Category: Family

The Disney Dream – Five Magical Days Part 1

About a year ago, my husband announced that the time was right to take the kids on a Disney Cruise. Um, Ok, no arguments here. I did some research and the plans were made.

Me: “When should we tell them?”

Him: “The day we leave.”

Can I just tell you how hard it is to keep a secret of THAT magnitude? Amazingly, we pulled it off. Here’s where the kids found out they were going on a Disney Cruise.

Let me start by saying that the number one objection I hear to Disney vacations is that they cost too much. It’s true, that they aren’t cheap, and a year later our finances weren’t as robust as they had been, but we made the trip anyway and I’m really glad we did. Disney has incredible standards of service that make any vacation with them a wonderfully memorable experience.

Ship: Disney Dream

Departure Port: Port Canaveral Florida

Cruise Length: Four nights/Five Days.

Ports of Call: Nassau, Bahamas, Castaway Key, Bahamas (Disney’s private island).

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Accommodations

My Daughter waking up (slowly) on the bottom bunk The thing about Disney is that they get the important stuff right. Our room was tight, but comfortable, we had opted for a room with a balcony, something I highly recommend. We had a queen sized bed and the kids had bunk beds. One dropped out of the ceiling and the other was the couch converted into a twin bed. Both kids said they were comfortable and our mattress was fantastic. The bathroom was in two separate rooms, a shower and sink and then a second space for a sink an the toilet. I’ve cruised before and one of my big complaints is the size of the shower. This one was down right spacious in comparison. It even had a little bench.

Disney Cruise Food

Food is a big factor for us when we travel. Fish is intolerant to gluten, eggs and dairy and allergic to red food dye. The combination means we rarely eat out at home, but Disney is amazing at handling food allergies. The staff went out of their way to accommodate her needs, even planning ahead to have an extra, sushi style appetizer on hand when they knew she’s love it. I may have been a little jealous that I didn’t think to order two myself. It was THAT good.

My one complaint was that outside of meals it was sometimes hard to track down snacks. On other cruises I’ve been on something has been open 24/7. But there were times when I just wanted a little nibble and couldn’t find even a strawberry. Truth is I probably saved myself a few pounds. I never starved, I was just looking to fill in a few cracks here & there.

Disney Cruise Activities

Fish is 13 and Mim is 9. Neither child participated in the planned activities as much as we thought they would, but in hindsight I attribute that more towards their personalities then a flaw in the programming. Her age group was automatically given the right to enter and leave the activities as they pleased. Their activities mostly started at 4pm. It’s a hard age to program for, but there was a variety of events, including cooking, movie making, movie viewing, video games and dance parties.

3 pictures horizontally, Mim & Mike from Monster's Inc. In the Oceaneers Lab, A snap of The Edge, teen hang out, The Sail Away party on the big screen on the ship's funnel.

Mim’s group, The Oceaneers, had a two spaces just chock full of fun all day long. There was a Toy Story themed toy room, a craft room a dance floor, a science lab and gobs of video game stations. There were plenty of staff available to organize games and trouble shoot where necessary. We opted to give Mim the same freedom to sign in and out of the activities as he desired, with the understanding that if he didn’t behave responsibly, he would be glued to our sides. Some people were aghast that we’d let our 9 year old run around the ship unattended, but we know our kid.Close up of my Son & Daughter in a porthole window. He was great about making sure we knew where he was at all times. It was actually nice to be able to feel comfortable enough with the environment to give him that taste of freedom, and even nicer that he lived up to our expectations.

Our schedule leading up to the cruise precluded a lot of family time, so the kids were keen to stay with us or do things as a family and that was fine with us. They even sought each other out to spend time GASP together! One highlight was a scavenger hunt that took them all around the ship. A-Man and I also managed to snag a few minutes to ourselves in the 18+ sections.

Ports of Call: Nassau. Bahamas

Here we opted for an excursion to the Atlantis Resort. Where we paid an exorbitant amount of money for access to Aqua Adventure (their water park), a lunch voucher and a tour of the aquarium. I should say we started off this trip by visiting Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. In comparison, Atlantis Aqua Adventure has fewer attractions and longer lines that Typhoon Lagoon and we were at TL a sunny Saturday in August. The only attraction Aqua Adventure had that was better than Typhoon Lagoon, was the river ride. TL’s is actually a relaxing lazy river. AA’s is a river rapids adventure. There are calm parts, but there are also narrow passages and with rapids and waves. There are several paths to follow, on one, you are transported via conveyor up into the tower of one of the water slides. Where you then go down a series of slides until you are eventually released back into the river. That was fun and it was the last ride we rode, so we left with a pleasant feeling. The aquarium is small and in my opinion, not worth the trip. Atlantis is like a mini Las Vegas in the Carribean complete with gambling and high end shops. Nice, but not really my scene. If we hadn’t visited Typhoon Lagoon we might have had a more favorable impression of Aqua Adventure, but having visited both in such a short space of time, Typhoon won hands down.

I also feel the need to say that overall, I wasn’t impressed with Nassau. There are a lot of empty storefronts down town and in hindsight, I wished we’d picked an activity that supported the local economy rather than a mega-corporation headquartered thousands of miles away.

3 Frames My son & husband floating in a calm section of the river ride, a wave headed right for my daughter, the conveyer to the tube ride

 Stay tuned for part two later this week!

 

Remarkable Days – September 10th and 11th

The beginning of September is always chaos, back-to-school end-of-summer followed by September 10th and 11th. Both days hold significance for me.

September 10th.

A close up of my grandparents grave maker with my mother's information addedIt is remarkable to me because it was my mother’s birthday. She would have been 74 this year. Her birthday has passed without us talking before but this time there wasn’t even an answering machine on which to leave a message.

Instead, I spent the day filing to be named voluntary administrator of her “estate”. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but circumstances change and the most reasonable path is for me to take over. There are no assets to speak of. She had no house and lived month to month on social security. I’m hoping to gain access to what little money was left in her checking account to offset some of the costs of her burial. If I haven’t already said it, death is expensive! We didn’t even go the gold and champagne route. The burial and service was respectful, but um, budget friendly and it was still pricey.

After my visit to the courthouse, I went to visit her grave. Per her request, she was cremated and buried with her parents. I received notification from the stone company that her information had been added to the headstone and I wanted to see it.

It was a drab day. I stopped and purchased a pot of mums some food for a picnic lunch and a cup of tea. It took me two tries to actually find the grave. I was in the right section, but as you might imagine, a Boston cemetery is literally teeming with headstones with Irish surnames. It’s enough to make you say OY! By the time I found the grave, it was raining, so I had to have my picnic in my car.

The day we buried the urn, I really felt her presence. I felt, loved, cared for and supported. Much of that is attributable to being surrounded by family and close friends, but there was more. I just had this sense that she was there.

When I went back this time, there was no such feeling. It was just a stone in the ground. In an odd way, that’s good. I’ve long thought that that graves were an odd tradition. I would much rather be remembered at the places where people shared happy experiences with me. I’m glad we were able to fulfill her wishes and that it looks nice (that would have mattered to her), but I don’t feel the need to go back. I’ll stop by again as I can, but more importantly, I’ll remember her when share a happy memory from my childhood with my kids or I eat fried clams.

 

September 11th

Close up of the some of the names at the South Tower at the 9-11 memorial. Twelve years out, the solemnity of the day seems to be waning. As documented by this blog post and this one, businesses are using it as an opportunity to promote their brands. I don’t mind brands like Chik-fila and Huggies tweeting remembrances, but AT&T kind of puts me off (and I am an AT&T customer), it only goes down hill the farther you scroll down in that second post.

I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with my own remembrances of 9/11. I paused briefly. I watched a touching video and on Facebook, I read a few accounts of where people were when all hell broke loose. Even twelve years later, the events of that morning still haunt me but yesterday, was more or less a regular day for me. This was as much by necessity as a lack of any organized activity to attend. I have a friend who watched the ceremony online. I couldn’t. I knew it would wreck me for the day. I don’t want to forget, but remembering is hard.

The new tower on the former site of the Twin TowersFor each generation there is a touchstone, for those before me, it was December 7, 1941. For me and so many others it is September 11, 2001. I don’t ever want the horror to fade. I don’t ever want us to become complacent. Too many lives were lost that day and in the years that have followed. I don’t ever want to forget, but remembering the agony is often too much for many people, myself included. There has to be a middle ground a way to remember what happened, and to celebrate our progress towards recovery. I need a way to share this with my kids so it stands out in their minds. I want to protect them from the pain, but remind them of what happened. I want to remind them of all that was lost, remind them of our collective strength and encourage them to contribute to the greater good.

I don’t have a solution, I just know I don’t want to forget. I marked my calendar for July 11, 2014 to begin the process of planning some kind of remembrance that I can personally live with for September 11, 2014.

Did you do anything to mark the passing of another September 11th?

 

Summer 2013 Summary

Well, I guess by now, it’s tradition that this blog is ignored during the months of July and August. 2013 was no different. Now that summer is “over” here’s a quick look back at what was going on when I wasn’t here.

June

On the left Mim & his tent mate at Cub Scout Camp on the right the San Diego Sky Line

As the school year wrapped up, Mim headed off to his second year at Cub Scout camp.  Once again he had a blast and this year, he even tried a few new foods. Whoo Hooo! At the end of the month, I headed out to San Diego for a whirlwind trip as part of the leadership team for the 2014 NOAH conference. I am coordinating social activities, so basically, I got to play tourist. San Diego is a lovely city and I’m looking forward to getting back there!

July

July 2013

The highlight of July was Sarah & Bob’s wedding. They’ve been together since high school and she is the first of the next generation of cousins to get married. It was a lovely wedding held on Cape Cod and afforded me the opportunity to laugh and visit with family and long-time friends. This is my mom’s side, so it was even more meaningful for me to reconnect with everyone.

Both kids attended NOAH family camp, and had a blast, while we were at the wedding. Special thanks to Grammy for keeping an eye on them while she also ran the camp! Mim did a Lego camp over what was possibly THE hottest week of the summer. Fish did a half day video production camp and later in the month they both did a three day Apple Video camp (bonus it was FREE!).  While there, she made her first personally funded major purchase, an iPad Mini. She baby sat and saved enough for the Mini, AppleCare, a screen protector and case. They’ve been inseparable ever since.  We squeezed in showings of Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 as well. At the end of the month, Mim tested for his 3rd degree black belt.

August

August 2013

August was a magical month.  We kicked it off by surprising the kids with a trip to Florida. We blew the trip off the surprise chart when we announced that we were going on a Disney Cruise. The vacation requires at least a post or two of explanation, but suffice to say it was an AMAZING experience. We rounded out the trip with stops at The Kennedy Space Center and SeaWorld, more info to follow.

Sprinkled in between were a few trips to the lake, our annual weekend with our friends the L’s (I didn’t take ONE picture!), the occasional play date, and several trips to the water park (we bought season’s passes).  We also celebrated Kristen and Ed’s marriage and celebrated Nicole as she prepares to marry my nephew Jeff. We ended the month with our 4th annual Back-to-School breakfast the day before school started. Then, it was time for the real thing!

Fish and Mim on their first day of school.

Now that I read back on all we did, it’s no wonder we had a laid back Labor Day weekend.  We all needed it!

Adventures in Chickening – Mites and that %#$#! bird

Overall, things are going well with our chickens. The eggs have been plentiful and yummy and on a day-to-day basis, they only require anywhere between 10-15 minutes of effort and their antics keep us laughing.

Occasionally, there’s a little more effort required. Such as cleaning out the coop every six months or so and other maintenance projects. Then there are those activities that fall under the category of “things, I never dreamed I’d do”.

The birds had red bums for a while and we just couldn’t figure out why. Becky another one of the chicken mom’s had the opportunity to pick the brain of an expert. She suggested patting them with tape. If there were flecks on the tape that looked like salt and pepper, the birds had lice & mites. Since the flecks were small, I let Becky handle the taping. Sure enough, the tape had salt & pepper. Oh joy. The same expert suggested dust baths in diatomaceous earth (a.k.a. DE). DE is a substance similar in consistency to powdered sugar, but much more bitter tasting. Go ahead, ask me how I know.

The Expert said she left DE out for her birds in a kiddie pool and her birds voluntarily hopped in and took dust baths in it. We filled a cheap kiddie pool with about an inch of DE and left it for the ladies to enjoy at their leisure. Yeah, um no. Our birds had ZERO interest in this fine dusty substance in the pale pink plastic thing. They avoided the pool like it was toxic waste. Ok then, onto plan B, mandatory dust baths for everyone.

dusting chickensWe collected the birds in the pen and I captured them one at time Becky stood by the pool of doom and scooped up handfuls of DE. I held tight to a squirming squawking fowl while she covered them. Then I let go and we ran like hell to avoid being totally covered in DE. Yeah, that worked, sometimes. I dressed for the occasion including old clothes, a scarf to cover my mouth, a hat and protective eyewear. Didn’t matter, I still had DE in every crack and crevasse. Let’s just say blowing my nose was interesting for the next few days and we’re running low on Q-Tips.

These are the times that I am SO glad we are raising these birds as part of a cooperative, because dusting birds is only funny when you are doing it with someone else. If it was just A-man & I, there would have been less laughter and more “what the hell were we thinking!?”. Not that Becky & I didn’t shriek that a lot, but it was definitely more along the vein of I Love Lucy adventure.

A week or so later, we involved our third Mother Hen, Jen and subjected the birds to yet ANOTHER dust bath. Oh the indignity I tell ya! This time they were wise to us, so they were a tad harder to catch. One in particular got her feathers REALLY ruffled and got away from me before my cohorts could get even a speck of DE on her. She also REFUSED to come back in that night when it was time to round up the flock. I think it took 3 separate trips to the coop to finally corral her. Her antics have continued on and off ever since. It’s been almost 3 weeks at this point.

At first we were in a bit of a tizzy because the dogs can’t go out until the birds go in.  So we’d make multiple trips over to the coop and enlist the assistance of anyone available. Finally, I just threw up my hands and said forget this sistah! You wanna stay out, stay out.

The funny part is that she paces around the outside of the run, but when you go to guide her in, not even pick her up, just guide her towards the door so you can let her in with out releasing the others, she freaks out. We’ve taken to referring to her as DB for Dumb Bird. I’ve also taken to letting the dogs out if the majority of the birds are in. We had a close call last week, but Fish was nearby and called Dory off. STILL the bird refused to be caught.

Later that night A-man went over to look for her.

Dumb bird

 

He found her. On TOP of the run.

She let him catch her and put her in. Yay!! She learned her lesson!

Meh, not so much, no, she’s been “out” two of the last three nights.

Dumb bird! I fully expect we’ll be down to 18 birds within the next few weeks. This sounds cold, and I assure you we continue to try and do what we can to coax this bird in as often as possible, but at the same time, she has to do her part.

It’s a good thing the eggs are so yummy 🙂

 

9

Dear Mim,

Mim in front of a forsythia plantAnd now you are nine. Wow, it was a great year for you. It was a year of learning and growing both physically and emotionally. Together we learned about engine speeds and we now have the words we need to talk about energy levels and how to manage them. You are working on strengthening your fine motor skills (writing) and your core strength and continue to improve. You are still the happiest kid I know. You meet the world with a big smile and a hearty laugh. You bring joy everywhere you go and frequently have memorable quips.

Sadly, you lost a grandmother this year. We weren’t able to ease you into exposure to the emotions and rituals of death like we were with Fish. Still, you handled it all like a champ. You had some questions, and tears, but mostly, you just went along with the flow and provided some bright spots in the bleakness.

You dabbled in Star Wars this year, but your interests moved to Hot Wheels and Battle Force Five (a.k.a. BF5). Not too long before she died, you were talking on the phone with Muzzie. She asked you about your interest in Star Wars and you replied “Actually, I’m more of a Hot Wheels kind of guy.” I could hear her laughing from across the room.

Mim jumping on a rockYou and your sister still get along. There is the expected grousing once in a while, but overall you’re good to each other. You share a game on the iPad called Virtual Families. You two have these in-depth conversations about who is sick, who needs more vitamins, who got a job, who is going to college and who died. They are very funny to listen to and occasionally very random. For example, “I accidentally sold the couch.”

You have very distinct ideas about how things should be done and who is responsible for what. Sometimes I wish you’d set those classifications aside and just do what needs to be done with out thought to whose turn it is, but hopefully that will come with time.

Mim and his karate instructor with Mim's Red/white/blue beltYou are now a green belt in karate and just celebrated two years of perfect attendance. You’ve signed up for six more months and I’m hopeful you continue beyond that. This summer promises to be an exciting one with stints at Cub Scout camp, Lego camp, and NOAH Camp and knowing you, LOTS of reading.

You are still my early bird although lately, you’re beside me with the iPad building your empire on Minecraft. I’ll take snuggles however they come.

You are a bundle of energy and life with you is never dull. Thanks for always being a ray of joy. Looking forward to all the coming year has in store for you.

Happy Birthday!

Love,

Mom

 

Ruth’s Brownies

Two of the best brownies on a plate next too a glass of milkEveryone has recipes that represent their childhood. My crispy baked pork chops are a riff on the Shake ’N Bake Pork chops I loved growing up. There’s also a baked chicken recipe that I’ll share soon, but the quintessential “treat” when I was growing up was my mom’s brownies. Everyone loved them! They are chocolately and moist and more a fudgier brownie as opposed to the more conventional cake brownie. As a matter of fact, in a classic case of only wanting what you didn’t have, I used to PLEAD with her to buy brownie mix in a box. I wanted the cake style brownie. Eventually, I had my fill of cake brownies and I wised up. I know this recipe by heart. It’s THAT good and THAT easy.

My mom got the recipe from her sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, who was also a close friend of my paternal grandmother. Did you follow that? That woman was also named Ruth. So, here you have, Ruth’s Brownies.

Ingredients:

  • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate (I use Baker’s)
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (use the real stuff PLEASE)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional – I NEVER get to add walnuts because the people around me equate eating nuts to eating bugs. I think they add something, especially if you have a few minutes to toast them before adding them to the chocolate, but it’s up to you.).

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Grease an 11×13 pan
  3. Place butter and chocolate in a pan on medium to low heat until both are completely melted.
  4. Add sugar, mix until blended
  5. Add flour, mix until blended
  6. Add eggs, mix until blended
  7. Add vanilla and salt, mix until blended.
  8. Add walnuts (if using).
  9. Pour into greased pan
  10. Bake for 30 minutes – NO MORE

As long as your oven is close to temperature you’ll be fine. When you pull them out, you’ll wonder if they are really done. The top should have a light crust, but still look a little moist.

Allow them time to cool before cutting.

Serve with milk.

The recipe can be halved, but really who would want to do that?

She didn’t call

My mother and I and my college graduation.My relationship with my mother has been tenuous at best over the last 20 years. In many ways because of the distance between us it doesn’t feel like I have the right to grieve and yet, I grieve anyway.

When she was alive there was a small sliver of hope that maybe she’d get better, become more emotionally balanced. With her death, that hope is snuffed out. I didn’t expect her to ever apologize for the crazy things she did (like not attending my wedding), but if she could have stepped away from the role of the victim … If she could have evaluated her life, reached out for help AND accepted it. If she could have stopped smoking, stopped drinking, stopped blaming everyone else for her problems. Hell if she could even have answered the phone more regularly that would have been an improvement.

None of this was EVER going to happen. But still with her death, now it’s NEVER going to happen. To me, that’s a powerful difference. In any specific situation, when hope is gone, all is truly lost

There are many great memories from my childhood and a few good moments in the last 20 years. I wish there could be more. She was a challenge for sure. I don’t miss the trips to Boston and the associated schedule juggling. I don’t miss being asked to advocate and then being told I was doing it wrong (even when she got the outcome she was looking for). I don’t miss the drama, but the fact that I’ll never hear her voice again gets me every time. Yesterday was my birthday. She always called and usually sent a card. Yesterday was the first time in 45 years I didn’t hear her voice on my birthday. It was an unexpected blow.

The last words I said were “Love you.” and I meant them even if they were tinged with a hint of frustration and exhaustion. There were still more words to say. We ended on a good note, but neither of us really thought that would be the last time we’d speak.

Despite all the anger and frustration, I did love her. I think I’d convinced myself I didn’t in the last few years. These last few weeks have convinced me otherwise. There is no one who loved me more. That all consuming love was in many ways her Achilles heel but I was the beneficiary and I feel the loss far more than I expected to.

Regrets are wasted time. This is especially true in this situation, because there is no way to go back and change things, The truth is I don’t think I would even if I could. The changes weren’t mine to make. I tried to help her. So many people tried, family, friends, medical professionals. Eventually, they all came to the same conclusion: She wasn’t able to accept help. Still, that’s not a tremendous amount of comfort. I have this unrealistic belief that I can move mountains if I try hard enough. It’s helpful in some situations, but in others, it is a devastating shock when I can’t actually move the mountain. I do take comfort in the fact, that I gave her my all, it just wasn’t enough. To save her, I would have had to sacrifice myself and I know that wasn’t want she really wanted. I just wish the mother I had in the second half of my life could have been the mother I had in the first half of my life.

The only thing I can do now is be patient with myself and make sure history doesn’t repeat itself with my kids.

kidznmeyorkmaine

Meet Quin

In all the chaos that was April, I’ve forgotten to introduce you to our newest family member. Interwebz, meet Quin.

a black 2012 Chevy Equinox

She’s a 2012 Chevy Equinox.

So, what happened to Lexi you ask? You aren’t alone in your curiosity. Lexi just wasn’t happy with us anymore. She was a little spoiled by the mild winter and mud season we had last year. This year’s heavier snow falls and the resulting messier mud season were overwhelming for her. Don’t get me wrong, she was a trooper, and she was holding up fine, she still had a lot of value left in her, but I was worried about her long-term health and well being. She was almost 4 years old and already starting to show signs of the strain. She was running fine, but she just wasn’t cut out for a long life on a dirt road. It’s a minimum one mile drive to reach the pavement and certain times of the year, that 1 mile can be the hardest part of the trip. Truth be told, a lot of the pavement round these parts ain’t all that great either *cough* Concord secondary roads *cough*. The biggest issue was the ground clearance. Poor Lexi was only four inches off the ground. Hell, we regularly have ruts deeper than that! I was afraid that she just wouldn’t have the longevity that Emmy, my Honda CRV had. We had Emmy for 8 years and almost 170,000 miles.

When I really evaluated what our requirements were, it became clear that Lexi was really more car than we needed. In the 21 months we had her, we used the seating for 7 maybe four or five times. That’s a lot of extra car to be hauling around for such a rare occurrence. I scoured Consumer Reports looking for smaller, all-wheel-drive vehicles that had above average ratings for gas mileage, long-term reliability, and safety.

In one afternoon, we sat in or drove the Nissan Rogue, the Ford Escape, and Toyota Venzia. The Rogue was tight and visibility out of the rear window was virtually nonexistent. I liked the 2012 Ford Escape, it reminded me a lot of my CR-V, but it was redesigned for 2013 and again the rear visibility was atrocious. I liked the Venzia, but it was big and really more than I needed.

The next time out, my husband convinced me to look at the Equinox. He’s a Chevy guy, I’m not as devoted to the brand. But, CR liked the car, so I agreed to take it for a drive. Later that day, I drove the Subaru Forrester and the Subaru Outback. I lasted five minutes in the Forrester. It has awesome visibility, but I really felt like I was in a tin can. The Outback was ok, but I didn’t like it as much as the Equinox. I considered my old flame the Honda CRV, online, but in the redesigns since I’ve had one raised questions about the rear visibility and I had other concerns including gas mileage.

The Equinox handled well, it had decent cargo space but the clincher was estimated MPG. Chevy is advertising 30 MPG, Consumer Reports says it’s closer to 26MPG, either way, that’s higher than the 19 I was getting in the Flex.

It’s worth noting that the Equinox comes equipped with a 4 cylinder or 6 cylinder engine. The gas mileage on the six isn’t as good and I found since it was significantly smaller than the Flex, it is still well powered with the four cylinder engine. She definitely gets out of her own way even loaded with four people and the AC on.

We had decent luck buying Lexi used, so I was on the lookout for a 2012, with low mileage and a few bells and whistles I wouldn’t have been to able afford otherwise. I was excited, our local dealer had a few that met my criteria.

I crunched the numbers and went in armed with data and the knowledge that it was the end of March. Not only is that the end of the month, but it’s the end of the sale’s quarter. I had a number in mind, if they hit it, they’d have a sale, if they didn’t I still had a car I liked and I had seven months before the next winter road conditions to find a car I wanted.

They met my number. I’ve had it six weeks and I’ve already put about 2000 miles on it. I’ve noticed the decrease in cargo space once or twice, but it’s not a show stopper. It just means I have to put the seats down more than I did in the Flex and that is a very easy fix. It is literally the flip of a switch to release the seats.

Quin got OnStar, remote start and Sirrius/XM and heated front seats (standard on the LT2 trim package). I’m only seeing 23 MPG, but honestly, I haven’t had a chance to read the manuel and play with the settings to see if there’s something I should be doing to increase the mileage.

She had the chance to experience the end of mud season and that extra inch and a half of clearance has made a difference. Quin just seems more at home on the dirt roads. I hope Lexi finds a family who lives on a paved road who will love her as much as we did.

What’s with the name you ask?

Have You Had The Talk?

'48Sheet billboard art project - Birmingham - High Street Deritend - Digbeth - My last will and testament' photo (c) 2012, Elliott Brown - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/ Have you had The Talk? While I may have a newly minted teenager, I’m not talking about the birds & the bees here. Have you talked to those you love about their end of life wishes?

I have and on April 3rd, I was REALLY glad I had. I got a call at 8pm from a doctor notifying me my mother was in a crisis situation and asking what my mother’s wishes were for end of life care. I knew, but still had trouble converting that knowledge to words. With a little prompting, I recovered and shared her wishes with the medical team treating her.

In the aftermath of her death, so many people I’ve spoken to, have not had “the talk” with their spouse, their parents, their children. If you haven’t been asked, don’t assume people know what you want. Take the time and write up your wishes. Hell, why not take the extra step and complete a healthcare proxy, AND a living will (some states recognize one, some states recognize the other, it’s best to have both).

Do you have strong feelings about what happens to your body after your death? Do you want a religious funeral? A memorial service? Burial at sea or will you donate your body to science? The truth of the matter here is that you’ll be gone. You won’t have an actual say in what happens, but if you feel strongly, document your wishes and hopefully your loved ones will abide by them as much as they can.

You have a will right? RIGHT???? Yes? Good for you! Do the people closest to you know where to get a copy? Does it need to be updated? Hint if your will talks about custody of your children and the children are buying their first homes, it’s time for an update.

Wait, you don’t have a will? GET ONE NOW!! This isn’t about you. This is about easing the burden on the ones you leave behind. A loved one dying is a stressful situation. A will spells out what should happen to your assets and wordly belongings. If you are really feeling responsible (and I sincerely hope that you are), contact a lawyer and set up trusts that may ease the financial burden on your loved ones.

Speaking of finances, dying ain’t cheap. Depending on where you are in the country and what specifics you choose, cremation can start at $3,500. A full blown burial including a casket etc. can start at $10,000 and go up from there. Got life insurance?

I’m not a lawyer or a financial expert, but I’ve seen it where the estate is settled with relative ease and the family can focus on grieving the loss of a loved one and I’ve seen it when the lack of documentation nearly caused financial ruin for those left behind. Don’t be the jerk that leaves behind a mess. Get your house in order. Losing you will be hard enough for your family and friends. Don’t make it worse.

The Story of Her Death

I’m a writer. I write for many reasons. I write for me, to organize my thoughts. I write to clear my head. I write to document things for other people. I write to share what I’ve learned so someone else can avoid my mistakes or benefit from my knowledge. I think this piece is a little of all of that.

Just as there are birth stories, there are also death stories. Some people are terrified of death. I’m not. I do not have a death wish, I hope I have many great years ahead of me, but at the same time, no one gets out of this life alive. What will be, will be. I will say that prior to my mother’s death, I had no idea what happened once the heart stopped beating, what the process was to get from hospital to funeral home. Now, I know and I’m brewing another post on that topic too.

The Call, Think Fast

My mother entered the hospital for treatment of an infection on her foot. It had gotten so bad, she needed IV antibiotics. She was only scheduled to be there for a day or two and would then be transferred to a rehab center to complete the healing process. However, while she was there, another problem was discovered and a minor surgical procedure was scheduled to address that issue. This was only supposed to extend her stay in the hospital by a few days.

She went in on a Monday. I spoke to her that night and again Tuesday night. Wednesdays are consistently the worst day of my week. I start at 6am and go go go until about 8pm. I had tried to reach my mom throughout the day, but was unsuccessful. When we got home from karate, I was starving, so the plan was to have a yogurt and then try again. If I didn’t reach her, I would then call the nurses station for an update.

Halfway through my yogurt, the phone rang with the hospital’s name on the caller ID. That’s rarely a good sign. What followed was a brief back and forth with the doctor. He said they were having a hard time getting a blood pressure reading on her. I was annoyed. Look at her chart doofus. She is notorious for having crazy low blood pressure. He calmly continued to try to convince that this wasn’t normal and I continued to tell him it was. Finally he changed tactics. “Ma’am. She has no pulse.” Oh, ok, this is DEFINITELY not normal. “The team needs to know your wishes regarding end of life care.”

 

ALL STOP. OH SHIT!

 

I stuttered as my brain tried to wrap itself around what he was saying. My mother was dying, if not already dead. My mother and I talked about this. We had had this conversation. I knew what she wanted, but my brain just refused to forward the information to my mouth. I ran upstairs and grabbed the file folder with her name on it. I opened it and as soon as I saw words on paper, the words came.

She did not want to be a vegetable. She did not want to be kept alive for the sake of being kept alive. I shared that with the doctor and he asked me to stay near a phone. I was scrambling to make plans to get on the road. The hospital was an hour an a half drive from my home. I gave him my cell phone number and told him to keep me apprised.

My husband was Northbound on a bus from Boston. I scrambled to find someone to stay with my kids. I have left them alone before, but I couldn’t do it this time. Here’s where I stop and count my blessings that we live where we do. My in-laws are next door and we have fabulous neighbors across the street.

The doctor called back. They’d been doing chest compressions for 15 minutes with no response. The team was concerned about the lack of oxygen to the brain. I sat down and took a second to gather my thoughts.

 

“Let her go.”

 

Her health had not been good. I was starting to question her ability to live independently. Living with me was not an option and the idea of moving to an independent living facility or a nursing home was in her words, “a fate worse than death.”

I called my husband and told him. I called my aunt, her only living sibling, and told her my mother had died. Half way through that call, the doctor called back to say they had a pulse. Of course they did. This was my mother. She could be as stubborn as a brick wall.

I passed on the updated information and once again scrambled to make plans to get to Boston only this time, I wasn’t driving. My in-laws would stay with the kids, my neighbor would drive. My husband was too far away. Only he wasn’t. He’d misjudged where he was (the highway all looks the same at night). My neighbor drove me to him and he and I headed South.

While en route, my mother’s heart stopped again. Again, I gave the approval to let her go. Again, she revived. At this point I was invested in getting there to say goodbye in person, but I told the team that if she crashed again not to resuscitate her. In the meantime, I further rallied the troops, I called my dear friend Melissa who is also a nurse and my cousin. They lived closer than I. Whether she would consciously recognize it or not, I didn’t want her to be alone. My cousin made it about half an hour before I did. Melissa made it 5 minutes after me and my friend Charlene stood at the ready.

The Hospital

As we approached the hospital. My husband had the foresight to warn me that the scene I would enter would be unexpected. He told me there would be tubes and wires and blood and that her body would be swollen with fluid. Upon arrival at her bedside, I was glad he’d warned me. It was an unnerving sight to say the least.

I said my goodbye and I stepped out. How she looked, the beeps and the alarms. It was too much. I gave the approval to stop the medication that was inflating her blood pressure to keep her alive and headed to the family lounge. With the support of my husband and Melissa I gathered my wits. In the meantime different members of the medical team that had been working with her stopped in to offer their sympathies. One had talked to her several times throughout the day and said she was in good spirits. I knew she was optimistic about the outcome of the procedure it helped to know she was in a good mood.

Eventually I was drawn back to her bedside. They had drained off some of the fluid and put blankets over the blood stains. She looked more like herself. I held her hand, her nails, although unpainted, were perfectly shaped. That was my mother.

The four of us stood around and talked. We talked about current family news (my cousin’s daughter is getting married this summer). We talked about my mom, past and present. I knew. I just knew that she was already gone. Melissa helped me ask the team to make her passing as easy as possible from this point on.

They removed the breathing tube (I stepped out for that procedure) and turned off the alarms. We held her hands, told stories and cracked jokes. As I told the nurse who frequently came to check on us. I’m Irish, we laugh to avoid crying. Eventually, she took her last breath and she was really gone.

Thanks MGH

Here I need to stop and give props to Massachusetts General Hospital. MGH is a large teaching hospital with an excellent reputation and a long and storied history. That type of environment sometimes takes a bad wrap for being out of touch or impersonal. The team that worked with my mother and I, was awesome. They kept me in the loop. They were sincere. It was clear this was an unexpected outcome and they were all rattled by it. I got the sense that they deal with death everyday so they knew the steps that had to be taken, but at the same time, they understood that this death was personal to me and guided me gently through the process. I will be forever grateful for their patience and kindness.

After she died, the doctor came in and verified that she was indeed dead. Then came a series of questions.

Did I want an autopsy?

I hedged. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her cut open. It’s just that while sudden, her death was not completely unexpected. She’d been in failing health for a while. Did the team want an autopsy? We danced around this for minute or two until A-Man and Melissa pointed out that the team couldn’t legally have a say in the matter. I had to give a yes or no answer. Yes.

Did I want her to be an organ donor?

She was a 3 time cancer survivor including radiation treatments and at least 2 rounds of chemotherapy, sadly, that made her ineligible to donate.

Did I want a full autopsy or did I want to limit the scope to the procedure most recently performed?

Would the information gleaned from a full autopsy be used for teaching purposes?

Yes

Then I want a full autopsy.

The would remove her organs for examination during the autopsy. Did I want them return to the body? If not, the organs would be used for teaching purposes.

No, use them for teaching purposes.

Did I want a copy of the autopsy report?

Yes. (So I can forward it to Melissa for translation).

A few signatures, they gave me her belongings and we were free to go. For

I texted Charlene. She’s gone. Only, in my one handed haste I texted, She’s gine, which autocorrect changed to She’s fine. Now in the wee hours of the morning after such a roller coaster of adrenaline, this made me laugh out loud. She was definitely NOT fine. As I write this, I think maybe she was fine. Maybe at last, she wasn’t in pain and she’d found peace. I’ve decided to go with that.

We spent the night at Charlene’s house. She and her family live outside of Boston. Both A-Man & I were pushing exhaustion, the drive home seemed too much. Plus, I wanted to go to my mother’s apartment the next morning and pick up a few items.

The Analysis

It was weird drinking tea with my friend thinking, My mother is dead. I knew this would happen sooner rather than later, but it still took some processing to really comprehend. Even now, more than a month later, I occasionally come up short and think, she’s dead.

In some ways, I’ve been grieving the loss of the mother I grew up with for more than 20 years. Recently, our relationship roles had reversed and frequently it was one of obligation on my part. Although charming to many she came in contact with, to those few in her inner circle, she could be a difficult person to deal with. She made poor choices and then lamented how the world was out to get her.

I’m sure my feelings will change over time, but right now, it just feels like a finger after a deeply embedded splinter has been removed, extremely sore, but slightly less painful. I hear ads for services like A Place for Mom. And I think wow, I won’t have to deal with that now. I really didn’t know what the next step was for her. She was not going to willingly stop living on her own. It was going to take a catastrophic event or legal action. I wasn’t looking forward to either.

Still, I’m not sure the full impact has hit me. She was notorious for disappearing for weeks on end. She rarely left her apartment, but she wouldn’t answer her phone and she didn’t return messages. Doctors and caregivers would call me with appointment confirmations or test results because they’d lever numerous messages and hadn’t heard from her.

Once, I had to go so far as to have the manager of the building do a well-check. She was furious with me for the invasion of her privacy, but, she got the message and took me seriously in the future when I left messages that said “You have 24 hours to call me back”. It had gotten to the point where I would regularly put out the call to her case manager and family to see if ANYONE had heard from her.

In some ways these days feel like those times when she was just incommunicado, but at the same time, they don’t. Part of me knows this is permanent. We’ve emptied her apartment and are starting to file paperwork. The other day, the kids asked me what time of day I was born. I think it was dinner time, but I’m not sure and I can’t call my mom and ask her.

For the most part life has gotten back to normal. I am beyond profoundly grateful for all those who have reached out and keep checking on me. The cards, the meals, the texts, and virtual hugs meant everything as I struggled to keep it together. I am truly blessed with an amazing village of friends.

This brain dump was primarily for me, but if you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. Go hug someone you love.