The Things Life is Made of...

We have had a busy weekend full of doctor visits, family coming in town (Hi Diedre!), pool table building, horse visiting, car key finding, debit card finding, senior center evaluating, cooking, eating out, furniture removing, kid wrangling and more. It was fun and tiring and sad. It was the stuff that life is made of.

Todd's mom finally made it to the doctor and came out with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. This is not a shock to us, however it was a blow to her. She said she doesn't feel any different, doesn't feel like she forgets things, and she is sad. She cannot drive at night now. She cannot drive long distances. She is on medication and is still being evaluated / staged. We need to find a specialist and then will figure out what is next. In the meantime, I am looking into a support group for her (her request) along with a membership to a local senior center - to make some local friends and stay involved in things. Now that she isn't watching the boys, her days are spread out before her, full of nothing to do, nobody to see, nothing to learn. I don't think that is very exciting for her...it wouldn't be for me.

So for now, we move through the days, head into the holidays and hope for the best. How about you?


Zieggy Time


Where in the world would you like to go but you won’t because…

Do you have secret dreams that you know you will never, ever even attempt to achieve? Do you try to morph them into something possible, or do you simply push it back into the recesses of your mind, hoping to keep the desire at bay?

I have written about my intrigue with Mt. Everest before. I have always wanted to summit that ridiculously dangerous mountain. No, I don’t care that people die doing it. No, I don’t care about ice crevasses. No, I don’t care about the lack of oxygen, the months of training, the ice climbing classes, the unpredictable storms. I have simply always wanted to try to make it to the top. But I won’t.

I don’t think dangerous endeavors are the things coveted by people with families…moms with children…people with loved ones that they do not want to leave to wonder through life alone. At least that is my reasoning. As much as I would LOVE trying to do the impossible, it simply isn’t worth the risk to me anymore. Perhaps at an earlier time in my life – a time when I was young, single, had money and no obligation – oh, wait – THAT WAS NEVER ME. So, I suppose it was never really a reality.

The closest I will ever come to the peak of Everest is base camp. And I even wonder about the reality of that. A flight to Katmandu is not inexpensive. It isn’t really a “family vacation” – at least not one you take small boys on. Not my small boys anyway. I can barely keep track of them in the mall play area. I cannot imagine the mayhem involved in controlling them in that environment… “don’t eat that”, “don’t drink that”, “stop touching that frozen dead body”, “come here, come here, come here” – not even close to a vacation.

And yet, it still occupies my thoughts. No – I won’t ever try… But still…

I think it is this ongoing craving to see the magic mountain that sparked the same desire in my oldest daughter – and I have to admit that it makes me quite happy. I read Into Thin Air to Cassie when she was in first grade. I think she immediately decided that she was going to climb Everest, and I have encouraged it ever since that November night way back in 1996. She doesn’t plan to have a family. She doesn’t want children. She wants to work for the government and do spy stuff for a living…it is a perfect (even possible) dream for her. I don’t know if she will go through with climbing at all, or will be satisfied with base camp. I can say with certainty, if I were in her shoes, nothing could stop me from at least trying to beat the mountain.

On being a family

Our family has been touched with what we are guessing is Alzheimer's and I have to say that I am not a fan.

When I was pregnant with the boys, we joked with my mother-in-law that she should quit her job and take care of them for us. She took it quite seriously and actually did just that. She decided that she wanted to get to know her grandsons and spend as much time as she could with them. And so she quit her job, sold her house, and moved in with us. She was here for us when the boys were little, allowing me to go back to work. She was here when I was very very sick and in the ICU for three months in 2007 - taking care of the boys day after day while Todd tried to spend time with me. She has been here for the first 4 1/2 years of their lives - playing with them and watching them grow.

About a year ago we started noticing some things that were just a little off. She seemed to be making poor decisions (getting lost on a trail with the boys and getting a ride back to her car with strangers), getting lost occasionally (came back from a trip and couldn't find car at the airport for a few hours), forgetting little things like where her keys or wallet were. They all seemed like they had fairly sound explanations (poor judgement, typical memory stuff we all experience, etc) and we didn't chalk it up to much more than that - although we started paying closer attention to things.

In the past 6 months we started noticing more and more that her confidence seemed to be waining, she didn't seem like herself - more quiet, less interactive, less involved at her church. And then even more recently we started worrying about her ability to take care of the boys. We heard about several instances from neighbors where she wasn't really handling them well, or didn't know what they were doing at all. Things started adding up and we decided that Roark and Cole needed to be in preschool full time with an after school program. We told Grammy that we were doing it for the boys - they need more interaction, need to learn more before kindergarten. But we didn't really confront her with what we really thought...Alzheimer's. Todd did call her doctor and asked him to try to schedule a physical to evaluate her, but we are not sure that ever happened.

Todd finally had to tell her that she needed to see a doctor (a few weeks ago based on more things happening) but that has not yet happened. She has an appointment this Friday (if it doesn't get rescheduled again) - but we are still really worried about what will happen before then. This past weekend she seems to have hit a wall, or rather is headed down hill. Perhaps it is caused by us putting the boys in full time care and disturbing her routine? She is now getting lost when driving to familiar places, and worse, not calling anyone for help - just continuing to get more and more lost - further and further away.

Part of this disease (if that is what this is) is paranoia and doubt. She doesn't think there is anything wrong. In her head, there is a logical explanation for how she ended up driving 9 hours out of her way on Friday night, or how she ended up driving 6 hours yesterday on her way home from lunch. It is ugly and difficult and just not fair.

I took care of my mom when she was sick and dying from cancer. It was difficult and horrible and I spent a lot of time being angry with her for being sick and for making my life so difficult. I was young, so don't be too hard on me for being a selfish little bitch. I then spent years feeling guilt for feeling angry -so I guess I got what I deserved after all.

Some of these familiar feelings started seeping through the cracks recently - "this is HARD", "I just really want things they way used to be", "I don't want to have to deal with this"... and then I realized what was happening, kicked myself in my own butt, and soldiered on - because Barbara is a good person, who loves us and who we love too. She gave up her life to be part of ours, part of the boy's lives. She is a wonderful, sweet, loving, kind mother, grandmother, friend - and this is tragic and sad, and not what ANY of us want. I am sure it isn't close to the life she envisioned when she signed up to watch her grandkids.

Next up: get her in to the doctor and find out what we can do. Is this Alzheimer's? Dementia? The result of some heart condition causing lack of oxygen to the brain? What can be done? What do we watch for? What are the risks? What is going to happen next? We just really need to understand what the problem is and what options she has for dealing with it. We need to give it a name so that we can talk about it, as opposed to pretending it doesn't exist.

In the meantime? We continue to support her, spend time with her, be patient, be loving, be a family.


Roark pretending to be Iron Man

I have no idea why my boys are so violent. We only let them watch
whatever they want.

Cole and Todd

We are watching Iron Man with the boys. Well, Todd is asleep after
being up all last night. I am not far behind him - banking 4 hours of
sleep at 6am.

Hopefully tonight will be better, quieter, less dramatic.


It's hard to be 4

How was your new school?


Did you make new friends?

One boy...but I don't know his name. One boy hitted me.


He said I took his acorns. But I didn't. I founded them on the ground.

Did you tell your teacher?


How did that make you feel? Were you sad?

It made me feel confused.


On Aging

You will start a new preschool on Monday. I think you are both excited, however I cannot be sure how you will adjust until your first few days are passed. Your grandmother has taken care of you most days since you were born...you were very lucky that we had that option. I think it has created a special bond that most kids don't experience. Unfortunately you are both wild, strong willed, exhausting boys and have become too much for her. What we are speculating is Alzheimer's is eating away at her memory and confidence, leaving the two of you at risk. While things might be fine the way they are, I am not able to make myself comfortable with it so we have decided to put you in full time care outside the home. This has been really hard on all of us, but mostly your father. He is so afraid of hurting his mom and loves her so much...I understand those feelings all too well, but don't know how to make them go away or lighten the load.

I took you to the new school yesterday and you loved it. You loved it so much that you decided to tell your grandma about it this morning, which was full of uncomfortable moments...I chose to ignore the whole situation. Your dad finally talked to your grandma about the new school after someone at preschool asked if we were switching schools in front of her - telling her that you will be in a program that has swimming lessons and hiking and a great after school program. We all think you will enjoy it more than hanging out at home between 2 and 6, and that is how he discussed it with your grandma - she can now be a grandma instead of a caretaker. Win-win overall (I hope).

All of this has made me think about aging, about how people end up so dependent on those they took care of in years past. I am not ready to get old - never want to impose on the two of you, or the girls in that way...I never want to seem weak in your eyes. What an unfair dealing life seems to be...


Parenting - it is mind-splittingly insane!

You are obnoxious and clearly tired, or hungry, or both. We head out to grab some sandwiches for dinner - what is supposed to be a break for me but ends up being more work than it appears worth. You both fight all the way there about the direction the sun is setting, what is playing on the radio and how the other is OHMYGOD breathing! You whine and cry about 1) wanting a drink 2) about wanting different chips 3) about wanting peanut butter and jelly (which damnit child - we are already getting you) and 4) about something I cannot even understand. The threats of time out are unending, as is your tolerance for said threats. You stomp around mumbling about how you will do what you want when you want and something else that I am certain translated to "f-you, bitch" in 4-year-old-speak. You end up in the threatened time out and then fake-cry while sitting there. You are mean and unhappy and want the world to know it. Within 2 minutes back in the car, you are both asleep. As I am carrying you into the house, your head nestled against my neck, your breathing steady and sweet, I think how lucky I am that you are in my life.


No, as a matter of fact I did NOT PLAY FOOTBALL.

I never seem to get this thing right - the whole eating right and exercising thing. While I can manage the eating right OR the exercise part, I seldom successfully combine both for a cohesive sustainable solution. You know what I mean? I have months where I am obsessed with the exercise - I do the 30 day shred, I run, I mix in the gym. And then I think "wow - I really should eat right too" and head off in the eating right direction, only to leave working out on the side of the road all battered and abused.

Today I went to the witch doctor (AKA Orthopedic Surgeon) and didn't hear anything new really about the deteriorating condition of my left knee - except that next up is injections of synovial fluid replacement stuff followed by re constructive knee surgery (we can make you better, stronger, faster...).

One thing that was new? I was told to step up the exercise. He wants me to build up my left quad, as it has deteriorated quite a bit since the surgery in July. This, only months after being told to pretty much scrap working out altogether. MAKE UP YOUR MIND MAN!

I looked up lots of quad exercises and they all require a lot of strain on the knee - which is difficult at best. I am not supposed to put any direct pressure on the knee, not supposed to run or bike, and not supposed to do aerobics. I see nothing left - except swimming and maybe yoga.

I sent some time looking online and ruled out a few exercises right off the bat. Squats are O-U-T out. Too hard on the knee. Same for lunges. I half-ass my way through them when I do the shred and they don't help if you don't do them right. Doing them right = pain. I think I will start spending more time swimming and some targeted weights at the gym. If I can mix that with eating less crap and more protein, it should help build muscle. Wish me luck.


From Far Away Places

I have spent the past 11 years working for a widely dispersed company – one where a good part of the work force worked from home or out of offices located across the country. I am used to not seeing the people I work with. In fact, I never met some of the people that I worked with regularly. It was simply how work was done. However in spite of that, I worked in the home office, and had an opportunity to stay plugged in at all times.

My new company is very different in many ways from my old one – and dispersment of the workforce (or rather lack of it) is one of the main differences that I see. The company I work for is in Austin, Texas. I live in Plano, about 3 ½ hours north of there. All of the other employees live in Austin. They all show up at the office every day. They are on kickball, dodgeball, soccer and softball teams together. They are friends. They work closely and are together all of the time. While this didn’t seem like a huge issue when deciding to take the job, it is now weighing fairly heavily on me.

The agreement when hired was that I would remain in Plano, spending time with one of our customers here, traveling to Austin one or two days a week. This seemed like an easy thing to manage – and it still may be. However the real issue is that I feel disjointed, separated, not plugged in – when I am not there. I feel like I am missing some special bond or experience – like an outsider – and like I am not giving as much as the people there.

I work smart. I work hard. I don't slack at home - yet I don't feel as though I am as valuable here. I know that they would like me in Austin more, however I cannot be away that much from my family and not feel like I am missing my kids growing up, missing time with my husband. I am not in a position to move to Austin right now, especially with Brittany still in high school. So what options do I have to balance this out and feel like we are all getting the best out of me?

How about you? Do you work in a company where you are not with the main work force, and if so, how do you manage it? How do you stay plugged in and attentive while not being in the middle of it all? And how do you feel as valuable as you would if you were there all the time?


Letters to my Boys


You love getting the mail. You will sit and look at the names on the letters, trying to determine which piece goes to which person. I have seen you sorting the mail into piles in the entryway – pretending to be reading the address on the front.

You have started playing with “guys” – something you have not really spent much time on in the past. Power Ranger guys were always your brother’s favorite thing, however lately I have seen you carrying them around. Today you had a plastic cowboy with you and you had it in your pocket all day at preschool. You also still love playing with Legos, but your favorite thing to do is wrapping presents. I have no idea why, but you are actually quite good at it.

Your favorite food seems to be sugar pizza or pancakes. You have had pancakes for breakfast every single day since you were around 18 months old – that is a lot of pancakes. And you are not happy unless they are swimming in syrup. You actually say that too – “I want them swimming in syrup” – it is cute, yet annoying.

You have a hard time concentrating on things for very long, preferring to twirl around and sing to yourself. Perhaps you have a future in interpretive dance?

You are playing your second year of soccer this year. You KNOW how to play, and do well in practice, but don’t seem to enjoy playing the games. You told me last week that you like it, but you cannot run as fast as the other kids so you don’t want to really play. I disagree – you run really fast when I am chasing you!

You are also playing baseball for the first time. While you seem to love batting, you don’t seem that excited about being in the outfield.

This is your second year of swimming lessons and you love them. You are able to swim short distances on your own and always seem excited about going to class.

This is also your first year of preschool. You were going three days a week and we just enrolled you in the 5 day a week program. Both you and Cole are learning so much there and always seem excited to go. In less than a year you will be in kindergarten – and I think you will like that too.

You like bounce houses, playing at the park, swinging on the monkey bars, climbing ANYTHING (you climbed the fence last night and couldn’t get down – so you stood out there in the backyard yelling until I came out to help you). You love “yummy lunches” (lunchables) – especially the ones with pudding in them, and teddy grahams.

You love watching Scooby Doo, but we stopped letting you watch it at night, because you kept getting scared. Now you watch Handy Manny and Curious George at night, saving Scooby for daylight hours.

We can always tell when you are hungry, because you turn into a grumpy, obnoxious little boy – but a few bites of food and you are once again our wonderful Roark-a-sour.


You love playing tag and chase at the park. You like being outside playing any sort of game – baseball, soccer, football – as long as we are playing with you.

Another thing you love is playing the Wii. You are quite skilled at it too – beating me senseless in boxing, and showing your skill in baseball and even Tiger Woods Golf. You would play it for hours and hours if we would let you.

You have scored quite a few goals in soccer this year, even though you have backed off a bit lately. Perhaps it is time to move on to football? You love swimming lessons – and have improved a lot over the past few months, now able to swim short distances on your own!

This is your first year of baseball, and you have really taken to it. You can whack the ball far, but the real joy is watching you in the outfield. You go after EVERY SINGLE BALL – no matter where it goes. I have never seen a kid so into the game.

When you are tired, we all have to tread lightly, because you can become quite the grumpy kid. There are many afternoons where you will fall asleep and sleep right through dinner…waking up to eat and then will go to bed fairly well only a few hours later. Must be all that Wiii playing…

You don’t seem very excited about any particular food, except maybe sausage rolls – which you have had for breakfast most mornings for the past two years. We typically buy a few dozen at the donut place up the street and keep them in the freezer so that you can have them every morning.

You love preschool – and your teacher said that you are a fantastic student. This is good because starting today you are going to move from three days a week to five days a week. When I told you this, you clapped and cheered (while your brother mumbled something about being too tired).

You have been telling me that you want a race track every time they advertise them on TV. This fits well with your love for cars and trucks, and all pretend play.

You don’t really like coloring, or doing many crafts, although you will give play dough a try every now and then, losing interest inside a few minutes.

You were the black spiderman this year for Halloween and seemed to enjoy tricker treating – although you don’t really like candy much. In fact, you don’t seem that excited about much sweet, with the exception of strawberry ice cream.

You love watching Handy Many and the occasional Curious George, but don’t like any show where inanimate objects move on their own. Talking or moving furniture, clocks, or pictures scare the daylights out of you, even though you know it isn’t real.

You are our wonderful Coley-Kong.