Mar 10, 2017

When Someone You Love Gets a Terminal Illness


This is the comment my cousin left (on Facebook) on my last blog post re: teenagers.

"Marie G. A. You are one of the best, most human and funniest writers I have read, and I have read a lot - no answers for you - just not to give up, while they're yelling at you, inside they know you are right and you love them, but they're a mess. Teenagers' brains don't function real well in some lobes which I forget, gets better by 20's. Your mom is sympathizing every minute, and staying close."

First of all, that was a really nice compliment. Secondly, Marie is super funny. Thirdly, reminding me that my mom is on the other side helping me, made me a little teary.

A very short time later, on Monday, February 27th, Marie died of complications from breast cancer.

Which was pretty heartbreaking.

And, of course, got me thinking of my Mom dying.
Which sucked and still sucks.

#CancerSucks

{Or as her daughter aptly put it at Marie's funeral: "Cancer sucks balls!!!" Which made me chuckle inwardly. (Bouncy balls, obviously.)}

Quite frankly, my mom dying is something I never stop thinking about.

See, I have all these mild to moderate regrets. Most of all, I just regret that I didn't bleed her for information every minute of every day.

Here are some questions I would ask her if I could talk to her right now. (There are about a billion more where these came from.)

What was it like when Karie turned 13 and you had your first teenager? What did you worry about? What was unexpected? Did you feel like you had any leverage or control of the situation at all, or did you feel completely crazy-train and powerless like me?

How do you get the meringue not to bleed on the Peanut Butter Pie?

What was the first book you remember reading as a kid and what did you like to read growing up? And as an adult?

What was your favorite type of ethnic food? (I already know it's Mexican, just want to hear you say it.) Second favorite?

Tell me about all of your very best friends.

What age did you get breast cancer the first time? My OB really wants to know.

How did you find the lump again...? I can't remember the story. I know it has to do with your best friend Maureen getting breast cancer at the same time. Can you tell me the story again?

How did you keep the house clean when we were little?

How did you fill your time when I went to school?

Do you regret not working in illustration longer?

How did you stay motivated to cook those big dinners for us every night?
(Alternately, did you know when it was just the two of us and we had "cereal night" or those tiny thin-cut fried pork chops that those are really happy memories for me?)

And how did you get yourself up to make us breakfast every morning when you had six young kids?

What was the best trip you ever took and what was your favorite country?
---
I also regret not asking hard questions.

If the situation were to repeat itself, I would be more prepared.

I would have gotten her to plan her funeral.
Who she wanted to speak-- and sing-- and which hymns were her favorites?

{Did you know my siblings fought while planning her funeral? 
Well, now everyone knows.
Yep, we fought. 
It wasn't pretty.
It was pretty ugly.
We're all strong-willed and opinionated and we were stressed and shattered.
No one should have to fight over the hymn you sing at your mothers funeral. Your mother should have that written down.}

What about legal and financial records? Where are they? What do I need to know?
---
I regret not recording her more.

Sure, maybe it's technically illegal and very NSA-esque, but why didn't I record every phone call I ever made to her? Why didn't I sit down and press record every single time we saw each other in person. I recorded her singing a few songs, but why didn't I record her SINGING EVERY SINGLE SONG EVER WRITTEN?!?! Or at least every song ever written or sung by Anne Murray. That probably would have sufficed. She loved Anne Murray and they have the same vocal range.

I regret that I didn't find ways for her to put her handprint on more tangible items. I did try to get her to make my unborn baby a quilt, but by that time, it was too late. Turns out when you're dying you don't necessarily feel up to quilting. But now every scrap of paper with her handwriting, every note, every recipe card, every photograph is a treasure.
Painting mom's nails before she died

{Sidenote: A few weeks ago I was cleaning out Max's room. I found Grandpa Warners old non-functioning "Nook" electronic reader. (the Barnes and Noble version of a Kindle.) I asked Max if we could recycle it. He said no. All of the sudden I had a flash of understanding. He wasn't keeping it hoping to get it fixed and use it. He was keeping it because it belonged to his Grandpa. A useless electronic brick and he didn't want to give it up. I told him, "This isn't how you remember Grandpa. You have his (neck) ties for that. You can let this go." And he did.}

Now when I hear that someone has terminal cancer, first, I feel horribly sad for what they are all about to go through. Next, I send some prayers their way. And finally, I want to go to their children and yell in their faces: "RECORD EVERYTHING! PHOTOGRAPH EVERYTHING! TAKE A MILLION PICTURES! ASK A MILLION QUESTIONS! HAVE THEM PLAN THE FUNERAL!!!!!!!"

But I don't.
And if I did, the person being yelled at probably wouldn't listen.
(Aside from being annoyed at the yelling.)
Because maybe they will get better!
And because it's awkward.
And uncomfortable.
And sometimes even if you do bring up funeral arrangements, maybe the person doesn't want to talk about it or think about it or deal with it.

I don't blame them.

But maybe you can show them this post written by a woman whose heart broke into a million pieces when her mom died and now treasures a note written in the front of a cookbook: "Emily, you'll do just great! Love, Mom"

And maybe they'll be motivated to fill out one of those cheesy "Tell Me Your Story" books you can find on Amazon.
Or make a recording reading a favorite book or singing a favorite song or lullaby.
Or pass on some hand-written recipes cards.
Or even just write a quick, handwritten note.

Maybe they wont. That's okay too.
But if they do, you'll be so glad they did!

Either way--you have my love and sympathy and all the universal good vibes I can muster and send your way!

Good luck,

Emily








Feb 11, 2017

Teenage Weirdness

There is this weird thing happening around here and it's really making me stop and take stock every few days...

I have a teenager.

A teenager who has just, in the last six months or so, turned surly. There is no other word for it. He is super,
duper,
SURLY!

And I have a 12-year-old who is entering the "question-everything-and-argue-for-the-sake-of-arguing" phase.

TWO!
Two boys who are in the throws of hormonal calamity.
Constant mood upheaval and fluctuation. Doug says he doesn't think he can handle it.
He's only here half the time.

It's just really weird watching all of these super cliche stereotypes happen before my eyes!
Let's take the eldest. He doesn't want me to touch him any more. No more hugs.
Unless he's in a *rare* good mood while also needing some attention. Then he'll come curl up with me on the couch or start trying to bait me into wrestling him. He's discovered that for the first time in his life, he's stronger than an adult and he loves getting a chance to stretch those muscles. (Me. I'm the adult. So that's not saying much because I'm super wimpy.)

Also, both boys are officially calling me on my hypocrisy. I mean, I always knew it would happen one day. You can only get away with constantly contradicting yourself as a parent for just so long before someone notices.

{Here's a good example: Me: "STOP YELLING AND TALK TO YOUR BROTHER NICELY!!!" with rage in my eyes and spit flying from my lips...
Or, another common theme: "Quit being so obsessed with devices! Go do something productive!!! *Glances down at phone and clicks on IG for 18th time...*}

 And then there's #2.

"Why do I have to go to bed early?"
"It's not early. It's 9:30."
"That's super early! I'M NOT EVEN TIRED!!!"
"Listen mister, I know you're just being argumentative because..."
"JUST BECAUSE YOU READ SOME STUPID ARTICLE ON PARENTING YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING AND YOU DON'T! I'M *NOT* TIRED AND I DO NOT HAVE TO GO TO BED!!!"
"Hey, I'm not saying this because of an article..."
"YES YOU ARE! EVERYTHING YOU SAY IS FROM A STUPID ARTICLE!"
"Listen, you're body needs rest..."
"YOU ALWAYS SAY THAT AND IT'S *NOT* TRUE!!!

I feel like most of the time I can handle these interactions okay.
Right up until I can't. (Uh, let's just say 4-6pm before eating isn't my best time.)
And then I "Hulk Out" and go full-on ballistic.

I've tried to analyze my melt-downs after-the-fact so that I can avoid them in the future. A few common triggers I've notice for above average personal melt-downs are these:

*Senseless acts of violence perpatrated by a bored brother onto a super whiny brother. *Screaming ensues*
*Asking "Why" for the 18th time after I've already told him why. (Always followed by "But that doesn't make any sense." Even when it makes perfect sense.)
*Being disrespectful to Dad. (Alternately, Doug is not super happy with them being disrespectful to me.)
*Child yelling, in my face, for the 87th time, "THAT'S NOT FAIR". (I never said it was fair. It might not be fair. BUT FAIR IS NOT THE POINT! NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE BLEEPING FAIR!!!)
*And did I already say "Repeating myself for the 94th time."?? I don't like repeating myself. I repeat, I DO NOT LIKE REPEATING MYSELF! ESPECIALLY WHEN I WAS PERFECTLY CLEAR THE FIRST TIME! ARE WE CLEAR?!? I THOUGHT I WAS CLEAR!
Or do you need to hear it one more time...??

But that's just life with kids, right? They're never perfectly well-behaved and then they become teens and things get kicked up into a new realm of hormones, angst, and baffling insecurities swirled with feelings of super-human superiority.
So I try to remember that I was a teen once. I did stupid and reckless things. I fought and yelled and honest-to-goodness absolutely believed I knew more than every adult in my life, and I still somehow managed to grow into a relatively productive member of society. (I said productive. I won't throw around terms like "well-adjusted" or "normal", but I have produced five humans and that's not nothin'.)

So after the disagreements. And fights. And complete nuclear meltdowns,
I walk away,
and regroup,
maybe eat my feelings a little bit,
pray for strength and patience and help for the billionth time,
apologize if needed,
--even when it's not wanted--
and wake up ready to do it all again.

Heaven help me. Heaven help all humans living in the same house as a teenager.

Amen.

P.S. I wrote this a few weeks ago and never pushed "publish" because it doesn't feel finished. I don't have a strong conclusion because, well, I don't have a strong conclusion. I don't actually have a real life answer on how to fix this, or make it better, or any profound insights or conclusions or anything. Can bloggers even write posts that don't offer super definite answers and/or polarizing advice any more? Is it even legal? Regardless, I'll leave it up to those of you with more wisdom and older children. Help me out. How does this story end?

P.P.S. If you know my eldest in real life, how 'bout we don't mention this post to him and just keep it between us. He's still mad at me for trying to hug him earlier.

Jul 20, 2016

Surviving the Summer

How do you get through the summer with five boys at home. Well, you try hard to entertain and motivate them, and when that doesn't work, you try to bribe and bully them. When THAT doesn't work, you throw a huge fit, yell at everyone, stomp around, and knock over a cup.

And then the next day you start all over again.

Lately, I've been adding "List Making" to my coping strategies. I sit down and type up a little bit of brilliance using aesthetically pleasing fonts, and bright colors. Then I print it out and put it in a sheet protector. Then I hang it on the wall with some colorful washi tape.

I've made a list of things to do when you're bored called the "I'm Bored" list.
A customized list of "Things to Accomplish" for each child every day.
A list of "Family Technology Rules".
A chore chart.
A family mission statement.
A detailed description of exactly HOW to take care of all the chickens.

For your information...
Nothing works.
They are still driving me crazy.
Back to square one.
See you tomorrow.


Feb 29, 2016

Book Review: "Why Gender Matters" by Dr. Leonard Sax

A few weeks ago I listened to "Your Friend, Your Kid" on the "Think with Krys Boyd" podcast. It was an interview with the family physician and Phd, Dr. Leonard Sax. I enjoyed it so much I asked Doug to get me the book they were discussing: "The Collapse of Parenting". Unfortunately, the library doesn't have it yet, so he brought home "Why Gender Matters".

As the mother of five boys, I found this book incredibly fascinating and have been discussing it with every person I've talked to all week.

Now, I already KNEW, that boys and girls were different. Here's how I knew: I have a bunch of boys, whereas I am a girl. Not only am I a girl, but I have sisters, a mother, lots of female friends, and lots of female friends with female daughters. And we hang out. A lot.  So I'm not clueless about girls.

Watching boys and girls interact makes it obvious incredibly quickly that they are DIFFERENT and they do things DIFFERENTLY.  The question, for many years has been, are they different by nature or through nurture?

When Max (my oldest) was a baby, I read a book making the case that boys were aggressive and violent because their parents and society make them that way. If we want sensitive, empathetic boys, it said, and courageous assertive girls, we must raise our kids in an androgynous environment. I decided to follow the advice in the book. I determined that in MY home, we would NOT give our son weapons of any kind EVER! (You are laughing really hard right now if you've been in my house and have tripped over our arsenal of lightsabers, swords, nun-chucks, and Nerf guns.)  I also followed the instructions in the book to be sure to give my son sympathy when he got hurt (instead of expecting him to "buck up")

In other words, I followed the directions and waited for Maxwell to manifest himself as a gentleman and a scholar, strong and courageous, but also empathetic and sweet and nurturing. Imagine my surprise when my toddler son started sword fighting with the vacuum wand and making toy guns with Duplos. Imagine my dismay when the baby doll I gave him (in preparation for his baby brother to be born) was held around the ankles and smacked in to any hard noisy surface Max could find. (Did I mention we didn't let him watch tv in our home until he was over 2.5 years? Did I mention the friends he played with were almost all girls?)

Eventually, I realized that it was not my fault he had no patience for art projects or crafts. Eventually I figured out that he was not going to act/play/or fight like his female friends. That he wanted to play with cars and trucks and swords and save the day and not color pretty pictures.

Luckily, I finally figured out that nature, and gender, matter.

In his book, Dr. Sax dispels myths about gender differences by citing study after study (after study) that confirm differences in female and male brains. He strongly emphasizes that--for example--while you can teach both genders complex math equations, a boy and a girl will learn better if taught using different approaches. Because they are different. And their brains are different.

Conclusion: I thought it was a great read, with some great food for thought and definitely recommend it. One caveat though; The chapter about sex has a very graphic example of teens engaging in o*** sex. I think he includes that particular story to shock parents into realizing teen sex habits are different than they believe. But if I had it to do over again, I would have skimmed that part. ;)

P.S. I have since read "The Collapse of Parenting" and give it two thumbs up, five stars, and an unequivocal recommendation!!! No caveat necessary!! READ IT!!!

Feb 28, 2016

Dub Family Tech Rules

Doug gets e-mails from a website called "PornProofKids.com" and recently came home with a fill-in-the-blank Tech Etiquette worksheet. It's something we've talked a lot about and something I've been thinking a lot about and the worksheet proved to be a perfect spring board for a "Family Night" lesson on our family tech rules. After filling in the worksheet as a family, I sat down and typed this up. I posted the rough draft on Instagram and after some feed-back, added a few things.

A few people thought it was a little too strict, but a few days after writing it, I read the book "The Collapse of Parenting" and knew I was on the right track.

The next step will be reviewing this frequently with the boys so these switch from being "restrictions" to just being the normal way the W's do things.

Tell me what you think!



Dub Family Technology Guide


Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.  
3 Ne. 27:27
Squad goals: To show love and respect for ourselves, and those around us. To spend the precious days, hours and minutes of our lives on things of worth. To use technology to enhance our family life, not detract from it.


*People are more important than i-Phones. And i-Pads, video games, TV, and computers.


*Stay off your device during dinner, when friends are over, during homework, at restaurants, on Sunday, during FHE, at church activities, at school activities and during family time. In other words, BE PRESENT IN YOUR LIFE!!!    
{Practice your conversation skills, eye contact, and active listening!}


*No devices in children's bedrooms or bathrooms. Period.
{Applies to visiting friends and cousins too.}


*Devices are docked on charger every night.


*Dubs don’t do selfies! Focus your camera, and your thoughts, outward.
{See Greek myth of Narcissus} {See “The Collapse of Parenting” for danger of selfies}


*Keep your device put away when you are watching TV or a movie.  Turn off your music while doing school work (unless it’s Classical or the James Taylor Pandora Station.)
{Techno-multi-tasking is bad for your brain!}


*Make eye-contact with the person talking to you.
{Never interrupt the person in front of you to answer the person texting you. Never look at a device when you should be looking at a person.}


*We don’t mock, tease, prank, embarrass or bully people digitally. We also remember that everything we do on-line leaves a footprint that lasts FOREVER!
{Remember who you are and what you stand for!}


*You know not to look at porn, but if you see ANYTHING inappropriate by accident, turn off device and/or walk away. Tell mom immediately. (Includes inappropriate words/texts/instant messages.)


*No TV or video games Mon-Thurs. Two hours per day on Friday and Saturday.  Go outside and PLAY if you have free time on a school day!


*Parents have all passwords and will check history, contacts, photos, texts, emails and whereabouts. DO NOT delete text messages/conversations. (You can thank Aunt Laura for this one.)


*Date night etiquette for Mom and Dad: We will only look at our phones when we are looking at something together. We will keep our phones put away as much as possible.

*Mom etiquette: I want my kids to remember my face and not the back of my phone. I will keep my phone put away when my kids are around when it is reasonable. Facebook and Instagram can wait. I will not post photos of Max or Sam without permission. The rest of you are fair game.


To help me out, my sister sent me the tech contract she uses for her family. Her kids are older so she has some guidelines I hadn't thought of. I'm sure I'll be adding more of her guidelines as the boys grow up...

E. FAMILY TECHNOLOGY GUIDELINES

·      I will always answer texts and calls from my parents. If I miss a call, I will call them back right away and will always have my phone turned on when I’m not home.

·      I will be honest and open with my parents about my cell phone usage. They will always know my password and are allowed to check my history, contacts, photos, texts, emails and whereabouts. I will not delete text messages/conversations.

·      I will not use my cell phone during meals, at restaurants, during FHE or other family time.

·      I will remember that everything I do on my phone leaves a digital footprint…FOREVER. *Remember who you are and what you stand for.*

·      When someone is talking to me, I will look at and listen to them. I know that relationships are more important than my phone.

·      I won’t use my cell phone while doing homework or while at church or church activities.

·      I won’t take or send inappropriate pictures, texts or emails.

·      If I receive something inappropriate on my phone, I will tell Mom and Dad immediately.

·      I will not say or text anything on my phone that I wouldn’t say in person with my parents listening.

·      Devices are only to be used in family areas and are not allowed in bedrooms/bathrooms. No exceptions.

·      Devices are checked into kitchen charger during homework time. No texting during homework time.

·      Devices are checked into Mom and Dad’s room charger at 9:00 p.m.

·      Devices are put away during dinner, FHE, movies and family time. Family first!!


Signatures:

________________________________

________________________________


________________________________

Feb 7, 2016

Adorable Baby Number Five

Just found this blank post full of pictures in my drafts file. I'm assuming I had planned to write something to mark Linky Pie's first birthday. Since he is now 2 years and 4 months old, I guess I should hit "Publish".




























We sure love our little Linky Pie!!!

Sep 1, 2015

Back to School Blues

School has started once again and I've found myself looking up down left and right trying to find someone to dump my frustrations on.
My kids' teachers? No, I don't want to be branded a whiner this early in the school year. That will come soon enough.
My kids' aids? Same answer as above.
My friends? They're already overloaded with their own back to school angst.
My husband? He wants to solve my problems. And who wants to have solved problems? NOT ME! I just want to wallow in them!! (It's not about the nail Doug.)
Therefore, to whom can I bare my tortured soul?
Only you are left, dear blog!
--Brace yourself--

We have been in school for two weeks and two days now.  Twelve school days total.
Already I'm feeling like I'm falling way, way, waaaaaaaaaaaaay behind.

I get this panicky feeling like I can't do it all and decide the obvious choice is to pull them all out, and start homeschooling them. The first few months we'll focus mainly on sleeping in, but after I let them get dumber for a bit, I'll hook them up with an on-line math teacher, crank some classical music, and call it good. (You might think I'm disparaging home-schoolers right now. I'm not. I'm disparaging me as a home-schooler.)

Last night Gabe brought me a packet of stuff from his teacher. Lots to read and do and sign as well as some completed assignments being returned for my acknowledgment. The assignments came with notes from the teacher.
Gabe is behind in reading.
Behind in writing.
And way, way behind in math facts.

[When Max was in first grade, we drilled him on his math facts every night until he was at the top of his class. For some reason, Gabe is not receiving the same amount of attention! Shocker, eh?]

I was given some forms to fill out too. (This is in addition to the large packet already filled out last week.) The form-to-drive-on-fieldtrips-form requires a copy of my license, a copy of my insurance, a copy of something certifying that I'm a safe driver, and a copy of my most recent full body scan to make sure I don't have a disease that will make me keel over at the wheel. If I don't have time to gather, scan and copy all of those items, what are the odds I'll have time to drive for a field trip?

Next in line were some pink pages from the math teacher. FOUR pink pages. (Plus a signature page) Covered on front and back for a grand total of EIGHT pages of information on what I can expect, what I can donate, what I need to know, how I need to help him, what programs he'll use, and what goes into the bleeping treasure chest.
(Listen, I'm not one to give lectures about the importance of succinctness and brevity in writing--obviously--but reading this blog is OPTIONAL for you. The packet?Not so much for me!)

In addition to the math packet light reading, I had to set up two different log-ins for two different programs. One program will send math progress updates right to my phone!!! (Bleep!)
I was also told they will be using four--FOUR--different math computer programs for homework--in addition to worksheets. (You know what that means, right? FOUR different log-ins, four different passwords, and four different programs to potentially (almost assuredly) malfunction on his school issued i-Pad. (Nothing ever works the way it should on the school issued i-Pad.)

All that for one subject. I couldn't even read the whole dang packet in one night. When I got to yet another page instructing me how to register for yet another program, I ripped the packet into shreds and lit the strips on fire, spitting in the smoldering pile of ashes. (At least in my mind. In reality, I set the dumb thing on my night stand and stared disdainfully at it.)

Today I got it back out again.
I registered on the sights that needed me to register.
Read what needed to be read, and silently swore a few times to make myself feel better.

And then Sam came in and handed me a pink packet.

He has the same math teacher.

Time to homeschool.