Friday, December 26, 2008

The Power of Negative Thinking

I'm one of those people that sets herself up for disappointment. What's that called? Oh yeah, female. I lie in bed on Christmas Eve, imagining the looks of wonder, joy and happiness of Christmas morning. And then I chastise myself. "Shut up, Mignon. What you imagine is not possible. And if it were possible, you just jinxed it by imagining it." So then I imagine the kids puking in their sleep, the tree bursting into flames, all the stockings falling on the floor, the dog eating all the candy out of them and then dying a tragic death in front of the Christmas tree from chocolate poisoning and smoke inhalation.

Our Christmas was closer to former, with elements of the latter. In the middle of the night Madeleine woke up twice, feverish and sick, and Quinn woke up once coughing and bleeding from both nostrils. When morning finally came, Quinn was up first, disoriented and still sick. We all went in to wake up Madeleine (also disoriented and sick) and then to the living room. Quinn was convinced Santa had mixed up his and Madeleine's stockings (no comment), pulled the first toy he found off the top and hurled it across the room.

So, after the requisite three minutes in his room, a cup of milk and copious threats, the Nice Christmas began. Wonder, joy and happiness. It actually happened. The kids are still sick, but it's that low-grade kind, where they're happy to stay in their pajamas, except when battle gear is required...

I hope yours was what you secretly hoped for, too.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Wednesday was Madeleine's Christmas show/ Sam's funeral/ Sam's post-funeral potluck - slash - family reunion / Madeleine's 7th birthday party / an unscheduled playdate with the most difficult party guest whose mom was late picking her up at our house after the party and Jim had to carry her upside-down out to her mom's car because the little fuck wouldn't put her stuff on and we were ready to go to bed. And that's pretty much what this month has been like so far.

What do you say when your mouth is full of Safeway cold-cuts and your great-aunt-in-law comes up and gives you a hug, squishing your paper plate loaded with macaroni salad and fudge against your sweater, and says, "How are you doing?" My standard: "Pretty good, considering. How are you?"

I wish you could say "I'm sad, but also pretty stressed and confused about why Catholics sit in a silent room for hours on end with their dead loved ones laid out in front of them until their throat hurts from crying and they get eye infections from the bleeding 3-year-old mascara which has coated their retinas." That's what I'd like to say to one of the 45-or-so aunts/cousins/friends that have hugged me in the last three days. First off, Sam is not my son, so I've grieved mostly for his dad (our really good friend) and Sam's mom (Jim's cousin). I'm really really sad, and that's it. I'm sad. But really? I've got two pretty awesome kids that need a bunch of stuff (including a mom that's not all wigged out and talking about dying and bringing them to wakes to see the corpse of their dead cousin), I've got three birthdays to juggle, I've got other random and asundry holiday preparations to manage. I'm fucking busy, yo.

So that's how I'm doing. If you were wondering.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


It's here, finally. Like that beer you've waited too long for, after an incredibly bad day. Snow makes cold weather bearable. Until June, and then, holy shit. The second-to-last day of school in 2007 was a snow day. Instead of walking a couple blocks to Dairy Queen for their final field trip, Madeleine's class watched a beat-up copy of Say Anything and drank Goldschlagger straight from the bottle.

The kids are at a birthday party now, and I'm supposed to be doing errands, like buying stamps and getting myself a new hockey puck. In fact, this morning I woke up excited for this purchase. My very first hockey puck. Will it be black? Will I write my name on it? Will I look silly with a brand new puck - should I artfully scuff it? It's so reminiscent of buying my first Trapper Keeper. Or bong. The Trapper Keeper wasn't black, and was a serious disappointment. Whoever invented the shitty plastic that makes up 75% of kids' school paraphanelia must have known it was going to one day poison the earth or at least anyone who breathed in its general vicinity. BPE in school! Don't worry, our product is so crap, it will fall apart and scatter your report on flying squirrels into the Cowlitz River before you can die from BPE cancer!

The bong, on the other hand. I was not a good pot smoker. Did you hear a repetitive thumping sound at about 2 am EST on May 13th, 1992? That was me, kicking a baseball against a 200-year-old wooden door in the dorm room of Saybrook College, while The End played on repeat and my future husband sat on his stanky couch smoking out of a bong fashioned from a 5-gallon water bottle. And that was one of the better sessions. (Hi Mom! Remember when I came home from school in spring of my senior year to interview with a future employer and I had that huge scab on the side of my face? That was the result of a less-good sesh. Sorry. At least you know my hard-earned cash from David's Deli was only going towards legal stuff.) The purchase of that bong was as ill-advised as the Chinese chocolates on sale at Walgreens last summer. But hey! It was buy one tub of Chinese Formula, get a vintage Thomas Train kit free!

So anyway, I shoveled and I chilled, and now off to get those stamps. And pucks. Puck. Do you buy two at a time? So much to learn. Maybe I should google it. Ooh - something tells me this could get me beat up at Stick and Puck, unless I get an elk head pasted on it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Keeping On

Thank you all for the kind words and thoughts. We've been doing alright. It seems Jim, Madeleine and I are similar in how we deal with sadness, and we've been brought together by this, for sure. Quinn understands what happened to Sam, but only by definition. I don't think we'll bring the kids to the funeral service. In fact, no we definitely won't. Jim and I agree on that as well. The service is being held at the same time as Madeleine's school Christmas program, and a few hours before her 7th birthday party. It's not that I think or worry that it will disturb her Christmas party, I just think the kids can remember Sam in their own way, without being exposed to heavily grieving adults.

I appreciated Orange's comment to my last post. In the last few weeks, several other middle school-aged kids in our town were hospitalized from choking accidents, so this thing is making the rounds again. Last night, Madeleine wanted to talk about how Sam could've accidentally choked himself, so I explained to her how kids are not very good at foreseeing the outcome of risky behavior. Like how Quinn likes to run through the house with his eyes closed, and repeatedly wang his head on the kitchen door-jam. Like how teenagers drive too fast while talking to friends and fiddling with the radio. Like how Charlie cracked his head open from diving head-first off the school play-structure.

Madeleine wanted me to describe something she does that is risky and potentially dangerous.

I thought for a long time.

"Ummmm.... sometimes you ride your bike too slowly in the alley so that you tip over into the gravel..."

*she frowns at me, her mouth scrunched up to one side*

"Is that it?"

"Ummmm... sometimes you climb too slowly and your arms get tired..."

*still frowning*

"So my risky behavior is all stuff that I do too slowly."

"Well, yeah. I guess you're a cautious risk-taker."

"What does that mean?"

"It means Thank God."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Hug the one you're with.

He died yesterday. Sammy, the kids' cousin, was found with a belt around his neck on Monday night. His brother tried to revive him, and he was able to get his heart beating with CPR, but it was too late, and he died yesterday. He was a great kid, and many of you who know me may have heard me talking about him. He was only 11, but he knew exactly who he was and what he liked and didn't give a shit if anyone thought he was different. Sam's mom gave birth to a baby boy about 10 hours before her son was taken off life support. Impossible - the whole thing is just fucking impossible. For a terrible few days we thought Sam had committed suicide, but now we know he was a victim of self-induced hypocapnia.

We've been keeping the kids as informed as they need to be, and things around here are okay. Any time Jim or I get alone, that's when we're sad, but Madeleine and Quinn are wonderful little people, and my knuckles are sore from knocking on all the wood surfaces in our house.

Hug the one you're with today.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How you process really terrible bad news.
First you want to call someone. Your mom. Your friend you see every day when you pick your kids up from school.
Then you don't want to. You don't want to talk to anyone about it.
You get angry. Angry at your kids for wanting to set up Christmas decorations. Angry at them for whining.
Then you feel bad about that anger. They're children. They're small and need you.
Angry seems wrong and you feel bad about feeling wrong.
You want to tell them the bad news so that they'll hug you. You want to hug a child, not an adult.
But then you don't want to tell them, either. You will have to later, but not now.
You make them dinner and listen to them make up jokes. You oblige when they want you to make up jokes.
You tell them to eat their oranges and you empty all the garbages in the house.
You let them eat fudgsicles while you do laundry and wash the mirror in the bathroom.
You help them brush their teeth and you clean the bathroom floor while the fiddle with legos and Playmobil.
The phone rings and you drop it, fumble it and lose it under the bathroom sink.
You finally retrieve it, then get more bad news.
You lay next to your baby, letting him rub the crook of your arm while you think of terrible things.
You kiss his eyes and his cheeks when his breath rattles through his stuffy nose.
Then you lay with your daughter while she reads to you.
You kiss her forehead and nose and tell her you love her.
You turn off her lamp and push her hair away from her face.
Then you go out to your husband and stand apart, staring at fixed spots on the floor, the wall, your reflection in the window.
Neither of you know how to soothe the other.
You go up to your bedroom and lay on your side, your arms and legs wrapped around a pillow.
You don't want to hug an adult when you're sad. You want to hug a child.