Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Woman, A Teenager, A Child and a Baby on the Road

When I woke up on Monday, April 25th, I was relieved when I realized the day had arrived...the start of the vacation. My son woke me as usual with a gentle tap to the side of the head. I much prefer it to the alarm clock.

I got myself and the children ready like usual, but at a much slower pace. The plan for the day was to leave home around 7:55, pick up Jessica (Godparents' daughter) at 8:00, stop for breakfast at a nearby restaurant and be on the highway between 9 and 9:30am.

We were about 10 minutes later than I planned, but unlike every other day when being that far off schedule would have me grinding my teeth together, it didn't bother me. Jessica was ready and waiting so once her suitcase was in the van, we were off. We stopped at a Chick Fil-A and lingered over breakfast. We were on the road by 9:30 and we'd make up ever more time later.

The last time I did this drive, I stopped after two hours so we could get out of the van and I could do a diaper change and allow Ariana to visit the restroom. Well, Jessica fell asleep about 45 minutes into the drive. That was my first reminder of how teenagers like to sleep. Elijah went to sleep about an hour and fifteen minutes into the drive. Ariana went to sleep about an hour and a half into the drive. So, when the magical two hour mark came, I looked around at everyone and just kept driving. Before long, Virginia Beach was a mere 30 miles away, then I saw a sign that said ocean front was 9 miles away. Ariana woke up, then Elijah, then Jessica. I still can't believe we were able to drive straight through with a woman, a teenager, a child and a baby.

I found our hotel without incident and parked in the area in front to check us in. Here's where having a teenager along came in handy for the first time. I jumped out and walked in alone to check us in, got the key and a luggage cart and had everything in the room in two trips. The last time? I strapped my 5 month old baby to my chest, grabbed the luggage cart and with Ariana in tow got everything into the room in 4 trips. Of course at 5 months, Elijah required a bit more equipment for travel as well. I was also a little better at packing this trip.

The room was as expected, a two room suite with a living room and a bedroom that contained 2 queen beds. The kitchenette had a mini-fridge (waist high), a counter, sink and a microwave. The living room had enough space and a table for four. There's a flat screen in both rooms, a set of drawers in each room (but we opted not to unpack). There's a desk and chair in the living room and that's where I'm sitting to write this entry. There's ample lighting, and a really large bathroom. The shower turned out to be large enough for me and both children. Finally, one nice thing I see that I have not seen in a previous suite. There's a balcony outside the living room and outside the bedroom.

I really want to get some time in out there. First night we didn't leave the hotel. When we got settled we had lunch. Once our lunch was settled, Ariana, Elijah and I hit the indoor pool. Jessica opted to relax in the room. After we returned and got cleaned up, I ordered dinner to go from the hotel restaurants and we ate in our room. One other thing that attracted me to this hotel was its three restaurants. Two of them serve lunch and dinner. The other serves breakfast. And there's three words that may actually mean Holiday Inn has my heart for quite a while. Kids eat free.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Woman, A Teenager, A Child and a Baby Take a Break

It's spring break and it never seems to arrive too soon. Unlike a lot of other schools, my daughter's school scheduled spring break for the week after Easter. The plan was to escape the local digs and obligations for the week. The stesses of those was wearing on me. Changes need to be made at the homestead. Cleaning needs to be done, furniture needs to be removed to make way for new furniture that hasn't been purchased yet.

Work has its own pressures and I feel like I'm right in the middle of it, although I may not be in the middle of it at all. I have a lot of responsibilities at work although I'm not in a position of any real importance. I've been back there since a week after Thomas' funeral and at times the exhaustion is overwhelming. In fact I'm likely foregoing a long summer vacation in favor of this long spring trip.

But sacrifices must be made. I needed a break and so did Ariana. She's been working really hard going to school and going to Sylvan Learning Center twice a week for tutoring. She's shown significant improvement in her reading and didn't have an anxiety episodes during the week of testing last week. And the amount of work required for me to keep up at home, keep her up at school, get her back and forth to the learning center, take care of both her and Elijah, work everyday and everything else was wearing on me. And finally, if his reactions to being dropped off in the mornings was any indication, Elijah needed a break too. He'd begun to whine at drop-off and was trying to follow me out the door as I left. He loves daycare and would not actually cry, but it was different from the usual kiss and walk away routine I was used to.

The plan was slow to develop. The budget was perused constantly in my deciding what I could afford and what I could not afford and what would be fun and give us some nice memories. Ariana would also have her 8th birthday during the week. The news that she wasn't having a party for the third consecutive year did not go over very well. But what was I going to get? Likely a load of "Sorry we'll be out of town" responses whether it be in notes, emails, phone calls or a quick verbal in the school hallway. So I figured the best thing for us to do was to go out of town ourselves.

The location? Virginia Beach. We'd spent our summer vacation there in 2010 and there were enough activities available for me to make a spring break work as well. Ariana loves animals, fish, science and nature. So we'd visit the zoo, aquarium and science center. She loves nice hotels, so I picked a good one with an indoor pool and lazy river. To celebrate her birthday on Thursday, we'll hit the local mall so she can do "Build-a-Bear", which is such a rare treat, she's only done it once. I'm also getting an oreo cookie ice cream cake from the local Cold Stone Creamery, after we do a little additional shopping. The mall is perfect for her actual birthday because thunderstorms are predicted and she loves shopping.

Friday is predicted to be a clear day and that's what we need. That is to be the highlight of the trip. I've planned a day trip to Busch Gardens. It's a bit of a drive from our hotel, but not nearly the drive from our house. There's a lot of additions to the place since I was there last. There are a lot of rides Elijah can get on and an entire area based on Sesame Street complete with character interactions. Fortunately even though she's into Hannah Montana, Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, she still loves Nick Jr. Disney Jr. and yes, Sesame Street. We have a reservation for a character lunch at noon where we should get some nice pictures like we did on our Disney World trip last November. She is very excited.

And this trip won't be as much work for me because Elijah is a toddler now. He can walk on occassion. He no longer has to have formula, he eats regular food and can now drink from a straw. I also have some nearly grown up company on this trip. My children have Godparents and their now 17 year-old daughter babysits for me on occassion. She and Ariana go to the same school so her father asked if she could go with us. I agreed without hesitation. She's a good girl, the children adore her, I adore her and the best part...her parents can afford to send her. I did opt for a suite instead of the regular room I had originally reserved for us, but her tickets to activities, her meals and such, her parents took care of it. Her parents can't get away until June, and she's been working hard in school and everything that goes with being a junior in high school, so it worked out well. We'll fully achieve that mix of her being able to relax and giving me a little help. So I'm luvin' me and my 3 this week. I'm sure it will be great. As I say, time off from work is well...time off from work. I'm grateful for a break.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cleaning Up My Act..A Widowed Parent Makes Some Tough Choices

Cleaning was always an issue for me even before my husband died. As a child I was not the best at keeping my room clean. I got better in college when I had less space. I kept a small apartment so I wouldn’t have much to clean. During my marriage, whenever I got depressed about my husband's health, cleaning the house, much to his frustration was the first thing to go. Energy is required for me to clean and if I had any it was very little and I spent it elsewhere.

I'd vacuum twice weekly, do laundry weekly and clean the kitchen when I used it and that was about it. Now, without him here to stay on me about it, on top of grieving him, well you can imagine. Grieving is exhausting and grieving as a parent is an up and down road. My children are both the light of my life and the most pressure on my heart. They energize me and drain me. My son has a healing touch, an amazing smile, likes to get kisses and gives them back. He has also had some health issues that have taken a lot out of me physically and emotionally. My daughter is the funniest person I know. She's witty and smart and will love you to the end of the earth. She has also had school issues that despite her being only in 2nd grade have me on edge. Got help with her at Sylvan, and even though they are earning that money, they are far from free. Just trying to figure out how to keep everyone sane, work everyday and oh yeah, grieve, I had so little left. You also have to shop to clean and cook…more energy I didn't have.

Then add to it things breaking, like my vacuum cleaner and my steam mop. The vacuum cleaner I wanted cost $180 so time kept going and going and other expenses kept keeping me from getting the vacuum cleaner I wanted. An immediate mess I'd get the dust buster out and I'd go over the carpet with an older vacuum I had that only half worked. I mopped the non-carpeted floors, with a regular dip and wring routine, but it was far from efficient.

Laundry also became an issue. I'd buy more underwear and socks for us to avoid doing it. I did laundry every week, but just the new stuff I bought and as soon as we took clothes off, I'd wash and dry them, while 7 loads of laundry sat upstairs.

Then, there was take-out food. I've been in and out of control of the drive-thru monster for a long time. There were months where I put dinner on the table 5 of 7 days and then months where my daughter would be shocked and disappointed when I said we were going home to eat.

It's not uncommon. I have a friend who was widowed 7 years ago and she said her dad eventually hired someone to clean her house. Speaking of dads, another widow said her dad simply said to her: “Eventually you will get tired of it and clean it up.” Her dad is right. I got tired of it, especially when my son got 2 respiratory viruses in one month. Then I started noticing my daughter doing things like leaving her backpack right in the middle of the floor literally dropping it as soon as she got inside the front door or leaving her shoes at the bottom of the steps on her way to her room and her bedroom just being a big mess and I got scared.

I knew I couldn't tell her to clean her room when I wasn't cleaning the rest of the house. Plus she started letting go of other good habits she had and talking with her revealed she saw no need to continue those things in our house, but would at her Godparents' house, which was much more organized than ours. She was also getting very used to the take-out food to the point that whenever I said I was going to cook, she'd cry and it was becoming very hard to get her to eat anything other than a cheeseburger, pizza or chicken nuggets, things her pediatrician assured me her body can handle and burn off since she's active, but my body at 38 years-old, not so much. In short, I was already tired, so how much more difficult was life going to be if I didn’t change things. It’s difficult to get a 7 year-old to cooperate. How much more difficult would it be with a 10 year-old.

I thought to myself, how tough is this? How unfair is this? My reaction is totally normal, yet if I don’t try to do something different I could be setting myself up for a more difficult road ahead and not necessarily but possibly putting a bad stamp on my child’s future or at least her teens. My daughter is 7 years-old. She doesn’t see the house is a mess because mom is tired and grieving. She sees, “Whoopee, mom is messy so that must mean I can be messy too.” What was I going to do. Oh, crap, where are the big girl pants?

I'm starting to come out of it, but unlike the other times I tried to come out of it, I'm being more patient with myself. I'm doing it more slowly…kind of like we're advised to break most habits, that is, in moderation. My husband had a real sweet tooth and every now and then he'd try to quit sweets "cold turkey". Well, just by me saying he quit cold turkey every now and then is indication of how well that went for him.

I'd already proven I couldn't make these changes cold turkey so I'm going slowly. Eventually said "Screw it" and got a $40 vacuum cleaner. One journey over the downstairs and had to empty the container. Instead of the $100 steam mop I wanted, I got a $20 Swiffer wet jet.

Over a period of weeks, I got caught up with the laundry. I used to joke to myself that it was too bad we couldn't go around naked until it was all done. Instead of trying to do 4 loads on a Saturday, I started doing a load every other day, even if I didn't get it put away or even folded. When I finally got caught up on the laundry, I found clothes my son outgrew while they were dirty. My daughter now has 50 pairs of undies, 30 pairs of socks and I've duplicated some of my son’s pjs. I have too many pairs of socks and underwear to fit in the drawer they go in now. There's still a big pile of dry-cleaning, but after taking in a large amount one week and not going back for it for 3 months, I'm thinking maybe 2 to 3 pieces at a time would be better.

I'm going to work my way back to cooking most nights a little more slowly this time. We had spaghetti last night and it was comforting, the sounds our forks made in the plates, sitting at the table with them. I felt a sense of accomplishment. Took what I had left to clean up afterwards and I wanted to stop several times, but something else helps. After not using it the entire time I was married (not sure why) I started using our dishwasher. So after wiping away the left over sauce, and putting the leftover food in the fridge, I put everything in there. Then was able to wash the tray for my son's high chair, wipe off the stove and table before plopping into a chair in the family room.

I've also bought that daily shower cleaner spray and taught my daughter to shower so I don't have to clean a tub every night and I either bathe my son in the sink or take him into the shower with me. I know he's a boy, but he was nursing just 3 months ago, so this will work for a minute or two.

I do need to call a furniture removal company to take some things away so I can set up my son's nursery. To keep me from taking too long to do that, I'm going to a local store to put his bed on 90 day lay-away. That way I put myself on a timetable to clear that room for his stuff.

To help with the energy I need for all this, as mentioned in another entry, I'm working a wholeness plan for us. I just started, but my daughter is already sleeping better and having better dreams and I'm feeling more capable. I do know I am not alone in this. I'll probably be taking a combination of paths I’ve read about to make one for myself, but unlike some other things, this particular part, might not be in my own time. Maybe that’s for the best. One thing my pastor’s wife says to me a lot is, “Don’t beat yourself up over anything”. And I’m trying to apply that. I can admit that (not beating myself up) is an area where I consistently failed over most of my life so far; but, I can clearly see that I do much better when I try to be kinder to me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

So Now We Don't Have a Father? A Widowed Parent Answers the Hard Questions

It's amazing what they think of.

My daughter is the typical 7 year-old in that she asks a lot of questions. And there is a lot in her life to question. We had a baby last year and she wants to know how that happens. She saw me go through pregnancy, the changes in my body, and had the waiting experience. She heard his heartbeat more than once and felt him move inside me. Still, at 6 years-old, I imagine it's strange to go through all that only to be brought to the hospital one day and told, "Okay, he's here and have this tiny person just appear. She adores him. He's her best friend. She still has questions about not so much where he came from, but how he got in there. Not a conversation I'm ready to have with a 7 year-old. I told her that God helped her father and I make them. Although she did see an animal planet special on the subject. It included talk about the egg and sperm. I did let her know that people made babies the same way. That's as far as I've gone.

Then we weren't settled into life with her little brother when her father, whom she loved dearly, and who was sick most of her life died one day while she was at school. He wasn't terminal. I didn't tell her he was dying. I didn't tell her he wasn't. She asked. I just told her that she'd be taken care of no matter what happened.

She was always concerned for his comfort and that has not changed since he died. I think she worries just as much about him as she does about me. I remember taking a significant amount of time letting her know how soft the pillows inside the casket were and how he was wearing his favorite suit. Still death is a huge mystery to anyone who hasn't been there no matter what their age. At the age of 7, there's another whole level as far as an inability to understand the concept.

It took her a while to realize it was permanent. After about 6 months she asked me continuously for weeks if he really was going to be gone forever. But I didn't mind. Whatever it takes. I mean I hate for her to have to deal with the reality, but I imagine it is better for her than expecting that after a certain length of time he's going to come bouncing through the front door like he did before he died.

I have a friend who lost her husband when their daughter was the same age as my daughter is now. She found out later that the little girl just thought he was going away for a while to get better, that she didn't know when, but thought he'd eventually come home. It was 3 years later she said when the reality set in, and it hit her so hard she started lashing out at friends she'd had since preschool because they still had both of their parents. She said it was so bad she had to change schools. And I've read this is normal, that children grieve in cycles, so I'm still on guard. But with counseling that little girl has blossomed into a beautiful teenager who has helped other girls who have experienced the loss of a parent. I expect she'll help my daughter at some point. And I expect at some point my daughter will be helping others.

This past weekend, she began to voice some concerns. Some were repeats, but still I sit in wonder as to the inner workings of a child's mind.

Doesn't he need food? No

Is he okay? Yes because he's not sick anymore.

Is he our angel now? I'm not sure, but I believe you have always had one or more. (another story). If he's not one of them, I'm sure all the praying he did for us has sent us some.

Can he see us? If he's one of our angels yes. If not, no. (on my angry days I hope not).


Does he still snore in that bed? Absolutely not.

Oh, because he doesn't breathe? Right.

So, is he bored? No

Why did you marry an old man? Huh? He was 45. That's not old.

Well, only old people die right? Um…no honey. Anyone can. It's sad, but anyone can no matter how old they are.

I shake my head at her having to deal with such harsh realities at this age. I worry it will make her grow up too quickly. I remember the day it happened. I remember thinking of telling everyone I had to tell, how it was going to hurt them. For her I felt I was going to take part of her innocence. My heart began to beat faster when Ariana's Godmother left our house to bring her back home. And it progressed to racing when they returned and Ariana came bounding up the steps to our front door. I was about to turn her world upside down. How could I do this?

She was the calmest person I talked to that day. But her quiet tears tore through my heart in those moments and still do. And I'll never forget her words...

So, now we don't have a father?

But I continue to be inspired by how she handles not having a father. And I pray that God continues to equip me as He has been faithful to all the way to now, to handle my children not having a father.

When Are You Getting Married?

Just another day in the Dawson house folks.

Thanks to a well-placed nail I had to go to Wal-Mart for a new tire about 3 weeks ago. The 4th Wednesday of the month so children's death benefit money had arrived. I had planned to get their spring/summer clothes that Saturday, but decided to do it while we waited. What an adventure trying to teach a little girl who loves clothes about budgeting while trying to keep a toddler who couldn't care less about clothes or money entertained while strapped in a shopping cart.

Shirts, shorts, tank tops and tunic/legging sets for Ariana. Shirts, shorts, and thin pants for Elijah and despite having a little girl whose motto is "If it's my size, put it in the cart" I managed to stay under budget on their clothes. Thanks to a previously purchased road hazard warranty, the new tire is just $10. So I concluded things were good. We grabbed dinner and got home, ate and proceeded with Ariana's homework.

That cycle goes as usual. “Do the next problem, Ariana.” “Come back here, Elijah.” “That’s not quite right, try again Ariana.” “Stop crying, here’s your milk, Elijah.” “Sound the word out on your own Ariana.” “Don’t pull your sister’s hair Elijah!” “What do you need to do next Ariana?” “Get away from the stairs Elijah.” That night he discovered he could climb into Ariana's miniature recliner on his own. It isn't enough to sit in it though. He stands up in it. So that night we added "Sit down Elijah!" and "Get down Elijah!" I took a few minutes to show him physically what to do in the chair and after some whining and puppy eyes, and a tumble, he understood. I’ll never be bored.

Then out of nowhere. "When are you getting married again? I want to have a dad again." Now this used to bother me a bit more than it does now. It actually started very early on, two whole days after his death. It was heartbreaking. However, hearing how other widowed parents have children 2 or 3 years older than Ariana telling them they will not accept a new person or the one line I read, "you can date when I move out" from an 11 year-old, it's not so bad. I couldn't think about it for a long time because of the pain. But I realize at the age of 38, I probably shouldn't make such a final decision. And since no one means more to me than my children, it probably helps that she's open to it. It's more than about her wanting a dad. She cares really. She feels bad Elijah would never know what it's like to have one. She also feels someone should be here to help me take care of her and her brother.

But there it was. "I want to have a dad again." And inside me, I say. If it were only as simple as going out and getting you one. I told her that it's possible I may get married again, but the 3 of us are a family and we'll be fine either way. Beyond saying within myself, "I don't think I want to be alone the rest of my life," I am not really ready yet. She is way too young to understand any of that. At 7 years of age her world is very black and white and I have to choose my words very carefully in discussing things with her that require visions of shades of gray.

I gave a long pause and shook my head. She asked me, "Are you going to cry again because I said the word daddy?" I tell you I had one really bad day...that she actually saw anyway. Our anniversary in February I just could not stop crying for a while after church. That was the first time she saw me cry since the funeral, but now she thinks I'm going to cry because she mentioned her father or wanting another one. I just told her there are some things that I have to get done before I will be ready to be with another person, but I wanted her to know no matter what we're a family and I'll do what is best for us. She had no more questions. I was surprised. This is the girl who if asked to retrieve some tissue from the bathroom asks the person how many squares they need.

In the time since that day, I've been "hit on" twice. I would not consider a future with either man. But I no longer cringe at the thought. Thomas was the only man I have ever loved. It is difficult to think of being with another person even after a year. But, I'm sure I want to be loved that way again and I'm sure I want my children to see me loved that way. I'm still a woman and everything about me that made me want to be married is still there. But being ready is a whole other story. I don't even feel like I fit in with single people yet. After 10 years on the other side, most of my friends are married couples. And in my relationships with the single people who have remained single as I have transitioned, there's this thing called motherhood that keeps me from fitting in with them.

So that leaves single parents. It's a process, as I am not sure the ones I know see me fitting in with them. They knew me as part of a couple. Some widows would agree. They have trouble being associated with single parents. They get upset if a form doesn't give them the option to select widowed as their status. I hear them say they don't want people thinking they got a divorce or had a child out of wedlock. And I had my own issues. I remember taking off my wedding band and thinking "What will the visitors in the Welcome Center at church think when they see me with my children, particularly my baby and no ring?"

Everyone is entitled to their opinion as to the differences in the lives of single (divorced or never married) parents versus the widowed parent. I think I'll just be mommy. I'll be Sonya. That way I don't have to worry about the title changing and I'll check what is available on the forms. For me, the harder part is putting in their father's name then having to leave every other question that pertains to him blank as he no longer has a phone number, address, work address, work phone number or cell phone number.

So, yes, widowhood is a different world. The pain is different. The parenting is a bit different. But what I see in the single mothers I know, no matter how she became that way is another woman busting her behind to do the best she can for her children. She may or may not get that break for a visitation weekend with the other parent. Either way she's pulling it together everyday, sometimes doing it with pain, but going ahead anyway. I could do worse than to be associated with women like that.

Still, if only getting another daddy/husband, a date, or even a good male friend was as simple as shopping at Wal-Mart was that day. He's our size mom, put him in the cart.

Monday, April 11, 2011

13 Months Later, Hoping to Bloom in the Spring

That was the longest month it seemed, March 9, 2011 to April 9, 2011. It started out with me bringing Elijah home after a respiratory virus landed him in the hospital. He was discharged on the 1st anniversary of Thomas' passing. The other night I reflected on it and the past month has been pretty difficult emotionally.

Getting used to Elijah's medication routine has been an up and down process. But his pediatricians are doing what they can to keep him from getting sick like his dad was and I appreciate that. Sometimes he sits there with the mask on like he's way more mature than his age would indicate. I can have his sister sit with him and brush my teeth, even start the van. Others I have to sit next to him holding the mask to his face to stop him from removing it. Honestly it appears to depend on what is on TV. His favorite Disney Show, Agent Oso, usually keeps him still. Trouble has been it starts at 6:30am and the treatment takes a bit longer than 15 minutes, so I really need to start it at 6:20. But overall he's been good about it.

I think it is my commute that is wearing me down more than his reaction to his meds. It's 40 minutes most days and I'm rushing because if I don't get back to the school by 4:00 to get Ariana it will cost me $80 for afterschool care. Like I need that in my life. So I bust my behind to get there by 4:00. They grace me 10 minutes usually because they know she's leaving. But on Tuesdays she goes to Sylvan Learning Center. I enrolled her there for tutoring for reading/phonics. She has to be at the learning center by 4:30 and that is a mad dash or whatever you can call a mad dash across town in the afternoon here. A mad dash between stop lights is about the best I can describe it.

But she's continuing to improve and the people at Sylvan say she's doing what they expect. Her phonics grades have improved slightly and she continues to score A's on her spelling tests. Her attitude towards books is improving though it still takes some convincing to get her to read to us. Her teacher I believe was looking for more improvement than she's shown, but she didn't get to where she was overnight and won't come out of it overnight either. My goal was to have her where she needed to be by December and Sylvan believes that is very possible at the rate she attends. And at $50 an hour, 2 hours a week is all I can afford. It's looking like summer camp is going to be more than her school tuition, but it's the closest one to my house. Better get her signed up this week. *sigh*

But I found out that children who lose a parent often lose an entire year of school academically and have to catch up later. She's had a few disadvantages. I want to give her what she needs to overcome them. Not only did he die, but he died a little at a time. The parents on the widow board range from "don't have the energy to worry about it" to "going toe to toe with school counselors and administration" when it comes to academic progress of their elementary school children.

Elijah? Growing in a lot of ways. I don't know how tall he is, but I had him measured for shoes over the weekend and and he measured a 6.5 wide and required a size 7wide shoe to have room for growth. Not sure where these wide feet came from. Probably means he's going to be a little taller. They looked so big the sales lady and I wondered if he'd walk in them, that is until he darted across the shoe department and was almost at the perfume counter when I caught him. Lately I wonder what I'll do with him to work with his energy. He likes to climb and he disovered the other night that the chair next to his sister's bed makes a good stepping stool and can now climb up on to her bed, a bed that is higher off the ground than he is tall. When I picked him up today, his teachers told me he'd been in and out of the little chairs they sit in to eat all day. Thankfully it's getting warm and we'll be able to be outside more. He's always enjoyed being out, ever since I can remember. We're also doing baby signing which is really fun. The other day during lunch, I asked if he wanted more chicken and he signed "more" back to me. How cool is that?

Me? Well, after dealing with a lot of stuff last month, I'm working on a wholeness plan for us. I figure here in year 2, it is something we can work towards. I got us all Devotional books over the weekend during an afternoon of retail therapy and the last two nights I spent 10 minutes with each child doing a devotional and activity from each of their books. Last night's subject was the creation and how God made this earth for us. The 2nd night was about Adam and Eve. Ariana's lesson was about how God has great plans for us, intends for us to enjoy life and wants us to be like Him. Elijah's devotional was about obedience and at the end we talked about what is a "no-no" in the house. Elijah's book is for toddlers specifically and Ariana's is for girls ages 6-9. Mine is a devotional and journal combined and today's subject was relying on God for strength. I also renewed my gym membership and am checking the budget to see if I can take the children to the local "Little Gym" this summer. They closed the one closest to us, so it may be some other gym. So that is pretty much it.

I spent a lot of time the last 30 days dealing with a wide spectrum of emotions where Thomas is concerned. I spent some time arguing at him, not with him of course, asking him what he was thinking knowing I wasn't going to get an answer. I spent time trying to forget who we became as a couple over the last 4 years of his life, how it wasn't what we planned and couldn't have been what God had in mind. Then I just chose to deal with my feelings on it instead. In the end I know he didn't mean to hurt me and I didn't mean to hurt him. We were clueless as to how to see each other through what was happening and so wrapped up in fighting the illness and conditions he had, supporting each other emotionally through the turmoil it was causing fell by the wayside. Still, certain things miraculously smoothed out towards the end and we developed an understanding I can only credit God for us having.

I also don't know that we took the time to think about a possible end to us. Less then 3 weeks before he was promising me better times. Asking questions during less tense times out from under the constant emergencies gave me some direction as to how to proceed in the event of his passing, but in an effort not to bother him, I didn't seek his input nearly as often as I should have. I didn't want to make bad days worse or make a good day bad. I believe I did the best I knew how and I know he believed he did the best he knew how and that's going to have to be enough. He's gone. And a much as I might scream in my head, "WHY AREN'T YOU HERE TO HELP ME DANGIT!!" That won't change.

I feel blessed to have gotten to this point with a sound mind. The ups and downs and situations that go with chronic illness and widowhood are exhausting. My calm was an asset at times. My husband used to say he married the right woman because all hell could be breaking loose and you would not know it to look at me. He said it gave him comfort. He always required me to "woman up". 13 months ago, I stood in my living room and nursed my son under a blanket tossed over my shoulder while the police interviewed me as the coroner prepared him for transport.

Other times the calm has me misunderstood. It gives people the idea that I don't hurt, that I don't get frightened, that I'm some super woman. I'm not. And that misconception lead to days when events took a turn and people did and said things that added more grief where I didn't need any more. But it also added some sense of accomplishment as to how we've made it this far. My main issue has been exhaustion to the point of tears. Last week I wanted to quit my job it got so bad.

But thankfully common sense prevailed and I pray it will continue to do so. It seems that just at the moment where I think I'll lose it an unexplainable peace comes over me. I've been in survival mode. I've stayed in church and continued to learn, but I'll have to put more effort into spiritual development. I know it. Prayerfully that wholeness plan wil help us continue to grow and become the family we need to be. Well...that and the much needed vacation I have planned for the end of the month for my daughter's spring break.