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Friday, July 18, 2014

Thoughts in the wind

A year ago today we had to put our chocolate lab to sleep.   The memory of the days leading up to this are as vivid to me now as they were then.  The hardest part about it was watching each of my four sons say goodbye.  Each farewell was unique.  I wrote about it here.  My husband was out of town and I was left to take Graham myself.  As horrible as it sounds, I enjoyed the last moments I had with him.  It was just like the good old days.  As we drove to his favorite park for the last time it was reminiscent of 14 years ago when he and I would make our daily trips down the PCH to the dog park in Santa Monica.  I wasn't married then and he was my co-pilot. He was the one I confided in.

In the days leading up to his death we spoiled him like only four boys could.  A lot of hugs, a lot of mouth kisses and several cookies, pizza and ice cream.   But after a few weeks the boys stopped praying for him at dinner, stopped talking about him.  I thought they had forgotten him.  Except when February 23 came around they all knew it was his birthday and we had chocolate cake.  We always had it on his birthday which is extremely selfish of us because obviously he couldn't have any.

Today Finegan asked if we could release balloons.  We have never released balloons (intentionally.)  We went to the grocery store and got four brown balloons.  The clerk asked what the special occasion was,  Parker responded "our dog died" without any hesitation.

We drove to Graham's favorite dog park and stood in the middle. I gave each of the boys a balloon.  For a moment they were not fighting, not yelling, not wrestling. They were standing there holding a balloon.  They decided to whisper things into the balloon and release it to Graham. It was the only way they felt he could hear their voice.   I was expecting this balloon release to last 2 minutes, tops, but it was edging on 10.  They were all whispering their thoughts to their deceased dog via balloon.

Runners and bicyclist passed by. Surely thinking I had some nut job parenting skills seeing four kids talking to balloons. After awhile I asked if they were ready.  All said yes except for Jack.   He finished his monologue by saying he was sorry he yelled at him that one time when he ate all of his crayons and pooped them all out in the middle of his room.

Finally on the count of 3 they released their thoughts in the wind.  We watched the brown balloons which were a dark contrast to the blue sky fade away until we could no longer see them.  They stayed relatively close together.  I found myself getting really emotional.   Not because the loss of my pet, but the simplicity of it all.

The world right now is not in a good place.  Planes being shot down, wars, conflict, the killing of innocent  children.  Children who, I would guess would also see nothing odd about whispering thoughts into a balloon to send their deceased dog well wishes.

When we left they were happy.  I regretted not sending a balloon off myself.  If only I could get the flurry of thoughts in my head, especially the bad ones, the ones that question everything, that doubt the direction of humanity into a balloon and release it to the Universe to handle it and take it off my hands.

After I learned the news of the Malaysian flight all I could think about was how I could bring children into a world like this.  How can I keep them safe from the evil that leaves no child off limits?  I can't.  And I can't expect anyone but myself to.  I can keep them from crossing the street in front of a car, from eating worms in the back yard but I can't keep them from evil people who have a great way of looking normal. They have to learn to protect themselves.

All I can do is bombard them with all that is right. Let them have moments of stillness to reflect on what is good.  In this case, it was our pet.  Graham was as good as it gets. Loyal, loving, a good listener, forgiving,  a protector and a fantastic companion. Even though we go to church, God is still a concept to them that is hard to grasp, and I'm including myself in this struggle.  I'm trying to show them tangible way to see  glimpse into what is great in God's creation, and to teach them love, forgiveness, loyalty, empathy, compassion and advocacy of what is good.

I can also release any thoughts of doubt I have to the wind because standing in front of me is four little ambassadors of the hope for the future.  Another example that something as simple as having a pet can show you what it is like to love unconditionally, despite differences or when they make poor choices and eat your favorite toy or take a preverbal dump on all that seems good.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

For the Love of God...

I have become desperate. Very desperate.  I have been alone with my children for 17 days. I noticed my desperation after the third day, but I tried to justify my panic with the fact that I was just in the Genesis stage of the summer and eventually we would all settle in.  My husband comes back in a few more weeks and I hope by then to have some order to the chaos.
I am a strong believer in a woman's capabilities, but it is not natural for a woman to be left alone in a house of boys, a dog and the classroom pet who is a lizard.  Did I mention I don't like reptiles?  Well it doesn't matter because my husband left me alone with it after no other parent volunteered to be the host family for the summer.  Do you know what lizards eat? Live crickets.  Did I mention I don't like bugs?
So I have 6 mouths to feed not including my own. Which doesn't matter these days because the only thing I have been eating is whatever is left over from what the boys don't eat because I am too exhausted to make myself something.
My children are not old enough to be left alone. And even if they were I can't say I would.   They like to screw around. Last week we left to go to the store to buy one item, dishwasher detergent. Since we are eating at home for every meal included all the in-between meals we (I) have been running the dishwasher about 400 times a day.   Of course when we left the store we had dishwasher detergent, 3 boxes of sugar disguised as cereal and a box of doughnuts.  All of which will make an appearance on my butt by the end of summer because they grow tired of the same cereal after awhile and I find myself eating it alone while watching Orange is the New Black.  When we returned home someone (nobody has come forward yet) had left a fake lizard sitting on top of the real lizard's aquarium.
Whether is was a sick joke, or an accident, I think the fear was reflected back on them tenfold when they saw their mother screaming and running from the mudroom.  I panicked because I briefly thought I was never going to be able to sleep because I would have to have one eye open in case it crawled up on my bed.
After realizing it was fake, it didn't make me feel any better because the one thing I forgot was that I had drank my all the wine the previous night, and there was no way in hell I was taking them all back to the store to get a bottle of wine.   I considered mixing vodka with milk (our only other beverage because I forgot to get OJ) but even I know that is too gross, but if the lizard had gotten out I can't say I wouldn't have done it.
The truth is, I haven't slept.  Maybe that is my problem. Everyone is nervous that someone is going to break into our house, despite having a fantastic alarm system. Which is useless if the power is out, but that would only happen if their was a tornado or something.  Oh, that's right there was.  Since my husband left I feel that I am being faced with the ten plagues of Eygpt.  Bugs, Frogs (lizards) darkness, thunder…. I pray the list doesn't continue.

My girlfriend visited and as much as she helped, I think I saw her do a Charlie Chaplin kick when she left.  I know my boys can be a little "intense".  I will say that by the end of her visit she had become a pro in tuning out the never-ending looped remix of "mommy, mama, mom, mommy, ma," Ja ja jammin' on the one.  (In case you  don't know, that lyric is it one of the great ones from Theo Huxtable) and in case you were looking for an example of my sleep deprivation, there you go, a random 80's reference.

In an effort to keep them occupied I decided to take all of us (except the lizard) to a dog park.  I haven't been able to walk Wally regularly and I was worried he was getting depressed… or maybe that is me, either way, we needed to get out.    The park is 3 minutes away but we have to go through a rough area in order to get there.  As we were driving Finegan screamed " Wally is pooping! He is pooping! Pull over!" I thought he was probably over reacting because Wally's butt was directly in front of his face but when I turned around Wally was hunched over ready to drop a bomb.  I immediately pulled over, jumped out of the car and let him out to poop in the grass.  When I looked up, I realized I was in front of a house which appeared to have an entire neighborhood sitting on their porch.
I wasn't sure if they were looking at me because I was only wearing a beach cover-up which was not doing it's job of covering up, or if it was because my dog was walking around in the poop position because he had a continuous stream of poop coming out of his butt.  He poops when he gets excited.   I'm pretty sure they were not happy about it, but I had come prepared with plastic bags for this very reason. Albeit, I didn't think it would happen so soon. But when I turned to grab a bag, my son's had rolled the windows up and locked the doors.
This really conveys the notion to the neighbors that my kids are afraid of them and what might happen next, and that they believe in me enough to be able to handle it myself.

I was able to convince Parker to roll down the window enough to give me a plastic bag and I picked up soft serve the best I could off their front lawn.  This too was a wonderful spectacle because again, my cover up, was not doing its job, now on the back side.
Even though there was a trash can right next to me, I put the bag of poop in the car with me and we drove to the park with the pleasant stench of humiliation and fresh dog dung.
Once we were at the park I set them all free to run like the wind and hopefully tire them out so I could go home and return to watching Orange is the New Black. In case you don't know, the show is about a woman's prison. And to be honest, at this point I would be willing to trade my freedom for a brief solace from crap both metaphorically and literally.

I'm going to try and appreciate the notion that I have got this.  I am going to try and ignore the fact that it doesn't look like it. Or that my husband is texting pictures of his "work" trip to us which includes time with his old high school buddies and NYC.  With every text he sends with a photo of something like the Statue of Liberty or a beer, I respond with a photo of whatever is in my view at that very moment. Sometimes it is a burnt pancake.  Other times it is an angry child who is mad that I can't find the hair to go with his stupid lego figure. Or a photo of a rash.  Just to bring him back to reality of what is waiting for him when he gets home.

We have been talking about God a lot lately. Mostly because when ever I say it, for example "For the love of God, will you please stop fighting!" I feel the need to actually consider the love of God.  And open the discussion. Today I distracted the boys after I flipped out by asking them what they think Heaven looks like. Oscar said it looks like the sky with fire ants and rolley-polleys and legos, all of which happen to be his favorite things.  Jack said it has fluffy clouds, with Uncle Butch, Graham (our departed dog) and Bill Bixby.  We have been blessed to have very few close family members die, but Jack took it pretty hard  when he learned that his favorite character on the 1970's sitcom The Incredible Hulk was dead.

It reminds me that without God, I surely would not be able to have made it this far. An entire 17 days. And if I were to answer this question of Heaven I would also list all the things I love. Which happen to be with me 24 hours a day and I didn't have to die to experience it.  I not only have got this.. I get it too.

All I ask of him, is that if this is a test, to please please grade me on a curve…. and possibly change my water to wine, just once.