Thursday, April 10, 2014

Home

I've spent the last two days in the hospital with A.  Just like his little brother last year, A got acute myositis from the flu B virus.  He was sick over the weekend, felt better enough to go to school on Monday, then woke up Tuesday morning unable to walk and in horrible pain.  Quick call to the pediatrician and we ended up at the ER and eventually admitted in the early afternoon.  His ck  numbers are still high, but since they were heading downwards, they let us go home last night.   And no, we did not get the flu vaccines this year--before you roll your eyes and criticize please try getting five healthy kids amongst their crazy schedules in to the pediatrician and get back to me.

Day one found me frantically organizing pick ups and rides pretty successfully. I ran home quickly that night for an hour while my mother-in-law sat with A, so I could pack a bag, make lunches and write out a list of reminders for the next morning.  A sweet cuddle with L was also nice.

Day two, by the afternoon, the wheels were coming off the bus and texts came furiously over my phone wondering where baseball uniforms were and what was for dinner.  All of this despite a very detailed email to K outlining what needed to get done and who was getting picked up when (all done from the hospital room).  Thank goodness for neighborhood friend who became the "hat whisperer" and found D's missing hat minutes before she was driving him to warm ups yesterday.

On the positive, it's nice to know that I'm needed and everyone was glad to see me home. M practically tackled me. On the negative...good Lord you'd think they were left on their own and there wasn't an adult in the house.  K basically did the bare minimum and actually got mad at me when I suggested Tuesday night that E go get everyone Panera for dinner, claiming we are going out way too much. Not that he was offering to make dinner.  Or anyone else for that matter. My mother in law was a huge help by grabbing the kids at school and then sitting with A so I could run home quickly.  But nobody in my family offered to bring dinner over, help with rides, etc. Lots of texts of "tell me how I can help" and "I hope A feels better" but no proactive steps to help with the other 4 kids. I guess we pretty much tapped out that source of support early on. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to always ask for help (it can be exhausting), and that those knowing our chaos surprised me with help without strings or the focus on the girls. That sounds whiny, but it's how I feel sometimes.

I came home last night tired to my bones and was hit with and onslaught of "Mommy/Aunt Peggy I need fill in the blank." D came home from his game crying because he had the last out in a game they lost.  A was still not feeling well and needed settling.  L was clingy and wanted constant attention. M wouldn't stop talking a mile a minute. The house looked like a typhoon hit it despite the fact the cleaning lady came that day.  Ugh.  Not a good homecoming after a night of no sleep.

A just woke up and wandered downstairs.  He's walking fine and still wiped out.  Typical A, he's worried about how much school he's missing.  I'm glad he's feeling better and we'll be back to normal in a few days.

Everyone, down the the cat, is simply happy we're both home.  I'm happy I slept in my own bed last night.  I'm afraid the minions would have staged a revolt if I stayed away one day longer. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Quickie

Quick update in bullet point.  Been really busy this week and haven't had time except at 11pm and that's be reserved for a book and my bed.  In no particular order:

--Baseball season has started!  D had his first game this week and sitting in those bleachers made it feel like all was well in the world.  With limited of number of practices due to bad weather (absolutely no infield practice at all), he was great.  2-2 at bat and one walk, 5 stolen bases and 2 runs scored. This is his last year in little league so it's fun to see him as the "big kid" in majors.  L starts machine pitch tomorrow and has only had one 50 minute practice and has never hit off the machine.  Yikes!  He's excited but a little nervous because those machines fling that ball in pretty fast.  He plays with his cousin W (and best bud) so he's mostly happy to be with him.

--Soccer is also back in full force.  We have 6 games this weekend.  Double Yikes!  Somehow we make it all work.  I know people must think that we bring it on ourselves having the kids do all these sports, but please remember that if it was just the boys we'd have it pretty easy. The boys were old enough that we couldn't tell them their sports had to be curtailed due to the girls moving in AND we inherited the girls' activities too.  My kids are also good athletes and developmentally they are all playing at the right levels for their abilities.  This means three in travel soccer.  K coaches A's team which makes things a bit easier, but it also limits our flexibility because I always have to handle D and M if there is a conflict...AND he's always coaching which means he can't help out too much with practices during the week.

--E is receiving an award at the senior night dinner for her swim club on Sunday.  It has been a really weird thing.  Her coach called to tell me Tuesday (in strict confidence and promises I wouldn't tell her), and it was a really annoying conversation.  First, it's the top award for her club.  This is shocking.  She is not swimming well.  She hasn't been on a club relay team in 4 years.  She bowed out of Nationals this year because she was so stressed out.  Seriously, she has been a basket case this swim season and not performed well.  The award wreaks of pity.  The girls she beat out for the award are much, much better swimmers one of which is going to Stanford and will probably swim in the next Olympics.   He has been a huge pain in my rear the last year with condescending conversations and acting like somehow we are "co-parenting" E. Talks with him always make me wonder what E tells him. In short, he drives me crazy.  This time he chastised me for not being excited enough.  My "that's great!" was followed with him saying, "No you don't understand this is amazing!" He also had to point out that it includes a $500 cash award.  Little does he know (which he doesn't need to know) that E has hundreds of thousands of dollars at her disposal for college, etc. and this isn't even a drop in the bucket.  I guess what bothers me is that E needs to learn that sports aren't about all the awards, etc. but just about doing your best and having fun.  She needs another award like a hole in the head and I honestly don't think she deserves it.  Also, not once during our conversation did he mention K and I coming to the dinner.  E told me in the morning that parents don't come, then magically in the afternoon she said I could come (K has a game with A).  Her coach's attitude is one of many in a long line of people (including some in my family) who don't act like we are E and M's parents now.  It is infuriating.

--M.  M. M. She is so trying.  We have had a really tough ADHD and anxiety week. Fake injuries, whining, excuses, argumentative, aaaaaah!!!  Needless to say, it's been rough..

--I have been in a really bad mood this week.  Short with the kids.  Snapping at them and limited patience.  Way too much yelling. I've been completely cognizant of this fact, but that recognition hasn't curbed the behavior.  I worry about how the cumulative stress is affecting me both mentally and physically over all this time. I actually thought yesterday that I can see how people become alcholics. Unfortunately for me, one beer and I'm asleep, so that's not gonna work.  That need for escape, though, sounds like bliss.  For now, trader joe's cookie butter with honey wheat pretzels and a diet coke seem to be a reasonable solution.  Pathetic.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Distance

It's been almost four and a half years since our loss.

The increasing distance from that date as measured in time has softened the acuteness of my pain.

The physical distance of my grief sits firmly in my back pocket.  Constant reminders that my sister is dead.  She is not here and never will be again.

Passing the cemetery every. single. day.

Pictures around our house.

Looking into the faces of the girls.

Looking at the reflection in the mirror as I come out of the shower or brush my teeth.  Seeing her eyes through my own.

Driving past their old neighborhood.

Driving past the accident site.

A song on my ipod.

The stupid commercials being played constantly for a new show called Resurrection in which loved ones come back to life, knowing that it can never really happen, but wishing that it could all the same.

My seven year old talking about dying.  His own and those that he loves.

Any of these triggers can bring me right back to the early days of grief.  The lump comes to my throat.  Tears pool in my eyes. An emptiness that can't be filled.

I wish that I felt their real presence all around us.  Signs that they are still here, watching over us, and giving us feelings of love and comfort.  Instead, it is their absence that remains a constant in my life.

I want my sister.

Unfortunately, that is a distance that can never be bridged.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Why

M and I spent the weekend down at a soccer tournament.  It was a bit of a scramble to get down there due to the fact that I was up all night the night before with a throwing up L (14 rounds of vomit and 1 poop in the pants). We also were bringing another girl down with us to stay in our room since her parents were busy and they had reciprocated two weeks before.

Saturday morning started with an 8am game.  It was cold, but M player very well and the team won against a good team.  They haven't had the best success lately, so it was nice for the girls to get a win and, more importantly in my opinion, play some good soccer.

I could tell from the moment she walked off the field something was wrong. I told her she had a great game and she rolled her eyes and mumbled she was awful and let her whole team down. Her teammate that was staying with us chimed in some more positive comments and she shut down.  By the time we got into the hotel room she was in full meltdown mode.

I got her friend out of the room with another family for lunch.  M cried and cried that she wanted to go home and be with her family. When I said, fine, we'll leave, she screamed she didn't want to leave.  She couldn't make any decisions about eating.  Showering didn't help.  Anything I said was met with more tears and arguments.  She simply could not control herself.  I gave the team manager a heads up that we may be heading home.  I gave M a deadline for getting herself under control or we were heading out.  She managed to gather herself for the pre-game team meeting in the lobby, but I had to go down with her and sit nearby.  She got about 15 minutes in the warm up and then fell apart again, crying and refusing to play.  I went over to the bench where she was sitting and got the same "I don't want to go" but "I can't play" arguments.  I told her that playing was the least of my worries and all I wanted was for her to feel better.

After the game (which they won), she got back to the hotel room and started up with the crying again.  She calmed down enough to go to dinner, but was completely washed out and non-verbal.  To be honest, I probably shouldn't have brought her out, but I needed out of that hotel room and was starving. 

We got back to the room after dinner and, again, I sent her friend to another room where a group was doing homework.  Desperately, I got on the phone and called home, hoping talking to them would break the cycle.  She got on the phone with A and within 10 minutes she was back to normal.  She chatted with K and explained she didn't feel like playing and then cracked jokes with L.  Her security blanket worked even across the phone.  At one point, I walked out in the hallway and cried on a another mom's shoulder out of relief and exhaustion.

If we had been at home, I'm sure the fit would not have lasted as long.  I have my tricks and other team members (the boys and K) to get her out of her downward spirals.  E is often the trigger for her episodes at home so unfortunately she's not included in the solution set.  One phone call home and she was back to normal M.  A little tired, but normal.  By the next morning she was fine, played great in both games and was back to her usual goofy self.

The constant question during and after the episode from everyone was why? Was there a trigger? It seemed to be centered around the pressure of the game and her internalizing the coach telling them to not let each other down and to work hard.  We increased ADHD meds a bit this week after two years on the same dose. Was it the medicine?  That was the opinion of sister C, even though I explained it was a tiny increase and she had been fine all week on it (BTW...she was perfectly fine yesterday and today on the medicine so I've pretty much ruled it out as a cause).

Why?

Why?

Why?

I tried to explain.  Nobody outside of our immediate family really gets what it's like to live with someone with mental illness.  Living with a child with anxiety disorder is really hard.  Throw in the ADHD and the trauma and grief, and it's a fun cocktail of stress and worry. There is often no logic to her reactions and emotions.  If she doesn't understand why she's acting the way she is, how am I supposed to? 

Is she sad?  Is she having her period?  Maybe if she talks to the other girls she'll snap out of it? Or my favorite, "All teenage girls act like this, my daughter can be so dramatic too!"  How do you explain to someone that this isn't normal teenage girl drama? 

It was exhausting trying to explain to everyone who, in their well meaning advances, wanted to understand what was going on. It was also very isolating. I avoided other people as much as possible on Sunday at the games. Another reminder of the "otherness" that I often feel when in social situations. We look like a "normal" family on the outside (whatever that means).  Inside, though, we are still struggling to adjust to our new reality.  I've said it before and I'm sure I'll said it again...it's all so complicated.  At this point, I don't even really care about the why, I'm simply glad she found her way back to normal.




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

One of those days

Today is one of those days where I don't feel enough.  I know, I know...you've heard this before.  I know I need to give my self a pat on the back for all that I do accomplish, etc, etc, etc.  Be grateful for the many blessings in our life, etc, etc, etc.

The kicker is that "knowing" that I should be grateful and cut myself some slack is actually stressing me out because my true honest feelings are (in no particular order):

Stressed.

Sad.

Overwhelmed.

Alone.

Angry.

Tired.

Tired of being all of the above.

Every day when I start my paid work, I make a to-do list which includes work items and life items.  Today I actually put "change attitude around" with a smiley face.  Not sure if I'm going to check that one off.

I feel completely capable of tackling any one of the current issues de jour in our house.  All together, however, has me keeping the fine balance between panic and wanting to crawl under the covers and stay there for a few hours days.

Here are a few things (again in no particular order) currently on my plate:
--E had a total breakdown last Friday. She cried for an hour straight and nothing I said could calm her down. The straw on the camel's back was a bad swim and it's led to her dropping out of junior nationals (her last time she'd qualify due to age) and taking a 2 week break out of the pool starting next week.  She is burned out, an emotional wreck and very needy.  It's been a rough few days.  Her swim coach has been really annoying about it and very condescending.  Her self worth is so tied up in her swimming and add on to that some emotional times approaching and it's no wonder she's buckling under the pressure.

--L's 7th birthday was last Saturday (yay!) and due to a soccer tournament cancellation he got to spend the day at home with cousin fun and the movies.  His kid party (pokemon!) and family party (taco bar!) are all this coming up Saturday.  Not sure how I'm going to pull it off (I also have to register A and M for high school at 10am, D has a 10am soccer scrimmage and afternoon baseball practice, A has an indoor soccer game late afternoon and K has a baseball draft starting at 8pm after the party so no help cleaning up).

--M is really struggling in school again.  No motivation.  Argumentative.  Low self esteem.  She is also very needy and the more E has struggled the more M amps up her neediness.

--We're back to the normal soccer and baseball crazy routine.   It's mid-day as I'm writing this and I still don't know how everyone is getting to practice tonight and getting fed.  I'm thinking of putting out a food trough.

--Work is work.  My client is annoying.  The work is tedious, yet requires my concentration and attention to detail.  I'm kinda sucking at that (evidence in that I'm writing this while sitting in my cubicle instead of working).

--Everyone in my family is getting weird about E's 18th birthday in May and her high school graduation.  It is going to be pretty emotional.  I'm trying to explain to the collective that how we are going to celebrate isn't a group decision and that's not going over too well. I secretly want to ignore it all and simply be able to celebrate A's graduation from 8th grade.  As usual, the focus is on the girls.  When I mention it stinks for Aidan always sharing everything with M and losing his role as the oldest, I constantly get the "he'll be better off in the long run."  Well you know what?  He is already a very nice boy and would have turned out fine regardless.  I am sick and tired of people saying the boys are better off with the girls in their immediate family.  What about saying how lucky the girls are to have the boys?  Nobody ever says that, because that would some how be diminishing the girls' loss.   It's seriously getting old.

--I am totally done with cancer.  My brother-in-law's friend died this morning at age 31.  Another friend's dad is within hours of dying (just did last rites).  My friend's daughter is fighting the this evil monster and it's scary and sad to see her and her family struggle. 

--I miss Jeanne.  I really, really miss her. I drive by the cemetary at least 2 times a day.  She is always in my thoughts.  I constantly have the feeling that something is off and know exactly what "that" is.  Knowing I can't change it sucks. 

Add on to this depressing list all of the cleaning, laundry, driving, feeding, day-to-day crap required to run our household and the bucket runneth over.

I feel guilty for complaining.  The guilt adds to the stress.  The cycle repeats and repeats and repeats.  The only thing keeping me from totally losing it is the knowledge that this is nothing new and I always seem to get through.  Not sure what the ultimate cost is, but at least knowing I've handled all of this before helps.



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Not Twins

A and M are exactly 12 weeks apart, each born on a Thursday.  We actually have pictures of M as a baby in my hospital room to meet A for the first time.  I gave a stack of them to M because there are some great pics of her with her dad.


 


Even before M became an official member of our nuclear family, people thought A and M were twins.  They look enough alike, but more importantly, the bond between the two of them is blatantly apparent.  We often remark that A is M's security blanket.  M is the usually the first person A goes to with a joke or when he's bored and needs someone to get into mischief with.  When M first started at our school, the older kids who didn't know the whole story were convinced they were twins.  While A would quickly correct the error, M would smile broadly and declare, "why yes, yes we are twins!"



I would never claim to understand how it is to parent twins, especially in those early years.  I watched my sister C go through it and was in awe of how she survived those first 6 months. 


I get the question about their twin status now that they are official siblings.  It comes when people ask the ages of our children or when they see them together.  M is the older of the two, but it's sometimes easier to lump them together as the 8th graders or the 14 year olds.  Regardless of how their sibling connection has been made, I regularly experience what it must be like to parent biological twins.

Wow...it is tons of work and a lot more complicated than I ever thought.  The school aspect is pretty tough sometimes when both of them are stressing out about science fair or a big social studies project and I have to help both of them. It has been pretty difficult to navigate their academic paths at the same time given their stark differences in ability.  An 88 on a math test of M is awesome!  An 88 for A often begs the question, "hey, did you study for this?"  If they were in different grades, I think it would be a little easier.  The last two years they have also been in the same homeroom given their different math classes, so most of their other classes are the same prompting a day-to-day comparison, and playing the tricky game of meeting each of their academic needs.

Last Wednesday's science fair awards ceremony was a perfect example of this daily struggle (on steroids).  As I've described before, A wants to be a herpetologist when he grows up.  It is his passion.  He did his experiment on a lizard's bi-hemisphere brain and hypothesized which side were they most likely to strike at prey and which one would yield more accurate results given the side of the brain controlling instinct.  It was fascinating and he spent weeks filming all of the cricket feedings of his geckos (yes we have 4 lizards in this house), collecting the data, analyzing and creating elaborate charts.  His board was neat, colorful and included pictures he took of his lizards that were spectacular.  He spoke with confidence and passion during his interview and the last judge said his was the best project he had seen all day.  He came in first place last year in his category, so he was convinced that all of this work was going to result in another top finish and suspected he'd be up for best in show.

M also had a good project.  She tested how accurately people can identify the location of a sound.  She had a clever title and her board was neat and organized.  We kept the math at the basic level.  Even with the simplicity, I basically did her project for her from design, data analysis, building charts, writing the abstract, etc.  She didn't understand any of her research and at one point argued with me that 29 out of 30 meant 29%.  It wasn't as bad as last year, but things like science fair highlight M's difficulty in basic math and executive function.  We got through it with a lot less tears and I was truly proud of her for doing her best.

Like many things in life, middle school science fair judging is subjective and not necessarily fair (no pun).  Each kid gets three judges and you don't have the same three judges look at each project in a given category.  At this point, you can probably guess what happened.

They both got second place in their respective categories.  M was thrilled.  A was devastated.  He barely kept it together while at school. The tears flowed in the car.  M, on the other hand, was understandably thrilled since she's never gotten any academic accolades...ever.  Talk about complicated parenting.  Trying to comfort the one for getting second place, while high fiving the other for the same accomplishment.  To make things worse, A, who never makes M feel bad for her challenges or bad grades, knew that I helped M and that she didn't work as hard as he did.  His project was also completely centered around his passion which made him question whether or not he'll be able to follow his dream.  This last part was a bit over dramatic, but trying to point out the big picture to  him at that point was, well, pointless.

I know that going through life together is a huge benefit for both of them.  M makes A chill out and be silly.  A provides M with a comfort and gentle, but tough love that she needs to keep an even keel.  I joke about how in high school, she's going to get him dates and he'll keep her out of trouble.  In the dark moments or instances of panic in the middle of the night when I once again question our decision to adopt the girls, I can look to their relationship and remember how right it is for them to be together as siblings. That's not to say that it isn't always easy, but keeping their love in mind helps.

 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fast Forward

Weep for yourself, my man
You'll never be what is in your heart
Weep, little lion man
You're not as brave as you were at the start
 
Rate yourself and rake yourself
Take all the courage you have left
Waste it on fixing all the problems
That you made in your own head
 
But it was not your fault, but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn't I, my dear? Didn't I, my dear?
--Little Lion Man, Mumford and Sons
 
One of my favorite songs from Mumford and Sons is Little Lion Man.  I distinctly remember E asking me if she could download that song because of the f word usage (it's doesn't come up as an explicit song on itunes).  I looked at her and said, "You know what E?  Sometimes there is really no other word that makes sense and in this case I think it totally matches the mood of the song.  I know you've heard the word before and I trust that you won't use that word."  It was a really special moment between us.  An adult conversation that didn't involve death, accidents, or gay aunts.  It was a parenting moment that didn't involve laundry, food, or her complaining about our messy house.  I think about this moment often.
 
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We tend to listen to my ipod in the car to and from school, practices, games, etc.  I like to put it on shuffle and pop through my eclectic library of tunes.  I swear sometimes that a higher being is controlling my ipod, playing a song that is exactly what I needed, whether it's a good cry or raucous dance tune we all can sing to at the top of our lungs.
 
So every so often my ipod shuffles onto Little Lion Man.  If I'm all alone the words flow seamlessly from my lips.  If the kids are in the car, however, I have to make sure I'm paying attention to either turn down the volume at the right time, or just go ahead and fast forward.  Sometimes I do this better than others.  M, who usually sits up front with me, is pretty good about reminding me with a giggle and rolling of her eyes that once again I mistimed my volume control or fast forward. 
 
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The tough, soccer player in me wants to simply say, "Fuck it!" to the comments questioning my anonymity.  Unfortunately, the vulnerable, over-tired, stressed Peg took those comments very much to heart and piled them on top of the never ending list of things that I'm failing at these days.  It had been a tough week and those comments were the proverbial cherry.  I also poked the bear a bit by writing a post about it.  Hindsight is twenty twenty and all that.
 
After a bit of time away and some thought (and good conversation with lovely neighborhood friend and my therapist), I'm not going to embrace the Little Lion Man "I fucked it up this time" mantra, but embrace my fierce soccer self and say, "Fuck it." I am writing a personal blog that reveals some intimate details of our family.  I don't use the real names of our immediate family.  I use Jeanne and Mike's names because I NEVER, NEVER, NEVER want to not acknowledge that they did exist.  If you want to track down our family, you'd have to find out about this blog in the first place, and scroll through years of posts to piece together the clues.  Nobody knows about it in my family.  Examples of blogs were given to me that I should model mine after, and guess what?  I know exactly where that blogger lives and other details of her life because I live in the same area.  So what?  Would I ever use this information?  Of course not.
 
I started this blog to share my story in a way that helps me, and perhaps connect with other people in similar circumstances.  I understood the risk of exposure enough and respect our privacy enough to superficially hide our identity, and have declined offers to increase the public nature of this blog (guest blogging, writing a memoir, etc.). This blog helps me to write out what's going on in our complicated life. I enjoy the process of writing. It has also helped me not feel so alone when other people simply comment that they are listening or can empathize.  I've gotten great advice.  I've made some lovely friends both by getting comments on my blog, but also by going to their blog and learning about their life.  I refuse to take this medium and let the risk of negative outweigh all the positive.
 
Let's fast forward to a future where members of my family find this blog.  If the girls eventually read some of my words, I hope they see all my love for them.  I hope they read some of frustration and gain some perspective about how hard this has been on all of us.  If the boys read it, I hope they understand how hard this decision was to take the girls and that we did it out of love.  I hope all of our kids are proud of me and get to know their mother in a more honest, vulnerable manner. If my sisters read this (I actually hope sometimes that they actually are since I write things I wish I had the guts to say in person), I know they love me and will understand the circumstances under which I wrote some of these words.  As for K, there is nothing on here that I don't say to him in person.  We may go through our ups and downs, but he is my ultimate confidant and I never worry about expressing to him my current frustrations with our relationship. 
 
Continue to read if you'd like.  If you think I'm too open with details of our life, don't read. Be sneaky and track down who we actually are in real life.  I'm willing to take the risk.  Fuck. It.  As my soccer teammates and I used to cheer after each goal, I'm determined to "KEEP GOING!!"