Homemade King Cake

image

Due to a bit of a scheduling glitch, or a general lack of a sense of meaningful or important dates, I’m getting scoped the day after Mardi Gras. Which means I’m on clear liquids today, Fat Tuesday. Dangit. It’s really not too big of a deal. I’ve learned to go without food on many occasions but it’s kind of a bummer. I told my husband yesterday that I was going to make a homemade king cake. He asked me if I wanted him to go ahead and pick one up at the grocery store too. Just in case. He was being a funny and thoughtful punk because he knows me. Pretty well. I laughed and was determined to make a better cake than the grocery store could.

I’m a strong believer that rarely will we be able to avoid the difficult, painful or even, sad times in life. I have learned its best to lament a bit, to feel the weight of it all, and then figure out how these times can strengthen us in some obvious or hidden way as opposed to weakening us. I’m no expert. Sometimes I’m just downright pissed and moody and I want to go to a “used body” shop and trade mine in for something better. Not flashier, but less problematic. One that will require less specialists’ care. Maybe I could even just swap out a few parts. Since this is not really an option, I’ve had to figure out how to be grateful for the body that I have. It’s all about choices. Even though I sometimes feel like I have none. I will always possess the choice of my attitude. Be it pissy, grateful, optimistic, realistic, pessimistic, narcissistic, or any combination of these and so many more.

When I walked my boys home from school yesterday, the cold, bullying Kansas winds blew right down to the bone seemingly freezing our faces off. My boys’ cheeks looked pink and chapped from the five minutes they stood outside of school waiting for me. And they were a little mad at me for not picking them up in the warm car. They complained and complained and near-cried as we trudged along up the hill.

I requested for them to stop for a brief talk, well, more like a mom lecture. I got down on my knees. I talked to them about how they have a winter coat. How they have a short walk, not a long walk. How they have a warm house to go home to with a bed. And food. Then, I talked to them about the people, especially kids, who don’t have any of these things. I told them that they will always have a choice in their attitude. They will always have an opportunity to complain or be grateful for what they have. I realize that they are just seven years old. But, I think they got it. They stopped complaining and picked up their paces to keep up with mine.

As I told my husband this morning that I can’t eat Mardi Gras food, I realized that I knew all too well that I have a few choices today. There was a lecture that was recently opened, still at the top of my inbox. I realized that I have access to doctors who can help me. I have the privilege of knowing countless inspiring, loving, and amazing people. I have pretty decent health. I should be grateful. I have the helpful and constant distraction of a loving family and thoughtful friends.

For today, I have clean, clear liquids.

I’ve also got a king cake to make. For the first time ever. And bonus, I won’t even have to eat it if it’s disgusting. Happy Mardi Gras!

5 AM Birds

image

Don’t get me wrong, I do love the birds, but just not at five in the morning. What are they doing jabbering away so much this early? It’s still dark outside. They’re persistent little pip squeaks. Maybe they’re begging for the sun to come out so they can eat their breakfast with the light on. They’re only bothering me because they highlight the fact that I can’t sleep. My guts hurt. And I can’t do much, but think and think because everyone’s asleep in my house.

I can’t stop worrying about how I need to get so many things done. Just in case I have to go to the hospital. Then, I start crying in the bed. Lying on my side to help with the cramping. Shhh. My quiet left-sided tears travel over the bridge of my nose and join up to make a puddle in my right eye. I don’t want to go to the hospital. There’s never a good time.

My four year old just woke up saying,

“Mama…..Maaaaaaaamaaaaa……..mama?”

So, I tip-toed into his room to snuggle him back to bed. I can’t do this when I’m in the hospital.

Yesterday, my bigger boys and sweet niece begged me to play “Monster” outside, a game where I chase them around the yard. I did it even though I was hurting and my mom told me to stop playing. Because I knew I would be bummed if I said no and then ended up in the hospital, stuck in a drab room, unable to chase them around in the grass. I also jumped into the freezing cold pool. That’s what this disease does to me. It makes me overthink things sometimes. It makes me not want to miss out on or regret an opportunity gently tapping or banging on my door. I hate it sometimes. But I guess it makes me different. In a good way.

I watched a video of our Florida trip tonight. My husband put it together using photos and video clips of our boys. It’s beautiful. My boys. The ocean. Breathtakingly gorgeous. Truly. I couldn’t believe how much my sweet beach loving boys have grown in a few short years. Time constantly moves on, whether we acknowledge or accept it or not.

I will make it through this phase of my disease acting up. I know it. God always carries me though. I’m not strong enough on my own to make it through the pain, all of the unknowns, and let-downs, that’s for sure. He also gives me people that love me in crazy, feel-good-despite-the-yuck ways and he steadily holds my head to focus in their direction to help me see them.

I’m impatient, I just want to feel better. Now. Right now. And I want to make sure and remind my future healthy self to remember this unprompted five am wake up call.

“Dear Future Amelia,

Be grateful of your sleeping, your eating, your dish loading (meh) and your playing. Be grateful for each day, especially those awesome moments, because they’re all a gift, even if it was a crappy day in the grand scheme of days. You got one more. Embrace the love and the life that surrounds you, even if it’s those hyper morning birds. They can’t help it if they don’t like eating in the dark…

love,

Presently Flared up Amelia”

Homemade Banana Cake

image

Sometimes I bake when I’m sad. Or overwhelmed. It beats vacuuming or unloading the dishwasher. I really can’t stand to watch bananas turn all speckled and brown. Fruit injustice. My rotten bananas commanded me to make homemade banana cake with cream cheese frosting, in memory of Grandma Fritz. She always made some pretty amazing banana bread. Midway through cake making, I realized I didn’t have enough flour so my husband borrowed some from a neighbor. Because I wasn’t giving up easy on this sympathy cake. After I baked it, it cooled only slightly. Then, I slapped the frosting on it in the least pretty way. My youngest taste-tested the frosting. Then, we all fancied up our banana (cup)cake by adding a candle or two because you just don’t get to make enough wishes in life or blow out the candles either. It made it special. Like a celebration.

In lieu of visiting my grandma, every week since she died I have done something meaningful in her memory, something that would make her smile. And me too.

Tonight, before making the cake, I sat on the bench, tired and hurting as I stared out the kitchen window hoping to see the yellow finch. Or maybe a hummingbird swinging by for some dessert. Or maybe I just wanted to hear my grandma’s voice telling me everything is going to be alright. Instead, my sweet son came up and sat next to me. He saw my tears and asked me why I was sad. Ahhh. It was complicated. For me and a seven year old. I told him that I missed Grandma Fritz. He sat for a moment next to me and then asked, “what was your favorite pie that she made again?” I paused and wondered. I held back tears as I talked about her blackberry cobbler and her strawberry rhubarb pie. How can a seven year old be so sensitive and intuitive and say something so healing? He helped me talk about her. I told a few stories. And then he helped me realize she wouldn’t want me to be sitting around staring out the window, waiting on birds and crying when life is happening all around me. So, that’s what prompted us to celebrate by eating banana cake with candles, that my boys blew out several times. We sat outside with the birds chatting and the trees swaying and the mosquitoes bugging too as the late night summer sun set. It was a hidden sunset but the purple, orange and pink clouds ran together beautifully like watercolors do. My grandma would have loved all the colors.

I don’t want my boys to fear someone crying. I want them to reach out to others. Tonight, I am not happy I was missing my grandma but my son’s response stopped my grieving heart in its tracks. I learned that it helps in the most powerful way when a tender sweet soul stops and sits with you. Sees you. Feels your hurt and then asks a simple yet beautiful question. Then waits and listens. My boy unknowingly nudged me to get up off of the bench and love on those in front of my face. Just like my grandma would do. Over some banana cake.

Rainbow Moments

image
“The good thing about painting is you can “cweate” whatever you want when you’re painting.”

There are so many different types of days, hours, and moments you can have as a parent. Sometimes bouncing around like a pin ball from the fun, exciting and new moments to the mundane, frustrating, and long moments. The fighting. The whining. The lost toys. The broken toys. These are the days that feel more like they lasted a week, with the disastrous looking house to support the feeling. And then you trip over the dumbest toy, yeah, that one, as you head up to bed. The toy that you never liked anyway. Who even plays with it? No one. That one.

Other times, we have these rare, soul-refilling beautiful moments. Rainbow moments. The pause time, hand over your chest, heart pounding, nearly exploding moments where you could just die of pure unprecedented happiness. The moments when you’re sitting there watching your children play, paint, dance, build, laugh, or just get along with each other and you feel like you’re watching the most genuine, perfect, and beautiful actors play in this movie happening right before your eyes. You think, “what did I do? These are my kids? This is my life?” Your eyes fill up, you could cry because you’re so overwhelmed and hyper aware of the rare beauty right there in front of your face. These fragile yet powerful little lives. Close enough for you to touch, so delicate yet so impressionable that you know you will remember these moments forever. And you have to imagine that these are the exact rainbow moments that you will crave someday when you’re older.

When I walked my kids home from school, I told them it was such a gorgeous day that we all had to play outside. I desperately needed to change the guinea pigs’ cage. I put the guinea pigs in a playhouse in the yard and the boys crowded in there with them until that got boring. They asked to build a fort with blankets in their tree house. “Yes, as long as you bring the blankets back inside,” I said. Then, my youngest began to cry and cry over wanting to play with a Spider-Man Lego guy of his brother’s. I lost all sense of patience and smart parenting skills. I kept telling him the same thing that didn’t seem to phase his frustrated tears. His brother came in to ask for a snack and made things better, thankfully.

We played outside as the sun began to set, which is the time of day that I have a love-hate relationship with. One of my boys begged me to get out the paints. I begrudgingly complied. I set up the canvas and the boys began painting. And then it happened. I exhaled and relaxed and watched them. One of my boys said, “The good thing about painting is you can cweate whatever you want when you’re painting.” So true. And despite my hesitancy in getting out the paints, the joy in his paint strokes in his rainbow painting made it all worthwhile. My husband brought Ben Rector music out and everybody started dancing. I sat watching for a few moments. I smiled at their enthusiasm and joy as they all tried new dance moves. Their energy. Their giggles. Their smiles. I had to join them. Afterall, they most likely inherited their goofy dance moves from me.

The crazy thing happened when time seems to pause and stand still, a rainbow moment, after the chaos, the rain, then came the beauty. The promise. The love overflowing. They’re my rainbow boys, constantly paving the way for these moments birthed out of their love and joy for life and the simple things, like dancing on the back porch. Thank God for these beautiful moments. Thank God for the honor, the responsibility and the privilege of being their mother.

A Week Later

image

It hit me.

I looked into the mirror as I washed my face and all of the sudden, I felt like I could barely stand up. Tears automatically escaped. I can’t go visit my grandma tomorrow to make things better. She died a week ago. An emotion-filled, crazy, constantly moving week ago.

I’m exhausted but I can’t sleep.

I was short-fused with my husband, my kids and probably the dog today.

The sudden onset of the painful realization that I can’t go visit my grandma a heavy, emotional mess tomorrow and leave feeling better hurts so incredibly much. I knew it would. That’s why I had such a difficult time leaving her, touching her hands one last time. She was one of the few people that understood me and what it means to have an illness. Something forever, chronic, never going away.

I took one of my medicines and cried because life is hard sometimes. And life is harder on some folks than others. Tonight, I feel like one of the ones that just wants a little bit of easy.

I just want to go visit my grandma. I want to hold her hand and hear her sweet voice. I want to sit in the presence with a person whose frail body possessed such a beautiful strength that made it hard to leave. Her “leave-my-door-open” spirit welcomed others in. I want to chase my boys down the hall to her room.

I want one last visit.

Since the morning she died, I keep seeing beauty popping up around me and I know it’s God or her reminding me that I will always carry her love with me. A butterfly played crazily outside my kitchen window tonight. I thought of her. I noticed a woman’s hummingbird tattoo on her ankle while playing with my son. I thought of her. I am grateful to have a million memory triggers. I am grateful for the strength of her love.

I am grateful for all that I have in front of my face, but I wish I still had her too.

Ninety Four Years

image

I sat there and watched the nurse wrap your swollen pink fluid-filled legs. And I hurt for you. You did what you’ve always done. You handled pain and aging and dependence on others in the most graceful way. You conversed with us, you smiled, and you playfully asked if we would like to sign your new “casts.” And I had to turn away after I told you that everybody loves you and wants to be around you. I didn’t want you to see my eyes fill up with tears. Because I already miss you. You said, like you always do, “those boys sure love their mama” as one of them tried to force his way onto my lap.

You’re so selfless and brave and graceful as you struggle to lift your coffee to your mouth. You always appreciate me coming and you act like a 99 cent McDonalds coffee or a few sips of Coca Cola are the kindest gifts. And selfishly, I want you to be here forever. Encouraging us, watching my boys grow, and reminding me in the most subtle unintentional ways of the amazing daily gifts right in front of my face.

I love to listen to you tell stories of the farm or the boy who had a crush on you in highschool. Or the time your big sister, Zella, saved you from drowning because you couldn’t swim. I want to hear stories of my mom growing up in your house. I want to tell you how much I love you. How I know it had to hurt to leave the house you lived in for 59 1/2 years. I want to tell you how I loved sitting at the kitchen counter as a child watching you make fried pies and how I know that you always saw me eat more than my fair share. More than my siblings. I want you to know that I purposely washed that perm you gave me out of my hair because I looked like a poodle. Sorry for lying and saying it was an accident. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. You always think I look beautiful. I want you to know that you make the best everything, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, cobbler, sugar cookies and pies to name a few. I want you to know how much I am going to miss our visits. I don’t think I can tell you all of this because I would cry. And I don’t know if I could stop. I don’t want you to hurt for me. You’ve taken on the weight of the world for the past ninety four years. And you need to know that you deserve a break. You deserve Heaven.

I want you to know that we will be okay without you. We will miss you terribly. You should know that you have inspired us all. Your humble, grace-filled beauty lives on in every single one of us. We will continue to make you proud. We have learned about living life and loving others from the best. You are one of the most gentle, kind-hearted, selfless, unbelievably strong, smart and brave women to ever walk this earth. Thank you, Grandma, for all that you are, for all that you’ve sacrificed, for living so humbly and aging so beautifully. Thank you for leaving an impression on every person who has truly known you. We are the lucky ones.

I love you, Grandma.

And as you always tell me, “I know you do, Amelia. And I love you.”

That Tree

image

“Let’s go spy on our old house, Mom.”

How could I resist the sweet plea from the back seat, exiting from the mouth of one of my nearly seven year old twin boys? My older boys began recognizing the familarity of the streets surrounding our old house. We drove up slowly next to our old house. I wanted to take in the moment, notice the changes and also the things that had stayed the same. I desperately, almost out of habit, wanted to turn the wheel and pull in the driveway. Unbuckle the kids and run inside. Maybe quick, have a dance party right there by our big front window. Or listen to the sound of my boys running on the hard wood floor. Up and down the many steps. It didn’t seem like anybody was home. Perhaps we could quickly run around back through the colorful crunchy leaves everywhere.

Once you open a can of memories, there’s no turning back. The memories happily fled. Escaped. They overwhelmed my emotions. Five precious and beautiful years of memories. All sorts of memories. New memories. First time parent memories. Baby memories. Toddler memories. Hard memories. Kitchen table crying and laughing memories. Back yard memories. Happy memories. Tear filled memories. Scary memories. Messy memories. Habitual memories. I wanted to talk about them all at once, but my choked up words couldn’t begin to keep up with all of the thoughts racing, frolicking, and tip-toeing out to see our old house.

I wanted to cry as we sat there on Grandview Drive. “Spying” on our old house. One of my boys said in a tone that I recognized, a sentimental tone. A tone that made me miss our old home. And all of the memories it created and hosted for five long, yet strangely fleeting years.

“I liked our old house.”

Me too, buddy. Me too. I had to drive away. I couldn’t help but notice how big that tree has gotten. Unbelievable. How could it have grown so much in the two years since we’ve been gone? It’s leaves had not yet turned the vibrant, eye mesmerizing red-hot red. I know I would have cried if they had. It used to be one of my favorite times of the year. To stare out at the bright red leaves on the baby tree we planted. For a few days, the tree boasted, held its branches high for all to see. It looked like it was on fire. A safe, peaceful beautiful, enchanting kind of fire. We proudly possessed the most spectacular tree on the street for those few days in October.

We planted that tree on a rainy cold October evening. Seven years ago. My sister, Rachel, came over to help my husband lift it into the hole that he had dug in the front yard. We needed to get it into the ground before it got too cold. I stood there watching the scene, most likely smiling helplessly, with my hands resting on my gigantic belly. It held twin boys who needed to spend some more time growing. I’ve never known what to do with my big hands. It helped being pregnant, having a nice round resting place for them where I could conveniently feel the kicks, elbows and hiccups of my sweet boys.

image

But now it’s not our house.

It’s not our yard. And not even our tree anymore. Which feels weird. A bit strange and sad. I wanted to take that tree with us when we moved. I knew it was a crazy thought. I just felt awful driving away the last time and leaving it there. Naturally, I cried so much that I needed to explain to my boys why I was sobbing. So hard. I needed to turn the windshield wipers on. For my tears.

Now we’re at a new house. With new trees. A house that holds memories for other families. And a house with trees that will forever remind me of my monkey armed, tree climbing, outdoor loving boys. Hanging upside down, waving at me or pretending to be Spider-Man. Yesterday, I read a stack of books to my youngest up in our tree fort. We layed on a sleeping bag and ate cheese and crackers. We escaped momentarily from the hustle and bustle of a Monday house full of messes. Messes that could wait.

Because there will be a day when my boys will have adventures in their tree fort without me. Or a day when we may not live at this house anymore. There will always be messes and dirty dishes, but there may not always be a day for hanging out in a tree making memories. Drive-by forever kind of memories.

image