A Pause before July

Seems like I was just here, writing about my dad on Father's Day. Thanks for hanging in there while I heal through writing. It's kinda my thing. If you have tuned in for more family adventures, they will be back. But not today. 

Although July 5th was the day we took my dad off of life support, June 30th was the last day of normalcy. There is a photo hanging in Larkyn's room, right next to a photo of my parents. It was a random Instax photo taken by someone else at a food truck festival the night of June 30th. The last night anything would be the same, and a different part of our life. 

I can divide my life into two parts: Before his death and After his death. Still navigating.

On June 30th, we all met for lunch after my parents watched the kids while I got a cavity filled. I thought that was important to note, because had I not had the cavity, we wouldn't have been together on June 30th. We went to the teeniest little place to end my Clintonville Neighborhood Guide, and I remember dad really liked his lunch there. He paid me for half of it, which still bothers me. I took a few photos of the kids, but he wasn't in any (because who thought that would be our last lunch?), which still bothers me. Oh, these things we hold onto. 

Anyway. Every person handles grief in a different way. Of course, OF COURSE I miss him. Yes. But what pops up in my mind probably once an hour isn't always "my dad is gone and I wish he was here". When a person dies under the most traumatic circumstances that make you think "I did something in life to deserve this and this is truly living hell", there are other things that come up. 

Driving through the intersection of Cemetery and Norwich, for one. Seeing an ambulance. Seeing a wreck. Seeing flags, fireworks, anything veteran related. His empty chair and desk. Yes I miss him, but more often, it brings me back to that hospital hallway. 

I remember every second of our July 1st, from what was on our dining room table (hot dogs and applesauce) that would stay there uneaten as I received the phone call from Riverside hospital. Dropping the kids off as fast as I could to a friend and being in that hospital hallway. The one where my mom was on one end and my dad on the other. Where the Chief of Trauma told me that he wouldn't be going home to see fireworks, that the chances of him surviving surgery were minimal. But he had to have the surgery immediately, or he wouldn't survive. Do you agree to this surgery?

The hallway that led me to my mom in one room, where she was talking, joking, wincing, and totally unaware of my dad's condition. And my dad's enormous room with a team of 12, showing me his chest tubes and having me sign papers. Where he asked me to find his glasses and said "I hope I need them." Where there was no doubt in his mind that he wanted surgery, but that is what changed everything. Up until the surgery, he was talking to me, he was holding my hand. It makes my eyes burn to think how different it might have been without the surgery. Of course, we never would have let that happen, but I didn't realize that the surgery would be the end of everything. He was fully coherent, telling me "I don't wanna complain, but this right here (pointing to his chest, which sustained the most injury), it hurts."

The hallway where I was waiting for Matt to arrive when I overheard and couldn't stop listening to the nurses talk about my dad, not knowing I was there. "He won't pull through, and even if he does, he will never go home. And did you see his legs where he hit the dashboard?  I just feel so bad. His wife is here too. This is so sad." Where I called and texted and cried so hard that I begged for Ibuprofen because I have never experienced anything like it. By the way, they don't do that.

I think my biggest heartache over the entire process was the misunderstanding. The major, painful misunderstanding that when my dad made it through surgery, that things would just get better from there. We would have a long road of recovery ahead of us. I didn't understand how the body reacts to surgery. That every day gets worse until it looks deceivingly better because the machines take over. That feeling of being duped, having false hope, and then doing the "loving thing" by removing life support 4 days later. Kind night nurses deserve a special place in heaven, because the one who finally explained to me that "He's not going to go home" was exceptional. 

Fourth of July. We watched the fireworks from the family room in the trauma unit.

Some nights were dramatic. Like sights and sounds I will never forget. Nights where we watched them transfuse 41 units of blood. But most hours went by with him quietly laying there. Friends came to talk to him, while he opened his eyes for some but was so heavily sedated for pain that his eyes were closed for most. We had time to share old family stories, to connect with family members we rarely see...the uncles who are like shadows of my dad. We had time. We were lucky to have those four days that most accident victims don't have together. But a few days later, when his team arrived together in his room, we knew. There wouldn't BE an "event" that would cause them to put the DNR to use. Over the 4 days, his fighting eyes that blinked with acknowledgement right after surgery, had been closed for a while. The machines had taken over. And that was it. I remember being confused because there really isn't a "flatline" or "beeeeeeeep" sound like on TV. The monitor goes from monitoring stats to a vacant-looking home screen. Like restarting a computer. It went fast, according to the respiratory therapist who removed the vent. It went fast. 

I don't remember anything about home life that week. But having children at home during the grieving process is challenging. As in...you don't have the time or place for any of that. It's OK. 

Our memory stone in the backyard. How color-coordinated of her. 

So, a lot of people have a lot of advice to hand out. And I know it comes from a good place. "Think of the good times", "don't dwell on the negative". Sorry. I'm not dwelling on anything on purpose, but you can't unhear and unsee what I saw and heard over the July 4th weekend. Yeah, we are "making new memories" and I push these thoughts to the side 99% of the day. But flashbacks are real and no amount friendly advice fixes that. I don't walk around thinking about it all day, but I hope that my acknowledgment of it doesn't fall into the category of "dwelling". 

I hope I am a better person for it. I am working harder than ever (dad's most famous quality) and hope I have more empathy toward others. I never knew how to deal with people who have lost loved ones, and I think I have a better grip on it now. The worst thing you can do?  Not say anything.

I hope my heart is softer, but it might not be. A lot of anger towards the criminal (that's what he is, for real) who caused the accident. But at the hearing, my heart hurt for his family too. My heart hurts for my mom, but she has a huge support system who loves her and keeps her so busy. But I know there's that 1% of the day, that 1% that I've described before as a huge hole in my chest. Or an elephant sitting on it. Whatever it is, if I am feeling it, she is too. 

For the rest of my life, the 4th of July weekend will be different. Not "bad", but it will have two meanings for me. Being my dad's favorite holiday made it even more significant. And maybe we will come up with a new tradition (to skip town?) each year so I am not floundering, wondering "What should we do?" "How do we mark a one year anniversary of a death?" Every year, we will get stronger, and I would have to think this will be the hardest year. 

The Fourth of July weekend 2016. Our new normal.

Enjoying the wagon from Pawpaw,

Summer: Week 3

I can't stop and do the math or I'm going to get a little panicky. Summer is going by too quickly! We had another packed week, just how we like it. A few times, we stayed at home during the day and tried going out at night. Fail. We all go bonkers in our house and need outside stimulation, so...off we go!

Brinner with Kate
When a bestie brings brunch for dinner at your house, you know she's a keeper. And we provided the Prosecco and berries again, so I think that makes us keepers too.

Velvet Ice cream visit
Ice cream + playgrounds + nana time = win

The Works Museum visit
I have to say, Newark surprised me! I'd like to go back and explore another day. The Tyke Lab inside The Works was so perfect for my little ones, and the train on the way out was the icing on the cake. If there is ONE perk to a best friend living out of town, I guess this is it;)

Creative Babes + Dinner
I took a little leap for some grown-up time to join the ladies of Creative Babes, an informal organization that meets to inspire and connect Columbus women. We met at the beautiful upstairs room of Copious and listened to a keynote speaker. This event tipped me over the point I've been at for a while with this blog. It is time to attempt making a living off of it, and at the encouragement of my creative friends, I am giving it a try with advertisers. Fingers crossed and time to hustle harder.

But first, food. Fried chicken and fruit-infused water. Mara went a little healthier. YOLO.

Powell Festival
Well, this was one of those events that started out fun and went down in epic flames. Why, WHY do we go to a free festival and pay $10 per child for bouncy houses?  I hated parting with that $20, but the kids loved it. And I loved the ingenious, free sunscreen dispensers provided by Ohio Health. Great idea. Not a great idea--letting your emotional daughter take a run through the splash pad with her clothes, and then having her meltdown that she can't take off all her clothes and that she's now wet (when you confirmed earlier that this would be the case). Oh, the screams...

I'll do a follow-up on pollination later this summer, but what a FUN afternoon at Franklin Park Conservatory. This event was outside in the Community Garden, which is one of my favorite spots at FPC. We learned all about the importance of pollinators (bees, butterflies, birds, bats) with community organizations. We came home with a bag full of activities and crafts AND we got the try the ebelskiver truck! All the heart eyes for that baby...

Grandview Hop + Meeting JENI!!
Time for moms night out with my friend, Katie! We started the evening off with the Jeni's in Clintonville because Jeni (THE Jeni) would be there serving peach sundaes!  We split one, which was sweet, tart, and amazing. And then she walked in like a dream and I was a quietly awkward fan girl. After a short conversation about cold-poaching with my new BFF Jeni, we left and I did a parking lot dance, while we both regretted not getting a photo with her. Whoops.

Off to The Grandview Hop for a little walking, sipping, and patio-ing. We had dinner and the "Year of Yes" flight at Vino Vino (an old favorite), popsicles from Cody of Rime Time Pops, and ended the night at Spagio. The Grandview Hop is great for people-watching!

Blogger meet-up at The Little Gym
Eryn, of 614mom.com organized a mommy and me event at The Little Gym so that our kids could give the gym a try and we could make a canvas painting together. We also sampled some muffins from Gotta Eat Muffins, which were amazing. The kids LOVED the gym and they're running a camp special that ends on Friday ($23/day for camp, if you buy 3, you get the 4th free!)

Topiary Park
This will have a whole separate post to introduce you to the gorgeous downtown park, but it's a beauty. Of course, all energy was spent trying to make sure Rhys didn't run straight into the pond (it is pretty from a distance, but super easy to fall into and soooo dirty). Nana, Mara and Maggie joined us for a picnic and a mini Mama and daughter photo session.

This weekend will be interesting. Last year, we spent this weekend watching fireworks from the Trauma ICU family room with the families of the most critically ill and injured patients in the entire hospital. This year, we hope to ease back into society with some fireworks and family time. What are your plans?

The New Main Library

I am a sucker for old, beautiful buildings, so the 1907 main library has always been a favorite of mine. I had only taken the kids once before it closed for a massive $35 million renovation last year. And yesterday, we made the trip downtown to Grant Avenue for our first look at the children's area.

At 10:30, it was an easy drive down 71 to Broad Street. I would recommend taking a few extra minutes to find a metered spot rather than using the attached parking garage. You'll be fine in the garage, it is just typically crowded and it's just my preference to be parked outside. Bring your parking ticket inside for payment. 

On the way to the atrium, the old architecture caught Larkyn's eye and she wanted to see the "bride" staircase. So much of the building is left intact on this part of the building. Entering the new atrium is quite a moment. It is simply so big that you can't fit it all into your frame. You just have to see it for yourself!

To the left, friendly staffers welcomed Larkyn to get her first CML card. The process is simple (you just need your ID).

And then we were off to see what the jewel of the atrium, the Aminah Robinson staircase. I know Aminah's work through my many visits to the Museum of Art with my students. She was a beloved Columbus native, best known for her large, colorful pieces representing her upbringing in Columbus.

At this point, Larkyn was bursting at the seams to get to the Children's area, which is just on the other side of the staircase.

There was a baby story time going on in the large, open circle area. No more closed-off, crowded story time room!  I noticed that the (brand new and shiny) furniture was flexible and could be rearranged to fit guests.

Staff members welcomed us and asked us if we needed help. They were happy to provide calendars and proud to tell me a little bit about each area. We were most interested in the "Get Ready for Kindergarten" area. As a kindergarten teacher with an upcoming kindergarten daughter, I was intrigued.

Kindergarten readiness is crucial to student success, and the CML has put emphasis on early intervention to equip parents with ideas for letter identification, phonemic awareness (letter-sound link), and enjoying text at an early age. Read about their Kindergarten Readiness programs here. There were letter games on the tables, which all the children were enjoying, and the area is designated by the giant school bus, getting kids acclimated to the idea of riding the bus in kindergarten!  Kelly, a librarian in the this area, said that all the (beautiful and new!) books in this area were selected as the best books for kindergartners. She also told me about the Reading Buddies program, which sounds amazing!

My favorite new strategy was the shelving of the board books. The books are shelved in wooden bins, with the covers facing out (instead of the spines). This makes it so much easier for children to select their books! They are nice and low, making it evident that the kids are welcome to look through them.  Book selection is key to engagement, and I think CML nailed it with these carts.

Brand new books are showcased on the shelf around the first circle time area, and fish-related books around the smaller circle time area. Why? Because of the sparkling new fish tank.

Ipads loaded with letter and phonics games are available at a table. I am not quite sure of the holes in the tables, but I am sure there is a reasoning, and the kids loved crawling underneath. Because any time crawling under tables is sanctioned, they're into it.

Bright, tall windows looked out to the street, and many families set up on the fun, wavy seating to read together.

I would love the addition of a gate, as I would in most places. For toddler sprinters who take off, it would be nice to know that they are contained in the children's area. But just in case, there are guards stationed at the doors to the outside who will make sure your Olympic trials come to an end at the door.

After our visit to the children's area, which was buzzing with excited visitors and staffers, I of course wanted to track down some coffee. On the way, we found a Friends of the Library gift shop and a touchscreen that shows the history of the building.

And then, the angels sang and Carnegie's Cafe appeared. After all the chasing, I needed some iced coffee! Carnegie serves a menu of Crimson Cup coffee and baked goods. And why the name Carnegie?  I just learned that he built 105 libraries in Ohio. 105!  While you wait for or enjoy your coffee, there is a bar-height table with iPads and a huge seating area indoors and outdoors. Because it was approximately 900 degrees outside, we sadly missed playing at the topiary garden, which is right outside these doors.

Last but not least, I had to get a photo of the outside. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when I was trying to figure out how to get there. Of course, I was given directions. But, with the stroller, that complicated things. Long story short, one elevator has a BACK DOOR that will open to the street level. If you have a stroller, get in this elevator and you'll be fine.

The outside is just as gorgeous as ever, with it's columns, fountain, and several benches. This building is so special, and I hope these tips help you plan a visit very soon!

Road Trip: The Works Museum

Having a friend who lives far away is tough because we miss them, but it also means we get two places to explore together!  Last week, I packed the kids up and we headed to Newark to visit Alyson and her son, Colton at The Works Museum.

It was all highway, taking 161 until it turned to 37 and then we got off onto route 16. Do yourself a favor and look at an actual map every once in a while, because the little iPhone screen will not show you that this is the SAME ROAD that Velvet Ice cream is on and you could have easily combined these road trips.

Admission was $19 for the three of us, which wasn't too bad, but next time I'd like to stay longer to make use of the admission fee. If you are a COSI member, you get in for 50% off. Parking was free and easy, but be careful when you pull back out of your spot because the lot centers around a one way street (and 3 hours later, you won't remember that and it can be awkward).

Right away, I was impressed with the cleanliness and organization of the discovery areas. There are staff members circulating to reorganize and to politely make sure kids aren't climbing up to play with the full-size skeleton display (surely my son would never do that??)

Similar to COSI, there are certain areas appropriate for different age groups, but the little ones were free to explore wherever they liked. We liked the Tyke Lab the best, especially because it was a secure area with a locked gate. Hooray for confinement with lots of fun imaginative play activities! There were dress-up clothes, blocks, a cafe, a market, fire truck, doctors office, puppet show, ball-run, and train table stocked with clean items in excellent condition.

Other areas included take-apart stations with tools (real and pretend tools), exploring the body, building and racing cars, and all sorts of wonderful STEM activities. Every kid was engaged and happy!

We walked around the outdoor courtyard for a little bit, where there are some hands-on sound experiments and a train car they can explore. Apparently members can rent the train car for birthday parties for FREE!

We went upstairs to the historical area, which included (gasp!) rotary phones, lots of train displays, and the featured exhibit of Jerrie Mock. This OSU grad was the first woman to fly solo around the world and hails from Newark. The kids loved getting into the plane.

Down the hall, we could explore what a little town would look "in the olden days" and even sit inside a room to play board games together. This area was hot hot hot because of the awesome glass-blowing studio below it.

We ate our packed lunches inside (you can bring lunch, but can't walk around with snacks to keep the facility clean). There is a cafe across the courtyard and a sitting area in a garden on the side facing 1st street. Bonus: If you walk down 1st Street to the end of the block, you will likely see a train. My kiddos wanted to camp out and wait for the train to go--it was definitely a highlight!

Across 1st Street, there is The Works Letter Press and Wood Shop, where you can stop in by appointment or during special events. And as I mentioned before, pair this with your trip to Velvet, and you'll have the perfect day trip. Have fun!

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