Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Little Water Bugs

These days, I begin a lot of posts that I don't finish. I will go back and finish them... But it seems I only have time to jot down an idea or save a photo and then I am off to drop off a kid, pick up a kid, reprimand a kid, remind a kid, fold a load, mix a batch, referee a match, and, above all, share a hug. Summer with kids is like that. This summer is especially like that. Especially the last item.

You have all been so kind to ask: How are the kids doing? They miss their grandpa. They are struggling. They each have good days and bad days and good hours and bad hours and never at the same time. Sometimes, I know they are keeping things from me, holding it all in, maybe because they feel Grandma or Daddy or Auntie needs the attention more... Maybe to not make each other feel more sad... Maybe because they've gotten this idea they should be "over it"... 

But, we know, the loss of someone you love is not something you "get over." 

Our children know loss. It has not yet been a year since their Grandpa K. died. While his health had been erratic the final few years of his life, his massive stroke and fall caused him to lose and never regain consciousness and he died just a few days after we had last all seen him and celebrated a holiday together. The kids also pray for and mourn over baby cousins they never had the chance to meet. This sadness is part of our family's reality.

With Grandpa R., everyone in Krinkeland knew he was sick. They knew he had cancer. They knew he got treatment. They knew the cancer spread. They knew the treatment quit working. When talking with the kids, we were always honest and direct when answering their questions, but we never told the kids "the cold, hard truth" about Harlan's terminal diagnosis-- not until after he decided to go on hospice care and started ticking off visits on his bucket list. We kept them in the bubble for as long as possible, and, I am proud to put that in writing for the children to read someday, because it means we did our best to protect them. And it means we always had hope. Todd and I never stopped praying for healing and strength and peace. Harlan received all those graces, as our Lord deemed.

These days, we spend a lot of time with Grandma, telling stories and remembering Grandpa. Just today, the kids and Grandma tried to play a game that was missing some pieces. Where did the pieces go? Well, the last time the game was played, Madeline talked Grandpa into playing it on her bed, in her  room, and the game pieces got lost in the covers.

The children also get cards and notes and calls and visits from the many people who love and support them. Just a few days ago, a package came in the mail addressed to "Grandpa R.'s Bees." Inside was the best book I've seen yet explaining grief to children. It was from my sister, who knows a bit about this subject.

In "Water Bugs and Dragonflies," author Doris Stickney tells a simple story of what happens when people who were in our lives no longer are. The story is sweet and simple and easily understood. Immediately upon opening the package, I asked the kids if they wanted to sit down and read it together. Three did, and the fourth declared she DEFINITELY DID NOT... And then lurked, just out of sight but not out of earshot.

And, so, we cope in our own ways. We work hard to give space and to come back together again. It's what Grandpa would do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Inside Out

The Disney/Pixar film "Inside Out" is about emotions, the link between memory and emotion, how children handle upheaval, and the critical role of sadness. Now you know before you plan a "fun" afternoon with four kids, Grandma and Auntie one week after Grandpa's death. AFTER the outing, I read these:

It's a sweet movie with a good message (and visually, it's out of this world) but it is NOT a mindless, kiddie show. Now you know.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Grief Takes Time

Some days are farmers'-market-produce, grass-fed-beef-on-the-grill, freshly baked pie kinds of days. Other days are processed-junk-from-a-box and frozen veggies kinds of days. As we sat down to a dinner of macaroni and cheese and steamed peas, I confessed, "I'm sorry, guys, I guess I'm just really missing Grandpa today." They nodded. "Yeah," Amanda agreed, "Of course, we all are." Madeline said, "Yeah, when we were at the church-- I just tried and tried to hold it in... But it all leaked out."

A friend told me tonight, "Your children will become more loving, compassionate people because of the  grief they have experienced in their young lives." I pray this is true. I pray for them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Harlan is Home

Our beloved dad and grandpa Harlan has gone home to the Lord. His was a life well lived and well loved... But, we would not be human if we did not still somehow feel cheated. He was on this earth for just 61 years, and was married to my MIL for only 18. Yet, in this time of tracking and mourning, we find we have countless stories to share of love and blessings. At this very moment, however, we will cling to one another and do our best to protect and care for each other. It's what Harlan would have done for us.

Monday, June 15, 2015

He's On His Way

My dear father-in-law Harlan is heading home. Please keep him and our whole
family in prayer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I read online today the results of a very scientific poll that found 20% of Americans have an aversion to the word "moist." I won't flesh out the reasons given for why that is the case, as they are gross and I am not sure I agree with them. However, suffice it to say, I fall within the 20%. Ugh.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Babies Mine

We stood in the din of Grandma's kitchen, trying without much success to help clean up after the dinner rush. Cousins of varying ages were carrying their empty plates in cockeyed fashion to the sink. Preschoolers clamored to get their hands and faces washed. A toddler still sat, cajoled into taking another bite. In the next room, a diaper change was in full swing. Todd suggested in the sweetest voice, "Aah, let's have another." I smiled and cooed, "Of course, dear. Let's."

He was joking, naturally, and I played along... kind of.

There's a part of me that will always want another baby, I guess. I am sorry if that is offensive to some. I don't imagine every woman feels that way, but I don't imagine I am alone, either. Having babies is who I am and what I've done for more than a decade now. It's not always fun, but it is purposeful, important, joyous, a love-filled way to live. If my husband was serious about expanding our family, we would have a serious discussion about it... But he's not... And I am familiar with the bit of an ache, with the twinge sparked by a baby sound or a baby smell, by the arms that ache to hold, by the hips in perpetual sway. 

I thought about the "joke" for much longer than my husband did, I imagine.

And then, I got up this morning.

I woke up early and went to the gym for my workout. I could get up early because I had gotten a full night of uninterrupted sleep. I could leave my sleeping children for an hour because they were old enough to take care of themselves and each other. Indeed, when I returned, three were still sleeping and one was serving himself breakfast.

Later in the morning, I took one child to his own exercise class-- his own class, because he's old enough now to attend without me. That saves me the headache of having to Mommy-and-Me with a wiggle worm while making painful, meaningless small talk with the other mothers. When we returned, my biggest girl was mowing the lawn. Mowing the lawn.

At lunchtime, I set out a big bowl of grapes and I didn't have to cut them for anyone. The kids served themselves, and, when the littlest one asked if she could eat outside on the deck, I opened the door and watched her go. When she said she needed her chicken cut up, I handed her a butter knife. I watched through the sliding door as she ate, but it was because she was so cute, not because she needed monitoring.

In the afternoon, I announced, "It's time to take Jones to the vet. Who's coming with me?" That was met with a chorus of "Not Mes!" So, I went by myself, while the children stayed home and staged a Barbie coronation together.

To cap off the day, all six of us attended our first community theater rehearsal together, because we were all cast in a musical together. There's no place for babies on stage. So, yeah, it's a good thing.

We're good.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Back Passage

Todd and I went to the movies tonight, and, when the film was over and I stood up, I noticed my back felt a little stiff. It was no big deal-- just a long sit at the end of a really active week, plus, did I mention I'm 40? Yet, in that moment, when I stood and began hobbling down the row of seats, my mind was transported back in time... 

Going to the movies has always been Todd's favorite pastime. Our first date was to a movie. It is still his first (and only) suggestion for date night. Before we had children, it seems we went to the movies at least once a week. 

This night, as I bent over just a bit and my hand instinctively went to brace my lower back, I was suddenly 13-- no, 14-- years younger and I had a big belly. When I was expecting our first child, Todd felt a special urgency to take in plenty of films. I am sure he was worried once the baby arrived he would never get out again. (That would become somewhat true, at least for a while.) So, every time there were two free hours, he drafted me off to the movies. However, the more pregnant I grew, the more difficult it became to sit, in one of those theater chairs, for two hours at a time.

Inevitably, my back would begin to ache. I would turn and shift and try every position possible. Finally, I would stand and clutch my belly or rub my back, and I would waddle down the aisle to stretch my legs and find a different vantage point. I would stand along the wall of the theater, watch the rest of the movie, and rock my baby.

Those memories are clear and detailed... Yet, that time seems so long ago it's hard to believe it really happened, and I am the same person. That baby in my belly was home this evening, caring for her three younger siblings, a dog, two fiddler crabs, and a snail. I didn't inhale the popcorn or the Icee tonight because I am long past the classic excuse of "eating for two" and because those treats settle quickly once a body reaches that undesirable, previously mentioned, age.

In the dark, watching a movie with my head on my boyfriend's shoulder, I am ageless. But, then, the lights come up, and even with the same backache, my belly is flatter and my arms empty because the babies are at home sleeping. The passage of time...

"Four days will quickly steep themselves in nights;
Four nights will quickly dream away the time."
--William Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Not How This Is Going Down

Amanda asked me if she could go see a movie with three friends, all of whom are male. I asked why she was going with only boys and she said none of her girl friends wanted to see the movie. I said, "Let me think about it... And then promptly forgot. Later, she asked me again, and caught me off-guard:

A: "Mom, so can I go to the movies tomorrow with those guys?"
M: "Well, I guess so, as long as there's--"
A: "As long as there's no kissing?"
M: "You cannot go to the movies."

Monday, June 1, 2015

This Photo, This Girl, This Joy

I snapped this photo of Elisabeth and Todd dancing at the wedding we attended over the weekend. Since that time, I have come back to my phone again and again, simply to gaze upon the image. I love the JOY in Libby's face. 

I know this girl, this happy girl. I gave birth to her, and I do my best to nurture her every day. But I don't often see the genuine grin, the love of life, the JOY she shows here. Like watching a child sleep, getting a positive report from a doctor or a teacher, listening to a kiddo pray... this picture fills my heart with gratitude and peace. 

I wish for her to always feel this way, and for her to share that attitude with the rest of the world.