe thank yous are just for responses to gifts, an idea that is supported by this book which is a great read), and I want my kids to do the same.

Writing thank yous is clearly nothing new in this house, but this weekend you would have thought I threw the biggest curve ball EVER when I asked the boys to do theirs to accompany their Teacher Appreciation gifts (RL was still convalescing and she wrote a thank you note of her own volition on Friday for a friend, so she’s clearly not part of this).

For the record, I was age-appropriate in my asking. HD was asked to write his in entirety and LT was asked just to sign his.

To protect the not-so-innocent, I won’t go into detail about what ensued, but it was ridiculous and long-lasting enough to frustrate even the utmost of patient parents (which I doubt we were given the lack of sleep and abundance of sickies in our house this week).

Eventualllllllllllly, they got their acts together and completed the tasks (and yes, HD wrote the perfectly lovely note I knew he was capable of doing). It’s not that they don’t appreciate and like their teachers; they just didn’t like and appreciate me telling them to tell them. And I get it. Forcing them to do thank yous creates one more power struggle here at home, but dang if it isn’t one that I’m going to keep after because I do want them to give thanks (preferably with a more grateful heart, but we’ll get there). I want them to know how to look around and see all that is being provided for them and to be able to express gratitude for it because those are valuable tools (and gifts).

Eventually we will find a way to remove the struggle from our thanks giving, which as you can see, RL has down in the best new-writer fashion:img_0128img_0126

 

 

Like a Ninja

At some point during our trip to Houston, I earned a new nickname: Mama Ninja. It was bestowed on me, of course, by my husband because my Type A Game was in top form and I really was doing a ridiculously good job of anticipating what was coming next or what the kids needed before they asked. Or Ben would think of something we needed to pack for a days’ activities and I would be all, “Already on it” and he’d call me “Mama Ninja” or just Ninja in response.img_2152

Now, many of you saw the pic on IG/FB of poor skater/hipster/Royal Lincoln’s pants
to know that not ALL things were coming up Ninja while we were gone, but actually, I might argue that somehow getting a 2.5yo to wear size 6-9 month pants (and totally Work them all through a wedding and reception) is in fact very much Ninja like, but I digress….

Ninja also became a compliment from my husband whenever we pulled off something seemingly impossible or at least very tricky on our little vacay. Like, get ourselves to the airport, return the rental, take a shuttle,
check-in, and have everyone use the potty all while hauling all of our children and all of our luggage as we waited for my parents who were getting a ride from my brother and meeting us before heading through security. Ninja. Or us getting split up during security after ending up in a line (so not marked either way) that was not “set up for children” but all of our crap was already on the conveyor/going through x-ray, so Ben stayed with the bags and I walked over in my socks wearing one baby and leading three others who were all hanging on to each others’ hands to go through the child-approved machine one at a time before meeting up with Daddy again. Ninja. Or simply walking all of us and all of the aforementioned crap through the airport as we waited for our first flight out of Houston Hobby. Ninja.

Now, you might notice, rightly, that many of these Ninja moments are not mine in solitude. Often, for my Ninja skills to come out, my partner had to be at the top of his game, too, which he thankfully was for most of our trip. That he was aware of the effort I was putting out and willing to comment kindly on it was just icing on the cake.

We’ve been home for a week already, but it would appear that Ninja is here to stay, as I continue to duck, dodge, flip, and float through the daily navigation that is Life as Six, and let’s be real, when is summer break ever quiet? Besides camps and play dates, and a garage sale plan, we’ve added some big plans to our summer itinerary and Ninja skills are going to be downright necessary to pull them off, I think. So it is good that Texas gave me an opportunity to practice (and no, no flipping way are we flying anywhere again any time soon, and no, we never could have done Texas without the help of my parents and other family members who entertained a kid when necessary or helped us keep tabs on everyone in busy times/places — apparently I come from Ninja stock, yes?).

Included on this ever-expanding summer itinerary are several road trips, one of which will lead me to my first-ever yoga festival experience at Wanderlust in Aspen-Snowmass in July. Thank you New-to-us-Fridge for not squashing those dreams during Appliance Gate! It will take Ninja preparatory skills, though, to get both myself and my family read for this venture (and my longest separation from Trumy ever! 😦 ) but in the immediate now, it means more yoga. Much more yoga!! trying to get myself ready for three long days of multiple practices in higher altitude. And so, yoga every day, which as you may have read Friday, is off to a feel-good start!

It just so happens that this weekend is also special in that one of my teachers is in Hastings for the first time teaching new YTTs and I got to take her class yesterday that involved a cue near the end that instructed us to put a foot down at the back of the mat like a, you guessed it, Ninja!

Summer ’16 – the year of the Mama Ninja.

I love it.

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Real (not snapchat) flowers in my hair, via RL’s flowercrown from the wedding! ❤

 

 

Run, Run, Welschies!

We have been on the ground in Houston for a little over 24 hours already, but our adventures to get here started at 4 a.m. yesterday (actually 2:50 a.m. for me, thanks to Truman) and what a wild ride it turned out to be to make it to the Lone Star State!

As many of you know, we are down here this week for my brother’s wedding and we are so excited to be able to visit them for the first time since he moved her several years ago (like before Linky, I think). And as many of you also know, traveling with little Littles is no small undertaking so Ben and I have been planning this out for months and I spent the last two days prior to leaving organizing, washing, and packing. Fortunately my parents agreed to fly with us so we could have a 1:1 kid to grownup ratio which was super helpful, but I think even they will tell you that yesterday morning turned out to be a bit more of Whoa! than any of us anticipated.

B and I have only flown once since having kids and that was out of Omaha, so leaving from Grand Island yesterday, we really didn’t know what to expect. Everyone told us, NBD, the airport is so small, it takes no time at all to get through and ready for flights, but apparently even Central NE is feeling the TSA crunch because at shortly after 5 a.m. on a Tuesday, we ran into a complete bottleneck of airport security line waiting.

Thank goodness the kids were riding high on excitement; they did just fine (OK, as fine as could be expected which means answering the same question of “When is it going to be our turn?!” 1,000x). The grownups, who are a little better at telling time and counting just how many people and minutes stood between us and the metal detectors, however, were having more trouble keeping blood pressure levels down as we waited! I mean, our plane could only hold 37 people – how could it take 45+ plus minutes for us near the end of the line, to get through?!

Yes, I realize 45 mins. is actually nothing compared to major airports, but it cut us so close to departure time, which turned out to be a joke anyway because unlike a major airport, they actually waited until everyone got through security and on the plane which meant our first flight left the ground close to 30 minutes late which means you can probably guess where this story is going.

First, however, let me stray to a side story about clouds. I love clouds. Like, addicted to watching the prairie sky, love clouds. But if you put clouds between me and cruising altitude and/or the ground? In those cases, I no longer love clouds! img_1982

And, unfortunately, we had some serious ones to get through on our way up in NE and then more on our way down in Dallas. The ascent was the worst. As in, we were bouncing around so much, I was eyes closed, taking deep breaths so as to not freak out the nursing baby in my lap or the 2yo in the seat next to me, but awkward fear giggles still burst out of my mouth more than once when we hit particularly intense pockets of air. So, so not fun! But ultimately fine because nothing was wrong with the plane and eventually we got through it so we could enjoy the “ocean” of clouds from above.  And the best, best part? None of the kids freaked out or urped! Those are huge traveling with Littles WINS!

Tangent done. Back to arrival in Dallas:

Thanks to TSA and clouds, we obviously landed late in DFW. And since dear husband picked flights that left only 50 minutes between connections, the grownups were again in panic mode about time well before we hit the ground.

Although we got off the plane quickly, we still had to wait for our stroller and carry-on that had been placed in the belly of the plane (that was OK – gave everyone a chance to use the restroom and me to find out the number of our next gate) and by the time we started chugging through the terminal, we were in T-minus-10-minutes-or-less from making our next flight.

Again, the children were troopers. Well, the children that were with me, anyway.

See, we totally did the family strung out Home Alone running through the airport thing, with my mom and I leading the way with HD and RL, and my poor dad (who does not run) carrying (carrying!) the baby and Ben pushing the stroller with a pissed-off Lincoln who was screaming “Me not baby!!!” and trying to bail the entire sprint! You guys. I can’t even make this stuff up!

But the Bigs were awesome. They had their back packs on and were RUNNING their little legs off looking for Gate B-13 which turned out to be hella far away from B-39.

At one point, in the middle of some long and steamy, seemingly temporary hallway, Mom and I almost called it. It seemed next to impossible that we would make it, much less our luggage, and there are tons of flights from Dallas to Houston, so again, NBD, right?! But the kids kept up moving (and all the other boys were still somewhere behind us), so we kept moving, too.

And wouldn’t you know it?! We totally made it! We were literally the last people to rush up to the gate counter and we had to wait anxiously for 2 minutes for everyone else to catch up (Gma had run back to help Gpa with Baby), but they got there and we got on the plane! I can only imagine what all the other passengers thought when they saw us, sweaty and flustered and with four small children, boarding that aircraft! But by golly, we did it, and 37 minutes later, we were in Houston and shockingly, so were our suitcases! That almost surprised me more than us making the flight.

But here we are, deep in the heart (nope, the belly!) of Texas, settling in to our accommodations and getting some nice family time and some fun activities (so far power yoga for Mama with future-sister-in-law last night and a morning trip with the grandparents to the zoo, today). More adventures await, no doubt!

Home

Even though it has been 10.5 years, I still remember the first time I drove into Hastings with Ben. He was in the process of moving here to begin his first year of teaching and I was along for the ride as the relatively new but supportive girlfriend. I was 23, and about to start my second year of grad school in Lincoln. I don’t know why I remember that particular arrival so much, other than my soul must have been registering that this was the start of something big.

In 12 months’ time, we were married and living in Hastings, and I was the one about to embark on my first year of full-time teaching. I knew no one outside of work other than the people Ben knew through his work, but it didn’t take long for us to form a bond and routines with people who helped make this completely unknown place feel OK. Now most of you know, I’m from SoDak, so it’s not like I moved halfway around the world and had to adjust accordingly, but having grown up in the same house, in the same town my entire life, setting out as a married actual grown up in a town/state I had never expected to land was in fact a large adjustment.

It would be two full years of living here before Hastings registered as home. Before we had kids, B and I made trips to visit our parents all the time – monthly actually, I think, which seems wild to me now because currently we are lucky to all make it to those spots more than a couple/few times a year. So in the early years, going home meant going to see our folks. And while those places will always be home, it occurred to me one night in the fall of 2008, as I drove back into town after a long day of teaching and parent-teacher conferences in Palmer, NE (an hour away) that I was relieved to be in Hastings and I was in fact home. I can still remember in this case as well what the city looked like as I made my way toward our house that night; in hindsight, I wonder if my very being knew we were about to take another step toward home-building by learning that I was pregnant for the first time that same fall.

In the years of babies and an in-town move since, our attachment to this once-unkown place has grown. Of course it is not so much the town or the house that do that in terms of their physical presence, but the people and opportunities and connections we have made in our almost decade of married life here. We have people who ground us, support us, help us, and love us, here and away. And while we cannot know for sure what the future holds, I think both Ben and I stop on a pretty regular basis to survey the life we are leading to think, “Holy moly cow. We are blessed beyond words.”

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Hard to see, but a little shot of all six of us cruising down the highway in the van.

That was certainly the case yesterday, anyway, when we returned from our very first overnight trip (to his parents’ house) as a family of six (yes, Trumy is 5 months old; yes, they only live 1.5 hours away; yes, that is lame on our part, but we’ve been thwarted by weather and illness or both on every other attempt). We had a great time seeing family and Truman turned out to be an awesome traveler (of course he did), which gives us great hope for future trips. Driving back into town this time was one of those “Man, I have four kids?! I have four kids!” moments, plus feelings of accomplishment, joy, and relief from our whirlwind trip.

So although home will always mean being with the people I love the most, I cannot help but recognize the work we’ve done and the gifts we’ve been given in making this current place our home.

 

Oh, No She Didn’t! /Oh, No! She Didn’t!

I come from a family that does not look well on discussing bodily functions. As in, it’s simply not done.

My friends in college knew this about me and knew I would cringe and correct them if the table-talk started to creep toward all things gross, not because of a squeamish tummy, but simply because it was so engrained in my brain that this is not what one discusses.

So maybe I’ve lost my mind a bit if I’m considering talking about what I’m considering talking about here, but for the love of the sweet mother of all things holy, there are some things in life a girl should know and knowledge doesn’t come from silence. That being said, I wonder if I can code talk my way through this so as to cover  my (the body part of which I’m speaking) a bit….

You see, something I did not know prior to my surgery on Monday is that pain pills stop not only the pain but also the most important bodily function possible (behind, I suppose, breathing and urination from proper hydration), especially when very little movement of the body is also part of the healing process.

How did I not know this? I’ve had four babies. I’ve taken pain pills at the hospital before (even though my births have been drug free, you can bet your sweet bippee I’ve gone for a bit of the good stuff afterwards!)! But only once has a doc sent them home with me and come to think of it, that is the one time I had the, um, hardest time recovering (un)said bodily functions.

I thought that was all birth-related, though, as I learned after my first baby to not give up the, um, Colace 10262220_10102233042461973_6769345122144537144_ntoo soon because that only ends in difficulty for the mama. Side Note: when asked birthing advice from friends expecting their first child, this is seriously what I tell them (so I guess my Don’t Speak policy about bodily functions really only exists with my family, and mainly  my poor father who is probably ready to disown me at this point). I had no idea the pain pills were part of the problem.

So, lesson learned from my first surgery is this: for the love of the sweet mother of all things holy, TAKE SOME DAMN STOOL SOFTNERS ASAP AND CONTINUE THEM UNTIL YOUR BODY HEALS.

End of shouting, I promise. And so much for the code speak.

Since I didn’t know this lesson until it was too late, I’ve had a rough week. My nose is improving, yes, but I am still pretty well worn out from lack of sleep and all the mouth breathing while trying to sleep, but the last few days have been extra hard because my belly was slowly becoming extra hard and visibly full.

The realization of this, and ensuing semi-panic, began Wednesday, which was technically Day Three.

The trying all the things OTC and sending the hubs to the store for all the fibrous foods and natural digestive aids consumed Days Four and Five, as did the one gentle yoga pose I could manage (drawing one knee into the chest at a time while laying on the floor) for several minutes last night.

The actual shituation did not come to be until today, Day Six, and I kid you not, it was worse than childbirth without drugs. I could write a damn novel detailing this morning’s events but even with my loosened tongue (I blame motherhood of young children on this because no bodily function is either controlled or off limits when it comes to them), I still have some boundaries here on the blog.

So, my friends – if any of you are still brave enough to call me “friend” now that I’ve put this lovely gem out there for the world to see – should you ever find yourself faced with a medical procedure and pain medicine plus bed rest, for the love of the sweet mother of all things holy, TAKE SOME DAMN STOOL SOFTNERS ASAP AND CONTINUE THEM UNTIL YOUR BODY HEALS.

Because I didn’t, and then I couldn’t, and now I probably shouldn’t have done this either, but consider it my PSA for 2016.

May you never actually need this advice.

 

Care Package

Are you familiar with the Love Languages? Have you ever read the book or taken a quiz to see how you give/receive love in this life? It’s a fantastic read and a remarkably eye-opening concept that can clue you in to what you desire from those around you in terms of feeling valued, seen, and loved; it centers on five different Love Languages (words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch).

Book plug aside, I think one extra love language that exists in my own family centers on food (maybe this is an off-shoot of acts of service?). Like many, we have seasonal and holiday traditions that include certain special foods (my fave, the four different soups on Christmas Eve, one selected each by my mom, my dad, my brother, and myself); but in general, my family definitely shows love via the kitchen. My dad makes my mom eggs each morning for breakfast. My mom takes menu requests whenever us kids come home to visit. And you should see the way they both (have always) plied my husband with seconds and thirds when we are there (they must think I don’t feed him)! Food is nourishment, but food is also together time and food is certainly full of love in my family.

It makes sense, then, that I was drawn to a task this week that centered on expressing thanks and gratitude through the preparation of food. As I’m sure you remember from earlier this month, the biggest Welschies (i.e. B & I) did not so much handle the week of the 4th so well. We were both stressed out and, honestly, pissed off, at various points in the week by inconsiderate people and their need to blow up fireworks near our house (or in Ben’s case, his head). I ranted a fair amount on Facebook and also requested ideas of what else could be done to honor those who serve (or have served) in the military. I found out from a local mama friend who is also a military wife that she would soon be sending cookies to her husband’s unit, if I wanted to help with that and I said yes. She contacted me this weekend to see if I was still interested and I again said, “Yes!!”

Bless her sweet heart. She not only took requests, but set the goal of sending each member two dozen of their said requests, which ended up totaling darn near 80 doz. cookies! Yeah, that’s not a typo. 80 dozen. I did what I could to help by taking on 19 of those dozen which I managed to complete last night post-book club and this morning while The Bigs were at camp (and Lincoln tooled around with Ben). I’m blaming the extreme heat this week for my flat chocolate chip cookies (and possibly my pregnant brain for thinking it could remember the recipe without looking), but the peanut butter ones and the Monster Cookies turned out great (and oh, my, does that recipe make a huge batch). In total I did 6 dozen chocolate chip, 3 dozen peanut butter, and 10 dozen Monster.

So here is our family’s response to fireworksIMG_0391 this year: Cookies. And lots of them. Made with love and many thanks, “for the soldiers” (as we explained to HD & RL). It may be a drop in the bucket in terms of really giving back, but if something homemade for someone local serving away from their own families can bring a little light and love into their day, then we are so grateful to use this as a means to celebrate Independence Day.

Monster Cookies (this recipe came from a small town or church cookbook at my parent’s house)

Ingredients: 6 eggs, 2 c. brown sugar, 2 c. sugar, 2 t. vanilla, 2 t. Karo syrup, 4 t. baking soda, 3 c. smooth peanut butter, 1/2 c. butter (softened), 9 c. oatmeal, 1 c. chocolate chip, 1 c. M&Ms

Directions: Mix in order given. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 9-11 minutes at 350 degrees.

Makes: 7-10 dozen, depending on size.