We've been busy here at Family of 4 household. Lots of odds and ends to work on, some house issues, car issues, pet issues. In the midst of all that, I took off to Los Angeles, for my Uncle's 90th birthday this past holiday weekend. By myself.
I don't usually worry about the girls and one parent (Dave) taking care of them while I am gone. When I went south with the girls last summer for my mother's funeral and to settle her estate, the girls and I were together alone (for the most part, we did have some outings with my high school friends down there) for 18 days. 18 days with no parent back up, with one special needs child and two ADHD kids, who cannot handle things like my grief, losing their grandma, so everything was heightened and behaviors were off. If I can do that, Dave can handle a weekend on his own (he was notably tired when I came home and gave me a huge hug and kiss when I got home, LOL).
So............I headed out on Friday morning, with two little girls (and the pets) looking at me sadly as they all left for school. The hubs said, "have a good trip, I love you" etc. as he left to take BGA to school. I said, "have a good time" (and in my head wondering how they'd have a good time with me being gone, and knowing I'd have a bit more fun and freedom than he would) and "I love you" too and headed out on the highway to LA. I made good time, however, the mama van has a few items going on with it and one of them is an airconditioning hose and exhaust manifold. So......needless to say, LA was having a heat wave on Friday and when I hit the "valley" traffic, it was 84 degrees according to the van and the air was NOT working. I had jeans, tennis shoes, longer socks on, and a short sleeved t'shirt (luckily I packed some of them). I was HOT. I did eventually get to my aunt and uncle's house (the uncle with the 90th birthday) where I was staying in 6 hours time (going on to San Diego county always meant another two hours so it was nice just to drive the 6) with minimal stops.
My aunt and uncle have a nice home, that they have lived in since the 50's I believe. They were happy to see me and we had some good chats. My uncle was looking a bit older and tired, I think, and had recently lost his best friend of over 84 yrs, so he wanted to talk about his friend. We chatted as I sat and rested up a bit, then we decided to go to dinner at the Olive Garden. We met the 5pm crowd (but that was too late, and there was a bit of lamenting on not getting there at 4, but we missed the big crowds so that was ok) and had a great dinner and some more conversation. We also made a dry run to my cousin's house, where I would go the next day to help out, so I could see where I'd need to go. I didn't think it would be beneficial because it was dark (but they were right and it was when I had to drive to my cousin's the nex day. I am a landmark driver and there were some unique landmarks). During the night I asked my uncle about his service in the Pacific theater during WWII and he happily shared. I think he liked having someone to listen and I asked questions I had (after watching Stephen Spielberg's The Pacific) and also talked a bit about my grandparents and my mother, their growing up years. I got to thinking that really we should record my uncle, so that I could type up his memories for us all to have. He has some good ones.
My uncle drifted off to sleep for a couple of hours and my aunt and I had a chance to chat. We talked about where they were on 9/11 (they were in DC waiting to go on a tour of the White House), we talked about Jacqueline Kennedy and their tour of the Book Depository and the spot where Kennedy was shot, on a visit to Dallas. We talked about the girls (my aunt is a former 4th grade school teacher) and about her classes visiting the California Missions (this is a project most CA school children work on in the 4th grade, BGA did a short summary and that was all her class did). We had quite the conversation and I sensed she wanted her turn to talk to me. We stayed up till 1am. That's nothing for me as I am a night owl, but my aunt and uncle were tired the next day. After my uncle awoke from his nap, he had his 2nd wind and we talked some more. We hadn't talked like this since my mother died last year. It was nice and I enjoyed it. I asked questions and took everything in that they talked about.
The next day, Saturday, I awoke from my momento filled bedroom (they have traveled extensively and had a few items stored in the room I stayed in) and got ready in the bathroom. The bathroom is tiled, even the floor. I didn't realize why my aunt pointed out putting the rug down on the floor till I stepped on the tile (even in my shoes) and felt like I was gonnna go down, the floor was that slick. Saturday breakfast was oatmeal and an english muffin, oj and I had to bring instant coffee as my aunt and uncle don't drink coffee. I thought about having herbal tea, like they did, but I knew that would not tide me over and I didn't remember if there was a coffee place between my uncle's house and my cousin's house (where I was going to help cook and get ready for my uncle's party on Sunday). So I brought instant. It got me by. I slept well, too, like a rock. I hadn't stayed in that bedroom ever, but had stayed at my aunt and uncle's house. I hadn't stayed in about 25 yrs though. But you know how you sleep the first night in someone's house, sometimes not restful, and it takes awhile (at least it always has for me) to feel comfortable to sleep there? Well, this was not the case for me as I drifted off completely and only woke up when the sun was shining through the curtains.
My aunt and uncle saw me off with a "let us know if you are coming back for dinner" (it was so nice. When you have lost a parent, it feels good that someone wants to know when you are coming back). I made it to my cousin's house in record time and with no help from the 3x5 card my uncle wrote the directions on. My cousin had broke her wrist in a fall (but neglected to mention to me) in Nov and had a splint on. Her son was there and so we moved furniture and they let me cook with them. Both are cooks and I really didn't expect to do much other than be a sous chef, but I got to wilt some spinach (which I had never done before, but it turns out the girls like it so they gave me a tip on how to cook it) and enjoyed some great infused water and Earl Grey iced tea, while we worked. My cousins and I talked and it was very relaxed and fun. I love my cousin's house, it's very bungalow style, but she's decorated nicely and it just felt like home to me. I enjoyed my day very much, and we finished it off by getting the most wonderful carrot cake and cupcakes for my uncle's bday. I brought some back with me to my uncle's house and we enjoyed them after dinner. This is where my cousin ordered the cupcakes and cake from:
We had another evening of talking about adventures, this time we talked about my aunt and uncle's travels. It turns out that they have seen weddings and been invited to share in the celebration, on most of their travels. They shared some stories I had already heard about, and some I hadn't. I listened and was reminded of a time where my mother and I sat at the very table we were at, listening to the stories they told about their travels, only this time it was just me. It felt weird and comforting at the same time. We turned in early Sat night as they were tired. No tv in my room so I got out my book and read till I got tired enough.
Sunday, my uncle made the best pancakes I have had in awhile. Dave makes good pancakes too, must be a guy thing. These pancakes were light and fluffy, the large ones you get in a restaurant. Some pre cooked sausage, oj and my instant coffee (again, but hey no caffeine issues, so it must have worked since it was Starbucks instant). I headed over to my cousin's house and we got ready for the party. My cousin's daughter, who has been mentioned on this blog and my other one, came down from the bay area with her fiancee, who I had not met. He's very nice, and I was very happy to see her so happy. You can tell they are in love and they get along well. Her mother said they were two peas in a pod, and they really are. It was nice to see that she is happy and getting married. My aunt and uncle referred to her wedding as "THE wedding" and it really is, just as ours was almost 13 yrs ago.
I got to see my cousins arrive, and most notably my 2nd cousin, once removed, as we are known, and his partner. We have known each other since we were about 10, we have written to each other, gotten together, lost touch, gotten back in touch, for years. I saw him at my mother's funeral but the girls were there and I really didn't have much chance to talk. He took me out to lunch on the first trip right after mom died, but I think I was in shock and I don't really remember much from it (sorry Michael). We had some great conversation going and it was nice to connect with my cousins and also with my cousin's daughter's two friends, who came. They know my uncle from the many gatherings that they all shared. The girls were funny and my uncle commented on how much he liked E's laugh. He seemed to light up when she came around. :-) We had a nice day and my 2nd cousin and his partner and grandma (my 2nd cousin I guess) came back to my uncle's house for a half hour and we chatted.
We ended the evening watching the season finale of Downton Abbey, which I had seen before but didn't mind seeing again. They fell asleep through it, but my uncle fought it and wanted to watch the full 2 hours, my aunt nodded off and on but caught most of the last hour. It was a sad finale, but I won't share my thoughts on it if you haven't seen it yet.
Monday I woke early intending to be on the road by 7:30 (I didn't make it till 9:30). I packed and got ready and had a small breakfast with my aunt and uncle. We chatted and before I realized it, it was almost 9. I had to get on the road, so off I went, a bit bittersweet, as it always is when you leave a nice weekend. I was anxious to get home so I really didn't stop and made the trip in 5 hours. As we were loading the car (my uncle insisted on helping me, he didn't know I used to load my stuff in the car from mom's by myself) I heard my aunt tell him, "make sure you have her call us when she gets home." If she only knew how touched I was by that. My mom used to say, "call me when you get there." So it reminded me of my mom. I like how my aunt said, "Just a brief call. That's all we need." I am known in my family as a 'chatterbox' so I think we were all chatted out. LOL. As it happens they were going out for a meal (at 3) so it was very brief.
It was a good weekend, and I do need to do it more often I think. I know my cousin takes good care of them, but it would be nice to reconnect with them. When my cousin's parents were alive (my mother's sister and her husband) and I lived in S CA, we would get together once a month, and then this aunt and uncle would come down from LA and we had lots of family gatherings. These days the gatherings are less frequent and it's sad, in a way. I want to rectify that. Even if I came down every few months or so. Now that Dave has his promotion he can make his hours and be available by phone.
All in all, it was a great trip, I was able to reconnect and celebrate my uncle's 90th (I came down from N CA to S CA for his 80th, and my mother was still alive. I missed his 85th) and enjoy some family time as well as time to myself. It was nice to do this.
The girls missed me and LGA said on Saturday, "Mommy.......I miss you. You come home today??" I had to tell her no and all I heard was a sigh.........she has become quite the mommy's girl, and she started out being more of a daddy's girl. When I came home and put my key in the lock, I heard, "MOMMY'S HOME! MOMMY'S HOME!!!" Lots of huge hugs and kisses for me, lots of wanting to be by me, etc. My sweet dogs missed me, especially my first Cavalier, who has always preferred me to anyone. Dave said he moped (he usually goes with me but my aunt and uncle did not want me to bring any of the dogs) around. He rarely licks and he just kept licking my face, so happy to see me.
I had some good news to tell the girls as cousin G and her fiancee picked their date and she asked me if the girls would be flower girls. They were SO excited!
So, back to life here, the routine, etc. We have a leak again in LGA's room, although it has not come through the carpet, but it is warm in her room so it's another hot water leak. We have issues with the cars, and our cat has a urninary tract infection that 2 rounds of antibiotics have not cured. So we have our hands full.
LGA had a hard time (last time I was away was in Oct for my high school reunion) and did not have a good time at school. She was caught throwing food. She said her classmate told her to do it (but classic FASD is lying, so hard to know what the real truth is) with me being gone. The girls have always had a hard time, no matter how often we go away and come back. They just want us where we are supposed to be, all 4 of us together. Also, LGA's teacher wrote a note yesterday after the holiday telling me the food throwing was on friday and yesterday. She said LGA needed to write the classroom rules and that she only had one line done after an hour. AN HOUR??? Seriously, they expect an FASD, ADHD kid to sit still for an hour and write rules??? I'm afraid our nice relationship will go by the wayside because I wrote a note back asking how they thought she could sit still for an hour and write the rules down (when she is barely learning to write and feel comfortable copying stuff down). I mean, come on, they KNOW LGA, they know she cannot do this. The note said, "this is unacceptable." So I wrote back and asked what did they mean by that.....did she miss recess, etc. Then LGA shared (and the teacher did not) that she had to go to the Vice Principal's office and that the other girl got suspended but LGA did not. So I am not quite sure what was going on but I did explain that I was going out of town and that LGA has a hard time with that so there might be some acting out.........which makes me wonder why they were so surprised. Unless they did not believe me??? So LGA and I had a talk about how to behave at school, and how if someone asks you to do something and you know it's wrong, you should not do it. LGA has had good behavior in school for the most part, so this was out of her norm and I think the teacher was surprised. I guess she didn't believe me when I told her LGA had issues in mainstream class and that we were happy it didn't appear she had issues in this class/school. So we will see what today brings, but I got her ready for school (Dave usually does it) as Dave was not feeling well, so I reminded her again (it's all repetition for FASD kids, lots of repetition) of the rules and said, "you are going to have a good day today, right??" But what still gets me is her sheet with plusses and minuses did not show any minuses for Friday when she was 'observed' throwing food. Also FASD kids can be led very easily so we have to talk about that too. I guess I need to get the teacher a copy of my info on teaching FASD kids. She has Special Ed experience of over 20 years, but that does not mean she's familiar with FASD (or needs a refresher).
So here's to my week back from my weekend. May we get all the issues resolved and life back to normal. I enjoyed my trip and it was good to get away again. I feel more refreshed so I know it's needed again. Sometimes you just need a break to reconnect with family.