Monday, September 28, 2015

In which my kids went back to school and it was a really good thing

This summer will definitely be one that sticks in my mind for a while. It was just endlessly LONG. I had deliberately not signed the kids up for any camps or anything particularly structured, which turned out to be a good thing, in light of the amount of time we spent up in Vancouver. And because Daniel needed to help out his family with things related to his dad's illness, he was away from us a lot. So it was mostly just the kids and I, together, day in and day out. And then my parents came at the end of the summer and entertained them. But then school didn't start because of the strike and my parents left and Daniel was gone and the kids and I were back to staring at each other.

All that to say, we really were happy when school finally started. Originally they were going to wear shorts and summerish clothes for the first day, but by the time school started, the weather had changed.

So far it's been an interesting adjustment to 2nd grade. It's definitely more academic and more structured than K or 1st grade were. Ethan seems to like his teacher though- he told me that she's very smart. And she was a reading specialist for many years, so hopefully she'll be able to help him make progress. He also has a new Resource Room (special ed) teacher who is being filled in on some of his quirks by his old Resource Room teachers. They aren't letting him get away with his little tricks. He still lives on another planet almost all of the time, but as a friend said to me, "It seems to be a nice planet. He seems happy there." So true.

Vivian has the same teacher that Ethan had last year. The teacher is very pretty and dresses very stylishly and she really likes Vivian, so it's been a good match so far. The teacher is also about to have a baby, which Vivian finds fascinating. Vivian's been playing with some of her friends from K at recess and is slowly making new friends in her 1st grade class. I went upstairs to pick her up one day last week and she still is the tiniest one in class. She's also probably the youngest. Ethan's the tiniest and the oldest in his class :) Poor short children.

On the Ethan front, we removed his feeding tube about a week and a half ago and the hole is almost closed up. He hadn't gained as much weight as his specialist wanted, but we also weren't using the tube anymore, so it was time. We had gotten off the "fatten Ethan up" train this summer with all the stuff going on, but we're in full fattening mode now. Chocolate peanut butter cups and potato chips all day! It's good to be him.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The hardest parenting day

Saturday was my father-in-law's funeral. We'd traveled up after he passed, then back to Seattle for a GI appointment for Ethan (he got his feeding tube taken out! Hurray!), then stayed for the delayed first day of school (teacher strike), then headed back to Canada after school on Thursday. Meanwhile, back in Canada, it had been a rush of setting up things for the funeral and picking up relatives and eating with out-of-town relatives and more preparing for the funeral.  We were all very tired by the time Friday rolled around.

Saturday saw Daniel and my sister-in-law out early to meet up with Daniel's brother and mom and head to the funeral home. I woke up before the kids and sat in the computer room and cried. To date, there has only been one day when I knew things would never be the same, and that was when we left Ethan to go to the hospital to have Vivian. Attending his grandfather's funeral would also change his world. It was so hard to go into their room and wake them up and get them ready to go to the funeral.

As I expected, Ethan walked into the sanctuary of the funeral home, sat down and started weeping. He really loved his grandfather and just kept sobbing that he wanted Papa back and that he was so sad. We eventually went to sit in the entry area, where he cried for about another 30 minutes. It was so hard, as a mom, to see him in that much sadness and not be able to do anything but just hug him.  By the time the funeral started, he had calmed down and sat on Daniel's lap pretty quietly for most of the service. Vivian was more or less unaffected by the whole thing. She was happy to only be able to see Papa's face in the casket, as she had been worried about seeing too much of his body. We made sure to not make the kids do anything that they weren't comfortable with, so she stayed to the side with some cousins at the end of the service when the rest of us went up to pay our final respects. Ethan chose to come up with us, but hid behind Daniel.

The service itself was really lovely. Several of Daniel's (many) cousins are pastors and the service was full of remembrance and of Jesus and the hope of Heaven. The sanctuary was full of many friends and family, all there to celebrate a life well lived. At the graveside, the pallbearers did an impressive job of carrying the very heavy casket down a slight hill, over slippery grass and in the pouring rain. The graveside service had more prayers and goodbyes, before the casket was lowered and buried. The kids, honestly, found this part of the process pretty interesting, as it involved a backhoe and dump truck. Heavy machinery is always interesting to kids!

Chinese funerals are followed by banquets, and about 60 of us gathered at the restaurant to share a meal and chat. Vivian was a little confused by the fact that the plate of chicken included the chicken's head, and I was horrified when Daniel ate the eyeball from the fried fish head.

We came home yesterday after lunch, so that we would have time to get the kids ready for their second day of school. They went off this morning without much fuss, so hopefully it will be a good day. They are both on the second floor of the school building and they look so little going up the stairs together... I'm glad that we're getting back into a routine though. Ethan in particular needs routine. And I need Ethan to not be grouchy, so being back in school works for us all.

What a summer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Throughout this summer, Daniel's dad has pretty consistently declined after Daniel has left to come home. So it was no surprise to us when he slipped into an unconscious state on Thursday. Daniel had come home Wednesday after saying his goodbyes. On Friday I was sitting at my computer, catching up on work and taking a conference call. The call wrapped up at 11 and minutes later a skype message came in from Daniel, saying his dad was about to pass. I called the kids down from the living room and the three of us prayed for a peaceful passing for Grandpa.  And he passed shortly after that.

By Friday evening we were up in Vancouver, where the kids did an excellent job of being funny and loud and distracting and helping with the first tough evening. Daniel's parents had been married just short of 52 years, so his mom is, understandably, very sad.

We stayed through Monday with his family, helping take care of funeral details, gathering old family photos, sorting through things. In a bit of timing that worked out for us (but pretty much not anyone else), the kids haven't started school yet because of the strike. So they didn't have to miss any school for our travels.

I'm in charge of the photo scrapbook for Daniel's dad. It's been a sad/happy morning, looking back at old photos and remembering fun times, but also seeing the faces of those who have passed on.

It was quite a summer. The cancer started right at the beginning of the summer and he passed just as the weather cooled and the leaves began to change. It's such a strong visual, the obvious changing of seasons around us as we leave one family season and enter a new one. Lots of changes. Daniel is now the only "Daddy" in his immediate family. Ethan is the last with the family name. Daniel's mom has never lived alone before.

The kids have been coping really well. They are old enough to understand the idea of and the permanence of death, but aren't so old/emotionally mature that they are grieving.  The funeral on Saturday will probably be hard for them, especially for Ethan.  There's the possibility of an open casket, so I've been talking them through that as well and reassuring them that they don't have to do/see anything they aren't comfortable with.

Back to photo sorting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

All of the feels.

Daniel has now been up in Canada since Thursday night. His dad rallied for a few days, then was in terrible shape last night, so Daniel stayed the night with him in hospice.

Daniel's dad has always had an interesting relationship with the rest of the family, at least from my perspective as someone coming into the family from a different culture and family background. His dad was firmly in the role as provider when Daniel was growing up and Daniel's mom and grandmother did the parenting type stuff. Culturally and for the era that Daniel grew up in, this was pretty standard. I've been with Daniel for about eleven and a half years and have had only a handful of conversations with his dad, as his dad's English isn't the best and I am terrible at small talk with anyone. The relationships in the family revolve more around Daniel's mom and it always seemed sort of like Daniel's dad just came along for the ride.

When his dad got sick, it hit Daniel hard. He wanted to change their relationship as much as he could in the time that was left. He went up on Father's Day to spend time with his dad and has gone up most weekends and lots of other days since. But there have always been things to do and to decide. Shopping to get done for his mom. Medications to sort, doctors' appointments to get to. There hasn't been time to just sit and talk.

Until now. Daniel's found himself in the role of primary caretaker for his dad. He is the one making sure the visitors don't get too overwhelming and that the pain isn't too much and that his dad isn't being constantly pestered with questions and is just allowed to be and to rest.

I was on Skype with Daniel most of the night last night, because I have spent the night in hospitals before and I know there is no night as long as one spent in a hospital. Even so, I didn't know the details of the night until he called this morning. I am so glad he stayed. He spent last night praying with his dad and holding him and playing Amazing Grace on the CD player. Daniel's been able to tell his dad that he loves him and that we love him and that he will be missed and that we look forward to seeing him again in Heaven. I'm glad Daniel has those memories now.

This picture makes me weep every time I've looked at it since Daniel took it and sent it to me. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

The end of the summer.

My parents are in town and we took them up to Vancouver last Thursday so that they could say goodbye to Daniel's dad. On Friday, when we went over to see Daniel's parents, his dad was still alert and able to walk around the house. He was in some pain, but it was largely manageable. We all planned to come home Saturday, but on Saturday morning his dad was in more pain and his mom was exhausted, so we left Daniel behind (thankfully we'd gone up in 2 cars) and headed back to Seattle. Through an enormous wind storm. We got stuck in traffic, almost got hit by a falling tree, had to search for somewhere to eat that had power... eventful trip.

By Tuesday, Daniel's dad was ready to leave home and go to a hospice facility. Wednesday he settled in and had visitors. And by Thursday he was in extreme pain, had to be sedated and was largely unresponsive.  I think he's ready to be done, ready to go Home. Daniel went back up Thursday night and now the kids and I are packing and waiting for the call that says it's time for us to come up. My parents are still here, of course, but are heading home in a few days, so may be on their own at my house for a bit.

This has been the craziest summer of my life. I semi-joked that I need to show the kids pictures of Daniel because he's been gone so very much. I'm glad he's able to support his mom in this time though, she needs to lean on him. It's just incredible that his dad first went to the doctor because of a cough in June, had been told about his cancer by about the same time school let out for the summer and is likely going to pass away right around Labor Day. I've lost track of how many trips we've made up to Vancouver and Daniel has gone about twice as many times as we have. He's pretty much existing on coffee right now.

The kids are so far handling things well. We talk a lot about Grandpa not hurting anymore in Heaven and what a good long life he has led. Ethan gets a little emotional, but Vivian doesn't yet. She rarely gets emotional in general though.  Today I realized that Ethan's wardrobe consists of sweatpants, shorts and Minecraft shirts, so we had to make a quick trip to the store to buy something funeral-appropriate. The end is close.