Sunday, May 22, 2016

Goodbye Opa

My grandfather passed away last week. He checked into the hospital Thursday night with heart issues and was told it was the end. He passed the next day, in the hospital surrounded by family. I was not able to make it out to say goodbye to him one last time. But I have great memories from my last visit with him in March.

In March I flew out to his city to defend a deposition. I was on the fence a great deal about whether I should stay with my grandparents or even let them know I would be in town. I love them both. But I was kind of looking forward to being put up in a hotel with a little kids-free down time. And I remembered visits with my grandparents as being a little bit exhausting (especially for an introvert who values being alone, without any conversation). In recent past visits, my grandparents would bicker. And I had a hard time understanding my grandfather (we call him Opa, which is "grandpa" in German). He liked to talk and always had hours of stories to share with anyone who met the qualification of having at least one ear. He led a fascinating life (jumped out of airplanes, participating in reparation peace talks, translated and authored books about Germans who survived mass genocide) and his stories reflected that.

He also liked to tell jokes. His sense of humor rivaled his story telling. It was quirky and would probably make most people groan. He re-invented lyrics to popular songs including Christmas songs. A staunch conservative, he taught me many things that after much political exploration and critical self-examination, I now value to be true and steadfast (to the horror of my very liberal husband). He LOVED political jokes and, for the sake of a good laugh, he was never afraid to parody or mock anyone. Unfortunately due to his mumbling, I often couldn't understand either his stories or his jokes. All I could do was smile and attempt to laugh at the appropriate times. Most of the time I would fail miserably and laugh at a pause only to discover that the joke wasn't over and the punch line had not yet been told (he probably thought I was a lunatic).

Luckily (in hindsight), I decided to stay with them back in March. It was only a quick visit. I arrived at 6:30pm and left bright and early for my deposition the next morning. But it was a perfect visit. I witnessed that my grandparents had developed a special bond in recent years. The bickering was gone and was replaced by sweet, caring gestures. My Opa worried over how to get my Oma to her cribbage game the next day. My Oma had posted several notes around the house reminding Opa of important things such as a note on the front door that read "Don't Leave Without Your Teeth!"

My Oma had pinched and saved up her small weekly allowance so that she could treat me to dinner at Applebees that night (don't worry, I insisted on treating THEM). They helped each other pick their meals and appetizers, each knowing the other's likes and dislikes too well. That evening, they retired to their bed at the same time. I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and, through their open bedroom door, found them cuddled up next to each other. The image brought me smiles then. It brings me tears now. I can't help but wonder if my Opa sensed that his time was coming.

My Oma and Opa treated me like royalty the entire night. They were so interested in my life and my family and my work. I tried hard to live up to their expectations and thoughtfully picked through my adventures for their entertainment. Most importantly, that night before bed, I got a final opportunity to hear my Opa's stories. At my prompting, he told me once again about life on the farm, living through the great dust bowl, and jumping out of airplanes. As I said goodbye to Opa, it never crossed my mind that it could be the last time I'd see him. As with most things, I'm guilt of under-appreciating and taking for granted the people in my life. We always assume we have plenty of time. We always assume things and people will be where we last leave them.

Now my Opa is gone. And that hug we shared hovered over his front door mat is the last memory I will ever have of him. The last time I will touch him and bring some happiness to his day. I'm so thankful for that memory. I'm so thankful I didn't give into the selfish temptation to just sneak in and out of town for work.

My Opa's funeral was Tuesday. My husband had an important work presentation and wasn't able to join us. So I packed up the mini van and led my kids on a five hour car ride to attend the funeral. When I learned my Opa passed away, I didn't cry at all. His death didn't seem real. The message was just meaningless words communicated to me from a hundred miles away. I really only saw Opa once every other year and, to my surprise, his death didn't seem to have a significant immediate effect. It wasn't until I was seated in the pews of my Opa's Catholic Church, surrounded by aunts and uncles, the lyrics to "On Eagles Wings" filling my senses, that it really hit me that he was gone.

Looking back, it seems a little inappropriate to have taken a family picture at my Opa's funeral mass. But it was also a joyous celebration of his life, his legacy, and all that he had accomplished. So I think he would forgive me.

After the funeral, as my uncles gave their eulogy speeches I learned there were parts of my Opa that I never knew. Stories that he had never told. Chapters of his history that were never shared. It's amazing how you can know someone your entire life and still not know all the significant aspects of them. That people are so much more than just the sum of your interactions. So much more than what you can see of them from your perspective.

The funeral and the speeches were beautiful. But a sadness fell on me. Not just from the loss of my Opa. But from the realization that someday, we will all just be a eulogy told by a loved one. One day I will be gone and all that will remain of my life are memories held by friends and families and a two-minute speech summarizing my life's efforts. What would people say about me? Would I be satisfied with all that my life had born? If not, what can I do right now and every day moving forward to change that?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fulfillment & The De-evolution of Ambition

I've been feeling very introspective lately. The other day, I was driving home from a post-work run and as I was pulling into my driveway an interesting thought hit me. (Running is when I do my best thinking. I love to hit the road and let my mind wander freely. It's my best therapy.) It suddenly hit me that this is perhaps the first time in my life that I haven't been waiting for the next thing to happen. There are no unchecked boxes on my great big "to-do" list of life. There are no "next-step" goals looming on the horizon. By age 31 (ok, ALMOST 32), I've done all that I'd set out for myself to do.

  • Undergrad- check
  • Law school- check
  • Married- check
  • Established in my profession- check
  • Steady job/income- check
  • House- check
  • Kids- check
Perhaps I'm too simple. Or, perhaps I'm simply not creative enough to set my sights higher. I mean, my list of accomplished goals isn't really anything special or ambitious. You don't see "find a cure for cancer" on there, or "travel to outer-space" or "become elected to a public office."  My goals were pretty cookie cutter.

My high school self would be appalled to see this list. In high school, I wanted to travel to a third world country, establish my own nonprofit, and save starving and homeless children. In high school, I wanted to Make A Difference. I wanted to save the world. Now.... I just want to save enough for retirement and watch my kids grow into adult hood. But you know what? I'm ok with that. I'm totally fine living on deflated ambition. And you know what else? I'm happy. Really, really happy.

When I was younger, I thought I would need to do great things to feel fulfilled. I thought happiness was complicated and only triggered by a long list of impressive accomplishments. I thought purpose had to be grandiose and large-scale. And then I had kids. And gazing into their little eyes was all it took to make me feel whole. My profession also does this to some extent. Having a career I love gives me a daily sense of purpose of accomplishment that my children don't necessarily provide. However, nothing has made me feel whole and satisfied on the much deeper, "meaning of life" level than being Everything to three little boys.

Nothing can compete with watching your preschooler's gaze skip over a room full of people to sing a Mother's Day song directly to you (and only you) from stage. (#25, singing RIGHT TO ME).

On a day to day basis, nothing fancy or elaborate or grandiose happens as a parent. But there's no other circumstance in your life where just your presence evokes exuberance and elation. The other week I showed up for Run A Mile Day at Jacob's school. His eyes lit up when he saw me and he even interrupted a preciously rare game of recess soccer to hang out with me. 

Happiness is as simple as sharing a one-on-one coffee date with one of your littles. Even when he steals your pastries.
Or a Mother's Day breakfast followed by a family trip to Home Depot to play with window blinds:


 Or the frantically hilarious freak-out that comes with remembering that it is "Dress Like a Bug" day at preschool five minutes before you are supposed to leave the house and all you have is tinfoil and an empty, greasy pizza box.

Or sharing in life's little pleasures....for example, a giant box of cheese puffs.

Watching your child succeed at something they enjoy after hours and hours of practice and determination.

And yes, even the random public meltdowns are precious. Because they're kind of hilarious. And you secretly wish you could get away with throwing yourself on the floor when the grocery store is out of your favorite candy (cough, COWTALES, cough).

Home Depot tantrum
Walgreens Tantrum

Dentist parking lot tantrum

While I really did enjoy my twenties, I spent a great deal of time focusing on doing all the stuff that I needed to do to get me to a state of Responsible Adulthood. After the whole saving the world thing didn't work out, I realized that what I truly wanted out of life was all the traditional things- education, husband, kids, house, career. Each time a new goal was accomplished, my sights narrowed in on the next one. And eventually, all that got me here: an almost 32 year old with three kids, a job that I enjoy in a profession that I love, a happy marriage to my best friend, and a house comfortable enough to fit all of us.

I get to do life with my best friend!

For the first time ever, there isn't The Next Thing. I'm settled and satisfied. Which should be the end of story right? But of course, it's not. Now comes the introspection and self doubt. Now comes the "That can't be it, right?" and the "Am I supposed to want more?" and "Well, what would that even be?" and "But is it OK if there IS nothing else?" and "Am I OK with nothing else?" Part of me feels a deep relief. I've accomplished the things that I thought I needed in my life. I can relax now. It's all downhill from here. The rat race is over! And I am truly, truly happy. Really!
But. There's also a nagging little tickle that pops into my head every now and then as if to feel me out and pose a very ambiguous but poignant, "So????" And I don't know how to respond. Heck, I don't even know what the question is. "So what?!" my internal dialogue shouts back. "I have three sleeping children, a warm couch, and a bag of M&Ms. What more could I possibly want?"
For now......absolutely nothing!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A T-Ball Team For Ryan, And Other Adventures

I started this post last weekend. I uploaded all my favorite pictures from the week and then life got hectic and I didn't get around to actually writing anything. So, without any reason or rhyme, here are some highlights from my life circa last week:

Jon "helped" me load the dishwasher one night. And by helped, I mean rearranged all the dishes in such a way that broke all my dishwasher loading rules. I'm a pretty easy going/go-with-the-flow/whatever kind of person. I wash my whites and colors together. I pair socks without their proper matches. I throw all my veggies and fruits in the same fridge drawer (without any type of organization whatsoever). My desk is full of paperwork piles. Hey, each pile represents a different case-I'm not an animal. But when it comes to loading the dishwasher, ALL the dishes have to be JUST RIGHT. I think this is a product of not owning a dishwasher for the first 8 years of my married life. Or it could be the fact that you HAVE to load it just right to squeeze enough dishes in there. So, while I appreciated Jon's efforts, I was not exactly excited to see this:

We finally signed Ryan up for T-ball and he couldn't be any more excited. Jacob is on his second year of playing (coach-pitch this year) and Ryan, who loves baseball just as much if not more than his brother, has been so patiently waiting for his turn. Over the past couple weeks, he formed an imaginary baseball team in his head and told us all kinds of wild stories about the goings-ons of his team. "Mommy, there are five boys named Alex on my team." "Mommy, one kid on my team was mean and punched me." "Mommy, my coach says I can hit the ball first next time." So when we actually took him to his first practice with his REAL team, he was ecstatic!
His swings are STRONG and pretty darn accurate. This four year old is ready for coach pitch and can out-hit his 7 year old brother (who's not too shabby himself).


 During a lull in the practice, Jon waltzed right up, put a ball on the tee and took his own swings. I'm afraid that I have a house full of baseball lovers and every nice Saturday from here on out for the next 18 years will be consumed with baseball activities.

One of my favorite activities at the end of each day (when I remember, that is), is to check Jacob's school folder for completed work. I often find a piece of paper with a long list of objects that have something in common. One day I found a list of every animal that belongs to the cat family. From Tiger to Tabbey to Lynx. One day I found a list of rock types. Another day I found a list of food items- hotdogs, pizza, ice cream, sandwiches. Another day I found a list of cities. Then I finally bothered to asked Jacob what type of school work this was supposed to be. Why was his teacher asking kids to make lists all the time? Jacob told me it wasn't work at all. He does it all on his own. He likes to make lists during his designated free-choice time. Ok....random!
Well last week, I found a new list in his folder. It was a list of "Things I am." This was part of that list:
Really? "Octopus slayer?" What does that even mean?!
Later in the week, the boys started noticing new "visitors" to our yard. Wild bunnies! We would see them scamper across our yard and dash into nearby shrubs. Perhaps the scally-wags are after my garden! Jacob begged and begged his dad for a pet bunny and finally my husband said, "if you can catch a wild one, you can keep it," knowing full well that that was an impossible task. It didn't stop Jacob from trying..... Here is his "bunny trap." There's a carrot under there.

Here is Ryan and Jon and me at Healthy Kids Day at the YMCA. The most memorable thing that happened at this event was I picked up a hula-hoop and hula-hooped for the first time in 22 years (so fun!). I showed Ryan how (I had to throw the hoop around his waist) and he giggled in delight! Jon just enjoyed carrying the thing around the field. I had to pry it from his talon-like grip on the way out.

And here is a selfie of me for absolutely no reason other than the fact that I was really digging my hair and wearing my favorite scarf that morning.

And I would like to leave you with my absolutely favorite, semi-legal themed comic ever:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Fast & Furious Post About Everything

So much is happening and I don't even have time to tell you all about it! So this quick and dirty little summary of adventures will have to do.

FIRST....Ryan turned four. Holy Moly. I always think of four year olds as babies still. I mean, someone who's only been alive for four years can't be that articulate or observant or even, well, kid-ish. Right? Gah. Then why, when I look down at my four year old, does he seem so grown up and experienced in the ways of the world? This person is no baby! He's not even a toddler. He's a straight-up legitimate person! But he's only been alive for four years. How?!

He wanted a Dinosaur Star Wars birthday party. I had no idea what that even meant. So I made it up. In case YOU ever wanted to know what a Dinosaur Star Wars ("Dino Wars") looks like, here you go (not pictured: jedi swords and dinosaur masks):

It's sharp tooths versus leaf eaters. It was getting all Land Before Time up in here:

He was VERY pleased with his cake. Especially because Darth Vader is his favorite person ever. He has no clue who Darth Vader is, but....

Obligatory family shot in the front yard:
I desperately need a haircut. I've been saying that for about two months. However, I've been so busy that I haven't had time to simply go online and book one (also because I forgot my password to the haircut salon website and the thought of having to reset it was simply too much for my over-loaded brain to consider). So you can imagine that I was SO excited when I finally booked a cut for Saturday am. Except when I got there, I learned that the haircut was actually scheduled for NEXT weekend (I'm so awesome). So Jon and I explored and went on an impromptu adventure of puddle jumping and sight seeing near the marina).
He thinks he's such a good helper. He doesn't realize that he's the sole reason we still have to cart this stroller thing around in the first place.

Can I just be weird for a second? I have an obsession with toddler legs. They are simply the cutest things in the world. Not quite baby legs but still too cute to be kid legs. They are stubby and chubby and adorable. I pinch Jon's legs ALL the time. Look: so pinchable!
Jon has a runny nose (AGAIN). I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that he's probably been healthy 4 entire days out of all of 2016. Running noses, ear infections, the flu, coughs. I'm so frustrated. He was coughing most of Saturday night and kept waking up crying. I finally pulled him into bed with us and was promptly displaced. So yeah, I slept pretty great Saturday night.
This morning I was exhausted and accidentally overslept and missed church. I've been working over time preparing for an upcoming trial and I also starting a new exercise program (omg, I've missed running SO much AND I'M starting to accept that I may be having a love affair with strength training and the new weights I purchased for the same). More work, less sleep = a very unsustainable condition. After sleeping in (sleeping in = 9am). I met up with a friend at the Tacoma Children's Museum. We chatted for an entire ten minutes, in between chasing after our collective five children. But it was great and I miss friendship.
Jon, doing everything Ryan can do.

After the museum, I took the kids for a walk around Tacoma. I miss having mini adventures with them. We need to get out more often with no other agenda or list of errands to accomplish.
Union Station (which is now a federal district court house and the place where I had my trial last year).

Walking adventure complete, I dropped the kids off at home and ran to Home Depot where I loaded up on vegetable and herb starts for my brand new garden! I've never had a garden before. My husband is the green thumb and dedicated landscaper/lawn care engineer. But he built me a raised garden bed and I decided to pull the trigger and actually plant something. I admittedly have NO CLUE what I'm doing. I just purchased things that didn't require 100% full sun (because: Seattle) and followed the planting instructions on the little plastic cards. I have to admit, that some of the planting instructions left me more than skeptical. Really? Cucumbers must be planted 18 inches apart? Really? I might not have followed the rules exactly (and this is probably why all my plants will die).

My brand new babies. Looking so green and beautiful!

Bringing my new babies home from the nursery! No going-home-outfit required :)
I had to run into Target after Home Depot and I sat in the parked car for half a minute wondering what I was supposed to do with all the plants. Are they like children/pets? Will they die in a hot car? I mean they ARE alive. So I left the windows open a crack for them and sprinted into the store to run my errand. Yes, they were still alive when I came back. I SO got this.

The kids helped me plant everything. And by "help" I mean "fought over the gardening tools and squirted each other with the water spritzer." I'm not a very organized person but I have to admit that seeing all these plants in beautiful little rows makes me so incredible happy.

I've been searching for a hobby. I think I may have just found it. (Unless all the plants die in a month. Then I will be back here posting about how horrible gardening is and how much I freaking hate it and make a vow to never touch dirt ever again).
But, until PRETTY!

We have lemon-thyme, basil, mint, cilantro, squash, cucumbers, green bell peppers, strawberries, and a blueberry plant. We also planted some carrot and onion seeds (in the blank spaces). I asked Jacob if we should name some of the plants and he looked at me like how I imagine an exasperated teenager would look at his parents. Ok, maybe I have gone a little bit insane.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter "Eks"

Easter 2016 was a hit! I love Easter. I mean, what's not to love: Jesus rose from the dead, bunnies, chocolate (Cadburry mini eggs!), egg hunts. If we can just figure out a way to sneak Diet Dr. Pepper and a long luxurious bath in there (maybe next year on the latter), Easter would be the best thing ever!

This year the kids really got to fine tune their egg hunting skills- they had four egg hunts! That's what happens when you live close to both sides of your family (you have to allow each set of grandparents the opportunity to watch their grandkids run through the grass in search of brightly color eggs!) and when your mom is a sucker for all things festive and celebratory.

Our first hunt was on Saturday at our community park. As we're still relatively new in town, I had no idea what to expect. None of the parents I knew were going so I thought maybe it wasn't that popular of an event. Ha! We arrived 15 minutes early to a line of cars parking in crazy places (ditches!) just to get within lengthy walking distance of the park. I almost turned around and drove home but a backseat full of expectant children, desperately clutching their Easter baskets convinced me to tough it out. And I'm so glad we did! It was hectic but the park had it ALL figured out! Each kid could pick up six treat-filled eggs. As kids were picking up eggs, volunteers were recycling the eggs, filling them with more treats, and throwing them back on the grass. This ensured that every single kid in the entire city would have the chance to collect their six eggs.

After you get your eggs, you get in line to recycle your eggshells. In exchange for the empty eggs, each kid gets to select a prize from the prize table. It was so well done and so well organized. The only complaint from our end was that Jacob felt that six eggs was just too little. He told me very matter-of-factly that if he found opened eggs on the grass he could take the candy without breaking the six-egg rule because there's no limit on candy. I swear, when he grows up, he's either going to be a lawyer, or a criminal!

Jon's first egg hunt! Quickly learning all about Easter egg hunting:

When I told Jon to put eggs in his basket, he assumed this was like basket ball (new obsession, we have a mini hoop for him at home and he screams repeated "bah-ball!" every time he sees a hoop of any kind) and he cheered for himself each time he "made a basket."

Ryan was too shy to find eggs by himself, even though they were literally THROWN at our feet. He made me come with him and help him pick up every single one of his eggs. Which I actually didn't mind because I have no friends and this makes me feel needed/loved.

My baby!

This picture sums them up perfectly. I love my guys. Even though they're total (but cute) jerks sometimes.

FINALLY! I caught Jon's infamously photo-elusive smile!

Saturday night we colored Easter eggs. I had colored eggs with the kids earlier in the week but my hard boiled eggs turned out mushy and the kids were not impressed. The boys ended up coloring the first batch before we discovered the mushy problem, but the neighbor boy who was visiting used a white crayon to write potty words all over the eggs when no one was looking (before they were dyed). Examples of what I discovered on the freshly dyed eggs: "Fart 41," "poop stick," and "pee licker." Trying not to laugh my face off, I made him take half the eggs home so his mom could see what he was up to. On further reflection, that was probably a bad idea. She probably just thinks I did a bad job supervising to allow that to happen. Meh. It was funny as f*$%.

When you have all boys, you tend to be lacking in pink colored eggs. Not a one to be found!

After the kids went to bed, I went to great lengths to fill a million plastic eggs with quarters and the occasional candy, strategically hid them in just the right spots for three different skill levels, and then meticulously filled and hid three Easter egg baskets. Holidays are really the highlight of parenting. I live for them! As much fun as it was to be on the receiving end of the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause, it's simply a thrill to take on those roles and relive the excitement through your own kids.

The kids woke up early Sunday morning and Jacob was very displeased about the Easter rule: no touching any eggs or baskets until everyone is awake. Last year he found ALL the eggs before anyone else was awake! When we all finally woke up the kids proceeded to fight over who was finding the most eggs before securing their Easter baskets and taking inventory.

Found his basket!

"Mama, eks?"

Jon woke up after the big kids did their thing and was very excited to find that his basket was brimming with more "eks" (eggs) filled with jelly beans.

Off to church we went, where we had to fight the twice-a-year church goers (annoying!) to find a parking spot and then were stuck in the back of the church, standing next to the bathroom stalls, for all of Mass (to the pleasure of my kids who then had an excuse to roam and whose Circle of Bickering had expanded three-fold as a result).

We came back home only to pile back into the car for an hour drive to my grandma's house for our third egg hunt with family.

Easter family photo (with Ryan's new signature move)

Hunting for eggs with daddy

The Move again.

Then we wrapped up our Easter Sunday celebration by driving another hour to my father-in-law's house for dinner and our final egg hunt of the day, with cousins.

We discovered that Ryan's inability to find anything is not just conveniently limited to jackets and TV remotes. It applies equally to eggs filled with candy.

"Ryan, you missed an egg!"

"It's right behind you!"

"I give up."

Jon's grandpa took his hand and helped him find all the "eks" in plain sight on the grass. He thought it was the best thing ever! Also, don't you love his Mister Rodger's sweater? I die!

As you can tell, our Easter was very busy and fun-filled. My head is still reeling, trying to process what just happened. I can't believe how fast it all went!