MRI…twice in one week.

This concussion has really sucked. I suspect all concussions really suck.    I am finally feeling more alert and more awake.   It seems like I now have to return to a semi-normal life. That means I have to cook again and not accept all of the wonderful meals that people offered during the height of my concussion.  This is a good and bad thing.  I loved the food and not having to cook, but now I can finally do things without feeling like I am underwater.

Most days I just didn’t feel like talking.  I wanted to rest.  I wanted to be alone and occasionally I wanted to cry.  It is hard when you like to be constantly busy and you just know you can’t.  I love exercising and I couldn’t do that either (I still haven’t, because I have gotten clearance for that yet).  My priest looked constantly stressed. He said he felt like he was having sympathy concussion symptoms.  This means he was more forgetful than normal and more tired.

MRI’s aren’t fun.  Confined in a tunnel for up to 45 minutes.  Loud crazy sounds and darkness can be frightening.  However, I found it peaceful.  I had to shut my eyes.  I had to stay completely still.  I had time to pray.  Pray that everything would be fine.  Pray that my brain would look undamaged.   Pray for all those people in my life that need extra help.  I had time to just be alone.

I feel like as awful as this was…MRI’s, CT scans, countless doctor visits…it gave me a better appreciation for brain injuries.  It gave me more sympathy for people suffering invisible illnesses.  If some good can come from this bad, I feel like all the worry was worth it.

My scans were clear.  I am grateful.  For all those who don’t get positive results after a brain injury, I am here for you.  I can provide a good listening ear and some much needed comfort food, if you live close by.   If not, just know you are not alone.  As I found out, people care and that is a wonderful thing.

He earns the karma and I spend it.

When I met my priest I was 18 years old.  I didn’t know what studying Divinity even meant.  I never believed my boyfriend would really become a priest.  He did.  He is happy.  People always say we are complete opposites.  We are not.

I have heard that he earns the karma and I spend it.  It’s funny and maybe sometimes true, but my priest and I try really hard to be good at being good.  We want our children to be decent human beings.  We want them to understand that kindness is vital.  Helping others is not a choice, but rather a requirement.  That social media means nothing, but true connections and love are everything.

My priest and I laugh a lot.  I still think his one liners are really funny.  There is nothing that he likes more than making me belly laugh.  We also fight.  We forgive.  We move on.  We try to be a positive example to our girls that love isn’t always easy (unlike the images they see on TV and in the movies), but it is incredibly rewarding.  Most true accomplishments take work.  I believe in struggle.  Struggle gets you rewards.  I make the girls listen to a favorite song of mine by Passenger, “Let Her Go.”

“Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home.”

These words really ring true to me.  You need to  miss things.  You need to want things.  You need to feel low.  It is only in the struggle that you realize your strength and your resilience.  I feel blessed to share a road less traveled with my girls.

My priest and I dreamed of giving our children the gift of travel.  We wanted our girls to understand that life isn’t about having the latest technology or toy.  It is about the positive impact you can have on the world.  When my eldest daughter said she dreams of inventing a straw that is not only disposable, but is also edible to aquatic life, I felt like we had done our job.  She has traveled to beaches around the globe and is always sad when she sees straws littering the beach.  She knows they are extremely harmful to sea turtles.  She has seen a dead sea turtle on a beach in Greece.  Who knows what it died from, but it was huge and gorgeous and she cared about it.

My priest and I want our children to care.  Pippa cares about the people in our church.  She loves the seniors in the congregation.  She wants to cuddle them.  She says she dances at church to bring them joy.  She also keeps change in her pocket to give to a homeless amputee who lives in our town.  He lights up when he sees her, not because of the change she gives him, but because she loves him and she sees him.

I am not sure that the 18 year old me understood that I had found a man who wanted the same things I wanted.  I knew he was cute and that he loved me intensely.  I didn’t know that we would have two children and move over 10 times around the US and then off to Europe.  What I did know, is that we were a team.  A team that struggles, but doesn’t give up.  A team that believes parenting is our most important task.  A team that finds joy is the quirky elements of life and encourages crazy.

I have heard from many people that moving our girls so much is a bad idea.  That our girls need stability.  Well, we have a different opinion.  We have built our home on a rock of faith.  Faith in God and faith in each other.  Our daughters bring their faith, friends and family with them everywhere they go.  Sometimes they struggle with the changes, but then they meet new people and they get to shine their light again in a new environment.

I must have done something right because I have a pretty neat family.  I am glad the 18 year old me didn’t ditch the priest.  He turned out to be pretty okay and he helped me have and raise the children I didn’t even know I wanted, but could not live without.

Lent ends…Pippa style

My  youngest daughter had the best of intentions when it came to giving things up for Lent. Initially she began with giving up all soda, chicken nuggets and french fries from McDonald’s, cinnamon buns from Starbucks and barbecue potato chips. Since I gave up Starbucks, she  never got a cinnamon bun.  That one took.  Her grandparents caved and got her McDonald’s a few times, even my priest caved. She never ate McDonald’s in America, but  apparently now it tastes like home.

Refraining from soda seemed pretty simple, but once again when you get a happy meal, soda seems to go hand-in-hand.   All that was left was her not eating barbecue potato chips.   She held fast. She claimed it was nearly impossible.

On Easter morning after church, Pippa went to the coffee hour.   On the table amongst the little finger sandwiches was a bowl of barbecue potato chips.   Apparently, by all accounts, my child approached the bowl and then loudly exclaimed….

“My prayers have been answered.”

People started laughing.   I mean really laughing. I was downstairs preparing the Easter egg hunt, oblivious to the comedy happening upstairs.  I was informed of the answered prayers,  namely the barbecue chips, by about 10 people.  Life with Pippa is always a comedy show.   I have to appreciate that her comedy knows no bounds.   She’s like the George Carlin of seven-year-olds.

$2 zip line ride…no joke.

Maggie loves to zip line.  She constantly wants to invent her own from any tree she sees.  She is drawn to them at parks and begs to ride them everywhere. I took her to a chocolate festival inside of a medieval castle and there, like a shining star, was a zip line.
Maggie’s eyes started to sparkle.
“Mom, can I see how expensive the zip line is…please?”  Said in a begging voice.
Never hurts to ask, but I would assume a zip line in a super cool castle during a famous international chocolate festival could not be cheap.

I was wrong.  Maggie asked the cost and comes running back to me giddy. €1.50 ($2 American) per ride.  I naturally didn’t believe her. I asked the man myself, in my broken Portuguese. He answered in perfect English (always embarrassing when I attempt to speak Portuguese  and I am answered in my language, but more about that another time).  The cost was indeed €1.50. No liability papers are signed. No long discussion about the dangers. Maggie just put on her helmet and harness and went for it. She went for it many, many times.

So although it was crazy cheap, it ended up costing me dearly because my daughter felt like a super hero gliding high above a castle attached to a wire and never wanted to stop. She couldn’t stop smiling.  I didn’t have the heart to say no. Everyone wants to be a super hero once in awhile.

Wisdom teeth removal…when it rains, it pours.

Several months ago, we went to visit an orthodontist about Maggie’s teeth.  The orthodontist came highly recommended by almost every English speaker we know in the area.   He laid out a comprehensive plan for Maggie’s upcoming dental work.   It began with the removal of four of her wisdom teeth. We could clearly see the teeth on the x-rays, but they had not yet erupted.   When we left the dentist, our first call was to my sister-in-law. She is a master of all things medical and she has worked for a fabulous dentist for many years.    We sent her the x-rays and she was able to get a second opinion for us. That opinion included not pulling her wisdom teeth because it would be too painful for a child of her age.  We agreed.   My sister-in-law recommended we get a third opinion here in Portugal. We did. He also recommended not pulling the wisdom teeth. The dentist we saw here did say he is not an orthodontist and therefore cannot say with certainty that the extraction wasn’t necessary for the braces.  He was very complementary of the surgeon though…that was encouraging.

We decided to meet with the oral surgeon. We had heard absolutely amazing things about her. Maggie was incredibly anxious. The surgeon took the time to explain the procedure to her. She told her why it was necessary to remove the wisdom teeth. The orthodontist needed that extra space in order to get Maggie’s teeth in the best possible position.   Everything made sense, but we were still hesitant.  We booked the appointment.  We then cancelled the appointment and then we rebooked the appointment.

To be honest, I am not sure if it was Maggie’s anxiety that was preventing us from pulling the trigger or our own.  My priest was extremely worried.  We scheduled the appointment before I had a concussion.  As the appointment date approached, I was getting intensely nervous.  I already don’t feel well and looking after my baby when she will feels terrible, did not seem like the best idea.  We proceeded because Maggie really needs braces.  She has an open bite and a complicated orthodontic case.  Starting early, we were told, is the key to success.

The office overlooks the ocean.  Not bad.  I would be too distracted to work, but as I grilled the surgeon about the view, she didn’t seem to notice.  I took this as a good sign.

Maggie was given medicine to calm her nerves.  She seemed chill.  My priest and I were not given drugs.  I think this was a mistake.  We were told to leave the room.  The orthodontist let us peek in on her and the office staff was amazing.  I could hear her talking and every few minutes call out my name.  Killed me.  After two and a half hours, success.  Four wisdom teeth were handed to me  in a little tooth shaped box.  One last visit from the tooth fairy.

I was given four different medications for her to take: an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, topical cream, and pain killer.  She was sent home with ice.  Slowly, her checks began to grow.  They were swollen when we left the office, but now she looks insane.  I would include a picture, but I am afraid that years from now, she will read this blog and murder me.

She looks exactly like this, but in human form and with some bruising.

The surgeon gave us her cell phone number to call her anytime.  The office has called twice a day to check on her, plus they sent me a few text messages.  We are very impressed with their attention.  We appreciate their concern.  Maggie is sore and in pain, but that is to be expected.

Maggie has one huge problem…her father.  He is obsessed with her cute cheeks on any given day, now he is like a moth drawn to a flame.  He can’t stop trying to touch them.  The poor girl has been hiding out in the bath most of the morning.  She says that she hopes the priest has to go out soon to pray with someone so she can rest.  We have a hard life.

My Priest cracks under the weight of Portuguese

So, to say that my priest is good with languages would be a great lie.  He struggles and he struggles so intensely that the only result is pure comedy.  In this case, hurt my brain from laughing so hard comedy.

My priest does not do well when I am sick;  thankfully for our family, this rarely happens.  I am pretty healthy and so he  never has to deal with too many household responsibilities.  However, now that I have a concussion he has a whole new set of jobs.  I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say he was surprised at how often and how much our children need to eat.   Pippa didn’t get this delightfully juicy from eating nothing.

So as I lay in bed, my priest decided to answer and make phone calls while sitting beside me as I attempted to rest my brain.  It all began with me telling him that Maggie needed a new field hockey stick.  Pre-injury I sourced a local Portuguese company that sells field hockey equipment online.  They are located very close to our home and one of the other parents told me that you just need to call the owner and go pick up the equipment to avoid the high shipping costs.  I had the owner’s phone number and all my priest needed to do was to ask for a Gryphon stick size 36.5.  It was pretty easy.  That was all he needed to say.  He dials the number and there is no answer, only a message in Portuguese.  He freezes.  I can see his face contort.  He leaves his message.  He starts by saying hello and then requests the stick.  He doesn’t stick to the script.  He later claimed the Portuguese message threw him off.  He asks to order a Gryphon stick, size 36.5….centimeters.  What???  I say not centimeters…it sounds like she is an elf.  He panics.  He tries to backtrack and then embarrassed, he hangs up the phone.  Needless to say, Maggie doesn’t have her new stick, but I laughed for a good hour about the 36.5 centimeter stick that my gigantic daughter will be bending over to play field hockey with.

My priest answers some emails and then asks if I remember the name of the lady at our bank who speaks English.  I barely remembered my name at that point and I had to say no.  He calls the bank.  The man who answers speaks no English.  My priest panics.  He starts talking louder and slower…classic.  Finally, he speaks Portuguese.  What does he say?  Why how about every word he knows…which strung together sounded like this: good morning, good afternoon, thank you.  I am again, dying of laughter.  The man on the other end must have taken pity on him and found a coworker who could help out.   When my priest went to the bank a few days later, the English speaking lady had heard all about his call and had enjoyed a good laugh.  Glad I wasn’t the only one who liked his humor!

Later in the day, I wandered downstairs and the girls were watching tv while my priest was reading the New Yorker.  The phone rings and he picks it up.  The person on the other end speaks no English.  My priest tries to hand me the phone because I can understand Portuguese and I still pretend to speak it, all the while just really changing Italian words…but it works.  I was still too tired to take the phone.  My priest is drowning.  He tells the person he can’t speak Portuguese. He tells them that this is not a hotel.  He tells them he has a friend who speaks Portuguese.  He offers to give them his friend’s phone number.  He pronounces her name, Barbara, like it is the most foreign sounding name ever.  He rolls the ‘r’s’ in Barbara.  Then he stops speaking.  He listens and then says, “obrigado,”  thank you in Portuguese.  An English speaker was on the phone, finally, and explained everything to him.   I am still laughing uncontrollably about Barrrr-ba-rrrr-a. The call was not about a hotel or the wrong number.  Apparently, my priest ordered paint for his car and it was ready for pick up.  Why in the hell he thought people needed hotel help or why his friend could help, no one knows….but I do know that he makes me laugh, at his expense often, and he doesn’t even mind.