Saturday, June 4, 2016

You Better Treat Them Right

Dear (insert name here.  I like to call her Tassels.)

I found out tonight that you have talked to my children on the phone.  And you have video chatted with them.  And that there are what seem to be secret plans to meet you this summer.

But you know what?  It's ok.

Well, it's not ok with me, but it needs to be ok with the children.  My children.

They are fragile right now.  They are looking to grasp onto anything positive that shows attention and affection.  Please be gentle with this.  Understand Lilli's sassyness mainly do to mood swings and do to her being my child.  Abbi can be painfully shy, but she has such a soft spirit to share.  Austin will be the hardest on you.  He is a momma's boy through and through.  Allow him that space and distance.  And just accept it as him comes to you.

Please also remember they are mine.  Do not speak ill of me in front of them.  For as many times as I have wanted to blast out about how Daddy met you, I have bitten my tongue.  Please respond with this in your behaviors.

I hate that he loves you.  HATE it.  I hate the prospect that my children will love you.  HATE it.  But, logically, that's just one more person in the world to love them.  Just be cautious.  Go slow.  And be gentle.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

There once was a princess....

Me:  There once was a princess named....
Lilli: Princess Lilli!

I don't know how many times we did this as I would make up bedtime stories for her.  Would would snuggle in her bed and come up with journeys that Princess Lilli would take; visiting the stars, picking flowers for the Queen, pushing her brother, Prince Austin, in a puddle (Okay...that was more of a learning after the fact story.)  I always knew how to make her smile, to pick her up when she fell down and tell her that the boo-boo would be better by the time she was married.  I had it down pat.

Things (obviously) have not been awesome lately and it's been harder to get that smile back.  Lots of tears, lots of door slamming, lots of my shaking my head and wondering if this was what I had to look forward to for the next 8 years or so.

This was his weekend with the kids and since I had to "call-in" on Friday night because of the swelling in my foot and someone refusing to bring them to me....and Lilli was distressed that we weren't going to see each other for 4 days.  And, as I posted on my Facebook page earlier, she WANTED to go to church.  What?!?!?!

I picked her up and she was grinning ear to ear as she stood in the garage waiting for me to pull up.  It was just her.  No sister.  No brother.

Just her.

Confession:  Lilli, Abbi, and I have been going to South Park Church in Park Ridge.  The kids are very engaged and involved with their youth program called Echo.  I wish I could watch the kids; Lilli has never been so excited about going to church before.

So, she went to the Children's Service and I went to the Main Service.  And when I went to pick her up, she was chatting and giggling with the other girls in her group and my heart was happy....

I needed to go to get some groceries, texted him and got "permission to use some of his weekend time".  We drove through and got some breakfast and headed to Aldi.  She danced across the parking lot with a quarter and grinned as she was able to get the cart without having anyone pulling at her that they wanted to do it.  We shopped; my job was to just use the cart as my cane and she would get everything for the cart.

And she was still smiling.  Big, happy, ear to ear smiles.  And was giddy beyond belief.  She hopped around like a bunny (literally) and pretended that she was walking into the doors of the refrigerator.  She used a box that I picked out to hold our food as a "helmet".  Seriously, I couldn't stop laughing and smiling.  Like I haven't done in forever.

My Lilli, who I used to make smile and laugh, was making me do the same.  After weeks of being stuck on my couch and overthinking my whole life and existence, this was what I was missing to get my head straight.  A few hours of me and my first born was all I needed to center and remind myself why I should get out of bed every day.

"We had a great day
It was a super way
To spend some time together"

Thursday, April 28, 2016

When it smacks you in the forehead

Conversation with my therapist:

Me:  I know that I use the excuse of "This is how I was raised" or "This is what I have always done."  When does that excuse stop?

CMW:  The day that you walked into my office.

(OK, that's not exactly what she said, but it's the general idea.)

Basically, she said that you can only claim ignorance through your first trauma.  Mine happened my freshman year of college.  From that point, she said, I began learning skills throught therapy on how to cope with feeling and how to deal with my anxiety.  That's not to say that I don't still struggle with putting those skills into place, but I at least know them and can identify when they are to be used.

For 18 months I have used the "I can't" excuse with CMW.  I can't talk about this.  I can't handle talking about that.  I can't go there anymore.  And much like the demise of my old blog, that stops here. 

Shit just got real. 

Time to crawl out of the shell that I have built around me and look into the sunlight....

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

506 Days

506 days ago I stopped writing this blog.  It's right about the time that I found out about how my life was going to change.  And I switched from writing a positive blog filled with fun stories and pictures to a rather negative, but real, blog sharing the crumbling of a sacrament that I held dear to my heart.

That's over.

That doesn't mean it's all good.  Far from it.  But I am realizing (or my therapist is telling me) that I should begin looking at the present more versus that past that I can't change and the future that I can worry about when it happens...

So because I am willing to make that change (CMW  :} ), I am re-opening this blog....and so excited!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

For the love of pancakes...

My kids love pancakes.  Love them.  I mean, WORSHIP them.  If I would let Abbi, she could eat them at every meal.  THEY LOVE PANCAKES.

And every once in awhile I try and do things to spice up the routine.  Blueberries and Strawberries are always a hit.  Chocolate Chip cakes will be eaten before I can even sit down.  A trip to IHOP is like a trip to Meccah for them.

This week I saw a video on Facebook about how you can make cute pancakes for the holidays using metal cookie cutters.  I should have scrolled past it; I should have ignored it.  But I was intrigued.  I thought, "Hey maybe we could start a new Christmas Morning tradition of adorable little pancakes instead of Cinnamon Rolls."

(Nope, these are not mine.  Now, read on.)

So here's what happened, complete with pictures.

The directions (I wish I could find the original video) said to dip the clean metal cookie cutters in a small bowl of oil.  


Then you place the cookie cutter on the griddle.


Then lovingly pour batter into the molds and let them cook until they bubble.


When you are ready to flip the pancakes, simply use a pair of pliers to lift the mold from the griddle, as the metal will be hot, and flip the cake as you normal would.

Hold Up.

The mention of using pliers should have been my clue that this was not going to go down like I wanted it to.

Here is attempt one, with using the oil dipped cutters as instructed.  (I really wish I could find that damn video).

See the problem?  If one can lift a Gingerbread Man up with the pliers and the cake remains in the cutter, this is obviously not working.  What I was left with was a sad assortment of angels with missing wings and topless trees.

Not to be a quitter, I thought for a minute and came up with a BRILLIANT idea.  I have some Pillsbury cooking spray with flour in it so that your cakes don't stick to the pan.  This will HAVE to work.


I know what you are thinking before you even say it.  Genius, right?  Smartest woman alive, right?  I know, I thought that, too.

And speaking of "too", this, too, was a fail.  While the cakes came out a little easier, I was still missing corners and key parts.

With a big sigh, I decided to try one more idea.  I know, you might think this one is Earth shattering, but it's practical and simple and what we should all do.

That's right.  I made the d@#n pancakes the good old fashioned way.

You know what?

They ate them, all of them.  And they didn't care what shape they were in because they wanted them buttered and then cut into a million small pieces and drowning in syrup.

I have (once again) learned my Pintrest lesson the hard way.  Just because someone else's pancakes come out looking like they have been doing it all their lives doesn't mean that mine have to.

Which reminds me, I need to start on those Pintrest "Reindeer Pastry Bags with Hot Chocolate Mix"...... .because I am a glutton for punishment.

Friday, November 14, 2014

To hear the angels sing

Every year at Christmas Eve dinner, my mother-in-law read us a poem.  I think the tradition started the year after my father-in-law's mother died, but it seems to me in the 11 years that I have known them that it was always just a part of grace. 

The poem (see below for full text) is about how we should not be sad for loved ones that we have lost because they are getting to spend Christmas in heaven and how joyful that must be to celebrate such a holiday in such a special place.  Some years it's more difficult to listen to it depending on what loved one comes to mind as it is read, other years I enjoy hearing and imaging it.

Which brings us to the true reason that I felt I needed to blog, which I haven't done in months.

Christmas songs are playing on the radio.  Snow is falling gently through the air today, not sticking, but giving us a beautiful preview of what is about it come.  The air is cold, but it's not bitter cold and there is little to no wind.  It's a lovely pre-Chicago-winters-suck day.

Bing Crosby began crooning "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" and I felt choked up.  I noticed this with surprise; it was a song that I had heard a million times, and then slowly felt the trickle of a hot tear slip down my face.  My mind was immediately filled with memories of Christmas' past, times that I long for now.  Particularly, Christmases with my Grandma Szwedo.

Grandma Szwedo is my Mom's mom and was one of the best ladies I have ever known.  The Best.  She was quiet when she needed to be, spoke her mind when she needed to, and always had arms open for hugs.  She made some AWESOME pierogi, something that we would all race to get on holidays.  She was a knitter, and made all of us blankets (which I still have in my closet).  She and my Grandpa Szwedo lived in a smaller house in the city, and some holidays seemed a little more cramped than others, but that house was always filled with warmth and comfort.  There were 8 grandchildren in total, but she loved the heck out of all of us and always made us feel special.  Some days I can still see her if I think hard, her permed dark hair, her glasses, her smiles.  And it makes me miss her to pieces.

My Grandma loved holidays and tradition.  Easter consisted of a blessing of the baskets on Saturday afternoon followed by lunch, and a big meal on Easter Sunday.  Christmas Eve was ALWAYS spent at Grandma's house, snuggled in against a mound of waiting presents and always a squabble about who got to sit at the "adult table" that year.  There was laughter and food and lots of talking and food and sharing of times past and food.  The fear of asking if it was time to open presents, and knowing that the response would always be "Now you've added 10 minutes on the waiting time", never stopped at least one of us from begging.  And while the chaos of opening presents proceeded, Grandma would pull up a dining room chair, sit in the back of the room, and smile upon her family and our happiness.

My Grandma passed away in August of 2004 while she was on a trip to Disney with my parents and younger siblings.  It was quick.  It was unexpected.  It was devastating.  It left our family reeling from shock and sadness.  There are still some days that I feel that; I feel that pain and sadness and confusion over how she could really be gone.

I wonder what it would be like if she was still here.  I wonder what she would have said when I had each of my children and what it would have been like to see her hold them for the first time.  I wonder what type of blankets she would have made.  I wonder how and if my family would be different today if she was still aroundI wonder if she would approve of what I have become; if she would be proud. 

I wish that I could see her one more time, a cliche phrase that I know most people say about a loved one.  But I really do.  I feel cheated with her sudden death, that we weren't able to say good-bye.  I wish I could give her one more hug, see her smile one more time, hear her tell me "I love you" once more.

I feel a slight bit of peace in knowing that she is in a place far better from this world.  She is with her husband and her son and countless other friends and family.  I can only imagine what Christmas is like in heaven, and even though I selfishly wish she was hear, I rejoice in thinking that she is celebrating with Jesus.

I'm Spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this Year

I see the countless Christmas trees,
Around the world below.
With tiny lights, like heaven's stars,
Reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular,
Please wipe away that tear.
For I'm spending Christmas,
With Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs,
That people hold so dear.
But the sounds of music can't compare,
With the Christmas choir up here.

For I have no words to tell you,
The joy their voices bring.
For it is beyond description,
To hear the angels sing.

I can't tell you of the splendor,
Or the peace here in this place.
Can you just imagine Christmas,
With our Savior, face to face?

I'll ask Him to light your spirit,
As I tell Him of your love.
So then pray one for another,
As I lift you eyes above.

Please let your hearts be joyful,
And let your spirit sing.
For I'm Spending Christmas in Heaven,
And I'm walking with the King.

~Wanda Bencke ~

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to rememember

It's a dreary, rainy, stay-in-bed-under-the-covers kind of morning, and I was slow to move from my pillow.  Glancing at the clock and seeing it was already 7:10 was motivation enough to spring from my nest and dash into the hallway, turning on lights and wondering if I would have time to shower before I dropped the kids off at school.  Thankfully, Lilli had been awake for awhile and not only had herself dressed, but was in the process of dressing her siblings.  Into the kitchen I went to make a quick breakfast or waffles and pancakes, still hoping to get that shower in before 7:40.  Austin fed, his sisters were packing backpacks and sorting umbrellas when Lilli said to me.

"We get to wear red, white, and blue tomorrow!"  I smiled and remembered the joys of "Jeans and Hats" day from my Catholic school upbringing.  A day not in uniform was like a little blessing.

"That's great," I responded.  "We will have to find your 4th of July shirts tonight."

"Yeah, we get to wear them because two men jumped off a building in New York."

I froze and looked at her.  Abbi's head slowly peeked around Lilli's, her eyes as wide as saucers.  A moment of panic.  What do I say?

"Well, Lills, that's not exactly how it happened."  I continued to butter Abbi's pancakes, fresh from the microwave.  "Two men flew planes into those building in New York and it was scarey and a lot of people got hurt."

The looks on their faces clearly showed that they had no concept of what I was saying.  I frantically tried to think of a different way to say it.

Deep Breath.

"Some men made a very bad choice to fly planes into the buildings, and lot of people were killed.  They also flew a plane into the Pentagon which is a building in Washington, D.C., and there was a fourth plane where some very brave people were able to crash it into the ground so no one else would be hurt.  It's called 9/11.  It happened when Mommy had just gotten out of college and I remember it as one of the saddest days of my life."

The silence in the room was unbelievable.  With the exception of sleeping, I have never heard those two so quiet.  And still in their tracks.  I pressed on.

"We remember 9/11 each year so that we don't forget all the people who were so brave and worked so hard to help people who were hurt.  It's a very sad day for a lot of people."  I felt a hitch in my voice.

"But they caught him, right?  The bad guy?  They caught him in the ground?" Lilli asked, almost like she was looking for reassurance.

"Yes, they caught the man who everyone said planned what happened."

And that was that.  Abbi took her pancakes and sat down and Lilli asked for toast.


I knew that I would have enough time to shower if I hurried.  I let the hot water fill the bathroom with steam, and was thankful for the jolt it gave me as I stepped under the shower head.  I felt pain well up in my chest and a few tears slipped out. 

I thought about that day, driving to Naperville from DeKalb when Barry Keefe on The Mix first said that there was a plane that had crashed into the antenna of the Tower 1.  By the time I got to work, two planes had crashed into the buildings and it only got worse from there.  At the time, I was working at a Special Education School, so I couldn't just sit and watch TV, and was anxious to hear more news as I drove home from work.  It was a dream, a nightmare, as I am sure it was for many.  Something that it seen in other countries, but not our own.

The one memory that stands out the most happened the next day.  Again, on my daily commute, I began looking at the people in the cars around me.  Most were very solemn, as if driving in a funeral procession.  There were no heads bopping to music and no singing like no one was watching.  And then I pulled up next to this blue four door something or other with an elderly gentleman driving.  And he was sobbing.  Not just tears dripping from his face, but should-shaking sobbing.

I am not sure if what I said to my kids today was right or wrong, it just was.  My guess is they will have many questions about it later, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in a few months.  Or maybe they won't.  Maybe tomorrow will be just another day that they don't wear plaid and they will compare who has the cutest jeans.  But I will remember tomorrow for them, until they are old enough to fully understand and remember on their own.