Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Closeness of Dad

My parents got a divorce when i was three.  I remember it pretty vividly, or maybe i just remember the story that was told over and over again.  I remember all 5 of us gathered in our dining room on Echo Drive.  Looking back and knowing other children's stories now, I am thankful that my parents came together to let us know together.  In front of us, they were very civil to one another- going to our parent teacher conferences together, orchestra concerts, improv shows, musicals and plays, and basketball games.  When my dad moved out, it felt like he moved across the state from a three year old's perspective.  In reality it was 10 minutes away, in the same town.  We would visit every weekend and have buttered noodles (that is something we all ate), watch TV, play game systems, build forts, or play board games, and go swimming. 

When I got older, my dad moved up north.  It was difficult keeping the same relationship that we once had, especially since neither one of us like the phone.  In the summer, I would go visit him, but it was hard not having a constant connection with him. I, too, was busy- with school, church youth group, a boy named TJ.

When i got even older, summer visits continued with a few hours here and there at holidays.  We both still hated the phone.  My life got even busier with marriage, teaching, and then children.  Jaelynne loved going to visit my dad up north.  Although when the girls were babies, they would cry at the sight of my dad.

Today, my dad gave up his job, the rolling hills, and his quiet country living and moved close to me.  I am shocked what a difference to me it makes.  It is amazing to have day to day connections.  Instead of talking about the big stuff during summer visits, we can talk about the day to day stuff.  My girls love seeing their Beepa so much and are getting used to just having him around and stopping by or seeing him at the farmers market.  The boys haven't cried at the sight of my dad. . . yet.  And i don't think they will.  They know him.  They know his voice and they know that he feeds them.  We can borrow things from each other and pass them back and forth.  He can stop over with amazing lemon blueberry bread when i am having a rough day.  He can get weekly snuggles from his snuggle bunny and snuggle bug and attend things like gymnastics, the girls' school events, swimming lessons, graduation, sing-a-longs, or soccer games.  He can listen to Jaely read a book, play babies with Camryn or push the stroller weekly.  He can meet us at the park, pizza hut, Lewis Farms, or school.  And the roles have seemed to switch a little.  I can encourage him to get out and meet people by pointing out different activities and events that are happening around us.  I can keep an eye on him and visit or check in on him if I haven't heard from him in awhile- instead of him being stranded alone  in a snow storm without power or a charged cell phone and down trees blocking his driveway.



I am so thankful that my children are really going to know their Beepa and are creating fond memories with him. . . and I am glad that he is a part of my day-to-day life.
 I love you Daddy-O!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Visit to My House Growing Up


I thought it would look different than how i remembered it.  I had lived there for 20 years, but have been moved out of it for 15 years.  Besides the oxygen tanks, medical supplies, oven, and a few minor changes, it looked the same.  The dishes were still stacked the same in the cupboard.  Tooth pick holders, table cloths, napkins, and the big ceramic turkey still were in the china cabinet.  The pink bathroom counter and the harvest gold kitchen counter were still there.  The Sweet Violet salt shaker had salt and was by the stack of Sweet Violet bowls that were used for our bridal shower.  The same rock and brick were used to keep the shed door closed and the patio furniture was all stacked outside.  The Japanese Maple was the same size. The green carpet going downstairs seemed just as worn out as when I moved out.  The house, especially the kitchen, seemed smaller, but clothes were still hung in the closets and commonly used phone numbers and addresses (from 12 years ago) were still taped to the inside cupboard by my mom's captain chair in the dining room.  It was surprisingly the same.  Time seemed to have slowed down in that house.  Part of George seemed to have just stopped living when my mom died over 10 years ago.

Of course, some things were different.  Her gardens were taken over by weeds, the pond was all filled in, Sammy wasn't there, the deck railing was wobbly, the picnic table was rotten, the arbor's paint was peeling, and the trellis was broken. 

It always amazes me too, how when someone dies, everything is just left in its place.  Cell phones are still plugged in getting charged, cups are in the sink, mail continues to be delivered.  It was like George could have walked in at any time, but he didn't.  He won't.  Ever again.  There was a worn picture of my mom sitting at the spot that George spent his days- at the kitchen table, across from the TV.  Mike told me that he would switch the picture out every now and then, but he always had one near.  Her purse was just tucked away in a drawer, with her things still in it.  Her wedding dress still hung in the closet with her denim jacket that she had decorative pins on the lapel.  Life just continues on. It doesn't even seem to pause.  When I heard about George and was trying to wade through my feelings of grief and regret, I had four kids trying to play with me.  Life didn't even pause to let me process how I felt.  And now Mike, as he tries to figure out what to do with his dad's estate, is left with dealing with the responsibility of his life that just keeps going and dealing with the responsibility that comes with the death of his father and a life that has ceased. 

I am grateful for a chance to walk through my childhood house once again.  Jered, Mike,  and I talked about many memories, smiled at the same ol' same ol', and a few random things got me choked up.  Things that took me off guard.  I hope I can help Mike if he needs it.  Clearing out the house will be quite a chore.  It is packed full of stuff.  And, as i walked around it, i reminded myself that it is just stuff.  I don't need everything that belonged to my mom.  It isn't her.  It is just stuff.  A few small things, like part of her wedding ring that she absolutely loved and stared at all the time, will be perfect.  It is small, but brings me so many fond memories of my mom and George.  Perfect.  Pictures don't take up a lot of room and a few sweet violet dishes will be great.  We are going to try to get the arbor that George built for their wedding back to our house.  That will make me smile and remember them as well.  Otherwise, it is just stuff- old, smokey, smelly stuff that won't bring George or my mom back.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Saying Good Bye to George the Best Way I Can

 I am going to try my best to write as I have four children running around, causing havoc.  I need to try.  My step dad, George, is being taken off his ventilator today and he can't survive without it.  It would be easier for me to move mountains than it would be for me to go there to say good bye.  I racked my brain trying to figure out a way, and couldn't.  As I was falling asleep last night, I thought of this- looking through pictures and blogging a letter to George.  And, I feel pretty good about the closure it will create for me.  I just so wish i could be there today to support my step brother and sister.  I grew up with George.  My mom and him dated and then lived together a very long time before they got married.  He was a big part of my life growing up, but sadly, not so much of my recent life.  Life got busy and I have regrets.  Sorry, George.  Before I start my letter, here are a few pictures i had time to find while watching my four children.


 This picture is the day my mom and George got married in our backyard.  In the background, you can see the arbor that they would be married under. George built it for the wedding.  My mom got George a "Groom" mug to drink his coffee in.  They both smoked and drank coffee non-stop.  He also had a mug that said "What a Guy" because that is what we said all the time to him, especially after he built something or fixed something, which was often.  I remember he made the unity candle holders for my wedding and he would send me Polaroid pictures of their progress.  One had a caption that said "perfection takes time".
 George always had a huge to-do list from my mom.  He handled it well and did wonderful work.  He was a bit of a perfectionist and took his time to do things right.  He totally redid our backyard with a beautiful, huge deck, a huge garden, a pond, a bench he made with birdhouses on it, fencing, trellis, paths, hammock, etc.  My mom and him made our backyard a beautiful sanctuary by which I hold every other backyard up to, but nothing ever comes close.  Here he is building a box for a plant that grows up a trellis.  My mom wanted it on wheels so she could bring it inside for the winter.  Jasmine grew on it.  George was rarely seen in shorts, but often without a shirt and in jeans.


The day my mom and George got married was a perfect day.   George surprised my mom by getting out his guitar and playing her a song.  So thoughtful.  George made my mom very happy.
 When i worked at Petsmart, I told my mom that we had a border collie puppy there.  George had always wanted a border collie.  My mom surprised him with his own dog (he wasn't a big fan of our cats) and George named her Samantha because he always wanted a dog named Sam.  She was the best dog. . . a little hyper and jumpy, but a great companion for him. 

This is the image of George that i will hold in my mind- wearing a v-neck sweater (i think he had them in all colors) with a dress shirt and perfectly trimmed hair.
Another favorite picture of mine-

 My mom took all of us white water rafting.  I was in her and George's boat.  I remember this was the first time I had seen George in shorts!  I also remember when a rapid threw him over the side of the boat and my mom and I couldn't do anything to get him back in.  Our guide came and helped us and just lifted him right into the boat.  My mom and George had their cigarettes and lighter in ziploc bags. 
 My mom and Aunts threw TJ and I a wedding shower that was also a rib cook-off.  It turned out to be one of the best backyard parties.  It had a theme of sweet violets, and although George always rolled his eyes or scowled at my mom's themes, he loved it deep down and would add to the theme in his own way.  He built extra tables for us to eat at.  He was always at work- helping us garden, building stuff, mowing the lawn, repainting, remodeling, etc. 
My mom, as a high school teacher, often dragged him to school functions like dances and Homecoming dances.  He rarely grumbled about it, but had to get all dressed up for the occasion or make something.  Here is when they chaperoned a dance.


Dear George,
I am sorry I can't be there today to say good bye, to hold your hand, and to support Mike and Jen.  I am also sorry that you only got to meet Jaelynne.  Life got busy and crazy.  If you met Camryn, you would see a lot of mom in her.  She is CrAzY, like mom was.  I want to say good bye to you, but i also want to say thank you.  Thank you for making my mom so happy all those years.  You made her laugh so hard and be so happy.  Thank you for loving me and my brothers.  I remember the first Christmas you and mom were together.  You bought me Troll pajamas with funky troll slippers that had purple and orange hair.  I loved those things!  I remember you always drinking coffee from Christmas mugs, making ham and cheese sandwiches,  eating ice cream with ruffle potato chips, eating Stroh's chocolate marshmallow ice cream, watching the Tigers from the recliner, building bunk beds for my brothers, remodeling all the bedrooms, salting all your food, your sense of humor, your laugh, and your smile.  Since my mom passed away, I have missed you.  I have missed you because I haven't seen you much, but I have also missed you because a part of you seemed to die along with my mom.  I know you loved her beyond words.  I know she made you laugh and smile, too.  I have greatly missed you for a long time, but now this is different.  You will be missed.  Good bye George.  Please say hi to my mom for me when you see her and give her a hug for me and tell her I love her.  Maybe dance with her, like you did when she grabbed your arms in the kitchen and danced with you. Give Sammy a big pet too.  Thank you.

I love you,
Lindsey

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Passenger Side Garbage Bags

Every time I went anywhere with my mom and had to ride on the passenger's side, I sneered as I sat down and saw the plastic grocery bag hanging from the column shifter.  It was always in my way.  Always touching my leg and it was often full of ashes, toothpicks with the hooks on one end, and kleenex.  I hated the thing and was very verbal about my hatred. I would be dramatic and complain that it was taking up way too much space, that my feet couldn't even fit on that side of the car.

In the Corsica and the Beretta, it hung from the shift, but when my mom got the Malibu, i couldn't believe what i saw.  The Malibu actually had a little hook on MY side of the car that was made to be a garbage hook.  I remember being so irritated.  How could they encourage my mother in this fashion?  It was like the car makers were giving my mom permission to hang her plastic Kroger bag there, as if she needed permission.  Ugh.  The nerve!

I write this because as I was driving home today, with the kids in the back of my car in their seats, I glanced down and saw the pocket in the door filled with my breakfast bar wrappers.  A thought came to my mind that made a smile spread slowly across my face- I wish i had a plastic grocery bag for all this trash.  At first, I tried to push the thoughts away as soon as i realized what i was thinking, and then i just decided to embrace it.  Why not?  I had often complained of all the napping my mom did, too and I have learned to embrace that.  So why would this be any different?  She had a good idea and it was time to admit it.  Although, instead of filling my trash with ashes, I am going to fill it with healthy protein bars that are 6 points on weight watchers. 

Now I just have to check to see if my car has a handy little hook from which to hang a plastic grocery bag.

Love you mom!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Art of Teaching

This school year has been especially challenging.  Education is definitely changing as the government gets involved more and more.  It is sad really.  I feel like the nine months I spend with the kids is no longer memorable for them.  We are just jamming things down their throat, assessing more than teaching, and pulling them in so many separate directions. 

What happened to themes, units, and integrating.  I no longer create.  Instead, I am basically handed a script that i must follow.   I have to teach things in a specific order with a specific time frame and use common activities and common assessments. 

By Friday of this week, I just felt so squashed, my enthusiasm gone.  The focus along the way has been taken from the students.  Now it is all about collecting data, assessing constantly, paper trails, and covering everything quickly instead of covering a few things well.  Don't misunderstand me- collecting data and assessing are essential to be an effective teacher.  I get that, but when it gets in the way of actually teaching and creating lessons, it is a problem.

I know cutting with scissors, developing imaginations, and learning to play appropriately cannot and will never be tested on some high stakes test, but that is important stuff.  I have never seen a group of third graders who cut worse than the ones I have now.  And although that may not seem like a big deal, it is.  That shows me that we no longer have time to create art, to have fun.

I have been teaching for a little less than 10 years, and I am shocked at how much has changed since then.  No Child Left Behind has not helped.  Some kids just aren't going to be at grade level reading and that is okay!  They may be really good at other things.  What is wrong with that?  Now we are being audited by the state, and we are required to write the common core standard next to each of our lessons in our plan book.  How is that helping me be a better teacher?  How is that doing any good for the students.  Do you know how long it took me to do that?  I had to look them all up and my lessons hit multiple strands.  Instead, I could have been giving effective, timely feedback on my students' writing.

Just let me do my job!  Let me teach my students!  Let them have a memorable year where they created something cool, learned a ton, and had fun. 

I am not sure why people go into teaching these days.  It has changed so much.  What other job do you make less than when you started.  What other job do yo earn a master's degree by taking classes that you have to pay for and then hardly make any money.  I didn't go into teaching for the money.  I went into it because I love kids.  I love creating things and organizing things.  I love getting kids excited about reading and learning new things.  I love making them laugh and showing them that it is okay to make mistakes.  I love helping them discover their strengths and their weaknesses.  I love my job- teaching kids. . . I just hate all the other crap that comes with it- the crap that doesn't help me be a better teacher or help the kids learn better.  The crap that is coming from the state.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Decorating

 Jaelynne & Camryn helped me hang stockings today.
 Camryn's tree.
 Our tree

 A new skating rink for the village.  Kohl's cash made it free!
 Jaely was so excited that it was finally December today.  Too bad we are getting bad thunderstorms and rain right now instead of white, fluffy snow.
The Bed & Breakfast has a little visitor.   have fun moving Mr. Potato Head around the village.
 My Granna's Swedish Angel.
 My mom made this and it was always hanging in our living room by the front door.  Now i have it.  It's beard is yellowed and it smells like nicotine, but Jaely and I love it.
 Another decoration from my mom's house.  We have a different Christmas picture hanging from the doorknobs of our bedrooms.
 Gail got us this early in our marriage.  I love it!

 I love our berry and eucalyptus wreath on our front door.


I still have to do the outdoor lights, but we got a lot done today.  Decorating with a 2 year old and a four year old was much more difficult than just decorating with a 2 year old.  Camryn wanted to do everything that Jaely was doing. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving!

When I recall my past Thanksgivings, I realize just how much time has passed by the people who are no longer present around the table or who are new additions. . . some new traditions and old ones missed.

My mom loved Thanksgiving.  She loved having all of her kids gathered together.  I remember coming home from college and being so excited.  As TJ came into the picture, he too had a place in our traditions.  One distinct one I remember is he and my mom making apple pies in the kitchen.  My mom wearing her blue robe, laughing and TJ obediently following her orders.  Jered would help a ton on the actual Thanksgiving Day (which, at my mom's was always the Friday after).  He made the best mashed potatoes (now my husband makes the best mashed potatoes).  We always had broccoli and cheese (later this turned into Diana's garlic steamed broccoli), sauteed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, Turkey, stuffing, labored over gravy, and some other stuff.  It was all made in my harvest gold and avocado green kitchen on appliances of the same colors.  The pies would sit in the white china cabinets, the table cloth would be on the table with the napkins in their rolls.  My mom was real excited when she purchased a thermal gravy boat.

Then, as TJ and I began dating and then marriage, we increased the number of places we had to be.  We needed to go to my aunt's to them and my dad, then to TJ's house (where he eventually took over cooking much of the meal), and then to my mom's on Black Friday.  Instead of shopping, I was helping my mom with the preparations.  After my mom passed, we did Thanksgiving at TJ's parents and then went to my aunt's for desert.

Then Camryn was born.  That set up some new traditions.  We didn't want to travel across the state with a three week old baby, so my side of our family said they would be more than happy to come to us and to bring much of the food.  My brother, Jered, helped TJ a ton that year.  Jason made homemade giant pretzels and we have tried deep-fried turky, grilled turkey and, of course, oven turkey.  The grilled one wins hands down every year.  Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike always bring delicious bread and sea foam salad.  Now that Camryn is older, my family still prefers to travel to here.  Jason and Whitney have made it an annual thing to fly in at Thanksgiving.  Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike drive across the state.  Dad drives south.  Now that Jered has a girl friend, we are seeing less of him, which is understandable.  It is difficult to juggle family visits.  With this new tradition, we greatly miss the Ellis side of our family.  I often wish we all lived closer to one another.  It would allow us to cram more visits with different people in.

The night before Thanksgiving, Jaely and Camryn get a bath and get to use their bath crayons.  Jaely wrote Mama, Papa, and Camryn on the tub.

 Soon they may not be able to take baths together.  Both are getting so big!

 Jaely couldn't wait until people showed up for Thanksgiving.  At preschool the previous day she was telling her teacher that her Uncle Jason Robot Uncle was coming from Florida ( really from California).  Last year, Jason was talking like a Robot.  Jaely loved it and hated it, until she said "Robot, go get me some more milk please."  We all laughed, and it stuck.  Jaely gave Jason a special Robot ornament for his tree this year.

Grandpa was the first to arrive.  It was perfect timing.  The girls were getting antsy and we had some stuff to get done that is easier to get done when the girls have some new entertainment.
 Jaely, with Grandpa's help, made a crib and acted like a baby.


 Jason and Aunt Whitney came with gifts.  I got the cutest little owl measuring cup set.  Absolutely adorable!  Jae and Cam got matching Owl aprons.  Jaely has worn it everyday since she opened it.  They also got an awesome coloring book and book.


 Camryn liked her apron. . . at first!
TJ and I were too busy to carry Camy around, so she went over to grandpa and put her arms up and said "up, please!"  So cute.  Grandpa was thrilled. . . even if he did catch her cold.
 The girls wanted to play dress up.


 Then the giant magnifying glass came out.  I love that our girls like to get fancy and then look at bugs under a magnifying glass.  What a great combination!



 Jaely asked Jason to make a fort.  He could tell we had done this many times when Jaely ran away and came back with clamps and chip clips.

 Coloring in her new book with Aunt Whitney
 Time to feast!

 Thanks to the sexy cook- the food was delicious!
 The next day we awoke to it snowing.  In our pajamas, we got our winter gear on and headed out to see if we could catch some snowflakes on our tongues.  We were successful!









 The slide was super slippery!  So much fun!
 Camryn isn't afraid of anything.
 Hey cutie!


 Showing off her new apron.
The next day, Jaely immediately began asking when people were coming over.  We tried to keep them entertained.  I think the 50th time she asked me, I handed her my phone and told her to call uncle jason!  Until their arrival, we built lots of things with blocks.
 Jaely was very proud of what her and TJ built.
 When they arrived, they did not have Jered and Wendi with them.  I was bummed.  I miss my oldest brother too and didn't get to see him at all.  Jaely took advantage of a napping Camryn to play some games with her aunt and uncle.  TJ won both times and Jaely cried because she didn't.  That was the first time anything like that has happened.

 We pretended to be in preschool. Jaely was the teacher.  That was interesting.  Then, Jaely put on a show of the grandest kind in Christmas tights and a sun dress!





Thank you Uncle Jason and Aunt Whitney for traveling so far away.  It was wonderful to hang out with you!

Some thoughts and memories make me sad and kind of melancholy.    There are people I miss greatly because they are either gone or eating somewhere else, but it is cool to see how families change and new traditions are started.  Jaely knows Thanksgiving as the holiday when family comes over, especially her Uncle Jason and Aunt Whitney.  Who knows, maybe there will be another addition to our family next year.