Life goes on

My husband flew to Texas in October and spent several weeks taking care of his very sick mom.  Hospice nurses said she probably had two weeks to live, but she outlived that prediction, only to die three days after he returned home.  She died just two hours short of her eighty-third birthday.

She died from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.  Cigarettes lose their glamour when you can’t breathe, despite the oxygen tube snaking into your nose.

I never lived near her, so we weren’t as close as we might have been had we lived in the same town.  She was an elegant and generous woman, tiny and always adorned with gold necklaces and rings.  She liked to take care of people and loved her kids and grandkids so much.

We will miss her.

My husband will fly back to Houston tomorrow and be there until Saturday.  In his absence, I resume the trick of delivering and picking up kids without forgetting anyone anywhere, all while working my job and figuring out what to cook for dinner.

And my dog would appreciate it if I would remember to buy her more dog food tomorrow.  And my son needs snow-pants by Friday for the school play.  And my daughter needs a birthday gift for her friend for the slumber party on Friday.

I better start a list.

 

 

A note before sleep

This photo has nothing to do with this post. But I like it anyway. I took it last week. IMG_1125

 

I am really sleepy.  Giant yawns, slow blinks, already regretting that I have to wake up in the morning way before 9 AM.

This day began with solving the problem of the dead van.  I telephoned AAA to reinstate our service so we could request a service call.  After the tow-truck was confirmed to be on the way, my husband went outside and discovered that the van had made a miraculously overnight recovery and started without hesitation.

So he drove it to the repair shop.  Supposedly, it will be ready to be picked up in the morning, which is why I have to get out of bed all too early.

Oh.  And did I mention that I had previously agreed to pick up the carpool kids today after school?  The problem is that our car is too small for five kids and the van was at the shop.  A church lady agreed to come to our rescue and drove me in her van to pick up the kids.  All’s well that ends well, as they say.  (Do they say?  I don’t know.)

(As it turned out, I never did find my old AAA card, but I did find seven lip glosses and/or lip balms in an unused purse.  I disapprove of my continuing quest for a good gloss/lipstick or balm.)

It’s always something, right?

This day was going relatively well and then when my husband left at 9:30 PM to pick up one of our kids from work, the van wouldn’t start.  While he was in  Texas, twice when I parked our van the tail-lights stayed on.  When I noticed that, I did a Google search–of course–to try to diagnose the problem.  The solution was beyond my limited mechanical skills, so then I fixed it by hopping into the van, driving around the circle of our neighborhood and then parking in the driveway again.  This worked twice.  The lights went out.

I don’t know why.  It was a miracle or a trick.  Something.

But tonight, it would not start and I imagine that’s because we didn’t notice the tail-lights staying on and the battery drained.  Seriously, I am so over car trouble.  And I let our AAA membership lapse so very long ago.

The whole thing is especially annoying because tomorrow I agreed to drive carpool–picking up five kids at school and delivering them home.  Our car is too small for this task, so I need the van.  (It’s not  “my week” but I traded with another mom.)

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a vacation from the little problems that continually pop up in our lives?

And then late tonight, our dog started doing this thing where she gulps and acts frantic and runs to the backyard to eat leaves and drink water from the fountain and generally cause me to worry.  She has a very sensitive stomach but absolutely no sense, so she’s constantly stealing stuff from the counter and eating it.  I have no idea what she got into but it’s super annoying.

Fortunately, it’s time to sleep.  I just hope I don’t have any anxiety dreams like the terrible one where my teeth all fall out.  Wish me luck.

 

Scattered thoughts

The lead story on the news tonight was the weather because it rained.  Here in San Diego County, we need rain.  We long for rain.  We take pictures of rain.  We bring up rain in conversation.  “Did you see the rain?”  “Did you hear that rain last night?”  It hadn’t really rained for months.  And so, it’s news.  We’re so happy for the rain.

*

Last Friday, I went to see a movie during an empty pocket of time I had before it was time to pick up my son at his high school.  I saw “Fury” which lasted more than two hours, so by the time I got back to my car, I’d missed a call from my husband who was in Texas.  I called him back.

“Your high school has been on CNN for the past two hours,” he said.  And that’s how I found out about the school shooting in which 14-year old Jaylen Fryberg shot two male cousins and three female classmates, killing two of the girls and himself.

I sat in my car after I hung up the phone and looked online for more information.  Then I cried.

What is there even to say about a school shooting that hasn’t been said before?

I just can’t believe it happened in the school where I went to high school.

*

IMG_1106This past week, a college friend of mine happened to be in Southern California with her daughter.  We spent less than a day together, but fit in a couple of visits to the beach, lunch at the harbor and a lot of laughs.  I am so grateful that she took the time to drive down to my house to see me.

It’s weird to think that my friend and I have known each other since we were the age of her daughter . . . time is in such a hurry.  We met thirty years ago.  That’s just incomprehensible.

*

My husband was out of town for over two weeks, spending time with his mom who is in hospice care in Texas.  He’s extremely grateful he fly to Houston when he did because she was aware and conscious.  She is declining now and sooner rather than later, he’ll be traveling back to Texas for her funeral.  It’s all so sad.

*

This year’s Halloween was the first one in which I did not take a child trick-or-treating in almost twenty years.  My 12-year old decided to go trick-or-treating with a friend from church.  My 16-year old spent the holiday at a party with his girlfriend’s family and friends.  One of my oldest sons was at work while the other hibernated in his room with his computer.   (For the record, my daughter was dressed as a Cat and my son was “Gangsta Santa.”)

I worked an eight hour shift from 5 PM to 1 AM while bestowing snack-sized Snickers and Kit-Kats and M&Ms on the few trick-or-treaters who rang our bell.  I only opened the door five times.  Our street is very quiet.

I mentioned to my daughter that it was the first year in forever that I haven’t taken any kids trick-or-treating and she said, “Isn’t that good?” and I said, “It’s just sad because it’s the end of an era.”  And she sort of blinked at me.

So I burst into a rendition of “The Cat’s in the Cradle” and she said, “Mom!  Stop!”  She doesn’t get it, but that’s because she’s 12.

And my husband said that song won’t apply to me anyway because I’ve been here for everything.  But still.  Each wave of time breaks on the shore and I can’t stop it from returning to sea.  I find that absolutely lovely, the constant motion of time, the beauty of a new wave each moment, but alarming that it’s so impossible to hold on to this present moment, so bittersweet that nothing will ever be the same again.

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Counting sleep

I took two naps this morning before 9:45 AM.

But at least I didn’t have to drive my husband to the airport for his 6:40 AM flight to Houston.  I was worried about falling asleep driving home.  So, there’s that.  Drowsy driving is no joke.

Writing in a blog after a few weeks of silence is a lot like answering a letter that’s been sitting on your desk for three months.  It’s just awkward.  (Do you remember writing letters?  I used to be such a letter-writing boss.)

My husband has gone to Texas because his mother is not expected to live more than a couple of weeks.  In the past year, four people he was related to–by blood or by heart–have died.  It’s tough to be the one who feels helpless and a little outside of the circle of grief.  (But then I feel guilt because none of this is about me at all.)  I remember when my dad was dying that I felt completely encircled by the sorrow, like being stranded on a tiny rocky island in a vast sea of sadness.  My husband was by my side during that terrible time but he wasn’t on the island with me.  You may or may not understand this, depending on whether you’ve been there yourself.

Anyway, so while he’s gone, I’m here, carrying on.  I work very late and usually drop into bed at 1:30 AM.

I drive my son to school at 7:15 AM, then drive another to work at 9:00 AM.  My daughter has rides to and from school in a carpool–and I just finished my two weeks of driving the carpool, so I’m off the hook for the next two weeks.  But I still have to pick-up the boys from school and work.  And in the middle of that, I work.  And then do laundry and dishes and cooking and all the rest to keep the gears turning here at home.

Our weather has finally cooled down from the ghastly summer-like temperatures.  It’s so nice to feel a cool evening breeze and to be enveloped by fog in the morning.  Today I actually wore jeans for the first time since April or May.  At some point, I imagine I’ll put on socks and actual shoes as well.  But let’s not rush into these things.

Sometimes while I’m driving around, I think of things I could write about in this space.  And I’m always 100% sure that I won’t forget my brilliant ideas.  But I forget them because my brain is like a pinball game, the ideas ricocheting around before disappearing, despite my frantic effort to flap those flippers.

Raise your hand if you know that feeling.

Now, I have to get some sleep so I can drive my boy to high school in 5 hours and fifty minutes.

But who’s counting?  I am asleep!  Even now!

What do fruit flies, novels and houseguests have in common? (Answer: This blog post)

I actually did a search on Google for blog topics.  That’s what it’s come to.  I have nothing to say.

Time to wrap this blog in bubble-wrap and old newspaper and shove it into a box. Seal it up tight with packing tape.  Put it in a corner of the garage.

Well.  Not really.  This blog isn’t going anywhere.  But it’s sitting in a rocking chair with an afghan over its lap.  At least that’s how it seems some days.

So since you’re here, let me just bring you up to date.

  • All four of my kids have a cold, but they have spaced it out, so one is at the lingering-cough stage, one is at the sneezing stage, one has an earache and one is dizzy and worn out.  My husband and I are–so far–avoiding this one.
  • I am obsessed with reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year.  It’s a giant book.  (And best of all, I bought it at a thrift store for $3.99.)  I am thinking of sneaking it into the bathroom when I got upstairs in a few minutes–even though it’s 12:30 AM.  Why do I have to do stuff like work and cook and clean and sleep when there is a good book to read?  As my 12-year old would say, “That’s not fair!”  (I swear, I hear her say that phrase more than any other.)
  • I finally hung a couple of oval mirrors in the bathroom.  The giant mirror fell almost two months ago.  Since then, we’ve been getting ready by stooping to look into small mirrors propped by the sinks.  Very unsatisfactory, but for some reason I am slow to solve these petty problems.  I plan to create an entire “mirror wall” in that bathroom.  Check back in a year and we’ll see how much progress I’ve made.  One must not rush into these things.
  • We survived the heat wave.  This morning, while driving my son to his college class, I noted that the temperature was 66 degrees.  It was downright chilly.  I loved it.  (The warmth returned all too soon–it was 80 in the house by the afternoon.  Boo.)
  • I went with a friend to hear Benny Hester and Kelly Willard in concert last week.  It was the first time I’d ever seen either one in concert and it was simultaneously disappointing and super fun–it was disappointing because Kelly Willard did not sing ANY of the songs she’s written and recorded over the years.  (I don’t understand this.)  But it was super fun because Benny Hester and his band were excellent.  I felt like I had gone back in time to the eighties when his music was on Christian radio.  (Is it still?  I don’t know.  I barely ever listen to Christian radio.)  Anyway, time warp for sure, sitting in that “Christian coffee house,” listening to that music.
  • Tomorrow a friend of ours will arrive for a two-night stay at our house.   He’s just stopping here on his way overseas.  His pit-stop means I will spend my morning Swiffering up dog hair and gathering dishes and cups from every room and returning items to their rightful homes (for instance, that white board needs to be relocated to my daughter’s room.  And so on and so forth.)

And finally, you should know that the fruit fly population has dwindled to almost nothing.  An occasional fruit fly hovers in my line of sight every once in awhile.  I’ve put the brand new bananas I bought into a Zip-loc bag to prevent this whole situation from flaring up again.   I randomly clap flies out of their flight paths from time to time.

Just for kicks, here are the topics HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator came up with for me using the nouns “fruit flies,” “novels” and “houseguests.”

1)  The history of fruit flies

2)  10 Quick Tips About novels

3)  The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on houseguests

4)  7 Things About fruit flies Your Boss Wants to Know

5)  14 Common Misconceptions About novels

 

 

 

Teeny tiny dream

The week promises to be busy, as usual.  My older sons have an appointment in the morning at the DMV to get driving permits.  The other kids have school, of course.  My husband will drive one to school and I have carpool duty picking up our daughter and four other kids. One of the older kids has a college class in the afternoon, then works later in the afternoon.

And I suppose everyone will want to eat dinner.  Again.  Every night it’s the same thing:  “Mom, what’s for dinner?”  SO MONOTONOUS.

Listen, I’d like to know, too.  But I’ve been preoccupied by fruit flies.  Obsessed, even.

For about a week, I’ve been killing hundreds and hundreds of fruit flies in my effective concoction of red wine vinegar mixed with a drop of dishwashing liquid.  I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from.  We had no more fruit sitting on the counters.  I’d taken out the trash, washed out the bottom of the compactor.

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Yet after all that, one morning, a cloud of tiny flies greeted me in the kitchen.

I went a little berserk that day, slamming my palms onto the cabinets, smashing unsuspecting flies.  I actually got a bruise.  I scared my dog by suddenly clapping my hands for no apparent reason.

At last, I realized that something ugly lingered inside the trash compactor, so my son helped me figure out how to get the crusher-thing to come down.  Sure enough, there was . . . well, ick.  I cleaned it out and the fruit flies have lessened, though they haven’t quite disappeared completely.

Some people are out changing their worlds.  I’m merely trying to keep fruit flies from copulating in my kitchen.

September 11: I remember Thomas Kuveikis

This originally appeared on my blog on September 11, 2006.  I’m reposting it again as I remember Thomas Kuveikis who died in the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001.

I will never forget.

You may want to read the comments here and here.  Here are two comments made by people who knew Thomas.

Kathy Kuveikis Kurtz September 9, 2011 at 8:05 am

I did a search today for my cousin Tom as the 10th anniversary approaches. I came across your post and wanted to say thank you for saying all the kind things about Tom. He really was a great person, a wonderful dad, but most importantly a hero. Like people have stated over time, “It is so easy to run away, but to run towards the tragedy” requires a true gift of heroism. My cousin was and is my hero always.

James Schaus September 11, 2011 at 7:36 am

I remember Tom “Las Vegas” Kuveikis as the coolest guy in our class, and a very good friend. Tom had a magnetic personality, and of course had the starring role in our high school movie project “Born to Be Wild…Starring Wheatley’s Wildest Cats”. He was also in our Sha La La music group, and was the only one of us who actually looked good in gold lame. I guess you can take the boy outta Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn outta the boy. He returned to Brooklyn to do what he loved, helping others, and he left this world what he always was, a hero. We are forever grateful for his courage, kindness, and heroism.

* * *

I am participating in the 2,996 Project, for which 2,996 bloggers volunteered to write a memorial for one person who perished in the attacks on 9/11.

Today, on the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States, I remember Thomas Kuveikis.  He was forty-eight when he died, younger than I am now.

 

Thomas Kuveikis was known to his family and friends as Tommy.  He grew up in Brooklyn, attending Blessed Sacrament Elementary School.  He graduated from Wheatley High School in 1971 after his family moved to East Williston.

Tommy studied architecture at both SUNY Farmingdale and the Pratt Institute, though he never completed a degree.  He dabbled in carpentry, a skill learned from his father.  He joined the New York Fire Department (FDNY) in August of 1977 when he was twenty-four years old.

Within a year, Tommy made a name for himself as an aggressive, brave and tough firefighter.  His younger brother, Tim,  once said, “If I could be half the fireman he was, I’ll have a really good career.”  (Newsday.com)   He loved the action of firefighting in Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood.  (His father was a legendary firefighter who died in November 2001.)

But Tommy wasn’t just a tough guy.  He came up with an idea to help a poor family at Christmas.  Starting in 1987, members of his squad visited a priest at St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church and asked for the name of the poorest family in the parish.  Then they would contact the family, set up a Christmas tree and provide presents.

Tommy was married twice and was about to be engaged to Jennifer Auerhahn, who described him as “sweet, funny, kind gentle and unselfish.”  His brother Jimmy wrote about him on September11victims.com website saying,

“It was really tough to lose Tommy as he became such a kind, considerate guy over time.  He was not always this way, especially in his twenties, but ‘life’s difficulties’ made him become a great human being.  He was a vegetarian, he gave money and time to Putnam County Land Trust to preserve ’special’ land . . . he loved animals, kids and good people.  Tommy was already a tremendous fireman, working in a poor area of Brooklyn, where he could experience many more fires than the average fireman, just like his father did.”

Kathy Gelman said her brother, Tommy, was “honorable, honest, humorous, humble, humane, and hero.”

In his spare time, Tommy worked as a carpenter.  In fact, he built a steam room in Squad 252’s firehouse.  He had a reputation for not charging enough for his carpentry work.  One day a year, he would donate a day of carpentry to the Putnam County Land Trust.

Tommy had one daughter, Kristen.  He had five siblings, sisters Christine, Karen and Kathleen and brothers, James and Timothy.

Tommy had been a firefighter for twenty-four years and a member of Squad 252 (“In Squad We Trust” was their motto) for five years when his squad answered the fifth alarm at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, at 9:00 a.m.  He was forty-eight years old that day.  CNN footage shows his squad pulling up to the east side of the Trade Center around 9:28 a.m.  The six members of the squad entered the north tower, rescued a man from an elevator.

Two of the firefighters’ bodies were found in the C stairwell 18 days later.  The other four men of Squad 252, including Tommy, were never found.

Today, I remember Thomas Kuveikis.  Thomas Kuveikis is one of the 343 FDNY firefighters who died on September 11, 2001.  He is a hero.  We will never forget.

We will never, ever, ever forget.

Snapshot

This is my week to drive carpool.  I pick up five middle schoolers from school and deliver them to their homes.

Today, one of the girls said the words, “Rainbow sheep!” and somehow, that became an incredibly funny thing for them all to yell out the open windows at pedestrians.  (One of the kids:  “Pedestrians is a fancy word.”  Another kid:  “Well, it’s just another way to say ‘person walking down the street’.”)

After dropping them all off, I took Grace to Starbucks for one final birthday treat:  a frappucino without coffee and a pumpkin muffin.

Then home to clean up the kitchen and cook dinner.  By the time I finished, I was too hot to eat and instead, read a little bit from my book and took a fifteen minute nap.

I drove Grace to church for youth group and then parked by the beach to watch the sunset along with these seagulls.

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And then I came home and watched Big Brother . . . truly a mixture of the foolish and sublime today.

Twelve years ago

Seven years old

Seven years old

Today was the twelfth anniversary of the last time I gave birth.  In other words, my daughter’s twelfth birthday.  Back then, it was about me.  Now, it’s all about her.  (Isn’t that the story of motherhood?  At this point, nothing is about me; everything is about the kids.)

Twelve years ago, my labor started unexpectedly.  Sort of.  After all, I was nine months pregnant and three days away from my due date.  Somehow, though, I had convinced myself that I was going to have the baby on the 10th of September since that was a week after the beginning of school.  She was due on September 5.

My twins were starting fourth grade on September 3rd, the day after Labor Day.  See?  I had a scheduling conflict.

But it was Labor Day and labor I did.  She was born in a hurry after six mostly ignored and denied hours of labor.  (I sent my husband to the community pool with our three sons and told him I just needed to rest to make the contractions stop.  I believed in my super powers,  I guess.)  When the midwife came, I joked that I changed my mind and didn’t want to give birth but I did two hours after she arrived.  (And ten minutes before my husband returned home.)

Today, my baby girl went to sixth grade.  She started school last week.  For the first time since we moved here just over three years ago, she is attending a “real” school rather than doing school at home.  She complains about school and wishes summer would last forever, but she really wanted to attend a school and this is the perfect school for her.   I think she likes it a lot.  She comes home with a lot of things to say about her day and the other kids.

Almost 12 years old

Almost 12

For the first time in ten years, I am not supervising any of my kids while they do school at home through a virtual/online public school.  You might think I’d feel nostalgic but mostly I feel like I just climbed a sheer cliff while clinging to it with my toes and fingertips.  I’m exhausted.  I can’t believe I didn’t plummet to my death.

So I rejoice.  My work here is not done but at least someone else is directly responsible for educating my last child.

Here’s how we celebrated her birthday:

Birthday shopping (clothes, of course, from Tilly’s)
Birthday lunch (Rubio’s)
Birthday pedicure
Birthday party at our good friends’ home where we they grilled burgers and we played Corn-hole and badmitton
Birthday cupcakes made with chocolate ganache
Square and diamond-shaped birthday balloons
Gifts (including and not limited to a new cell phone)

 

 

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