Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting is the hardest part

I write this as I sit in the hospital room with my grandmother, waiting for her to die.  She is truly at the end of her life, and all there is left for her to do is to pass on.  She is 93.

This is awful.

She never wanted to end up in a hospital bed, unable to move, unable to speak.  We have never wanted it for her.

She has commented for many years that she doesn't know why she is still here.  She has been ready for her heavenly reward for many years.

My grandmother is a wonderful woman.  Stoic is her middle name.  Actually, it's Slavin, but Stoic is a better fit.  She's also tiny, and everyone loves her.  Even in the ER on Sunday night, people were commenting on how cute she was.  Osteoporosis has not been kind and she is about 4'6."  When I would come over to visit, she would say, "Oh good, a tall person is here.  Can you get this down for me?"  She is the only person EVER to refer to me as tall.  Of course, this is after she fell off a ladder at the age of 80 and we yelled at her something good.  I think it was really her doctor giving her a good scolding that really stopped the climbing.

Although Mimere has been fading rapidly over the last several years, she still lived by herself.  She got her hair done every Friday and scheduled her dentist appointments routinely every 4 months.  She adored my children.  They (along with her other great-grandchildren) have brought her joy and a reason to live over the last 7 years.

I feel proud that I can be with her now.  That I've been able to help her out in the last 8 years.  She is one of the primary reasons that Pat and I moved back to this area.  I never dreamed that I would live on the same street as Mimere.  It's going to be hard to drive by her senior building and know that she's not in the apartment.  I can't believe she's not going to see Jake and Sophia dressed up for Halloween.  I talked to her about their costumes just on Friday.  Every year, even though I told her I was making the costumes, she would forget, and then be shocked to see the costumes and realize that I made them.

She loved the fact that we named Sophia after her (Sophia Dorothy).  It made her cry.  It is one of the few times I have seen her cry.  Such the polar opposite from my mom and I, who cannot not cry to save our lives.  We're a mess. 

I wish I could have Mimere forever.  But I know that her time is here.  We've all said our good-byes.  She just needs to drift off.  We know Heaven awaits her.  We have faith.  More importantly, she has faith.

So here I sit, waiting.

Yesterday, while she could still speak, she told her pastor, "It's been a wonderful life."

She told me, "I've had a good life."  And then she kept repeating, "I love everybody."

We know Mimere.  And we love you too.

The entire family (minus one great-grandchild) at my house in July.  Yesterday, Mimere said, "That was a good day.  It was so good to see everyone."

Friday, October 21, 2011

This post is brought to you today by the letter B...

Brand new

Baby Boy Biel

Balloon

Best team ever (2004 Red Sox, in case you were wondering)

Baby Butt

Basket

Bathtime
Boo-Boos

Binkie and Blankie
Big Boy Bed


Baby sister
Box

Butterflies

Bus


Baseball

Boy scouts

 Birthday Boy!

Before

Being Brave

Buds with Buzzes


Biels

Bald is Beautiful!

A special thank you to all of our friends and family who supported Jake in fundraising for St. Baldrick's.  With your support, Jake personally was able to raise $700.  His school was able to raise over $10,000 to help fund research for kids with cancer. 

Our personal thanks to:

The Vagianelis Family
David Kopach
Patti and Matt Kopach
Daryll Cook
The Nicchi Family
Trish Peterson
Linda Lee Herriman
Shirley Biel
Barbara Frenzel
Chris & Julie Kopach
Stephen Kopach
Irene & Edward Morris
The O'Neill Family
Patty Black
Michele Fobare & James Kopach
Mary Rose & Philip Kopach
Annette Mielewski
The LaVigne Family
The Giambertone Family
Mrs. Sheri O'Connor

Monday, October 17, 2011

Really Keeping It in Perspective

So, my 7 year-old asked me what could be considered an odd question the other day. 

"Mom, can I shave my head?"

While to some, this might be out in left field, it made perfect sense to me, as his school (Forts Ferry) is hosting a St. Baldrick's fundraiser on 10/21/11. 

Jake's school is big on teaching kindness and compassion.  They participate in Rachel's Challenge, which promotes kindness and compassion.  Rachel's Challenge was formed in memory of one of the Columbine victims.  Forts Ferry is continuing on with that message by hosting a fundraiser to benefit kids with cancer. 

I'm not sure he really understands what this is all about.  So, we talked about it.  Part of Jake's Aspergers is that he has trouble with empathy.  It is hard for him to picture what it must be like to have cancer.  He didn't understand what having a shaved head had to do with cancer.  But he also has sensitivities to somethings that would not bother most kids.  Like hair clippers.  Getting his hair cut is really difficult for him.  He does an excellent job, and tries his hardest to sit up and sit still.  But you can tell it is hard for him.  When I told him that he would get the clippers on his whole head, he told me he changed his mind.  Then I explained to him what cancer treatment is like.  With lots of needles and ports and surgeries.  How chemotherapy makes you sick and it makes your hair fall out.  How radiation can sometimes burn.  And that he would have to sit still for about 10 minutes, while a child with cancer, best case, has to under go all this for at least a year. 

He thought for a minute and said, "Ok, I'll get my head shaved."

So, we are letting our 7 year-old get his head shaved (yes, school pictures were already done).

As everyone knows, money is tight and fund raising is everywhere these days.  We don't often ask our extended family to participate.  For instance, we are currently selling popcorn for boy scouts as well as wrapping paper/frozen foods for school.  We are asking you, this time, if at all possible, to help out.  The link for Jake's page is below.  As of this writing, this blog has had 280 hits.  I realize that there are some repeat visitors, but if everyone who reads this gave $10, we'd be on our way. 

Now, I'm probably gonna cry when they shave Jake's head.  His hair is pretty short as it is, so it won't be a huge change, but nonetheless, he's gonna be bald.  But he's alive.  And healthy.

http://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/participantid/472894

Friday, October 14, 2011

Keeping it in perspective

Sometimes, I get so involved in what I'm doing that I lose perspective of the world around me. Usually, this directly corresponds with fatigue on my part. The more exhausted I am, the easier it is for me to lose perspective.  And then other bad things happen.  Like I yell at my kids.  I make snap judgments.  I feel a strong urge to hit my husband over the head with a frying pan. 

What causes me to feel this way?  Here's the current rundown:

  • I work 3 days a week at my "regular" job.  This week, at this job, I visited 11 schools.  Considering I had Monday off, and only worked 2 days, that's kind of impressive.  Next week, in my 3 days, I will visit 15 locations.  16, if you include going in on a day off to attend a meeting.  This, in and of itself is exhausting.  Then add the fact that I'm constantly moving and demonstrating exercises.  My job seems to be sapping all the life out of me this year.
  • Plus I have a second job, which I work one to two Saturday mornings each month.  Last Saturday was my day.  Not terribly strenuous, but still, it sucks having to go to work on a Saturday morning.
  • We are putting in a stone entrance way to the front of the house.  My day off on Monday was spent helping move pavers.  They weren't too heavy, but the repetition made for some very sore muscles the next few days. 
  • The inside of my house is a disaster area.  It is in desperate need of picking up and a thorough cleaning.  Not exaggerating, it would probably take me 5-6 hours to pick up enough to be able to clean thoroughly.  The dishes are never ending, and the clutter appears to multiply while we sleep.  When I do manage to get something cleaned up, my children attack that area with a determination like no other.
  • Despite the fact that my children are 4 and 7, I still have to get up at least one time each night with one or the other.  They have the uncanny ability to sense the moment that I finally fall asleep, and after sleeping for approximately 60 seconds, someone begins calling for me.  Last night, they were both up.  Pat can snore right through it.
  • In the middle of the night, when the house is finally quiet, my mind suddenly becomes active, an I wake up with a mind whirling with all the things I need to do.  Being awake from 4-5 am does not usually help my state of mind the next day. 
  • My son is having some trouble attending to task, and I'm worried we're heading down the road to ADD.
  • Every night, in addition to the never ending fight to read, practice math facts and do homework, one kid or another has something to do.  We are constantly running here and there.  I can barely get food on the table for the family.
So, after finally snapping, yelling at my mother, venting to my friend, eating a canoli and finally blowing up at my kids, I was finally able to see my lack of perspective.

I have two great kids. 

I have a great house.  It may not be clean for the next 14 years, but its a home to my kids.  When I admitted to a fellow pre-school mom today that we don't have playdates because of the state of the house, she just said, "Oh, come on.  My house looks like a bomb went off and then a tornado struck."  Somehow, it made me feel better.  (Thanks Michelle)

I have a job that, although tremendously stressful and hectic, is fulfilling.  I know that I am making a difference.

If my son does have ADD, we'll deal with it.  I have a good resource network.  (Thanks Margaret)  We're on top of this early and can address things early.  Maybe he's just a seven year-old, and they're not meant to focus.

I have a best friend who listens to me whining and offers words of encouragement.  And has come up with a legal defense if I should hit Pat over the head with a frying pan.  And she not only doesn't judge me eating a canoli, she goes with me to get a creme puff.  (Thanks Michele)

I know that I am so lucky.  Several of the other blogs I follow are by parents with children with health issues.  One of those children has spent a week in the ICU, with a good possibility of not leaving.  Her parents are remarkable.  (Keep getting better Moriah!)

Another blog I follow is by my cousin and his wife and their 8 month old who was born with a significant heart defect. She was in open heart surgery by the time she was 18 hours old.  She is such a little trooper, as are her parents too (Way to go Tommy and Meghan!).

As previously mentioned, I was inspired to blog by my college roommate who has a 2 1/2 year old and 6 month old triplets.  'Nuff said.  (Still in awe Jess).

So, I'm gonna quit whining and bitching.  I'm gonna try and be a little more glass half full.  I'm gonna take the time to enjoy my kids and husband and house and friends. 

And thank God for what a good life I have.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall in New York


The start of fall is my favorite time of the year.  I love when you can feel the crisp-ness to the air.  I love when I can wear a sweater or two.  I love a bright and sunny fall day with blue skies and red leaves.  And to many people, fall in NY is equated with apple picking.  And apple pies.

Now, I don't like apple pies.  I know, un-American.  But I do love getting all the fresh apples.  And, of course, the cider donuts.  But, at this time of year, I feel obligated to make pie.  But I don't really enjoy it (probably since I don't eat it).  My dad does like to make pies, and likes to have the "help" of his grandchildren.
Jake, age 2 1/2, making pies with Grandpa.  Fall 2006


Working in schools, I usually get to go on a field trip to some of the local orchards/farms.  It's great, because I can get my apples and donuts, and the crowds aren't too bad, unlike when you try to visit on a weekend.
Indian Ladder Farms, September 2007

Sophia's first farm trip, 1 month old.  September 2007.


My kids love going to places like this.  They love the apples and the donuts, as well as the cider.  They love the animals.  I love taking them to farms so that they can appreciate where things come from, especially our food.  We occasionally buy hay from a neighborhood farm.  Jake and Sophia ALWAYS want to go to the farm.  Sophia will tell anyone and everyone about the time she went to the farm and a rooster "kicked her in the butt."  True story.  I wasn't there to see it--it was another Grandpa adventure. 
Jake at Bowman's Farm.  First field trip for 3 year-old preschool. September 2007.

Sophia at Liberty Ridge, 3 year old preschool.  October 2010.


I'm a city girl at heart.  But I like to visit farms, too.  Right now, my knowledge of all things agricultural has been enhanced about 100 fold by playing farmville.  Seriously--I can now identify all sorts of plants and animals that I had never even heard of before.  Today, after school, my dad took us to Bowman's in Rexford.  We went to long way, and got to check out Vischer's Ferry (the landing where the ferry used to dock to shuttle people over the Mohawk, essentially connecting Albany to Northwest of the Mohawk). 

Jake and Sophia check out a calf.

Grandpa and the kids.

Sophia is 'this' tall.  About 40 inches.

Jake is measuring in at about 49-50 inches these days (he wouldn't stand up straight, though).


Sophia and one of the draft horses.  The thing was massive.  Its head was almost as tall as Sophia.


Jake with another draft horse. As previously noted, Jake is a little over 4 feet tall.
I love the fact that my kids want to go to farms. That they can appreciate the land and the animals, and where our food comes from. Maybe it's because they have farming in their blood (Pat's family, not mine). Whatever the reason, I love that they love it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

14 Years...

14 years is a long time.  A lot can happen in 14 years.  For example, it the past 14 years, I have:
  • Gotten 3 college degrees
  • Lost 2 grandparents
  • Moved about 6 times
  • Lived in 5 states
  • Worked 11 jobs
  • Bought 4 cars
  • Met and married my husband
  • Had 2 wonderful kids
And this says nothing about how the world has changed. 9/11, cell phones, the internet.  14 years ago, blogs weren't even invented, let alone Facebook.  My friends and I mocked people who walked around talking on their phones.  Now I feel as if my phone is another appendage.  14 years ago, the Red Sox were still waiting to reverse the curse.

But today is significant for another reason.  14 years ago today, my college roommate and I got a kitten.  This kitten was sired by a good friend's cat.  Our friend had been tragically killed in a car accident earlier that summer.  We took the kitten as a link to him.  His favorite bar (and ours at the time) was Harper's Ferry on Brighton Ave.  We had been there with him the night he died.  To us, it made sense to name the kitten Harper.

As a kitten, Harper had a penchant for attacking unsuspecting socks and gloves, and the ever troublesome pencil.  Once, while I was breaking up with a no-good boyfriend, Harper jumped up from behind the couch and bitch-slapped him in the face, completely unprovoked.  If only she could have advised me sooner....

I often talked to my grandmother about Harper.  My grandmother was an avid cat lover and had had many cats over the years.  I visited my grandmother frequently the year I got Harper.  It was easy to talk about the cat, and not talk about the fact that she was dying of lung cancer. 

So, for 14 years, Harper has been my companion.  She moved between various apartments in Boston, and down to Maryland with another friend.  I ended up taking her for good after my last clinical in 1999.  Since then, Harper has lived at my parents, before moving to Ohio with me, and then back to NY. 

Harper riding in the car.  She hates it, but did better if she could sit in our lap.


For 14 years, Harper has rushed to the door when she hears someone coming in, like a dog.  She has greeted me on every entrance to the house, every day.  She watches out the window.  When she sees birds, squirrels and chipmunks, she chirps at them.  We have started letting her out to chase the chipmunks.  She needs some joy in her old age.

Looking out the window at birds in the spirea bushes outside our Columbus house.


When I sing, especially in the shower, Harper cries loudly.  I like to think she's trying to sing along with me, but I'm pretty sure she's just yelling at me to stop.

When Pat and I first started dating, Harper was jealous.  She used to wedge herself in between us.  That was until she grew to love Pat.  Then, she just sat in his lap.  I have been trying for years to get Pat to admit that he loves he, but he simply replies, "I put up with her."  As he's caressing her and snuggling her, and kissing her. 

This looks like love to me!


When I was pregnant with Jake, I worried about what Harper's reaction would be.  When we brought him home, Harper was right there, checking him out.  She meowed whenever he cried, until she learned what it was.  Then she learned that the kids have great toys, like boxes and ribbons and dangling things.  She likes them, and allows them to abuse her in all sorts of ways.

Checking out the baby, just after he arrived home.
She is good as gold with the kids.  They probably deserve to get scratched a lot more.  But I think she just likes their toys.
Harper got to try out Sophia's big girl bed before Sophia even did!

Notice the paper behind her: A Way to Spend the Afternoon

Harper has become a mouser in the last few years.  She keeps up her skills by chasing socks. Still.  Usually at about 4 am.

Never met a box she didn't like.

Harper probably has failing kidneys.  She has lost a lot of weight in the past year.  She had always been obese, but now she's 5 ounces lighter than a straw hat.  She has trouble jumping, probably due to arthritis.  But she eats and drinks, and produces the required output.  She plays and sleeps and keeps us company.  I don't know that she'll make it to 15. 
Christmas 2010.  You can see how much smaller she is.


Harper has been a good companion.  She is my last link to my life before marriage and children.  She is one of the last threads to my grandmother.  She is the first pet for my children.  Her name will be a security question for them when they are older.  And whether or not Pat will ever admit it, she is loved by us all.