Sunday, April 24, 2011

Up, Up and Away!

We head out in the morning for five days in Florida with the kids.  They are really excited.  I think some of them were more into the trip than they were the Easter baskets this morning.  I have to say the bunny went WAY overboard this year.  I couldn't help myself.  They are all such great kids and have gone through so much.  They deserved a little spoiling.  Even E commented how much she liked her basket (Hollister can work miracles).

So I'm pretty anxious about the trip.  Traveling with five kids through the airport is a little daunting, but I'm going to try to go with the flow and be patient.  E also declared today that she will sleep on the floor or on a couch if it means she has to sleep in the same bed as M.  We are staying in a million dollar three bedroom condo in Jensen Beach, FL (it's good to have rich friends) and she says she'll sleep on the floor.  It's like she can't possibly admit to everyone that she had fun on the trip, but she'll complain to them that she had to sleep on the floor.  It is so annoying.  We don't even know what the sleeping situation is going to be and she started in on it tonight.  She did the same thing at the beach house with my in-laws last summer and threw a 3 year old fit claiming she'd rather sleep on the floor in the hallway than sleep on the beds in their room because there was a nail polish mark on one of the comforters.  She was searching for something to complain about.  I'm hoping she'll just relax and have fun this time.  I'm hoping one day she'll realize it's okay to have fun with us and enjoy being part of our family.

Wednesday is A's 11th birthday.  We're going to head to the Everglades on that day--his idea of absolute heaven.  We got our budding wildlife filmmaker his own digital video camera (K found a great sale online!).  We hope he has an awesome day.  He is such an amazing kid and has handled these new changes in our family with such grace.  I love him so much.

So wish me luck.  I hope we are all able to relax.  I'm bringing some good books.  If anything, a little sun and some waves can't hurt.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hippity Hoppity

Today the little girls, MG and KT came over to color eggs and have some lunch.  Most importantly, they came to spend time with their big sisters.  This little party was supposed to be a replacement for Easter Sunday.  My sister CA made the unilateral decision that they weren't going to be at my parents for Easter.  They own a cabin in West Virginia and decided that is where they were going to spend Easter and spring break.  It's going to be the first time the girls aren't together for a holiday.  It's awful.  Jeanne loved Easter, planning an Easter egg hunt in their back yard every year and inviting everyone for brunch before we had dinner at my folks.  It's always a laid back affair at Grandma and Grandpa's and the kids all enjoy playing colored eggs in the front yard or playing catch with the uncles.  But this year, they'll be no MG and KT.  It's heartbreaking.  E is so upset.

I just don't understand why CA and KM are making a point about not being with us this holiday.  I know that KM is having a really hard time with taking the girls.  She was visibly upset at Christmas and it was obvious she didn't want to be with our family.  Going back over the years, it has been quite clear that they don't like to be at family events.  There definitely is a history of them not feeling totally accepted as a couple.  Jeanne and Mike completely rejected KM being a true member of the family.  CA actually has only openly talked about being gay with my parents and the family since the accident.  She finally told my mom after it was decided she was going to take all four girls. While we all had concerns about how the fact that they are lesbians would effect the girls in their conservative, close-minded community, we felt that it was more important that they stay together.  K and I have always been nothing but supportive including attending their wedding, always having our children refer to KM as "aunt" and hosting birthday parties for both.

I'm assuming that this feeling of not being part of the family is at the core of this, but now that they are totally out and have been given the ultimate sign of acceptance by having them be guardians to the girls, it just doesn't make sense.  I get that they are trying to establish new traditions as a family and asserting themselves as an autonomous unit.  I totally get that.  What I don't understand is why they don't want to be with us.  They always complain about coming to family events.  Seriously, we are not a bad family.  We are fun and enjoy being together.  And in this case, the most important thing should be the kids.  Why would it ever be in the best interest of the girls to not be with their family and, moreover not be together, especially this early in the game?

Of course, when I tried to talk to CA about this, she got defensive and went back to her normal lying ways.  She claims she already told E (lie).  She said that changing things up on MG would be disastrous (again lie).  I asked if they could go to the cabin on Sunday night or Monday morning and again she said that just wouldn't work.  They are making some sort of statement, about what I just don't know  The hard thing is that she made this decision without even talking to me about it.  I actually innocently sent her a text asking how she wanted to handle Sunday to see if we could get the girls some more time together when she dropped the bomb. 

As usual, I got to be the one to tell E and M the bad news and deal with the aftermath.  I tried to make it into something positive and asked CA if they could at least come to our house before they left for the cabin and spend time together.  I whipped together a little party, egg hunt, boiled eggs, and make lunch for everyone.  Did I feel like doing this?  No.  Did I really have time to do this?  No.  But it was what was best for the girls.  CA and KM just haven't gotten there yet as parents and in some ways are using the girls as pawns to make a point.  I wish they would embrace this holiday and start fresh leaving the baggage of the past and starting new relationships from a point of honesty and love.

I'm really going to miss seeing MG and KT on Easter Sunday.  I hope this isn't a growing trend and that slowly but surely CA won't remove the girls from our lives.  I don't want E and M to only see KT and MG as cousins.  They are sisters.  They are their own family and we are ALL the guardians of that family.  I think in the future I have to work harder to protect their little family and make sure they stay close.  Great, another thing to worry about.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Letter

Dear Zhea-
I talk to you in my head all the time so I thought putting it down in words might help...

I miss you so much.  I catch myself sometimes wanting to call you to tell you something going on with the kids, especially on the way to work, our normal chat time.  I try to remember your voice and your laugh.  You had a great laugh.  I think a lot about that day at the beach the last time we were in the Outer Banks and you walked us to the car, doing dance moves on the porch.  I try not to think about you the last moments of your life.  Whether you were scared.  Whether you knew what was happening.  Whether you were in pain.  Whether you knew the girls were going to be okay.  I don't like to think about you scared or hurting. 

The girls are doing fine.  Fine, but they need you so much.  E and M need their mommy and daddy.  I don't like to think about how much of you the little girls are missing.  None of us feel like they should be with CA.  We know you wouldn't want it, but there was no other choice.  K and I just couldn't do it, at least not then.  My heart is still open to maybe one day.  It's awful to have the girls apart, but they are just so needy.  I can only focus on E and M and the boys.  I'm doing my best and I hope you know that and it's enough.

M started cheer leading this year, just like you.  She's still playing soccer and is going to swim this summer for our swim team.  She's really struggling in school but we're getting her tested and hope it will give us an  idea how we can help her.  She's still such a funny, sweet kid, but she feels anxious a lot and very emotional.  She's really having a hard time with E. 

E is doing great in so many ways.  She's doing amazing in school.  She made junior nationals in swimming and did awesome.  She was the MVP of the swim team as a freshman.  Most importantly, she's made some great friends and seems to socially be doing really well.  She has really struggled feeling part of our family.  E has a hard time having fun with us, like it's a betrayal of you guys and your family.  I'm doing better not letting it hurt my feelings but at times it's still hard when she says such hurtful things.  She's become very manipulative trying to play all of us aunts against each other and trying to keep M from settling into our family.  I'm hoping with time she'll accept us or at least stop fighting it so much.   She deserves to be happy.  We all deserve to be happy.

You'd be really proud of the boys.  They are growing up so fast and this past year has added a level of maturity that surprises me, especially A.  They have worked so hard to accept the girls in our lives.  D and L still have the most issues.  It's hard sometimes to see how hard this has been for them and know that in some ways I did this to them.  I hope that in the long run they know that we did this out of a place of love and they learn from it.  Again, I'm hoping with time we'll be okay.

I still sometimes feel angry at you and Mike.  I know it sounds awful, but I feel like I'm living with some of your bad decisions.  No will.  No life insurance.  No college funds for the girls.  Living beyond your means.  Instilling in the girls judgemental and prejudice opinions.  Placing too much pressure on them to achieve in sports and school.  Focusing too much on E and not M.  Leaving them.  Leaving us.  Some of the anger is irrational, but it's there.

I don't want to be mad at you.  I never have.  In life, it was somehow easier to ignore these annoyances.  Mostly, I feel so sorry for you.  You were just getting in your stride with the 4 kids.  Since the little ones were born you didn't seem happy, but in the last months you seem more relaxed.  I feel so bad that your life was cut so short.  Seeing the girls grow up, graduate, get married, have their own babies.  Growing old with Mike.  I am so sorry.

So, we're all doing okay.  We're doing the best we can.  I think everyone is still in shock and are waiting for you to walk back in our lives.  I had a dream last week that I found you in a room at the beach house and you we're sleeping.  I shook you awake and held you in my arms.  It felt so awesome.  I could feel your hug, smell your scent and hear your voice.  And then I woke up.  You were gone.  Our nightmare was still real.

I hope you're okay and looking out for us.  I hope your proud of me and K.  We love the girls and are trying to make them feel that love and know they are safe.

I miss you Zhea.  I love you.

Your little sister,

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Old Man Was Snoring...

Well, thanks to some torrential downpours on Saturday all five soccer games were cancelled this weekend.  I was so relieved.  Now we still had the cheer exhibition on Saturday (M and her team were awesome!!), a trip to the mall and the movies with the four little guys, but I did get the time to get ready for the barbecue on Sunday and it all worked out great.  We all had so much fun and everyone had a lovely evening.  People stayed way too late for a school night, but with an early to bed night tonight I hope they'll all recover.

But just like everything around here, the ride was not as smooth as I would like. Both girls had very difficult weekends emotionally.  For M, I think she's really starting to push her boundaries with me and I had finally had enough.  After a day at her cheer thing and dragging poor L through the mall so she could use a gift card and E get a birthday present for her best friend, I just couldn't take her whining.  It was like dealing with a  3 year old.  My therapist today said she thinks M has a problem "deregulating" and keeping her emotions in check.  I'm not sure exactly what triggered it, but I think my disciplining her started the ball rolling.  I have to start treating her like a regular kid for ALL of the kids sakes, but I'm starting to worry the future with her as puberty sinks in.  Her talking back and eye rolling are maddening.  It seems too early for her to be acting like this.  She can be so difficult and my patience gets tested to the brink. 

Then there's poor E.  On the way home from her best friend's house on Sunday the car in front of them smashed into an 80 year old woman who didn't look and just pulled out in front of them.  They swerved out of the way, E had to call 911, while Kathleen sat with the woman until the ambulance came.  E was visibly shaken at the scene.  Tears in her eyes.  She called me and sounded so little and scared.  Kathleen said she talked about her accident on the way to our house.  My poor E.  She doesn't talk about the accident.  When I think about it (several times a day sometimes) I feel so sick to my stomach.   I can only imagine how she feels.  I wonder sometimes if she'll ever be able to deal with it.  I wonder whether any of us will.

It is all just so exhausting.  I think sometimes about how much we can all really much I can take.  Losing Jeanne and Mike was horrible.  Sometimes, in a weird way though, I wish we could go back to those early days.  While we were all still in such shock, it felt like we were in a bubble with our grief.  I didn't really have to navigate the real world.  My grief was all consuming and the only thing I had left was focused on the boys, the funeral and immediate needs of the girls.  Sometimes I think it's harder to start living again in the real world....back to work and school, the schedules, the emotional fallout, the trauma for the girls, raising all these children whose innocence is forever changed, dealing with our new family, struggling in our marriage as we face new challenges, and handling my sisters and parents.  It's been well over a year now and I still cannot believe it happened and this is our life.  I feel like such a failure most days.

Just typing that sounds like such a broken record.  It's just all so hard.  I wish I had more energy, courage and confidence.  I try so hard every day to find the joy and appreciate what we have. Other people in this world have it so much worse.  At least sometimes it rains when I need it to.  At least sometimes I pull it off and on the surface all looks happy around here.  Heck, when push comes to shove, I still can throw a damn good party.

Friday, April 15, 2011


It started about halfway home from driving the big kids to school today (although if I really think about it I could feel it coming last night and I forced myself to just go to bed).  My stomach began to feel nauseous but not the "I think I'm about to barf" kind of way. More like the "I'm on my way up the first hill on a roller coaster" kind of way.  I started to feel really tired and all I wanted to do is curl up in my bed and hide under the covers.  Deep breathing didn't help.  The now familiar panic and anxiety reared it's ugly head again.  It's not like a full blown anxiety attack.  I don't get the hives like I used to get the first 6-9 months after the accident.  My mind starts racing and my heart rate along with it.  No specific thing sent me down this path, but I think there may have been a few triggers...

1.  M came home yesterday wanting to work on her school project for mother's day.  It involved sending in a picture of her mom to the computer teacher and filling out a sheet with questions like "what was your favorite childhood memory" or "who do you most admire?"  She wanted to fill it out for her mom.  This eventually sent her into a crying fit in which she couldn't be comforted.  It was so sad.  Oh and the picture she picked was one with Jeanne and their dog Ripley.  Talk about a tear jerker.

2.  We started the conversation yesterday with my sisters about clearing out Jeanne and Mike's house.  We have a renter moving in June 23.  We have to clean out the whole house.  My dad is fighting us on using a management company for the lease, a moving company for the packing and moving, etc. and the cost of the storage unit.  We sisters all agree but he's fighting us.  It's all he has left to control.  If he gives the control of the house up, it's like finally admitting they're gone.  Stressful to say the least.

3.  E wants to go to a concert by the female artist with the dollar sign in her name ( I don't want to write it out or google might send one of her skanky fans my way).  The title of the tour is "Get Sleazy."  She doesn't understand why we won't let her go.  The fact that I find her music and personna disgusting isn't going very far.  I'm tired of always being the bad guy.  I know that's what parenting is all about, but the situation with her is so complicated and touchy.

4.  L was up last night until after 10pm because he "did NOT want to sleep in D's room anymore."  He also let me know that he wants E and M to move back wtih their sisters and that he doesn't like to have such a big family.  He likes our family "exacally like it was before with just us boys...oh and you too Mommy!"  It was so sad.  Rationalizing with him about why they are with us doesn't go very far with his 4 year old brain.  He misses his family.  He misses his room.  Hearing him say it out loud makes me miss it too.

5.  This weekend we have 5 soccer games, 1 cheerleading competition and 1 baseball practice.  Just typing that is exhausting.

6.  Sunday night my cousin from NY, his wife, three kids and a random niece are coming down on their way to Williamsburg for spring break.  His wife is actually the step sister of three of my friends (sisters) in my neighborhood...two of them actually live on our street!  They aren't staying with us, but the whole clan plus my family are coming over for dinner.  40 people...

So I'm thinking some of these things may have triggered the panic moment this morning.  Getting some breakfast and taking a shower helped.  Playing with a silly L helped.  But I still have this feeling of being overwhelmed with life.  I can only fill my cup so full of stress, sadness, and grief before it starts to spill over.  This usually manifests itself with these moments of intense anxiety or losing my temper with the kids or K.  It's moments like this that I start to question our decision to take the girls, worry about what we've done to the boys and crash into a terrible feeling of hopelessness.

I also fantasize about running away to a caribbean island, but I don't see that happening any time soon...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Clutter Update!

I just filled a giant trashbag full of stuff after clearing out the corner piles in the living room and dining room.  It felt great!  I'm going to tackle the rest of my office later today and all my boxes of work office stuff in going in tomorrow.  Immelda (our cleaning lady) comes tomorrow, so it will be even  better after one of her good cleans.

The trickle down effect is already working.  I feel great about this and seem to have some energy and enthusiasm for the rest of the day.  It's even a dark and drizzly day today.  L and I had some plans to plant some hastas around the yard today, but I think instead we're going to clean up the playroom in the basement.


Saturday, April 9, 2011


It's not often that it's quiet in this house during kid waking hours.  There's always something going on.  I actually don't really like it when the kids are all gone and the house is silent.  I like the hustle and bustle of our rambunctious, busy family.  Tonight I was sitting at the kitchen table finishing up my dinner (Indian takeout yummmm), and M, A and D were playing a silly game around the love seat and sofa table in the family room.  It involved running around in a circle after each other, while wearing slippers on the hardwood floors, and falling and running into each other.  The giggles and screeches of joy were wonderful.  M seemed so relaxed and happy.  I love seeing her like this, acting like a kid again, not an emotional hot wire.  The whole scene made me smile.

They are getting along so well.  Currently, they are all in the basement getting ready for a dance competition and the tunes wafting upstairs  are contagious.  I find myself tapping my foot and nodding my head in rhythm with the music as I type this.

I guess tonight is just one of those nights that everything seems okay.  L is playing I Spy on the computer, E is babysitting for our friends across the street and the other three are happy.  Happy, joyful and safe.  They are all normal kids and for at least a moment the sadness, fear, and anxiety are at bay. 

I love the sounds of our happy house.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Even though I want to keep my blog anonymous, I thought I'd post some pictures of the family to give everyone some reference.

Here's picture of us in the Shenandoah this fall. You can't see L because he was laughing and doing backbends in my arms.  A also doesn't have his eyes open and M is blocking D's head but so far it's the only one we have with all of us together.  Oh well.

Here's a picture of L on that same day.

Here's a picture of my entire family (except for C and S's husbands) at the White House this Christmas. 

Last but not least is a picture of us sisters at S's wedding a few years back.  C, then Jeanne, S, CA and then me.  Can you see the family resemblance?  We were so happy that night. 

I miss you Zhea (our nickname for Jeanne).

On Clutter

Every other Wednesday the lovely Immelda and her assistant descend upon our house and do all the deep cleaning that's needed.  I usually try to tidy up a bit before she comes to make it easier for her to clean (and not to embarrass myself too much).  I go to the office that day, so it's always nice to come home after school and have cleared counters, made beds and sparkling bathrooms.  Inevitably, the floors get dirty again, school papers and mail pile up on the counters and random pairs of shoes scatter the house, but for those first few hours it's heaven.

I've been thinking a lot today about clutter both internal and external.  Around the house, I know we'd all feel better if the house was more organized.  My office/family computer room is a mess.  Snow boots, pants and gloves are still piled up on the floor in there.  Boxes from my office at work are still on the floor awaiting my eventual lugging in.  My desk itself is cluttered with a giant paper cutter, art work from the boys, random pieces of paper and sadly the huge pile of sympathy cards we received from friends and family.  Don't even get me started on the dining room and living room.  Each have corners piled with papers, random bins (crayons, legos, tech decks, mini football helmets) and totally useless junk that I just can't get organized to dump (seriously, there are 4 giant cans of pineapple juice from E's science fair project in my dining room).

All of our bedrooms are in a similar situation.  D and L's room isn't too bad but it's a constant battle to keep clothes in drawers, toys in bins and those cursed pokemon cards from overtaking the floor.  The girls room really needs more organization.  E has taken over most of the room and is very neat but with limited space and a messy inclination, M's section of the room is a mess.  Their situation is difficult too because they have a small closet that is again dominated by E.  Our room is huge and an absolute nightmare.  We actually have a lovely sitting room off our room with built-in bookshelves and it is currently piled with dusty books, the litter box, an old couch, my scrap booking stuff and wrapping paper everywhere.  I can't write about my's too depressing.  The basement, both play areas and the storage are messy.  The garage is a disaster.

I had these grand plans about how organized  I was going to be before the girls moved in.  Now granted, we did have to organize enough to move bedrooms, make enough space in the storage area, and room in the garage for their bikes, etc., but the vision in my well-intentioned head, definitely does not reflect reality. I make excuses as to why it is this way....  1.  I'm too busy (true but the hour I spend watching Top Chef could be used to clean up my office).  2.  We just have too much junk (true, but we also kinda like our junk and I can't imagine myself tossing any of the books or toys--materialistic maybe, but honest).  3.  The kids should do more around the house to keep their own spaces clean, etc. (again, true but it would take effort to organize them all).

The thing is, I think this physical clutter is also effecting my mental and emotional clutter.  I really think that if our living space had more organization it would trickle down in other areas.  I'd be a little calmer and maybe not always be panicked about what I'm not doing when I'm laying on the couch watching The Real Housewives on Bravo (did I really just admit that?!?).  Maybe I wouldn't always be worried about what E thinks about our messy house and constantly feel compared to her mom who was known to vacuum at 6am while vacationing at the beach.  Maybe it would have a calming effect on all the kids and reduce some of the tension..  From what I've been reading, organization would definitely help M.

So here's the catch.  There is just so much to do, I feel paralyzed.  I practically don't have that much time or energy.  It would probably also mean a little financial investment on bins, shelving, etc. which is not going to go over too well with the hubby given the expense of the girls and the fact that he works for the federal government and may not get paid.  We also as a larger family have to clean out my sister's house before the renters move in at the end of June (another long post of that later...ugh, to say the least).

So, any suggestions are welcome.  How can I jump start some spring cleaning around here?  Do you think your physical space affects your mental state?  Do you have any organizational tips that might inspire to get my rear out of gear?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I constantly feel judged.  Judged by the girls about our house, my parenting, the boys, my cooking, etc.  Sometimes it feels like I'm living with Jeanne who was quite judgemental.  I feel judged by the outside world about whether or not we're doing right by the girls.

I feel particularly judged by my family.  It goes back to the days after the accident.  The night of the accident and the days that followed, K and I made the conscious decision to have at least one of us with the boys at all times if possible.  I told K to stay with the boys the night of the accident, because frankly what was he going to do at the hospital and I wanted the boys, who were distraught over the deaths of their aunt and uncle, to have the security of one parent.  It made the most sense that I spent more time at the house with the girls and K stay with the boys.  We brought the boys along when it made sense but for the most part we tried to give them a break from the tension, sadness and stress at my sister's house.  But, my family just didn't understand this and resented K for not being around.  None of them have said it flat out, but insinuations have abounded.  Financial decisions were made with my two younger brother-in-laws who have no experience doing financial planning for a family.  Decisions were made about the fate of the girls behind closed doors without any input from us. 

While we did as much as we could to be there and care for the girls (I practically lived there and was running myself ragged), we still had to focus on 3 little boys who were in distress.  D was wetting the bed, and having diarrhea accidents in his pants.  A refused to eat until I got home at night.  L was clinging to me and making me carry him around like he was a baby again.  None of them wanted to ride in cars.  They were frantic about M's well being.  Nobody cared about this.  Nobody understood how this terrible tragedy was affecting our children who were old enough to understand what was happening.  Of course the focus had to be on the girls and their horrible loss and physical and emotional injuries.  But nobody in my family could understand how torn I was in trying to be there for the girls, but also taking care of my first priority, my little boys.  K was the lynch pin in allowing me to be there to bring the girls to doctor appointments, make dinner, and schedule grief counselling.  But the resentment settled in and my sisters resented K for not always being around and for my need to, at some point, draw the line for how much time I could really give.

Then we had the first meeting with the social worker from Catholic Charities.  I can't even drive by their offices without having my heart drop into my stomach.  K and I walked into the first meeting with the understanding that no decision was made.  We walked into that conference room with open hearts to offer to take the girls, but with practical concerns about anyone taking all four girls.  The decision was already made.  My sister C and her husband DG were going to take the girls and move into their house with a new addition to accommodate the girls and their 3 children.  My parents stated out loud that they felt C and DG were a better choice.  My sister CA took the cake by saying she felt that C and DG were better disposed to do it and our family was too "boy oriented."  K voiced his reservations, with tears in his eyes and voice cracking, that nobody else in the room knew what it was like to take care of kids in school and sports.  The age distribution for us also made so much more sense given their kid's ages (3 year old twins and a 1 year old at the time).  We also had pretty strong feelings about E and M being with us.  We felt completely blindsided.  Plans were already being drawn up for the house.  C was made the girls' temporary guardian.  When the White House called for the girls to come and watch a movie with the first couple, it was decided C and DG would bring them.  I looked back and realized that the signs were all laid out.  I was so busy basically running two households I couldn't see what was obvious.  Further conversations with my sister CA, included outright attacks on my marriage, our children, and our apparent inadequacy.  It was awful.

But rather than fight the decision, we let it go.  We continued to help where we could.  We helped the girls move into C's house while the other house was supposed to be remodeled.  Starting on day 2, the inevitable occurred and I began my daily listening job as C and DG railed about how horrible the girls were, how impossible it was to take care of the 7 kids and how difficult it was to have to get so much help from the rest of the family.  We never said I told you so.  We waited and opened our door to E and M when they were repeatedly dropped on our doorstep when things got too crazy over at C's house.

They put out the white flag after about 1.5 months (even though the signs were there from the first week).  We again put out our offer to take E and M, now knowing that us taking all four kids wouldn't work either.  At one point, it was so bad KT moved in with sister S.  Once again, we trooped back into the conference room at Catholic Charities and this time we listened to condescending speeches from CA and her partner KM about how they were willing to take all four girls and move into the family home.  K and I had serious reservations about this, but again we wanted to keep the girls together and if this would work, why not?  We transitioned the girls for about 3 weeks before they moved back home.  E and M were absolutely distraught.  M almost threw up when she was told.  Once again, adults in their lives were leaving.  The CA and KM period lasted less than 48 hours.  She gave up and had a complete mental breakdown.  At this point, Dr. L stepped in and convinced us to stabilize the girls, get them the therapy they needed and let us all find some respite before making another decision.

Through the work with Dr. L, I stuck to my guns.  I stood up for E and M.  While I still hoped CA and S would step up to take the girls still, in order to keep our family intact, I was tired about listening to how hard the girls were and everyone talking about them so negatively.  Maybe it was naive, maybe I still regret our decision, but at the time I was prepared to take on the challenge and was happy to have the honor to care for E and M.

So, I've been struggling with this constant feeling of judgement.  Feeling like we're not good enough.  I had this revelation today about it.  A positive thing about all of this is that it's actually helped me be less judgemental about other people.  When S and C start being critical about how CA is taking care of the little girls, I try to stop myself from going down that path and simply say, "she's doing the best she can."  Being judgemental of others, is living in the negativity.  I don't want to be there.  I want to model better behaviour for the girls.  Maybe through all this pain, it's going to help me be a better person, and in turn, help me be a better mom. aunt, wife, sister, daughter and friend.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Good Day, A Very Good Day

I stayed up way too late last night.  I just couldn't get myself to fall asleep.  I was so anxious about today.  We just had so much going on and I didn't know how I was going to get everyone where they needed to go.  I woke up this morning with the now familiar pit in my stomach, worrying about how in the world I was going to get through the day.  I wanted to hide under the covers.  But...

L woke up in a good mood and made me giggle with his commentary as I got dressed this morning.  A was really grumpy but the other kids got up and dressed pretty quickly and we were actually on time for school.  My mother-in-law came over to watch L while I went to therapy and brought along his best buddy cousin J. I smiled as the boys welcomed each other like they hadn't seen each other in years.  Therapy went really well today.  I actually told her about my blogging and how it's helping me to work through a lot of issues. I left her office feeling like I actually have made some progress and had some concrete ways I can talk to my family about how they can both better help us and not continue to make this a bit worse.

The sun was shining today.  The weather was warm and lovely.  After doing a quick shop, I sent Nana on her way while I played with the boys till it was time to get the big kids at school.  We went on a nature walk, threw rocks in the creek and collected flowers.  It was so fun.  Somewhere in there, I managed to get a ride for A, remind K that he had to do the carpool for M's soccer practice AND figure out what to do with dinner even though a large number of us were going to be out of the house around dinner time.

Today, I also arranged for an interview for E for a summer life guarding job at our pool.  She is really excited about it and when I talked to the management company they pretty much said she had the job.  I really think it's going to be a great way to meet new friends in the neighborhood and settle in a bit.

D, L and I set off to his baseball game around 5 and while we waited for the game to start, L and I played at the playground.  He declared at one point, as the wind was picking up a bit, that I should tie a string to his waist so he could "fly in the sky like a kite Mommy!"  Too cute.  While I watched him expertly climb the rock climbing wall and go down the "big kid slide,"  I even read a book on AD/HD that my therapist loaned me to learn more about what we might be up against with M.

D pitched his first inning in baseball tonight.  He loves to pitch with K in the yard, but he had never done it in a game.  He was awesome.  Two strike outs.  Most importantly he looked so happy.  He came home so pumped up.  His joy filled me up to the brim.

The funny things is, we all came home to a bit of craziness.  Homework still needed to be finished up.  M started in on her pretend knee injury.  E pestered me for attention.  L was overtired and whining non-stop.  But, I patiently dealt with all of them.  Got all of them to bed, with clothes picked out for school pictures tomorrow and bags packed.

As I sit here typing this, I feel content.  Strange feeling.  I haven't felt like this in so long.  K and I are joking back and forth as Dancing with the Stars and the basketball championship is in the background.  What is most surprising is that I was so terrified about how I was going to get through the day.  Maybe it was the sun.  Maybe it was my need to see glimpses of hope in my life again.  Knowing things around here, crisis will come barrelling down upon us again tomorrow, but for now I'm going to relish in the moment.  Feelings of peace, happiness and the good kind of tired when you know you've accomplished a lot in the day.  I need to hold on to this.  Savor this and remember it when the inevitable dark clouds come back.

Friday, April 1, 2011

He's Ba-ack!

L finally turned the corner today.  He ate breakfast, and most importantly, started talking again.  His only communication the last 5 days has been grunts, moans and the occasional "yes" or "no" (usually after I asked him yet again if he had to throw up or if he had diarrhea again).  It's so nice to have him back to his usual self again.  He still has a nasty cough and is pretty wiped out, but nothing like what he was during the rest of the week.  We've missed him so much.  I am so thankful for all of the kids, but L in particular really keeps me in the present moment and makes me smile and laugh all day.  He is truly my blessing.

Thanks for all of the well wishes for L!  Thank goodness our L is back.  My mood definitely needed it.

M & M's

Last night M really struggled with her homework.  She cried and cried.  Said she didn't understand.  Yelled at me and disagreed with everything I said.  I tried everything.  Jokes.  Encouragement.  Tough talk.  Nothing worked.  She steadily worked herself into a fit complete with rolling on the floor, pounding fists into the carpet (we were working on the floor in my room).  Eventually I had to give myself a timeout or I was going to lose it.  I left her in the room crying and went downstairs to talk to K. I convinced him to handle bedtime with the boys so I could focus on M.  With a stroke of genius, I decided to come upstairs with a bag of M&M's and see if that would help.  When I walked back in the room, she had calmed down and was attempting to do her social studies.  While she worked, I quietly sorted the candies by color in pairs of two on one of her notebooks.  She slowly started eating a few which led to talking, speaking sensibly again and finally getting all of her work done.  Thank God for M&M's.

Today, I drove M to the center where she's getting therapy for an initial evaluation for learning disabilities, ADHD, etc.  She is seriously struggling academically.  She basically missed 4th grade but beyond that, she has fundamental english, math and reading skills that are missing.  M fundamentally does not understand numbers and their functions.  Basic grammar is often beyond her.  Her grades are atrocious.  She is messy, disorganized, and often rushes through her work just to get it done.  I was very proud of her for speaking honestly about how she's doing in school.  She was so nervous about going.  Frankly, I was really nervous about going.  She starts the actual testing at the end of May.  I'm really glad we're doing this.  It's just so hard to know whether or not her struggles are related to the trauma, depression, anxiety or more serious issues.  I know that getting the information one way or the other is what's best for M and we'll be able to make a plan to help her be more successful.  However....I'm dreading having to deal with it, if she has something like ADHD or other learning issues.  My gut feeling is that there is something more serious going on.  She exhibits other behavior beyond academic tasks that make me wonder how her brain is wired.  Dealing with traumatized M is bad enough, now we might have to tackle even more.  I'm hopeful that in the long run, this assessment will make things easier, but in the first months I know it's going to be difficult.  Furthermore, it's going to be all on my shoulders.  I'd be silly to think that K is really going to help.

Then there's my family.  Everyone has their opinion.  None of them would take M, but of course they all have to pronounce about what they think is wrong with M.  My sister C, with whom M lived for 2 months, doesn't really believe anything is wrong, but that it's all the trauma.  Any talk about M's deficiencies she declares, "but she had no problem doing that kind of work with me last year."  This of course is coming from someone without kids in elementary school and with no real experience doing homework, gauging achievement, etc.  Sister S, a kindergarten/ first grade teacher, also denies a problem and immediately starts to talk about how M is like her when she was in school and she was just too young for her grade.  M has been living with us for 7 months now.  Six of those months have been during the school year.  My sisters, however, constantly have to tell me what they think about M and how they somehow know more than us.  Again, both of these opinions are coming from adults without school age children.  It is extremely irritating and it all goes back to the guilt and strange feelings of jealousy that we took in E and M and neither of them were willing or able to do so. What strains my relationships with my sisters is the underlying resentment on my part that neither of them (particularly S) took the girls, and their guilt and need to stress that they know the girls better or even love them more.  Some of that has gotten better, but it's still there in the background.  I constantly feel judged by them which adds to my stress immensely. It's so complicated.

Then there is my father, who has immendiately pronounced that M has ADHD.  He says it with such authority, but also with a dismissive manner like it's no big deal.  He, of course, doesn't have to live with it.  He also has absolutely no idea what he's talking about.  Again, it's members of my family voicing opinions without really knowing what's going on.  It's so frustrating, intrusive, and inappropriate.  They would never do any of this if it was the boys.  I know that the situation with the girls is different, but it's so hard to try to treat all the kids the same and have the mindset that they are ALL our kids now, yet have my family do things that undermind that. 

Sometimes I think we really bit off more than we can chew.  E and M need so much.  We love them, we really do, but I wonder if in the long run it's going to be enough.  I wonder if I'm going to be enough.  Enough for the girls.  Enough for the boys.  M&M's may help get a night's worth of homework done, but I doubt they'll be able to carry us through.