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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Crapalanche

Two weeks ago, Mom, Timothy, Chris and I went to Port Ludlow and – with the help of some good friends – emptied out the beach house.  We bid adieu to the place that Dad loved and where he’d spent so much time laboring over the last few years.  A labor of love.  He’d painted every wall, tiled floors, fixed plumbing, built a beautiful stone column on the deck, worked on the roof and filled over 20 truck loads with overgrown vegetation.  When we’d finally taken the last load out of the house, we went over to the condo (which we just listed for sale) and popped the bottle of champagne that’s been waiting for a sold-property celebration for three years.  (Mom and Dad had bought it to celebrate the condo selling…we took that off the market after dad died, listed the house first and their Bellevue condo instead.  After a summer of frustration and dropping prices on both properties WAY too much, both ended up selling and closing within a week at the beginning of October.)

Yes, it’s a relief to have two properties sold.  Yes, it helps…a bit.  There’s still a ridiculous amount of stuff to figure out.  Tax stuff (that I don’t even get at all and try to avoid thinking about since it causes brain-pain).  Then there’s the annoying little stuff – the home phone that we cancelled and yet they’re still charging mom for.  The cable modems that got returned and yet they’re saying they don’t have.  We just got a bill for Dad’s cell phone for the month of September.  We cancelled his phone a while ago.  I didn’t know they got reception in Heaven, but we’re getting charged for it!

I’ve been saying for a while, “I just want things to get easier.”  All the administrative broo-ha-ha from having five properties to manage (the Bellevue condo, the beach house, the Port Ludlow condo, Mom’s new place, Chris’ new apartment).  It’s just too much.  I’ve been so nervous that I’m going to make a huge mistake and royally screw things up.  It all feels way too adult.  It’s way too many utility bills for one person to keep track of.  So, we are down two places.  There are only three properties to manage now.  Yep, only three.  And, sure, it’s gotten a little easier, but it’s continued to feel like a bit a crap-avalanche.  A crapalanche. The minute one big thing closes/settles/eases up a bit, there’s something else.  We get notification that Mom’s credit card (that took 6 months to get) was ‘compromised’ in the Home Depot credit card fraud dealy and they have to cancel it (I kid you not – within two weeks after I’d finally managed to set up so many bills to be autopaid on it to simplify our lives).  Her credit card is finally back – new number, all good, up and running.  We get notification that Chris’ credit card has been compromised.  Here we go again.

I’m the biggest whiner.  The biggest complainer.  Here’s the deal: life is hard, I get that.  I realize that my problems – compared to so many people in the world – well, they’re a joke, really; a walk in the park.  And, honestly, I wouldn’t trade with anyone.  So, at what point, can I just really accept the ‘life is hard business – just work with it’ mentality?  These are the cards we’ve been dealt – play the game without being such a wuss.


I’m waiting.  I’m waiting for things to settle down, for life to get a little less complicated.  People keep telling me that it will, but maybe instead, I should stop waiting and just embrace this new ‘normal.’  It’s a heck of a lot more challenging than my life used to be, but people have said I’m not one for boring.  We’ve always tended to have more drama in our lives than is normal.  Can’t just have a wedding night without a trip to the ER.  Why have a baby at 40 weeks when you can make a more surprising entrance and have a BOY 5 weeks early?!  You know I could go on and on…but – the drama, the excitement, the stress – maybe it’s the only way I know how to do things.  It’s how we roll.  Now I gots to just own it.  

Friday, October 03, 2014

Fall

We’ve sold the first of my mom’s properties – her condo in Bellevue.  This is a good thing.  This is SUCH a relief and will lift an enormous burden off all of our shoulders.  But it’s also bittersweet.  It’s all so bittersweet.  This is how everything is right now.  It was the place where I last saw and spent time with dad.  It was the place where lots of events happened over the last 14 years. (College graduation celebrations, our post-Wedding day brunch – also bittersweet thanks to our Wedding night spent in the ER, it’s where we brought babies to visit Grandma and D-dad, it’s where we threw an amazing surprise birthday party for mom’s 70th, it’s where we went after dad died).

Yesterday, I was driving home from dropping Kayliana off at preschool.  I was kind of just zoning out when, all of a sudden, I became uber aware of my surroundings.  I think it was the combination of sun and the color of the autumn leaves around me.  It also happened to be the same road that I had to drive home on after getting the call from Mike.  I was immediately transported back to that moment, that day.

This year, the changes of fall make me feel just a little ill.  It’s beautiful, but it puts a pit of dread in my stomach. It just means we’re in the season and nearing the inevitable first anniversary of dad’s death.  Every moment causes me, in some way, to think about that.  Well, a year ago when we were putting up our harvest-Halloween decorations, I had no idea what would happen in just a matter of weeks.  I was also all sorts of confused and stressed, fall 2013, with my new (dad-initiated) plan to go back to school and get my Masters.  (A plan that has been completely shelved, put on the back-burning, has a pin in it – you name it.  I feel like, for the last 10 months, I’ve hardly been able to get through a day without falling apart.   I can barely look a week ahead right now without feeling overwhelmed.   Figuring out my future career path is the last thing on my mind.) 

People have already started talking a bit about the holidays.  I saw Christmas trees in a store already.  Normally, this would thrill me to no end (and, of course, it partly does).  But Thanksgiving will be forever tainted.  I’ll never be able to experience it for just Thanksgiving.  It will always bring back memories of last Thanksgiving – reeling and really, still being in shock, from the two days before.

I think I’ve even already blogged about this, and it makes me sad that this has become the tone of my blog, but whatchya-gonna-do, right?  November 26th looms like a dark shadow in front of me.  It’s the day before Thanksgiving this year.  I (selfishly) pre-dread seeing all the happy Thanksgiving posts on Facebook or having to listen to people complain about the stress of the holiday, the family madness, the cooking, the cleaning, the prep-work (even though I will grumble about some of that too). I assume that we’ll probably have Thanksgiving here.  I do think it’s good that we won’t be having it in the same place as last year, but I know it won’t necessarily be any easier.


This is the thing with grief – and a dear friend from Engaged Encounter (who lost her son) – told me: it’s the build-up to the days – the holidays, the anniversaries and birthdays – that’s usually the hardest.  That, and the random days (like today and yesterday) when, for whatever reason, it’s just extra painful.  The hurt is just a little more constantly present.  So, maybe that’s what I’m in now.  The random hard days.  The build-up to the big days.  No matter how you slice it, it sucks; it’s all hard.  Different levels of hard, but all sucky.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

And we're off!

The school year has gotten off to a good though super-frenzy-paced start.  I feel like a switch got flipped and BOOM – life and busyness and all that there is to do is just swirling around us.  The next few weeks, unfortunately, aren’t going to get any tamer.  A couple of upcoming weekends will be spent going to Port Ludlow to pack up and out of the beach house (which has a sale pending).  Very bittersweet.
The kids are in full school stuffs craziness.  They have swim lessons Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 until the 2nd week of October.  I start teaching my music classes (4 classes back-to-back) next Monday.  We’ve been mentoring an engaged couple from church on Wednesdays.  The weekends have been packed with fun activities (but still packed).  The 1st of October, the boys will start a Parkour class (to, ya know, start learning how to become ninja warriors).  Kayli does gymnastics on Wednesday mornings; we go to the gym Tuesday mornings; she has preschool Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.  I’m toying with the idea – once this session is over and the boys are done – of having her do swim lessons Tuesday/Thursday mornings between gym and preschool. The fact is: it takes A LOT of energy to use up all her energy.  Last week, she had swimming Tues/Thurs., gymnastics Wednesday morning and I took her out for a 1.5 mile run Wednesday night evening…with all that she FINALLY started going to bed better.  I just got a new pair of Nike running shoes…for her.
Speaking of running, I feel pretty good that I’m starting to get more of a running routine again.  Without running, I feel weird.  So, basically in addition to everything else we’ve been dealing with, I’ve felt no-running-weird for most of the last nine months.  Unfortunately, getting up to run is just as hard as ever…we’re sleeping like crap.  Zachary is in a bad sleep phase.  He wakes up EVERY SINGLE night – sometimes more than once – and is scared.  He usually can’t totally explain why, he’s just scared.  Some nights he doesn’t even remember getting up.  He typically ends up flying under the covers of our bed and we groggily roll over, not waking up enough to get up, get him up and back to bed.  The fact that we haven’t consistently slept through the night in a couple of months, definitely doesn’t help…well, anything.  BUT I have managed to still get up early most mornings and have gotten out for runs a couple of times a week.  I run with my friend/neighbor Tiffany.  Last week, we heard a coyote howling.  On Monday, we were very startled when the (rather large cousin-of-canines) came crashing through a yard and ran across the street a couple houses ahead of us to the golf course.  A little bit later, he crossed in front of us again heading back to the woods.  Dang, those things are way bigger than I expected!
School is going well(ish) for the boys.  It’s always a transition to get back into the school routine.  Matthew (now 5th grade), for the 2nd year, has a guy teacher, which is pretty exciting.  It’s a funny generalization (but true, I’ve found), that the male teachers are usually the favorites – the ones all the kids and parents want.  And, I have to say, I think, for a boy, its extra cool that Matthew’s gotten dude teachers two years in a row.  Zachary has an adorable young woman for his 3rd grade teacher – one that everyone has raved about – so it appears they’re both in very good hands!
Matthew turned 11 the 3rd day of school. ELEVEN.  And he’s SO freakishly tall – 5 foot 1.5 inches.  ELEVEN and he’s only 2 ½ inches shorter than me!  We celebrated his birthday with a super-packed fun weekend.  We went to the little Newcastle Days celebration at the park – inflatable bouncy houses and obstacle courses, climbing wall, live music, free junk, food vendors, pony rides and petting zoo.  Then the next day, we REALLY went all out and went to the Washington State Fair down in Puyallup.  It was super hot that day and a little bit like Disneyland in that everyone gets all sugar-wired and wound up – yet tired – so you’re doing this very fun (and stupid-expensive!) outing and people tend to get real cranky real quick.  All in all, good family fun times!
Zachary on Butterscotch

Kayliana on Candy


Up, up

and away

A boy and his...bunny

Kayli :)

Our adrenaline junkies ready for the "Extreme Scream."  (Sadly, adrenaline junky #3 -- Kayli -- wasn't big enough) 






Tuesday, September 02, 2014

It was awesome

Well, that’s telling – I just started to type “August” for today’s date.  The summer felt like it was over before it really began.  I knew it would go fast, but WHAT?!  At least, I feel confident in that we succeeded in smooshing as much ‘summer’ into the last full week of summer vacation as we possibly could.  We spent a weekend with our Engaged Encounter friends (more like family) at a big house up on Lake Cavanagh.  We boated.  We drank.  The kids swam.  We roasted marshmallows.  We drank.  We had a sing-along.  We drank.  The kids swam.  We boated.  We drank…it was great, I think. J It was awesome…and hard to admit it was over.

Then, a couple of days later, we drove down to Seaside, Oregon where we stayed with our neighbors/friends Erik and Melissa and their two kids.  We had a wonderful time.  The weather turned out surprisingly good and we filled each minute of every day.  We did the beach and the pool as much as possible.  We rode bikes on the boardwalk and flew kites.  We went to the little aquarium and fed the seals.  We did bumper cars, rode the carousel and played lots of games.  It was awesome…and hard to admit it was over.

On Sunday, after church, we drove to Suncadia for a day at the beautiful vacation home of friends from baseball/the boys’ school.  I’m so mad at myself for not taking pictures, but if I had you would’ve thought I was just posting photos from a travel or home magazine.  Stacey’s and Angela’s vacation house is hands down the most breathtaking home I’ve ever stepped foot in.  Angela designed nearly every aspect of it herself.  I can’t even begin to describe the place.  Just imagine the most beautiful home set in the most breathtaking mountain location you can picture…and you’re almost there.  The entire back wall off the kitchen opens up (via accordion door/wall) to the patio and boasts a panoramic view of forest and mountains.  You feel like – well, you are – sitting on a bluff overlooking God’s glorious creation.  Again, I’m a moron for not having taken pictures, but you wouldn’t have believed them anyway. 

We spent the day with five families from school/baseball – just hanging out.  The kids (and a couple of the dads) swam at the resort pool.  We all talked…and drank…made s’mores.  The kids watched a movie.  It was awesome…and hard to admit it was over.

And, here, we are.  SEPTEMBER.  I take the boys this morning to meet their teachers and see their classrooms.  Tomorrow is the first day of school.  Tomorrow, Kayliana has her first day of gymnastics.  Thursday, Kayli meets her preschool teacher and sees her first ever classroom.  On Friday, Matthew turns ELEVEN.  Next week, swim lessons start back up for all three kids.  A week after, that we start at-home faith formation lessons.  A couple of weeks after that my music classes start back up.  A couple of weeks after that the boys starts a Parkour class (so they can learn to become American Ninja Warriors). A couple of weeks after that it’ll be Christmas and then summer and then the kids will graduate…and their childhoods will be over in a blink of an eye…

It was awesome…and hard to admit it was over.


Flying our kites -- in the lower left hand corner, you can see Mike (blue t-shirt) and Kayli


The kids -- heading to the aquarium





Incredible neighbors and friends -- Erik & Melissa!



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stormy Skies


 It’s funny – not at all, actually – how it can still hurt so much sometimes.  I feel like I’m doing alright, but it’s always there and I have to just stop ignoring it and living through the pain and just totally embrace it.  I think about dad in nearly every moment.  Silly things that I just wish I could tell him or that he could see.  I wish he could see Kayli ride her bike.  I wish I could tell him about the boys – and even me! – knee boarding while we were camping.   I want to talk to him about my brother Chris in his very own apartment – and how well he’s done with the huge change.

I also feel guilty for feeling sad.  I know that’s dumb because loss is loss and grief is grief.  But when I hear about tragedy in the world, when I think about how some people lose their loved one in such heart-breaking and tragic ways, I do feel badly for asking the ‘why me? Why him? Why us?’ questions.

My mom told me that a friend of hers from Port Ludlow stopped by to see her new place.  Mom said this friend ‘still can’t really believe it.  He was the healthiest and most active of all their friends.’  “She’s really in shock.”

“Aren’t we all?” I’d said.

Mom’s been so busy – so nonstop since dad died – figuring out managing/hopefully selling properties, taking care of Chris’ needs (filing the required 3 year guardianship report with the court was a completely overwhelming task), moving both Chris and herself.  She hasn’t had a second to really process I don’t think.

Next Tuesday, August 26th would’ve been mom and dad’s 47th wedding anniversary.  I don’t even know how to help her with that one. 

We just celebrated our 13th anniversary on the 11th. Again, these are the moments – the firsts – since dad died; every single event has an undertone of grief for me and it sucks.  I just can’t 100% fully celebrate anything.  But I do my best. 

Rebecca watched the kids for us on the 13th so that we could have a just-us date which was lovely and a much-needed night out. On the 11th, we didn’t have a babysitter so we decided to do something special as a family.  We went to the Newcastle Golf Club for dessert and drinks.  Shortly after we arrived, Zachary handed me a folded piece of paper.  He’d made us a card and brought it with him.  It had our names in a heart and a picture of our family holding hands. 

We watched and listened to the bagpiper.  As he played ‘Amazing Grace,’ the sun turned into a glowing ball of red and fell into the clouds before setting.  After the sun set and it grew darker, we were able to watch a little bit of a lightning storm over the hills to the East. 

I suppose you could say the sky that night – with the serene sunset on one side and the wild storm in the other direction – was similar to how I’ve felt since dad died.  It’s a constant mix with sudden bursts of ugly, angry grief and yet also peaceful acceptance – understanding that the way dad died was beautiful and being thankful for that despite how hard it is.


We've packed a ton into 13 years -- Cancer, pregnancies, preemies, bed rest, adoption, moving, grief...
but always with a heck of a lot of love


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

July

 
This girl is ready for all the fun summer has to offer!

Cousins!  I was always jealous of the kids who – when growing up – got to spend time with other fun, young cousins. Our family’s all spread out so it was an especially rare, special occasion to see cousins.
We’re always happy to see Mike’s sister, Jamie, and her husband, Daniel.  Now, it’s even more fun since we all have kids. 
Tucker is adorable-pants. I especially loved seeing how much he idolized his big boy cousins – particularly Matthew.
We had a great 4th of July – heading down to our local park’s festivities and fireworks.  Saturday was spent leisurely hanging out our house.  The kids played outside, did sidewalk chalk, drove remote control cars (along with Uncle Dan), we went to the kids’ school to play and then went to dinner at Red Robin.   It’ll be fun to watch these cousins as they all grow up.



The week after their visit, Zach spent a week doing acting-theater camp with his buddy, Elliott. At the end of the week, they put on a 15 minute version of the Wizard of Oz. Zach was the palace guard and OWNED his part.


Our next big summer event was a wedding.  My dear friend, Erin, from book club, got married – woohoo!  The kids got to go to the wedding too which is always so exciting.  Kayli LOVED the reception – wandering from table to table and telling people they looked beautiful.  She even told beautiful bride Erin, “I like your dress.” And she and a little blond boy had a bit of a break-dance battle.  It was such a fun day to celebrate a beautiful couple.
 The clean up so 'purty
 
 (Reception photo-bombing Matthew)

My fave book club girls (and Kayli)!!
When we got home from the wedding, we adjusted bikes so that Kayli could now ride Zach’s (with training wheels).  Zachary now has Matthew’s old bike.  And Matthew is using my brother Chris’ bike.  Kayliana – no surprise here – is a natural on the bike and will probably be ready to have those training wheels removed way before her big brothers did.
 
The morning after Erin’s wedding, we headed out for Ike Kinswa State Park for our 5 day camping trip with our best friends Jason and Rebecca.  Some of Rebecca’s family was there (techinically we were crashing THEIR annual camping trip and they were kind enough to let us – at least to our faces they seemed OK with it).  Rebecca’s dad stayed the whole time we were there which was super fun (and not just ‘cuz he took us out almost every day in their boat).  All of the clan boys tried to and succeeded at knee boarding!  We were most impressed with Matthew who failed to pull himself up the first day he tried but never gave up.  On his last try on the last day, he did it!  I was so proud of him…and so inspired that I decided to try it!  I’m not one to do anything TOO daring, adventurous, exciting or…fast, so this was a pretty big deal (to me anyway). 
I brought my dad’s 2 man tent back from Port Ludlow for the boys to sleep in.  They did awesome…until 3 am on our last night/morning, when we woke to yelling.  Matthew was vomiting all over himself, his sleeping bag and his air mattress.  Zach was trying to get away from him (near impossible in a tiny tent).  We spent an hour cleaning Matthew up.  We moved Zach into our tent.  Matthew slept in the car and eventually we went back to bed. Thankfully Matthew woke up feeling a lot better and I woke up on that, our last morning, with the feeling that: DANG! You know it’s been a great camping trip when – even after dealing with a 3am puke-episode – you wish the fun didn’t have to end.
Rockin' her 'camping dress'

I feel like this is the epitome of a photo that, 10 and then 20 years from now, they'll try to recreate.
 

 

 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer


This summer is a-flyin’ by.  I hate to say that.  I hate to answer, “Busy.  Crazy.  Crazy-busy,” when people ask how our summer is going.  But it’s true.  Last year, I bragged about how chill our summer was.  We had a lot of at-home time.  Our days filled up with things like play dates and running through the sprinkler and my never-ending house projects (last year’s was painting our master bathroom…a project still not entirely complete).  This year, I feel like when people ask what we’re doing, I must just give them a blank stare.  I feel like a deer in headlights.  I feel like if I LOOK like the way I feel, then I must look like the craziest most disheveled psycho ever. 

Yes, helping my mom has been the driving force in the busyness.  But I’m so happy to do it.  All of the craziness has been for the purpose of helping simplify her life (which, let’s face it, will simplify mine too).  With multiple properties to manage, a disabled son’s affairs/finances to manage and being recently widowed – it’s just a lot.  Too much.  So, I’m happy to take on as much as I can.  And Mike is just as happy to support me in whatever way I need to support her.  Unfortunately the craziness has kind of had to get worse before it’ll get better.

At the end of May, we got her main (and largest) condo ready to put on the market – where it has now sat for nearly two months with not an offer in sight.  We also moved my brother Chris into his first ever (living on his own) apartment.  Last month, I spent a weekend (along with Matthew) cleaning out the beach house, meeting with a realtor and getting it prepped and staged and listed to sell.  Just two weeks ago, we moved mom into her beautiful, new retirement complex.  This place has been referred to as a “cruise ship on land.”  It really is a perfect way to describe this sanctuary for mom.  But unfortunately, we’ve now gone from mom having three properties to manage (two too many) to five.  Holy poop.  It’s a lot of bills and craziness to say the least.

Accompanying the move is the need to downsize.  Thus, my new part-time job as a Craigslisting fiend – I’m a ‘lister’ not a shopper or buyer...for now, anyway.  We’ve managed to sell a few of mom’s things, but some of the biggest items remain (king size bed, two dining sets, a china hutch, etc.).  Not to mention many, many beautiful collectables, antiques, China sets, pieces of religious art, etc.  We’ve had three different estate sale companies come and take a look and all have said that, while she has nice things, it’s not actually enough for them to put on a sale.  Smells like another big project coming our way – we’ll be having a moving/estate sale on August 2nd to hopefully clear out the place.  If you’ve ever had a garage sale, you know how much work it can be to get ready for one.  Now, imagine that garage sale and Antiques Road Show coming together and you’ll understand what we’re dealing with.  We’ve got to research a lot of the items ourselves to (hopefully!) price them appropriately – sellable but also appreciating their value.

On top of the, well – everything – we’ve had a plague of Pink Eye hit the Martin home.  I’ve never had Pink Eye before.  Never had a kid with Pink Eye.  Now I can (hang my head in shame and) announce that 3 out of 3 Martin children have had Pink Eye in the last three weeks.  It’s like they did a weird relay, tag team nasty-eyeball hand-off thing.  When Matthew first came down with it, we got on top of it right away.  I got him in to see the doctor.  We started the antibiotic eye drops.  We cancelled plans for a couple of days.  We disinfected the house.  I felt like we rocked the socks off of Pink Eye.  Ain’t nobody getting’ this nastiness, foo.  A week later, Zachary got it.  Like the day, Matthew finished the eye drops; Zach started ‘em.  I feel like there’s something about Pink Eye (and the fact that all of our kids got it) that just makes us sound like trashy, gross, disgusting people.  Awesome.  We’re weirdly contagious with goopy eyes.  Wanna hang out?

So, again, some of our ‘fun’ events of the summer have had to be cancelled and rescheduled or put off ‘til we’re a less nasty people.

In the next few weeks, in this last ‘hurrah’ of summer, we have our few trips planned.  Next week, we go on a 4 night camping trip with our best friends.  We’ve been looking forward to it since we carefully selected the best possible site in the campground nine (or more) months ago.  A couple of weeks after that, we go up to our friends’ cabin for an Engaged Encounter weekend get-away/overnight.  A couple of weeks after that, we’re going with neighbors to Seaside, Oregon.  All fun things! 

My prayer is that a.) We can stay grotesque and germ-free, b.) In the midst of our ‘fun’ we manage to sell 2 of mom’s properties and most of her belongings, and c.) I maintain my sanity (or what’s left of it). Wish us luck!