Wednesday, December 28, 2011

12 Drummers Drumming

In the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas (and the fact that D plays percussion in the school band), here are 12 highlights from our family Christmas:

1.  Two days before the big day, we had a very big day in our house.  L finally pooped on the potty.  He is extremely proud of himself and is telling everyone we see.  We went to our friends' house on Friday night and he walked in and stated very loudly, "I am four now and I poop on the potty!"  Last night he even went all by himself, including wiping and flushing.  While I am extremely happy about this latest development, I do have a pang in my heart as our baby is growing up.

2.  For Christmas Eve, we always go to mass at my parents' church and then back for a family dinner.  It used to be at Jeanne's house, but that responsibility has now been passed on to us.  I really don't mind.  Our house has the best space and it's nice to just be home and not have to leave after dinner.  Mass was beautiful, and C and I both found ourselves crying during the opening hymn of O Come All Ye Faithful.  Jeanne loved this service and we all used to sing and look down the pew at each other smiling.  It's at these moments I miss her most.  The evening ended with C's son W splitting his lip open and a hurried exit by all.  E was practically gitty and even helped L sprinkle reindeer food in the front yard.  We all always feel our best when we are together as a family and this was no exception.

3.  K and I were up till 2am getting the presents wrapped and everything done.  Some of this was my fault, since I let E stay up a little later than the other kids.  Sound of Music was on and we both LOVE that movie.  It was nice to just sit with her on the couch and giggle at the antics of Friedrich and those silly Von Trapp kids.  So I really didn't start wrapping till after 10 and since some of the presents were in huge boxes, it took me FOREVER.  Needless to say, we both took the "nobody bother mommy and daddy until 7:30am on Christmas morning" very seriously. 

4.  The morning of opening was a blur.  The kids were adorable.  As opposed to last year, the girls were both good.  E especially was sweet with all of the presents she got. Things got a bit weird when the girls opened their present from their Grandpa in Indiana.  They were quilts with pictures of their parents and them as a family.  Really sweet.  E loved it.  M declared she didn't want to look at it.  Typical with the places they both are in their grief.

5.  We headed over to my parents on Christmas morning for more present opening.  It was mostly fun.  I was a bit annoyed by C and again her present giving to the girls.  On her Santa list, M wanted these mini dress forms she had used at fashion camp over the summer.  The fabric tucks in the back and it's easy to make fashions quickly.  I had told C about this and my excitement when I tracked them down online.  It was one of M's big presents from Santa.  Not only did C get them for her too, she got an accessory set, a bigger set that we got and then two expensive books on famous dresses.  It was way too much.  We are trying so hard, especially with M, to get her away from the idea that she "deserves" special presents and things.  It also just stunk that C's gift overshadowed something that I was really excited about giving M.

6.  Like last year, E decided to spend the day with my parents and do dinner with my family.  The rest of us went home around noon, ate lunch, played with toys, and napped before heading over to my in-laws for dinner.  Unlike last year, though, I could tell she was torn about coming home with us.  It's good for her to spend the time with her little sisters and I think she went to the cemetery with my Dad, but I think she feels more settled with us and felt the pull to be with us.  It makes it annoying to have to go over there and get her to bring her back to my in-laws for desert, etc. but it's part of the job I guess.

7.  I was pretty grumpy at my in-laws.  Normally the craziness, etc. is fun and I'm fine with it.  I was pretty tired though and my nerves were a bit raw.  Everyone kept asking about E and why she wasn't there.  They just don't get it.  I'm also not a big gift card fan for presents.  I don't care about the cost of a gift, I just always like the feeling that someone thought of me and something I might like.  We got two gift cards to restaurants from our Secret Santa and K's parents.  I don't want to complain, but they might as well just have put cash in an envelope. While I pretty much had a terrible time, the kids had an absolute blast with their cousins.  That is what is most important.

8.  K got me a Nook Color for Christmas.  I knew it was coming since I gave him a very big hint.  I didn't want another hoodie (same thing from him for the past three Christmas, birthday and anniversary presents).  It is awesome.  The kids, K and I have been having so much fun with it.  I can read my blogs at night in bed now!  Yay!  Angry Birds has been getting the most play time on it...L is a master :)

9.  Yesterday I drove the boys (plus one nephew) up to Baltimore (1.5 hour drive in the rain) to Charm City Skatepark, an indoor skatepark in a very sketch part of town.  They had a blast.  I was miserable.  It was cold and gross, I was grumpy and bringing L was a necessary but unfortunate decision.  He couldn't do anything with his scooter.  It was just too crowded for him.  The things we do for our kids though.  A was in absolute heaven.  He is sore and bruised today, but can't stop talking about it.  I think it made his Christmas break.  I just wish I wasn't so cranky and could have enjoyed it.

10.  E had a friend spend the night last night.  At. Our. House.  I know this sounds silly.  Most 15 year olds have friends sleep over all the time.  But for E to feel comfortable enough to have a friend come over is huge.  They had a great time and we didn't embarass her too much.  It helped that M spent the night over at my sister-in-law's and the boys were tired from the skate trip.  These little steps are a big deal.

11.  I held it together pretty well leading up to Christmas.  I was cheerful.  I tried to stay in the moment for the kids.  Songs sung, presents purchased and wrapped, books read, tickles and giggles had by all.  I don't think I was faking it either.  I consciously tried to feel the joy.  By Christmas afternoon, I could feel myself fraying at the edges.  The past two days have been awful.  Post-event blues I guess.  I'm also exhausted.  K left this morning for a 3 day business trip and the little girls are spending the night on Friday.  Ugh.

12.  This new life has been such a scary, wonderful and difficult journey.  This Christmas was better than last year.  I got through it.  I even had a good time at some points.  The kids had (and are having) a great holiday.  Fun is being had by all with new skateboards, the LeapPad, Wii games, etc.  I thank all of my readers for wonderful holiday wishes.  Even if I haven't commented individually, I have enjoyed reading about all the fun my blog friends have had with their families.  It is a very special time of the year and I'm glad my heart was able to feel the love and happiness more than last year. 

A (belated) Very Merry Christmas to Everyone!
Peg

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Tis the Season

At 5 am Sunday morning, K crept silently out of bed making sure not to wake L sleeping between us as usual.  An hour later after driving to two separate Toys R Us stores, K completed his Santa mission successfully.  I work up to his cold hands holding my face and his lips on my forehead. He excitedly whispered, "I got it!"

Yes, our sweet little L, who puts up with so much around here, will gleefully open the hottest toy this Christmas season (although he had no idea when he put it on his list)...You read that right...We are currently in possession of a Green LeapPad Explorer!  K was so proud of himself and it has propelled us into the holiday season.  Presents have been bought (almost done) and we currently have two blow up polar bears in our front yard and lights on the front porch and bushes.

Work got so bad last week that I finally just gave in the towel and let the annoying, young team lead win this battle she was raging without me actually realizing it was going on.  It's just not worth it. I need to keep my job, but I don't need to prove myself to a bunch of self-righteous jerks.  I took leave on Thursday and Friday and only answered emails if it was absolutely necessary.

D was a big star last week.  Not only did he rock it out playing percussion (drums, xylophone, and wood block) in the beginning band at school, but he was the star of the school play and did an amazing job as the Shepherd Boy.  His cousins (C's kids) were also in the play as penguins and the whole night was so much fun.  He rounded off this week of performances by reading the responsorial psalm at the school mass on Friday morning.  He was relieved to get back to his roots on Saturday morning and scored 12 points in his first basketball game of the season.  I was a very proud mommy last week :)

The little kids had their last day of school today.  We had an 11:30 dismissal and headed over to my 95 year old Grandpa's nursing home with my sister C and her 3 kids.  While the kids surprised him and then kept him occupied in the library, C and I decorated his door with "snowflakes" with pictures of all of his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids...it was absolutely precious.

We've got dinner at friends' houses both tomorrow and Friday and I'm looking forward to just hanging and having fun.  I'm trying so hard to not let the stress keep me from enjoying the holidays and being the mom/aunt that I want to be for the kids.  Let's face it....these monkeys are worth it...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Humbug

So I've been a bit silent here.  It's not that I don't have lots of things to write about.  I still write posts in my head throughout the day and think about how I might present this thought or that.  My mantra of not enough time continues.  Stress permeates my every pore.  It is the Christmas season and my need to fake my way through this period of fa la la for the kids is difficult.  Without a clever way to dump all this bah humbug out of my head, here's a boring, broken record list...

1.  Work.  I don't talk about work too much in this space.  It's one place in my life (other than soccer) that I still pretty much feel like myself.  I'm good at what I do and work really hard despite my unconventional work methods (two days in office, three days at home and working lots of late nights).  I've been working more or less in this capacity for over 11 years.  The last 5 days at work have been ridiculously stressful.  A task lead on my project (young, inexperienced) and my division manager (new since August) basically questioned my ability to get something written 10 days before its due and culminated with a cut in my hours.  I was absolutely shocked and sick to my stomach.  Then, magically after putting me through unbelievable amounts of stress, my hours were returned and apologies by at least the task lead followed.  Needless to say, I'm switching divisions.  I finished the paper 4 days early and all weekend K and I have been calling it my f-you paper.  I've saved all emails (electronic and print) and have been told my multiple co-workers that what happened was basic workplace harassment.  It has been awful.

2.  Marriage.  K and I continue to struggle.  He asked to go to Park City with our friends in February and I agreed, but with the understanding that he needs to pick it up around here and re-engage with the family.  That lasted about a week.  It still comes down to me being completely responsible for the girls.  I'm trying so hard to get through to him.  I'm trying to be the wife he deserves and needs.  I could use some sign that things are moving in the right direction.  I love him too much to except anything less.

3.  The Big Girls.  This is a really tough time of year for the girls.  As much as we love them and have enveloped them into our family, we aren't their "family." They miss their sisters.  They obviously miss their parents.  Our Christmas traditions, although they overlap, are not theirs.  What makes it complicated is that the boys need and deserve to go through our family traditions.  We haven't truly "merged" two family together. That sounds too simplistic and wrong.  They participate.  They may even have a little fun, but you can tell in their eyes what they're missing.  It's really sad.

4.  The Little Girls.  I wish with all of my heart I was able to take in the little girls.  We just can't.  It is not what is best for my boys.  I doubt I could handle it.  CA continues to make decisions and do things that make me question our decision.  In my heart, I know we made the wrong choice, but I couldn't make C and S take them.  Jeanne and Mike would hate this.  I hate this.  It's been a year, and I still don't feel right about it.  Those little girls deserve more.

5.  Grief.  Sometimes I think that I'm starting to forget them.  Other days I can hear their voices in my head like they were sitting next to me.  Last weekend I was cleaning up some things and found Mike's cd's.  It was both wonderful  and painful.  He was bigger than life and it is still so unbelievable that such a vibrant life force is gone.  I miss them so much.  I could use my big sister.

6.  Christmas.  I used to love Christmas.  I do it up big.  Decorations, cookies, carols jamming on my ipod.  I just don't have it in me anymore.  I'm trying to fake it for the kids and help us prepare as a family. (D is the lead in the school play!)  It just all seems so much now.  It still is hard to celebrate when there is a giant crater in our family.  We'll buy the presents (if anyone has a lead on a LeapPad let me know--it's L's number one wish and they are nowhere to be found).  We'll go to mass as a family.  The spirit just isn't in me anymore.

In conclusion...work sucks, my husband continues to hide, the girls are a challenge and I miss my sister.  Merry Christmas?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Easy and Hard

24 hours without the girls last week was easy...even blissful.

Dealing with their constant need for attention after they got home was really hard.

It's relatively easy to get loads into the washer and even switched over to the dryer.

It's hard to get clothes folded and put away (especially socks).

It's easy to make love to my husband when I've had plenty of rest and aren't stressed out.

It's hard to generate any sort of romantic energy on most days.

It's easy to take care of 5 kids on school vacation with no sporting events.

Managing the logistical nightmare of all the kids' sports each week is hard.

Loving all the kids is very easy.

Convincing all of them that I love each one of them on a daily basis is hard.

Remembering how much I should be thankful for every day is easy.

Remembering how much we've all lost is hard.  Painfully hard.

Telling funny stories about Jeanne and Mike is easy.

Telling funny stories about Jeanne and Mike is hard.

Wanting to be everything for everybody is easy.

Being everything for everybody is hard.

It's easy to get things done around the house when I'm by myself.

It's hard to feel so alone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

41

Today is my birthday.  I bet you can guess how old I am.

My present to myself today is taking a few minutes to post on my blog.  It's been that kind of week and that kind of day.  Last year was such a stinky birthday anything was going to be better.

A few highlights of the day...

1.  My cell phone is an iphone from work.  Because of that, it's basically set up only for email and phone. So this means no fun apps.  Magically today my phone added itunes and the app store wirelessly and I can add some games.  Angry birds and Word were my first additions.  I'm currently playing scrabble with both S and C.  So fun.  This may sound silly but it's kinda made my day.  Technically I'm supposed to have any apps but I'll just delete them if I need to.

2.  D had a follow-up appointment for his bronchitis and I let him sleep in.  We brought L to preschool and then headed to dunkin donuts before the appointment.  It was fun and I know it made his day to have my full attention for a bit.

3.  I got lots of really sweet birthday wishes from my friends on facebook.

4.  C and her kids came over tonight after dinner and brought me a cake.  It was fun to see them and the cake was delicious.

5.  The best thing that happened today has to be that L peeped on the potty.  He only went once, but it's a start.  He didn't want me to tell anyone, but I could tell that he was pretty proud of himself too.

The rest of the day has been pretty normal which means stressful and difficult.  E had a meet tonight with her high school team and came in second in both races.  This, according to her, has completely ruined her entire season.  CA called me tonight about the big girls spending the night were her and the little girls tomorrow and then meeting up with us at my parents Thursday afternoon.  She didn't mention my birthday, was cold and distant and really weird.  The girls don't want to go, but it's important for them to be with their sisters.

K has pretty much ignored my birthday.  He's currently at the sixth grade boys basketball draft.  He'll probably give me a lame birthday present when he gets home.  I'm really not that picky, but he's given me basically the same present for my birthday, Christmas and anniversary for the last 3 years.  Compounded with our overall tension it just sucks.  He did apologize for the fight over the soccer tournament, but it seemed hollow.  We're in a rut.  A rut with 5 kids draining every last bit of energy out of us.

I still have to clean up the kitchen from the dinner I made and the impromptu birthday cake.

It's just a day.  Lots of good things happened (did I mention L peed on the potty!!!). 

I've got lots of things to write about (the holidays, K, tension with CA, work, etc.).  It's just been really hard to make the time.  Emotionally, I've been feeling kind of raw too and sometimes writing about what's going on helps, while other times I just want to go to bed and hit restart on my life.  Rehashing the bad can be hard...sort of like therapy I guess.  Anyway, I'm going to try to write more....even if it's just to announce each time L goes potty all by himself!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Choice

Someone once told me that marriage is about choice.  Even on the days that you can't stand the sight of your spouse, making the decision to love them and work at it.  Some days that choice is easy.  Some days that choice is hard.

My husband is angry.  I can see it in his behavior the last few weeks.  Hiding away in the basement at night watching sports and just being absent from us.  Speaking to me dismissively or with unwarranted anger.  He wants his family back.  He wants his wife back.  He still wants his freedom to pretty much do what he wants.

I understand that.  I do.  But what I don't understand is why he seems to blame it all on me.  I firmly felt we made this choice to take the girls together with our eyes open.  I hoped that we'd tackle it together.  More and more I realize that he still struggles to accept the girls' permanence in our family and what that means.

We have tons of soccer this weekend.  One tournament in Richmond with D and M is in Maryland.  A also has two makeup games (K is his coach).  For Saturday, the logical decision given the times were that I'd handle the Richmond end and K would do A's game in the morning and M's in the afternoon.  He just called me and said (yelled) that he was going to head down to Richmond after A's morning game in order to see both of D's games.  He repeated that he should be able to go to "his son's" games and M could get a ride.  When I questioned his reasons and pointed out that M should get to have one of us at her games the screaming continued.  I tried to remain calm, pointing out that we need to treat all the kids the same he screamed, "she's my niece and YOUR niece NOT our daughter and she can just get a ride."  Wow.  The conversation escalated to him yelling at me to f-off and that he'd do whatever he wanted.  Again, wow.

I hate arguing with K.  When he is in the wrong or realizes his decision or actions aren't ideal, he gets defensive and will go on the offensive, usually making me feel terrible.  Eventually he realizes he's wrong and either apologizes or tries to make up for it.

I'm at a loss.  I wish I had an equal partner in this struggle.  I need him. All the kids deserve more.  We both deserve more. But again, I think I'm wanting him to be more than he is.  I hope that  one day he'll make the choice to truly bring the girls into his heart, not just our home. 

I'm not holding my breath.  Regardless, looks like I've got to try to find a ride for M to her games.

Sigh.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween

Sorry for the silence.  I have been both busy and distracted.  The past few weeks have been harder than I thought.  I've tried to fill my days with the usual logistics, but also trying to be in the present moment with the kids and not let the anniversary blah carry over too much.  I have tons to share, I just need a little time to do it.  For now, here's a picture of the little guys from Halloween.  E handed out candy and didn't want to be in the picture.


p.s. I made the Care Bear costume (with a little help from E and M's Aunt from Indiana)...I was very proud :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sending Our Love to Heaven

2 years ago today we lost Jeanne and Mike.

The pain is so fresh.  In many ways we are each still struggling to understand why it happened and how we move forward.

Last night my body was anticipating the day. The pit in my stomach was awful.  It almost felt like we were going to have to relive it again.  Like we were going to have to actually go through the accident and the days that followed all over again. 

But today came and this morning we gathered at Burke Lake Park (a favorite place for everyone) and remembered them together as a family.  Donuts, bagels, coffee and a great playground brought smiles to all our faces.  The kids laughter and joy was contagious.

One by one, we each decorated a balloon with pictures and messages to send to heaven.  All together we counted to three and let them go in the clear blue sky.



I miss you Zhea.  I miss you Mike.  I hope you both felt all of our love today.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cursed October

This is not my month.

I just got in a stupid car accident on the way back from Target.

I was sitting in the turn lane at a light.  The light turned green.  The lady in front of me slammed on her brakes.  I didn't react fast enough and ran into her.  Her car's spare tire on the back of her car hit my hood and bumper.  She was a total jerk and kept on complaining about her $200 of groceries in the back of her car.  She claimed her glove compartment wouldn't open and she might have bumped her head on the back of her seat.  She called the cops.  I sat in my car.  Called K and S and cried.  The officer said he had to give me a citation because I wasn't keeping the proper distance and I couldn't really explain what happened.  It was just so fast.

Ugh.  Thank God we have great insurance (go USAA!).  Accidents happen.  I know this all too well.  I just didn't need another thing to deal with.

AHHHHH!  October is just not going very well and it's not even the 24th.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes...

This week the 6th graders have gotten the sex education class at school.  K and I have both tried to approach the subject with both of them since this summer but didn't get very far (I did give M a great American Girl Dolls book about her body).  Here are some of the gems that have come out of the two of them this week.  I have worked very hard not to burst out laughing...

A: Mom, we are going to get hair EVERYWHERE!  I am definitely not getting as much as Dad.
M (from the back seat after that comment):  She told us we're getting hair too!  I bet boys get more.

A:  I knew animals mated, but I had no idea humans did too!  It's disgusting!

M:  Girls are lucky...we get products!

A (mimicking the male instructors voice): Sexuality is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Sexuality is a gift from God and we should be proud of it.  Sexiness is NOT sexuality! (after a long pause) Mom, I know it may be a gift from God, but IT IS DISGUSTING!!

A (when asked what they talked about the first day):  It was all about the sperms.

A:  I am not listening to love songs anymore on my ipod.  It's going to just make me think about all this love stuff...you know the part about the boy privates going inside the girl privates....ugh...DISGUSTING!!

I know this is all part of growing up, but sometimes I just wish they could go back to playing Strawberry Shortcake and Pokemon.

Brain Dump

I have desperately needed to post this past week. 
I.Just.Have.Had.No.Time. To say that things have been crazy around here is a bit of a joke.  So this post is going to be a bit all over the place as I try to piece together the posts I’ve been writing in my head the past week.
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I’ve mentioned before that my mom has a disease called Arnold Chiari Malformation.  There is no cure and it can be debilitating.  For the past few years, and big time in the last few months, we have all noticed a steady decline in my mom.  18 years ago she had surgery (two shunts in her head) to help with the most severe symptoms.  We’ve been suspecting that the shunts aren’t working, but to be honest we can only really handle one crisis at a time and the accident has pretty much dominated everyone the last two years.  Strangely, when she flies her symptoms seem to go away for days to months.  It’s like getting my mom back for just a small window.  Both my parents have been in denial that anything is wrong.  My dad gets frustrated and impatient; my mom just continues to live in a fog.
C and S took it upon themselves a few months ago to do some more research and get to the bottom of ways in which we can help mom.  The knowledge has been both empowering and terrifying.  My poor mom.  She has been suffering in silence without wanting to burden us.  Symptoms she’s been experiencing include severe sleep apnea, chronic fatigue, UTI’s , dizziness, trouble swallowing, nausea, hearing loss and bladder control problems.  Last week things took a serious turn for the worse and she seemed completely out of it.  C finally called the specialist (THE GUY for Arnold Chiari) at Johns Hopkins and had her records sent up.  Happily, he accepted her as a patient on Friday morning (her appointment is next Tuesday), but by then she was in a major decline and my dad was paralyzed about what to do.  He couldn’t get her out of bed but kept on insisting she was fine.  Finally, C drove over there on Friday afternoon and called an ambulance.
That night in the hospital was horrible.  She was completely out of it, anxious and uncomfortable.  When we told her she was being admitted she had a total anxiety attack—shaking, crying, mumbling.  It was awful.  She started throwing up.  C and I took over for my dad and held her and got her to just breathe while they gave her some Ativan to calm down.  Ultimately, they diagnosed her with a severe UTI which had travelled to her kidneys and blood stream.  Supposedly her neurological issues could be directly attributed to the UTI.
**************
Meanwhile, back at the ranch….I was supposed to be driving down to VA Beach for a soccer tournament for D, while K was handling the other two soccer tournaments back at home for A and M.  E was going to a friend’s sweet 16 party at the beach all weekend.  I was able to cancel our Friday night reservation without any penalty and decided to head down in the morning since he didn’t play till noon.  Poor D was disappointed (this was his first away tournament), but he understood that I needed to be at the hospital.  I got home at 11:15 and still had to pack. I got to bed about midnight and was up at 6:30 to head out to get down there in time.  I tried to keep the mood light for D and L, put on new movies for the ride and handed out snacks.  We got there with fifteen minutes to spare.  I got to the field, found his team, sat down and burst out crying.  I had been running on adrenaline and fumes for 48 hours and was just done.  Thank God the parents on the team just let me be until I was able to calm down.
The tournament in terms of soccer stunk.  They lost 2 out of the 3 games and their coach was pretty negative.  They are only 8 and 9 years old.  D in particular gets the brunt end of his yelling.  I was so emotionally unstable I almost ran across the field and strangled the guy and told him to leave my little boy alone.  I tried to make it fun for the my boys and we spent some time on the water at my aunt’s in between games, had fun in the hotel and spent the afternoon in Williamsburg on our way home Sunday…36 holes of mini-golf, cheese shop sandwiches, Wythe candy shop treats, and pictures in front of the W&M football stadium.  D needed it. It was nice to just focus on my two little guys.
At the back of my mind I was so worried about my mom, but life still has to go on and my boys needed me right then.  I tried to shield them from the upsetting phone calls with my dad and sisters about mom’s discharge and next steps.  They didn’t need any more worries.
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You may have noticed that my discussion of this crisis only involves my little sisters C and S.
Where was CA?  Wait for it, wait for it…you’re not going to believe this…she was in Ukraine.
Yes, you heard that right.  She left for Ukraine last Wednesday and comes home today after a few days in Ireland.  She didn’t tell any of us she was going, including C who called her on Wednesday to give her a mom update.
My therapist almost didn’t believe me when I told her.
This is the same person who says MG and KT are so traumatized this time of year that they can’t participate in a balloon release about their mom and dad, but she can leave them for a week.  Why?  Because she got a free trip through her karate club and college and she wanted to go.  Without telling any of us.
I am so baffled and annoyed, I don’t even know what to say.
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L talked about death for 45 minutes this morning.  He continuously asked me if he was going to die.  Were we going to die?  Was Oreo (our cat) going to die?  Can Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Mike see us in heaven?  Can they ride bikes in heaven?  Can they come back for his birthday party?  Is their house in heaven?  Was M always in our family?  Will she be with us forever?
I tried to answer him without crying…not very successful.  I told his pre-school teacher and warned her that he was a bit “off” today.  I called my mother-in-law to  be prepared to answer heaven questions.
I just wish he didn’t need to talk about these things.
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D had nightmares all night on Tuesday night about car accidents and not being able to find us.
I’ve got nothing to say about that.  Sigh.
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For school, M had to write about what she would do it if she could be a little kid again for just one day.
She said she wanted to watch care bear movies and play with her sister E. 
She told me she didn’t want to write about her parents because she might make her teacher cry.  She whispered she didn’t want to cry either.
She left the room and I cried.
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I miss Jeanne.  I want her home.  Her girls need her.  Her sisters need her.  My parents need her.
Life sometimes just isn’t fair.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Tough Day

Today didn't seem out of the ordinary.  It started off like a normal Tuesday.  Normal wake-up, breakfast to be made (four different orders) and the ride to school.  I had a plan for the day.  Drive to pre-school, grocery store trip, babysitting my nephew, a little work in between and a few chores around the house.  Nothing out of the ordinary.

Then  a call came from my friend Kathleen about some research she did for me about further help for M.  I had completely forgotten she had offered to do it.  It got me thinking about M and all her issues and how hard it is for me to keep a handle on things with her.  While on that call, E's therapist called about our next plan for her ( I was supposed to call her back last week).  C came over to pick up my nephew and starting talking about my mom's issues and how they are getting worse.  We sprinkled in a little worry about KT and MG during the conversation for a perfect cocktail of anxiety.  As the afternoon as gone more stuff has piled up.  I just can't keep up with all of the kids needs.  They all need so much.  Add to that laundry, drives to practice, homework, clutter, and overall logistics.  Just thinking about this weekend sent me into a horrible case of hives.  I can feel my temper simmering below the surface ready to explode at the first kid who doesn't listen or starts to whine.   Even my "what's the worst thing that could happen" mantra isn't helping.

As we approach the anniversary of my sister and Mike's death, I can feel the anxiety rising within.  At times it is a physical pain that is hard to describe.  It's not as bad as last year, but my body feels like it's sinking back into the memories of that horrible fall day.  I think it must be those feelings that make a day like today seem  so overwhelming.

Tonight, I still have lunches to make, laundry to fold and some more work to do.  All I want to do is go upstairs and have a good cry.

Today has been a tough day.  Tomorrow is lining up to be a normal crazy Wednesday (work, school, therapy, baseball game, swim practice, soccer practice).  I hope I have the strength to handle it better than I did today.

Just Write

Friday, September 30, 2011

Release

Anniversaries of sad events can be very difficult on those involved.  Our family was no exception last year for the one year anniversary of Jeanne and Mike's death.  The accident was devastating to our family and trying to mark that day was extremely difficult.  For K and I it was even more challenging because we had E and M to consider.    Others in my family wanted us to stop completely and make the entire day about remembering.  K and I came at it differently.  A, D and M had soccer games that day and all of them didn't want to miss them.  A was playing another boy from his class and M's team was going to wear arm bands in remembrance and she felt she wanted to be part of that.  We also felt like we didn't want to sit around all day being sad.  Our plan was to let the kids play in their games, have a family mass later in the afternoon, and then a family dinner at our house.

C and her husband were pretty vocal about what they thought we should do.  They wanted a morning or early afternoon mass and then a picnic at a local park that Jeanne and Mike loved.  This plan fell right in the middle of the kids' games.  They were pretty harsh about our decision and forcing us to make the kids choose, like they needed to learn some sort of lesson.  Awful things were said on both sides.  C and I argued on the phone like we had never done before. She threatened to not show up at the dinner at our house.  I spent most of the days leading up to the event not eating, physically ill and a basket case.  I honestly don't know how I got through it.

But we did get through it.  We worked out a compromise and it turned into a nice day.  This year we are all in a much much better place emotionally.  The kids are more settled.  We got through it last year and we'll do it again this year.  Knowing that helps immensely.  This year, the anniversary falls on a Monday.  C had the great idea that we should meet at the same park and do a balloon release.  The kids can be late for school (or even not go).  We think it will be a wonderful, tangible way to remember them for both the adults and kids.

I sent an email out yesterday throwing out the suggestion and also bringing up a few other ideas for this fall, including a family photo shoot.  Other than C, there has been absolutely no response.  CA, however, decided to call C last night to express her reservations.  According to CA, MG's therapist feels like the balloons are a terrible idea.  Huh?  She claimed all kinds of behavior issues with MG that are tied to the fall, etc. and that something like this would trigger the trauma for her. Given CA's history of lying, I just don't buy it and I can't imagine her therapist (who I know very well) would make that statement.  CA is almost trying to erase Jeanne and Mike from the little girls.  Honestly, I don't think CA and KM want to be there and they're using the girls' issues as the reason.  More and more, CA is moving the girls away from us.  I don't understand why.  They are talking about not being here for Thanksgiving and spending it at their cabin in West Virginia.  The girls need to be together!!  They can't be together daily, but they should be there for holidays.

I know that the fact that CA is a lesbian has shaped her relationship with our family.  I know that she has felt on the outside.  But our family, and C and I in particular, have never treated her and KM any different.  My parents have accepted them as a couple.This is huge for a conservative, Catholic couple.  For goodness sake, we were all open to having them take the little girls.  I just wish that she would be more open to relaxing a bit and letting go of some of her resentments towards the rest of the family.

At the same time, I wish that MG and KT weren't with them.  To be completely honest, I don't think it is the best thing for MG and KT.  It's not what Jeanne and Mike would have wanted.  If S had taken them, they would be 5 minutes from their sisters.  From comments made over the weekend to S and C, we are all doubting whether they are going to even be raised Catholic.  In front of M, CA called KT a brat.  M got so upset and told her not to say things like about her sister.  She continues to dress the girls in clothes that are too small despite our best efforts to get them clothes that fit.

I wish that we could have taken them.  We just can't.

Putting myself in their shoes, I know how hard this has been on CA and KM.  They didn't want kids.  They are now taking care of the kids of two people who completely rejected their relationship.  On practical levels, they have no idea what they are doing.  I get that.  What I don't get is their continued rejection of our family in their attempts to solidify their new family.  In the long run, it's only going to hurt MG and KT, let alone E and M.

I've tried to let go of a lot of anger I have towards my younger sisters.  We've spent the last year rebuilding those relationships.  It's not perfect, but it's better.  I want to be able to release my frustrations with CA too, but it's hard to balance that with my gut feelings about being advocates for MG and KT.  Moreover, her actions have direct impacts on our household.  Her decisions with the little girls are so upsetting for E and M.  It feels like if I release my frustrations with CA, I'm abandoning MG and KT.

There has to be a solution to the CA problem.  I just don't see it right now.  I've already lost one sister, I don't want to lose another.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Little Breakthroughs...

Cognitive Behavioral Therapyis based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events.  The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel / act better even if the situation does not change.

I walked out of therapy today feeling emotionally and physically lighter.  I look forward to therapy each week.  Mostly, though, because it's a place where I can vent without repercussions and Harriet is always on my side, even when she's calling me out on things.

Today was different.  Today I didn't list my myriad of woes and frustrations.  They were sprinkled in there, of course, but she really got me to focus on how we were going to reduce my stress.  My physical signs of stress have really gotten out of control and something needs to change.  Rather than listen to me, my therapist made me try to figure out what is actually causing the stress.

Control.  It all comes down to control. My day to day life is completely complex and busy.  I am working on all cylinders all day.  This I cannot change. Yes, I can get some more help.  But, I have to admit that my workload really isn't going to let up in the near future.

As I listed all my issues with control and stress and examples of how getting help sometimes makes things worse, she just kept on coming back to the same questions.  What's the worse thing that would happen if I didn't meet up to MY expectations about a given situation?  I couldn't come up with a good answer.  So S brings E to get a dress and they have a special bond.  What's the worse thing that could happen?  Nothing.  E still comes home to us.  So someone misses a practice or M gets a bad grade.  What's the worse thing that could happen?  Nothing.  We are still a family.  M is still our child that we love.

I don't think this realization is going to change things over night, but it's a start.  I need to learn to let things go a bit.  At the end of the day K and I have to be content with the decisions we're making for our family and be proud of what we're doing.

Some of you may be saying, "Duh! We've been telling you all along!"  But it's hard to let control go, when something happens in your life that you have no control over.

Today I really realized how hard therapy can be.  My hard times in her office in the past have been re-living aspects of the trauma.  Coming to acceptance that Jeanne and Mike aren't coming back.  I had a breakthrough today.  It was hard to get there, but the feeling on the other side was worth the work.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Deep Breath

Today was a day that needed lots of deep breaths.  Too many times my mind started racing ahead to the future and I started to panic.  I worry and worry and worry.  I worked hard today to not get too anxious about the long term, but focus on what I could do today to make things work.

My post about M's academic issues has been weighing on me.  I'm always trying to find little signs that things are getting better.  Progress on all fronts seems to be moving at a glacial pace.  I guess I just thought that all the decisions and steps we took this summer would result in immediate progress with M.  Naive on my part I suppose.  My rational brain knows that there is not going to be a sudden fix with M.  Her issues are too complex.  So I'm thinking that my need to find something positive in this quagmire that is our life, was putting all my eggs in M's academic basket.  It's still just so hard.  I think what makes it more difficult is that the outside world seems to have lost it patience for our issues.  We all should be over this.  The kids should be adjusted by now.  Life just doesn't work that way.

My issues with my siblings and parents also continue.  Sometimes I just want to scream at all of them that we are bearing the brunt of our family tragedy.  Today was another example.  At lunch I was discussing with C about how when E gets her license next year, it doesn't automatically mean that we are going to let E drive to swimming in the morning.  She doesn't get enough sleep and its makes us uncomfortable.  C's reaction was that her husband D and S's husband aren't going to be able to keep up the swimming help.  She said, "it's killing D and who knows what is going to happen when S has the baby."  I wanted to yell at her and say, "But they promised to help!!!"  This was part of the deal.  Moreover, C and D said they'd take the girls.  It got too hard and they bailed.  Driving for swimming two mornings a week is getting too hard.  They want to bail.  They get to do that.  The girls aren't their responsibility.  As their guilt over not taking the girls goes away so does their commitment to help. 

Slowly but surely I still feel that everyone is stepping away.  The crisis is over for everyone else, but continues for us.  I'm just tired and continue to feel so alone.  Tired and alone.

I don't want to end this on a negative....some good things...

1.  We had the meeting with E's swim coach this evening.  Talking about her swimming is pretty cool.  She is an exceptional swimmer.  In 4 years, she could swim in the Olympics.  She is that good.  I need to try to start focusing on how to help her reach that goal rather than seeing her swimming as a hardship on our family. 

2.  L is doing really well in pre-school.  He seems really happy and comes home with good stories.  I am very proud of him.

3.  The uncles on both sides of the family did a fantasy football draft with D tonight.  It means nothing in terms of money, but means the world to D.  He has been talking about nothing else for the past week.  Our biggest problem was trying to convince him that drafting only Hokies was a bad idea.

4.  I watched A skate from the front porch before dinner tonight.  He is getting so good and the joy on his face filled me up.

5.  Our little Montana honeymoon has continued.  The past few days K and I have sent each other silly emails during the day loaded with innuendos.  I love him.  I get annoyed at him, but I do love him so and it's nice to have a little romantic spice to the day.

6.  At work yesterday, during a presentation by our CEO I made an intelligent comment  that she agreed with.  I felt smart and professional.  It was nice to be reminded that I'm good at what I do.

I need to remember these positive points and not worry too much about the future.  It will all work out or it won't.  I can't imagine it getting any harder so I might as well just be satisfied with the little positives I can find in each day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Expectations

K and I were both good students growing up.  We both went to good high schools, a great college and have master's degrees.  It was a combination of basic smarts, hard work and doing what our parents expected of us.  I don't think I ever worried about what my parents or other kids in my class thought.  I was a good student and it's just the way it was.

Like most parents, I've always felt my kids were smart.  They are intellectually curious and have varied interests.  They love to read and do research about stuff that they are interested in.  Not to brag, but the boys are pretty cool kids and at the core of this is a bright, vibrant intelligence.

When A was in first grade he had trouble reading.  Nobody could figure it out.  His comprehension was great.  He could point out the verb and subject in a sentence, but struggled with reading out loud.  We had him tested, got tutoring over the summer and by the end of second grade he read all of the Harry Potter books.  I was reassured by his tutor that reading is a skill and was not a reflection of intelligence.  It was hard though to accept that A was struggling.  I just always assumed that academic success was a given.  For goodness sake, at the age of 5 A could list all of the venomous snakes in North America and was already designing his own golf courses.  A's academic performance certainly does not always reflect his abilities,  but for the most part he does well in school. Still, as an over achiever, it was hard to think that my child might not be.  It's hard to admit, but I just always assumed our kids would follow in our footsteps.

Then we adopted these two kids.  E is a great student, but to the point of slight neurosis.  Her being a good student and good swimmer is how she defines herself.  Anything less than perfect is completely unacceptable to her.  She'll argue with a teacher about a question on a test to go from a 96 to a 98.  Dealing with her school issues is an another post altogether.

M is at the exact opposite end of the spectrum.  As I've written before, her basic grammar and math skills are lacking. So, we had her tested.  We got a tutor.  We got a student accommodation plan at school.  We started her on medication.  I've set up a homework space.  But still M is struggling.  I try to help her and she just cries, screams and tells me that she doesn't care and she's just dumb.  I don't know what else to do.  I don't know how to help her.  I want to have the same expectations of her that I have for the boys.  At the same time, I sometimes find myself holding my praise for the boys in check because I don't want M to feel bad.  That's not fair to the boys either.

It's especially hard since she and A are in the same grade.   An 88 for M is good, but an 88 for A just isn't. Is it because she's not our biological daughter?  Is lowering my expectations for M wrong?  It's also hard to accept that M may not be a good student.  I worry about her as we get closer to high school.  It so hard to be able to focus on all of M's needs and make sure that I'm there for the other kids too.  I was hoping that this year would be different with all of the steps we took for her this summer.  I'm already seeing signs of the same issues.

Parenting is tough.  Parenting my sister's kids is even tougher.  I want what is best for M, but there are times when I want to scream and pull out all of my hair after trying to help her with basic math or grammar.  My 11 plus years of parenting just didn't prepare me for the challenges M is presenting to me. 

Oh to be 4...

We had some hilarious quotes from our favorite 4 year old this past week that I just have to share...

1.  L declared on his second day of  pre-school that the "big kid" was bad again.

Me:  His name is Vincent buddy and maybe he's just not used to pre-school and has to get to know the rules just like you.  He is four just like you.  He is just taller than you.

L:  He is definitely not 4.

Me:  Of course he's four, how old do you think he is?

L:  (a long pause and he ponders the answer)  He is at least 13!

2.  As I've mentioned before, my sister S is pregnant and due in October.  L is very into the baby and is so excited to meet his new cousin.  He is constantly touching her stomach, asking if the baby is still in there and talking to the baby.  We were at M's soccer game on Sunday and L walked up to one of the dads on M's team, rubbed his stomach (it was a rather large beer belly) with both hands, and asked,"what do you have in there?"

3.  We had to go to 5pm mass on Sunday because of the various sporting events of the day.  This mass is actually not at our parish, but at my parents' church so L is only used to going there on Christmas Eve.  We sat up in the balcony which put us at eye level with the large, realistic statue of the crucified Christ wearing only a loin cloth...

L:  Who is that? (very loudly)

Me:  Shhh...that's Jesus pal.

L:  But he's not a baby.  He's big. (in a more reasonable voice)

Me:  Yeah buddy, baby Jesus grew up to be a man.

L:  Oh.  But why is is naked?  (in a very loud voice).

The giggles from our pew were immediate and sustained.

While two of these stories were pretty mortifying, I have to say they totally made me crack up.  He is such a funny, sweet little boy and I love seeing the world through his eyes even if it involves pointing out to the entire balcony at church that Jesus was scantily clad.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sometimes things are just sad...

M had a very bad day today.  She came home and cried on and off for 45 minutes.  She yelled at her sister and complained about illnesses of all kinds.  She just looked so small and sad.  I love her so much and wanted to make things better for her.  I forget sometimes when they are being so difficult and causing such pain in our lives, that they are two little girls who lost their parents in a sudden, terrible way.

I had a crazy afternoon of calming M, getting her to soccer practice, picking up D and trying somewhere in there to get dinner done and homework finished.  I had back-to-school night for the middle schoolers tonight.  I listened to a sad Mumford and Sons song the whole way there and just cried.  I cried for E and M. I cried for Jeanne and Mike.  I cried for myself.  I cried for my boys.

Sometimes the sadness just takes over.  As M showed me today, sometimes a good cry helps.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Home

We got home late Monday night from a wonderful time in Montana.  Wonderful doesn't even begin to describe how much fun we had.  It's amazing how being thousands of miles away from 5 kids, laundry, cooking, school, carpools and work can remind you how much you like each other and enjoy spending time together.  We laughed, cuddled, held hands (K is NOT into PDA at all) and spent quality time with friends old and new.  I highly recommend the resort at Chico Hot Springs.  The food was awesome and the landscape breathtaking.  The accommodations are pretty rustic, but they fit the bill just fine.  The wedding itself was an absolute blast.  Dancing for 5 hours straight and 4 tequila shots are my future recipe for letting off a little steam.

I woke up Monday morning, however, fairly anxious to get back to the kids.  I had pretty much reached my limit for being away from them, especially L.  Everything went well on the homefront.  Actually, what really helped was the flooding we experienced at home.  This meant a cancelled day of school on Friday and all soccer games cancelled for the weekend.  I think my 6 page word document detailing how to take care of the kids and a complete schedule also helped.  My sister-in-law Katey is also a pretty chill person and I think that contributed to a fun, safe and relaxing weekend for the kids.

Of course we slammed right back into reality this week.  Just today we have L's first day of pre-school, soccer practice for both A and D, therapy for M and a baseball game for D too.  Oh and tonight is the band meeting and back-to-school night for 1-5 grades at school.  Tomorrow I have to go to the middle school back to school.  And of course we've been away for a few days which means lots of demands of attention from all the kids both physical and emotional.  Last night the girls were especially needy in terms of wanting my full attention.

But, I do feel more relaxed.  I was reminded of how much I love my husband.  I remembered what it was like to have fun that did not involve Wii, a whiffle ball bat or endless games of Zingo.  I also loved seeing the reactions of the kids as we gave them their prizes from the trip and showed them pictures and the video of the bison walking up to our car.  I also secretly loved when L crawled into our bed at 1am Tuesday morning, snuggled into my neck and sleepily told me how much he missed me.  I hope this feeling lasts. 

It is good to be home.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Off We Go...

K and I are leaving this afternoon for 4 days in Montana for some friends' wedding.  I am at the same time excited and apprehensive.  I'm hoping I'll get everything packed and organized on the home front that I'll be able to leave without being too anxious.  My friend Kathleen wisely told me yesterday, though, "everything is going to fall apart while your gone and things may be an absolute disaster, but that is NO reason not to go."  They'll all be fine.  I just hope my sister-in-law is still talking to me after the weekend...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Little Earthquakes

Oh, these little earthquakes
Here we go again
Oh, these little earthquakes
Doesn't take much to rip us into pieces
Doesn't take much to rip us into pieces

-Tori Amos, "Little Earthquakes"

I typically review my day in my head and think about what is ahead the next day evey night as I brush my teeth before bed.  Most days I don't think about all the things I got accomplished, but agonize over all the things that I didn't get done and all the times I messed up...not as patient as I should have been, saying the wrong thing to one of the kids, missing an opportunity to get some clutter taken care of around the house.  In the grand scheme of things, these are minor infractions and I could list many justifiable reasons for why events unfolded as they did, my reactions or tasks left undone.  But these small failings haunt me.  They weigh on me as I struggle to find sleep at night or strain to get up in the morning to face it all over again.

I had a bit of a breakthrough this week in therapy.  This is going to sound silly, but it finally sunk in that things aren't really going to change.  Jeanne and Mike are not coming back.  E and M are part of our family.  The reality of being responsible for 5 children really sunk in.  This is my new life.

My real difficulty is that I still get stuck in the negative aspect of that reality and it shades my actions throughout the day.  My lack of patience.  My anger.  My sadness.  My desperation.  There are little snippets of positive that sometimes give me hope.  I try to write about these times.  Given the sheer magnitude of what we're I'm trying to do, it's hard to hold on to these moments to sustain me and help me be the person I want to be for my family.  I know I shouldn't hold myself up to such a high standard, but I sometimes feel that by cutting myself a bit of a break, it's like I'm dishonoring Jeanne's memory and minimizing the girls' loss.

I could list all my accomplishments every night to reassure myself that I'm doing okay, but instead my little failures throughout the day wear me down and rip me apart.  I really need to work on that.  Acknowledging that is a first step.  That's something at least.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

To whom it may concern...

To:   The random person who keeps sending gifts to our house

From:  Peg

First, I know you think you are doing a kind thing.

However, the girls' parents died almost 2 years ago and sending them silly little presents, strange bric-a-brac, and gift cards doesn't change that fact.  Stuff isn't going to make them feel better.  On the contrary, it furthers the impression they seem to have that they are entitled to special prizes...this is something we are trying to counter.

Second, not including a return address or name and signing the cards "Cheers!" isn't sneaky...it's creepy.  Your anonymity makes us all feel unsettled.  It's weird.

Third, when you started including food items (ordered from an online service) and including the insert our last name family and the insert girls' last name family on the package, it doesn't get less creepy or better.  It actually really annoys me.  We are the insert our last name family and not some hybrid.  The four girls are still their own family, but just because we adopted E and M our identity as unique family unit has not changed.  Also, the food you order sucks...the cookies are dry and way too sugary.

Fourth, there are 5 children in this house.  Only 2 of them lost their parents, but all 5 of them are adjusting and struggling through this new life.  Singling out the girls is really uncool. The boys already feel like the girls get way too much attention from us and our extended family.  Again, it undermines our efforts to treat all of the children the same and have the girls, in particular, regain a sense of normalcy.

Please stop.  I'd ask you directly and explain our reasons in a calm, rational way, but you don't include your name in a stalker, "watching our family" kind of creepy way.  Again, please stop.  It's extremely annoying and I've already got enough on my plate.

Thank you.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Here we go again...

The little kids (A, M and D) started school today.  We've now got 2 6th graders and a 4th grader.  E starts her sophomore year in high school tomorrow.  L doesn't start preschool for another few weeks.  The kids did fine today.  A and M were pretty nervous about starting middle school and so far, so good. 

I haven't posted in a few days.  I've been pretty overwhelmed by the impending start of school and the chaos that comes with it.  That and a little earthquake and hurricane scare have created a little bundle of stress in the pit of my stomach.

I don't want it to start.  I don't feel ready to go back into the stress of homework, practices, driving, etc...

Swim team made me feel like we didn't really have a summer until it was over.  The respite I wanted for this summer didn't come to fruition.  My dining room is filled with junk.  Our office is still in shambles.  My plans for organization are still on the back burner.  I'm just not ready.

I'm so glad I've got therapy tomorrow--I've been off for 2 weeks and I could use it. 

I create posts in my head all the time, but they never seem to make it to the screen.   I know this space is for me to write about what's going on with me, but I also worry about coming off as such a whiner.  I'm so conscious about being the "debbie downer" amongst our friends and neighbors that it seems to have permeated this space. 

I feel trapped in this never ending marathon and I don't want to be in the race.  I think this rambling post reflects that.  I'll try to do better tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Searching

I've tried to do lots of things to help myself feel better in the last two weeks...

--I've been in desperate need for a hair color for months.  The kids were in the habit of calling me grandma.  I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me.  I'd normally go to my hairdresser (the lovely Lan) but I just haven't had the time.  C and I were hosting a baby shower for S and I couldn't face the 30-something set feeling like an old lady.  I called my friend Jess down the street, bought a hair color kit, and we colored and straightened my hair.   I also went and got my brows done...yay!  Combined with a cute new outfit, I got lots of compliments at the party about how great I looked.  It was a lovely night.

--I got myself and the boys to the dentist and even got the follow-up ortho appointments for the boys.  I am ashamed to say that we hadn't been to the dentist since 2 weeks after the accident.  For some reason, the dentist just fell off the radar.  I'm glad I finally got us in.  I know this is something for the kids too, but it's been hanging over my head and having it done makes me feel better.

--While at the beach, I tried to stay technology-free.   I didn't check email,  facebook or blogs.  I rarely checked my phone.  It was a nice break.  I also spent an entire afternoon on the last day by myself at the beach reading.  Everyone else went jet skiing.  I could have gone to watch, but decided to take the time for myself. 

--A few nights ago, A and I finally went and saw Harry Potter together.  I loved it.  The tears that flowed down my cheeks multiple times during the movie were very cathartic.  Hanging with my sweet, funny A was also great.

--Yesterday K booked our trip to Montana in a few weeks to a friend's wedding.  We have been waffling about whether or not we should leave the kids.  I am so excited.  We are actually going a day earlier than expected so we can join in on a whitewater rafting trip and big dinner the night before the wedding.

--Last night I played soccer for the first time in many months.  I was almost giddy as I pulled up my socks over my shinguards and laced up my copas (my Adidas cleat of choice).  Being on the field was wonderful.  Running, sprinting, receiving and delivering passes, dribbling with ease through the opposing team, all combined for an almost meditative quality.  I know that sounds strange, but for me, I've always been happiest in the purest sense while playing.  I got a blister.  My right hamstring is sore today and will most likely be worse tomorrow, but it was completely worth it.

A great list, right?  Lots of things that I did just for me.  I actively did things to feel more like myself. 

So why don't I feel better?  Why have I woken up every morning this week with that all too familiar pit in my stomach?  Why haven't I been able to eat?  Why has my anger been particularly bad?  I woke up Wednesday morning and I was simply furious at the world.

I feel so profoundly alone in this struggle, but at times I just want everyone to go away. 

I'm tired of talking about everything that is our complicated life.  I'm tired of feeling like such a failure and whiner. I'm tired of being in such a funk.  I'm tired of grief sneaking up on me and forcing me to hide my tears from my 4 year old.  I'm tired of my 4 year old worrying about death and everyone leaving him.  I am tired of dealing with 2 traumatized girls.  I am just plain physically and emotionally exhausted.

I am still searching for something to help.  I'm still trying to find my equilibrium again.  I have faith it will happen again someday.  I wish I had more clarity about when that day might come.  I wish I had more control about making it happen myself.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Strollers

We just got back from a week at the Outer Banks with K's family.  It was a good week overall.  Lots of cousin time, games of Boggle, reading on the beach, skateboarding, nighttime ghost crab hunts and huge family meals.  My parents came down for two days to hang with the kids.  I think it was a first step to getting used to being at the beach without Jeanne and Mike.  I think they had a good time.  E was an absolute delight and going with the trend her sister was a handful.  She spent her entire time with my niece who is 11 going on 17, so M continuously bent the rules (eye makeup, leaving house without telling us) and did a lot of talking back.  I tried hard to spend some time with each of the kids individually during the week.  M seemed like an elusive eel slipping threw my hands every time I tried to rein her in.  The boys also missed her and were getting sick of my niece dominating M.

One afternoon, I was walking down to the beach with L, carrying all the assorted tools of the beach (beach chair on back, boogie boards, buckets, umbrella) all while trying to hold his hand.  It dawned on me that this year the trek to the beach with him was more difficult because for the first time I wasn't pushing him in a stroller and using it to carry all the beach equipment.  I then realized that I'm stroller-free.  This made me really sad.  My big boy is growing up.  Moreover, we are most likely strollerless forever.  This made me really really sad.

I'm 40 years old.  When the accident happened, I was 38 and we definitely had not "closed shop" in the fourth kid department.  There are 5 years between D and L and since the older boys are so close we thought about how nice it would be for L to also have a sibling closer to his age.  It wasn't a guarantee that we'd have another kid, but taking in the girls has pretty much shut that door.  I also know that there are many families out there that don't get their family the way they planned it either.  We are lucky to have our three beautiful boys.  But I also have memories of my sister S saying she wouldn't take the girls because she wanted her "own" family and that she'd resent C and I for getting our families the way we wanted.  Sometimes I feel like saying to her, "well, guess what S, maybe we weren't done and this wasn't the family we planned either."  Even if we didn't have another child, this is definitely not the life we had planned for our boys.

More and more our family is beginning to gel.  Tonight the kids all played together happily and at one point D and E were curled up next to each other, sharing earphone and listening to a new song on E's ipod.  Those two are always at each other and it's nice to seem them hanging out.  August 13th was the first year anniversary of when K and I stood before the judge and legally became the girls' guardians.  We had a fun, busy day and barely even remembered what had happened the year before.  But I still feel like I'm grieving our old family and our plans for the future.  I know I should be grateful for what we have.  I know I should be honored to be able to take care of these two sweet girls.  I also have to be honest with myself, though, and acknowledge that I still yearn for the what was and a little sad about the what won't be.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Positivity

I don't think it's a word, but I liked the sound of it for this post. :)

I feel like the last few weeks (months) I've been doing a lot of complaining about the girls.  I know it's understandable given the reality that it is their presence in our family that is causing the bulk of the stress around here, but I still feel bad.  In a move towards a more positive attitude, I thought I'd write a little about some great things about the girls....

E

--She has a great sense of humor.  When it's not directed at anyone in the family, she's downright hilarious.  She's been so well rested since we're on the swimming break that we're getting the relaxed, funny E more often.  Last night and today she's been really fun to have around.  The boys are loving it.

--She has wonderful friends.  Other than one friend (the infamous KK), all of her friends are sweet, smart and really good kids.  She does a good job surrounding herself with good people.  The new boyfriend is no exception.

--She works really hard and rarely complains.  Lots of kids have busy schedules and intense schoolwork but not many of them have the same determination and good attitude.  This is no more apparent than in her swimming.  Not many kids would get up at 3:40am , swim, go to school, do homework and not complain about it.  Her intensity in the pool is legendary on her swim club.  I have no doubt she'll make her goal this year of making Olympic trials.

--She is great with her little sisters KT and MG.  When she is with them, she is totally engaged and is so patient and sweet.  I know it really upsets her to see them with CA, but she does a great job keeping a good face in front of her sisters.

--On the same note, E is really good with little kids and is an excellent teacher.  She is now the go-to person for swim lessons this summer and all the little kids (boys and girls included) loved having Coach E as their junior coach.  She stays positive and fun, but at the same time does a good job of instructing in a clear manner.  The kids at our pool are loving it.

M

--Just like her big sister, M has a great sense of humor.  This is especially true when she's not trying too hard and drops a little one-liner that sends the entire family in stitches.  She and K really enjoy joking back and forth with each other.

--M definitely has a future on a stage of some sort.  Whether it was the angel Gabriel in the Christmas play, cheerleading or the most recent fashion show at camp, M lights up the stage with poise and energy.  For someone who struggles so much with self esteem, it's amazing to see her confidence in the spotlight.

--She has a great fashion sense and is really creative in her designs.  Since she started the Concerta, it's been so nice to see her drawing, creating and using all of the fashion "tools" she got for her birthday and Christmas.

--She really loves the boys and they love her.  Seeing her getting a hug from L or singing their latest rap with A, warms my heart more than you can imagine.

--M is a very social and friendly person.  It has not been surprising to me how easily she has fit in at her new school, our neighborhood and the swim team.  She is constantly getting requests for play dates.

I know I complain about them all the time, but I really do love these girls.  This love was there even before the accident, but our relationship has changed and the love and commitment I have for them is different.  All the kids often ask about who I love more (D is constantly saying I love M more than him).  Whenever I tackle this question, I always respond by saying that I love my sisters and Daddy the same amount, but in different ways.  I love the girls just as much as the boys, but it's still different at this point.  I don't know if I'll one day get to a place that I'll see our relationship in the same way.  I suspect that will be easier with M given her age.  Regardless, I need to remember that there are lots of things about the girls that I really like, even when they are making me pull my hair out.

Love; it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
-Mumford and Sons

Monday, August 8, 2011

Moving in the Right Direction

I'm slowing but surely feeling better.  Today has been a good enough day on the UTI front that I drank a diet coke this afternoon.  For the first time in days, I felt hungry at dinner and ate pretty well.  By yesterday I was feeling at about 40% and I'd give today about 75%.  As my "tired of picking up the slack" husband put it yesterday, "40% of Peg is better than none!"  Today I tackled our laundry situation and was able to finally put away clean clothes that have been sitting in baskets for weeks and I feel a bit accomplished having gotten it all done when not feeling my best.  I think these past few days have been a wake up call for how unhealthy I've become when a simple UTI floors me. 

Yesterday was my Grandpa's 95th birthday.  We had a barbecue at my parents and two of my cousins and my aunt from New York came down.  It was nice to see them and we all had a nice time.  We got the usual "how are the girls doing" in hushed tones, but at this point I'm so used to it I simply declare they are fine and try to change the subject.  I usually try to talk about the boys at that point because it still really bothers me that all everybody ever worries about is the girls.  It really gets old after a while.

E and M continue to be so trying.  It's one thing to deal with their grief and anxiety issues in a direct fashion.  It would actually be refreshing to talk about their parents and have a little cry.  But it's quite another to deal with their constant need for attention and getting their way.  On Saturday, when I was at my worst, M actually starting coming up with fake ailments to compete with me as to who was more sick.  E's latest gripe is that I haven't made an appointment with a dermatologist to get a mole removed.  I've tried to explain to her that it just really isn't high on my priority list and that I'll get to it when I get to it.  It is on her shoulder in a location that most people wouldn't even notice.  It is not that big, but it's become a source of irritation since little kids this summer at the pool supposedly asked her what it was.  I know it's tough being a 15 year old girl.  The problem is that she's just one out of 5 kids and dentist appointments, the ADHD medication update and eye appointments have simply taken priority.  There is only one of me and I can't do it all.  As I was writing this actually E just asked me if she could play rec-league basketball or lacrosse this year.  Huh?  When I tried to explain to her that her swimming commitment is about as much as she and our family could handle, I got the sad face and argument about how all these other people get to do all these other sports.  Sigh.

Then there are the boys.  A continues to get his summer reading done, drawing and talking about reptiles and amphibians.  D continues to bother everyone in the house (especially A and M) to get attention.  I had to tell him last night to stay at least 4 feet away from everyone or he was going to be grounded.  L continues to be the cutest 4 year old in the world (just a little bias).

I talked to the boys individually today, at the suggestion of my therapist, about what they thought about this first year with the girls (it's been a year yesterday).  D declared that it's been terrible and it would be much better if I got them to stop bothering him.  He did admit that having M around was fun, but that she mostly wanted to be with A (an astute observation).  He was playing wii at the time so I didn't have his full attention, but he response pretty much reflected his behavior.  A said he felt the year was "medium" and that he thought that it seemed like they'd lived with us forever but he still remembers life without them.  When I asked him if there was anything we could do to make things better he said, "do more herping!" (herping = observing and catching reptiles and amphibians in the wild).  Classic A response.

All in all I have to hope that we're moving in the right direction.  I can only do the best I can each day.  Some days that's going to mean getting lots of housework done and making a great meal, but other days I guess I need to be satisfied with spending quality time with the boys.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Yuck

I continue to feel awful in the nether regions.  Usually after 2 doses I feel much better, but it hasn't worked yet.  Then, last night (early this morning) at 1am I woke up with horrible stomach pains and terrible sweats.  I stumbled to the bathroom wondering which end everything was going to come out.  Let's just say it wasn't pretty.  Not sure what the cause was but it made me very nervous to take my medicine today.

I got up this morning late and had another uncomfortable trip to the bathroom.  I was able to chomp down Daddy's breakfast of champions...Dunkin Donuts...and take a shower.  This gave me enough energy to troop L off to his favorite cousin's 5th birthday party.  My boys tend to be on the shy side when it comes to biggish crowds and L was no exception today.  He refused to participate with the group in the games set up and eat lunch.  Once my brother-in-law had the balls and bats out for baseball practice (it was a sports-themed party) he warmed up and ended the party on a good note.  I really think he just wanted Jamie on his own and not have to share time. 

During the party I had the usual "you're doing a great job," "God wouldn't give you more than you can handle," "there is a special place in heaven for you" drive by from my brother-in-law's mom.  Lovely lady, but seriously, the timing was awful.  I don't know how, but I somehow made it through the party and got home.  I proceeded to walk in the house, look at K and declare I was completely done and going up to bed.  There I stayed until about 7 when I came downstairs to my sister S all dressed up to go out to dinner with C and their husbands to the swank new restaurant in our neck of the woods.  She was there to pick up E to babysit for C.  I don't know why but seeing them going out to dinner together without even thinking of inviting us added to my current overall funk.

So, in conclusion...I feel like crap.  Dog doo doo.  Absolute yuck.  I just ate something (another Daddy specialty...pizza) and another trip to the bathroom produced pain.  L is asleep on the couch which doesn't bode well for his sleep tonight.  My malaise amounted to another missed opportunity to de-clutter around here.  I think I'll head back upstairs, climb under my covers with the 3rd Game of Thrones book and call it a night.  Tomorrow has GOT to be better.  Right?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Daggers

It started when I was going to bed on Wednesday night.  I tried to ignore it on Thursday morning and pretend it wasn't happening.  Last night was the last straw....just called the doctor and got an appointment at 12:45...Sometimes being a woman just sucks...I've got a UTI...ick.  I just explained to L why mommy had to go to the doctor by saying it hurts when mommy pees and he said, 'wanna try using my diaper?  That doesn't hurt."  If only it were that easy buddy.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Trying

This is going to be another random post.  Lots of things are percolating in my head for longer posts, but I don't want my lack of time to keep me from writing and using this space.  Here are a few little nuggets...

Grief.  Loss is a common experience that all human beings will face.  Knowing that at some point in your life someone you love is going to die doesn't make it any easier.  My sister is dead.  My Zhea is dead.  I still don't really believe it happened.  Just thinking about her physically in the ground all alone makes me nauseous.  I miss Mike too at times, but it's not the same intensity and gut wrenching feeling.  Human tragedy happens everyday all over the world.  I don't know why I thought that our family would be immune to this kind of suffering.  I am reminded of our loss everyday because of the girls living with us.  Before they moved in, I felt at times that our little family could hide from it and return to some sense of normalcy.  It's almost been a year, but it still feels strange and new having the girls in our family.  As with everything I hope that time helps us all.

Health.  I am in terrible shape.  I need to get a little exercise before the soccer season starts or I'm going to get injured which would be awful all around.  I want to feel better.  I want to have more energy.  I just can't seem to find the time.   I need to find some inner strength to just bite the bullet and go run a mile.  I am an athlete.  It is so much a part of who I am.  Maybe if I find that inner athlete in me again it will have ripple effects elsewhere (eating, sleep, energy levels).  I was so tired today I felt sick to my stomach this afternoon.  When I got home from work at 4, the kids were just starting a movie.  I laid down on the hardwood floors with a pillow and fell dead asleep.  Uncomfortable, but I felt much better when I woke up.

Stress.  My tense jaw/tic thing is getting worse.  I'm doing it right now while I'm typing.  I hate when I do it, but it makes me feel better.  The hives are back although not as bad.  They get worse at night.  I'm trying hard not to take the stress and tension out on the kids.  As usual, D and his not listening, misbehaving little self is getting the brunt of things.  I don't know how to get him to listen and at the same time I can't control the events causing my stress levels to hit such high levels.  Somehow I need to break the cycle.

Organization.  I'm trying to gets some inspiration in this area from Pinterest.  Just the visual cues are helping my attitude about things.  I also did a little google research on hiring a professional organizer.  I don't think we'll ever actually go down that route due to the cost, but it's been interesting seeing the before and after pictures to give me some ideas. If I could get a handle on things before school starts at the end of the month, I know we'd start the school year on a better footing.  From what I've been reading, it would be really good for M and her ADHD issues.

Marriage.  I'm trying really hard on this.  Some of the work involves a little extra attention in the bedroom.  Some of it is just laughing at his jokes and enjoying the time we do have together at night after the kids get to bed.  I have to remember what a good man he is and how many men wouldn't have agreed to take the girls.  We're going to a wedding in Montana in September just the two of us.  I think it will be a good way for us to reconnect and start off the school year and all the kids' activities in a positive frame of mind.

Well, not many profound thoughts going on tonight, but I do feel good about getting it out.  One step at a time.  Right?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pretty Little Liars

For whatever reason, my boys are fairly truthful kids.  A especially does not lie.  Sometimes his honesty gets him in a bit of a pickle when he points out other's flaws.  White lies are totally beyond that kid.  This honesty also makes him a bit gullible. Since he doesn't lie, he really doesn't think other people lie either.  He also tends to see the good in people, which aids in other's abilities to sell him bridges in Brooklyn.  Of all the boys, D is probably the most quick to lie.  He's a bit sneakier than the other two, but at this point I know all his "tells" and can quickly get the truth out.  Sometimes we call it his little bag of troubles and all is usually confessed by the time he goes to bed at night.  I think L is still a little bit too young to really get into lying full force.

The girls are a completely different can of worms.  M lies at will.  The stories range from the fantastic to the mundane.  For awhile the boys believed everything that came out of her mouth.  Then they started calling her out on everything and pointing out the absurdity.  Now, they simply ignore it or cut to the chase with "you're lying" and leave it be.  The fake illnesses, injuries, and now weird stories about mean friends are exhausting.  It's really hard to believe anything that she says.  I try to give her the benefit of the doubt to start off, but even that is starting to wear thin.

E is a seasoned liar and manipulator.  It's been harder for me to tell when it's happening.  I think I've figured it out though.  It's usually always when she either wants to get her way with something or when she's backed into a corner about being right about something and she "swears" she read somewhere that a certain fact is true.  This morning when I pointed out to her that she had therapy at 4 tomorrow she suddenly stated, "oh...Lynne wants to just talk to just you again and I don't have to be there."  I looked at her and said, "yeah, that's not happening any more.  Lynne is your therapist and it's your time to work on your stuff."  Mysteriously, 15 minutes later, the scheduling was all worked out and my mythical appointment with her therapist went away.

I've told E that I trust her.  I tend to go along with M's silly lies.  But if I'm totally honest, I don't trust them.  I know they are lying.  I'm at a loss to know how to deal with it.  My dynamic with my own kids is just different.  Do I call the girls out on their lies all the time?  Do I just try to model positive behavior and hope it rubs off?  From the beginning we have always been honest with the girls about the big stuff (their sisters, the house, the financial issues, their dog).  I even outed Santa Claus with M because I felt like when she asked me directly I couldn't lie to her at this stage in the game.

I'm not sure where the source of the lying resides.  Maybe their therapists or mine might give me some insight as to the why so I can figure out the best way to handle it.  It's just another way in which my boys are different and I'm a bit unsure about how to parent the girls.  Our new relationship as their parents is still so fresh and fragile, I worry that I'll do something to mess it up, but at the same time I worry about them growing into adults that don't know how to be honest with themselves and others.