Sunday, July 31, 2011


I find myself with one foot stuck in the thick muddy tasks of every day life and the other foot in the rapidly swirling, rushing waters of the impending move to-do's that are ever mounting.

One weekday afternoon, I am standing at my kitchen sink, day-dreaming over countless plastic pieces and scalding hot soapy water while washing the boys' nebulizers for their daily breathing treatments.  I am gazing into space, lost in my thoughts of how the hell we are going to get life in order.  Pretty standard for me, but on this afternoon it is a thought that is quickly ballooning larger than life.

I am startled out of my cloud when I hear Michael screaming agitatedly.  Actually, he is screaming as though an ax murderer has stormed through the front door and arrived in the kitchen.  I glance up with confusion trying to piece together what is going on.  He is standing only 15 feet in front of me having the loudest spaz attack I have ever heard.  It is deafening.

He is frozen pointing at our visitor, although it isn't an ax murderer, rather a black bird with a red stripe on it wings.  The bird is hacking nervously on one of the screens of our kitchen windows situated around our kitchen table.  Michael, who happened to be standing right in front of the windows is now beyond Level 2 Kid Panic Mode and has entered full blown Level 1, Red Alert Child Hysteria.  My brain is still not understanding his fear.  I witness veins popping out of his neck as he screams.  His face is almost scarlet red.  Then it hits me in the decibel shattering chaos...  The bird is INSIDE my house perched on the screen and pecking furiously trying to get OUTSIDE.  Now, Michael's face nears a hue of purple.

I suspect that I myself have gone to a shade of ghost white since I swear I feel the blood drain out of my body.  I know if I look down I will pass out.  The bird continues to angrily flap its wings.  The bird and I at this point are both trying to figure out how we got in this situation.  I drop the nebs and stop the rushing faucet.  I make eye contact with Michael and as calmly as I can tell him to quiet down.  I swiftly usher Michael out of the kitchen and try to focus on what to do.

What the hell...  what the hell?!!  The what hell do I do next?  Some retail stores are stuck with birds permanently because they just can't get them out the door.

I grab a magazine off of the counter and fling our back door open.  I will this stupid bird, who obviously isn't the smartest thing in the world, to leave.

Please, please, please, please leave!  Isn't this a really bad omen or something?   Who the hell besides me has a damn bird fly into their house?  I make long gliding, controlled motions from the bird to the open door.  I am whoosing air with the magazine past the bird.  As I am telepathically commanding the bird to leave, I start thinking of Darwinism.  This stupid bird surviving in the wilderness of surburban Chicago is amusing.  And likewise, this bird surviving in our home is even more ludicrous.  How did it fly into our house??

As I stand in the garbage pile that life has thrown my way, I have to believe I am paying my dues and that the storm clouds will one day part.  Or there is something more behind why these baffling things happen to me.  It defies reason that certain events happen.  In this case, it's just plain stupid.

Sometimes, I can't figure it out, even if I tilt my head to the right just a bit to view a situation from a different angle or even if I stand back to look at the forest instead of just the one damn tree.  I used to be that young professional who was polished.  I used to be a great friend who would just call to see how you are doing.  I used to have it together and spend time quietly reading my favorite novel or even oil painting.  I USED TO BE THAT PERSON.  Now, I am schoo-ing a squawking living creature away from my dinette.

Hello?! Bird, this is prison for you...  you might want to ask our dog some days.  Please, PLEASE!  The bird stretches its wings broadly after a few minor flutters and as quickly as it arrived in my kitchen, it departs.  One swoop and it is gone, but not after leaving an aftermath of poop.

Oh, the damage.

First I am off to investigate for its point of entry.  I reason through the possibilities.  We have no air-conditioning as we have been in a embattled discussion with a company who we suspect contributed to the demise of the air conditioner as caused by the death of our furnace (refer to our-furnace-outage-in-the-dead-of-winter-blog titled "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"...).  No air, means open windows...  WITH SCREENS.  And then it hits me like a semi.  The guest room.  We have family staying with us and it is the one room in the house that has no screens and gets the hottest.  Earlier I had jimmied the windows so that they were open at the top where the blinds were gathered up and blocking the opening.  It was no more than open six inches wide enough to let air pass through, but the blinds were covering the opening.  The damn bird hit an unbelievable target and pushed its way in.  What are the chances?!

I walk the first floor to find bird droppings in the family room and the kitchen, which is exactly the same decelerated path a bird would likely take from the second floor guest bedroom.  I clean the mess as I go.  I don't even have to do any more Sherlock Holmes sleuthing at this point.  There are bird droppings on the rail over looking the family room and all over the guest room.

On the carpet, on the window sills, on the linens.

Evidently, birds must poop when they are In survival mode.  YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING ME?!

All I can wonder is how much bacteria has entered my house (clearly, I am not rationale at this point since obviously a home naturally has a wealth of bacteria anyways).  And what bacteria?!  After I clean this mess I will need to be dipped in a bath of bleach to feel clean again.  And I can't even consider washing the boys nebs.  I ponder if I can bleach the carpet.  Then reassure myself that, no, it is probably not a good idea.  At leas maybe the window sill???  I realize my insanity setting in.  Agh.  I feel like disease is all around me.  Damn bird.

Survival is my only mode.  I have learned that during this phase in my sweet family's life, I am responsible to react every moment of every day from sunrise and survive until another sunset.  Weeks after the bird's cameo, I wake up to the dog puking.  And minutes later find that my husband has left a pack of gum in his pocket and it went through the dryer.  And, yes, I check pockets.  He put it in a random cargo pocket.  To add insult to injury, the dryer is new.  Only a couple days old and now the drum is covered in minty, green freshness.  I spend plenty of elbow grease cleaning it so the next batch of garments aren't also plagued with gobs of pliable chewing gum.  Survival.

It's almost laughable.  Or cryable.  It's a toss up.

The boys excitement for a new adventure is apparent.  We read Mister Rogers, "Moving" and talk about our trip to the new house in New Jersey.  The bon voyage party has come and gone.  Most of the good-byes and tears are done.

Now, it's go time.  The boys spend the day at their grandparents as my husband and I are getting things orderly.  Among the boxes, he casually informs me that he also needs to get something critical completed for work by midnight two days from now.  He works best under pressure.  He really has a talent for it.  I on the other hand am a planner, but the whole bird thing is teaching me to simply react.  Planning lately is just not an option.

The frenzy of the house getting packed happens faster than a blink.  The packers descend on our house and start their drill.  I can't even sort the remaining socks and pair them.  Nope, they packed them.  The garbage bags, where are those?  I need one.  Yep, they packed those too.  Good thing for the bird that it got out.  Otherwise, it would've been packed up along with the rest of our life.  The dog pouts under the bed, angry that we are moving.  She might also be wondering if the the packers are coming for her too.

The afternoon wraps up and boxes are nearly all the remain.

The dog is clearly confused and my husband and I start to plot out what is ahead.  I leave and head to Papa and Nonna's to help put the boys to bed and relax for a while.  Bathing the boys, getting in their evening treatments, and trying to get them to settle in and sleep over at their grandparents is not an easy task list, but all are critical.  After they are finally winding down and almost asleep my husband arrives after wrapping at our house and signing off with the packing crew.

Before he starts to tackle his work, he heads up to take a quick shower.  Over a cup of coffee and conversation with Nonna, I hear him scamper down and stunned he realizes that he has no t-shirts in the bag he packed.  No shirts at all.  Yep, the movers packed those too before he could get them in the bag he had also set to the side.  See, I told ya, it's that survival thing again.  I shake my head and laugh as I sip my coffee hoping the scorch the nervous butterflies in my stomach.

He scavenges random shirts at his parents as though they are his life-line for the coming move.  Once he is satisfied with his new collection of old sports t-shirts and random fundraising shirts for his wardrobe, he hunkers down to focus on his work.  After a good hour it is a obvious that his efforts (of course) would be thwarted.  His computer is giving him trouble.  After trouble-shooting with 24-hour IT people on the phone, it is inevitable.  He has to go into work the next morning, battling rush hour traffic into downtown Chicago, to fix the glitch with his computer.  Conveniently, the moving truck will roll up promptly at the same time at the house.  We'll do what we gotta do.  Survive.  Exasperated, I yank on a lock of my hair, nervously laugh, and giving up plunk my head on the kitchen table.

The next morning, hubby hurries out the door as I ready the kids to meet the movers at the house.  Michael and I watch as Optimus Prime (the best way we could describe to Michael what the moving van would be like since he is obsessed with Transformers) arrives at our house, backing up gingerly onto our small cul-du-sac.

A wave of sadness swells in me.  The memories in this house like that damn bird are irreplaceable.  Random memories scan through my brain at warp speed like a high-res imaging computer.  Our dog first walked into our home as a puppy and the first thing she did was poop under the dining room table.  The Chicago White Sox won the World Series when we had just moved in here.  Time stopped both times with the joy of learning we were having a baby in this home.  And time stopped again when they each were diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.  The Christmas parties filled the walls of this house with smells of food, wine, and cinnamon.  There have been countless times we have all been sick in this house.  I think of our beloved next-door neighbors who have helped with a cup of sugar way more than I can begin to explain.  I envision the Christmas tree there and the Easter baskets over there.  I reminisce of cups of coffee with family and friends at the kitchen table.  And all the glasses of wine at the dining room table.  Weddings, parties, first birthdays, Thanksgivings, and just hanging out in comfy clothes on the couch.  The bustle of bath time every night and Dylan streaking through the upstairs hallway and rooms.  The dance parties with the boys and the music blaring in the office.  The laughter.  The drama.  The commotion, the activity, and the life.  In this house.

I wipe away a tear and stand very still watching the truck halt in front of our driveway.  It stands in its temporary spot, ready to start loading our home.

My heart gives way to thrill and new things.  New friends.  A new little red school for Michael.  A new home.  A new role for my husband at work.  A new pulmonologist, a new hospital, a new pharmacy.  Even new insurance.  New experiences at the shore as the boys see the ocean for the first time.  These too will some day be irreplaceable, I remind myself.

I pull Michael close, and together we inspect the eternally good Transformer parked in front of our home.  Optimus looks ready.  And so are we.  I grip Mikey as he stares in sci-fi fantasy at the behemoth.  Entranced with wonder, he stares at the truck waiting any second for it to transform into a three-story robot.

There is but only one way to survive this time...  laughter.  At least for now, I will survive.

The laughter continues...  stay tuned.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Role reversal.

It is a very typical day in our house if any of the following situations occur...  Finding Dylan in the bathroom standing on the counter grinning at me while sucking on Michael's toothbrush (oh yeah a big no-no for individuals with CF, sharing things like toothbrushes to avoid sharing germs), or Dylan dumping boxes of puzzles all over Michael's room while I am preoccupied bathing Michael, or Dylan running away from me with 10 gooey, sticky fingers into our study looking for something to grab onto and belly-laughing the whole way.  He doesn't ever stop finding trouble and rarely does this kid ever just stop.

My stress level has been high lately as Michael is not yet back to school and we are amidst a big life altering situation...

We are moving in a mere three months.

I sit anxiously on the top step of the staircase overlooking our foyer.  It is a habit of mine that I usually exhibit when I am exhausted or when I need a minute to take inventory of the house including but not limited to the boys' antics, the heights of the mounds of laundry, the easiest method to clean up the disaster of toys that a toddler tornado has brought to my first floor, or even contemplating which sounds best tonight...  red or white?  My seat on the penthouse of my foyer stairs grounds me, if anything for a minute.

In my stalled moment, almost nearing the witching hour of dinner, but tucked nicely before the frenzy of the last of the day's CF treatments, I gaze out the massive window out the front of the foyer.  The sun is lazing west and the sky is clear with light, wispy clouds enjoying the view from above.  Michael approaches my sanctuary and sits on the step in front of me.  He shifts his weight carefully to lean on my knee with his arm.

I gently start in with my pep talk even though I am hesitant.  Frankly, it is really more for me than for him.  We both know it.  "Michael, you know Mommy and Daddy are going to be gone the next two sleeps (translation:  nights), right?  Papa and Nonna are going to watch you.  You need to be good and listen to what they tell you to do.  And Uncle will take you to soccer tomorrow morning.  Are you going to play this week?"  He looks at me and rolls his eyes.  Seriously, this kid is four going on fourteen.  I start in again, "I know you didn't want to play last week, but it's lots of fun.  You are so good, honey, and you'll make new friends."

Michael shrugs his little shoulders and bobs his head annoyed as he quickly responds treading over my words, "Yeah, yeah, mom.  Alright.  I got it.  I got it."  His sweet voice hints irritation.  I smile, which he doesn't notice as he is kicking his foot looking at the ground.  There is a comfortable pause.  I usually insert this next phrase every time I have the waking chance.  I say, "I love you, Michael."  He replies, "I love you too."  He stands up as if he has important matters to which to attend, then he stamps a thoughtful kiss on my forehead. He trots off.

I have been anxious in recent days while anticipating leaving them for two days, as my husband and I begin to search for our home in New Jersey.  Yes, my already disheveled world is about to get even more upended in a couple months with a move to mid-state New Jersey.

My head has been spinning for some time as I gather what a move for two years in another state means for our family.  Phrases like "great opportunity", "shorter commute", and "life adventure" have all become commonplace in conversations with my husband lately.  However, it's the other phrases that I am burying and hiding away.  At some point soon, I will send an expert crew on an expedition digging for phrases like "new pulmonologist", "rental property", and "no family locally" since these are considerably more difficult to process.

The rays of sun are flooding in the picture windows of the historic and updated hotel where we are staying.  The crimson red on the walls is dotted with renderings of old English hunting dogs and equestrians.  The images add a hue of sophistication around the cliche buffet breakfast bar.  The crisp white crown molding and window frames outline perfect lines running against the red walls.  The contrast almost hurts my eyes.  Or maybe it's just my head that hurts.  I can't quite tell through my scattered morning confusion.

I am not prepared for this.  It was not in the plans...  re-touring homes that we had dismissed on the first pass.  How will anything feel like home if it didn't feel like the "right" place the first go around?  My heart is heavy.  My emotions are drawn all over my face as I quietly pout at my breakfast plate.  I move scrambled egg around a circle on my plate.

I lift my eyes to stare at my husbands white porcelain coffee cup.  The cup of joe swirls and steams with unpredictability and defiance.  The steam hovers, sways and redirects.  It makes its own path.  The longer I watch, the more uneasy I become.  My journey is most certainly like the coffee's breath, the twists and the turns.  I have definitely been there before...

I pick myself up from my seat, and we head to the lobby to meet the Realtor for round 2.

The thought of uprooting our lives is overwhelming.  I am exhausted and excited.  I am also good with it, after all I had agreed long ago to go for the ride.  We climb into the Realtor's car and we are quiet.  The hum of the hills and terrain of suburban New Jersey beneath the car.  We arrive in the driveway of the first home we visited yesterday.  It is bright and airy.  I inhale and the cool April air.  I slowly breathe out and pick my feet up to force myself up out of the car door.  When we enter the house the Realtor calls around to make sure the property's current tenants have left.  All clear.

As I pace around, I begin to realize this is just fine.  I momentarily disarm my snooty attitude and realize this would be a fine home.  Actually this is a really nice home.  A massive patio for dinner on warm summer evenings and large yard for the dog and the boys.  A newer kitchen with plenty of counter space not only for eating but also for our nightly ritual of washing and sterilizing nebulizers.  A pleasant comfortable family room.

I start calculating.  The armiore can go there...  We'll need some furniture to go there...  An area rug there, there, and there so the crazy dog doesn't damage the hardwood flooring.  Then I realize that I cant quite envision where the boys will do their CF treatments.  We'll need to do some thinking about where we can arrange for their vest machines and compressors.  I skip over this and keep looking.  We head upstairs and peruse the bedrooms.  I'll want to paint the bedrooms...

My mind starts to loosen.  My nerves are no longer taut.  I begin to envision our family's days ahead.  Finally, we head into the finished basement to inspect and digest that space as well.  As we head back through a door to the washer and dryer, in the dimly lit small room, I see a bed at the back and someone rustling around in the sheets.  I am startled and confused and immediately signal with wordless code to the Realtor and my husband that someone is here and asleep.  Well, possibly no longer asleep.  I hurriedly return the other direction.  We realize that we have woken the nanny and she hadn't heard us call around the house when we arrived for the tour.   Somehow this doesn't feel like the best omen ever, but I can say that there might have been many other omens that could be far worse.  We all awkwardly hurry out of the property.  Wishing I had more time, we scatter and shift on to the next property, but my mind is pretty much made up.  The thrill of a new journey swells inside my heart.  Within an hour we are back in the lobby of the comfort of the hotel signing the lease with our future landlord.

Days later, stressed out and overwhelmed I start crying.  I plop on the couch and start weeping.  Mikey leans over me and peers at my eyes.  He cradles my head and says, "It's okay, mommy."  I am having the first crashing wave in my emotional ocean of moving.

My husband and I grew up in the area where we live.  We were high school sweethearts here.  Our family is here.  Our home, our life, Michael's adorable little school are here.  Memories on every corner are here.  My childhood home is here.  And we are moving away.  Not just down the street or across the way, but we are moving 789 miles away.  Not that anyone is counting.

Dylan spies me on the couch.  He realizes my sadness, beelines toward me, and plops on my chest.  He watches over me and reassures me, "You okay mommy, you okay."  Dylan keeps peering over my face directly and examines me closely.  Then suddenly he hops off and runs away.  In my alarm that this child is not damaging something or finding danger, I am also in pure wonderment of where he could have gone.  My eyes continue to tear and I try to calm down.

Dylan scurries back in the room and climb back and sits squarely again on my chest.  He had gone to get a tissue that he starts to dab at my eyes.  "I need to wipe you."  Clearly, these are my own words uttered now from my two year old who is now tending to me.  I laugh out loud thinking of all the times I have chased this little boy through our home saying, "I need to wipe you."  He sloppily rubs my nose, assuming I have a runny nose like he always does when he cries.  His logic is sweet.  Mommy wipes my nose and tears when I cry, so I will wipe hers.  But he is careful and thoughtful.  I would've never imagined that he would think to care for me while I am so upset since he generally toddles around and tees off anything he can find in the house with his best golf swing.  All along I assumed this child was oblivious or too involved in his own exploration of the world.  He dabs as gently as a tough guy two year old can.

I steady my brain.  I work to reverse my thoughts and my emotions.  I stop sniffing, I wipe the tears, and I hug each Michael and Dylan for their affection.  I slowly breathe in and pick my feet up to force myself up off the couch.  It is now that I surrender and wait for the moments and miracles ahead.  I know my two sensitive little boys are by my side holding my hand every step of the way.  The roles are simply reversed.  It is apparent how much I need these sweet tots.

Like it or not, New Jersey, here we come.