Tuesday, August 09, 2011

My Brother Died

*This post is written from a raw, gut-level, visceral place. It isn't for everyone.*

On July 16, 2011, my baby brother, Paul Hickenbottom, Jr., known as Sam to most everyone, passed away. He was 25.

Except passed away implies something peaceful, with soft music in the background, family gathered around, and then your loved one just drifts off into the afterlife. As if your family member had actually expired at the funeral home.

The phrase passed away does not convey a death in which professionals must be called to clean up the aftermath. Or a death in which the family is at the complete mercy of two law enforcement agencies, a coroner and an autopsy. Passed away doesn't communicate the gut punch or the nausea as details come.

Or the anger.

People have said some ridiculous things. (Why would a stranger tell the family who has violently lost a loved one that there is a "Season For Everything"? True, yes. I get that. But not at all comforting or helpful. Just stupid.) People have asked me how I'm doing. But no one has really asked me how I feel. Maybe because everyone assumed I am sad. And I am sad.

I am sad thinking about my baby brother, who blew his own head off with an authentic WWII Russian rifle. I am sad thinking about him laying around the morgue with his head gone for a week before the pathologist deigned to complete his autopsy. I am sad that the death notice posted in his local paper said there were no services planned. I am sad they took what was left of his body, and placed it in a cardboard box, and put it in an oven and burnt him up. I am sad the "receiving" funeral home tried to convince us to bury him in the shipping box. I am sad that my brother felt like there was no one to turn to and yet, the chapel was full of people there to pay their respects. A folder in my inbox has over 140 messages from people extending their sympathies.

But I am angry.

I know it's natural. Understandable. Expected.


I am angry that my brother blew his head off when his son was in the next room. I am angry that law enforcement stonewalled us and continue to do so. I am angry that we could get no answer as to why his autopsy was delayed nor do we officially know the results. I am angry that the secretary at the Coroner's Office didn't see fit to treat me with compassion or at the very least, a minimal amount common courtesy. I am angry that in the funeral industry, anything that can fit a whole body in it, is called a casket, whether it's solid bronze or a cardboard box. I don't like that anything that you put ashes in is an urn, whether it's a plastic shipping container or a marble box.

I am angry that I had to completely rewrite the obituary because it was just plain wrong. I am angry that I had to go to funeral home here in town to pick an urn suitable for burial because the receiving funeral home insisted that we could just bury my brother, a person, in the shipping box he arrived in. People treat their pets better than this.

I am incensed that people in California knew he was on the edge. And they called no one. Alerted no one. They knew he was not taking his medication. They didn't want Sam to be mad at them. Well, now he's dead. He's not going to be mad at anyone. But I am. I am angry. I don't care if it's a little selfish and aside from my dad, I don't care how hard it is for anyone else. I don't care about who loved him and who didn't. People who loved him would have tried to get him help. Like my dad and my mother and I did. For years.

I am angry with friends and family that have ignored this tragedy.

I am angry with California. For all the phone calls I had to make, people I had to talk to, and arrangements I had to make. I am angry because before I could make one phone call, I had to make sure it wasn't 7am in California. Of course, there were people who didn't bother to extend me the same courtesy. I am angry because a tragedy in my life was another day at the office for police, sheriffs and doctors. I am angry because 2 women who couldn't get along in California, made that my problem. I am angry because hours after my brother's death, I had to decide who is going to get my brother's dirty clothes and old shoes.

I am angry because this is the only place I can be angry. I have spent so much time comforting everyone else and being strong, I am empty. I'm not the parent. Only the sister. I'm tired of being there for everyone else and saying, "It's such a tragedy for everyone." "He was sick." "This kind of behavior is a hallmark of that disease." "He was troubled."

And even after all that, it doesn't seem real.

Monday, August 08, 2011

My Dance Card...

...is filling up.

I'm not going back to school. And I don't know if I ever will. I just don't want it bad enough.

Two girls in school. Another girl and a boy going to their "school" 3 days per week.

One girl dancing. Two girls soccering.

I've signed on to lead not one, but two Girl Scout troops.

BSF begins in mid-September.

My scrapbooking clubs still like to scrapbook from time to time.

I still volunteer with my nursing home residents and participate in our networking meetings.

I have an accountability partner that I meet with once a week.

I plan to volunteer with both the Soccer Association and the Women's Ministry group at our church.

Oh, and the Quilting Ministry as well. (I am so pleased that such a fabulous thing exists!)

I'd like to finish (or even start) some of my own quilting work.

I know I don't have time to go to school. But is there time to sleep? I just feel certain I can do it all, if I plan and get organized. This time last year, I was She Who Must Be Obeyed.

I. Can. Do. It.

If no one gets sick.

I am working on it all, full steam ahead. I have calendars printed out with notes. I have scoured the internet looking for old Girl Scout songs that I used to sing. It is going to be great.

I am now accepting great ideas for my Fall Party to be held if the temperature ever drops below 95 degrees.

Friday, July 08, 2011

July 8, 2011

Everyone is in bed, asleep, except for me. I'm wasting time online when I see so many other things to be done. There's laundry piled on the couch, as usual. The kitchen needs to be cleaned, as usual. Junk piled on my desk I could sort. But I'm wasting time. Lots of folks like to give me a pass when I waste time. They say having 4 kids keeps me very busy and any time I find to read Dear Abby online is well earned. For the last 6 weeks, Brian has been gone at least 4 days a week, for business. I find I get even less done when he is gone because there is no backshift relief. So I find even more time to read Dear Abby and catch up on my Facebook soaps.

Today was my oldest daughter's 7th birthday. Lillian Kaye Welch turned 7 years old today. I actually just used my calculator to figure out that I was 27 when she was born. She was born Thursday, July 8, 2004, at 9:40am, in Beaumont, TX via C-section. She was 3 weeks early. And she had a few problems that premature newborn babies have. Except the one where she was huge. Nine pounds, 11 ounces, to be exact. And kind of short for as fat as she was: 19.5" long. To be honest, I was afraid she was going to be born ugly. I knew she had a lot of hair, and I was worried that a baby with a lot of hair would be ugly. I didn't get to see her until the next afternoon, Friday. Brian was a proud papa taking all the visitors to the nursery, but because of the surgery, I was stuck in bed. Brian took pictures of the baby and sent them to my parents, and I remember begging my mother on the phone to tell me the truth about the baby: Was she ugly or not? Because it looked from the pictures that she might be okay, but I didn't really trust my own judgment.

When I was finally able to get out of bed and go to the NICU, I looked at my fat baby and said, "She's so beautiful!" And my daughter, who looked a little like Alfred Hitchcock in profile, whose daddy had been visiting and talking to her around the clock, turned for the first time, at the sound of my voice, opened her eyes and looked at me.

This is the first time I ever held her, just moments after pronouncing her "beautiful".

Friends came and visited us, bringing a sweet toile outfit from Gymboree with matching socks, sized 9 months. I remember thinking, "She'll never be big enough to wear that!" But she was. And so were the sisters that followed.

After 5 days in the NICU, we finally got to bring her home. I never intended to nurse any of my children, but when I left that hospital with that baby, I was a nursing mother, complete with Lanolin and milk bags. As we were leaving, being wheeled out to the car, I was holding that baby. And the fire alarm went off. My daughter never moved. I thought she died. Apparently, they're much hardier than you realize. The whole 10 minute ride home, I was concerned that the carseat was not correctly installed, nor were the straps correctly implemented. But they were.

We brought Lily home from the hospital in the same dress that I came home from the hospital in. Same bonnet, too. No, wait, that's a new bonnet, but we saved it.

Lily survived even though she was my first baby. Despite the screaming matches at 3am about whose fault it was we hadn't stayed on the schedule that day and therefore, whose fault it was we were up at 3am. She survived even though we didn't realize we should have all the bath stuff together before we took a naked newborn and put her in a tub. She survived my eating jalapenos while nursing. She's actually survived quite well.

She's now the oldest of 4 who wanted a special Spa Day for her birthday today. Including cucumbers on the eyes. (My girls just have this idea that when you go to the "spa" [which means any nail joint in town] you get cucumbers on your eyes.) So I obliged her. She had a bubble bath where I washed her hair with my lavender shampoo, exfoliated her skin, used my special foot scrub made out of walnut shells. I washed her face with my facial soap. While I cut and painted her nails and gave her a massage with some lavender and vanilla lotion, she lay there with cucumbers on her eyes.

Happy birthday, Lily Puss Kaye Welch. Your mama loves the schedule-making, bossy, helpful, emotional, bright, articulate girl that is you. Today you wrote me a note. You always are writing notes to people or drawing them pictures. Today's note said: Dear Mom I love you Thank you for letting me have a spa. I can't wiat to have my nails and toenails panted! Love Lily

Later in life, we two, may have trouble and issues and shouting matches. But let it be said now, when at 7 years old, you think looking exactly like me is the best thing in the world, flaws and all: We, my darling, oldest daughter, are cut from the same cloth. That makes the 2 of us, unstoppable! Auntie Jo calls it "works matters to completion" and it's a good thing. ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's School Time Again

It was 1985. Third grade. I was working on 2-digit multipliers. You know, 32 X 46. And I wasn't any good at it. For some reason, I just didn't get it. Could not understand the concept. At some point, I must have figured it out because I did successfully graduate from high school over 15 years ago. But the die was cast. From that point on, I believed I was bad at math.

Until I got a job working with money.

Not just counting it, but balancing tills, balancing thousands of dollars worth of utility payments and checks. And I was good at it. Very good. I could find a penny when no one else could. And I enjoyed it. And I was very surprised. I didn't know this about myself until after my first foray into college. Who knew?

But I still liked working with nursing home residents and have thought I would be good in a top spot as an administrator.

So I have been torn.

I was scheduled to go back to school this past January, but I was not able to do that. Brian's promotion-related work demands meant I wouldn't have anyone to watch the kids for the Wednesday night and Friday morning class I was scheduled to take. I missed starting another semester. I know I could take online courses, but I need someone to teach me. I want to go to class and take notes.

Here we are again, with another semester is drawing near. But I think I've come to a decision and it's not nursing home administration. It's a hard field in which your license can be on the line for the mishaps of your predecessor. Most facilities are owned by corporations whose number one concern is the bottom line. Low census? Goodbye! The average tenure of an administrator is 18 months. Not long enough to do anything. It's a revolving door industry and I doubt much is going to change in the next 10 years. My number one concern in dealing with nursing home residents are the residents and as an ombudsman, I don't have to worry about the bottom line or any of the administrative problems.

In 3 years, all of my children will be in school. I never thought that day would come. But in the meantime, I'll be plodding along working toward my accounting degree. I recently read an article about 2 San Jose State University classmates who were gunned down in a parking garage by the husband of one of the students, who then killed himself. How sad. Both of those students had recently graduated with degrees in accounting and were slated to start jobs at PricewaterhouseCoopers. I began to think how much I would love to have a job lined up at one of the Big Four.

Every industry, every field needs accountants and financial analysts. I don't want to hang a shingle. I want to work in in a huge accounting firm and just be a cog in a wheel for a while. There is something appealing about going to work in an office and just counting beans. UTA has a 5-year Professional Program in Accounting where I can earn my BS in Accounting and my Master's in Accounting or Taxation at the same time in 5 years, and be ready to sit for the CPA exam.

And later, I can go to school for another semester and get licensed as a nursing home administrator, if I still feel compelled. But I won't be locked into anything. I'll have the freedom to do whatever I want. And I can live with that.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's A Morbid Day In The Neighborhood

You wouldn't believe this, but I am extremely tenderhearted. My parents used to say I wore my feelings "on my coat's sleeve". I find myself to be moved by the plight of others. Never is this more evident than when I am at a funeral. I always cry, no matter whose funeral it is. I cry for the what-might-have-beens, and because the family is experiencing such loss. I can easily put myself in their position and think about how I would feel.

Which is why putting our wills together the last few days and discussing our final arrangements has been, well, such a downer. Planning who will take care of my children (and asking those people!), planning who will manage the inheritance those children would get (and asking those people!) has put a cloud over my head. Putting together Health Care Directives about end of life issues has left me feeling gloomy. Artificial nutrition and hydration? Or not? Autopsy or not? Who will make sure my wishes are carried out if Brian is not here?

Did you know you can have a cremation service? Where your loved ones can gather round a window and watch "the placement of the person's casket in the cremation chamber"? In industry-speak, it's called a "committal ceremony" and it replaces the graveside service for someone who wishes it to be cremated. Of course, unlike a burial, in a few days, your loved one is back in your possession, weighing about 4-6 pounds.

I do have a morbid streak, a fascination with the ins and outs of the funeral industry, and have for years, but the committal ceremony, witnessing your loved one being placed in an oven is too much, even for me. When my mother died, I remember how weird and creeped out I felt being at the funeral home, making her arrangements, knowing she was behind a closed door having God knows what done to her. I know she would have died all over again knowing Doug Martin had seen her naked. I guess it's a good thing these indignities happen when we can no longer protest.

When my mother's body was finally ready to be viewed, my father, brother and I stepped up to the casket, made out of Texas pecan wood, and looked at her. It was true: she looked years younger and always fabulous in red, her favorite color. In the stillness and silence of that moment, we heard a beeping. Standing by the casket, in the silence, it could be heard plainly. It was the pain pump that had been inserted into her body years before in order to handle the constant pain she had from an old on-the-job injury. It seemed comical at that point in time that while her body had given up, there was her morphine pump, dependably pumping morphine. It gave us a private laugh at a time one was needed.

I am going home next weekend and while I am there, I will go to the funeral home and do some pre-planning. I will visit the cemetery where I plan to be buried and pick out a plot. I am hoping to do this now, and never have to think about it again. Because all of the hard stuff will be done and arranged and my heirs, whoever they may be, will know what I want. And if any of you are still around after I am gone, please make sure one of my final wishes is carried out, as described here, over 2 years ago.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Spider

Suffice it to say, I get little privacy. If I need to make or receive a phone call, it takes an act of Congress to keep the bedlam at bay. Right now, I'm sitting at my desk, writing, and 2 of my children are watching a movie a few feet in front of me. They have no immediate concerns or needs. And we could sit like this for an hour. But make an important phone call? In the bathroom? I am always urgently needed.

Emergent. As in, "Mama, can we have a snack?" Or, "When are you going to fix lunch?" "Do we have to take a nap today?"

Today, as usual, needing to file a complaint, they found me in the bathroom.

"Mama! There is a huge spider on the pink blanket in Reagan's room! It looks like a daddy long legs!" (I had a very good idea what spider was lurking since I had lost track of a large wolf spider yesterday in that room. I actually had hoped it found its way back outside.)

"Which blanket?"

"The pink one with the butterfly on it!" (I wanted to make sure that it wasn't the one Reagan sleeps with at night.)

"This one, Mama!" Reagan shouts as she runs into my bathroom with the blanket.

"Don't bring that in here!" her mother shrieked. "Is the spider still on it?! Take that thing outta here!"

Reagan ran the offended blanket back to her room, sat on the floor and started looking for the spider in the folds.

Her mother was horrified. "Baby, what if the spider is still on that thing?! Y'all come out of there!"

But then, across the room, I saw movement. A lone wolf spider was trying desperately to escape from whatever catastrophe was waiting. As it turned out, he had a meeting with a Toddler Size 9 Tennis Shoe. Unfortunately, it had already been rescheduled from yesterday.

Yesterday, I walked into the kitchen where two wolf spiders were sitting, minding their own business, having appeared out of nowhere. Of course, I screamed. Wolf spiders don't creep along the wall. One minute, you're alone with your son in the house. The next minute, they're at a table for 2 in the middle of my kitchen, wondering where the waiter is. I couldn't get to the fly swatter so I had to stomp on them which really creeps me out, even though I was wearing big shoes: my own. Using Reagan's mini-shoe meant I had to be both powerful and accurate...and closer than I wanted.

Someone should invent a shoe on a retractable stick. No need to be so accurate. Or so close.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A Day's Worth of Questions--Part II

These posts do not constitute a whole day's worth of questions. In order to correctly record a complete day's worth of questions, I would need a scribe following me around all day just writing everything down. What a lousy job.

These questions bring us to about 2pm.

  1. Can you turn on Sesame Street?
  2. Can you turn on a movie that's not Tangled?
  3. What colors do you use for a rainbow?
  4. What's after orange?
  5. Mommy, Mommy, does green go after orange?
  6. What comes after green?
  7. What goes after blue?
  8. Mommy, Mama, what goes after blue?
  9. Is 3 more than 2?
  10. Now do you want me to turn it upside down?
  11. Me, three?
  12. Mommy, when can we have lunch?
  13. How many more minutes?
  14. Why?
  15. Why don't you want us to put them in?
  16. You want us to put it in the back?
  17. Can you help me open this, please?
  18. Mommy, can you help me open this, please?
  19. Why?
  20. Why?
  21. Mama, can we play in Darcy's room, please?
  22. Mommy, can we play outside in the front yard?
  23. Please?
  24. Can we watch a movie that's not Rapunzel, please?
  25. Mommy, can we watch a movie that's not Rapunzel?
  26. Please?
  27. Can you turn on Sesame Street?
  28. Mommy, have you seen my tea set plate?
  29. Mommy, have you seen my plate and purple knife?
  30. Mommy, can I use this plate for my tea set thing?
  31. Mommy, can we eat lunch with Daddy?
  32. Mommy, when can you turn on Sesame Street?
  33. Can you turn on KERA?
  34. Can you turn on Barney?
  35. Can you turn on Barney?
  36. Can you turn on Max and Ruby?
  37. Can we watch a movie that's not Rapunzel?
  38. Who are those apple slices for?
  39. How do you spell "dear"?
  40. Mama, how do you spell "dear"?
  41. Does "d" go after "e"?
  42. Mommy, can I have a bite?
  43. Please?
  44. Mommy, is that butter?
  45. What is it?
  46. Can I taste some cheese?
  47. Mama, can I try your apples?
  48. Mommy, when can I go back to soccer?
  49. How about next week?
  50. Next month?
  51. Mommy, can you turn on Sesame Street?
  52. When can we watch anything?
  53. Mama, can I watch something?
  54. What can I do?
  55. Mommy, can I be out?
  56. When can I?
  57. Can I be out?
  58. Can I read?
  59. When can I be out?
  60. Can I be out now?
  61. What can I watch?
  62. Why?
  63. Mommy, can I be out?
  64. Can I be out?
  65. Is there anything I can do to help you?
  66. When can I be out?
  67. Can I try one of the strawberries?
  68. What can I have?
  69. Can I have pretzels?
  70. Mama, am I being good?
  71. Why?
  72. What is that yellow thing right there?
  73. What stuff?
  74. Mama, why don't you want your flip flops on?
  75. Why do you put your purple thing in your mouth?
  76. Is there anything I can do to help you?
  77. [Edited for my privacy!]
  78. Are you going to take a shower?
  79. Mommy, when can you fix lunch for us?
  80. Can I live with Mrs. Lutzky?
  81. What about Charly?
  82. What about Brianna?
  83. Caroline?
  84. Whose mom is meaner than you?
  85. Ava?
  86. Why is this house so small?
  87. Which one you want me to do?
  88. Which one you want me to do?
  89. What's after Princess and Frog?
  90. Guess what I'm wearing today?
  91. Which one you want me to do?
  92. Why?
  93. So are you saying I can do whatever I want?
  94. Are you putting that in the recycle bin?
  95. Can you tie my shoes?
  96. Which book you want me read?
  97. How come when you're making an omelet, you have to do this with a spatula?
  98. Why?
  99. How can you pull off eggs?
  100. Why do you like to make Mama eggs so much?
  101. Do you want me to go get in the truck right now?
  102. When can we go?
  103. What?
  104. Which one do you want me to read first?
  105. What does that mean, Mama?
  106. Is there anything I can do to help you?
Exhausting even typing it! On average, this was 2 children (mostly 1, really) asking about 25 questions an hour. I never want to do this again!

Friday, April 01, 2011

A Day's Worth of Questions--Part I

It's true; I get peppered with questions from the minute my kids get up in the morning, until they go to bed at night. Questions asked rapid-fire, like this:

But unlike this situation, three of my children can talk, and therefore, ask questions without taking a breath. Sometimes they sound like an old record (yes, I said record!) with a needle stuck, with their over and over same questions. And the whining of my name, which no list can give its proper due.

Someone had mentioned making a blog post out of her children's questions and I thought it was a fabulous idea, but I was intimidated greatly because I had heard it could be 3 to 4 thousand! And was just one kid! But since I'm planning on being gone half the day, I thought I'd give my little experiment a try. I will say, I have had to tell them to hush, because I couldn't write fast enough!

Beginning at 640am:
  1. Can I use your bathroom?
  2. What?
  3. What doesn't look comfortable?
  4. Where are you going when you're going out of town in April?
  5. Are you going to Houston?
  6. Are you going to see Auntie Jo?
  7. Mommy, can I read this book?
  8. What day is it?
  9. Mom, can we watch Tangled today?
  10. Did you know the whole school knows my middle name?
  11. How do they know it, Mama?
  12. How do they know it, Mama?
  13. Is the bread all ready to be in my lunch?
  14. Are you going to be able to make my lunch?
  15. Could you cut this string to right there?
  16. Can I be out?
  17. Is it going to be cold?
  18. Do you want me to wear something off the hanger?
  19. Can I have 4 things in my lunch?
  20. Can I have 4 things in my lunch?
  21. Can I also have an apple in my lunch?
  22. Next time I go to school, can I have some jelly beans?
  23. What flavor are they?
  24. Can I have a green apple?
  25. Can I bring a green apple for lunch and a red apple for the teacher?
  26. Can I bring a green apple for lunch?
  27. Can I have a ham sandwich?
  28. Would you like me to put the jelly up?
  29. Can I wear my flip-flops?
  30. Mama, did you hear that?
  31. Mama, are we going to watch Tangled today?
  32. Right, Mama?
  33. Is "coffit" a word?
  34. Is "coffee" a word?
  35. Can you turn this up?
  36. Mommy, can I unbuckle?
  37. Mommy, how come at school we have to get out on Bubba's side?
  38. Mama, can we have breakfast?
  39. Can we have breakfast?
  40. Can you cut my nails?
  41. Are we watching Tangled tonight?
  42. Can I have a banana?
  43. What do I have to do to put energy back in the family?
  44. What time?
  45. Is this okay?
  46. Can I wear it?
  47. Can I wear my flip-flops with this?
  48. What are you making?
  49. Am I having dinner tonight?
  50. Can I have a sip of your smoothie?
  51. Mommy, can you help me get dressed, please?
  52. Mommy, can you help me get dressed, please?
  53. Mommy, can you help me get dressed, please?
  54. When can you fix this?
  55. Can I be out?
  56. Why is Reagan's patch in your pocket?
  57. What's on your mind?
  58. Can I be out, Mommy?
  59. Did you say yes or no?
  60. Did I do all my hair?
  61. What does "least" mean?
  62. Mommy, Mommy, do you like it when he says, "I'm a kid, that's my job."?
  63. Mommy, did I get all my hair?
  64. Mommy, did I get all my hair?
  65. Why?
  66. Why does that one have a triangle on it on his nose?
  67. Can I have breakfast?
  68. Can I have breakfast?
  69. What's that sound?
  70. Mommy, why did it stop?
  71. Mommy?
  72. Mama, can I have breakfast?
  73. Is there anything I can do to help you?
  74. Why do them have capes?
  75. Why do them have sunglasses?
  76. Why do them have costumes?
  77. Can I have breakfast?
  78. Is there anything I can do to help you?
  79. Can I have breakfast?
  80. When can I have breakfast?
  81. Now can I have breakfast?
  82. Now can I have breakfast?
  83. Is there anything I can do to help you?
  84. What is taking so long?
  85. Can I have breakfast?
  86. Am I going to be able to have lunch?
  87. Mommy, can I color?
  88. Can I have a puzzle, please?
  89. Can I play with this, please?
  90. Mommy, were we being rude when you were on the phone?
  91. Can we watch a movie that's not Tangled?
  92. Can you turn on Sesame Street?
  93. Can you turn on KERA?
  94. Are you almost done?
  95. Can you get the same kind of puzzle Reagan has?
This brings us to 10am. I was on the phone for a while so I wasn't able to field too many, and they were playing nicely at the table. I've figured that I'm going to have to split this post up. No one wants to read a post of 5000 questions all in one sitting!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Love The 80's!

Completely random title for my completely random post.

· I am thrilled to report that Brian received his promotion. There will be more travel involved but when he’s not traveling, he’ll be home. No more cube farm. No more Outage Widow. In return, I’ll (hopefully) have a happier husband who is expanding his technical knowledge by answering technical questions, the part of his job he really enjoys.

· We have moved into our new digs. We’re a little off the beaten path, but in the city. I think I may go crazy here. There is no place for the kids to make a mess. I cannot stand clutter and here, every mess is right in the middle of a narrow walkway. Or in our very small kitchen. Where Little People always seem to be where I am. We’re located in a very quiet cul-de-sac where the most daily traffic is the home health nurses that visit someone across the street.

· It’s been 16 years since I graduated from high school. How did that happen?

· I took a much needed break from my scrapbooking business and am glad to be back in the swing of things. My groups are growing and this is a good thing! The new catalog is fabulous, perfect for spring and summer. However, I’m sad. In our new house, we have to use my quilting table for our dining room table. No space to create or leave my projects out. Of course, that didn’t stop me from buying fabric yesterday to make a queen-sized quilt.

· It appears spring is upon us, and I, for one, could not be more thrilled. Spring brings warmer weather, my birthday and my annual weekend away at Auntie Jo’s. Only 5 weeks away. I love the drive, alone, to Houston, coming into town on the West side, driving through the Galleria and downtown, just feeling the energy of the city. When I reach my destination, I feel like I can finally take a deep breath and relax. And Auntie Jo can prepare a very smart cocktail which helps to melt the stress away.

· Free advice: People are never what they seem on the surface. What seems perfect and put together, never is. Everyone has their secrets. Act accordingly.

· Of course, we’ve been to the doctor. In fact, Bubba spent the first weekend of Spring Break in the hospital. Our latest ER experience had me a little aggravated. I am grateful for a doctor I can talk to and explain my concerns. I find I’m a teeny bit brand loyal. I want my doctor, all the time. I mean, Dr. Hadeed would never make us wait until 3pm before rounding on us. On the day we were to be discharged. Today, Bubba has a fever, and I am fighting the urge to take him to the doctor.

· Reagan Roux-Roux broke her leg last month. Thankfully, the cast finally comes off on Monday. The only month longer than this: the last month of pregnancy. Apparently, there’s a reason ballet dancers wear special shoes. Flip-flops aren’t appropriate dancin’ footwear. Now you know. Orthopedics: another Cook’s specialty on our medical team.

· I always feel most inspired to write in my blog when I have the most to do.

· My perfect place: laid out on a beach somewhere. Feeling the sun and the wind. Listening to the ocean. Before I was married, I used to keep a chaise beach chair in my car, just in case I got the opportunity to go to Galveston. I was proposed to on the beach (per my demands) and married on the beach. I hope to retire to the beach someday.

· Oh, and I do love the 80’s.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Homeschooling, Again

Once upon a time, I was going to be a homeschooling mom. I attended homeschool conferences. I joined a Yahoo! homeschooling group. I researched curriculum. I bought curriculum. I wrote lesson plans. I created a homeschooling organizer to help homeschooling moms, like myself, organize home and school at a glance. I even passed judgment on others not homeschooling.

Then life happened. And I decided that I wasn't going to do it. I do mourn some relationships that seemed to evaporate at the same time. Relationships with other homeschooling moms. It goes without saying that I'm a little...sensitive...about it all. Talking about or reading articles about homeschooling makes me...defensive, so I try to stay quiet.

However, I read this article today, sent to me by my husband, and thought the guy had a great point.

If I want to see a video of some quilting technique, I can find a dozen online. For free. On blogs, on YouTube. Or I can go down to my local quilting store and get lessons there. Is it the same with homeschooling? I did my homework and I think it's because there are lots of moms teaching their kids who are like me: not teachers. And they, like I would have to do, find materials that do the teaching for them with scripted lessons. Your part in bold. Is that the same as teaching?

Deciding to homeschool is an easy decision compared to figuring out what book you're going to use for math. Experienced homeschoolers could help others starting the process by doing what Mr. North is suggesting. Make their lessons available for downloading. Make teaching videos. Most who homeschool feel passionately about it. But passionately enough to give it away for free?

For me, one of the main reasons I chose not to homeschool was the complete lack of knowledge on what was "best" and lack of time to figure it out. Facing that task was overwhelming and left me feeling like a failure. There has to be a better way than every mother reinventing the wheel every generation.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I Hate January

And I'm not that big a fan of February, either.

I probably owe a Life Update since that last sad, pathetic post.
  • Friends helped out by bringing meals for 10 days leaving me room to breathe.
  • Joshua's bronchoscopy procedure went well. There is nothing structurally wrong with his respiratory system and the bacterial infection found in his lungs was on its way out and no treatment was necessary. Reflux was not affecting his respiratory function.
  • Brian's mom came and stayed for a week while he was gone to Ohio, "just in case". I wouldn't have asked her myself, but Brian felt it was necessary for her to come, and I was grateful that she did.
  • No children needed emergency room or physician services during that week. In fact, I would almost say that after getting rid of the cat, Reagan and Joshua were well. Of course, they're not well now, but hey, take what you can get.
  • We take possession of the new house on Thursday.
  • I did not start school.
After trying for a year and a half to buy this house, we have finally given up. The bank and their attorneys did not want to work with us until we had already found a new place. They chose, instead, to sue us. Thankfully, a dear friend helped to navigate the paperwork and file an answer that made them take notice of us. Today, we were supposed to have our jury trial, but came to an "Agreed Judgment" yesterday with the Plaintiffs. Maybe we can get this house for a song in 18 months. Of course, by then, it'll be a falling down shack and we won't even want it.

Now packing must commence. We are moving from 2200 square feet, 4 bedrooms into 1200 square feet, 3 bedrooms. Some things are gonna have to go. I mean, where am I going to put my scrapbooking supplies? My fabric?

And then to do it all in the freezing cold and sleet and snow? There is no justice.

I'm sure it will all work out. It usually does. Of course, I may have an ulcer before it's all said and done.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What I Do

Especially now that my kids are in their sick "season", people will remark, "Four kids?! I could never do what you do!" Or whenever they see me asking, "Is everyone well?" with their head tilted to the side, in their concerned voice. Well-meaning, I know. I really do know that. And it seems we're, ahem, sick a lot. But there are 6 of us. Four of them are slobbering, mangy children who don't wash their hands well, put non-food items in their mouths and socialize with other slobbery, disease-riddled children. I get sick occasionally, probably from taking care of these germophiles every day and the other part of our sextet works in a cube farm with regurgitated air coming out of the vents all day. So, yes, we're sick a lot.

How sick have we been?

In the last 14 days, Joshua has been to the emergency room three times. He has had 2 chest x-rays, 3 courses of oral steroids and 2 courses of antibiotics. I have spoken with 3 different pulmonologists in the last 5 days. We have seen the pediatrician twice today. No one can figure out what is causing all these problems. He's had tests for RSV, pertussis. Negative. Chest x-rays look good. No fever. Oh, what a medical mystery my son is turning out to be. How much longer before all these steroids have an adverse affect on his growth? Ability to fight infection? How much longer of wheezing and coughing before he has permanent diminished lung capacity?

Reagan is going down the same path with her croup that has now invaded her lungs. Hopefully it can be turned around before she's in Joshua's boat, hanging out at the ER for fun on Thursday, Saturday and Wednesday nights.

Lily has strep.

Darcy fell down the stairs at church last night and is still complaining of pain.

A friend of mine recently wrote a post how she is not the favorite parent of her youngest son. I KNOW that feeling. I'm the one who takes him to every doctor visit, every ER visit. I am the one who can successfully suction his nose and give the medication he hates, but needs. I hold him still to give ineffective breathing treatment after ineffective breathing treatment. I pin his arms down while doctors stick pointy things in his ears looking for infection. Of course he hates my guts. Multiple that by four.

I know what you're thinking: Those poor people. Insert concerned look here. Whisper, "Can you imagine having all those kids? And it seems like they're sick all.the.time!"

But however well-meaning those people are, it doesn't help. Comments on the health of our family are not helpful. You wouldn't believe this, but I am well aware that we've had a lot of sickness at our house. (Last winter, too.) I wonder what I could possibly be doing different to keep these little babies well. You, wondering aloud if we have mold in the house, does not help. Offering up your unsolicited analysis of the current medical condition is not helpful. I'd rather not hear your opinion on our team of medical professionals.

I am barely hanging on. I cannot take the criticism or the advice. I am drowning.

Brian is out of town today, called unexpectedly to a meeting in Houston.

We are looking at the possibility of a move.

I am supposed to start school next Wednesday.

My son is having a bronchoscopy on Monday that will mean an overnight hospital stay.

In the case of people not being able to do what I do, I'll say this: You do what you have to do. It does make it easier when you have support and encouragement and love with action behind it.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

My Medical Team and Our Medical Records

Recently I wrote about my medical staff. Today was a visit I had been waiting to come around for a while.

Two of my children have infection-triggered asthma. Something as simple as a cold or the croup can turn into a huge issue for us, triggering a full-blown asthma exacerbation. Joshua has had wheezing and coughing for about 3 weeks now. Two trips to the pediatrician, three phone calls to the pediatrician, one trip to the ER for chest x-ray, a round of steroids, a round of antibiotics since December 20 and he is still coughing and wheezing.

But today! Today was the day that I was going to get some answers! Today...we saw the pulmonologist! He would know what to do! He would listen to my son's chest and tell me I'm not crazy! He would hear THAT KID IS WHEEZING! But first, I must talk to the nurse. I love Nurse Sharon. But she's gonna wanna know everything that has happened with these 2 kids since we were there last. Every doctor visit, every steroid, every antibiotic.

Can you believe I forgot to mention that my daughter had to visit the hospital in Beaumont when we were there for Thanksgiving? Twice? On the same day? Her birthday? After she threw up all over me in a restaurant? I forgot that...

I couldn't remember what Reagan had antibiotics for in October. Nurse Sharon wanted to know. And I know I didn't accurately remember everything. Things probably work better when the trained medical professionals are given accurate information.

This has happened to me before. Medical staff asking me questions that I couldn't answer and feeling like a complete idiot. In November, when Bubba had his 2nd set of tubes put in, the anesthesiology resident literally wanted me to remember from the top of my head "when the last time he was on antibiotics for something other than his ears". Really? I have no freakin' idea. Mom looks like an idiot and the doctor scores. Must not have been too important. They did the surgery anyway, even though they didn't know when the last time he had antibiotics for something besides his infected ears.

I promised Nurse Sharon that starting this year I would start keeping better tabs on my children's health. I'm going to keep a notebook and write everything down so when someone asks me why antibiotics were prescribed, I'm gonna know.

And Dr. Hadeed did know what to do. My kid was wheezing and coughing, Dr. Hadeed heard him and Dr. Hadeed had a plan. Dr. Hadeed had a plan! Of course it means more steroids and more breathing treatments and more "wait and see", but there is a plan in place and I can live with that. He's not just gonna let my kids cough and wheeze and be sick. Apparently, I'm supposed to be calling the pulmonologist when my kid is coughing and wheezing, not going to the pediatrician 3x a week. Apparently, there are instructions that can be given over the phone, things that can be done at home and in the words of today's great physician, "You wouldn't even have to leave the house."

I'm for that.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Compassion, A Gift We Ought To Give Each Other

A blog I follow had an interesting post recently whether or not Christian women were "allowed" to share marital issues with each other. I thought Compassion, A Gift We Ought To Give Each Other offered some good points.

Tell me what you think.

Sound of Silence

I am beginning to realize about myself that I would be content to stay inside my house and never leave. I would probably never get anything done, but I really don't mind if I don't go anywhere or talk to anyone, as long as I'm alone.

Don't get me wrong: I don't want to stay permanently cooped up in the house with my 4 children.

I like being alone. And when I'm alone, I like it quiet.

I think I'm what is referred to as an introvert.

I get in these moods. Call it a funk. I get in a funk and I don't want to talk to anyone. I just want to be left alone. Brian says the funkier I feel, the more I probably need to be around people. Sometimes being around people is a real challenge for me. I look for ways to not be around them. I don't mind if people don't talk to me. Some days, I'd rather they didn't.

I can be very prickly. I am a person who knows her own mind. I work matters to completion.

And lately, I am feeling funky-cold-Medina. Don't be offended.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Out of Place

Yesterday evening, I drove to Fort Worth to see how long it would take, if I were going to class. I was hoping to do what I do, which is scope out where I'm supposed to go, ahead of time. Driving (or walking) around looking for where I'm supposed to be when I have time constraints causes me much anxiety.

It was cold, the wind was blowing and I was not dressed to be walking around outside with the sun down. I went into the bookstore to get out of the wind and because it was the only place that was open.

I felt every.second of my nearly 34 years. Walking around buildings that all look the same, identified only by initials and limited maps available to decipher made me realize I may be woefully out of my depth. And at a junior college! That was not a good feeling.

I remember my first foray into college. I was a Sam Houston State University Bearkat. Eat 'em up, 'Kats! I wasn't very successful while I was there. I was your standard issue Finally-Away-From-Home-Lose-Her-Mind college student. I knew a guy there everyone called "Grandpa". He was the oldest guy there. He was only 30...

Yesterday, I felt every bit the mother of 4 children.

Then I got home and thought I'd check my campus email, and realized in addition to submitting my transcripts, I also have to submit a Transcript Evaluation Request. And in January, evaluating my transcripts will take 6-8 weeks. Oh, and my grant may be cancelled if it's not done. And the email was sent December 7. Good grief.

A phone call this morning put my mind at ease, mostly. But then I was told I needed to submit my high school transcript and proof of graduation...they really care about that?

College is a young man's game, for sure.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Marriage Update

I am still married. Now you know.

Finished Projects

Amazingly enough, I have finished 2 quilting projects in the last 2 weeks, including binding them, the part I probably hate the most. Making a quilt is much more involved than I ever thought, and I don't even quilt them myself. Initially, I wasn't drawn to quilting because most quilters are, ahem, older, and their tastes run a different road. But then I discovered there are all kinds of fabric available and I could make quilts that reflected my tastes and personality.

A couple years ago, I was visiting one of my favorite stores, Houston Street Mercantile, my local quilting shop. (The store is owned and worked by, ahem, older, women, so the website is not impressive. The store must be experienced first hand.) Up on the wall, they had a beautiful quilt hanging that was made of brown and blue batik fabric, very masculine. Batiks are hand-dyed fabrics that have gorgeous variations of color and contrast. I have included some in nearly everything I have made. I loved the quilt and thought I'd like to make one like that for my dad, so I bought the kit.

I intended to make the quilt for my dad to use while he slept in his recliner, where he slept for 15 years.

Then my mother died.

And my dad started sleeping in the bed again. I came up with another idea for him, but what to do with the kit? I decided to make the quilt for my father-in-law, Champion Napper, for Christmas. But then, what to get my mother-in-law? So I decided to make one for her also. I finished binding the last one mere hours before they arrived on Friday. I was fairly pleased with my work.

These quilts have the same border, the same backing, the same binding. The only difference is the "interior".

To finish the quilt for my bed, I need to put the last border on and get it to the quilter. Oh, and I need to finish the binding on my Christmas tree skirt. Then all my "open" projects will be complete. I love making quilts. I get such a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when they are complete.