Don’t Talk To Me Before Coffee

While stripping all the beds in the house of their sheets this morning (It’s Clean Sheet Day! Huzzah!) my husband fiddled around on the computer and changed the wallpaper. Where there had been a lovely photo of all three of our children crammed into a cardboard box (as children do, much like cats) was now a picture of my husband at his shop, holding a six foot trophy over his head.

Me: *blinks* What am I looking at?

Husband: Yesterday, Justin (guy he works with) found these two karate trophies in the alley, so he brought them in and made one huge trophy out of them that’s taller than me. Look – *points at picture* – you can see two little guys fighting on top of it.

Me: Why…

And that was about all I could say. It was early, my arms were recently full of dirty toddler sheets, and I had yet to consume anything with caffeine in it.

But before:

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And after:

majorawardThis is what he thinks he can do to my laptop? Oh, it’s on, people.

It. Is. On.

Breathe

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I was absolutely exhausted yesterday. I have no idea why. Well, I have some suspicions. Eating too much pizza with a side of Toblerone with a side of coffee with a side of Doritos is probably not helping. Also, not getting to sleep until two in the morning and then being woken up four hours later by a toddler walking on my face. And the heat. I don’t do well in the heat, and not in a Delicate Flower kind of way, but more in a My Face Is Oily and My Stomach is NOT HAPPY and Should I Sweat This Much When I Sleep? way.

So I’m thinking some salad and real food should be on the list this week. And more water, less caffeine. I’m not going to give up chocolate, because that would just be silly. And maybe a nap in there somewhere. Because I’m sure I’ll find the time to take a nap and have a proper bath and maybe paint my nails while watching some British-y Masterpiece Theater selection with lovely men in cravats and Hessian boots. (The lovely men would be in the Masterpiece Theater selection, of course, and not actually in my living room with me while I hike my bare feet up onto the coffee table in order to paint my nails. Of course.)

I keep telling myself that things will settle down at some point in the not-too-distant future. Our cars will no longer need to go to the garage, and the weather will recede from a point of stepping out the front door and feeling as if one were slapped in the face with a boiling wet sponge. And my kids will magically learn to love sleep as much as I do, rather than fighting it until they pass out at midnight after watching a marathon of My Little Pony meets Peg + Cat. Maybe I’ll even have weekends again, as in a day that feels marginally different from the rest of the week.

Which… No. No, I won’t. Aside from the usual “I Have Kids So Nothing Will Ever Be The Same” song that is often sung, everything else is… different. I feel it throughout the day, and especially at night, when I’m in bed and trying to turn off my brain enough so I can fall asleep. For the last few years, our lives have gone a certain way. And a lot of that direction circled around my father and his poor health. And now that he’s no longer here, it’s like a huge exhale. Not a sigh, nothing as calm as that. More of that expelling of air one experiences when getting punched in the gut. And we even knew the hit was coming, but bracing ourselves didn’t really do any good.

So things have been crazy. Cars are being fixed up after a few years of neglect, and houses and yards and schedules are being put to rights. And it’s a slow process, and strange for the most part. I feel as if we need a Handbook For The Recently Deceased, but instead, a second volume for the ones who were close to the deceased and have to find their way forward again.

And it’s also interesting that I began this post talking about how hectic everything is, thinking it would stay on an even keel of kids and poopy diapers and trips to the grocery store in which said kids all fight over the same seat in the race car shopping cart. But instead, it became this. Which should probably tell me where my head is right now, how forty days (See how I still know exactly how many days it’s been since he died?) is nowhere near enough time to even chip away at the surface of the… the utter strangeness in which everything is currently suspended.

So, as I said, I was absolutely exhausted yesterday. And my stomach is still in knots. And my face is decorated with chains of little stress pimples. And I don’t dream much when I sleep. When I sleep, which isn’t as often as I’d like.

And maybe it’s not completely due to the pizza and the summer heat, now that I sit back and think about it.

The List Doesn’t Matter

Tomorrow is another day.

I really hate that quote. Of course tomorrow is another day. Just like water is wet and my Swedish heritage makes me recoil from the sun like a vampire. Tomorrow is another day, and no doubt I’ll be sitting up in bed a few hours before Tomorrow gets here, scribbling down all the things I should and need and will have to get done.

That was exactly how today began. I had my list playing on a loop in my head, constantly scolding me for every moment I dithered in front of the computer or stood in the kitchen eating Hershey’s Kisses for breakfast. I had an overflowing hamper full of dirty laundry to take care of, and chili and cornbread to make for dinner, and words to write, and emails to reply to, and that’s without even mentioning the ten thousand little, unplanned chores that three children under the age of six can – and will – create.

But before I would tackle everything on The List, I would take the kids to the playground. Just for a little while. Maybe a half an hour or so, and then I would put an end to their fun and march them back towards the car so we could all go home and irritate each other while I sorted socks and played a game of “Poop or Chocolate?” with a stain on the couch.

When we arrived at the park, the playground was off-limits. They were putting down a fresh layer of those wood chip things under all the slides and swings, and wouldn’t be finished until the end of the day. In an attempt to make the best of things, I told the kids we would take a quick walk around the park, throw some stones in the creek, and go home again. I mean, those zucchini weren’t going to chop themselves.

Two minutes of walking took us down to the creek, and I let the kids go down to the edge of the water. I chided them not to get too muddy, not to make too big a splash with the rocks they threw. I didn’t want to add “de-mud three kids” to my ever-growing list of things to do.

And then… something happened.

While I sat on the grassy bank, with blue sky and puffy white clouds over my head, and a cool breeze whipping my hair into my eyes, I realized that I didn’t care about all of those things waiting for me at home. When a couple other kids arrived with buckets and cups and nets for catching crayfish and minnows, and my daughters looked back at me with pleading eyes as those other kids waded out into the water, I smiled and gave them a quick nod.

“Put your shoes in the grass,” I said. “And don’t go out where it’s too deep.”

While my son toddled around the edge of the stream, digging in the dirt for the muddiest rocks he could find, my girls hiked up their skirts and waded out into the water, squealing at every crayfish that was found, at every little fish that darted around their ankles. We stayed there for hours, until my son fell asleep in my arms and the girls, muddy and bedraggled creatures of the water, clambered out of the creek and walked through the grass until their feet were dry again.

And now we’re home again and it’s almost evening. I haven’t done any laundry. Dinner hasn’t been made yet. No one did any schoolwork or watched anything educational. That weird stain is still unidentified. But my kids had an amazing day. I had an amazing day, too. I sat in the shade, my eyes dazzled by the reflection of the sunlight on the water as it flowed over the rocks. And they keep telling me about how much fun they had, and asking when they can do it again.

“Maybe tomorrow,” I said. Because all that laundry? I never wanted to do it anyway.

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No Amount of Caffeine Will Save You

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I am currently hunkered away in my bedroom, with the door locked and the laptop in front of me.

This is “getting away” now that I have children.

This morning, I woke up a half hour before everyone else simply so I could take an uninterrupted shower and have time to do something with my hair before church. Of course, Ola forced her way in to complain that Daddy wasn’t letting her have a turn with a particular toy or the television or I have no idea what she was going on about because I had shampoo running into my eyes and I was trying to work a new blade into my razor since my old one had all the hair-shaving effectiveness of a dull plastic spoon. But I did manage to get my hair tamed. Sort of. Before I gave up and pulled it all back into a ponytail.

Last night, I stayed up late to read. It’s the only time I have to read, that golden hour after all the kids have been wrestled into bed but before I’m left taping my eyelids open in order to stay awake just that few minutes more. I also try to sneak in a few minutes of reading every time I’m in the bathroom, but then someone else usually has to use the bathroom, and even though we have two bathrooms, only the upstairs bathroom is the “good” bathroom, and then they have an urgent need to brush their teeth, or to sing to me, or to push trains across the bathroom floor, so I’m left to tuck the book away and finish up as discreetly and quickly as possible.

Right now, even as I type this, I’m debating whether I should throw the laptop aside (well, not “throw,” since laptops are expensive and I don’t exactly possess a bank account full to bursting or a swimming pool filled with gold a la Scrooge McDuck) and take a nap, or continue to chip away at my non-chore-related to-do list.

This blog post, I believe, is a form of procrastination before I’m forced to make a final decision.

But every time I’m gifted with that extra ten minutes outside of my usual routine, I go through the same debate: Should I try to rest? To read? To watch a bit of television that isn’t My Little Pony or Thomas the Tank Engine? Or should I instead tackle that overflowing basket of unfolded laundry? Or sweep something? Or load all the kids into the little red wagon and take them for an educational and inspiring death march walk through the neighborhood?

So far today, I’ve done a bit of both. I read two Batman books to Ola (okay, one featured Aquaman who is TOTALLY INSUFFERABLE and Batman needs to just leave him to his dolphin friends and head on back to Gotham posthaste) and I built a train track for Will and I forced Freja to eat green beans (What? That’s quality time right there. Honest.) but I also took all the garbage down to the garage and cleaned the bathroom floor and tried to figure out what that stain in the carpet was next to the coffee table.

And now I’m writing. And typing up this post. And dreaming about the day when I’ll be able to afford to hire someone to come in and wash my dishes for me and identify that weird smell coming from the downstairs closet.

This is my life, now that I have children. Always a debate, always a bargain, always a balance of figuring out what has to be done immediately and what can be put off until later. And it’s not a bad thing. But it’s a new world, and a completely new way of thinking. And it’s easy to get completely overwhelmed with the belief that I’m going about it all the wrong way. Did I choose the right homeschool curriculum for Freja? Should I give them snacks between meals or let the hunger build so they’ll actually eat what I put in front of them at dinnertime? Should I continue to buy diapers or just turn my son out into the backyard when he gets that scrunchy look on his face when I think he’s about to poop?

And what about me? Will I fit in that little bit of reading time for myself? Will I be able to bathe more than two times this week? Have I completely given up and allowed jeans and a t-shirt to become my “dressy” clothes?

Yes. Maybe. More than likely.

Because it’s all about balance. And waking up at three in the morning in order to use the bathroom in peace.

A Cover and Things

It’s Monday, and things are starting to feel a bit more like they’re getting back to normal. We had a weekend where we weren’t working on cars or painting the house or anything else that wasn’t going to church, taking the kids to the park, and sipping milkshakes. Which was lovely.

I’m still lacking on sleep however, since I have two kids who still nap, but are at that age that when they do nap, it means trying to get them to sleep at night before 11 p.m. is akin to wrestling a particularly ornery bear into a pair of pajamas. So it’s a fun game of finding the balance between dealing with children who, when they don’t nap, are monsters, but when they do nap, keep everyone up until midnight (or later).

I’m exhausted, is what I’m attempting to say in a rather roundabout way.

I’m also getting back into writing again, since I took a break from it while my dad was in the hospital and afterwards. (See what I did there? How I referred to… everything that happened as “and afterwards”? Yeah, that’s about where my head still is right now.) And it wasn’t a voluntary break by any means. It was more of a I-Can’t-Cope-With-Anything-That-Isn’t-What’s-Happening-Right-In-Front-Of-Me kind of thing. So I was able to take care of myself and take care of the kids and take care of the barest of bare minimum of chores around the house, and that was it.

Now I’ve hit a huge creative surge the last couple weeks, which seems to be what my brain does after some Major Traumatic Event. After my miscarriage last fall, I wrote about 20,000 words in a few days and managed to finish the first draft of a novel. Now I’m dallying with several stories at once and taking care of marketing The Half Killed and about 5,000 other things that work well to take my mind off the sadness that’s just there, lurking around the corner. Apparently this is how I deal. And I’m okay with that.

I’m working on edits for A Darkling Way, a new story I’ll be posting on Wattpad as each chapter is finished. Out of Darkness has started being updated again (the first book is finished, I simply… stopped posting the chapters. Because life.) The cover for A Darkling Way is gorgeous, and not done by me. Which is partly why it’s so good, since if I was left to do my covers, everything would be stick figures created in Microsoft Paint.

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See? Gorgeous.

I’m looking at the week of July 26th for it’s debut on Wattpad. I don’t have a definite date set yet, but that’s as close as I can say when I have no idea what’s going to happen in this household from one day to the next. I mean, I’m still finishing up Freja’s schoolwork for the year, and it’s July. JULY. But a lot happened to us in the last nine months, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it. At least, not too much.

The Last Phone Call

Family

A little over three weeks ago, 22 days to be precise (I could count the hours, too, but I’ll refrain from going that far) my father died.

I haven’t mentioned it here because I didn’t want to. I couldn’t figure out the words to type, and when I tried to type words that weren’t quite right, they hurt. So I stopped, closed the tab, closed the laptop, and went off to do something else.

But today I’m going to acknowledge it. My dad died. He was 67 years old (it wasn’t quite a month since his birthday) and I miss him. Very, very much.

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Instead of going through all the particulars of his death and his funeral, however, I’m going to talk about the last conversation I had with him on the phone.

It was May 18th of this year, his birthday. I called earlier in the morning to wish him a happy birthday and make all the promises of bringing the kids up to visit him later in the week (we did, two days later, with all of the presents and handmade cards that little kids love to create).

But anyway, back to his birthday. After I called, he called back. I picked up the phone, expecting it to be my mother, but instead it was my dad, speaking in a low, whispering tone.

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He reminded me that his wedding anniversary was coming up in two days, on May 20th. Their 43rd anniversary. He explained in a hushed voice that he couldn’t go out and get a card or flowers or a gift for my mom because he’d been so ill lately, but would I… could I send her a message of some sort? Like, an email or something? And maybe get her something, like a gift card or… anything. But make certain that she knew it was from him? And I had to send it on their anniversary. So that she would know he hadn’t forgotten it.

“Because she’s had to put up with me all these years,” he added with a chuckle. And then he hurried up and ended the call because he thought he heard my mom coming downstairs, and he didn’t want her to overhear.

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So I sent an email from my own account, but put in his message and “signed” it from him. I sent an Amazon gift card along with it, also signed from him. I made sure it arrived in her inbox on the morning of May 20th, their anniversary.

The next week, he went to the hospital, and after being sent here and there and finally to Johns Hopkins, he died on June 16th.

When he called and asked me to set up the anniversary surprise for my mother was the last time I spoke to him on the phone (though I did, obviously, see him after that).

And that gift card? My dad’s last present to her? My mom still hasn’t used it. I’m not sure she ever will.

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