Tag: Quinlan

Some Little Lessons I’ve Learned from Pandemic Thanksgiving + Start of Covid Christmastime

Some Little Lessons I’ve Learned from Pandemic Thanksgiving + Start of Covid Christmastime

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over this Pandemic Thanksgiving + start of Covid Christmastime:   On the Wednesday before your it’s-just-us-this-year Thanksgiving, it’s really nice to cook the big meal with your kids while also not stressing about cleaning the house for company. 

Grief, and When Our Children Show Us the Way Out

Grief, and When Our Children Show Us the Way Out

As I type this, there is an estate sale company in my mother’s house, sorting through her belongings. The estate manager called me from where she stood in my parents’ dining room this morning to ask me some questions, and when she looked outside, she 

10 Sorta Happy Things in this Summer of 2020

10 Sorta Happy Things in this Summer of 2020

You guys, my kids are climbing the walls. They’re threatening to dig a hole in the backyard and fill it with tap water from the hose and call it a pool. They’re saying it’s too hot to play outside when it’s only 78 degrees. They’re daydreaming about places to visit, with the caveat: “some day–but when?” They volunteer to go with me to my mom’s because it means they get to sit in front of Hot Bench and Judge Judy, and maybe just maybe we’ll go get ice cream afterward.

You guys, they’ve stopped complaining about us taking them on hikes. That’s how bad it’s gotten.

Morale is down in our little corner of PA. We’re slowly starting to venture into the world again, but it’s slow going, and there’s not much on the horizon except more of the same. On a very hot day last week one of the kids actually got upset with me because we’ve never made friends with anyone who has a backyard pool.

(I told them we’ll try harder next time.)

I told you: we’re cracking a little bit over here.

All I can say is: yay for air conditioning and Disney+. Yay for the backyard sprinkler and Capri-Sun. But please say prayers the blow-up pool my mom bought them years ago still works, okay?

Here are some other things that are happy:

  1. My mom can’t really see anymore (this is the total opposite of happy, but hear me out). We’re not sure why: all we know is that she sleeps a lot, but when she’s not sleeping, her eyes are closed most of the time, and we have to identify ourselves when we walk in the door. Here’s the funny part, though: she’s listening. (Oh, she’s listening.) And the new fun thing is when we think she’s sleeping, and we’re chatting with each other and her caregiver and laughing, and one of us cracks a joke, all of a sudden we’ll hear Mom, from where she lies back on her recliner with her eyes closed and her hands curled in front of her chest, chuckling. Sometimes, she’ll crack a smart comment in response. She misses nothing. Those are the best times.
  2. (related to #1). This decline of my mom’s sucks. It’s slow and heartbreaking and I can’t begin to describe to you what this is like. Everything that’s been terrible these past 21 months was nothing compared to what’s happening now. BUT. (See? Happy.) She’s still there. Even though she can’t see, and sometimes can’t hear, and most of the time can’t really communicate all that well (None of that is happy, either, I know. Bear with me), her personality is so very much there. She still says “Hi, hon,” when she knows it’s me on the phone. She still says “I love you.” She still craves sweets and coffee over all other food–this is exactly what she preferred before she was sick, mind you–and remembers the plot points to Once Upon a Time and Downton Abbey. A hospice nurse randomly asked her how long she’d been living in her house, and she immediately–and accurately–stated, “Thirty-seven years.” Mom’s still there. And that part’s wonderful.
  3. The kids are obsessed with Star Wars. They watch it constantly. They’re debating what the next movie obsession is, though: Saoirse is rooting for Wonder Woman. Quinlan and Cian are thinking Titanic, as long as I fast-forward through the over-PG bits. Cian asked his dad if they could start Star Trek. Apparently Wrath of Kahn (did I spell that correctly?) is on the list, but when Quinlan heard that she scoffed. “Star Trek?! That’s just a hand-me-down Star Wars.
  4. I miss writing every day desperately. This is, weirdly, a good thing. It means it hasn’t gone away even when I have.
  5. It’s mojito season. This is especially good because my mint plant is taking over the deck. (So is my basil, though, and you don’t see me cooking up lasagnas. But never mind that. Mojitos!)
  6. I occasionally listen to a podcast called The Purpose Show, by Allie Casazza. She’s basically the only mommy blogger/influencer/internet entrepreneur I check in with anymore (there are only so many millennials one can tolerate telling us 43-year-old farts to live our best lives, you know?), BUT. She had an interview with a life coach named Susie Moore, who mentioned something along the lines of this: whenever we’re saying yes to something, we’re saying no to something else. I like that. Especially since this year has had me riding this pendulum between home life/my mom (sadness! sadness!) and total avoidance/my phone/Netflix (coping! coping!), it’s good to remember. If I say no to some things I can say yes to more. (As long as it’s not more mojitos. I recognize the line.)
  7. It’s strawberry season, which is the best season outside of sit-in-front-of-the-fireplace-with-a-book season. That is all.
  8. Schitt’s Creek. We’re almost finished with the last season and don’t want it to go away. Ew, David.
  9. As I mentioned, we’ve been hiking. And even though Quinlan, on principle, despises any nature-based activity if it doesn’t involve swimming at some point, the kids are enjoying themselves. Well: Quinlan complains about the heat and how it would be so much better if a) it were swimming and b) not hiking, but goes along with it, and Saoirse just sort of quietly walks with us because she’s tween and being a tween is hard. Cian, on the other hand, will reach for my hand and declare, “I LOVE hiking! I just love all the new smells,” and then say, “Oh. I guess I’m kind of like a dog?”
  10. This slow pace. Friends, it’s actually really nice. The kids stay up too late but sleep in and wake up happy. They play basketball and ride their bikes and swing on the 70s-style swing set we installed a couple weeks ago (it’s a little like a toilet plunger: it ain’t pretty to look at, but it does the job). We see my mom without stress of sports and other places we “have” to be. Their life skills have quadrupled: dusting and vacuuming and scrambling eggs and doing the laundry, because there’s time to teach them, slowly. I don’t know how we’re going to look back at this time, but this part is good. This pause has been nice.

If any of you are treading water right now, know we’re bobbing along with you (actually, Quinlan would love that. Water!). On the flip side, if you’re taking charge and making changes or road-tripping to the beach, good on you. (I’m not mad at you anymore for creating a vacation, because I’d probably be doing it, too.)

Saoirse just caught my attention from the kitchen. “This is a good start to summer,” she said. And then she kissed me on the head and ran upstairs to play.

Maybe we’re not cracking that badly, after all.

Cookies and Creativity and the Quarantine Slump

Cookies and Creativity and the Quarantine Slump

Okay, at this point of quarantine, you’re in one of two camps: #1: You are a person who’s settled into this “new normal,” and are content and calm. You’ve weeded the flower beds, laid down fresh mulch, and are considering a fresh coat of paint 

Quinlan Says Quarantine is Fun and We’re Just Going to Roll with it

Quinlan Says Quarantine is Fun and We’re Just Going to Roll with it

Quinlan had to write a letter Monday for her language arts class, in which she described to an imaginary other student her first month under stay-at-home orders. “MOM. Mommy. MOM.” Quinn said this as she walked from the dining room, where she’d set up her 

Easter During a Pandemic: Well, That was Different

Easter During a Pandemic: Well, That was Different

Quinlan was in my bathroom Sunday morning as we were getting ready to go see my mom. It was Easter. We’d giggled over the baskets and laughed through the backyard egg hunt and baked and eaten the Resurrection Rolls, but we’d also watched a lot of LEGO Star Wars, and every single one of us fell asleep during a televised Easter Mass. Normally at that time David and I are running around doing last-minute clean-up, cooking, decorating, because we always host Easter dinner for the family at our house in the afternoon. We were so not busy this particular morning. I wasn’t hollering at anybody to vacuum the stairs or comb the hair or help me set out the silverware. There were no spring flowers on the table, or lilies rising from pastel foil to fill the house with their sneeze-inducing scent. David went for a run. It was weird.

I had taken a curling iron to my hair for the first time in a month and a half–these days the hair is air-dried and forgotten about, a process I am fully on board with–and Quinlan was watching me. “Do you remember that time I burnt your forehead?” I asked. I said it with a grimace, because the “time” I was talking about was the morning of Quinn’s First Holy Communion, right before she’d slipped on her pretty dress and veil. She’d asked me to curl her hair, and just as I finished, I accidentally touched the hot iron to her forehead, searing off a nickel-sized section of skin so cleanly and painlessly it was like I’d branded her. “Yep,” she replied, on this other day of firsts, then turned to walk out of the bathroom. “That was an experience.”

We got to my mom’s house around three p.m., carrying bags filled with dishes of prepared ham, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted carrots and green beans almondine. The day before I’d made a springtime raspberry and ricotta cake, and a flourless chocolate cake that I burned so badly I ended up sawing off the smoking parts and layered what was left into a pudding trifle that looked as appetizing as it sounds. We had a bottle of sparkling wine with us, chocolates for Mom, and Easter lilies for her and her caregiver. We were trying.

We were dressed up this Easter Sunday. I wore mascara (another novelty around here these days. I’ve discovered that my eyelashes are graying right along with my hair, and it’s as fascinating as it is disconcerting) and a bright green dress that fit a touch more snugly now that my diet is mostly wine and Chips Ahoy. The girls were wearing florals and hearts, and Cian had just finished yelling about having to tuck in his shirt (“I don’t LIKE being FANCY!”) but was doing it anyway. David had on a lavender button-front and dress pants. We wanted to be bright and festive, both for my mom and for the kids. We were trying.

Mom had forgotten it was Easter Sunday until we reminded her, but was excited to see the family. It never stops being alarming to walk into the house and see her draped along her recliner like a rag doll. She was watching Fox News, so we spent the afternoon of this sacred day hearing horror stories about the coronavirus. The kids changed clothes, went outside, played a pick-up game of soccer with the caregiver, whom they adore. Mom talked with Mary and Tim, FaceTimed David’s mom, FaceTimed Paul and Sarah. David and I did most of the talking. We had dinner in the living room, the four grown-ups sitting on couches, the kids on a bedsheet on the floor like a picnic. Mom ate a little bit of ham but a lot of that trifle. I poured her wine she didn’t touch and gave her chocolates she did. We were trying.

We were able to hang out for a long time, this Sunday. On the way home that night, the kids asked me if I had a good day, and I said yes, of course.

But it wasn’t a good day. Easter is usually one of my favorite days of the year. It’s special without pressure, joyful without restraints, a validation for the hard preparation of the forty days–the year–preceding it. It’s a reminder that pain is always rewarded with redemption. Yesterday, in the midst of a pandemic and hospice care and my fading mom, who just two years ago had driven over in her cute black SUV for Mass, with the ham and her deviled eggs and the sparkling wine for Easter dinner (I forgot the eggs this year), we couldn’t find the redemption.

I know it’s there. I know we’re simply still waiting. But, man: Sunday was a day we got through rather than celebrated. If you’re shaking off the dust today, too, I get it. Life has slowed down, gotten difficult, gotten surreal. Whatever life you were living before this has become your cage, for better or for worse, and some of us aren’t quite sure what to do with that.

Easter’s come and gone, but we’re still the women sitting outside the dark tomb, waiting.

There were no lilies in our house this year. As Quinlan would say: that was an experience.

Mom’s Decline, and A Little Psychological Sewing

Mom’s Decline, and A Little Psychological Sewing

I thought maybe I should spare you an update this week, because I’m in a crappy, crappy mood (a friend asked Sunday how Mom was doing, and do you know what I said? “Oh, she’s totally dying.” The poor guy looked like I’d slapped him 

It was the Girls Novice Championship, and We Talkin’ about the Game (with apologies to Allen)*

It was the Girls Novice Championship, and We Talkin’ about the Game (with apologies to Allen)*

* Because you know this was running through my head the entire time I was writing this post. To say my mom has rebounded from the flu nicely is like saying an ice cream sundae is best made with hot fudge: holy understatement, Batman. She