Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Preschooler and a 3rd grader

I am slowly getting my world back in balance after the end of the summer -- I am not sure it will be as balanced as it once was, but for now my approach is to fake it until I make it.  As the fog lifts, I am reminded that we have done quite a bit of living and growing the past months.

Addison started third grade at the end of August - Yes!  Third grade!  She, of course, was excited to get back to school, get back her gaggle of friends, get back to freshly sharpened pencils and brand new crayons.  This year, she switches classes for Language Arts and has the world's biggest binder that organizes all her work.  Unsurprisingly, Addison continues to love school - I get daily reports of who did what in class, who she sat with at lunch, and what amazing, witty, hilarious things her teachers' say, as they are the most amazing people in the eyes of my little third grader. 
Third grade, in addition to switching classes, has more homework, has introduced the recorder to our home (if I hear Hot Cross Buns one more time I may cry), and is keeping Addison, and me, crazy busy.   Addie just wrapped her soccer season (we saw great improvement this season, she even scored a goal) in time to start two days a week practice for volleyball.  The sports are squeezed in along side of Girl Scouts, dance, and scootering around the neighborhood with Maggie, Harrison and Nicholas.  It seems Addison rarely has a moment to sit down these days -- but when she does I often find her curled up with her nose in a book, which makes me smile every time.

And then there is Miss B, who leaves me three times a week for three hours at time to become a super smart three year old.  In September Brenna started at preschool, which she may love even more than sweet treats.  Each day when I pick her up I am told all about school, about her teacher, about all her little friends.  She proudly sits at the table with her homework tracing each letter and then writing them on her own in her clunky printing.   After three weeks at school, she demanded to know when they were going to do math, because "that's my favorite, Mom".  She's already gone on two field trips, has had the Sharing bag, and has taken Bailey the stuffed bear home to go on adventures with her.
When she isn't at school we spend time running errands, doing puzzles, heading to the zoo, and still sneaking in a few naps.  Brenna also started both soccer and ballet this year.  In one weekend she got her first pair of cleats and her first pair of ballet slippers -- I am pretty sure it was the very best weekend of her life. 

We play soccer in the back yard and Brenna dribbles and runs and kicks hard.  When we go to soccer practice and games, Brenna stands still, puts her hands in her pockets and avoids the ball like the plague.   But she looks dang cute doing it.  Ballet is thirty minutes a week and she loves every second of it - the twirling, the pointed toes, the tutus.
These days we have one activity or another every night of the week and often on Saturdays.  I spend a lot of time in my car, pulling in and out of my driveway, dropping off and picking up.  I know that as busy as we feel, we have barely begun to experience the chaos raising well rounded kiddos.  But for now, it is more than enough.

It has been lovely to sit here, on a rainy Tuesday, and be in a warm familiar place -- I hope to sit here more often.  Until then, errands and laundry call....

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


I have mulled sentences and paragraphs and chapters over and over again in my restless brain. Words and phrases that capture what this last month has been, how it has changed me, transformed me, damaged me. 
A month ago my father was alive.
Two days before that he was still hoping for a miracle pass, a hail Mary, that would buy him the time he hadn't accepted he was losing.

I have lost family members.  I have lost friends.  I have lost adored pets.  I have a degree in social work and I am at my best when I am managing a crisis - it turns out, however, that there is no way to manage your own crisis, bandage your own soul, particularly when  faced with saying goodbye to a parent too soon.

This last month has been a tornado of emotions - anger, hatred, deep sorrow, inappropriate laugh-out-loud humor.  I have been asked over and over by people who love me and support me and hold me up  "Are you okay?" and then answer has never once been yes.  

Except that I am totally okay until I am totally not.  

I have found my grief to be like a rain soaked woolen sweater with fussy brass buttons - suffocating, uncomfortable, smothering - hard to take off and discard.  There are days, or more appropriately, moments where I am just perfectly okay.   
I am living my normal hectic life that I live; picking up after my house of mess makers, doing the daily things that somehow endlessly fill my hours - errands, homework, practices, play dates, and occasionally home cooked meals.  I am just tooling along living my life, wearing some flimsy armor, and then suddenly I am fiddling with those soaking wet brass buttons, not knowing whether I am trying to shrug off or on my grief soaked sweater.

My dad was a complicatedly simple man. While he rarely knew how to say it, and he often struggled to show it, all he wanted was for his family to be happy and feel loved.  For years he was an enigma to me, an unknowable shadow, an off color superhero.  For years after that we lived raw emotions around each other, with words said that couldn't be unsaid and hard moments that I would never trade, as they eventually became our solid foundation.  A foundation of patience and forgiveness.  We learned to be in each others' corners, to pat each other on the back, to tell each other that no matter what each of us were facing we had someone to unconditionally back us up -- with love, with honesty, and more often than not, with a good glass of red wine.

I have no doubt that I will miss him everyday, even though never in my life did I see him everyday. 

Already, in the past month, I have picked up the phone to tell him about Addison's first day of third grade; about Brenna not looking back as she walked into her first day of preschool.  I have wanted to tell him of wines Andy and I have tasted, and how my garden exploded this year.  I have wanted to bitch to him about my damn half marathon training and invite him down for the weekend for a grilled steak and an evening on the patio.  I have found myself longing to sit in his presence - even if we were only watching the damn History Channel together.

I often find myself lost in sweet little memories.  It's the simple memories of everyday life that I am finding the most comforting.  
I think of the eggs he cooked in the apartment he had in Pittsfield - they had far too much pepper and I  loudly complained, but he convinced me to eat them. As an adult I found his eggs and his BLTs to be heavenly.
I remember the day he told me Kevin was born, making  my place as his baby girl secure.  
I think of our breakfast in Roger's Park my second week at Loyola when he told me he would give me space to find my way in Chicago, but that he would never be far.  I remember how we laughed at the voicemail I left on his work phone because I had successfully figured out how to change the bulb in my complicated Ikea desk lamp.
I remember the numerous dinner and lunch dates we had throughout all the years we shared in Chicago - the Christmas lunches at the Walnut Room; just the two of us and an enormous perfectly decorated tree.
I can't help but think of the way he looked at me when I graduated from college and graduate school, pride and joy and love and hope all mingled into one sheepish smile.
I think of how he showed up at my bedside when I was mugged and wouldn't leave until I fell asleep.
I remember when I told him that I was moving in with Andy because it made good financial sense, the logic I thought he'd respect; he got silent and told me that money is never more important than love.
And I smile at the memory of the parties he threw, including my friends and family and his neighbors, and the ridiculously embellished stories he told while he grilled and sipped a gin and tonic.

I think of how he forgot to let go of my hand when we met Andy at the end of aisle, and how in his last days he told me how proud he was of my marriage.

I remember his ridiculous love of his granddaughters - his slices of pumpkin pie.  They had him wrapped around their pinkie fingers, and he loved all of it.  
I think of our condo in Chicago, where he would stop almost weekly to share coffee or breakfast with me and Addison and pick up whatever she repeatedly dropped.

I remember holding his hand last summer, in the hospital, telling him it wasn't time to give up.  I think of dancing with him cheek to cheek on my wedding night and marveling at what an elegant dancer he was.  
I remember that at one point, not so very long ago, he was strong, and driven, and fully alive.
I cannot help but think about the last time I saw his eyes - he opened them to take in one last look at his first born granddaughter, simultaneously taking my breath away.

I will forever remember him squeezing my hand and my older brother's hand at the same time.  I will forever remember the moment his soul moved on.  I will forever be changed by being by his side - through our tough beginning, through our laugh-filled middle, and through his peaceful, heartbreaking end.

I know that my life will slowly go back to its everyday mundaness.  I just assuredly know, that once in awhile I will feel alone, adrift, upended.  As my grief ebbs, I know I will see my dad beyond the dreams I have of him sipping wine.  I will see him in my brother's mannerisms, in the shape of my hands, in my daughters' silliness.  I will think of him in the heat of August, over a glass of French Rose, while Andy prepares a perfect steak on the grill.  

And in time I will smile, even though I am pretty sure my heart will forever be bruised.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Three. Again.

Seriously, three, I have not missed your ass.  I have survived you before, and darn it, I will survive you again.

No, seriously, I will.

In my sweet, rose tinted memory I hardly remember Addison at three, until I force myself to.  As sweet as she was, that child was not perfect - as evidenced by this rant, and this one, okay and this one too.  I have some how scrubbed my memory and only recall her holding my hand, and snuggling, and holy sweet Jesus, sleeping through the night.

You often hear that people have a second (and third and fourth and ...) child because they have forgotten about the pain of childbirth or those early, exhausting sleepless days and weeks.  Hmmm.  I counter that argument.  People have a second child because A) they have yet to experience the thrill ride that is a three year old or B) they are too damn tired to remember what a ridiculous roller coaster three was.

Looks can be deceiving
Miss Brenna is loved and adored.  Her chocolate eyes are gorgeous, her hugs are delicious, her laughter is infectious.  But, I shit you not, her attitude (Brennatude?) is insufferable.  It is slowly stripping away my humanity.

She wants what she wants.  Not what you offer. 
Not the Minnie Mouse cup, the Anna cup.
Not the blue plate, the pink plate (Pink is my favorrrite color.  Then orange.  NOT blue, MOM. Not BLUE).
I want grapes.  NO STRAWBERRIES!  No grapes!!  Why can't I have the orange I (didn't) ask for?

For over a year we have been going to the YMCA a couple times a week (not that you'd know by my waistline, thank you very much Mr. Wine) and now suddenly she is turning on the tears as I turn to leave.  Those poor women who work childcare - I give her a squeeze and run off to work out, because if  I didn't things would get ugly around here (ahem, uglier).

Nap time is a fight.  It's bribery and coaxing and raised voices and tears.  I often lose.  And my god, sweet Brenna, forget nap time, what the hell has happened to just  plain old sleeping through the night. She is potty trained (god forbid she pees on Anna, or Elsa, or Olaf) and rarely does she have an accident, but yet her itty, bitty, minuscule butt is in my room on average three nights a week.   On Saturday she just wanted to check in at 3:34 a.m.; on Sunday she fell out of bed around 4 a.m.; last night the flashlight I didn't know she had woke her up at 11:26 p.m. and an excruciating, imaginary pain in her pinkie toe sent her into our room around 2 a.m.

SERIOUSLY.  I haven't slept a full night since we were in California wine country last year.  And let's be honest, I drank a shitton of wine, so that was less sleeping and more just gently passing out.

Dinner time is hell.  Breakfast is painful.  Weirdly, lunch is generally okay, but only because I always make Miss B's plate into a happy face.  I've tried that at other meals and she just scowls at me.  She wants what she wants, which apparently is only to have her plate smile at her during lunch.

 A ton of the time she is a lovebug, a fair chunk of the time I am sure she is plotting a coup.  She gets mad about socks.  About designs on her shirts (Anna and Elsa and Princess Sofia should never be silk screened anywhere but perfectly centered on her tiny belly).  She wants to wear gloves, but they piss her off.  She loves mittens, as long as they don't have teddy bears on them.  She gets down right belligerent when  we don't refer to her as Elsa or Anna or Violet, after she has explicitly explained that that is who she is...until she changes her mind 48 seconds later.

She wants to got potty all by herself, but she gets mad when it's time to wipe.  She likes her hands to be clean, but she hates soap.  She is specific about her PJs, her horrendously mismatched outfits and which seasonally inappropriate shoes she wants to wear.

She thinks her sister is her lackey and that she is the overlord of some 1920s mobster organization.  Brenna effectively bullies a seven year old on a daily basis.  Okay let's be honest, she often bullies a 37 and 38 year old as well.  On occasion, she sucks a grandmother into her underworld, too, and, seriously, that's just not nice.

But I know, with my infinite and profound wisdom, that I will survive this.  One day I will wake up and Miss B. will no longer be three.    Knowing my luck, by the time I have regained my sanity she will thirteen and her sister will be seventeen.    And I will deeply mourn these days. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Keeping Traditions

In a small attempt to fulfill my duties at good, or at least half way decent, mother I upheld two of our family traditions last week.  The first, which brings me equal parts joy and sadness, was delivering a pumpkin to Papa Neyer's grave.  Addie and I started to bring him a pumpkin on his birthday a year
after his passing.  The first pumpkin we delivered was painted purple with a sloppy two-year-old's hands.  This year's was a melted crayon project that involved all of us - but I somehow ended up crouched in the driveway with the hairdryer making the wax drip down the pumpkin.
Nonetheless, the three of us made our pilgrimage to see Papa and deliver his pumpkin.   We sat with him and told him how much we missed and loved him.   Addison told him about second grade and soccer and Girls Scouts.  Brenna babbled about music class and going to the YMCA.  We sang happy birthday and blew kisses.  I shed a tear or two as I always do.
This year our visit seemed a little more bittersweet, as it would have been Bob's 60th birthday.  He still had so much living and loving left to do and without a doubt he is missed every single day.  I hate that we have to deliver this pumpkin, but I love that it has been become part of our Autumn traditions.

The other tradition that I have managed to maintain is a trip to the Brown Family Farmstand.  I am pretty sure we have been taking Addison down to Brown's since she was two. One of my favorite pictures is of Brenna as an eleven month old, brown eyes sparkling among the pumpkins. 
This year we went during the week, as Addison had Friday off school.  We took Gramma Kathy with us and met up with Greyson and Hilary.  We managed to play a little bit in the Tiny Town (a few preschool field trips made that aspect not so much fun).  We wandered through corn mazes, visited with farm animals and took a hay ride.  Several wonderful pumpkins were selected, there may have been a tantrum or two (argh!  dirty hands!  argh!  I don't want to smile!  argh! corn mazes are scary!){Argh!  Almost three year olds are ex.haus.ting!}.
My children still don't know much about fancy pumpkin farms, with cow trains and candy apples and pony rides.  But they love the ride to Brown's, especially now that we have found where to feed the whitetailed deer, and the Tiny Town, and the silly hay ride.  They love the barn maze, filled with hay and the simple wooden cut outs to stick their head through.  And truth be told, at the end of the day they loved their simple adventure...and I did too.

Monday, October 13, 2014

17 hours in the 'Burgh

I spent 17 hours in Pittsburgh this weekend, which let me just say, is not a long enough time to be anywhere.  But this road trip was worth the effort, as it was a chance to celebrate my babiest cousin and her lovely new marriage to Jon, and their gorgeous sidekick Jack.
We spent a few hours around a campfire, dining in a rustic barn, sipping cocktails out of mason jars.  Miss Addie had to miss the festivities due to school (she'll thank me when we spend a week in Disney next month) but Brenna Bear was in her glory.  Lemonade, pretzels, cupcakes, roasted marshmallows and my family who beyond doted on her.

As we drove home (well, technically my Mom drove and I enjoyed being a passenger) my Mom and I chatted about how lucky we are to have the extended family we have.  I think we may be an anomaly, we genuinely like each other.  We like to laugh together and be together and toast each other.  Knowing I had a bit of a road trip ahead
of me, I called it quits after the first round of Fireball was ordered last night, but it was a hard decision to make.  As fun as the day was, we were missing a fair amount of our crew...and can't wait until we are all together to continue toasting.

And here's to Jill and Jon (and Jack) who got most of us together...at least for a little while.
Also, I got to wear cowboy boots, so that was awesome.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Run Like a Girl

So, no joke, I'm getting old.
As I write this it is raining out, Addie is at school and Brenna and I are snuggled up in my bed.  She is chugging milk and watching Halloween Curious George; I'm sipping coffee and thoroughly enjoying the warmth of a heating pad against my right hamstring.  Because, as I said, I am getting old.

I'm getting old, but if truth be told I'm a little bit awesome, too (or so I'd like to think).  Last January we spent a weekend in Wheeling, West Virginia for a mini Flaherty Family reunion.  Anytime this part of my family gets together there is bound to be insane amounts of laughter, a fair amount of alcohol consumed, and usually a story or two.  One night after a sip or two of wine my cousin, Liz, asked if I'd do a half marathon with her.  I, of course, said yes.  A wine fueled yes.  Which brings us to the current situation with the lovely heating pad.

Liz and I followed through on our plans and on Saturday we ran the Run Like a Girl Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio.   If truth be told, Liz owned the race and I ran what I think is my best long distance run to date.  She trained like a pro, not missing any days, cross training and undoubtedly eating incredibly well.  I trained.  Sometimes I fudged my distances, occasionally I slipped in some cross training, and while my diet was probably healthier than it once was, it was not stellar.   So the fact that Liz kicked my rear is of no surprise and absolutely well earned by her.  That being said, I am damn proud of my aching 37 year old body.

I didn't stop to walk once (one visit to the portapotty did occur.... again because I'm getting old).  I chose other runners to beat and picked them off.  I didn't vomit or fall over crossing g the finish line - SUCCESS!  I did, however, in the last tenth of a mile pull my hamstring, and oh wow, that hurts.  So I am gimpy and limping, popping Aleve like candy corn, and hanging out on a heating pad.  But I finished a half marathon.  Finished. A. Half. Marathon.

Friends, I don't mean to brag, but I am still feeling like a badass.  I had in the back of my head that if I finished in 2 hours and 30 minutes I'd be happy.  In the way back of head I was hoping to have a helluva run and finish in 2 hours and 15 minutes.   As I crossed the finish line the clock said 2:27 and I was happy.  And then the official results were published - my official time was 2:13.  Two hours and thirteen minutes people!!!  I beat my super secret goal - and I did it without wanting to die. My hamstring suffered but my ego hasn't - I.Am.Proud.

Let me say this as well - my cousin Liz is amazeballs. Seriously, she rocks. She had never run a thing before.  She was not a runner.  Not a runner and she finished in 2:05.  Whaaat?!  Amazing.  Also, without her dedication to training I would have never followed through.  I would have found an excuse to give up and sit on my couch.  I do love my couch.  But she kept training and running and getting blisters, so I kept dragging myself out there.

The rain and wind and hail made this half marathon a bit of a challenge - but the cheering section of my wonderful family made it so much better.  Big smiles, lots of cheers, high fives and hugs are pretty motivating.  As was the bottle of wine each finisher got.  And maybe the several bottles of champagne that we celebrated with, champagne hydrates like water, right?  Yesterday, Brenna said to me while were cuddling Mama, you and Liz run so,so,so fast.  And that's when I decided I need to keep it up. 

So I'm going to take it easy for another day or so and then I'm going to get going.  Get back to the gym, to the treadmill, to Pilates, to the weight room.  If I can tackle a half marathon, maybe I am capable of a bit more than I give myself credit.  Just maybe.  And if they see me up and moving and taking care of me and setting goals then maybe those amazing kids of mine will one day do the same.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thankful Thursdays

This Thursday I am thankful for:

  • Practically having a full night of sleep last night.  I was up later than I intended watching Blacklist (side note:  I must stop binge watching Netflix shows.  I must.) but I was not awoken at any time in the middle of the night by Miss B.  For about the last five weeks Brenna has struggled with not only going to bed at bedtime, but with staying in bed throughout the night.  She hears every car on the street, plane in the sky and creak in the house when it's bedtime and is compelled to get up and investigate and wake mom up to aid in the investigation.  Over the weekend she was up every 2.5 - 3 hours, it was like having a newborn all over again and my brain just about exploded.  Luckily, last night she stayed snug in bed until 6:25 this morning - I feel like I could run a marathon today.

  • Time spent with my amazing Aunt Janet.  She was in town for just under a week, and it felt far too short.  When my mother updated Facebook about her visit a friend commented that Aunt Janet "leaves a sweet, soft footprint everywhere she goes, with multicolored sparkles from heel to toes", which is exactly true.  Our week was full of adventures, laughter, cooking  and joy.  The girls were spoiled with attention and mom and I were showered in comfort.

  • Getting myself moving again, I am scheduled to run the Girls on the Run Half Marathon this Saturday in Columbus.  This is one of those things that I agreed to do with my cousin Elizabeth back in January after a few too many glasses of wine. There have been definite moments that I have regretted that decision - when my knees have been on fire, hips throbbing and back killing - but overall I am thankful I signed on.  Refocusing on running has given me a new appreciation for what I am capable of accomplishing.  I haven't run like this since before Addison was born. I forgot what a high of good run felt like.  In fact this time last year I could barely eke out an 11 minute single mile and two weekends ago I ran over 10 miles at a pace that wasn't totally embarrassing.  I also forgot how head clearing running can be - I am able to reflect on or plan my days, rehearse difficult conversations, or just get lost in the scenery and the music.  Simply put, I am thankful for finding time to run again, even if it hurts a little.  Okay, a lot.

  • The people who push me out the door to run.  My mother, who has eagerly and willingly watched Brenna for midweek runs and who consistently tells me how good I look after a trying run.  She also, with ease, detects a  foul mood and suggests I go pound it out on the pavement.  And, of course, Andy, who not only has pushed me out the door and covered some early weekend mornings with the little ladies, but understands exactly how to get inside my competitive head to push me to go further faster.  Without either of them I would have never made it past a five mile run.

  • The sounds of my children being together.  Ninety percent of the time they play together lovingly with laughter and imagination and excitement.  They play school, dance recital, princess castle and house.  They color and paint and swing and slide and explore.  They're mommies to their dolls, supermodels at the fashion show, center stage ballerinas, rock stars, doctors and artists.  The other ten percent of the time they annoy each other and get under each others' skin and push each others' buttons like crazy.  But at the end of the day, they give each other a hug and a kiss and say I love you and they mean it.  I'll be thankful for that for as long as a it lasts.