Saturday, September 20, 2014

In the blink of an eye


Three years ago today I received a call in the morning from the hospital.  I needed to make some decisions for my dad since he was unresponsive and the doctors were concluding there was nothing left medically to do.  "I'll leave now and be there in three hours."

Steve was able to stay home with Olivia (then 5) and Quinn and Turner (3 at the time.)  I kissed them goodbye, choked back a tear, hugged Steve and climbed into the red Corolla that my Dad had driven and would now belong to us.

It's a scary thing, getting into a car alone, heading up the road for a 2 1/2 hour car ride knowing on the other side you will face doctors and tell them what you think they should do to make your dad the most comfortable for him to pass away.

I got to his room, where he had been for about 10 days; some of which had also been spent in the ICU.  He pulled out of that one about three days before this September 20th trip.  In those 10 days I desperately wanted to spend every moment with him.  He was alone.  No family, no friends to visit him.  Just me- 2 1/2 hours down the road.  We invited him, no, begged him to move to Dayton to be near us after my mom died and I began my chemotherapy for Stage III Ovarian cancer.  But he was born and raised in Toledo, OH and that is where he would die.

He was sleeping.  His arms puffy, his breath shallow.  I kissed him on the cheek and let him know I was there.  I told him a kid story or two.  After about 30 minutes he opened his eyes.  They twinkled a touch and let me know he knew I was there.  For real.  My mind was not just making it up.  I held his hand and he gave a faint squeeze. 

Earlier in the week while he was still able to speak yet unable to move his puffy, fluid filled arms, he told me, "I'm not going home this time, Babe."  If you've never heard someone say those words or something similar, let me tell you... I hope you never have to hear them.  It seemed like a lie to say, "Sure you will, Dad."  Because it was obvious.  Even if he rallied, he would have to go to a rehab center or something more permanent.  Heart breaking doesn't even describe those words.

Soon after he closed his eyes again, a female doctor came in to talk with me about "my dad's wishes for end of life care."  (I'm pretty sure she was visibly shaken by my own bald head.  I had finished chemo treatments a short 2 1/2 months before this day in September and barely had a covering of peach fuzz.)  I must have been an amazingly pathetic sight.

My dad's wishes for end of life care?  We had never talked about these things.  You think we would have.  After my mom's death.  My illness.  His illness and nearly 2 weeks in the hospital.  But no, he would not talk about these things.  So, it had to be my best guess. 

I suppose he would want to be comfortable.  No machines.  No heroic efforts.  He would want me.  I would stay with him, until the end. 

So they moved him to a different floor.  A floor people go to die.  I carried a bag with his belongings.  Pants.  A belt.  His goofy big brown shoes.  His black wallet that I  had undoubtedly gotten him years past for his birthday, Father's Day or some other gift giving holiday.  It seemed to be about as old as he was. 

They "settled" him into the room.  There was no telling how long we would be there.  The kind nurse showed me how to pull out the chair into a bed.  She showed me a shower down the hall.  They would bring me dinner, if I felt like eating.  It had been hours since I had, but I was pretty sure I wasn't going to eat.  It was about 2:00 in the afternoon.  I called Steve and told him what was happening.  I texted my best friends to ask for prayer.  Strength and courage is what I would need the most of.

It's super scary being in a room with your dad like that.  It's just the two of you.  It's for the last time.  I wanted to  make sure I told him all I had to tell him.  I held his hand.  Combed his hair.  Told him stories.  I reminisced.  I thanked him for every single thing I could remember to thank him for.  I reminded him again of how much Jesus loved him and all about what Jesus had done for him on the cross.  I told him before, but it felt really good to tell him again.  Even if it was just to remind myself. 

At 4:00 pm, I called my Aunt who was on her way to Ohio to be with us.  She was a day or so away.  I was telling her the details of the day.  I turned to look out the window and cry for a moment with her.  I turned back around and realized I no longer heard my dad struggling for breath.  It was just the hum of the machine.  I ran over to him.  He must have just left.  I hugged him, held his hand and kissed him for the final time on the cheek.  I went to get the nurse.  She confirmed what I already knew. 

At 4:10, she made it official.

At 4:20, one of  my best friends, Sarah, walked through the door.   Steve had called her and she offered to drive down from Ann Arbor, MI to be with me.  They agreed, I should not be alone.  She sat with  me for several hours and hugged me, cried with me and prayed with me until I was ready to get back in my Dad's Corolla and drive back to Dayton.  The whole family would return with me the next day to take care of business.

September 20, 2011- 3 years ago- is a day that is burnt into my memory.  It is special and horrifying at the same time.  God got me through.  He gets me through each day.  There is hope in this story.  There is love and beauty in this story.  It is my story that I don't ever want to forget yet desperately wish I could all at the same time.  A sad chapter that I would re-write if I could but insist on writing down so I don't forget.  Jerry Printki, you are not forgotten.  A blink of an eye.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Beauty in the eye of the beholder

The kids have been back in school a solid three weeks now.  Olivia is in third grade and at our Public Montessori school, that makes her top dog in her classroom.  (Montessori is an educational philosophy that among many other things, includes the integration of multi-grades per classroom.)  For example instead of 1st grade classrooms, 2nd grade class rooms etc.  we have levels.  The 6-9 level means that ages 6-9 years of age are in a classroom together.  (*Normal people* would say 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders are grouped together in the same classrooms.)  In turn, that means kids will have the same teacher (and some classmates) for three years.

Since Olivia is in 3rd grade, she has been in the same room, with the same teachers and most of the same kids going on three years .  The 3rd graders serve as "mentors" to the younger students.  I love most things about this philosophy.  Along with all philosophies, however, there are some very big downsides.  For now, it is working and I am very happy with what we have experienced.  The boys are both 1st graders (6 year olds) which makes them both little fish in the big pond.  Again, a good thing for them to experience.

Perhaps even more than the Montessori aspect of our school, I LOVE the cultural diversity my kids are gaining.  (Honestly, the multi-cultural atmosphere of our school and the Montessori nature go hand in hand.  As does the heart of Jesus... therefore, its a win/win/win in my mind.)



Here is a snapshot of my kids' day that has me nearly overwhelmed.  I can almost feel my head and heart ready to explode.

I volunteered for two hours in Turner's class this morning and I interacted with kids who are: from Nepal, Iraq, Turkey, Congo, adopted, poor, middle class, white and African-American.  I thought about the way that Turner will see the world differently because of his friends; for better and for worse.  I'm jealous of his education.  Not a traditional education in any sense of the word.

When I picked the kids up from school the first thing Olivia told me about was the new boy who joined her class today.  She gushed.  She exploded with excitement as she told me about him.  "He's from Somalia and he's only been in the United States for two weeks.  He doesn't speak any English and he's never been to school before.  By the end of the day he learned to say my name!"

I've been processing this for the past several hours.  There is a lot here for me.  So many emotions.  Most of them overwhelmingly positive.  Perhaps at the top of the list, privilege.  Both the positive and negative kind.  What a privilege to welcome this family to the U.S., Dayton and our school.  I can't think of a better place for him to be as a newcomer to Dayton, OH  than at our school and in Mrs. Taylor's classroom.  With my sweet and caring daughter as a friend.  I am overwhelmed with the reminder of the privilege it is to live in America.  People flee their countries every day to come here.  For a chance.  For a million other reasons I will never comprehend.  I was born here.  Two of my three kids were born here.  No choice, just grace.  Its not perfect...but man oh man...

Dayton Public Schools get a bad rap.  I hear a lot of "We used to live in Dayton but we moved out because of the schools" or "Wow.  Your kids go to Dayton Public?  Do you think you'll move?"  Maybe someday.  You never know.  Never say never.  Not this year.  It's a mixed bag.

So, people may think we are crazy.  They may judge us, maybe even think we are robbing our children of a better future- a better education.  In my opinion, our school is beautiful.  My kids are getting an opportunity of a lifetime. 

And so am I. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Take a chill pill

The last week or two, I've been a real pill.  Do you ever have those days (weeks?) where you even annoy yourself?  Hmmm... maybe it's just me.  In case you have NO IDEA what I'm talking about, let me break it down for you. 

My kids set me off.  (I might have mentioned once or twice they've been fighting.  And bored.  Which may have caused me to yell once or twice or 87 times in the past 10 days.)

My dog set me off.  (If you have ever met Baxter, this needs no further explanation.)

My messy house set me off.  (The bored children "looking for something to do" had a little bit to do with this.  Mostly it was me not wanting to touch the mess.)

Back to school shopping set me off.  (If you want to start a lucrative business, offer affordable child care so that parents can run around and do the errands that need to be done WITHOUT the bored children in tow!)

My husband set me off.  ("Do you mind if I leave early for work every morning this week, while the kids are still off of school so that I can golf, have breakfast with my friends and in general get the heck out of dodge before everyone gets up?"  Heck to the no!  Why do you hate me???

Me.  I set myself off.  (I want to parent better.  Have home cooked/healthy meals prepared every night.  I want my kids to love each other.  Hold hands.  Say, "I love you."  Go to bed on time.  I want to be perfectly fine and flexible when all of that does not happen.)

Last night, Steve and I sat on the couch and watched Big Brother.  (My happy place.)  It was about the 4th night in a row that I was behaving like a pouty baby.  Everything was going wrong.  Nothing was making me happy.  Seriously, I was annoying myself.

It dawned on me, its been 5 weeks since I went off my depression meds.  I had been on them for three years.  My little blue pill.  Did it really make that big of a difference?  Is it a coincidence?  Is it okay to be grumpy?  To feel sad.

I sat on the couch.  Missing my mom and dad.  Realizing I put a lot of expectation on my husband and kids.  I want my life and their lives to be perfect.  I wish I had a mommy to take care of me.  To call me.  To offer me advice on parenting and marriage.  Reality is, even if she were here, there is no guarantee that would be happening.

Life has been setting me off.  Maybe getting set off is good.  It means I'm alive.  It is an indicator something in my heart is stirring, if not a little off.  Maybe an adjustment is in order.  Maybe I need a swift kick in the rear.  Or a hug from my husband.  Maybe I need alone time.  Maybe I need friend time. Maybe I need to pray more.  Read my Bible more.  Maybe I need my little blue pill back.  Maybe I need nothing but to be thankful for what I have.

Maybe it's good to feel something raw again.  Without the dulling of the little blue pill.  Time will tell.  Opening up and sharing with my husband my sadness, my frustration and my fear of my own sadness brought us closer together last night.  Today is a new day.  So is tomorrow. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Counting My Blessings

My kids are back at school.  I am sitting in an empty (tidy) house.  I drove in a van with no fighting in the back seat to and from Pilates.  I ran into Michael's ALONE.  I didn't have to ask Steve to "watch the kids."  Glorious!

I sat down to read a few blogs.  And then I got to thinking... wasn't it about August when I wrote my first ever blog post?  So I went back and did a little checking.  July 31, 2008 was my first entry.  I just  missed my blogiversary.  6 years.  Wow.  A lot has happened in six years.  I found this entry from just about six years ago.  It got me a bit sad.  To see baby Turner and little O sitting on my mom's lap.  To realize Quinn was still living in an orphanage in China at that very moment.  It's actually a bit overwhelming.  Six years doesn't seem like such a long time.  Quite frankly, people say time flies.  Some days (or years) it does not feel like that is the case.  There were three very dark years in there.  What's crazy is, I was keeping this blog.  A better diary or journal than any I could  have kept on paper.

I am so thankful that for whatever crazy reason, six years ago I decided to hop on the blog bandwagon.  And because of that decision, I have pictures, stories and memories to hold and share.  I might spend a few hours this week strolling through some old posts.  My heart could use a stroll down memory lane.  I have so much to be thankful for.  So much blessing.  So much growth and love.  I have been seriously spoiled by those who love me.  I don't want to forget God's faithfulness and the grace and mercy He has shown me. 







 



 
 





 
Blessed beyond measure!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

No tears here

My kids start school on Monday.  After days and days living in a dorm room in Boston, hours and hours (and hours) in a mini-van with these people, I have to say, I might not shed a tear as they hop out of the car that morning.  I love my kids.  I have had a magical summer of adventure and memory building with these people I live with.

 Seriously, I have. 


BUT...

This past week, the magic ran out.  There was yelling.  Fighting.  Boredom (oh the boredom.)  Flopping around on couches whining, "I'm soooooo bored.   I have nothing to doooooo."  I turned into every other brain dead, summer drained, road weary mama.  "Bored?  I can list five things right now that you could do.  I carted your buns half way across this country - TWICE - this summer.  You've had adventures people will only dream of having.  You're home for six days and you're bored?  I have not talked to another adult (other than your father, and he doesn't count) in 10 days because I'm so busy entertaining you guys.  Don't tell me you're bored.  Go find something to DO." *end rant with big self indulgent sigh and a double eye roll.*  Post rant, lock self in bedroom for 5 minutes not knowing if I should laugh or cry at the lecture I had just given.  Must come out of bedroom at minute 6 because of the yelling, fighting and blood curdling screams.  Don't want neighbors to call Children Services during the last week of summer vacation so I haul their buns to the park.  Thereby feeding the monster.  I am my own worst enemy!

All of that to say, in light of all of the torturous boredom I am subjecting my children to (obviously), I wanted to share a few pictures of our vacation in Maine... where the kids were most definitely NOT bored.  Perhaps these children have become spoiled rotten to the core.  I'm willing to entertain that possibility.  Which is another reason I won't roll a tear Monday morning.  The gig is up, little people.  The day of reckoning is here (well, it will be on Monday.) 

But I digress...


The whole reason we went to Maine was for Steve's sister's wedding.  Kerry and Todd have been planning a destination wedding for the past year.  It is a lovely place to get married, that is for sure.

 
On the drive to Maine, Olivia declared, "It's finally here.  The wedding we've been planning for the past year is FINALLY here."  Olivia and her cousin, Natalie, were Kerry's bridesmaids.  They took their responsibility very seriously and as I told Kerry several weeks ago, "You do realized this wedding is NOT about you.  It is all about Olivia and Natalie!"  The three boy cousins were the groomsmen (bold move on Todd's part.)  In my humble opinion, it was the cutest wedding party I've ever seen.

 
The morning of the wedding, Aunt Kerry took the girls to get their hair done with her.  They all three looked stunning.  Seriously, my daughter took my breath away with her beauty!

 
But the week wasn't all fancy dresses and lobster dinners.  Okay, almost, but not totally.
 
 When we were not enjoying wedding related festivities, our family (the Dayton K's) and the cousins (the Alpena K's) made lots of memories.

 
There was lots of digging for things under rocks.  I have to admit, I'm a bit more of a sandy beach girl. I may have ducked out early from this smelly adventure and ran into town to do a bit of shopping.
 
Perhaps this explains why.  The sleepy little harbor town of Camden was super cute and quaint.  And for this city girl, I'll leave the rocks for the kids and guys.
 
Here are two of the groomsmen (minus one.)  These two look grumpy as all get out.  See beginning of post.  They must have been feeling bored at the welcome dinner.  Rough life.

 
I guess it's because they would have rather been back at the hotel doing this.  They logged in a ton of hours at the pool, in spite of the cooler Maine temps.

 
It was a busy week full of family and fun.  I guess this is why coming home to a house full of toys, friends, books, bikes and parks is sooooo boring.    

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Not quite a bite, more like a nibble


 
On our drive home from Boston, we made a quick (really quick, 20 hours quick) side trip to the Big Apple.
 
You may or may not know this, but a few years out of college, I moved to NYC.  I lived in Manhattan, worked at NYU and Cooper Union and had some of the best years of my life there. 20 years ago I first got bit by the NY bug and its never left. Living in the City helped me grow up, take responsibility for myself, because it's true... if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. I still consider myself a New Yorker.  I know that is a stretch... but I just love NY.
 
So, naturally, one of my dreams has been the day I could be in the City with my whole family.  I feel like in order for my kids to know me, truly know me, they need to experience NYC- with me!  Obviously, 20 hours is like a bit of a joke.  But I'll tell you what, I soaked in every last minute of being there.  We saw a few friends, stayed in a great studio apartment on the Upper West Side, I took the kids to Time Square (and only experienced minor anxiety. Ha.)  Its one thing to be street savvy as an adult, it's another to take your mid-western kids to Time Square in the middle of 'summer holiday'.  *Side note* I'm pretty sure there are NO Europeans currently in Europe.  They are all strolling around Time Square.

 
Steve met a friend for coffee near Time Square, which meant the kids and I were on our own for a few hours.  I just had to take them to Toys R Us.  Olivia declared, "It's like heaven on Earth for kids!"  True.  And it's pretty much a third level of hell for parents.  But what can you do? 
Speaking of heaven on Earth, we also went to the Hershey's store.  Everyone gets a kiss as they enter.  Now that is my kind of welcome.  We were SUCH tourists.  I missed the photo op as my kids all tried on the foam Statue of Liberty hats that I've made fun of my whole adult life.  We ate street food and ate dinner at a diner in Time Square.  (Which is another thing my 24 year old self would have totally mocked and scorned.  "How can you bring your kids to the City and go out to eat in Time Square...are you crazy or just stupid?") 

Well... It actually was part of my plan!
When we finished our stupidly, over-priced plain buttered noodles at the diner, Steve met us at the Theatre. 

Because a second, equally dreamy dream of mine was to take my kids to see Les Mis on Broadway.  (I know it may seem like an odd and potentially inappropriate choice to take two 6 year olds and an 8 year old to. Feel free to judge me, I can take it.)

My kids have been interested in the music and story of Les Mis for the last 2 years.  They know all the words to most songs (except the ones that are not appropriate and we have to fast forward.)  They have seen the PBS 25th Anniversary special and we painstakingly explained the story line (fielding lots of questions.)  They have seen the movie (with again said parts fast forwarded.)  I can't explain it, but they love it.  And I love that they love it.  It's my favorite show of all time (closely followed by Wicked.)  That will be our next stop.

When we went to Disney World a year and a half ago, we gave them a chance to guess where we were taking them before we got on the plane and they were actually disappointed when their guess of "To see Les Mis on Broadway" was not the correct guess.  Weirdos.
 

 
 It's a long show.  3 hours.  And not to brag (ok, just a little) all three of my kids did AWESOME.  They were glued to the stage.  They sang along (a little bit to the annoyance of the Europeans in front of us.)  I let the tears roll as I soaked up the gift that it was to be living a dream.  It was magical and all I hoped it would be.  The revival is really really great.  This is probably the 6th time I've seen it on Broadway, but the first time since the revival.  I am SO glad they brought it back. 
 
As we left the show we ended up exiting through a particular door that led to the stage door where the cast leaves through.  I happened to overhear someone say, "Yeah, if you stick around most of the cast will sign your Playbill and even take photos."  Well...

How can you pass that up?

Olivia got into it.  She met nearly a dozen cast members.  They were SO great with her!  Because there were no other kids in line to meet them, they really went out of their way to sign the Playbill, get in pictures and even interact with the kids.  "What did you think of the show?"  "How old are you?"  "What did you think of little Cossette and little Garoche?"  I was so impressed by their talent and their kindness to make this a memorable experience for my kids (and in turn for me.)

What is particularly miraculous, Olivia had terrible strep throat the night before.  24 hours before this picture she had a 102 degree fever and sat on a sofa crying because she felt so bad.  I was crying too, because I knew how much money we had spent on these tickets and it was enough to make me cry if she was going to be sick for this! 

God bless antibiotics.  Within two doses, girl was rolling around Time Square and mingling with Marius.  Thank you, Lord, for answering so many prayers in a short 20 hours.

The whole thing was seriously a dream come true. 

I'm ready to go back. 

Instead of heading back to NYC, we are actually packing up the van and leaving for Camden, Maine early Monday morning.  I think we need our own show : Keeping up with the Koproskis. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

There and back again

Our three and a half weeks in Boston were really great.  We actually lived in Quincy, MA at Eastern Nazarene College for the summer in a dorm.  For our family, it was a perfect scenario.  We had our own dorm suite with two bedrooms, a small study area and our own bathroom.  We were right across the hall from another family with two kids and it felt just like old college days as the doors pretty much stayed open unless we were sleeping and the kids just flowed back and forth. 

There is much to tell and naturally lots of stories, but because I did a non-existent job of blogging while there, I'll spare you all of the details and just provide pictures to highlight our time.  Here is the danger of pictures on blogs, Facebook and Instagram... it is easy to make life look like it is all a bed of roses.

It is true that we had a great visit to a cool city.  We got to do stuff that many people might not get to do in a lifetime.  The weather was unusually perfect.  However, there were major bumps in the road as well.  I got homesick for routine, non-cafeteria food, my friends, my couch and watching Big Brother on a real tv.  I faced some major insecurities- I felt old, fat and out of shape.  I struggled relationally with people at times.  Some days I wished I could just be a "normal person" who stays at their own home in the summer. The struggle was real.

With that being said, here are all of my pictures that do NOT show any of that.  Ha! Quite honestly, who whips out a camera when they are doing the snot cry on their husband's shoulder at 42 years old because they miss their friends?  Not this girl. 

So, on that note...

 
We went sailing in Glouchester.


My kids were naturals.
 

 
We went downtown for 4th of July fireworks.  It was one of my dreams come true to hear the Boston Pops play live as the fireworks went off.  They were magical. Until...
 the Massachusetts State Police evacuated the city without explanation.  The explanation came when the heavens opened and a thunderstorm like none I've ever experienced, happened.  My kids were hysterically crying and Turner yelled over and over, "This is the worst day of my life."  Yep, magical.
Photo credit: me (I'm a little proud of that one.)

 
We rode the T.  A lot.
 
We spent our time with 11 amazing college athletes from around the country. 

 
We went to Harvard.
(We didn't actually GO to Harvard- we visited Harvard :)  It's pretty awesome.
 
 
We swam in the ocean.
(We didn't actually SWIM in the ocean.  It was a little cold.  More like waded in the ocean.)
 
 
We hung out in Dorchester, MA.
This was our entire *family* for the summer.  Seriously, some of the best college students I've ever been around. 


 
We saw about 25,000 Dunkin' Donuts.  (Seriously, it's like a Northeast obsession.)
 
Oh, and we caught a game at Fenway Park.

 
We saw some amazing sunsets.
 
(We lived 4 blocks from the beach. Hmm.. WHY was I homesick?  I could get used to that!)

 
We ate at Wahlburgers.  (The BEST hamburger I've ever eaten in my life btw.)
 
As in Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlburg.  As in the show Wahlburgers.  SO FUN.

 
We saw battleships.

 
We watched a little Netflix.

 
We made new friends.  (This is O's new friend, Charlotte. Cuties, right?)
 
The kids did 2 weeks of YMCA summer day camp that met right on the campus where we lived and they had a great experience.  They are so adaptable and continue to amaze me.

 
We celebrated 7/11 days with free Slurpees.

 
And we shared our family with others. 
 
And we grew.
 
And we loved Jesus.
 
And Boston shaped our family forever.
 
So did the 13 hour van ride there and back, but that's for a different post.