Monthly Archives: August 2012

My Rear View

Weeelllll, WHAT a week!!  The Big Brother and Little Brother started school this week.  As much as I entertain myself recording their wisdom and antics for posterity sake, even I can’t expect anyone to want to read every detail.  Sooo…………. in the interest of brevity and keeping this a shorter read than War and Peace, I am trying to stick to the highlights.

Sooooo…….as I said school started this week for The Big Brother and The Little Brother.  How did that go, you may ask?   Weellllll, I am sharing the following photo with you…………………..YOU be the judge…………..

Ahhhhhh, School Days Memories

Even THEY outdid themselves with this one.  What did I say to provoke them……………”Go on the porch, please, I want to take a First Day picture.”  Seemed easy enough.  I’ve seen the pictures, other families take these type of photos and I don’t recall them having a violent theme.  Note the irony of their Parochial School uniforms.

The actual day at school seemed to be a success…………..weeeelllll, that’s according to The Big Brother.

Me – Sooooo, how was the FIRST DAY???

Big Brother – Good, the TEACHERS seemed to have a better attitude this year.

Yeah.  You’re right, the teachers will be beyond excited to hear of this GLOWING REPORT.  Cause I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my student with the need for an attitude adjustment.  He’s always a delight…………..just ask him.  Of course, you will need to be able to interpret his grunts.

The BIGGEST excitement was the NEW Grammar Teacher. *** The previous teacher retired (who can blame her) and the possibility of someone new and fun filled my son with HOPE.  This is what he had to say.  A direct quote is the only way………

“Mom, the new teacher is AWESOME.  She’s worked with kids before.”

Me – Oh yeah.  (Thinking, I hope she has).

“Yeah…………….. turns out she worked with mental kids.”  She was a PSYCHOTIC NURSE.  So, she really knows kids.”

Me – UUhhhh, I think you mean PSYCHIATRIC NURSE.

“Yeah, that’s what I said.”

Moving on………..

Like I said, Big Brother is 13, and is desperately looking for more freedom.  (THAT, we have in common…….. me to).  In all of his 13 year old wisdom he asked for more freedom, in the morning,  before school.

Me – (Playing along) What did you have in mind?

“Well, I think I should be able to watch TV.”

Me – NO.

Gets better………..

“Well,  can I play video games then?”

Almost couldn’t get NO!!!!! out of my mouth fast enough.  And I usually don’t have a problem with that.

He seems bright enough.  Must be my attitude.  Cause that was a reasonable request.

I promised this would NOT be the GREAT AMERICAN novel so I will pick up the pace.

On the education front still……

Johnny has not started school yet, but alas, I have learned that last year was not a complete waste.  We made a run for some breakfast treats after dropping the brothers off.  Driving home, I was attempting to enjoy my fresh organic juice, when from the back of the van, comes the following educational epiphany,  courtesy of Nancy Reagan……….and Johnny.

Johnny – Hey, I thought you weren’t supposed to drink and drive.”

Me – Uuuhhhh, they mean alcohol and drugs, Johnny, you can drink orange juice and drive.

Johnny – Oh, okay.  No drugs though.

Me – Right, no drugs.

Johnny – Weelll, then you better not drink coffee when you drive cause that caffeine is a drug and might make YOU go all crazy.

Ooohhh Yeah, cause it’s the CAFFEINE that’s going to make me CRAZY.  Nothing else.

Finally………….from The Little Brother….

Taking a walk to Johnny’s new school……..

The Little Brother tells me that’s he can’t wait for High School………..

Little Brother – Mommy, I can’t wait for High School so I can take Chemistry and use test tubes and Chemicals!

Me – Oh yeah, that will be exciting.

Little Brother – Yeah, AND I’m tired of always having to do “SAFE SCIENCE.”

Readers…………..I will leave you with this………….words of wisdom from Johnny and The Little Brother,

“Don’t drink and drive and always, but always, Do SAFE SCIENCE.

Hope you enjoyed my week in REAR VIEW.  

 

Space Please

Me and The Big Brother. Note Mommy’s tight grip.

For the last Monday of this month I am participating in Perfect Moment Monday with Lori at Write Mind Open Heart.  This is a time to take a look back at your last month and “reflect” on those moments, big, small, ordinary or EXTRAordinary and on “second-thought” what made that moment “perfect”.

Personally, this, at first, felt much like a “challenge”.  With life circumstances that can seem insurmountable and consume all of my thoughts and energy, it can be difficult to focus on here and now, let alone taking note of the joy therein.

My oldest son (The Big Brother) just turned 13.  As first born,  I used to refer to him as my demo child.  His birth order burden was that I wasn’t sure which “theory” of child rearing I wanted to use, so……….. I tried a little bit of everything.  This was confusing to me and  I can only imagine the havoc it wreaked on my him.

Turns out while I have been “learning” how to be a Mom,   he has been “learning” how to be a kid.   As a result, our “learning curve” has been steep.  You could safely say we have (and had) different expectations.

I remember going to his/my first Mother’s Day “tea” at his  pre-school.  I expected that we would sit together and share a special Mommy and Me moment.  He thought he would sit by his new class buddy and “have fun”.  As a result, I think we both shed some tears.  Why wasn’t he attached to my ankle, “like those other kids?”  He was thinking, “why do I have to sit with HER, can’t I sit with my buddy?”

That same year, while I couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t “just sit and listen” like the other kids at story time, he couldn’t figure out why all those kids WOULD just SIT AND LISTEN.  He is still like that AND I have still wasted a lot of energy trying to change this.  He’s a people person, he has been trying to tell me that for years.  See, I don’t always listen either.  I did not hear what he wasn’t saying.   I don’t always “get it.”

Due to Daddy’s Deployment, he went to “summer pre-school” that year.  The one time in his life he has been able to celebrate his birthday at school.  I remember he was excited.  He wanted me to come in to school.  That made ME excited.  I went to school that day, brought in a birthday treat and “retreated” to the back of the room, to give him his “space.”  See…….he seemed to want me there, but at a distance.  This is still true, and something that it took me a long time to “learn” and I still don’t always “hear” him on this.

The class was sitting in a circle, singing “Happy Birthday”  as I watched I remember he couldn’t contain himself any longer, he jumped up (I refrained from telling him to “sit down””) and ran across the room to me, he didn’t say a word, just gave me the biggest hug, a kiss on the cheek, and ran back to his seat.  That day we both “got it”, we met in the middle.  That is still one of my happiest Mommy memories.

If I had listened closer, I probably would’ve heard him tell me, back off, Mom, I am an independent person.  I don’t need or want to be “like everyone else.”  As long as he knew where I was, he did not need to be by my side.  Actually, he didn’t always need to know where I was either.   Never had separation anxiety.  I used to joke that was because he was “shopping” a new family.

Now that he is a “teenager”,  I don’t know how we got here.  The time seems to have gone at warp speed and will only speed up.  Now, I think I’m the one with separation anxiety.  As he is trying harder for more freedom, I seem to be trying to keep him closer.  We definitely have different expectations on this one.  If he didn’t want to “just sit and listen” then, he definitely doesn’t want to now.

This Sunday, I was sitting in church, frustrated that the boys were HOW OLD? and still couldn’t “just sit and listen”.  I was spending more time staring them down, then praying.  I was especially frustrated with my first born.  Still, all this time, same argument…..sit still, listen. “You know better,” …..same song, last verse, same as the first.   Now, though, after 13 years he has had ABOUT ENOUGH of that lecture and I know it.  I have to!  Sooo, in defeat, I gave up.  I quietly retreated to my “piece” of the pew and wondered how many years I had before my boy would “like” me again.  What happened to my “Little Boy”.  Thinking, “I will never have that time back.”  Was he still “shopping” a new family.

This thought was lingering in my head when to my great surprise, I felt an arm go around me, give me a big squeeze and then he lay his head on my shoulder.  I grabbed his hand and we sat that way for a moment.  I was taken back to that 4th birthday in pre-school and I think this time my boy “got it.”  He heard what I did not say, and he gave me “my moment.”  Maybe, finally, we are both learning to “sit and listen.”

Myth Buster

Remember that saying, “the more you put into something, the more you will get out of it.?”  Weellllll, I have a theory about that.  Whoever “said” that, WAS NOT A PARENT.

All the “parenting experts” claim you do not want to be “your childs friend”, they need a parent NOT  a friend.  Which, by the way I tend to agree with.  HOWEVER, a little loving pat on the back and ATTA GIRL, MOMMY!  Would it really hurt anybody?  I think not.

My other belief is these are the people directly responsible for the “MYTH” that is the “family dinner.”  You know…………the one where we all sit down together, at the end of the day, share our fond memories for the day, our hopes, our dreams, and lovingly tell our mother how much we are enjoying our “home-cooked” meal.  YEAH…………….I thought so.  Let me set my dear readers straight on these myths, lest you are wondering why Norman Rockwell has not stopped over to “immortalize” your family in a painting.

"Family Dinner"

Sorry Mr. Rockwell couldn’t be here to capture “the moment”

The truth is, now listen carefully, I don’t want you to misinterpret what I am about to say……………………..THE LESS EFFORT YOU PUT INTO PARENTING, THE HAPPIER YOUR KIDS ARE!!  The one thing in my life I have knocked myself out to “do my best” and the “people” I’m working for, are all cranky about it.

You would know them anywhere………….they are the kids complaining that I cook all the time, make them read, spend our extra money on their education and (don’t tell CPS)………….I don’t let them have a TV in their bedroom.  Yep………….I’m your basic nightmare.

Our “Family Dinner” last night would “paint the picture” for you…………….

Grilled lemon chicken (marinated the FULL 24 hours, thank you), linguine, and a fresh seasonal veggie.  I know………….I thought it sounded good to.

This is what the Brothers thought………………….

Johnny – UUUUGGGGHHHHH, Chicken!!!!!!  ( I know, I got a lot of nerve).  Can’t I have a hotdog?  Do I have to eat the corn?

Me – No!!! Eat your chicken AND your corn.

Johnny begins eating with a look that says, I can’t believe THAT woman EVER got to take me home……….couldn’t those Dr.’s figure out how MEAN she was going to be.

Big Brother – He says nothing.  He just turned 13, he doesn’t really talk to me much right now anyway.  Just gave the basic turn of the nose, deep sigh and dug in like I had a C hanging in my kitchen from the Health Department.

Little Brother – Not so subtle……….WHAT???…..CHICKEN AGAIN!!!…………CAN I JUST HAVE SOMETHING ELSE?

Me – NO!!!!

Little Brother then begins to alternate between staring me down and shoving food on his fork with his fingers.

I quietly begin to question my sanity of planning a meal to sit and eat with THEM!  But………….I comfort myself with the importance of this time together.

They were quiet to,  HOWEVER,  I think they were thinking something else like…………………that WOMAN better sleep with one eye open, why can’t we  just eat CHICKEN NUGGETS………….this is the WORST………..wait till the authorities find out about HER!

A few moments later……………………..I begin to hear the familiar white noise, the noice that I notice right before I think my head is going to blow……………….and it goes like this…….

Johnny -Can I be excused now?

Me – NO!  We are all still eating.

Half second later

How about now?!

Me – NO, I said.

In chimes Big Brother with his words of wisdom – NO MEANS NO, DON’T YOU KNOW ANYTHING?!

Johnny – (Ready to fight) You don’t have to point out the OBVIOUS!!!!  JEEZZZ!

Quiet………….then from the other chair comes the Third Bear…..

Little Brother – (Oblivious) Mom, can I be excused?

Me – (counting to ten) NNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!  What did I just say?

One Mississippi, Two Mississipi…………….

Big Brother – Can I be get up now?

Uncle, I cry Uncle………………..NO!  Nobody is getting up, we are not all finished eating.  (Thinking)  You are going to sit here, in your seat, in the comfort of your central air, and eat your freshly prepared meal!!!!!  AND  you are going to do it WITH your Dear MaMa until she is finished eating CAUSE THAT’S WHAT “THEY” SAY MAKES FOR GOOD FAMILY TIME! AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE GOOOOOD FAMILY TIME.  This must be how my mom stayed so thin………….indigestion.

At this point, Johnny turns upside down in his chair with his head in his seat.  Where is Mr. Rockwell when you need him.

Yeah, I was done…………………

Me – That’s it Johnny….you are done!……..upstairs, no more TV, GO READ!!!

Little Brother – Yeah!  We can be excused!

And like that, I am left alone……………pondering how much freezer space I have to stock up on chicken nuggets and hot dogs.  How many of my cookbooks should I burn at once for the hot dog roast.  Most importantly…………….do I consign or E-Bay all of my ingredients to purchase the TV’s for their bedrooms?

NAAAAHHHHHH………………….what FUN would that be.  Guess no one has those GREAT family memories from in front of their TV dinner……………Sorry Boys!!!

Casserole recipe……………anyone? anyone?

Getting There??

Today I am broadening my horizons, putting myself out there in the blogging world and participating in something called TIME WARP TUESDAY, hosted by http://bereavedandblessed.com/category/time-warp-tuesdays/  .   This is when we are given a topic.  We then look through our “archives” and find something we had written that reflects this topic and where we are in our journey since it was written.  The topic this month is LEFT BEHIND.

Sweet Girl!

Mommy and Madeline

I started writing my blog about six months after Madeline died.  As the title reflects, my initial intention was to write “humerous” antecdotes based on the wit and wisdom of my now 11 year old son, Johnny and his Big Brother and Little Brother.  Although The Brothers were giving me plenty of material, I was feeling more and more compelled to write about Madeline and how sad and broken I was.  The writing about her seemed to be my only “outlet”.  Outside of talking to a Counselor, I became increasingly angry and frustrated with everyone’s good intentions to help me “heal” and possibly, “move on.”  A popular suggestion at the time were books on heaven and to picture my Precious Baby Girl there.  To me, the problem was still the same, Madeline is there, in Heaven, and I……………am not.

For my TIME WARP TUESDAY post I chose one I wrote, entitled Not There Yet,  http://lifeaccordingtojohnny.com/2011/09/18/not-there-yet/  .   Please read and return to see where I am on my journey.

***********************

When I wrote this post  the book, Heaven is for Real, was causing a great deal of buzz.  I was told by many, many well meaning folks that I should read it.  That perhaps I would find comfort in learning more about where my own Precious Angel, Madeline, was charming the wings off of God.  I tried to read it once ………but could not make it past the claim that the boy was told it wasn’t his time, people were storming the heaven with prayers, and he was to return to this life.  It made everything seem too simple.  Someone is sick or in danger and you pray to God, God is good, and your prayers are answered.  I felt so ripped off, and still do, but perhaps it is now not so raw.  I wanted to scream at everybody.  DON’T YOU THINK I PRAYED????!!!  DON’T YOU THINK I ASKED EVERYONE TO PRAY??!!  We wanted our Madeline anyway God saw fit, Down Syndrome, and all.  But in our case, things weren’t so black and white…….. more gray.  God seemed to see fit for Madeline to be with him and so as we were screaming for her to COME BACK , he was yelling, COME HOME TO ME.   It was just too much, all too much and left me stuck in a contstant angry WHY ME???!!!  WHY US? WHY HER??  I just could not cope with any stories of prayers answered.  Not that I wanted ANYONE to experience this horrific pain and grief but what seemed worse was to hear of some else’s happy ending or answered prayer.

Ironically, I also could not read others stories on loss and their grief either.    I balked at all recommendations of groups, blogs or books.  Reading and hearing about “how” the other children died caused me sooo much anxiety and the stories of how the families were dealing with their grief left me with not much hope.  I basically viewed it as proof that nothing was EVER going to be okay again, threw all the books aside and picked up my running shoes, in search of what to do with this anger, pain and loss.   People would ask how I could run 13 miles.  I would think I have enough anger and pain to fuel a lot more miles than that.

That was last September, almost a year ago.  I still cannot read the books on Heaven, though I am a believer and I know my Madeline in all of her Beauty and Sweetness is there.  So, I guess the feeling of being “LEFT BEHIND” is still strong.  I am working through prayer to comprehend why God chose NOT to answer our prayers on that November morning.  I am running now more than ever, but find myself spending that time thinking of her  and trying to feel her touch and smell her sweetness, as that can fuel many miles as well and gives me some peace.

Finally,  I have very, very recently begun to reach out to others who know this pain that never goes away.  Instead of their stories putting me in the depths of sadness I can find some comfort in their understanding.  This, I think, might be my ticket to finding some peace.  That and faith.

Although, I am still not there……that is, my desire to be with Madeline is still stronger than the comfort of knowing she is in Heaven, can’t say if I EVER will but a year later I am working on getting there.

Her Story to Tell

Her Story to Tell

This is Daddy and Madeline.  It was taken after his last career flight.  She was 5 weeks old and had just gotten home from the hospital after a month long recovery from the 1st of what was to be several “emergency” surgeries.  I love this photo and to look and see how precious and adored she was by her Daddy.  Her outfit was purchased by her brothers with their own money.

When I first started writing, Life According to John,  I was not sure which way it was going to go.  I felt I had some great stories to share about Johnny and his theory of life.  But as I had written in the section “describing” my blog I had promised you would learn a little about Madeline, Our Sweet, Precious, Baby Girl, “whose too short time with us filled us with wonder.”  And yes, I have dedicated some entries to doing just that.  Then something happened, I’m not quite sure, why, but I got to thinking too much about it.  That is, the should I write this?  Is it the right thing to be sharing.    I guess I thought “well, it has now been a year, how much more can I write about how much she is still loved, adored, and missed so much the grief still renders us, at times,  immobile.”  And the answer is, Plenty, I can write plenty.

A horrible secret you have to uncover on your own after losing your child is that it DOES NOT get easier.  You do not become OK with them being gone.  One Year IS NOT some sort of magic marker.  I did not wake up on November 2, 2011, and feel, GEE……. glad that year is over…….. now for the easy part.  Rather, on November 2, 2011,  the pain was sooo great, the longing to hold her, smell her, and stroke her golden hair left me feeling completely lost and helpless.    I was overcome with desire to shut down.   I thought NOW, how in the HELL am I going to go through the rest of my life feeling like this.  My heart has been broken, and it is too painful to breathe let alone take care of my boys.  THAT  is what I was thinking ONE YEAR later.   I guess it is to become about learning How to go on and find a new future than what you thought you had planned.  AND…..how to do this while keeping the rest of your family intact.

Now, we are in year two.  I can be going about my day and WHAM, a slideshow of the morning she died starts playing in my head.  Getting past being questioned by the police is still too difficult.  I play over and over in my head what I could’ve done different that morning.  What if?  What if?  I can still feel my blood run cold and the raw pain being alone in the middle of the ER screaming for her.  “Madeline, Wake UP, Please Wake Up!”

Then the incredibly hard part of going to the school to get her brothers.  I was not even there.  Our Priest took my husband over to the school and their incredibly compassionate teachers stood by them when they heard this horrible news.  Those teachers are also pretty much soley responsible for the boys making it through that year.  Their caring and compassion went way beyond their job description.  In addition to my boys, these teachers have held me up as well.  Because if it wouldn’t have been the Little Brother crying under the Christmas Tree it might have been me, as I was finding it difficult to deal with all this grief at once.  Mine seemed doable, but watching your children grieve, is something I can not yet put into words.

The thoughts and words that I have written above are the exact ones I have been trying to stifle and keep myself distracted from.  Perhaps putting them out there will help.  Because along with all the sadness, I have many memories of her 16 months that make me smile and give me comfort and some feeling of joy.  I love to remember those times.   Singing songs to get her to practice standing or watching Dancing with the Stars while waiting for her night nurse.   Snuggling in  our chair.  The spunk and attitude she had and the smile that melted even the Toughest young Dr.’s in camo over at Walter Reed.

Recently, I had the pleasure of having dinner with a friend that  I went from 1st through 12th grade with.  I have seen her twice in 20 plus years.  Last year and this.  Funny how people work in your life.  How we went from being Cookson Tigers and then cabin mates at band camp, to her guiding me in my grief is amazing.  We were talking about my blog.  I told her I thought maybe people did not want to read about all of this anymore and I wasn’t sure what to do.  Through the power of Social Media she relayed how surprised she was to read via facebook that Madeline had been born.  Then she shared her  surprise and concern when no more than a week later she read Madeline was having major surgery and that she had Down Syndrome.  And then she said, “and that began the Story of Madeline.”  “Amy, she has a story, you are her voice.  You should tell it.”

I have decided, that is what I intend to do.  Her life on earth was  16 months, but what an incredible life it was.  Her death changed us forever but because she LIVED we will never be the same.