Speedy Davises

It was a very speedy weekend for Marc and me!

Marc had a major half marathon PR, running the entire 13.1 miles at an average pace of 6:40 (I can’t even run ONE mile at that pace!) while I raced up to Philly on a 48 hour mission, going through every single inch of both of my parents’ houses, looking for personal items I wanted to keep (I packed up a HUGE 50 lb suitcase and 4 big shipping boxes) and family items that I’d like to request (over the next couple months, all six siblings will make our wishes known, see where there is overlap, and decide on the best way to divide up not just Mom & Dad’s things, but also their parents’ things (since they both seem to have been the keepers of their past generations’ heirlooms and artifacts). It was tough deciding on just a small handful of stuffed animals and toys, not to mention such awesome papers, like this rating system Dad made for me before I went on a blind date in high school:

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It was quite a job, to put it lightly. Below is an example – this is about half of the jewelry we found (a lot of worthless stuff, but incredible finds and heirlooms mixed in) – it took two of us >3 hours to lay this out):

IMG_5024And then there was the priceless stuff, like this sketch of Mom’s beloved dachshund she painted at age 20:

IMG_5187And little things that reminded us of what an incredible marriage our parents had, like little love notes tucked into jewelry boxes:

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It was a little tough, but also so awesome to go through so many treasures (from 100 year old jewelry to hideous ’80’s outfits!) this weekend, and as much as I missed my family, I was glad to be able to do it alone till all hours of the mornings. And now I’m happy to be back to the regular programming of real life… at least for another few weeks. This is going to be a long process, but so far, I think we’re handling it as well as we could have imagined.

 

 

Whatever “Normal” Is

It was a very rough week for me. I got back to Austin on Monday night and tried to sort of get back to “normal” life (or the new normal) throughout the week, helping Annabelle with her science fair project (3rd place!)

P1330220and taking some work meetings and conference calls. My heart and brain weren’t functioning for much of it, and I preferred to crawl into bed and read books as often as possible. Thankfully I seem to have turned a corner on Saturday (or are weekends just easier than weeks?) and felt significantly more human throughout the weekend. We did some house cleaning/organizing, went to a birthday party and swim lessons, the girls cooked breakfast both mornings (we are allowed to be sous-chefs), and we spent some time outside in the glorious weather (maybe THAT’s what turned me around):

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I’m sure I’m still far from getting used to life without my mom – without parents – but especially because I fly back up to Philly to deal with everything Friday, it was nice to have a regular-old family weekend. Thanks to everyone for your love and support during this tough time.

 

Helen “Lynne” Arbittier: January 22, 1941 – January 6, 2015

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My eulogy for Mom, given at her funeral on Friday:

You know, I almost never go first. As the 6th kid, in fact, I almost never go 2nd through 5th. But a few days ago as we planned this, we realized that after going 6th for Dad’s memorial such a short time ago, it was only fair to reverse the order today.

And as simple as that, you realize the dynamic of the Arbittier family. We work so well together and love each other so much, and despite PLENTY of teasing, only want the best for each other… honestly I had no idea how rare that was for a very long time.

That’s 100% because of Mom. Well, Dad too – but he’s already had his tribute. Because Mom was a lot of things – from a chemist to a customer service rep to a diet counselor to a shop owner to a major volunteer – but where she channeled most of her energy, more energy than most people have TOTAL – was being a mother.

Mom was kind and patient and selfless, but not a pushover. She believed with such passion that we were all special – in our own unique ways — and could accomplish anything, that we all believed it. Still do. She and Dad were willing to do anything to help us with any of our goals and dreams. And for the most part, it actually worked!

And Mom didn’t just talk the talk – she was SO involved with all of us… For example, she was ALWAYS the room parent at school. For all 6 kids! And not just a figurehead position, I promise. I still remember every year at McKinley Elementary’s Halloween Parade… she’d arrive, look around at the kids who didn’t have or forgot costumes and she’d go into the craft closet, pull out poster board, wrap the kids in it, draw squiggly lines and write CRAYOLA down their sides, make a quick cone hat and VOILA – they were crayons, and SO HAPPY.

Of course, because of Mom I now sign up for everything too. Room mother, fundraising chair… you name it. Trying to balance that with my career, I am a mediocre approximation of her at best. Last month I volunteered to explain Chanukah to my daughter’s 1st grade class in Austin and forgot the menorah and dreidels. LUCKILY they didn’t have my mom to compare me to… so I just channeled her – smiled and got to know each of the kids while giving them chocolate and explaining that the Dreidel game is basically gambling, and it all worked out just fine.

Every Thanksgiving, I think of the year Ellen Kaplinsky ran over from across the street – she was hosting her whole family for the holiday and totally ruined her stuffing. Mom grabbed a few extra loaves of challah, veggies, seasonings, and the rest – that she just HAPPENED to HAVE in the ridiculously well-stocked convenience store we called our garage – Actually Rachel Kaplinsky refers to it as “the original Costco” – mom was amazing that way – and made a new batch for her while showing her the recipe so she wouldn’t have a problem again. You know, in the middle of making our own Thanksgiving dinner. Who does that? The best part was when we went over and discovered that the stuffing Ellen had “ruined” was the Stovetop kind, from the box. I remember Mom and Ellen laughing about that for weeks!

In recent years, it was so hard watching Mom’s incredible energy dim, both physically and then eventually, mentally. But her love, patience, kindness and support never dimmed. Even when Dad died, she still kept a strong face, still never showed her suffering, was still the least complaining person I’ve ever met in the face of medical challenges that would have made most people give up LONG ago. She wasn’t able to be quite the Supermom she had once been, wasn’t able to be the hands-on grandmother to my kids that I knew she wanted to be, and it was hard to watch. That said, the time we spent with her was so valuable, and I loved that she got to know my kids – REALLY know them, and see what is special about them, remind me and them regularly that THEY are amazing and can do anything they want to do in their lives. I believe I am passing that on to them because of her. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m just carbon-copying all of her parenting moves, as much as possible, because I know they are all the right moves. And again, how many adult kids EVER say that about their parents??

For years, I’ve been dreaming of a parallel universe where Mom and Dad got to really thrive in their 60’s, 70’s, even 80’s and 90’s. Where they got another ridiculous motorhome – one with way too many gadgets that my dad picked out and paid WAY too much for while my mom rolled her eyes – and spent the last chapter of their life driving around the country, visiting their kids and grandchildren, listening to great music, dancing, picking up stray pets, kibitzing and laughing, passing along family stories and traditions and that incredible love and support that they just radiated. I’m so glad they are together again, and choose to picture them starting that adventure now.

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SEVEN

Even as she was making her wish and blowing out the candles, I was in shock that our girl is SEVEN years old. It just seems like the last of the “little kid” world is behind us, in a single moment:

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Of course, a lot has not changed in the past 7 years. Annabelle remains so beautifully complex in so many ways – her incredible mind, sensitive soul, unstoppable spirit, and the most unusual combination of extreme logic and pure imagination. But she has also matured so much — especially socially. As a toddler/preschooler, she was very happy to be on her own with a book or attached to my pant leg, whereas now she is surprisingly popular (I am *so* excited that the “smart kid” is also the “popular kid” – at least for now!) and would do anything for her friends. She’s also matured physically — her swimming and biking are both pretty great, especially given her genes! In a lot of ways, she’s become more of a “typical” girl than we expected, as evidenced by this little video I shot of her yesterday:

Of course, we know that deep down Annabelle is ANYTHING but typical. And we can’t wait (or maybe we can – this growing up thing is going way too fast) to see what she becomes as an adult. For the record (as of yesterday), she plans to be a builder, scientist and a teacher. And there’s no doubt she could be all three if she decides to!