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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Get a grip, people.

It's  getting to be that time of the year again.

Fall is coming and people are anticipating cooler weather, and for whatever reason it seems that people just have to equate that with one thing.

Pumpkin.

Pumpkin everything.

Pumpkin all the things.

Personally, I despise the stuff. I think that the taste and texture of pumpkin is nasty, and yes, I've tried to eat it numerous times, and no, I don't give a crap how YOU make it - I don't like it.

Pumpkins are good for 3 things: jack-o-lanterns, roasting the seeds after making said jack-o-lanterns, and then smashing the aforementioned pumpkin after Halloween is over. That's it. Nothing else.

But yet, there are people who worship the almighty pumpkin. As soon as there is a hint of fall weather (or even before), their eyes glaze over, drool runs down their chins, and all they can think about is adding pumpkin to everything edible and/or drinkable.

They act as though they can only get their beloved squash for a limited time each year - which for the most part is true - if they're going to wait for one to ripen on a vine in their garden. However, with the dozens of people I know who are afflicted with pumpkinitis every year, not a single one of them stands in their garden, guarding the plant, watering it, weeding it, talking to it, waiting patiently for it to ripen so that it can be harvested and cut open and gutted for its (supposedly) delicious flesh. Instead, they do what most people do.

They go to the store and they buy a can of it.

See that? I bought that can of pumpkin last year specifically to make a point. It's been sitting on the shelf in my pantry for close to a year so that on the off chance I decided that I wanted a pumpkin pie in June, I could make it.

Want a pumpkin roll in February? Well, by golly, whip that can of pumpkin off of the shelf and make it!

You want pumpkin cupcakes in May? Crack that can open.

Got a hankerin' for some pumpkin pancakes for a delicious brunch in December? Guess what? YOU CAN MAKE THEM ANY TIME YOU WANT THEM.

You don't know how to cook/bake, or you don't want to? I bet you can find another pumpkinitis victim who would gladly do it.

Oh, but then there are the people who think that their coffee needs to be laced with the crap too. Pumpkin spiced lattes and cappucinos and whatever - well guess what? Some of them DON'T EVEN CONTAIN PUMPKIN!!! They contain "pumpkin spice" which is usually a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice (all of which are available at any grocery store *GASP* year round). If you don't want to make your own "pumpkin spice" mixture - you can buy it already made and sprinkle it in your drinks until your little heart is content.

Now from what I understand, some of these places that sell these grossly overpriced fluffy coffee drinks are now adding 'real' pumpkin to them - but a quick google search brought up about eleventy bajillion recipes for drinks with pumpkin in them - so if I had the desire to ruin a perfectly good drink, I could do it myself for a lot less money. And you can too!

Of course it doesn't stop there. Corporations feed into the pumpkinitis epidemic by adding the crap (or some imitation of it) to everything that is prepackaged whether we want it or not - Oreos and M&Ms and peeps and salsa and candles and soap and pudding and bagels and marshmallows and air freshener and cookies and soda and toothpaste and ice cream and it just. keeps. going. on.

I even found an image for pumpkin spice flavored condoms - which I found are NOT a real product. But I wouldn't be surprised to see them on the shelf at the local drugstore any time now because people will somehow feel that they just can't live without them.

How long until we have pumpkin scented toilet paper?

Seriously people. You can buy pumpkin year round. If you love the food that much, make it whenever you want to make it. SEIZE THE FREAKING DAY and make a pumpkin pie in March if it will make you happy. If you love the candles so much and they're not available at your favorite candle store year round, then stock up on them in October when they are on the shelves. Burn them whenever you want to BECAUSE YOU CAN. All of this prepackaged food has the shelf life of Twinkies anyway, so if you love the Oreos that much, buy a case of them and stash them in the cupboard to enjoy year round.

Stop acting like you can only get the crap for 2.5 seconds out of the year.

Oh look - I still have over
15 months to use it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Almost there...

Less than a week until school starts.

The majority of the school supplies have been purchased, parent/teacher conferences are scheduled, sports practices have already begun, and it's only a matter of time before I dump the kids off at the front door of the school and do the happy dance on the way out of the parking lot.

I love my kids. I really do.

But I can not wait until they are back in school. Seriously.

I've never been one of those moms who greets the new school year with "but I'm going to miss my babies so much" or "I just can't bear the thought of my darling angels being gone all day" or any of that jazz.

Instead, I'm over here saying "finally, I can poop in peace!"

After dedicating the past 3ish months to them morning, noon, and night (and then some), I'm ready for some quality ME-time.

I'm ready to deal with the morning drama, take them to school, and then go for a run.

I'm ready to go to the grocery store - alone - and not feel frazzled the entire time I'm there (or come home with a bunch of crap that I didn't plan to buy).

I'm ready to help Emily get her Crayons for a Cause up and running.

I'm ready to hide out in the Mom Cave and work on lots of new projects. I have so many ideas for things that I want to get made in addition to the normal routine of the weighted blankets, and it's so hard to get any of that done when the kids are home - but with 7-8 hours of peace every day I can get so much done without feeling like I'm neglecting them. 

And I'm totally ready for Date Day with The Dude - on Tuesday, the first day of school, he and I are packing a cooler and our fishing poles and we are taking off for the lake as soon as the kids are safely at school and we're going to just hang out together all day. We might have just spent a solid 2 weeks together, but we did not get any time alone - and ever since we got back we've both been busy taking care of stuff and haven't really had a chance to really see each other - so I called him today and officially asked him out on a date. And he said yes.  (I think he likes me.)

I've been told before that I'm selfish because I enjoy my time "too much" when the kids are in school. Maybe it is selfish of me, but I look at it this way - I am here for these kids 24/7, whether they're in school or not. I'm lucky enough to not have to work a "real" job so I can spend the entire summer with them and it's awesome. But when they're in school, I get to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I finally get to do stuff for ME, without taking away time from them. I can sneak away for a day and go fishing with The Dude without having to worry about finding someone to keep an eye on them. I can hide in the Mom Cave all day and not worry about who is going to fix them lunch (because I already packed it before they walked out the door that morning). I can go for a run to clear my head and keep myself healthy without wondering if they're burning the house down while I'm gone. And if I want to take a nap in the middle of the day, I can do it without fearing judgment from someone who might show up at the door for some unknown reason.

And if all of that is selfish, then so be it. I know that having the time to myself while they're in school makes me a more relaxed person, which helps me to be a better mother. And I'm ok with that.

5 days, 4 hours, and 45 minutes....... give or take a few......

Monday, August 10, 2015

Bit by bit.

Know what I hate?

(Besides pumpkin flavored anything, that is....)

I hate the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Whether it's the unending list of things to do, financial obligations, scheduling conflicts, or emotional crap, I don't like to be overwhelmed. I like simple. I like easy.

Unfortunately, life isn't always simple or easy.

We came back from vacation a few days ago, and I've been trying to get things done ever since. There's so much laundry and cleaning and sorting and catching up to do, and even with my plethora of lists, I'm still having trouble figuring out where to start.

I spent the majority of the day yesterday mowing the grass. It was wet and overgrown and awful. A job that usually takes less than 2 hours and about a half a tank of gas took me over 5 hours and about 2 1/2 tanks because the grass was so high that it kept stalling the engine. It was a nightmare, but I got it done.

The other really big thing that has been nagging at me, waiting for me to get it done, was weeding the garden. I did it right before we left in the hopes that it wouldn't be so bad when we got home. But, we apparently got upwards of 5" of rain and the weeds went crazy. What makes it more difficult is that we dug this garden this year, so the grass keeps growing back in from the edges.

I knew I had to get it done today, no matter what. I was tired, I was sore, and I was in no mood to do it, but I forced myself to get out there and do it. The ground was just wet enough that the weeds weren't hard to pull, so once I got started, it went fairly quickly and easily, and although I only planned to do about half of it tonight, after about 3 hours I had it completely done.

I worked on it alone, with Alex and Daniel occasionally coming outside to tattle whine give me progress reports on getting their laundry put away. As I worked, I replayed various scenes from our vacation.

I kept thinking about the devastating scene with my mother, replaying it over and over again, until I couldn't tell if I had sweat or tears dripping off of my face - or maybe a little bit of both. I'm still trying to wrap my head around what happened, and so far I'm not succeeding at it at all.

The only good thing about feeling so helpless with that situation right now is that I can flip that good ol' coping mechanism switch. You know the one - it has that crazy label on it that says "If you can't control one aspect of your life, push this button and you can control something else instead".

Eventually I'll be able to accept this new normal with my mother and get past it and deal with it better than I am right now. At this moment I might not be able to get a grip on the emotional baggage that came back with me a few days ago, but I can sure as hell make sure that there are no weeds in my garden.

Getting fresh snacks is a bonus.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Post-vacation crap

Sometimes I seriously wonder which is worse - preparing to go on a huge vacation, or cleaning up the mess afterwards.

We got home early Friday afternoon. My stomach revolted against me the second we crossed the Kansas state line (not kidding) and so I felt like crap for the rest of the day. I didn't do much except help unload the van (in between trips to the bathroom) and make sure that the house was still standing. On Saturday we ran around for the big festival here in town, but I managed to get a few loads of laundry done here and there.

Today was the busy day for me. It was hard to get started, but I kept working on laundry and even though it's not all done I can at least officially say that all of the sleeping bags have been washed, dried, and put away.

I had planned to work outside today, but woke up to a little bit of rain. It stopped, so I decided to go ahead and mow the grass. I figured that if I at least did the front yard, my house wouldn't look quite so ghetto and I could take my time getting the back yard cut. We apparently got quite a bit of rain while we were gone, and the yard was a disaster. What normally takes me about 2 hours and less than a tank of gas ended up taking me 5+ hours and about 2 1/2 tanks - the grass was so overgrown and wet that it was almost impossible to get it done. It still looks terrible because it's all clumpy and nasty, but it's cut - and after it dries out a bit more I'll mow again and get rid of all of the clumps.

Once I got that done, I came inside and worked on more laundry and other stuff. I really didn't get as much done as I had hoped to, but I was exhausted from mowing and my body hurt. A lot.

But, I managed to get quite a bit of stuff done - nowhere near what I wanted, but every little bit helps at this point.

Of course, things never go as smoothly as I want them to, and when my vacuum decided to give me attitude, I figured out that the one hose was split - which totally explains the lack of suction lately. I knew I could "fix" it, but then I couldn't find a screwdriver and then I couldn't find the duct tape and as I threw an internal temper tantrum (I was too tired by this point for a real one) I found them and I rigged up the vacuum so that it works. At least it worked enough for a few swipes across my bedroom carpet because I'm tired and I'm not vacuuming everything that needs to be done right now even though I really should.

 I had hoped that we were going to have a fairly quiet week this week, but since it's the last week before school starts, I know that's not going to happen. I just found out about 10 minutes ago that Alex has to have a football physical sometime in the next 2 days in order to play (oops), and that's on top of the girls both needing physicals within the week, along with trying to get school shopping done and deal with real life at the same time while also trying to recover from a vacation that exhausted me both physically and emotionally.

I'm really just not in the mood for all of this. I'm just not.

I need a vacation.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Time marches on....

We got back from TMOART:15 this morning, and as I mentioned the other day our vacation was not all fun and games. Don't get me wrong - all in all we had a good time. But as with any trip, there is always stress and aggravation.

One thing that we do every year is get a group picture of the kids. And it's not just any picture, but it's our traditional Line Them Up In The Same Order On The Lion Statue picture. We leave from my parents' house and head up to State College for the day, run around, take the picture, eat lunch, and then head back. It's a fun family ritual and the kids actually look forward to it, despite the looks on their faces in half of the pictures.

2009

2011

2012

2014

2015

It's crazy to see how much they've changed - I mean, I know that they're growing up, but this just reinforces it so much more. The kids were joking around about "what are you going to do when we're away at college or all grown up and we don't go on vacation with you anymore?" I told them that they still have to go along just because I'm the mom and I said so. Honestly, I don't even want to think about that time, even though I know it's coming faster than I'd like to admit.

For now, I'll just enjoy our silly little traditional picture every year.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Get Hit or Run For Cover

I actually wrote this post on my notepad app on my phone at about 4am while we were staying at my parents' house, but because of the lack of WiFi, I wasn't able to post it until now. I debated not posting it at all because it's so hard to deal with, but maybe if I had read something like this before our visit, I would have been more prepared for the experience.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

No one prepared me for what it would be like to deal with someone affected by dementia. I never expected such a drastic decline to happen in the span of a year.

The fairly regular phone calls gave me a false sense of security. I knew that mornings were clearer for her, so I made sure to call first thing, before the stress of the day could get to her. She was clear, lucid, sometimes even joking. She was the mother that I remembered.

But then we got to their house. Dad had recently been hospitalized so we busted butt to get there earlier to help before the family reunion. They didn't want our help, so we tried to make it a pleasant visit.

I told Mom earlier that day that the upstairs shower had leaked into the downstairs bathroom and she blew it off like it was no big deal. Then Alex got a shower and the same thing happened. We were all sitting out on the porch enjoying the cool evening air when she exploded out of the kitchen door, pointing her finger at him, screaming that he was never to take a shower unsupervised again because he made such a horrible mess downstairs. Alex sat there, stunned and confused, trying to wrap his 9-year old brain around what just happened. She continued on for what seemed like hours, with me trying to tell her "Mom, it was an accident. He didn't know. Mom, he's 9." Finally she stopped and went back inside while Alex collapsed into my arms, crying. I told him again "honey, we've talked about this. Grandma's brain doesn't work right anymore, and as much as you don't understand what just happened, neither does she." We talked about it and he wiped the tears and said he was OK, but the damage was done.

A little while later, after the kids went to bed, she came back outside. She started in again about how terrible he was for making such a mess. I pointed out to her that I had told her that the same thing had happened earlier and she just got angry. She started lobbing insults at me, slowly at first. But then they came faster and faster, like she was a major league pitching machine fully loaded with baseballs aimed straight at me - and my only options were to get hit or run for cover. She ripped me for not watching the kids closely enough (I'm not a helicopter parent and she never was either), for stealing a nap on the porch swing (never mind the 20+ hour drive to get to their house the day before), for having such horrible children, for "poking at that thing all day" (her version of me texting with other family members in preparation for the family reunion), and on and on it went. We got into a full blown screaming match that resulted in me running inside to our room and sobbing uncontrollably for over an hour.

It wasn't just the insults. Trust me, they hurt like hell and cut me to my core. To see her inflict so much emotional pain on Alex ripped me to shreds even more. Having my girls come into our room to comfort me and hold me and reassure me that I'm NOT a terrible mother reinforced to me that she was wrong, but shouldn't have even had to happen.

She still has good moments - sometimes hours or days even. But the bad moments creep up, seemingly with no warning. Maybe it's because I'm not around enough to see it regularly, but living 1100 miles away makes regular visits difficult. Maybe I've been shielding myself from it, intentionally or not. Maybe their refusal to get (or admit to?) an official diagnosis has given me a false sense of hope that it isn't really happening.

I had been told that this was happening. Some of my brothers and sisters see her more often and they warned me. I know from my own research, from my past experiences as a case manager, and even from friends who have experienced this same journey that these things happen.

But I wasn't prepared.

That's not something that I say very often. I do my best to be ready for anything. I make my lists and check things off and review every possible scenario to make sure that I am prepared for anything. I knew that she might be overwhelmed with all 7 of us being in her space and disrupting her routine, so we planned various outings to give them a break from our chaos. But it wasn't enough.

I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to live in her brain every day. The constant confusion must be overwhelming. But the confusion that those around her experience at the same time can seem almost catastrophic because we can only watch the decline, helpless to change it. All we can do is get hit or run for cover.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Observations from the day....

Today has been insane-crazy. I'm pretty sure that we reached a whole new level of crazy over the past 24 hours, and it's only going to get worse.

It started with a phone call from my mother to let me know that my father had to be admitted to the hospital after what was supposed to be an outpatient procedure this morning. It's nothing serious serious, but he's 88 years old so there are always risks. They only expect to keep him overnight, but I've learned to brace myself for more bad news when things like this happen. Of course Mom is getting stressed out because we're having our big family reunion next weekend - I told her not to worry and that we'd try to get on the road earlier than planned so that we can get there Monday instead of Tuesday.

Of course, since we had originally planned to leave Monday evening and we now want to try to leave Sunday morning, we've basically lost 2 days of prep time. We haven't started packing anything yet, laundry isn't done, we don't have food to take on the road, and we are just totally not ready.

Along with all of that, there's approximately eleventy bajillion things to do around the house before we can walk out the door and leave it for almost 2 full weeks. The garden still needs to be weeded, the grass needs to be mowed, there's a huge pile of tree limbs that really need to go away to prevent rodents from taking up residency before we get back, the house needs to be cleaned, mouse traps need to be set now that those little a-holes have decided that they like my pantry, I need to get the house key to the neighbors, and so many other things that I haven't even thought about yet.

And here I thought that I was being so efficient by getting the oil changed in the van the other day. "Woohoo, look at me go, getting it done ahead of time." Ha.

Of course while this is all going on, we have a major opportunity for recruitment for Scouts tomorrow and I've been running around all week getting stuff ready for that, including taking about 3 hours to get set up for it this evening (not to mention making some really generic derby cars for people to play with at the event) so that I can maybe sleep a little bit later tomorrow - but basically my whole day tomorrow is shot too.

I have no idea how we're going to get all of this done. None.

But I just keep reminding myself that it will get done. I might lose my mind in the process, but it will get done.

Why is it that there is one wheel missing every time I buy more
than one derby car? 

Starting to weed the garden as the sun goes down was an amazing
 moment of peace in a day of chaos and stress.

By about 9:15pm it was too dark to see what I was doing,
but at least I got everything watered and started weeding.
And it was still 99 degrees outside.

The bats come out around 9pm. And it's really hard to
catch a picture of them with a cell phone.

If it was a full moon, I might have had enough light
to keep weeding.