Monday, June 27, 2011

A Diagnosis

We met with the specialist last Thursday with M to get the results of her testing.  We were all anxious.  M was especially scared.  She thought she was going to finally be told she was stupid.  A feeling she's had for a very long time.  Instead....

...we found out that M is a very bright girl.  Something we've always thought.  Nobody could have such a quick, funny sense of humor and be of below intelligence.  Turns out, M's above average in all four areas of IQ that were tested.  Strangely, also, they were all relatively even, which the doctor said is pretty rare. 

What we did find out, though, was that M has a pretty pronounced learning disability in math.  From doing homework with her, I was relieved to see that I wasn't crazy in my belief that she really didn't "get math."  She is going to get special accommodations at school and extra help.  Yeah!  The doctor was also really good at explaining it to M so she understood what it meant and that it did not mean she was stupid.

Now for the tricky part.  The doctor was on the fence about the ADHD.  She wanted to talk more with us about what might be going on.  Everybody, including M, marked her in the range for an attention issue.  All the adults, however, also highlighted anxiety, emotional issues.  It's hard to know what is causing the attention issues.  We just don't have the history with M and have only parented traumatized M.  We only have a few anecdotal data points from friends of the family and things I remember.  The TOVA test, a computer-based assessment, definitely had her in the ADHD range.  So after a lengthy discussion with us and M, the doctor decided to give her an ADHD not other specified (NOS) diagnosis.  From her perspective, it doesn't really matter why M is inattentive, the help she'll get at school will be the same.  She also recommended we try medication to help with her attention.

I'm relieved.  M looked absolutely relieved.  She knows she's been struggling.  She's been dealing with this her whole life.  I don't think this is something that resulted from her parents death.  If anything, the accident has just highlighted the issues that would have probably been ignored.  Who knows what would have happened to M?  I can only try to help her now and that means doing what the experts recommend, doing research and going with my gut. 

My sisters S and C did not have the same reaction.  S questioned the diagnosis.  Questioned whether or not our school can handle her issues.  She made statements like, "maybe she just had a really bad math teacher in 2nd grade."  She pronounced on it, because she's a teacher and has a degree in special ed.  It was like she was questioning my ability or judgement to raise M and do what's best for her.  Coming from S, it was annoying, infuriating and downright crappy.  Oh, and she asked what I was going to do about the boys, so they won't "tease her."  My sweet boys, who deal with M and her grades and frustrations everyday (especially my tenderhearted A)  would never tease M.  Now, her sister is another story, but my mommy bristles came up hearing her assume my boys were going to make M feel bad.

C declared, "that is so sad...poor M."  Huh?  Sad?  Yes, M is going to have some more challenges academically, but she's been dealing with this for a long time.  She is finally going to get help.  She was told how bright and smart she is.  She was told she isn't stupid.  Her brain just isn't wired the same as other people.  We can do things to help her.  Medication isn't the end of the world.  C caught herself at one point, but not before she brought up horror stories of kids on medication.  We haven't even been to her pediatrician yet, and our judgement is being questioned.  Frankly, it sucked.

All I know is we are going to do what we think is best for M.  We stood up for her.  My sisters didn't. We are her family and all of us, including the boys, are going to help M.  I didn't think of this as a step backwards, but a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Too Much

Today has been a day of too much.  Too much work.  Too much whining.  Too much responsibility.  Just plain too much.  Today should have been an easy day on paper in comparison to what we've been dealing with logistically in the last few months.  But it became a day of short tempers complaints from E, fake ailments from M with their accompanying whines, the boys getting ignored, and me completely overwhelmed by the demands of the girls.  They have been completely awful today.  Of course there is an explanation.  Father's day was Sunday.  Moreover, we had their sisters and CA over this morning for a play date.  It's hard on me seeing them with CA.  I can only imagine what it must be like for E and M.

I know dealing with these difficult days is part of the gig.  I know we are going to continue to have them for years to come.  I just didn't have the energy to deal with it today.  The emotional aspect of this situation is so draining.  There is just one of me.  Today I needed a team of nannies, cooks, therapists, house cleaners and personal assistants.  Winning the lottery would also be nice.  Sigh.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Can We Just Catch a Break?

So tonight C and I headed over to the Jeanne's house to say goodbye.  S was supposed to come with us, but bailed at the last minute.  She used the excuse that she had to finish cleaning out her classroom, but I really think she just didn't want to.  Lately I feel like she just wants to move on and not think about anything sad.  Understandable.

C and I left E with all eight kids happily eating dinner at our house waiting for K to come home.  We randomly stopped at Chipotle for dinner because we couldn't think of anything else.  We actually spent the entire ride there venting about our frustrations with CA and her care for the girls.  As we pulled up to the house, both our stomachs dropped as we saw cars with NY license plates in the driveway.  The renters.  They weren't supposed to move in till Wednesday.  Turns out the property manager walked them through the house today and gave them the keys.  First, we just sat in the car in front and cried.  We turned around and thought about leaving, but I couldn't.  We had done too much to get things arranged with the kids to not get to say good bye.  We finally walked up the driveway, their kids ran out and eventually the dad walked out and we explained with choked up voices why we were there.  They couldn't have been nicer, but it was totally awkward.  They left us at the house so they could walk to the pool and check out the swim meet.  It was awful.

We went inside and cried and cried and walked through rooms.  It was so not what I envisioned this night to be. It lasted all of 7 minutes. I wanted to sit and eat, laughing and talking about our times there.  I wanted the time and peace to say goodbye.  Instead we felt like strangers invading the renters home.  It was just another reminder that life isn't fair and best laid plans just don't work out.  Nothing in this situation is fair.  We can't even say good bye on our own terms.

We ended up heading over to the lake next to their neighborhood, sitting on a bench, crying and venting more about CA.  We rehashed, yet again, our decision about the little girls and what we could have done differently.  Not very healthy. 

So yet again, we were reminded about how awful this still is for our family and how much we sometimes feel so stuck in our grief.  I just wish for once something went our way and we could have had the moment we wanted as sisters.  At least a little bit of closure with the house.  Oh well, sometimes life just sucks.

Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is a bit of a blessing and a curse.  Blessings come in the form of not having to get everyone up early for school and getting to sleep in a bit, no lunches to be made the night before, no homework to oversee, and overall less stressed kids.  The only sports we really have going on is E's swimming and both of the girls on the neighborhood swim team (this involves lots of events social and swimming).  But in general, we don't have the daily logistics nightmare of how to get everyone where they need to be and making sure everything gets done that is supposed to.

On the flip side...Everyone.  Is.  Home.  Despite plenty of toys and distractions in our house, everyone has declared at least once today that they are bored.  They are together all day which increases the likelihood that someone will look, point, touch, breath or otherwise annoy the other.  Our house that is already a mess gets messier by the minute as they move from room to room like little whirling dervishes (yes, I did just refer to my kids as dervishes).  I have also gotten a full dose of non-stop teenage angst today.  Nothing has gone right for E and it is seemingly my fault.  While I've gotten better at not taking her moods and verbal attacks personally, they are no less annoying.

I'm hoping that we're just in our growing pains with a new schedule change.  The boys have a skateboard camp coming up and morning swim with the girls will give the boys and I a little break in the morning to chill.  E will settle into her regular life guarding schedule and hopefully be too busy to complain to much.  We also haven't started M's tutoring which should keep her busy.  Having two more people to corral through summer is just a bit overwhelming.


We had two little breakthroughs last week.  First, L referred to M as his "sister" to a parent on A's soccer team.  I thought this was huge.  He's working out for himself how all this new family thing works.  M is his cousin, but living with us makes her part of our family and his sister.  It really made me feel good.

Second, E commented on the dog next door always coming into "our yard."  This is the first time she has referred to our house as "ours."  It may seem minor, but to me it was a step in the right direction even if it's a small one.


Tonight, C, S and I are going to have dinner for the last time over at Jeanne and Mike's house.  We're going to grab take-out from somewhere, sit on the deck, cry and say good-bye to a house that has meant so much to our family.  We have so many wonderful memories.  I think this is an important thing for us to do.  Be together and grieve together.  I was thinking about going by myself and it seemed so depressing.  I want to cry to with them and share this moment together.

The renters move in on Wednesday.  Ugh.


Our house is an absolute mess.  I still haven't put all the girls' stuff away.  School stuff is still piled up on counters.  The never ending piles of laundry are everywhere.  I wish I could snap my fingers and the organization fairy would do his/her magic.  I look at magazines and read websites of organizational tips, but I simply don't have time to get everything done.


Overall, things are still the same.  The kids are getting fed, looked after and overall taken care of.  My sister is still dead.  It still sucks.  But, summer vacation brings pool fun, Hilton Head, the Outer Banks, trips to amusement parks, smores, fireflies, water fights and sleep overs.  I'm sure I'll still be ready for all of them to get back to school this fall, but for now it's nice to slow down a bit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Good Boy

In all of our chaos and with his particular brand of annoying behavior, I sometimes forget what a great kid D is.  Today is our last day of school.  Unsolicited last night, D made "paper plate" awards for everyone in his class.  D decorated each plate with individualized awards and pictures.  For example, "Best Math Master," "Lover of NY sports teams," and my favorite "Best Teacher Ever."  It was adorable and so sweet.  I am very proud to be his mommy.

p.s. he gave himself the "Best British Accent" award which I have to say is quite accurate given the fact that my in-laws are British.  I think he should have gotten the "Best Boy in the World" award.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Fury Within

Spend all you time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay.

There's always some reason
To feel not good enough
And it's hard at the end of the day
-Sarah Mclaughlin, "In the Arms of an Angel"

I am finding myself more and more losing my temper at the kids.  This is something really hard to admit.  It sometimes seems like my temper can turn in a split second. It seems to be worse in the morning and bedtime. L and D often get the brunt end of things.  I don't want to be this kind of mom.  I don't want the kids to wonder what is going to set me off.  I don't like to hear L ask me after I've snapped at him about hurrying up to get in the car, "Do you still like me?"  I don't him or any of them to ever be scared of me and my harsh words.

Tonight, M was on the receiving end.  M had spent the evening over at a friend's house down the street.  The boys and I had a lovely evening playing soccer in the backyard and watching some Animal Planet.  We were relaxed and enjoying each other's company.  E came down through some of this and added to the fun atmosphere.  M came in and simply verbally attacked E.  Her MO is to pull E to doing something sweet and then quickly turning on her and declaring her mean.  Tears usually follow.  We've talked about this in therapy but nothing seems to be helping.  She is so angry and seems to be taking it out on E.  I try not to take sides but in this case, she was in the wrong and I had just had it.  I yelled at her to stop, told her to get up, get her jammies on and just go to bed.  I didn't go up to tuck her in and say goodnight.  About 20 minutes later, I snapped at L and D and sent them to bed sniffling and probably wondering what they had done.  As usual, quiet A, put himself to bed and I honestly forgot to go up to him.  At that moment, I needed them all to go to bed and give me a break.

I hold in this inner rage all day.  I am so angry at everything.  God.  K. Life.  Jeanne and Mike (that's rational I know).  My family.  When I snap at one of the kids or K, I almost feel a physical relief.  A voice inside of me tells me to stop, but I often can't help it.  Moments later, the remorse comes and I bury the anger once more until it comes to the surface again.  I've always had a bit of a temper, but it's getting worse.

Stress, tiredness, and grief are all the usual suspects for the cause.  It doesn't get me off the hook though.  As I reflect on things at the end of the day, I often wish I had a rewind button or a "do-over" like when we played baseball when I was little.  This only adds to my feelings of inadequacy to handle this situation.  When push comes to shove, I really don't feel like I'm doing a good job.  I know I can be better.  I just don't know how to get there.

 I am so tired.  I feel like I'm stuck in a loop and can't get off the ride to do a reboot.  I don't know how to find the time for myself during the day to decompress.  My only time to myself is usually at 10pm and that's usually filled with work or laundry.  I feel so stuck.

I wish the "arms of an angel" could sweep me away during these moments of anger. I don't know what I'm looking for...a spiritual support, a feeling that there is a bigger purpose in all of this hell I'm in, human appreciation from my family and K?  Perhaps all of these things?

For some reason this song from Sarah Mcglaughlin was stuck in my head all day.  Maybe it's the feeling of helplessness with a touch of hope.  I need to have faith that I can do better.  I don't want to be this angry person.  Our family deserves more.

Friday, June 10, 2011


I don't have the focus for a coherent post, so here are a few random things...

1.  Emotionally the beginning of the week was tough on everyone.  The girls were on edge.  I was just sad.  The boys especially are sensitive to my moods.  Emptying the house was simply depressing.  What was equally depressing was that my dad decided to dump all of the girls' possessions that we're storing here in one day.  I had wanted to do it in shifts to make the move a little less daunting.  He was so anxious and frantic to get things cleared out he even dumped a small trashcan in our living room complete with an empty Gatorade bottle and random phone.  We hadn't had time to put away the stuff we had already brought over, so my living room is piled with stuff.  Our front porch was filled with skis, boogie boards and camping equipment until I grabbed A and moved them.  Until we were able to make a dent Wednesday night it was a constant physical reminder of the clean-up.  I know it made the girls upset.

2.  I had to go to Elizabeth City, NC yesterday for work.  We made the drive there and back in a day.  Work-wise the meeting went well and it felt good professionally.  It was an extremely long day.   I got home to a myriad of complaints...D didn't get breakfast or dinner, E didn't like the dinner, M had a bad day, and K was absolutely exhausted because shockingly he had to take care the kids by himself for a few hours.  That last part was comical.  I'm hoping a glimpse into a small sliver of my world will make him a little more understanding and appreciative.  I'm not crossing my fingers.

3.  Tonight I played in A's parent versus kid soccer scrimmage.  I was too fun.  It's always just good having a ball at my feet.  I didn't play very seriously, but it was still fun.  I need to make more of an effort to play, even if it's just knocking the ball against our kickback in the backyard.  I need the joy that playing brings me.  Frankly, I probably just need the endorphins.  It is hard to find the time.

4.  We actually have a pretty light weekend.  Tomorrow we have D's last baseball game and he has his team party.  He's going to go with another family because we're hosting A's end of the year team party at our house.  I have a lot to do to get the house ready, but I'm not too stressed about it.  CA is coming to pick up the girls to spend the day with their sisters.  On Sunday, M has time trials for swimming, E has a swim meet and M has a soccer game at noon, but the boys have nothing.  Still sounds a little busy, but actually given the pace we've been keeping, it's not too bad.  I might even take a nap Sunday afternoon.

5.  I'm back to not sleeping and eating. There are lots of reasons.  I'm thinking it's because of the stress of the move.  The end of the school year is also always hard.  We had M's final testing done this week for ADD/learning disabilities.  We'll get the results in two weeks.  I'm anxious about hearing the results.  I'm hoping therapy will continue to help.  I actually didn't have it this week since she's out of town.  It's just been a week of lots of triggers.  Physically this manifests itself in not eating or sleeping. I know I need to work on this. 

6.  Some good things:
  • On the way home yesterday, we stopped in Williamsburg and got bread ends and house dressing from the Cheese Shop.  It was pure bliss and everyone in the house was thrilled.
  • A has been really cute and funny all week.  He is such a great kid. I'm really lucky to be his mom.
  • Work really did go well and I was glad I did a good job.
  • I started a new mystery series last week and am really really enjoying it.
Just a brief wrap-up on what's going on.  I'm hoping to write more and maybe post some more pictures.  It's hard to find time.  It's hard to carve out space for myself.  This blog has given me so much, and I want to make sure I always find the time for it.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Today I was at the girls' house trying to organize the stuff we still need to bring home to our house.  I randomly was going through a box of Jeanne's things when I found a framed picture of Jeanne, Mike, K and I.  It was at the Weeping Radish German brew pub in the Outer Banks, NC.  We all have huge smiles and a beer in our hands.  Mike has his arm around me.  I immediately started sobbing. 

I have no idea why these moments of grief still sneak up on me.  Being in their house is still so hard, yet comforting at the same time.  It's empty of most things now, but it still feels like them.

The picture is now on our mantel.  I hope I can look at it one day without crying.  The strange thing about grief is that I long for the time that I can see pictures, think of them without the tears, but at the same time I don't want to get to the point that it doesn't hurt.  I don't want to forget them.  I want them to know how much we miss them and are devastated by their death.  Not just because of how this has effected the girls, but how much we miss them as individuals.

I just miss Jeanne.  I want her back.  I want my sister.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Glass Half Full

So my last few posts have been really depressing. Unfortunately, that's just where I am in life these days.  I'm really struggling and am the first to admit it.  However, a wise blogger (thanks Rach) always posts positive things that have happened to her that day as a way to be reminded of the joy in her life.  I thought I'd try that tonight.  So here it goes....

1.  Tonight D and I played a game of chess before he went to bed.  I was honestly trying to win and had him completely pinned when out of nowhere he took my king with a pawn.  We both burst out laughing.  I was totally concentrating on offense.  He was totally concentrating on defense and we both ignored his pawn sitting right next to my king.  Laughing and focusing just on D was lovely.

2.  A's leopard gecko that has gout ate all his crickets today.  Yes, you read that right, we have a gecko with gout.  We've been worried about him since he didn't eat very well last week and a second joint has started to swell up (symptom of gout).  A and I were both really happy to see him a little bit more back to normal.

3.  I walked in from work/school pick up today to see L on the floor playing Zingo with Nana.  It was ridiculously sweet to see him having such fun with his grandmother.  I am so thankful that the boys have a great relationship with her.  We are all very blessed to have her in our lives.   She also brought some fresh peaches from North Carolina which are yummy.

4.  M and I had a great therapy session today.  After a really bad fight with E before we left, I asked her therapist if I could sit in for the beginning of the session to talk about it  While I know it was hard on M to talk about her feelings, it was really good to hear how she's really feeling and I hope I reassured her about how much I love her and that she can trust me.  It really helps to get these little insights into her mind to understand about how I can help her.  She is also having her ADD/learning disability testing this week which also gives me hope for finding more ways to support her.

5.  C and I are having lunch tomorrow with a dear, old friend JB.  I always enjoy spending time with him.  He is funny, smart and has dealt with a huge tragedy in his life (his wife committed suicide almost 4 years ago when their autistic son was two). He and I have really good heartfelt talks.  He just gets it.

6.  E has a possible slumber party with her elementary school friends on Friday night which is good for all of us.  We get a break from her intensity and she gets to have some fun.  Win-win all around.

7.  M is really enjoying the neighborhood swim team.  It is so nice to see her laughing and having fun with new friends.  She and A have also been hilarious together the last few days.  Their special relationship is always a reaffirmation that she belongs with us.

8.  While typing this, I'm watching Top Chef Masters.  My adorable cat Oreo is curled up next me.  A great book is waiting for me upstairs to read before I hopefully fall asleep tonight.  I have tons of other things I should probably be doing, but you know what, tonight I'm just not.  I'm taking an hour or two just to relax.

9.  I've gotten some great support and advice from the Internet the last few days.  Comments brought tears to my eyes as I felt that somebody (or several somebodies) were listening and cared.  Starting this blog has been a Godsend.

10.  We are all safe, healthy and together.  For now that just has to be enough.

Apples and Oranges

Relationship, noun. the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected.

In my professional career, I'm known for being able to tackle a subject, problem, or task and define it in clear terms.  The latest buzz-word for this is "systems analysis," but I've also done it under the guise of "building ontologies," "relational database design," "information management," or the dreaded "business process engineering."  I'm a stickler for arranging information in its right "bins" and am regularly declaring at meetings that we need to make sure we've got "apples with apples and oranges with oranges."  I'm not an IT person in the least, but I like to collect, analyze and present information in a logical manner and try to understand the relationships between objects, terms, or ideas on my tasks.  It's kinda become my niche and I'm good at it.

I've been thinking a lot about the relationships in my life and my role in them.  I'm a daughter, mom, sister, wife, aunt, daughter-in-law, co-worker, friend.  For each of these myriad of relationships I have different expectations for myself and others.  Those expectations are based on the type of connection I have with that person.  I've been thinking a lot about whether or not those expectations either on my side or the other are realistic.  In my head, I've defined for myself what I want to be as a mother (and aunt).  I always feel like I'm falling short.  I have these romantic images of what I want our days to be like....fresh cooked, healthy meals on the table every night, calm bedtime routines, books to be read, games to be played, kind words and giggles wafting through the air, a tranquility and peaceful vibe.  I place the responsibility to achieve this fully on my shoulders.  But what about the other people in this relationship?  Not that I think that the kids should be perfectly behaved little robots, but I think I've been giving them a little too much slack given their difficult circumstances. They could definitely contribute to some of the peace by listening a little better and helping out a little more.

My relationship with my parents, especially my dad, is really complicated.  I'm a grown women with my own family and professional career.  Since taking E and M in our family the boundaries have blurred for my dad.  I'm not used to having him question my every move as a parent, homeowner, etc.  He even had to comment on the new computer purchase yesterday.  "Why didn't you get a Mac?"  What's difficult is that I want them to back off and give us some space and respect, but at the same time I need my mommy and daddy too.  I need them to cheer me on, hold me up when I need it, worry about me and not just the girls.  I know he is trying to help the only way he knows how.  I could just use less of the anxious grandparents and more of the plain mom and dad.  I'm trying to remember that they are grieving parents.

I expect my sisters to be the kind of sister I think I am.  I'm an orange and I expect them to be oranges too.  Maybe they are just apples and that is just the way they are.  Losing Jeanne shifted all of our longstanding relationships as sisters or in some ways revealed underlying issues that would have most likely remained hidden if the accident never happened.  I'm constantly struggling between wanting our relationships to improve and evolve or just accepting them the way they are.  Is is better to raise issues of resentment, hurt and neglect with S or just let them go and accept that S is who she is and never going to change?  Do I call out CA for all of her lying or learn to just live with it?  Which is more useful, working on me and how I react to them or address the issues head on with them, which may only lead to more hurt and distance between us?  When the boys try to blame others or make excuses for a bad behavior, I always tell them that they can only control what they do and not what others do or say.  Shouldn't it apply to adults too?

I have good friends.  I know that I do.  Things have shifted with many of my friendships.  Some have dropped away, unsure about how to handle us.  Others have stepped up in amazing ways.  I often worry that I vent to much to my friends and the conversation always goes back to our life and challenges.  I have made a point of starting off conversations asking about their life, kids, etc.  Not making it all about me.  I'm not sure how successful I am.  Some people focus solely on the girls and ask intrusive questions about their feelings, etc. (my sister-in-law being the worst).  I guess I'm still figuring out how to navigate the bigger world while treading water in this ocean of grief and anxiety.

My current problems with K epitomize this struggle.  I want him to be more.  I want him to change.  K sits on the couch watching baseball during bedtime because I let him.  I end up doing it all and then resent him for not stepping in.  That's not really fair to both of us.  I'm trying to remember that he is dealing with all of the change too.  I can't expect him to respond exactly the way I want him to.  I can imagine he wishes I would go back to the old Peg...less stressed, less tired, happier.  I know he worries about the boys.  I think it's easier for him to try to ignore it's all happening.  He didn't ask for this.  I know he wishes I was more too...stronger, more capable, more patient, calmer.  I keep thinking about the "for better or for worse" lines in our marriage vows.  I think we're both tired of the "for worse."

Lastly, my relationship with God is non-existent right now.  Yes, I go to church.  Yes, our kids all go to Catholic school.  We say grace before dinner.  I receive communion.  I talk to L about heaven and God.  But I'm just going through the motions.  I feel spiritually lost.  At the time when I thought my faith was supposed to sustain me, I find myself yearning for meaning, peace, truth and only finding a void.  I suppose I expected feelings of comfort.  A clear explanation about why bad things happen.  Nothing.  I wish with all of my heart for something.  Maybe it's there and I'm just not ready or able to see or feel it.  Regardless, I feel spiritually adrift.

I wish I could apply my professional skills to my life right now.  I wish all of my relationships fit into a nice analytic hierarchy that I could rely on to steer me through this crazy life.  Right now I'm just trying to juggle the entire fruit basket and not sure it's working too well.