Friday, November 6, 2015

Cookies and Cards

"I'm not sure if I'm excited to check out this cabin since Nana can't come." he said softly.

I cringed, afraid of where this conversation was headed. I placed a spoon in his bowl of cereal, poured in some milk and responded.

 "Why is that, love?" I pushed his bowl across the counter to him.

He pulled out the spoon, tapped it on the side of the bowl to remove any milk that was on it, and set it on the left side of his dish.

When will I remember to just hand him his spoon and quit sticking it in his bowl?! I thought to myself. I watched him stiffen his body and stretch his fingers before picking his spoon back up to eat.

He poked around at his cereal a little. "I don't think its fair cause you guys got to do fun stuff with her there and since she's stuck in heaven, I don't get to." He began to eat quietly. His shoulders were heavy and his eyes were sad.

So many thoughts started running through my head. I specifically didn't talk about Nana OR Catie with this trip because I don't want it to be upsetting for either of them. Where is this coming from?
Then it dawned on me. In just the five short years of his life he had heard ten plus years worth of stories from our summers together as a family at this cabin. Now we were preparing to go back to the very same place. It would be his first time there as well as his little brothers. It is also the very first time going back without his Nana or Auntie.

 I often over look the way he thinks and just how much he puts together. He is typically less emotional and more serious. He's not one to shout with excitement or cry over something that most children would be sad about. He doesn't laugh easily. He very much acts as he speaks which is often monotone. Because of this I forget that whats being shown on the outside isn't always a good picture of whats going on inside. I assumed that because he has never been to this place, aside from the usual anxiety that comes with an unknown situation, he wouldn't have an issue with the idea of going. But, he was quickly showing me that he had a lot of things going on inside that he was having a difficult time explaining.

I tried to reassure him that it would be a wonderful trip. I made sure he knew I was deeply sorry that he never got to experience it with Nana. I could tell that my words were just that. Words. He was clearly upset.

It was later in the afternoon now. He was jumpy all throughout the day and repeating things quite a bit which was letting me know he was still uncomfortable. We ran into a drug store really quickly to grab something and as we were walking to the checkout I saw a shelf stocked with blue tins full of Royal Dansk butter cookies. Instantly, flashbacks of my Nana filled my mind. She always had these cookies on hand. I grabbed a tin.

"Cookies?" he asked

We never just buy cookies. I usually bake them since we eat gluten free.

"yup! You're going to love these! Did you know, Nana always bought these cookies? We used to eat them at her house, and sometimes she brought a tin of them to our house. Here, will you carry them please?"

We checked out and got in the car. I opened the tin right away.

"Let's just have one now!" I said.

The boys couldn't believe it. A tin of cookies? With gluten? In the car, before dinner? As they ate their cookies I explained to Joey that on days that I feel very sad or frustrated that I can't spend time with Nana, I like to do something I know she enjoyed. Sometimes its going for a nice walk outside, or grabbing a bagel and coffee downtown. Maybe playing a game of cards. Today he was missing her and these cookies were just sitting right in front of us in a store we had no intentions of going into. I explained that the cookies could be a special thing we enjoy while we think about her.

"Can we not eat anymore cookies please? I want to pack them for Tahoe. Then, I can give some to Poppie if he starts to miss his mom." He said with cookie in his cheeks.

"I think that is a very thoughtful thing to do and I think Poppie will LOVE to eat some butter cookies with you." I smiled at him, trying not to shove 10 butter cookies in my own mouth so I wouldn't cry.

"I was also thinking that we can play cards together and we can pretend like she is teaching me like she taught all of you, okay mom?"

That boy. He's always thinking.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Big Brother

We sat beside each other, exchanging sushi from each others plates. One conversation led to another and all of a sudden we were talking about Catie. I explained that I haven't felt anything toward her death in the past weeks. Its like I'm back to that numb stage. But it doesn't feel suffocating, it feels, well, like nothing. I started to pour my heart out.

"I don't know. I haven't been thinking about her and that scares me. I talk about her to the boys when Joey brings it up, like she's over at my parents. Is that normal? I mean, I'm not crying, I'm not sick to my stomach. I almost feel like I've adjusted somehow and I'm not putting my energy into being sad but then I think I must just be in denial. Ignoring it in order to function. ...But then I accidentally came across her picture on the computer and she was just laying there, pale and worn out. Its that picture of her with that tape all across her face holding all the equipment in place."

I'm not sure what made me take the picture but I know I can't delete it because there are only so many of her. Never enough and without this one, even though it hurts to look at, it would be one less. Her dark, thick eyelashes almost distract from the tape. They were so beautiful.

"When I saw it, I just stared at it. It stung.. but still, I didn't cry.. I'm not sure why, I'm just not thinking about it."

Kyle sat back. He said, "thats crazy cause its all I think about, that picture. she died. Watching her stop breathing." He shook his head and leaned over the bar.
"I will never forget having to call Tony. I didn't know what to say, I just told him he had to come back."
He shrugged his shoulders, and shook his head again as if he could shake the memory out. His eyes filled with tears.

I sometimes forget in this busy life that memories don't go away. They get buried behind busy schedules and to-dos but things like watching your sibling die just doesn't go away.

Catie wasn't Kyles biological sister, but from the minute he stepped into the picture he loved her like she was. To this day, he hasn't stopped loving her, caring about her, and missing her.

He is remarkable.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

346 Days Ago

I stood in Catie's room trying to figure out where to begin cleaning. For whatever reason, I started with the shower. I moved all of the toys and small furniture that were in front of it, and pulled the shower curtain back. I quickly realized that this shower had not been touched for close to a year. Her shower chair sat in the center of the shower floor, her shampoo bottles still sitting on the chair. They were half full, never to be emptied. I took a deep breath that felt more shallow than anything, I grabbed all of the shampoo, and quickly walked outside to the trash can. I threw the shampoo bottles into the garbage can as hard as I possible could. I was angry. I stormed back into the house and pulled the shower chair out and wheeled it into the garage. After soaking the shower wall and floor in cleaner, I found myself starring into the suds all around the empty shower. I could clearly see a memory of Catie in my mind.

I was supposed to shower her and she was angry with me for it. She did not enjoy her showers and some days she was just plain mean about it. I had helped her slowly walk over to the shower and step over the lip of the basin. She sat down in her chair pouting.

"put your head back.."

"kellyyyy." she'd say in a deep voice.

"Catie, com'on..."

I grew irritated with the chore. It was a lot of work, I was always sweating and wet from the shower sprayer when I was done. Her lack of interest made it even harder because her arms weren't dead weight, instead, she was holding them down with all of her strength, and at this time, she had a lot of it left. I continued bathing her, speaking shortly to her while she continued to glare in my direction as fiercely as possible.

"hey kel!" she said in a very mischievous voice.


She sat up straight in her shower chair, lifted her arms and began flapping her chest up into the air quickly.


It was just like that, that my blind sister who was completely dependent on my help not only used my help but abused it. What, a, burn! She was right. I didn't have those and I never have. She was always uh, blessed you could say, in a way I never was or will be. She knew it and didn't even have to see proof.  I never heard the end of it either. Even when she couldn't speak any longer, my mom would shout across the room for her,

"Hey Kelly, don't forget! Ya don't got these!!" she'd say.

Catie would erupt with laughter. She never grew tired of laughing about it.

"hey ma, what dat nassy smell?" Joey asked.

I realized the cleaner wasn't sudsy anymore and I needed to get scrubbing so I could rinse it out asap. I started on the tiles and worked my way down to the floor. I was scrubbing quickly, still angry at the situation. Then, I saw it.

Her short black hairs were resting on the shower drain. Real, soft hairs. At first I jumped back. It scared me and I'm not sure why. I felt nauseated because my sister is dead but her hair was sitting in front of me. Then I realized that its been here for a year. Untouched. I reached out, grabbed it and began to sob. Not cry, but sob. This wasn't her favorite toy, or piece of jewelry. It wasn't an article of clothing or a favorite movie. This was physically a part of my sister and I was holding it in my hand. The last time I felt my sisters soft hair in my hands was 346 days ago. She was cold and white. I held her hand in one of mine and with the other I stroked my fingers through her hair one last time while saying good bye to her before I left the hospital room.

What I would give to wash her hair one more time. I miss her more than ever.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In Good Times & Bad

I took a deep breath, followed by a sip of wine. I cleared my throat, and said, "I just love you so much." I did everything possible to hold back tears, and could see as tears welled up in my husbands eyes, he was also feeling the same thing in that moment.

We had stopped in Eugene, OR on our way to Seattle, WA. It was our 5th wedding Anniversary that day and we were beyond excited to finally be taking the trip we had always talked about. We took a walk and found ourselves sharing dinner in an adorable little restaurant, Ambrosia. (best Italian food, aside from my mothers, I've ever had.) The candle lit atmosphere and charming Italian music was more than romantic and after a long car ride and frantic morning getting our boys and pets situated, I looked down to see myself wearing a men's Nirvana t-shirt, jeans, and old school vans. Not only was I far below the restaurants dress code, I was completely failing at any chance of looking anniversary-esque. I looked up from my menu and apologized to Kyle.

"Babe. I'm very underdressed."
"who cares!" he said, with that smirk of his.
"I care! Its our anniversary and look at me. A nirvana tee?"

He looked at me with his baby blue eyes and smiled before saying,

"My very favorite look on you."

We ordered our dinner (don't forget, best ever!) and took our time. We are usually in a rush on our dates and if we aren't pressed for time, we still feel as if we are. This however, was different. The boys were safe, we were out of CA and it was day one of our five day vacation. We knew no one, and had no plans to be anywhere any time soon. We were so relaxed that we had been checking the time on the car clock and the time wasn't even correct! (we had quite the laugh over that one.) As we ate, we began to share our favorite wedding memories, and we laughed at how we couldn't have been more wrong when it came to what we had imagined our lives to be at our 5th anniversary. That of course led us to talking about our boys and how incredible they are. How we couldn't believe that Owen will be 1 year old at the end of this month. A year already? It feels so much longer than a year. That's when we really sat in the quiet, just the two of us, and silently realized how much we needed this trip. The last 365 days of our lives have been a roller coaster of ups and downs. The birth of our second child along with health issues related to it. The death of our sister. The loss of a job. The loss of a car. The cut back of hours at work. The terminal diagnosis of our grandmother. The death of our grandmother. The loss of a church family. The gift of a car. The gift of a new and better job. The first everything's with Owen, and the first everything's without Catie and Nana. The last year was full of tension between the happiest and saddest days of our lives. We fought for our love to stay bright through it, but we have been so tired. As individuals, as a couple and as parents.

I felt silly for caring about how I looked. It was so petty. After the year we have had, I shouldn't care if I'm in a little black dress or a 90s grunge tee. I should be completely blown away by the grace shown on our lives and our relationship that got us to this dinner. The gift of God's faithfulness during every up and down in the last year. Teaching us to love and care for each other no matter what. Whether we just met our second son for the very first time, or we just saw our sister for the very last. We were sitting at a table sharing a romantic dinner because of the love we have been given. A love that was doubted by some because of our young age, and only exists because of the undeserved love that God keeps showing to us. I'll never forget what a challenge this last year has been for us, but I know with time I'll forget the the little details of it. I won't however, forget our 5th wedding anniversary and the teary "I love you's" that meant more than they ever have before. The ones that tell each other, neither of you are going anywhere, no matter what the future has in store.

Happy Anniversary, my love! Thank you for your faithfulness, your love, and your support that you bless me with every single day. I love you more and more as we grow up together and couldn't be more honored to be your wife and the baby momma of your kids. I LOVE YOU, KYLO. (now lets go back for more of that taramisu!) XOXO

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nice To Meet You

I easily forget what a huge part of Annie's life has been. There was a long period of time where Annie would either be in a rage, or sleeping. She'd get agitated, it would escalate into a full blown physical fight where any 2-3 of us family members would be holding her limbs and torso down on the ground in order to keep her from breaking furniture, kicking or biting us, and worse, trying to hurt herself. Some days this agitation would last around 30 minutes which melted into around an hour long rage which turned into a 20 minute "cool down" where she'd cry and breathe heavily, her sweaty body shaking from all that it just went through. She'd fall asleep for 30 minutes to an hour and it would start again. There were times when my parents talked of building a padded safe room for her. There were talks of how to handle situations if she were to start having a seizure or maybe if the police were called by the neighbors, how to explain her illness to them. None of these things ever happened. Our family has been surrounded by loving, patient and caring people for all of Annie's life. This went on for years of her short life. At one point, 2 of my sisters even moved into my apartment for a few days and everyone took shifts helping with her because it was so physically and emotionally taxing. Sometimes it was at its worst, sometimes it wasn't as bad. But there was one thing for sure, she had no quality of life. She enjoyed nothing. She was always irritated and frustrated. She never seemed to have any peace. My family walked on egg shells, always being afraid of a rage. We all have scars from trying to hold her down. We've all had things special to us broken etc. But none of that even compares, not even close, to what my poor sister has endured. She has been trapped in this state of living her whole life until now.

People ask, "how is Annie doing?" Out of habit, I start to respond with, "Well, not great.." but when I think about it, its incredible. She IS doing great!! For the first time in her life, the last year, two years, she has had very few rages. Some days she gets frustrated and its very challenging but its been nothing like the years past.

I told my husband, I feel like I'm getting to know my sister. She'll be 15 this year and as a Batten kid that's nerve wracking to think about. Its frustrating, that its taken all this time for her to calm down and to know we only have so much time left. But still, the opportunity is here, and I get to meet my sister. I get to laugh with her, talk with her, I'm getting to know Annie. She has a sweet and thoughtful personality. Always giving gifts to anyone and everyone. She says hello to everyone she passes and always asks if they'll be her friend. She loves to watch My little Pony, pretend she has a pig nose like Penelope, eat Chinese food and rice. Her favorite color is purple, her favorite singer is Taylor swift and last I checked she was still engaged to a Jonas brother. These are all things we have all known about her for a while but she's never gotten to fully enjoy any of it until recently. She can finally let loose and dance and sing in the car, she can go shopping with you. She went to a loud, crowded crab feed with my family on a Saturday night and it was 9:30 when we were in the car driving home. Not a single fit the whole time. This week on Easter break, she came to my house to spend the night Monday, walked to Baskin Robbins with us Tuesday, went to a memorial service and then out to lunch Wednesday and today I got a text with a picture of her headed out to lunch, again!! This is a record for this girl. Its quality of life for the first time in her life. She is beautiful. I love her so so much. I never loved her any less in the past, but it feels like, for the first time, she is able receive love. She is able to live out the love that she has for everyone rather than being trapped in a rage. This time is special.. I'm always nervous that she'll go back to how she was. If she does, I will be even MORE thankful for this fun time in her life. For her laughing and joking (she has quite a sense of humor) singing, dancing. She's living!! and loving it. Its nice to know this Anne Marie.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

She's crying, AGAIN

Every Sunday morning, I tell myself not to cry. I debate whether or not to even apply eye liner for fear of not holding it in and looking like a soggy raccoon. Its taking longer to adjust to Catie being gone than I thought it would.

My sister listens to this song, I Drive Your Truck and sweetly mentions how much it means to her. Although I do visit the cemetery weekly, sometimes multiple times a week if Joey asks, I don't feel closest to Catie there. I feel uncomfortable in her old room, I don't care much to pet her dog. I do however, feel closest to her at church. If you compared it to the song, church was Catie's truck times 10. The highlight of her week, she lit up when she could go. She was always passionate about her faith and even when she couldn't speak she'd clap her hands and slam them down onto her knees over and over during worship. She'd try to sing as loud as possible, even when she couldn't say the words. She still managed to put her hands together to pray, even when her fingers wouldn't fold together. She'd close her eyes and bow her head. I often felt relieved that she couldn't see anymore and I didn't have to deal with the, "mom! Kelly had her eyes open when we were praying!!! remarks. I don't go to church on Sunday to feel close to Catie, but, I'm glad that it works out that way anyway. except today, was more difficult.

We started to sing "turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." These all too familiar words stung deep into my heart. They took my breath away and replaced it with tears in my eyes. Catie often sang this song, and beautifully I might add. Her voice was soft and angelic but also strong at the same time. This song was one of her special songs.. and that is why my mom sang it to her at her bedside during her last hours.

I sat in a chair next to Kyle in her dark room listening as my mom sang to Catie. Her voice was tired and crackly. She wasn't really crying, but you could clearly hear her heart aching. I'd look up to confirm what was really going on occasionally, and each time I'd see the same thing. My mom was standing the same way she had been all day long. She was leaning against the bed, one arm under Catie's head and one arm on her chest. Her head rested on a pillow right beside Catie's, close to her face. She sang this song to Catie along with others. She looked exactly like you'd imagine a mother to look. Broken and numb, but strong and comforting. Like she wasn't going to move until her daughter was at peace. It was as beautiful as something so awful could be.

That was the image I saw as the church sang that song together today. But, how perfect, are the words. The things of earth... the daily struggles, frustrations, heart aches etc. grow dim when you turn your eyes to Jesus. Its not a popular thing to do.. It sounds crazy to most people. How do you turn your eyes to someone you can't see?? Faith. The kind of faith that Catie had..the kind of faith my mom has, that allowed her to know her daughter would be in heaven after taking her last breath. I'm so thankful for the grace God has shown to me, to allow me to have a hope in a future and a peace for the present. A real faith.

So to the poor people always standing next to me week after week listening to me sniffle, I do not have allergies, I have issues. ..and yes, I'm working on them. :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sisters, Journals, and A Dream

While working my usual childcare morning on Thursday, I sat and watched two sisters embraced each other. Ages near 2 and 4 years old, beautiful little girls with the brightest blonde curls I have ever seen. The older wrapped her arms around the younger, occasionally brushing her small, dimpled fingers through her baby sisters hair. As she sang a sweet, soft song, the younger sister looked up at her big sister and smiled so big that her little, blue eyes squeezed tight.

My eyes filled with tears. My mind quickly flashed back to a summer afternoon, sometime in the early 90s. Catie was laying on the bottom of the bunk bed under a pastel blanket. The sun was peaking through the mini blinds in the window to my left. I clearly remember its soft warm glow.  We were pretending that I was the mommy and Catie was the baby. I tucked her in with a stuffed animal and a blanket, and kissed her cheek. She let out a large belly laugh. I became irritated with her as she was not cooperating. She was a baby! She was supposed to be tucked in and then she was to fall asleep. Not laugh!! I was stern with her, "Catie!! Stop. You're my baby!! stop laughing." Her dark brown eyes, stubbornly looked over at me with the same mischievous look she often gave even recently last year before her passing. I tried to ignore her silliness and continue playing "house." I started to sing. She clinched her little, pink lips together and her cheeks puffed out. She was trying to hold in her laughing. I remember taking my chubby little hand and trying to gently rub her forehead, pushing her thick, dark brown bangs back. That is when she erupted with a hysterical laugh. I dont remember what happened after that, but I clearly remember her laugh.

I continued to watch these sisters sing and laugh with each other. I felt a sense worry and panic. I don't want them to be where I am right now. I prayed that their friendship and sisterhood would never be separated. That they would grow old together.

Later that night I was driving home from visiting my older sister in Sacramento when, not paying attention, I got off on the Leisure Town Rd. exit. I try to avoid it, I mostly try to avoid that entire area if possible. Catie died in the Kaiser hospital that is directly across from the exit. Obviously you can't avoid it forever, but if I can, I do. I pulled off the freeway and stopped at the red light. I looked straight ahead to the empty hospital parking lot, lit by yellow lights. I instantly felt the pain that I felt the night my family walked out of the hospital without Catie. Knowing her body was upstairs in her bed, never to be with us again. Her empty wheel chair was in the car that my dad had to drive home. It was an impossible feeling to describe that night and I can't describe it when I feel it today. I just know it sucks. I continued driving home and went to bed, hopeful that the next day would be less emotional.


The next morning, while cleaning I found a journal that my Nana had kept of me. It started the day my mom went into labor with me, and continued until she gave it to me in 2007. I read through it and was reminded of many memories with my family. 90% of the entries had something to do with Catie and me. Things about the way I cared for Catie. The excitement of meeting her when she was born. The heartache I shared with nana about wanting Catie to be healthy. The entire journal was written about me and my life, but my life was about me and Catie. Thats just how it was.. Her entries reminded me of that. Of the close sisterhood that the two of us shared.

So maybe this day wouldn't be too much easier emotionally after all.

Now it was Saturday. I woke up to a text that my cousin sent early in the morning. She was worried about me and wanted to check on my emotional state. Offered to come visit and take me to lunch, maybe call and see if I wanted to talk. I told her that interestingly enough, the last two days had been very very hard. She text me back explaining that she had a feeling it was that way. That morning she had woken up after having a dream in which Nana and Catie came to her, very happy and holding hands. She said they looked wonderful. She was overjoyed to have this dream because she hadn't dreamed of either of them since their passing and she misses them so greatly. She said it was a wonderful dream, but then the two of them became sad. They started showing her that I was upset. That I wasn't doing well and needed to be checked on. And so she did. She woke up and checked on me.

Now I don't always read too far into dreams and their meanings, but this was incredible. One "of those" moments that are unexplained but absolutely amazing. I saw my cousin today and we talked about it more. She's amazing and one of my closest and most cherished relationships. It makes perfect sense that she would be the one to receive this dream. I'm so happy for her that she was able to see Nana and Catie. I'm also so very happy that after a rough couple of days I can see that not only do I have an amazing family to get through hard times with, I know God uses these moments to remind me that He hasn't gone anywhere.