Grandpa: A Tribute

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Great Grandpa & Eggs, Easter 2016

Death and I do not meet often, and when we do, we pass each other with a quiet nod. An acknowledgement that the person gone wasn’t too close to me this time, but someday death would brush by near enough that it would scar my heart. Change me. And one day, take me away.

On Tuesday, death passed by once more and this time, took my grandfather with her. He’d been sick and in pain for a while. His passing was met both with sadness and a little bit of relief. Watching him shrink and go silent was hard. The constant warnings that “this might be the last” were exhausting. No one can sustain that level of worry for long.

Grandpa said goodbye to me four times, though I said it five. The first time was on Family Day. My mom hosted lunch and my grandparents drove up to eat with us. He wasn’t doing well, I was told. Today would be the last goodbye. We ate, we chatted, and we played a game that I believe Grandma won. My boys ran around the house, swatting all of my mother’s pretty things with playful abandon.

There was a moment, then, when Grandma, Grandpa, and I were alone. Somehow the other seven people disappeared for just a second and Grandpa asked me to sing for his funeral. I knew they’d been planning it, but being confronted by the thought was uncomfortable. Not yet, I thought. Grandpa had his hand on my arm. It was warm; it still had strength in it. I said yes, but it was to something still far away.

“You know which song?” he asked. Yes, I knew.

And that was the first goodbye.

*****

“Grandma wants everyone to come over.” This was the beginning of March. My sister and her boyfriend were on vacation, worried that they’d be gone when Grandpa died. But my sister didn’t know how important the vacation was. A ring was secretly accompanying her out of country.

I brought my kids to my grandparents’ condo. Again, they were drawn to the cases of figurines and the grandfather clock whose chimes had punctuated my childhood, especially the years that my children were now living. The chatter had celebration lilting through it. “I hear Stephanie has some news!” “When is the wedding?” “How did he propose?” The somber reason for the family visit was disguised by the excitement.

We ordered pizza with pineapple and sat around and chatted with one another, conspicuously avoiding the topic of death. I was chatting with Grandma and I remember looking over at Grandpa. He was sitting on the couch, starring off into space. He was tired. He looked, to me, like he could go at any moment. I hugged him goodbye and thought it’d be the last time.

But it was only the second goodbye.

*****

The third goodbye was only mine. In the weeks leading up to Grandpa’s death, I had a dream. In it, our family was gathered together at my parent’s house and we were watching a video of memories made by Grandpa. He was there, the way that I remember him. He was laughing with the prickly salt and pepper hair he had in my teen years. He’d shown us some joke or another about someone I didn’t recognize. Something to make us forget what was coming.

At the end of our gathering, Grandma and Grandpa were leaving. I remember looking out the front door towards the end of the pavement and promising myself that I’d remember his walk out to the car. He was going where I could not follow. Then Grandpa pulled me in for a hug. I thought, we’ve said everything we need to say and there was a peace with that. But when he held me close, his kissed my cheek and said, “Come back to me, girl.”

I returned the hug and said, “I’ll see you soon, Grandpa.”

I didn’t get a chance to watch him walk out that door. Instead my dream ended in the hug. Then I awoke at 2:18 am on March 17 and I swore I could smell the hospital. But it was not the last goodbye.

*****

By the time the fourth goodbye came, Grandpa wasn’t living at home anymore. He was bound to a hospital bed by an IV and pain medication. He’d said his final goodbye to food and showed me that man really didn’t have to live on bread at all. He spoke in only whispers. I went with my father and brought the kids with me, even though I was worried that it would mean a short visit.

I saw tears in Grandpa’s eyes when he saw me. No one had ever been so happy to see me that it brought tears to their eyes. I’ll never forget that.

The boys were on their best behaviour. I’ve never seen them stay up so late with so few tantrums. Eggs made sure to visit other residents of palliative care, but thankfully no one seemed to mind. He was also a huge fan of the walker that was in the room and enjoyed being pushed on it. Monkey tried to buy my aunt a trip to Costa Rica on her iPad.

I prayed with Grandma and Grandpa and kissed them each goodbye. This was the last time, I was sure. I was wrong again.

*****

The final goodbye was hard. My parents had cancelled a long-anticipated trip so they could stay with Grandpa. Most of my aunts and uncles were there too. I’d never seen my extended family so often in such a short period of time. Everyone had paused their lives to be there for the ending of Grandpa’s.

Grandpa chewed on ice and the crunching made me smile. The way it was given to him by a spoon reminded me of the birth of Monkey. Brian had spooned ice into my mouth between pushes because I’d never been so thirsty in my entire life. Strange how the beginning of life is so similar to the end. I guess we pause our lives to witness both.

I proved that I wasn’t adult enough to be taken to a restaurant and I’m pretty sure the waitresses would be glad to never see me again. When we told Grandpa the story, he laughed. It was the last time I’d see him laugh. We played him a song that I’d sung at church the Sunday before and then we had to leave.

“That was beautiful,” he said. “I love you.”

Those were the last words I’d hear him say. The final goodbye.

*****

Death changes us. It’s hard for those experiencing it and for us who are left behind. I watched my parents expend every ounce of energy they had in these past weeks. I saw Grandpa quietly diminish and Grandma holding her breath for the heartbreak that was coming, that had already come. I listened to aunts and uncles reminisce. Same with my parents.

There’s something about the end that reminds us of the middle. I wonder what stories left with Grandpa. What stories will only come to light because he’s gone. I look at the train set from his childhood that he gave to his oldest great grandchild and wonder what I’ll tell him about his great grandfather.

Grandpa’s gone, but I still see him sometimes. He’s there in the way my aunt, his only daughter turns her head. I hear him when my dad says “hmm.” He’s in my uncle’s laugh, in the way my other uncle holds his shoulders. I wonder where he is in my generation, my children’s. And I’m sure I’ll spot him when I’m least expecting it.

Ugh School

Welp, I’m trying to plan the last six classes I need to graduate. Woo hoo! I’m almost done! I’ve been plugging away at an undergraduate degree for the past ten years and it feels really nice to be finished soon.

 

Oh wait. My school is the worst scheduler in the world.

 

Yes, today might be a bit of a rant because I’ve struggled with this every. single. year. I’m serious. It’s part of the reason I left school to have a family.

You see, I should have been able to graduate in December of this year. That’s how Brian and I planned it from the beginning. When I got into classes for this winter term, there were only four scheduled that I could take. Annoying, but it meant that I would need to take an extra spring class. Oh well. So I planned my spring classes. I needed to take four, but they only offered three. Annoying again, but it just meant that I would have to jump through a few extra hoops in the fall.

Here’s the thing: you have to be approved to take six courses in one term because a regular full-time course load is five courses. My grades are good enough that I could handle it just fine. I’m sure that approval isn’t a big deal.

Then enrollment happened. There are two courses open for me in the fall of this year. There are the full five offered in the winter. One course is not offered at all. It’s just not scheduled. Where the “View Course Selections” button is, it just says ”
*** This course has not been scheduled. ***”

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Sigh. It doesn’t even sound fun.

I’ve sent an email to my adviser about this problem, which hasn’t been answered. She’s a busy lady. So I’m going in on Tuesday to meet with her. I’ve got no hope of graduating in December. If I can figure out something to do with this *insert curse word* of a class, hopefully I can graduate in April 2018. Sigh.

So, as it stands, I won’t be in school at all in the fall and I’ll be taking five classes in January next year. So that’s just super.

 Update (21 March): I met with an advisor to figure things out. While I’ll still be graduating next April (sigh), they’re letting me take a substitute class for the one not offered. While I’m still frustrated that our program struggles with planning, I am grateful that they’re working with me. I’ve been placed into 3 classes in the fall and 4 in the winter. Since I wasn’t graduating this fall, I figured I could bump an elective from this spring to next winter. All in all, progress is being made!

 

Top 10 Dates for Parents of Toddlers

If you’re like me, you’re always on the hunt for new ideas to keep your marriage/partnership strong. A great way to do that is to take some time out of your day just for the two of you. And if you don’t have the money for a babysitter, that’s okay! There’s plenty to do at home.  For some ideas, here are my top 10 dates for parents of toddlers:

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1. Cook Together

Nothing is more romantic than mixing up some aphrodisiacs while your children scream “up!” at your feet. Gaze lovingly at one another while setting the table. They bring the cutlery and you bring the ketchup because your kid literally will eat nothing unless its coated in that tomato-vinegar-sugar concoction that you end up smelling in their hair for days.

When the meal is ready, sit down together and taste the love that you put into it as well as the salt because “did you put salt in this?” “yeah” “I put salt in it. I didn’t think you did.” “Well, how am I supposed to know that you did?” “Well, maybe just listen to me for once in your life.”

Mac and cheese has never been so sexy.

2. Watch a Movie Together

Curl up on the couch and escape your lives for a while in another episode of “Paw Patrol” because that high-pitched fake barking is the only thing that will stop your kids from saying “What’s that?” “What’s that?” “What’s that?” “What does $!&# mean?”

Make sure to bring some chocolate you can feed each other and then lose because for someone so loud, your toddler is surprisingly sneaky and he seems to have run off with the rest of the bar and you’re now playing a murder mystery with chocolate finger prints as the clues and the murder that is sure to take place when you find that stinking kid.

Paw Patrol, Paw Patrol, whenever you’re in trouble…

3. Take a Romantic Stroll

Enjoy a beautiful afternoon together while soaking up some sunshine. Not only will you get some much-needed fresh air, you’ll also get a huge amount of exercise pushing those ridiculous strollers or chasing after a kid who has a knack for finding every. Single. Mud puddle.

You’ll love the looks from passersby as you try to wrangle a child who’s screaming bloody murder because you put their hat on the right way or that dog that walked passed wasn’t blue. The mounting adrenaline from the fear someone will call child services will kick start that sex drive.

And nothing is more relaxing than collapsing on the couch when you get home while the bundles of unending energy destroy the living room around you.

4. Get Some Ice Cream

Sweet, cold, and delicious, ice cream is a fun way to remain children at heart. That creamy soft-serve is sure fun to eat and clean up as it drips down your toddler’s fingers, chin, and shoes. Race to keep your own hands clean while your child runs her fingers through her hair and your hair or wipes her hands on the person sitting in the booth behind you.

And don’t forget that hard chocolate shell! That satisfying snap as it cracks beneath your teeth will send shivers down your spine–or is that the cone that has suddenly been placed on the nape of your neck because the kid is “all done!”

The underpaid teenagers will surely welcome you back to their place of work, especially when they find that someone at your table had an accident that didn’t involve the food.

5. Take a Shower Together

As every romantic movie has ever taught us, showers are a great substitute for that romantic kiss in the rain scene. The water will fall on only one of you and the other person will be covered in goosebumps because the apple of your eyes is busy swinging the door open and closed to play peekaboo with the dog.

Don’t forget to hold each other close as the shower curtain is violently pulled open and that small person climbs inside and immediately pees.

6. Stargaze

On the clearest of nights, curl up together in your yard and gaze at the sky. Watch for a shooting star so you can wish that your freaking kid will just go to sleep because it’s like midnight, Buddy, and you were supposed to be asleep five hours ago and I swear to God that if you ask for another glass of milk, I will lose my mind.

Make sure to make the most of that wonderful quiet time by starting to make out before packing it in because you’re going to have such an early morning and it’s already pretty cold.

Laugh together when you realize that your kid might have locked you outside and now you’re going to have to call your parents from across town to come and let you in your stupid front door.

7. Breakfast in Bed

Remind your spouse about how important they are by surprising them with waffles and coffee in bed. They will love being pounced on by a bunch of wild people and spilling syrup on what was once white sheets. Watch as the food that you made is ravenously consumed by the kids who refused waffles in their high chairs, even with ketchup, but somehow learned to love waffles on the way up the stairs.

You’ll even get to leave the house to treat your spouse’s burns from the coffee that was basically thrown at them when the toddler tried to drink it and burned their tongue.

All in all, a great way to start the day.

8. Cuddle in Front of the Fireplace

Gaze into the warm comfort of a fire while you snuggle. The entrancing beauty of the flames will distract you from the iPad playing at full blast as the toddlers watch another episode of “Paw Patrol” or play the loading screen of an app on a never-ending loop.

Watch your spouse heroically stop the kids from touching the hot glass on a gas fireplace or grabbing the red coals from a wood fireplace. You’ll never be hotter for them.

9. Go for a Romantic Drive

Take an excursion out into the countryside to see the local fauna and flora. The beauty of nature will excite and surprise you. You’ll be able to encourage your spouse not to drive into oncoming traffic while your toddlers scream in the back seat because they’re hungry or bored or thirsty or tired or fighting.

Discuss the world at large and hold each others’ hands until a prairie dog runs across the road and bump, bump, bump under your tires. Think about the deeper things while you try to explain death to your children when they see a bleeding mound of roadkill on the side of the road.

And just as you’re about to turn into your driveway, tell your spouse how much you love them and turn to see that your kids just fell asleep even though its only like two hours before bed and this is going to keep them up until midnight again.

10. Sneak in a Quickie

Enjoy the ultimate in marital bliss after you quietly close the doors of your napping children. Be in the moment with your spouse as you take off only what clothing is necessary to get the job done. Nothing connects the two of you more than being caught by the actually not sleeping kid because both of you assumed the other person would lock the door.

Okay, you know what? Just… screw it. Wait until the kids are teenagers.

Pan Fried

I found a crepe recipe a few days ago. For those of you who don’t know, crepes are my favorite treat, but the only place that I know where to find them fast is West Edmonton Mall, which is a whole 1.5 hour drive from my house. I can’t justify three hours of driving with two toddlers just to eat a crepe, which I can’t share because my kids somehow channel the feeding of the five thousand and spread a mess of food much farther than science says it should go.

So I wondered if I could make it at home. I took the boys grocery shopping and gathered all the ingredients before heading home to make a delicious crepe lunch.

Life, then, felt sane. I mean, I was struggling to be a mediocre mom on a day off with the boys and trying to get a handle on all my school work, but life felt more in control than it did a year ago. Brian and I have been okay, I think. Life with two toddlers, one of us working full time, and one of us at school full time means we don’t get a lot of time to connect, but we both knew this was a season.

The first crepe was small and a little crispy, but Brian ate it without complaint. The second was a little better. The more I made, the better they turned out. And they tasted perfect. Smeared with a little whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and raspberries. Not a healthy lunch, but delicious.

Today I wanted to make crepes for breakfast. Same recipe, same pans, same everything. Not same me.

Life’s been turned upside down in a matter of days. It’s inappropriate to share any details, but my face today is a little tear-stained. My shoulders are slumped a little lower. I forget to breathe for a while until my chest aches and then it comes in big gasps, almost like I’m drowning.

I followed the directions, mixed the ingredients, poured the batter into the pan. It smelled magical. Exactly what I needed on a day like today. Three minutes later, I went to flip the crepe, but it stuck to the bottom of the pan. I scraped it out and tried again. Four more times. The fourth time used the last of the batter. There was nothing left.

A pile of broken pastry sat next to me on the plate with nothing to do but scrape it into the garbage. Time, money, food all wasted. The only thing I’d made was a mound of dirty dishes.

Life is like that sometimes. One day, everything works out. The next, all the effort and energy you expend turn into nothing but more work. You’re further behind than when you started. All you can do is clean up the dirty dishes and hope for tomorrow to work out a little differently.

Joining the Bullet Journal Cult

It all started with a tweet:

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Link here and you should be following me

A bullet journal? I thought. What in the world is a bullet journal? 

And then I was sucked deep down the rabbit hole of bullet journaling. I read the Buzzfeed article, which basically says that it’s a planner/to-do list that’s in a regular lined, dotted, or plain journal. You make all the pages yourself rather than having them done for you, which gives you both a lot of work to do and lots of freedom to do what you want. I learned that the term for bullet journaling for those in the know was “bujo” (an obnoxious word, btw) and there was a whole Instagram subculture dedicated to it.

I was intrigued. A daytimer that worked however I needed it to? A to-do list that I could add and remove things from as I did them? STATIONARY?! Well, I’d better see what other people were doing.

I disappeared for two days as I scrolled through my Instagram feed looking at all of the beautiful, creative, fun ideas that people had come up with and I decided that I’d better try it. So I picked up a notebook, a ruler, and some pens and…. then turned back to my phone to look at more Instagram ideas.

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I picked a Leuchtturm 1917 journal because it had a dot grid, which felt like a happy medium between ruled (which doesn’t leave much room for different shapes or doodles) and plain (I’LL NEVER DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE). I grabbed some magnetic page markers so that I could easily flip back and forth from frequent pages. The pens were recommended by many on Instagram, but they also happened to be my favorite brand. The 0.3 mm tip is perfect for bullet journaling, though I adore the 0.1 mm tip for other writing. I grabbed both the bright colours and the pastels and let me tell you, the pastel blue-grey is my all time favorite pen.

Then I started the pages.

First step was to make an index so that as I filled my book, I’d easily find things. It’s not called a Table of Contents because instead of outlining chapters and sections, you put a word like “January” and list every page that has that word next to it. It’s easily filled in as you fill in the book.

Second page was the key:

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In my daytimer, I’d use these symbols to denote specific things so that I could easily scan to see what needed to be done (the to-do portion of my journal), appointments I needed to attend, and just cool things that happened in my day, such as Monkey saying “Grandpa” for the first time.

But after the first two pages, I retreated back to Instagram. There were so many things that people did. To read pages, Walk to Mordor challenges,weight-loss trackers, gratitude journals, and calligraphy practice pages. It was a little overwhelming. I reminded myself that this book is just for me and it’s not meant to be perfect so I settled on a page to list all the books I read this year, which I set up as a bookshelf. I’ll fill in each book as I read them (and colour code them based on the author’s gender so that I can see if I’m reading as many women as I think I am).

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Instead of adding a bunch of pages of tracking systems, I decided to wait. If I wanted to add a tracking page, I could just do it where ever my next blank page was. Because of the index, it doesn’t have to be in any order. So my yearly, monthly, and weekly calendars started up:

The best part is that I can track whatever I feel like. I’m interested especially in the habit tracker where you fill in a box every day you eat out, read, write, spend money, exercise, play video games, etc. It can track whatever you want. And then at the end of the year you can look back and decide if that’s how you want to spend your time next year. Did you eat out more often than you expected? How about exercise? It’s a really cool way to show yourself where you put your time and effort. I am also tracking weather because it’s so funny how often we say “I can’t remember the last winter that was this cold.” Well, I have it written down.

Mine are simplistic because I’m not artistic at all, but they don’t have to be. You can make it as simple or intricate as you like. You can add weekly inspirational quotes. You can have a doodle box in the corner so each week you do some kind of art. You can make each month/week different or keep them the same. If my January spread was above, here’s my February. Not the same at all. I love variation.

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Make it whatever suits your life and what will inspire you. Get whatever supplies that make you excited to fill in the next month. All I ask is that if you do it, post pictures to Instagram. Let the world see your pretty Bujo!

Have you ever given this a try? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to see what you’ve been working on!

R.I.P. Tranquil Turtle

Welp, we had our first accident with the kids. Not car accident. Pee accident. It’s finally happened. I mean, they’ve peed on stuff before, but not like this.

Some backstory: Monkey hates diaper changes. He’d sit in a full diaper forever if I’d let him. I have to carry him to the changing pad and hold him down just to get a clean, dry diaper on this kid. He fights with all his might, sometimes with tears, sometimes with giggles, but always with flailing arms, kicking legs, and seventeen attempts at escape.

So today I was changing him. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster week here so I’m a little burnt out already. As I was changing his diaper, I found a pebble. Like a white, round river rock. And I was so perplexed at how it had gotten in there since it’s the middle of winter and we are covered in a good 1.5 feet of snow that I let my guard down. And off went naked Monkey.

Well, crap.

The first place he always runs is his pillow. It’s a body pillow as long as he is and he stretches himself out so that it’s hard for me to lift him. And then I hear it, that unfamiliar pitter-patter that I usually associate with rain on pavement. But there’s no rain here. It’s -25 degrees outside. And then I hear Monkey giggle.

I quickly raced to him, scooped him up and strapped a diaper on that kid before sending him away as I assessed the damage. What I expected would be a round puddle looked more like an over-sized coffee cup stain. That’s strange, I thought as I gazed at the crescent. Until I looked onto the bed and noticed Monkey’s most prized possession: a Cloud B Tranquil Turtle.

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This is a nightlight/sound machine, if you have never seen it before.

Monkey has had this turtle since he was born. It plays every night before he goes to sleep and, if he wakes in the middle of the night, he presses the buttons and puts himself back down. He loves it so much that he has another one that stays at daycare. I have to send this guy anytime Monkey is even going to nap somewhere. And the interior of the shell is full of pee.

I was about to have a full-blown panic attack. Not Brian. He’s pretty sure it’ll dry out just fine. Who knows, right? But me, I’m sitting in silence wondering if Monkey will ever sleep again. My heart’s racing, my breath is coming in short gasps, and my palms are sweaty. It’s like the time when my little sister gave up her soothers and I was scared to death that she would cry all night (a legitimate fear since we shared a bedroom).

I haven’t got the ending of this story yet because Tranquil Turtle is still dead in our laundry room and I can hear Monkey’s woeful cries from his bed. I will update soon.

Update: So last night was a nightmare. Took Monkey an extra half hour to go to sleep, which isn’t bad at all. I had hope for the night ahead. But at 3 am, I was awoken by a heart-broken Monkey. He didn’t want to be awake. I didn’t want to be awake. I tried lying down with him, which didn’t work. I tried a different nightlight, which also didn’t work. So we started our day very, very early.

Update 2.0: I bought two of these suckers and I plan on never living without one again. He’s going to college with a Tranquil Turtle.

What have I learned from this episode? Alway have a backup of the kids favorite sleeping aids.
What about you? Does your kid have something they just can’t sleep without? Did you? Have they/you accidentally destroyed that precious item? Tell me below and make me feel better.