10 Years

Today is October 1, 2018.  Today would have been Rudy’s 10th Birthday.  Double digits!!!  How proud Rudy would be!

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October 1, 2008 was a Wednesday. I went into labor a month early and because of the high risk nature of my pregnancy, I was transported to UCLA from SB Cottage Hospital by ambulance. There were a lot of tears that day but I didn’t want Rudy to see sad pictures of his birth day so we made sure to capture only smiles in the pictures.
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His was a quick labor…he was eager to get his show on the road!

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He was immediately whisked to the NICU and sedated to keep him calm before his open heart surgery.
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Soon after, he was transported to the CTICU for closer monitoring by his cardiac team.
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The kids’ first meeting…

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That was a scary first introduction for the big sibs and I remember being so proud of them…they were so brave and respectful and compassionate and inquisitive and funny and concerned…they were so themselves!

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My head hurts.  Today is harder than last year…I think I was in shock last year, distracted by so many other things going on and numb on some levels.  Today I’m feeling grief that is deep and specific to Rudy alone.  His presence is profoundly missed as Rolf captured in his reflection for today…

On Rudy’s 10th Birthday:

The collection of broken remotes hasn’t grown since you left,
Yet I’m acutely aware of how many potential additions now lie readily within your grasp—
Down low on the couch,
Right there on the end table.

My full coffee cup sits in the danger zone,
Precariously next to me on the couch cushion,
My free hand always at the ready should you pounce. 
But there’s little chance of that.

You would be too tempted by how easily the DVD cabinets could be opened and emptied,
We only recently realized there’s no need to keep the doors tied shut.

Or the lure of the open front door might prove irresistible 
Provided you still remember that too much giddiness leads to detection. 
If you could suppress the urge to squeal or call out “See ya!”
Who knows what adventure might await?

How I long for a few moments of panic,
Outing my parenting gaffe to the neighbors as I call out in search of you.
I’d happily make sense of all the books dumped out in front of the bookcase,
Trying to figure out where to tape in all the torn-out pages.
Lots of time for that since there’s no Hot Wheels clogging the tub drain.

I miss your happy chaos.

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Rolf, Olivia, Oma and I will celebrate our boy later today with a trip to Kyle’s Kitchen and a special dessert (hopefully Oma’s chocolate roll cake!!!).  I wish the big boys could join us but we’re all close in thought, for sure.

Looking at all the pictures on this day ten years ago, I’m reminded of how uncertain everything was…there was real concern that Rudy wouldn’t survive his birth or his first surgery or his harrowing recovery…there were so, so many wrenching twists and turns in the very beginning.  Honestly, it’s hard to look back in retrospect, to see it all in it’s entirety and comprehend how it was even survivable for any of us.  We may not be celebrating 10 years with our boy today but we do stop and celebrate the 8 1/2 years that were his life…a life that was rich and impactful and truly happy despite all of the challenges.  Happy Day of your Birth Rudy!  ‘Forever grateful for you…forever in love with you…forever changed by you.

 

Fun on the Farm

The MOHD Squad enjoyed time away this past weekend that was significant on many levels.  First of all, it involved the annual Geyling trek to the Farm to watch Stanford football with our good friends Ruben and Marit (a tradition that started out as a special treat for Max and Rolf many years ago and eventually got passed down to Olivia).

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Max and Andrew Luck in 2010

This year’s Bay Area road trip also happened to fall on Olivia’s birthday weekend which added to the fun, for sure.  Rolf and Olivia share a love for Stanford Women’s Soccer and Volleyball and it just so happened both teams played at home back to back on Friday so as an added birthday bonus Rolf, Ruben, our goddaughter Maya and her husband Rob, Olivia and a surprise visit from Olivia’s good friend Tara made it an epic start to a full weekend of festive fun!!

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Stanford women’s Soccer with Maya and Tara…(P.S. Stanford won)
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…Stanford women’s volleyball with Tara and…
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…Kerri Walsh Jennings!  (P.S. Stanford won)
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Maya and Rob hosted a delicious pre-game lunch on Saturday…
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…and Marit made sure it was extra-sweet in honor of Olivia!

 

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Our day was topped off by another Stanford win over USC! Woo hoo!!
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It was a “2 thumbs up” kind of weekend!
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We ended the weekend at home with one last birthday celebration with friends…
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…and a video chat with the big bros!

Speaking of the boys, they weren’t far from our thoughts all weekend and made for a good laugh from afar with their Insta-bday wishes to Olivia like this one from Wilson.  Love those boys!  They crack us up!!

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Weekends away are requiring more and more effort but they sure do nourish the soul.  Time away is fun, it’s distracting, it’s good to switch things up and look at life from different vantage points from time to time.  Physically it was challenging for me which is discouraging but the benefits of being with good friends and doing fun things far outweigh the challenges.  We have another big trip to look forward to this month for my niece’s wedding so I need to rest up!  🙂

I have the privilege of meeting with a friend once a month who is walking me through some spiritual direction and as we talked last week, we landed on the subject of my growing physical limitations and how they’re feeding my feeling of quietly slipping away as I wrote about in this previous post.  This led to a longer discussion about what is happening for me spiritually and Diana summed it up like this…she affirmed my feelings by agreeing that I am in a process of disappearing but added that I’m also in a process of becoming my true self, the me that God sees.  I appreciated this insight and found myself pondering it all weekend.  I shared about it over lunch on Saturday and Maya likened it to the process of reduction in cooking…the process of boiling or simmering ingredients down to the rich, flavorful essentials.  I really like that image too.

It’s hard to truly grasp that what I’m “losing” isn’t essential to who I am but the reality is, it really isn’t.  Who I am at my core, the me that God sees is far more fine-tuned than the me I see.  Does this insight make navigating the 15 foot radius of my world any easier?  No, not physically, but there is the hope that I am in a process of being fine-tuned, learning what is truly essential and, in that process, catching glimpses of a richer, more flavorful me.  😉

Today is 9/11.  A somber day for so many.  Remembering those who were lost and those whose lives were forever changed by the losses.

 

 

 

Here We Go Again!

It honestly feels like Max and I just picked up Olivia from her last day of 10th grade and here we were dropping her off for her first day of 11th grade this morning!  Of course, the boys made sure her send off was done out LOUD with great fanfare as Max captured on his IG story…

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If the boys hadn’t been there to make me laugh so hard, I would have been sobbing as we watched our girl walk away toward another school year…I have fears specific to today that are too somber, too personal to articulate but as burdensome as they may be right now, I have great confidence that Olivia is going to ROCK this school year with her trademark humor, grace and (day to day relevant) faith.  I’m so grateful for her, her big brothers, her band of close friends and the folks in her life committed to praying for her.  I envision her buoyed high above the turbulent waters that swirl beneath her…dry, safe, secure and joyful (with a deep, nourishing joy)!  May it be so, Lord, consistently all year long!!!

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11th grade Olivia

Although Wilson moved back to APU a week and a half ago, he has been back and forth a couple of times in the last week to tie up loose ends and just left “for good”…it is hard to believe he is beginning his senior year!  The reality of that is starting to sink in for him…he’s excited and we’re excited for him.  Like with high school, we don’t want him to put the cart before the horse and check out prematurely…there is a lot to embrace this last year of college and we want him to soak it all in but Wilson has set a post-college course for himself that is thoughtful and deliberate…he has a lot about which to be excited and it’s fun to watch him live it out.

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Our big boy and his recent big boy purchase!

Speaking of new-to-us vehicles, our family has acquired THREE this summer!!!  #1 Wilson pictured above with his very own Toyota Tacoma (a baby version of his dad’s Tacoma)…

#2 Max and his very own scooter!!!  Perfect for commuting on The Point…

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Wise choice Maxo!

(Following in his mother’s footsteps)

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me circa 1989 at Sac State 😉

#3 My Harley…

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Ha! Just kidding! I enjoyed my first RIDE on a Harley on Saturday with my friend Rick! Ha Ha Ha
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Rudy got to sit on it a while back too! 😉

No, actually, #3 is another medical van!  Yep, we are there again.

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I’ll share the van acquisition story with you sometime when I have more emotional energy because it’s a real special story but, for now, we are grateful to have a van that will accommodate my wheelchair and we’re trying to find our footing in the shuffling of mindsets and the juggling of vehicles (my felt physical needs are kind of stuck between what the Mazda offers me and what the medical van offers me so each outing will require an assessment and a choice).  I think I had an unrealistic expectation that the medical van would be an easy adjustment and an effortless move toward greater independence for me…I rode in it for the first time yesterday and was, once again, hit by reality…there’s a learning curve to getting in and out of it with a motorized wheelchair, I can’t latch in by myself and I was caught off guard by a flood of memories that came rushing back as Rolf got me settled knowing exactly what to do and how to do it.  How is it that we’re back here again so soon?!?

I’ve had several friends recently make a point of telling me they are praying for Rolf and I do appreciate specific prayers for him.  I’m grateful God gave me him.  He is doing a good job of balancing self-care, work and home but the demands on his time and mental energy are great.  He has been chipping away at a long list of difficult “to dos” (i.e. updating our will/trust paperwork with a lawyer, bathroom modification remodel, acquiring durable medical equipment, fixing broken water heaters, etc, etc, etc) and it feels, to me, like things just pertaining to me can easily be added to that list on a daily basis.  I asked him if he was feeling overwhelmed and he put it well…he said, “It’s a relief to get things marked off the list but none of it brings any joy” (except for maybe getting the water heater fixed – warm showers bring me joy).  So true!  For me, the accomplishments serve to declutter the mind but not lighten the emotional burden.  It’s still crushing and, at times, suffocating.

So, there’s lots going on around here and I have some work ahead of me adjusting to and becoming proficient in the equipment I’ve acquired this summer.  Updates to come…:)  In the meantime, may remnants of summer fun linger a while longer for us all!  Back-to-School Blessings everyone!!!

 

Round Two

We are thrilled to have the boys back in town…Wilson arrived home from Ft. Knox a week ago today and Max got home Sunday night after his month long tour!  Yay!  We have just one week more with Wilson before he heads back to APU and Max will be home for a couple of weeks before he returns to Point Loma.  The summer has passed by much too quickly…as it typically does.

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Olivia is particularly happy to have her big bros home!!!

Since the boys were both gone on the 25th, we appreciated having a little time together at the cemetery so they could experience the “mountain of cars tribute” for themselves.  They got a chance to arrange them all and, as boys do, had to stop and play with them before they all got placed.  Ha Ha!  Rudy would be so pleased.

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Thank you Lucas C. for the fun hat you left for Rudy!!!

Last year on this day, August 7th, we laid our boy to rest.  I’m reposting the video of Rudy’s funeral service and his memorial slideshow below…followed by a few images from his burial that I didn’t post last year.   It was a remarkable day…so full of love and many tears but laughter too.  In the days following Rudy’s death, his journey back to California from Guymon, OK by way of Oklahoma City was such a long one and the arrangements for his service and burial here at home added another week to the whole process so when the day finally came, as painful as it was to say our final goodbye, it was time…it was time to lay Rudy to rest.  Commemorating today is definitely part of observing the 1st year anniversary for us and I thank you all for your part in holding us up these past couple of weeks in particular through your prayers and love.

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Rudy’s burial at the Goleta District Cemetery.

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“I’ll Fly Away”

So many wonderful sights and sounds of love that day!!!

Early Wake Up Call

Rolf, Olivia, Harley and I ended July 25th cuddled in bed and fell asleep watching “Cars” the movie.  🙂  Thursday July 26th started off with an early wake up call for us all as Olivia headed off to volunteer at a local kids camp and Rolf & I headed to my appt with the neurologist.  Because of a scheduling delay, I haven’t had a neurology consult since March so I was bracing myself for a tough reality check as we discussed my progression of the past few months.  I’ve noticed increased weakness in my legs (especially in my knees) and I’m beginning to notice weakness in my arms.  Dr. D confirmed both in her physical examination.  In addition, she confirmed my need for a wheelchair based, at this point, on my inability to lift my left leg against gravity (anti-gravity).  This led to a discussion about mobility.  One of the things I’m finding confusing in the management of this disease is the seemingly contradictory but equally passionate recommendations out there.  I’m told to conserve the limited number of neurons I have left by limiting how much I walk and exert myself while at the same time to keep walking…to walk as long as I can.  What?!  Dr. D confirmed both are true but it’s a delicate balance.  Conservation is key but maintaining mobility is also important especially in maintaining my ability to transfer from one surface to another.  The goal is to not push myself to the point of fatigue…I feel fatigued EVERY day (particularly at night)…another indicator that it’s time to manage my movement a little better.

I know the whole situation is out of my control but one of the things that makes these milestone moments in the progression of this disease so difficult for me is not wanting Rolf or the kids to ever think I’m not trying hard enough…as if my efforts could have any impact on whether or not I need a wheelchair.  I know it’s an irrational concern but I just want to scream “MY BODY MAY BE GIVING UP, BUT I’M NOT!!!!”.  Rolf expressed it well when he said that when we managed Rudy’s care, there was always hope of improvement in some areas and ultimately hope of getting him to another treatment option, for example, a heart transplant; with me, we’re in preservation mode…it’s a totally different mindset.  There were a lot of emotional realities we had to face yesterday on the heels of an already emotionally charged week.  I’m still feeling pretty wiped out today and praying for relief from the physical aches of grief…stinging eyes, neck and back pain, headache.

So what do we do now?  The ALS Association hooked us up with a loaner wheelchair to use for now.  I asked Dr. D if I could just get by with loaners and not bother getting my own…she said loaners are okay for now but as my needs change, it’ll be important for me to have a chair custom fit for my specific needs.  Makes sense.  So we begin that process that includes PT evaluations for the insurance company, etc.  In the meantime, Rolfi was johnny-on-the-spot, came home yesterday and already built me ramps giving me access outside our bedroom to the kitchen and outside our front door!    Grateful for that man.

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Rolf on a test drive!

Ironically, Olivia volunteered at a wheelchair camp this week (and made a quick appearance on our local news!  Ha Ha).  I’m proud of her for making the choice to be a part of this camp this week (we had hoped Rudy could attend this camp at some point but he wasn’t independent enough when he became age-eligible).  Her week was filled with long, fun days surrounded by great friends and being a special help to new camper friends!  I admire her strength and grace.

Wilson made it in from his extended field training and is back on base at Ft. Knox.  He honored Rudy on the 25th with a 12 mile, timed ruck that completed his formal summer training.  We can’t wait for his return next week and will soak up the last couple of weeks we’ll have with him before he starts his senior year at APU!!!

Max and the band are back in California and helping to staff a summer camp down south this week.  We catch glimpses of him on social media working hard and having fun!  He and his team have one more week of camp and then, he too, will be home for a couple of weeks before heading back to Point Loma.

Pursuing things we are passionate about is truly life-giving and I find it profound that all three big sibs were pursuing their passions individually this week while at the same time collectively honoring their little brother by living full.  Grateful for these kids of ours.

🙂

 

One Year

The MOHD Squad is grateful for the quiet day we shared…it included yummy food and a quiet afternoon at the cemetery.  We talked a little but mostly just sat quietly.

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Rolf and I reread ALL the cards we’ve received in the past year!  (The way this basket is stuffed is deceiving…there are A LOT of cards underneath too!!!!)
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Olivia painted.
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Olivia and Harley flew a kite.
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And we arranged cars…
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…lots and lots of cars!!
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I’m pretty sure Rudy saw them all…and is delighted! Thank you friends! (Amazing art by caracelvanart.squarespace.com)

We received so many lovely texts and messages today but one I got from Katie’s mom stands out…she wrote, in part, “Wrapping you all in our love today and remembering how hard the ‘last first’ was…”.  Yes, there is truth in that.  As hard as the this past year has been and as sad as today is, it is our last “first” without Rudy…from here on out our memories of Rudy will be in a more distant past and that doesn’t feel good either.  So, we cling to the memories we have and the memories you all continue to share with us and recall them often so as not to feel so far away from this treasure of a boy we loved well in his lifetime and continue to love & honor in our day to day.  Thank you for helping us celebrate him with your CARS cars (I’m going to miss those daily Amazon deliveries!! Ha Ha) and for “Paying it Forward for Rudy” today.  We are grateful for your investment in his life through your hands on care, your friendship, your prayers, your support…and now in his legacy.  We are beyond humbled and, as always, forever grateful!

 

Rolf’s poem sums it up beautifully:

A whole year past                                                                                                                              But I’m back there in an instant
Growling like a bear
You giggle and set off on an escape you hope won’t succeed

Pressed so close we breathe the same air                                                                                          I shake with your laughter                                                                                                          Aware of the tapping in your chest against mine
Yearning that the overwhelming love in my heart could somehow add to the beating of yours

Holding My Breath

This time last year we were enjoying our last full day with Rudy – a day Rolf eloquently captured in this post.  Today, I’m holed up in my bedroom with a window air conditioner because of rare extreme heat hitting Goleta this week and lying in my bed immobilized by legs that are fatigued and weak.  I feel trapped as tomorrow closes in and I find I’m holding my breath in between bouts of tears that spring without warning.  I want to run away…I want to escape.  The reality, though, is that there is no escape so I guess my physical reality represents the emotional reality of today.  The goal is to not get overwhelmed and to remember to breathe.

The SBRM graduation on Saturday was, once again, amazing.  I wish you could experience one.  The event really is beyond explanation…it’s a moment in time the memory of which, we pray, is seared into every graduate’s mind and heart because it is not only a vivid picture of their success and hope for the future but, more importantly, it is a vivid picture of God’s presence and the support of community going forward.  When life gets hard for the graduates, our prayer is they will have the strength and clarity of mind to use the tools they’ve been taught, to know they are not alone in the journey and reach out for a stabilizing hand.

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This is my favorite moment in every graduation.  This is the moment when past graduates are invited to come to the altar and pray with the new graduates at the close of the ceremony.  Often there isn’t enough room for everybody and the crowd spills up the aisles!  It’s profound and humbling and powerful.  It’s authentic love and it impacts everyone in the room whether you’re in recovery or not.  I’m so grateful to God that this powerful celebration occurred in the days leading up to this sad, sad week.  How grateful I am to share in a celebration that has soul significance in the midst of such deep, personal heartbreak.  How very grateful I am for the community that surrounds our family and the hundreds of hands outstretched in our direction.  Thank you God!  Thank you, dear friends, for the texts, emails, notes, flowers, LMcQueen cars, food, for running errands, doing laundry, making the day to day function smoothly…for your ongoing outstretched hands both near and far.

Please pray for us specifically this afternoon.  I’m getting measured and fitted for a motorized wheelchair today.  Practically it’s a good thing but it is a tough pill to swallow.  If it’s true that the symptoms of ALS are exacerbated by stress and anxiety then I’m screwed!!!…(this week anyway).   The goal remains to not get overwhelmed and to remember to breathe!  😉