Friday, October 31, 2008



My parent’s are flying out to San Diego next Thursday. I am excited but at the same time very nervous about them coming. Due to a new round of Chemo and the progression of his tumors, my dad is now unable to walk on his own and he has lost all of his hair.

The last time we visited Andrew was concerned about grandpa's appearance. He commented on how different he looked. This time his appearance will be a ton more drastic. I am worried that the kids will be scared. I know it sounds silly but I remember the way children would look at him after his first round of chemo years ago. When we would go to the grocery store little kids would stare or get a look of panic on their faces when they would see him. I just don't want my kids to treat him differently or be afraid. Other then my fear of the kid's reaction to my dad, I cannot wait to spend time with my parents. Their plan is stay for good. My mom is having a hard time caring for my dad on her own and needs help. They are going to rent an apartment nearby. My mom tends to flip flop when it comes to decision making so I wouldn’t be surprised if she changed her mind and moved back to Chicago. I refuse to get my hopes up!

In response to my stress levels over my parent's upcoming visit, I rewrote an old journal entry I found on my computer about the first time we found out about my dad's cancer. My method of dealing with stress is to write, it saves money on shrink bills! Here it is (it's very long!):

My first experience with cancer occurred at the age of 18. After my sisters 4.0 grade point average startlingly plunged down to a 2.0, she decided to take a year off of college and head to Kansas to live near her boyfriend. Just graduating from high school, and not ready to enter head first into years of school and books, I decided to go with her. Our plan was for a year of relaxation and freedom. We lived in a small college town. Michelle and I were just about the only people in town who didn’t attend the university. We lived in a tiny yellow apartment that housed our vintage furniture. We both got jobs together at the Nordstrom outside of Kansas City. Michelle outsold everyone in our department. All the other sales girls gossiped constantly about her. Due to her ability to always overachieve, the two of us were basically shunned by our coworkers.

My sister managed the bills and I tried my best to have enough money to party and pay for my half of the rent. I drank too much and stayed out too late. Most of the time Michelle and I lived together she hated me. I found her to be bossy and judgmental. She found me selfish and irresponsible. We avoided each other at all costs. In the beginning we laughed a ton and eat dinner together but after a couple of months we could barely stand the sight of each other. She spent a lot of time at the kitchen counter, calculator in hand, tallying how much I owed her on recent bills. When I wasn’t at work I spent all my time avoiding our apartment. Apart from work we were living very separate lives. While our sisterly bond was deteriorating, unbeknownst to us, so was our father’s health.

In April our mom called. She had a tone of urgency and panic in her voice that was frightening. “You need to come home,” she said, “get on the first flight. Your father is very sick. Don’t drive here you have to fly, we are at LaGrange hospital.”

It’s amazing how slowly time ticks away while operating in a panic mode. Everyone moves at a snails pace. I wanted the cars to speed up and for people to speak in quick short sentences. Instead, everything seemed so drawn out. I just wanted to get home.
I can remember every detail from that night. I can visualize entire hours down to the chipped fingernails of my dad’s nurse. I remember the stillness of my apartment, and stuffing dirty clothes off the floor into a backpack. I remember how quietly Chris, my boyfriend at the time, stood by watching me. I wanted him to say something, anything to break the awful silence but he didn’t. He was wearing his dirty Nike basketball shoes, the ones with the red stripe. I hated those shoes and had told a friend that if it hadn’t been for his sense of humor, I would have never spoken to him due to those god awful shoes! Before leaving he hugged me tight and kissed my forehead. We were standing on my porch. Across the street some kids were playing basketball. He promised to call me everyday. I wished he would come with me.

I remember driving to Nordstrom’s before our flight. Michelle and I stopped in to tell our boss that our dad was seriously ill and we weren’t sure when we would be back to work. I remember the escalator we took down to the parking garage. That matt, Michelle’s boyfriend’s, shoes were untied. I imagined that they would get sucked into the escalator. He kept shoving his hands into his pockets as if there was a lost penny somewhere inside. When we got in his car he played a Big Head Todd tape. Michelle sang along. I remember thinking that no one should sing in a moment like this. I expected all cheerfulness to come to a halt.

On the flight we sat next to a woman who wouldn’t stop talking. Her face was familiar, like we had always known each other, as if she had been a neighbor or one of the lunchroom monitors at my elementary school. She had short cropped brown hair and red lipstick. She wore a white sweater and her presence was oddly comforting. I wanted her to hold my hand and tell me that everything was okay. Instead she told us about her daughter’s prom dress and college plans for the fall.

It was late at night when we arrived in Chicago. Stacey, my best friend, picked us up with her dad. I had only met Stacey’s dad one other time despite being friends with her since the 6th grade. Since we lived in a predominantly white neighborhood, he thought our friends wouldn’t want to hang out with Stacey if we knew she had a black dad. He always kept to himself and shut his bedroom door when her friends were over. When we got to the hospital he drove over a curb and came to a screeching halt in front of the ER. I decided right then and there that I loved him for his sense of urgency. Michelle and I thanked them for the ride. We braced ourselves with the heavy reality of our situation.

When we got to the waiting room we were surprised to see it filled with relatives and friends of my parents. Irish people know how to gather the troops! My mom was on the phone trying to a book a flight for my brother from Spain. She told us they were unsure what was wrong with Dad but the doctor doubted he would survive the week. I was told which room to find him in. Michelle and I headed in his direction. I wasn’t prepared for what I found. He was connected to tubes and his skin was a weird color. He looked half dead. The tears came quick. Before I knew it I as sobbing. Michelle stood stoic, as still as a statue. For a moment I wasn’t sure if she was even in the room with me. I bolted. I couldn’t stand to see him like that. I collapsed outside the waiting room, not wanting everyone to see me crying. My aunt Claudia came out and sat with me. She hugged me tightly while I cried. Before long she was making fun of the nurses and my dad’s friend with the long nose hairs. The two of us were laughing madly and inappropriately outside the waiting room. Due to that moment, To this day, I love my aunt Claudia more then any other aunt.

Later that evening Michelle and I were told to go home for my mom’s phone book, we shared an elevator with my dad’s best friend. Matter of factly he stated, “That man is not going to make it through the night.” That was the one and only moment in my life that I have ever felt complete hatred toward another human being. I wanted to punch his face or spit or scream at him. To this day when I see, or think, of Tom I get angry. I’m not sure why. I think perhaps all the fear and anger I felt that night transferred to Tom. I know it’s not fair but no matter how hard I try to forgive Tom every time I see him, I picture him in the elevator saying those words. In his defense years later when my dad was laid off due to his severe memory loss Tom gave him a job when no one else would. He worked as a bartender in Tom’s pub. He was a terrible bartender but Tom didn’t care. He has always been a great and loyal friend to my dad.

It was interesting to see the way everyone else handled their grief. My mom was constantly on the phone speaking with doctors or speaking with family and friends. She turned her grief into action. My brother never cried. He was the one that would announce to strangers at the grocery store that our dad might die. I remember on the way to the hospital one morning we were stopped at a red light next to our elementary school principal. Rog rolled down the window and waved hello, and shouted, “We are all home visiting our dad. He’s dying!” Mr. Alpalter was stunned and at a loss for words. When he drove away we were all cracking up. “Did you see the look on his face!?” rog laughed. As weird as it was, Roger’s mode of grief was making other people uncomfortable for a good laugh. It was his way of trying to be okay. Michelle was strong as always. She did her best to comfort everyone else. She made sure everyone had enough food to eat and that we picked people up on time from the airport. Most of all she was the only one capable of soothing my mom. I was the most scared and outwardly emotional. I was prone to crying and hated that I behaved that way.

After about week my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor. When they told him he cried. That was the second time in my life I have seen my father cry. The first being the day he learned his mom passed away. When they operated to remove the tumor I was in the waiting room the entire time with my mom and my sister. We were unsure if he would live through and what kind of man he would be afterward. We were told that he may be a completely different person. We were uncertain if he would be able to speak or see or even walk after the surgery. Afterwards he was the same only a little bit more sentimental and his memory was a bit off. He had staples running down his scalp and his face was swollen. He looked like someone out of a horror movie. I remember the day he was released from the hospital. He was wheeled into the elevator and there was a small boy in there with his mother. My dad loves children so he was making jokes with the child and the boy hide his face because he couldn’t bare looking at my dad. That was one of the saddest moments in my life because I saw in my dads eyes that he knew he would never be the same again.

My dad’s sickness changed everything. Oddly I felt that in some ways the changes were for the better. It was as if everyone in our family woke up. We rallied together and became stronger. Through his tumor we learned to love each other more. We talked openly and deeply. Months before we discovered his tumor we were a broken family. I barely spoke to my parents and truthfully felt a lot of animosity towards them. Roger had moved all the way to Spain to escape us and rarely spoke or wrote to the rest of our family. Michelle and I could not stand the sight of each other. All of that changed. Not only were my bonds with my family stronger but I also came to realize who I could count on. Tragedy shows the character of those around you. I was able to revaluate some unhealthy relationships. Chris, the first boy with whom I had ever loved, called me just once while I was home with my family. When I had arrived back to Kansas he had found a new girlfriend. This is the guy I had spent every day of the last 8 months with. He officially broke up with me over the phone in an awkwardly short conversation. His explanation was that he had been lonely while I was away and met someone else at a party. While it was devastating at the moment, I am thankful I did not waste any more time on someone who clearly did not care about me.

While my dad’s sickness had been extremely rough on all of us, oddly there has been a lot of happiness as result. He has inspired strength and compassion in everyone who loves him. At moments I see his cancer as a gift. While I would rather a healthy father I know that we have learned and loved more then we could have ever imagined if cancer hadn’t entered our lives.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The coyotes

Before moving to San Diego I had only seen a coyote one time. It was on a camping trip in New Mexico. On a whim my mom had decided to take a cross country road trip from Chicago to San Francisco bringing along my sister, brother, our cousin Tara, and me. I think I was around 8 at the time; my sister was 10, Tara 11, and Roger 12. How she managed on her own with 4 young kids packed into a station wagon traveling cross country, I have no idea. My mom is a pretty amazing woman.

I vividly remember our stop off in New Mexico. We stayed somewhere near the city of Gallup. I only remember that because the name fascinated me. It made me think of an energetic horse on the beach. In reality it was dusty and populated with truckers as opposed to horses. After our whirl wind trip ended I always remembered the 24 hours we spent in New Mexico. I can still picture the camp ground we stayed at. We were surrounded by mountains. Michelle, Tara, Rog, and I spent the afternoon exploring and hunting for lizards. By the evening we were exhausted. The sky appeared to go on and on forever. I had never seen so many stars. The people in the trailer next to us had all sorts of strange instruments like washing boards, ukuleles, and harmonicas. They jammed most of the night. One of the old guy’s made an inappropriate comment towards my mom, something about her boobs. I could feel her embarrassment. I think that was the first time I realized that outside of being my mother she was also a real live woman. They were a nice friendly group otherwise. They shared some home cooked food with us. After dinner my mom sent me to throw away the trash in one of the dumpsters. When I opened up the lid and threw in the trash, a strange creature came skittering out of the dumpster. I nearly fainted! With my heart racing I turned around to head back to the camp site when I noticed something standing in front of me. It appeared to be half wolf half dog. I froze, not wanting to move a muscle, trying to blend in with the landscape, hoping to go unnoticed. I had always loved dogs but there was something really frightening about this one. I could tell it was wild. I can remember being completely terrified. Luckily within a moment it ran off. And that was the first encounter I've ever had with a coyote. Luckily there was lots of food at the campsite so I think the coyote was more interested in what was in the dumpster then me.

Where I live now is surrounded by canyons. There are loads of coyotes in our neighborhood. I have only had the pleasure of seeing two as of yet. One Sunday morning we saw one standing in front of the high school near our home. They are such beautiful animals. It knocked the breath right out of me. About a month ago, Aaron and I saw one at a local park. After the sun had sunk into the sky, it came out from the canyon sniffing around for food. It was so skinny and sickly looking that Aaron and I left most of our picnic dinner behind for it.

Within the last few weeks I have been awoken mid sleep twice to hear the coyotes howling outside. It's such and eerie sound. It sounds like there are hundreds of them. They seem so close, like I could open my window and see them right there on our back porch. I imagine in reality they could be miles away. They almost sound like a group of heartbroken women crying their eyes out. Last night I woke to them again. The sound is so spooky! I didn't go back to sleep. There is something so beautifully tragic about their howls. I couldn't stop listening. I worry that with all the development in San Diego we are pushing the poor coyotes out of their homes. I hope they have enough land and enough food!

This is one of my favorite blogs:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Missing the man

Aaron has been gone for nearly a week and I miss him. I can’t sleep. I have been sleeping on our little red coach for the last 6 days. I keep thinking that there is going to be a home invasion in the middle of the night and that my children will be stolen. It is irrational. Nonetheless, it keeps me on the coach near the boys were I can hear their breath bouncing against their pillows. I have a Sociology test in two days. I have yet to study. If Aaron were home he would be hounding me to crack a book. Instead, this weekend, I allowed the boys to have a sleepover; we hung out at the Lettows, we watched movies, and made cupcakes. We bought Halloween costumes at the store (Indian Jones and prince Caspian, Amelia plans on being a bumblebee again!) We made a big ethnic dinner full of rich tasting Greek food. I have been ridiculous about procrastination. Everything else is just so much more pressing and fun then learning about conflict theory and social problems. Sometimes I need Aaron to keep me on course. He is the ying to my yang. Have I mentioned just how much I miss him, how I can’t wait for him to get back?

What we have been up to this weekend:

Jake is #11

Pole vaulting in the backyard

waiting for his turn!

Amelia singing at school

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Here is a list of things people have googled to find my blog:

Help my breath smells like shit, literally!

Katie Holmes french roll

Pictures of a boy jumping off a tree

Wacky Wednesday dress up

tight roll katie

Aaron smells like shit

katie Holmes roll jeans

Katie Holmes penny loafers

The little mind of a three year old boy

Katie holmes tight roll jeans (again!)


Used to be a Phish fan

Followed Phish

Katie holmes and penny loafers

Hair cut tons off

Katie homes tight roll

katie holmes jeans

There is actually one more that is too distrubing to post that I considered shutting my blog down over.

What I have learned:

1. People are really into Katie holmes
2. Phish fans will find me
3. Someone else besides Aaron has experienced shit breath.


Lately I have found myself really enjoying the boy’s soccer practice. The school year is so hectic and at times overwhelming. I have found that the 2 hours we spend at the local park mid week is so very peaceful. It's the only chance I get all week to sit back and relax. The boys love playing soccer. It really is the happiest part of their week. I love to see them chasing after the ball and drunk on the excitement of playing a game they love so much.

My favorite time of the day as far back as I can remember has always been dusk. As a little girl my brother and I would often run across our neighbor’s yards to the Flag creek to sneak a peak at all the animals that came out of hiding right before the sun sunk away into the sky. We would see turtles, beavers, and if we were really lucky a fox or a deer. Dusk reminds me of summer and of being young and carefree. It's connected to all that I love: nature, summer, family, and youth. I love the way the sinking sun makes everything more vivid and the most beautiful shade of orange.

Every week we spend a good half and hour at soccer practice stuck in-between daylight and night fall. It reminds me just how lucky we are to live in such a stunning city. The park the kids play at is outlined by mission Trails Park. We can see the pretty slopes of hills to the east and the outline of downtown to the south. It's nice to be reminded mid week of all the beauty we are surrounded by.

I snapped a photo last week but it doesn’t capture how amazing it really is

Amelia palying on the playground with an orange tint from the setting sun

Amelia's Birthday letter #4

You are now officially 4 years old. When I woke you up the morning of your birthday and shouted happy birthday and asked how it felt to be four, you were not pleased. “Mommy, I am not four! At my party when we go to the park open presents and sing happy birthday I will be four. Today I am still three!” People telling you that you were 4 went on all day. This was a highly disappointing turn of events. Very tiresomely you had to explain to people how growing a year old worked. Clearly the rest of the world is clueless when it comes to birthdays! Over and over again you explained that you can only age during birthday parties and not until after the birthday song has been sung to you! I think people might be starting to get it! I imagine it must be tiresome to be surrounded by such ignorance. You have run into the same problem at preschool. Preschool, mostly has been an enormous blessing to you but has also proven to be a huge source of frustration. Oddly, your teacher, Mrs. Plagenz, seems to believe that sharing time occurs only on Mondays and Wednesdays. You know better. Sharing is everyday. Also, Ms. Plagenz says that you can only bring something in that starts with the letter of the week. Last week was E. When you insisted on bringing a bag of miss matched socks from the laundry room to share with your classroom, you were livid when I attempted to explain why that wasn’t happening. “Sock starts with S not E.” I explained. You were even madder when I explained the way sharing works. Ms. Plagenz is wrong you insisted. Besides, Ms. Plagenz loves socks. She always tells you how pretty yours are. She would love a bag of socks to be shared. After much persuasion and a lot of tears you agreed to leave the socks home until S became the letter of the week. Luckily you received many, many fairies as gifts. This weeks sharing may not be too terrible what with all the choices. We will see!

When people asked what you wanted for your Birthday this year, you told everyone the same thing: Barbie and Tinkerbelle stuff. It amazes me how grown up you are from last year. You didn’t even know what a Barbie was and now you have a whole group of then lining the bottom shelf of your book case (hopefully you will not have body issues as a result!).

On the car ride home from your party you said that was the best, best, birthday ever. You were so excited. It was one of those moments that I love. I love when you are your happiest. You have such an excitement about life. You remind me at times of your uncle Roger who is so full with happiness at any given moment he radiates a cheer that you can practically feel and breathe in. I love that you have that in you. It’s a contagious happiness that makes my life that much more interesting and amazing all because of you. I hope that excitement sticks with you your entire life. I hope when you are an adult you will get just as big of a kick out of seeing a butterfly or the cute tiny little ants in your back yard. Nothing is trivial to you. Everything is vivid.

This year you have started preschool. I don’t get to see you as much. This at times is hard for me because I love spending time with you. If given the option to stay home with me all day or go to school you would choose school. You absolutely love it. You love the puzzles, and the tiny little blue stool in the bathroom, the princess dresses, the stories your teacher reads, and most of all your friends. I am so happy that you have adjusted well. You tell me everything that goes on at school. You tell me about the songs you sing, the kid that got in trouble, and the funny little things your classmates did. I love hearing you excitingly spill every little detail from your day. The boys have always been so boy like when it comes to talking about what goes on when I am not with them. Being naturally nosey I love that you tell me about your day! You want me to know about the new pink shoes Hailey was wearing or the way Sophie pretended to be a Monster and you were her monster mommy. I like that you recite the songs you sang making up your own lyrics. Sometimes I wish I could magically keep you at this age forever. I love the sound of your voice and your tiny little hands. I love the way you giggle and even how dramatic you get at times. I am so happy to have you in my life. I can’t wait to see what other exciting moments this year has in store for you.
Love you always,

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The kids in October

I am kind of obsessed with taking photos of my kids