Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Back to Our Reguarly Scheduled Program

Since we last spoke L turned 8.  He did it in spectacular fashion with a "science" party where we made slime, erupted a volcano (multiple times), did a physics project and had a guest appearance by our resident herpetologist and his crested gecko.  He said the next day that it was such a good day he almost didn't believe it really happened...then he proceeded to walk into the bathroom and declare it was "deuce o'clock."

 
He is funny.

 
He is kind.

 
He loves life and makes it joyful for all those around him.
 
 

The other four are doing fine.  E was home for both spring break and Easter weekend and we had a nice time. We'll see how the summer goes, but I'm hopeful her coming home won't be too disruptive.

A is now running track and doing pretty well for a freshman.  He hasn't hit his growth spurt yet and is still holding his own against all the upper classmen.  He's having fun to boot and doing something for the school which is all we wanted.  This is probably his last year playing soccer. It's nice he has another avenue to get his athletic juices flowing in addition to his skateboarding.

M has a boyfriend.  He's a soccer playing friend of A's (he approves of the match).  He lives 30 minutes away and is very busy--a perfect scenario from my perspective.  School is still a struggle for her causing both academic and social anxiety.  I'm hoping each year of high school she figures things out a bit more.

D still keeps us on our toes with all his activities and tendency to procrastinate.  He and I went to Pittsburgh this weekend for a soccer game, stayed in the city and went to a Pirates game.  It was nice to be together and have some fun.  He continues to be a rock star in school which makes arguing with him about getting his work done all the more frustrating when the results of his methods are so good (something he likes to point out often).

I'm not sure why I haven't been writing.  I've had lots of stuff going on that I'm sure would benefit from some venting expressing via the keyboard.  We have been really busy.  I also think that my belief in myself as a "writer" ebbs and flows.  I'm not sure I ever really think of myself as a blogger per se, let alone a writer.  But...

...I still have a story to tell.  My story.  I plan to keep on telling it.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Snow Day

Winter Storm Thor is currently blowing outside.  The snow is mounting at a brisk rate.

Kids are all playing/working quietly.  D just made chocolate chip cookies. I'm up in my room trying to work.  Distracted by the white flakes steadily falling outside and the 8th birthday party list being compiled next to me.  We're having a science themed party and will make slime, erupt a volcano, create a tornado in a bottle, build a marble run contraption and have a guest appearance by big brother's crested gecko.  The kid party will be followed two hours later by the family party and a taco bar request from the guest of honor.

Lots to do, but it's a fun kind of busy.  Still waiting on possible cancellation of soccer tournament this weekend for D which, if cancelled, simplifies life (and party prep) significantly and means he can play in his rescheduled play-off basketball game. 

E comes home tomorrow for spring break.  A very happy E who swam out of her head in the end of season championship meet (3 personal bests and 3 finals) and who is really enjoying school.  Everyone (except maybe her sister) is happy she's coming home.

Although we really haven't found a rhythm in terms of schedule since school started back up after winter break, having a day of hunkering down, chilling out, and just watching the snow fall is nice.

But....there always seems to be a but.

I've been feeling down lately.  A "is this really my life??" kind of down.  A wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to fall asleep kind of down. I think part of it is the weather and uncertain schedules with the kids.  I think part of it is stuff with K.  Stress never helps anything and my family continues to make things hard.  Part of it is also the cycle of grief that seems to taint my life now--loss of my sister, loss of what I thought our family was and its impact on our kids.  I worry I'll also be stuck on this loop forever and never really feel totally at peace with my life.

Is this really my life?  Is this it? Why can't I simply be happy with all the joy in my life and be content?  Are content and happy synonymous?

Today I'm gonna watch the snow.  Maybe take a nap.  Pretend to be working while letting my mind wander and make plans for birthday parties.  A day to slow down, and maybe not reflect too much on life and instead live in the present moment.

A moment of quiet.  Calm.  A perfect snow day.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

This is 13



D turned 13 yesterday.  We celebrated with his friends on Monday (no school) with pizza, tag games outside, ping pong and lots of Fifa on the wiiu.  He said it was the best party ever and didn't want it to end.

Yesterday we had another day off of school due to the snow and frigid temperatures.  Nothing like a snow day on your birthday.  I got up and grabbed him a bagel from Panera, made him chocolate chip cookies, got stuff for s'mores in the fireplace for after dinner (he doesn't like cake), and we went out to dinner as a family instead of eating the meatless dinner I had bought (Ash Wednesday).  After dinner, we gave him our presents which I thought were pretty good.  His big request was a North Face jacket.  Unfortunately the style he wants was no where to be found in local stores.  K and I both had gone out and gotten him two other options to choose from OR we told him we'd order the one he really wants online and it will be here in a few days.  For some reason, my normally chill dude, started spiralling out of control into a self-pity tornado that by 10:30pm I was getting texts from him upstairs that his "life was awful, nobody loves me and all everybody cares about is E and M!!"

First, I told (texted) him that his itouch was supposed to be downstairs, but we did love him and I thought we had given him a pretty good birthday including both family party and a friend party.  I calmly pointed out all the things I had done all day for him and gently told him he was being a bit silly.  After a few "whatevers" and "you don't understands," he apologized for being ungrateful and admitted he had had a good day and did like his presents.

He finally unloaded that he's really stressed out.  He listed all the things adding to the stress...school, science fair (happening at school today), sports (currently playing soccer and basketball at the same time), social pressures (his words), everybody in the family just cares about E and M (a pretty astute observation that I couldn't deny), and not having enough time to just chill.  The social part is really getting to him since he's "the only one without an instagram account or email" and he just got a girlfriends (as of 5 days) and he is still confused about what that really means.

Wow.  Just listening to him stressed me out.  I told him we'd talk about the instagram (ummm not going to happen but we can explain why).  I empathized with his workload and pointed out that basketball was almost over and it was something that he loved to do and was his choice.  We talked a bit about how he has really high standards for himself academically (which is good), but that we could work on ways to not make it so stressful.  Once I pointed out that he had spent the last 5 days doing NOTHING but chilling out, he started to hit a more even keel.  I also agreed to let him wear my jacket (the kind he wants) till his comes AND bring cookies to school today for the 7th grade to celebrate his birthday, both of which helped with the "nobody loves me" feelings.

I have to say this reaction kinda threw me for a loop.  I'm used to the drama with the girls, especially M.  A is such a level headed dude (with the sporadic meltdown) and he never really hit the "tween" or "teen" angst level.  D, on the other hand, is a very sensitive kid.  We know that.  I guess I wasn't ready for the teenager drama to hit on day one.

He seemed okay this morning, although pretty tired after staying up too late stressing.  We both actually had assumed a two hour delay which didn't come to fruition.  He walked confidently into school (in my jacket) with his science fair board and homemade weather station (his experiment was really cool and tapped into his love of all that is meteorology).  I ran to the store, purchased the cookies and dropped them off at school before heading to the office.  I've already bowed him out of basketball practice and the second half of soccer practice so he can go to the science fair awards tonight.  I hope he at least places in his category only because he takes things so seriously and is very competitive with his high achieving buddies.

I guess the best thing I can do for him is continue to remind him how much I love him and what a great kid he really is.  He is a sensitive person with his own feelings, but on the flip side he is a very empathetic kid for someone his age.  He is kind and patient with his cousins (those that live with him and those that don't).  He is polite to adults and ridiculously smart and funny.  He works hard at all that he does, especially his sports. I worry sometimes about how many deep things he's had to deal with at a young age.  I wince when people say all the kids will be better off in the long run with what they've had to handle.  While I am so proud of who he is and how he has dealt with this grief ridden life, I still wish it wasn't so.



I love this kid and always want him to remember this...and yes, I am wearing the above-mentioned North Face jacket in this picture...the fact that it fits him already is a post in itself about how they are getting soooo big!!  At least I have a few more years till L turns 13...until then "batten down the hatches!!"

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

15

M turns 15 today.

 
She is funny.
 
 
She is fun to be around.
 
 
She works hard to have a positive attitude and do her best despite all her life challenges.

 
She is very loved by her cousins (brothers).
 
We are having a pretty low key celebration tonight since they all have school and practices tonight.  Her big sister has asked us to facetime her when we open presents since this will be the first birthday in which E won't be there.
 
It's her 6th birthday without her parents.  I've been thinking of Jeanne throughout the day.  I had a good cry about an hour ago and it felt good.  I remember sitting in the hospital with her while she persevered through labor and I sat there with my belly swollen with A.  I remember how scared she was when the doctor said she had to have a c-section and I hugged her telling her everything was going to be okay.  It is still mind boggling to me that I'm raising that cute little baby now and regularly have to reassure her that everything IS going to be okay despite car accidents, ADHD and anxiety disorder.
 
 
It's strange that it's starting to feel like I can't imagine our life without her, while at the same time being disbelief that I am mothering her now.  Her mommy loved her so much.  I hope I'm doing right by both of them.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Not Letting Go

There are a few things in my life that I hold on to that remind me regularly that my grief journey is slow and my feet are still plodding along steadily on that path.

I have Jeanne and Mike's emails still listed in my evite contacts and when I pause to think about deleting them if feels like if I do that I'm "deleting" them.  Regardless, they are still dead.

I have a blanket on our bed that I sleep with every night regardless of the weather because it was a blanket they used to keep on their couch in their family room, and it makes me think of Jeanne. I imagine the blanket is her giving me a hug.

For the last Christmas we had with them I had Mike as my Secret Santa.  I got him a Purdue shirt (his alma mater) that I ordered online.  I still get emails from Boilermakers.com and I can't bring myself to unsubscribe.  Every few days when the emails come I think of Mike.

I still can't listen to Mary Chapin Carpenter's song "Down at the Twist and Shout" when it comes on my ipod during a song shuffle because it was one of her favorite songs and I remember dancing to it with her at their wedding.  I've tried a few times, but it just makes me cry and I have to stop.

My dad called this morning and brought up possibly selling their house this summer (we are currently renting it) and my stomach dropped and the thought ramped up my anxiety big time.  It's the last big thing we have of them.  The kitchen Jeanne cooked in and entertained.  The backyard and deck.  The hardwood floors Mike installed.

Grief is a complicated thing.  Timing for everyone seems to be a very unique experience.  I am just not ready.  I don't know if I ever will and I'm okay with that.  I think I still try to ignore my own grief in order to focus on the kids.  That feels safer and easier to handle. 

Again, I'm okay with that.  Probably because I know that my reminders at bedtime, on my ipod or sitting in my inbox keep me from venturing too far off this road I'm on.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Forgive

L has his first penance on Saturday.  Unfortunately I'm going to miss it because I'll be with D down in a soccer tournament in Fayetteville, NC.  His dad can easily cover it and it's really not a huge sacrament in the pomp and circumstance kind of way.  I think I brought both A and D by myself because K had to coach. 

Anyway, L and I have had a few conversations about what sins he might be able to confess.  Frankly, he's more worried about remembering the big prayer he's supposed to say afterward. 

"Is it a sin if it was an accident?" he asked the other day.  I thought about this and realized quickly that to him sins really have nothing to do with God, but with whether or not I'm gonna get mad or one of his brothers.

"Well, buddy, if you really didn't mean to do something bad or hurt somebody or their feelings it's really not a sin."

"M says I should just make some up but that doesn't seem right to me."  M explained one time that if she can't think of anything to confess she just makes up a good sin to get more bang for her buck.  After having a good laugh, I tried to talk to her about how that's not quite how it works.

L does have a point.  If you aren't sorry for what you've done (or not done in M's case) do you get the forgiveness part?

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In our house when the kids were little (and sometimes on really bad days around here now) infractions throughout the day usually ended up with the offender in time out.  This location is the couch in the living room, which is usually a good physical distance away from usual play areas and a good quiet spot for a mental refresh.  L has been known to have his entire body off the couch with one hand on it in order to stick with the letter of law, but let me know he is not happy with being in time out.  He has also been one that wasn't allowed to get off the couch till he calmed down, but in defiance would refuse to get off once he stopped screaming.

The usual process was time out for a few minutes, calm down, and then come to me or the person on the wrong end of the altercation to say sorry.  When they were all really little (ages 2-4) this was a simple process.  The "I'm sorrys" came easily and a quick hug or high five with a brother restored calm and order to the house...at least until another lego was stolen or ball bounced off a brother's head.

As they've gotten older the request for forgiveness is a lot harder to give and often the quick forgiveness (and certainly the hug or high five) is often begrudgingly given.  Even this morning as the big boys were wrestling and the bigger one smashed the little one's head into the carpet, A was forced to say sorry and D refused to accept it.

When did the forgiveness chit get so costly on both sides and why?  Is it because they have started to intuitively understand the value in their more complicated sibling relationship?  E and M certainly hold their forgiveness hands closer and play that card with calculated strategies.  Saying sorry can be hard and I get that.  I try to model good behavior by saying I'm sorry when I've lost my temper or laid blame on someone when they were simply innocent bystanders.  They usually forgive me quicker than their siblings and a hug after I'm sorry usually goes a long way into reestablishing equilibrium.

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I have some forgiving to do.  I know that I do.

It's just hard.  Really hard.

I'm still hurting and am not sure the person who needs to be forgiven understands how much I've been hurt or am still hurting.  I wonder sometimes if they even care or are truly sorry.

My resistance to forgive is also because I feel like the other person is "getting away" with something and hasn't really done their penance.  Immature I know on my part, but if we're being honest here I know in my heart that's part of the problem.  And speaking of penance, I think I secretly want some grand gesture on their part to acknowledge their actions or even in simple terms "ask" for my forgiveness.

I'm not sure if I'm ready to accept it.  Yes, I do acknowledge that my hurt is a lot more complicated than the kids' "D won't stop touching my butt" kind of annoyance, but why do I expect them to give and receive forgiveness if I'm having such a hard time doing that in my relationships?

Does forgiveness work the same if the other person doesn't ask for it?  Will I feel the same?  I'm not even sure how to cross over that forgiveness Rubicon in my heart without the other person even acknowledging it.  For all concerned, it's the right thing to do and intellectually I know that.

My heart is war weary and my daily focus is on caring for the kids and keeping this family afloat.  The pain lingers below the surface and often gets tampered down with all the demands of my day.  I know that letting it go will make all the other stuff easier to handle.

I want to be the bigger person and forgive.  Those pictures with the pithy statements of the power of forgiveness that people post on Facebook make it seem so easy.  A simple "I forgive you!" tied up in a bow with a picture of a cute puppy.

I've got some forgiving to do.  I honestly don't know how to do it.  In this case, a quick hug and or a high five won't cut it.  Maybe I need a few minutes (hours) in time out to figure it all out.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Great Divide

The Christmas break around here was distinctly divided into two segments of before and after the big day, with one being pretty crappy and the other pretty wonderful.

The before was punctuated by E coming home and her sister losing it the night she got home with a full blown panic attack with her screaming on the kitchen floor, my mom getting ambulanced to the hospital with a possible stroke, CA threatening to keep the little girls from fully participating in our family celebrations (and the drama and stress associated with that), and the normal stress involved with preparing for Christmas (shopping, cleaning, cooking, fun for kids, etc.)  I really didn't think we were going to make it through the day intact as KM glared and grumped her way around our house on Christmas Eve and poor little L and D spiked fevers.

Somehow it turned into a nice Christmas.  With Motrin and a positive attitude, L made it through the day.  All the kids really loved all their presents and were appreciative.  This is especially nice to see with the girls since they notoriously complain about not getting all they wanted.  Christmas has been really hard on our family since the accident and each year the girls seem to relax a little more.  There were lots of laughs and I even got an impromptu hug of thanks from E which was lovely and surprising since she withholds physical forms of affection from us regularly.

The Saturday after Christmas D had a basketball tournament and we put E on a plane to head south to Florida for  her college swim team training trip.  And then on Sunday we packed up the other kids and headed to Florida ourselves for a week of sun, Disney and family time together without all the crazy of our regular schedule.

What a wonderful trip we had.  The kids were such good travelers.  Family memories were made. We had the perfect balance of theme parks, skating, herping, swimming and just relaxing.  Even the driving to and from was fine without too many complaints.  I read good books.  K got to golf.  On the two days we hit the parks, the magic of Disney swept everyone up and the kids jumped into the imagination and fun with both feet.  Even on days where the weather wasn't ideal we made it work and fun was found.

So like most things around here, we had a holiday break of two extremes.  Some really bad and some really good.  I'm glad the good was the tail end.  I've been a lot more relaxed the last day or so since we got back.  Even the snow and low temps outside (with an 2.5 hour round trip commute to school this morning) hasn't really stressed me out.  I can still feel an underlying angst caused by family drama, all my responsibilities, grief and marital issues, but the week of relaxation has tampered it down a little further from the surface.

Sorry for such a long break from writing.  See paragraph two and add lingering effects of the shingles and you can see why my writing fell to the bottom of my list of priorities.  I hope to get back to some more writing in the coming months.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday break with your families and wish you a very happy New Year.