Friday, December 28, 2012

Getting Through

I struggled to get into the Christmas spirit this year.  I tried.  And then I tried some more, it just never came.  I felt like I was just going through the motions without ever feeling the love and joy that comes with this time of year.  I normally love Christmas.

Decorations were put up.  Pageants were attended. Annual traditions were carried out. Presents were bought and wrapped.  The Christmas card actually got out before Christmas day (with a few stragglers still needed to be sent). 

I even wanted to write an upbeat Christmas post here, but it somehow seemed too false for a space that I can be totally honest with my feelings and thoughts.  I was painfully jealous of all the happy posts I read in my regular blogs.  Fa la freaking la repeatedly passed through my mind (often with another F word inserted).

For the most part, the kids did have a great time and we're still only half way through Christmas vacation.  The boys, especially A, were so appreciative of all their gifts and really sweet.  The girls were, well, the girls.  They are definitely their parents' children and never seem quite pleased with what they got and like to point out what the didn't get (Jeanne used to do that every year).  We tend to give them a break because of their circumstances, but it's still obnoxious and not behavior we want modeled for the boys, especially L.

The fact of the matter is Jeanne and Mike aren't here and that's what is really missing.  Holidays highlight all of the ways our family is still broken.  Seeing the little girls with CA is especially awful.  I don't think I'm ever going to be okay with it. 

We all cling to the traditions we have always had as a family...Christmas Eve mass at my parents' church with dinner back at our house (used to be a Jeanne's)...opening presents at my folks' Christmas morning with the same jokes by the brother-in-laws with coffee cake and sausage breakfast bake.  The problem is, that doing the same things only emphasize who's not there and how the pieces of our greater family are scrambled.

So I've spent the last week just getting through. Dealing with the girls has required an enormous amount of patience. At the same time, I've tried hard to be present for the boys and fake some Christmas joy and fun.

Common wisdom says that time heals all things.  Three years out, I don't think we're ever going to "get over" losing Jeanne and Mike and the impact it's had on our family and relationships.  I think the best we can do is keep moving forward and learn to live in our new reality with as much love and joy we can muster.  It's harder to do this on some days and unfortunately that still tends to be holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No Words

I have struggled to think about how I might write about the events in Connecticut.  My thoughts are jumbled in my mind and heart.

I was struck by people's comments about the shock of this happening in such an idyllic, suburban location.  Personally, I'd still be in shock if this happened in Chicago, Dallas or Kigali.

My eyes filled with tears last night at our school's Christmas pageant.  I hid them behind the lens of our camera as I filmed my 5 year old angel singing his little heart out, with his cousins as two adorable sheep a few rows over. I feel guilty crying about it when I know that my five are safe.

I kept it from the kids as much as possible.  I talked to each of the big kids individually about it and didn't say anything to L.  I let them lead the discussions.  They mostly asked the question I can't answer.  Why?

We don't have guns in our house.  We don't play with fake guns.  We don't have any first person violent video games in our house and never will.

Friday made me realize, however, that none of that matters.  Bad things can still happen.  Sigh.

My heart is heavy for all of the families effected...those grieving, those who survived and the valiant first responders who had to face the bloodshed and act with dispassion and compassion at the same time.

I guess I do have some words. Unfortunately, none of them seem adequate to describe the horror that occurred in that school.

Friday, December 7, 2012

December Dump

Yes, this title would make all of the boys (including the 43 year old) giggle, but I couldn't think of anything else.  Anyway...

A very busy last 2 weeks has kept my fingers away from the keyboard (at least for blogging).  I wanted to take a few minutes today to jot some things down before I forget.  Not inspired blogging, but in the interest of keeping the story going...

1.  Last weekend K and I went down to Naples, FL for a brief respite.  It was wonderful.  Weather was perfect, accommodations were stellar and we did absolutely nothing but sleeping, reading, eating and walking the beach.  K did golf on Sunday morning, but that was the most energy we expended.  Back on the homestead, unfortunately, things did not go as well.  My mother-in-law stayed with the kids and although we had a light weekend in terms of activities, a lot of craziness ensued.  Some of the problems included D getting left home from dinner on Saturday night and L getting picked up from a birthday party late (for a party that an adult should have stayed with him anyway).  D called us sobbing multiple times during the weekend and the texts from E were pretty much non-stop.  One can leave the stress behind geographically, but unfortunately cell phones make it hard to leave it behind completely.

2. The car saga with E continues.  Last night, she parked illegally at therapy and got the car towed. Moreover, her best friend inadvertently outed her in a lie when she told her mom she saw E with the silly swim boy in a location she was not supposed to be.  When confronted both girls denied it and now we're completely unsure what to think.  I knew from the beginning she was lying about something, but I just couldn't put my finger on it and she wouldn't admit to any wrongdoing. On the good side, she knows that she's lying and is the type of person that will suffer under her own guilt.  She is already on limited driving because of the accident (school and practice only). Ahhh, teenagers. Such fun. 

3. I am woefully behind on Christmas shopping and preparation.  I did get the outside lights and decorations up this week on an unseasonably warm day.  K can't go up ladders so it was up to me to get things done.  I'm trying to get in the holiday spirit, but fatigue is hampering the fa la la a bit.

4.  K is doing fine.  His numbers have been off the last two checks and although the doctor isn't concerned it still freaks me out.  The biggest impact I've noticed though is his overall energy level.  He is really wiped out at the end of the day.  I'm not sure if it's the medicine or the damage to his lungs.  It continues to be disconcerting and a worry in the back of my mind.

5.  My relationship with my parents has been very strained lately.  In their mourning of Jeanne, they have focused solely on E and M. Not only are boundaries blurred in terms of parenting and respect, but my dad can't see me or K without bringing up something related to the guardianship accounts, the trust, the house, the new tombstone, etc.  It gets really old. As a family, we are so much more that just the girls and their grief.  The boys continue to get ignored.  If the girls didn't live with us, it really wouldn't bother me that much, but the disparity is glaring directly in front of the boys and they notice. It's also not what's best for the girls in our efforts to treat them as normal children in our family. My parents bring dinner over on Wednesdays (our busiest day) which is great, but the anxiety and stress they add to our house just isn't worth it. 

E's got a big swim meet this weekend which means lots of sitting around to watch 60 seconds of swimming.  I've got some posts swirling around my head and I'm hoping to get some of them actually down on paper (or screen).  Maybe the chlorine fumes will help.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Birthdays and Thanksgiving

So this year Thanksgiving fell on my birthday.  I actually like when this happens because I get to see the people I love.

My present to myself was sleeping in.  The last 1.5 hours of that I wasn't really sleeping.  I stayed buried in my covers with my eyes closed and stayed on the edges of sleep and consciousness. Lovely.

I came downstairs to coffee, donuts and the Macy's day parade.  I stayed in my jammies and peeled 9 lbs of potatoes with giant balloons and bad lip syncing in the background.  I happily opened a new pair of running shoes, the new barefoot contessa cookbook and Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.  M made me a cute card on the computer with pictures of all the things I love.  The last page was a picture of all of us in Hilton Head. Very sweet.

Around 2 we headed over to K's folks to hang out a bit with his siblings.  His Uncle Philip was visiting from England and it's always nice to see him.  It was a fun afternoon and all the kids had a blast playing with the cousins.

We headed over to my parents in time for the start of the Skins game.  Again, the cousins all had fun running around outside together while the adults watched the game and got dinner ready.  My 96 year old grandfather was there so we all took turns sitting next to him and keeping him company.  Dinner was good and and my 9 lbs of mashed potatoes were well received.

The weather on "black Friday" was absolutely lovely and we spent the morning raking leaves together as a family.  I dropped A off at a skate park in the afternoon while I got my hair cut and colored.  My sisters S and C brought me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday that night and surprised me with some lovely presents.

We also celebrated K's father's 70th birthday this weekend with the whole family.  We had an adult-only dinner in Georgetown Saturday night and a family brunch with all the kids after mass on Sunday.

Yes, we had our normal kid drama.  Yes, there were annoying political conversations (arguments) among K's siblings.  Yes, my sister-in-law with marital problems was a mess.  Yes, CA and KM were absolutely annoying and hard to deal with on Thanksgiving.

But, yes it was a wonderful 4 days of family, love and fun.  A nice little respite from the normal crazy.

Yes!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lessons

Part of my job is that I work within the Center for Response and Security Lessons Learned.  We do research on issues that can be gleaned from all kinds of incidents such as terrorist attacks or hurricanes. In our house this morning we all learned a bunch of lessons. 

E got in a minor car accident just outside of our neighborhood.  She's fine, the other driver is fine.  Not too much damage on either car.  She admitted it was totally her fault.  She was tired and wasn't paying attention.  Lots of tears and embarrassment that she made a mistake.

Here's what we learned:

1.  Hopefully E is going to learn that she has to be more careful.  We are not setting these boundaries and rules with her driving to be jerks or to assert our power.  It is for her safety.  She also has to realize that sleep is extremely important and if she's going to continue her swim schedule and drive, she HAS to get enough sleep without exception.

2.  We're also hoping that E realized that she's not perfect.  She makes mistakes just like everyone else and if she does make a mistake the wheels aren't going to come off the bus.  There will be consequences, but we still love her and aren't going anywhere.

3.  K and I handled the situation pretty well (patting ourselves on our backs).  I got the rest of the kids up after her phone call and he went to go find her (it was literally outside the entrance to our neighborhood).  He'll do a cost benefit analysis to figure out whether we'll claim it with our insurance or pay out of pocket.  Our insurance has already ballooned with her on our policy and this could make it even higher.  Thank goodness the woman didn't call the cops or she could have gotten a citation and lost her license (she's still in the probationary period).

4.  The other kids saw us deal with the situation calmly and without anger.  We need them to know that they'll make mistakes in their lives and we'll always be there to help them.

With the holiday looming tomorrow, we are obviously thankful that E and the other driver are okay and that it wasn't more serious. We've learned a lot about life perspective in the last 3 years. While I honestly wish that this had never happened and we wouldn't have to deal with the mess of getting both cars fixed, etc., I'm glad that we all learned these lessons.  Especially E.  In the long run, I think we'll all be the better for it as individuals and as a family.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Good

I often ponder about whether or not I'm a debbie downer by nature or that it's been the circumstances of the last three years that has shifted my focus to see the negative over the positive.  I honestly don't remember the old Peg in order to have the perspective to make a reasonable judgement.  I do tend to write about the hard stuff here because this blog has been such a great outlet for me to express my feelings, get good advice or plain support and understanding.

This morning I decided to make a list of the good things in the last few days as a reminder.  Drum roll please...

1.  Within and hour of the big blowup the other night with E and the panic attack by M, this is what I found when I came upstairs after hiding out in the basement talking to C.
 
She is an absolute trip.  The boys enveloped her in their love and wackiness and pulled her out of the negative.  They are so funny together.
 
2.  After some thinking and a night's sleep, I realized that E's explosion and our fight was actually a good thing.  She holds everything in and probably needed to have that emotional release.  We've been back to normal and her texts, jokes and demands have continued without skipping a beat.
 
3.  My sweet little L continues to bust is out like a rock star in school.  He is really proving himself to be quite the artist.  It's not only his great fine motor skills, but the imagination displayed in his creations is awesome.  I look forward every day to dig into his backpack to see his latest masterpiece and listen to his explanation of the story he was telling.  Everyone loves him at school and the teachers all come up to me and tell me how cute and funny he is.  The twins teacher even mentioned to my sister during parent teacher conferences on Monday how awesome it is how close the cousins are and that the three of them sit at their individual class lunch tables so they can be as close as possible to each other.
 
4.  Speaking of parent teacher conferences, all of them went very well last week.  A was only .9 off in his grade point average from getting first honors and all his teachers are so proud of his grades.  M is obviously working really hard and her grades were much better.  E has a 4.63 GPA which is pretty amazing given her swim schedule and 5 AP classes.  D is his usual awesome academic self and more importantly his teacher told me how happy she is to see how kind he is to all of his classmates and his leadership among his peers.  Yay!!
 
5.  K had a follow-up ultrasound on his leg on Monday and the clot is dissolved!!  The relief for both of us is huge.  He can start some gently running.  No contact sports or heavy machinery (that's a hilarious notion if you knew my husband...he is not the handiest of people).  The one disconcerting thing is that there has been damage to the vein and there is scar tissue formed and we're not sure what that means for his long term treatment.  We're taking the good news though and running with it.
 
 6.  Our 17th wedding anniversary was last Sunday.  We really didn't celebrate because of the busy day, including K and D driving home from NC for a soccer tournament.  I gave him a new golf bag which was a direct request from him.  He actually only gave me my gifts last night which included a cool hoodie and pull-over sporty nike shirt.  Not very creative, but  I really like them.  I decided to react really positive and ignore the lack of thought and tell him how much I really liked them.  This made him so happy.  I could see how proud he was of himself and it made me feel great.  I need to do more of this with him.  I'm starting to look forward to our little trip down to Florida in a few weeks.
 
7.  D started playing basketball for school this year in the CYO program.  He usually plays for our local rec team with K as his coach, but asked us if he could play for school with his friends.  The level of play is supposed to be a bit better, but it is definitely not going to be logistically very convenient.  We've waivered back and forth with our decision.  Last night, though, at practice as I watched him slicing and dicing through the lane and high fiving his friends it was wonderful to see how happy he was.  Watching him play left me with this overwhelming feeling of gratefulness for this little boy.  He can be such a pain in my rear, but seeing him so happy reminded me what a great and fun kid he is.  We had a nice talk on the way home in the car.  I need to always remember to give all the kids one-on-one attention when I can, but D really seems to need it.
 
8.  We are big readers in our house.  I love books.  We recently had the book fair at school and I may have gone a little overboard, but the kids are loving all the new books (it is for a good cause after all or at least that's my excuse).  A in particular has been devouring all the new purchases.  I'm currently reading the latest Rick Riordan (Mark of Athena) and absolutely loving it without embarrassment.  A finished it first and it's so fun talking about it with him as I read it.  L picked out some hilarious books to and curling up with him on the couch at night plowing through "our stack" has been lovely.
 
Anyway, while things still suck on so many levels, I need to have these reminders that not all is bad.  We are still a loving, fun family.  I am determined not to let the negatives define us.
 


Monday, November 12, 2012

Ugh

Tonight was a bad night.

E had a bad day at school.  She was obviously on edge as she picked fights with her sister at dinner.  With me she was fine, though, and she shared about her day and made plans for the week.

The boys and I were siting in the family room while I did some work on the computer and the boys flitted from some weird football game and the cartoon on tv.  E walked over at some point and asked about when we're going to let her drive by herself to swim in the morning.  Currently, we let her drive 15 minutes on a two lane, 45 mile an hour road where she meets her coach and heads to practice.  It's been working fine.  At some point, we think we'll let her drive herself, but not now.  That would involve her driving 30 minutes down a road in which people drive 60+ miles per hour.  All of this at 4am and all of this on the same road in which her parents were killed.  Technically, she's not even allowed to be on the road till 4 am anyway, so we are skirting the law by a few minutes.

When I said I don't know and that it may be never, she lost it and called me a liar.  She always catches me at the wrong time and knows how to push my buttons. The manipulation started and the fight escalated.  I called her out on the multiple lies the past week from her (mistake by me) and she started sobbing, lying some more and then more sobbing.

Enter M.  She started having a panic attack and crying for us to stop fighting.  Shaking, freaking out, and yelling at us to stop yelling.  It was awful.

E finally went upstairs and locked herself in the bathroom.  M had locked herself in their room.  I got M out of her room and headed to our room, where K was hiding out.  We both finally got M to calm down and eventually go downstairs with the boys.

I went in to talk to E and she was hysterical.  She couldn't talk.  She couldn't stop crying.  I felt terrible.  We talked calmly.  She kept saying, "I don't want to be like this.  I don't want be the typical drama teenager.  I don't want to feel this way.  I don't know why I'm crying."  It was so sad.  I hugged her from behind, kissed her on the head and told her I loved her.  I left her crying softly and trying to study her AP history.

Meanwhile, everyone else went bonkers downstairs and were sprinting around and screaming like banshees.  Lovely.

I called C.  She talked me off the ledge.  I eventually got everyone settled down and in bed.

This is just so hard.  I never know if I'm saying or doing the right thing with the girls.  It's all so complicated.

This was a very bad night indeed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Beaver Fever and Other Things

I should be working.  The election results coming in on the tv are just distracting enough to make me want to pause from the work and write a quick update.

Last night I brought M and two of her good friends to see Justin Bieber (or according to L "Justin Beaver").  The screams, the tears, the jumping up and down and hugging was hilarious.  We had a wonderful night and M claimed it was the "best night of my life!!"  It was fun to be part of it.  She had no voice this morning, but rallied and went to school on time and even made soccer practice tonight despite getting home at midnight.

M sending her love to Justin.
 

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Last Saturday was baby H's first birthday party.  S hosted a birthday party at a local farm.  Unfortunately, the weather was cold and overcast, so none of the kids hit the farm and stayed in the rented party room.  It was still fun.  I decorated the cake for the occasion and despite my disappointment in the sheep, I was pretty happy with the result.


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K and I are still wrapping our heads around his health issues.  I really am trying not to think of what could have been, but given my life experience in the last three years, my mind often wanders towards the negative.  We still have no idea why this happened, which worries me that it could happen again and that time we won't be so lucky.

He's bringing D to a soccer tournament in North Carolina this weekend.  The doctor said he can go as long as he stops every hour and gets out and walks around.  I'm worried he's not going to do it.  I'm worried he's going to forget to take his medicine.  I just plain worry.

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I am not sure how I feel about my meds still.  I'm faithfully taking them.  I'm not sure I'm having the same profound effect.  It's been a little over a month since I started so my brain chemistry should be adjusted.  My therapist on Monday suggested I should talk to the doctor about increasing my dosage.  I'm not keen on going in this direction and am hoping the extreme stress of the last month has impacted the effectiveness.

*********************************
I feel like I'm in a bit of a limbo.  In between states of being.  Not as sad as a week ago. Not completely happy.  Stress is the underlying current flowing through it all.  There's always something to be done and something not getting done.  Speaking of, I better get some paid work done tonight.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Big Storm

So some of you may have heard that a big storm is heading up the east coast.  Schools are already cancelled for the next two days and the federal government is closed.  We're as prepared as we're going to be with some extra water in the garage and a few extra snacks.  Not sure what more we can do other than know where the flashlights are and try to keep everyone busy.

M is really scared of storms and tornadoes/high winds in particular.  I bought her some cosy Mickey Mouse pajama bottoms today and we decided that she can wear them as long as she wants to give her comfort.  Anything to keep her distracted.

I brought the big kids (E, M and A) to a local haunted trail last night (D said absolutely not and it's not appropriate for a five year old).  The weather was gorgeous and we all have an awesome time.  E was funny and relaxed.  M got super scared which made all of us laugh.  A loved the whole thing.  It was really nice to see the three of them together having a great time.

D has been our marathon man the past week with all three of his sports merging.  Basketball started, baseball ended and he had lots of soccer this week.  I'm proud of him for getting through it all with minimal whining and a good attitude.  He even struck out the best hitter in the league Wednesday night to end the game.  He was really stoked.

K's INR numbers are finally where they are supposed to be.  He's feeling pretty good, although I've noticed he's pretty wiped out at night.  He's not being the best patient and has forgotten a few times that he's not supposed to run or kick a ball.  In his defense, it's pretty hard to be an active person and then completely stop.  He woke up with a back ache this morning.  It put me in a bit of a panic that something more serious was going on.    He figures it was just bagging a few too many leaves yesterday.  I think it's going be awhile till I don't get anxious about anything out of the ordinary with him.

We've all been on a bit of an emotional hangover for the past few days.  Thursday and Friday I was really washed out.  I've been absent minded and not really on my "mommy game."  I'm trying to cut myself some slack and take one day at a time.  I'm not really "feeling" the medicine as profoundly.  I think this is normal and probably understandable given the extreme stress of the past few weeks.  I suppose I'll talk to my doctor about it.  I really don't like the idea of increasing my dosage.

We're hunkering down for what could be a big storm.  Hopefully there won't be too much damage and, God forbid, nobody will be hurt.  It will be nice, though, for a bit of a break when nobody has anywhere to go.  I'm thinking a bunch of board games, good books, some dance parties and a little storm wackiness.  I'm thinking of taking a good long nap tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Beautiful Family Morning

Today we continued the tradition of meeting for breakfast at a local park, playing and doing a balloon release.  It was a lovely morning.  The kids were wonderful in both their enthusiastic play and their innocent, loving remembrance of Jeanne and Mike.

A few pictures from the day.

 
M, E, C and CA were all smiles.
 
D coming down the slide.
 
L with his girl cousins (KT, MG and I).
 
 Me with nephew J.
 
M and A clowning around.
 
My Dad with baby H.
 
E with my Mom.
 
E writing a message to her parents on her balloon.
 
 

Sending our love to heaven.
 
K with M.
 
A crazy game of cousin tag!
 
My sweet boy D.
 
The three musketeers D, A and M.
 
MG and L.
 
M and H on the slide.
 
C with her son W.
 
Today our family was at our best on the day that was our worst.  We love each other so much and that isn't more purely reflected than in the love between the kids.  Yes, there were tears, as there should be.  We have a hole in our family that can never be filled.  We promised each other today that we'll always do this as a family.  I have no doubt that this promise will never be hard to keep.
 
I love you Jeanne and Mike.  I miss you everyday.
 

The sisters remembering together (S, C, CA and me).
 




Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Absorb

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of the accident.  Tomorrow I'll post pictures of our family celebrating Jeanne and Mike's lives.  Moving forward and remembering in a positive way.

Today, though, the day before it just hurts.  I feel awful and no amount of distraction eases the pain.

My body anticipates the horror of reliving October 24, 2009.  Three years later it is still unbelievable and physically makes me nauseous.

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This past weekend the girls went to Indiana for their cousin's wedding.  As I explained earlier, the Indiana relatives did not roll out the red carpet for the girls.  M was a mess leaving.  Sobbing the night before that she didn't want to go and that she couldn't leave us.  E texted me non-stop from the moment I dropped them off at CA's before their flight complaining about how embarrassing and awful CA and KM were.  She has since claimed it was the worst weekend of her life, except for the 1.5 hours CA and KM weren't around.  M and the little girls seemed to have fun.

Having the girls gone was a mixed bag.  As a family, K and the boys and I fall back into our old rhythms very easily.  The guilt resulting from this feels awful.  I also worried about M and how she would deal with everything.  Combined with recent stress with K's health and the impending anniversary, I was an emotional mess.  I spent most of Saturday trying to find times to sleep.  Not because I was that tired, but for the escape.  Rather than relish in the moment and be with the boys, I gave in to the culminated stress.

****************************

E left me with a lovely parting gift before she left for Indiana.  Thursday at therapy she must have done an exercise in which she wrote her parents a letter.  The lettering was in different crayon colors.  She left it out in the open for all to see.  I at first thought was something that D had done given the colored lettering and the "Dear Mom and Dad" at the top.  I soon realized what it was and my eyes travelled to text towards the end.

"I miss your dinners Mom.  Aunt Peggy is a terrible cook.  She doesn't even make homemade cookies.  She always leaves the dinner table a mess."

Wow.  A punch in the stomach.  On so many levels I realize that she is just a hurting child and not to take it so personally.  It's not really the comments themselves, it's that she decided to lash out at me when I'm already so stressed about K.  She left it out for me to see.  It was simply mean.  On a humorous note, in the 17 years we have been married, I usually make dinner and K always cleans up.  Because of our schedule and his male priorities, sometimes the kitchen table doesn't get cleaned up right away, but eventually gets done.

I left it on her desk.  I fielded her texts all weekend and reassured her I'm still here.  I'm listening.  I'm not going anywhere.

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As chief logistician around here I bear the weight of our family life and responsibilities on my shoulders.  School, sports, food, laundry, etc. fall squarely in my lane.  It dawned on me today, though, that it's not just this weight that has worn me down these past few years.

I absorb the stress and pain of everyone in the house.  The girls lash out and I absorb their blows and move on.  I worry about all the kids.  I want to rip the pain and anxiety from their bodies and cleave it to mine.  I'm an adult.  I can handle it.  In an irrational way, I feel totally responsible for their anxiety and fears caused by the accident.

My own grief stays buried beneath.  Sometimes I think it's easier to keep it right where it is with the excuse of needing to be strong for everyone else.  This does have physical repercussions.  Stomach and sleep issues.  My hives have come back the past few days.  I can't imagine how awful I'd feel if I wasn't taking any medication.

Three years later it still sucks.  The pain is still raw and fresh.  I miss my sister.  I feel lucky to have this space to express these feelings.  In real life, I'm just not ready to go there yet.

Monday, October 15, 2012

One Step at a Time

My therapist asked me this morning how I'm getting through the recent stress in our lives.

I looked her blankly and simply said, "I'm just putting one foot in front of the other and taking one step at a time."  I'm trying not to focus too much on what could have happened, nor am I looking too far ahead knowing that the next 10 days around here are going to be emotion laden with the girls going to Indiana and the anniversary approaching.

I especially lived in the present moment last night as I sang, danced and cheered at the Peter Gabriel concert with my little sisters.  I am a huge PG fan and S's husband was able to get us amazing seats about 20 feet from the stage.  It was amazing.  I completely lost myself in the moment and forget about all of the stress.  He actually played his So album in its entirety without interruption. I'm sporting my concert t-shirt today and just that physical reminder has eased the stress today.

K had another doctor's appointment today.  He's been having more discomfort in a different part of his ribs, but the doctor thinks it's just the effusion and not a new clot.  His lungs sound clear.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that his blood level (INR) is now too high and we're adjusting the medicine again.  The doctor reminded us again to be patient.  Again, one step at a time.

Beyond all of our nuclear family drama, K's godfather Jim also died last week.  He would have been 80 in December. A confirmed bachelor, he was a great godfather to K and has been a constant presence in my life since college.  He and my father-in-law had been friends for almost 60 years since their days at Cambridge. He died in his sleep and wasn't found for three days. So sad.  The funeral is on Friday and K is doing the second reading. We're doing all we can to support his parents, even if it's just listening.

The girls and I had a nice afternoon on Saturday afternoon shopping for a dress for M for the wedding.  It was the first time in days that she seemed like herself.  I tried not to over think it and just enjoyed the moment. It was a breath of fresh air.

People keep asking me how we are.  I answer on numb autopilot, "We're fine."  It's hard to admit how hard this past week has been.  It's easier to just smile and tell everyone that everything is okay.  Maybe if I say it enough, I'll start to believe it myself.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Normal Mommy

Yesterday afternoon we had K's next doctor's appointment to test his blood levels.  The office was busy and we waited 30 minutes till we went back.  The nurse for some reason had a hard time getting his blood (strange given all the blood thinners he's on) and brought in reinforcements after 3 sticks.  She thinks she just wasn't doing it hard enough.

His number was the same.  Still not in the therapeutic range.  Worrisome since it's on the low level and he still has the clot in his leg.  The shots continue till tomorrow morning and then he goes back in on Monday.  We changed his dosage of Coumadin.  I'm nervous because half of Saturday, Sunday and all of Monday he won't be on the shots which made us feel safe.

We both walked out of the office in a bit of a trance.  I felt like I wanted to throw up.  I intellectually realize that this is a long haul and it's only a minor setback.  We are still in such shock that this is all happening.

We drove separately to the appointment so he could go pick up D at practice while I went home to get dinner made.  I walked into the house and had to act like normal Mommy when all I wanted to do was go upstairs, climb under my covers and have a good, long cry.  But dinner needed to be made, L needed attention and A had tests for me to sign.  I had to pick M up early from school that afternoon because of her fake illness and now she was wandering around the kitchen mumbling.  E came downstairs demanding laundry and going on and on about the difficulty of being a junior in high school.

I wanted to scream.  I wanted to just be for a minute and get my emotional bearings. 

But I can't.  I have to be normal Mommy.  I have to make dinner, get the right sweatpants clean and nod my head in sympathy at E's latest diatribe against her pre-calc teacher.  I hugged M and encouraged her to talk above a whisper.  I listened to A talk about his latest skateboard plans.  I cleaned up dinner and got play dough out for L.  When D got home I got dinner out for him and cheered loudly with him when Werth hit a home run winning the games for the Nats (he and K got tickets for tonight...yay!).

Then I realized K hadn't take his dose of Coumadin and needed his shot.  Normal Mommy cut a pill in half to add to his new dosage and went upstairs to prepare the syringe.  My stomach was in knots as I got out the alcohol swabs.  I realized I hadn't really eaten dinner.

It's tough being mom on regular days.  It's really hard when you have to act normal when things going on in your life are certainly not.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reactions

First an update.  K is feeling much better.  He can breathe without too much pain.  I've gotten much better at the injections.  He is still in a bit of denial, but we're just taking this one day at a time.  He went to the office yesterday for a few hours (with the doctor's permission), jumped over to the Nats game for a few innings (ugh!) and was home by 4.  I'm trying not to hover.  As long as he doesn't run, jump, or get too physical the doctor says he's fine to get back to some normal.  He's pretty sore at night still.  The doctor says that it will take weeks for the pain to go away.  His blood levels aren't in the therapeutic range yet, but are very close.  We go back this afternoon for another appointment and blood draw.  We're hoping that the injections can stop, although I'm a bit nervous about that since the doctor emphasized that they are what is keeping him safe right now.  Floating in the back of our minds is a worry about why this happened since he doesn't fit any of the typical profiles.  We talked cancer with the doctor.  He admitted that it's worrisome because K is a young, relatively healthy, fit man.

The reactions from the kids have been mixed.  E has been pretty dismissive and trying to act like nothing is going on.  She did help when asked over the weekend, but was certainly not pro-active about chipping in.  She didn't come to the hospital to visit him.  I had lots of "me, me, me" texts.  I'm trying not to over analyze her reaction. 

M is being really weird.  Since K got home, she's been complaining of phantom chest pains and producing a fake cough.  I talked to her therapist.  She too isn't quite sure what's going on, but did comment that she thought M looked under the weather.  I have become pretty good at reading M and figuring out whether her symptoms are actual or a manifestation of her anxiety--her body language, acting normal and laughing with the boys but changing when I walk in the room, the tone of her voice, the insistence that nothing is going to make her feel better despite me giving her options to relieve her symptoms.  I do think when she feels bad she really does, I just don’t think it’s an actual illness.  I told her this morning on the way to school that we were going to skip soccer practice today and just come home and rest.  If she continues to feel bad we’ll head to the doctor tomorrow.

The boys have had a tough time.  We tried to keep them busy all weekend as a distraction and, more importantly, allow me to be at the hospital with K.  D finally broke down on Tuesday night.  He had forgotten books for homework, admitted to doing poorly on a math test (not like him), messed up his science project, and did a bad job on a religion assignment.  This turned into sobbing and refusing to eat.  In between crying fits, the real reason came out.  "How long will you give Daddy shots?"  "Do they hurt?"  "Is he okay?"  Poor guy.  I eventually got him calmed down and he seemed better yesterday.

L has been talking a lot about death.  He's clinging to me.  He keeps mimicking me and telling K, "No running Daddy!"  I don't think he really understands what happened.  We're trying to give him just enough information and reassure him that Daddy is fine.

My real worry is A.  He's just so quiet and reserved with his feelings.  On the way home from that terrible practice last week, K told him to call 911 on his cell phone if he had to stop the car.  He looked terrified when they pulled up and K whispered to call 911.  My poor, sensitive boy.  I haven't really had the chance yet to sit down with him and talk about what happened.  I'm going to try tonight and check in with him to make sure he's okay.

Our friends' and family's reactions have ranged from shock and doom and gloom to dismissal.  Both our parents live in a bit of "la la" land and just want everything to be okay. K's parents aren't very confident in doctors in general and tend to ignore basic health issues. My dad argued with me this morning about whether or not K can eat spinach (doctor says no, my dad said "oh he'll be fine").  My parents in particular have focused all of their energy on the girls.  That's hard to stomach.  The boys are their grandchildren too.

And then there's me.  I'd be lying if I didn't say that being on the medication hasn't been a very good thing through all of this.  I am still nervous not being with him.  We're hugging each other a lot. I'm not sleeping or eating very well.    I thought I was going to have a full blown panic attack yesterday morning when he first went to work.  I know he's tired of me saying, "Are you OK?"  I am still very scared.  I keep replaying that night in my head.  It was horrible.  I thought I was losing him.  We have our marital challenges given the unbelievable stress we're under with the family, but at the end of the day he's still my best friend and I love him dearly.

I keep telling myself to take things one day at a time.  I really like his doctor and feel like he's getting the best care he can.  If we can just get through the next few weeks (girls' wedding to Indiana and anniversary of accident), I think we'll be okay.  This is the hand we've been dealt and we'll get through it together.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Golden Ticket

I used to think that after the accident we had a golden ticket as a family.  We had our tragedy and nothing worse could possibly happen.  I learned that's not the case last Friday.

Last Tuesday K started complaining about pain in his rib, especially when taking deep breaths.  Being a typical guy, he blew it off thinking that L might have kicked him or head butted him in the night.  He hadn't done anything strenuous to cause any trauma, but thought that must be the case.  Each subsequent day he felt worse and worse.  We were up all night Thursday.  Every time he laid down to sleep he'd have to sit up because of the pain and inability to breath.  I thought he was having a heart attack, but he insisted he was fine and it was just the pain from his ribs.  By Friday morning he was feeling so bad I convinced him to go to the doctor.  He was back 1.5 hours later after a clean EKG with a diagnosis of bruised ribs or cartilage or a muscle strain.  They did take an x-ray but the results wouldn't be in till the late afternoon.

I went off to school to volunteer and he proceeded to hit Home Depot, buy a hedge trimmer and a bunch of 80 lb bags of soil which he deposited around the yard.  He insisted he was fine.  I came home around 4:40 with A so they both could head off to soccer practice.  The rest of us made dinner and settled in for a relaxed Friday night.  At about 6:45 I was in the front of our house in the street tossing pop flies to D when K and A pulled up and he sputtered, "call 911."  A was crying, K was gasping for air.

I rushed in to grab the phone screaming for E to get outside (she's certified in CPR as a lifeguard).  By the time I got through and gave our address, he managed to get out of the car and stand up.  In this position he could breath much easier and insisted he was feeling better.  At this point, I handed the phone over to E to talk to the dispatcher and tried to assess what was going on.  L was screaming.  D and A were cowering on the porch.  M was trying to help me with L.

The firetruck and paramedics finally arrived and started checking him out.  He continued to insist he was fine.  We argued in the middle of the street with me yelling he was going to the hospital.  They moved us into the ambulance and the paramedic calmly told K it was a good idea to go and get checked out. 

I had called K's mom right after I called 911, so she arrived to take care of the kids while I headed to the ER to get there ahead of the ambulance.

I waited for another 20 minutes till he finally got there.  It was awful.  They did another EKG and determined his heart was fine.  The doctor came in and decided that a cat scan was in order.  At this point, K was getting very agitated and insisting he just wanted to go home (he hates hospitals and is the exact opposite of a hypochondriac).  He refused to take any narcotics for the pain or anything to calm him down.

At 10:30 pm the doctor came in to tell us he had multiple pulmonary embolisms in his lungs and things quickly got very serious.  A nurse came in and administered a blood thinner (a shot in his abdomen).  We were admitted upstairs to the telemetry unit where he could be monitored 24/7 to make sure no other clots were thrown).  We were up all night with ultrasounds on his legs, drugs, etc. 

The doctor came in Saturday morning and gave us the news that he has a blood clot behind his left knee.  He has two clots in his right lung and one clot in his left lung.  There has already been lung damage on the right side which has cause pleurisy (fluid sac) around the lung causing the pain.  The seriousness of the situation sunk in.  A nurse commented how lucky he is that he's not dead.  With no other symptoms, situations like this usually end fatally.

It was a long and stressful weekend.  I had hard time leaving his side.  I was really scared. We spent many hours just sitting and holding each other.  It was horrible and continues to be shocking that this is really happening.

We were able to come home yesterday afternoon.  They taught me how to give the injections twice a day which is keeping him safe until the oral blood thinners do their job.  We go in this afternoon for a reading to check his levels and will get a better understanding of the next steps.  What we know so far is that we'll do the injections for another week and then he'll be on the blood thinners for 6 months in to break up the clots and hopefully prevent more from forming. He'll have some lifestyle changes as a result.  After that, he'll have tests done to determine why this happened since he doesn't have any of the classic precursors (not overweight, pregnant, recent surgery, or a big traveller).

The kids are fine.  Spooked a bit, but doing okay.  E definitely stepped up to the plate.  Of all the months for this to happen of course, when we all are reminded of the fragility of life.

So I guess my illusion of our family being spared is partially true.  K is still here.  He didn't die.  Maybe we have the golden ticket after all.  Or maybe life is just life.  Random.  Unfair.  I'm just thankful he's still with us and our kids didn't have to get another horrible life lesson. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

One Week

So I've been taking the medicine for one week today.  I'm still not sure what I think and, more importantly, how I feel about it.  The side effects have not been great.  My stomach is still a bit queasy and my appetite hasn't returned yet.  Yesterday the constant thirst abated a little.  Strangely, my diet coke craving hasn't been as strong. I'm tired, but in a different way, more sleepy than my normal physical tiredness.  I've had to take a nap 3 out of the last 4 days.  I feel a bit spacey at times and sometimes following a conversation has been difficult.  I had a hard time at therapy Monday trying to express what I'm feeling.

On the positive, I've been falling asleep much easier at night.  I definitely feel mellower.  Subdued is the only word I can muster to match how I feel.  The constant irritability and underlying anger seems gone.  Monday night and last night I did feel the familiar anxiety about something that needs to get done this week, but that kind of stress is an old friend.  I feel more patient.  This weekend with the boys especially we all felt a little lighter.

To be honest, I've feel like crap for so long I'm not sure what good feels like.  My therapist said I should start feeling more like myself again.  I don't who that is anymore. 

I haven't told anyone in my life about this.  My friends Lanette and Elena who encouraged me to take this step know and have been checking in on me.  I haven't told K.  He knew I was going to talk to a doctor about it.  I feel horrible not sharing this major decision with him, but at this point I'm not sure how he'll react and whether or not I can handle it if it's negative.  Why do I have no problem telling anyone that I go to therapy on Mondays, but can't admit that I'm taking an antidepressant.  I even just hesitated as I typed the "a" word instead of using the generic "medicine."

I'm going to stick with it.  If the side effects don't improve, I'll call my doctor and maybe switch to something else.  I know in my mind that this is the right decision for me and my family.  My heart just hasn't caught up yet.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Geckos, drugs, new tunes and soccer balls

1.  Reggae the gecko has been found.  During his nightly search two days after his disappearance, A found him about 3 feet from his cage under the book shelf.  A few minutes of lizard wrangling later, little Mr. Regs was safely back in his habitat and a very happy 12 year old smiled for the next 24 hours.

2.  I'm on day 2 of the meds.  I finally went to my GP Tuesday.  I cried.  She asked the standard questions, tilting her head to one side with sympathy as she listened to the briefest explanation of what's going on with me.  45 minutes later I walked out of the pharmacy with 50mg pills of Z@loft.  I did not anticipate the nausea, but according to Dr. Google this is normal and should subside.  I really can't afford to not eat since the whole "I can't eat because I'm so stressed" is one of the reasons I'm taking them.  I do feel different.  I think it's better.  I know it can take weeks to level off one's brain chemistry, but I definitely feel something shifting.  I still feel defeated in a way taking this road.  I felt much worse in the first year after the accident and was able to get through.  I suppose the sustained stress of the last 3 years has taken its toll.  I have hope that this will help.

3.  The new Mumford and Sons  album came out on Tuesday.  Holy cow.  I think they are writing the soundtrack to my life (or maybe it's the drugs).  Grief, love, hope, despair all wrapped into beautiful melodies and harmonies.  Nothing like new music.  Yay!

4.  We are fully into the soccer season around these parts.  Everyone is having fun and playing well.  The improvement in A is especially heart warming.  As with most things, motivation for A has to come from within.  He doesn't really care that much what other people think.  K and I have worked hard to sit back with him in soccer and just let him develop at his own pace and it seems to have paid off.  He is extremely fast and athletic and it seems to all be coming together for him.  Fun to watch.  We are also really happy with M's team.  While it's a logistical nightmare getting her there, her coach is a friend of mine and nothing can replace a positive, female role model for a young girl athlete.  She's having a blast.  D's confidence is coming back with soccer too (his coach is pretty negative) and he's having fun.  L starting playing this year too and it's quite obvious he has grown up on a soccer field.  He's fierce.  I actually played last night.  It was great.  I ripped a shot from 30 yards out for a great goal and felt like the Peg of old.  It was nice.

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me that we'll be alright

--Ghosts That We Knew, Mumford and Sons

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kids and Funerals

I love it when posts from another blogger inspire me to write.  Mel over at Stirrup Queens asked a question in her last post about whether or not to allow your kids to attend a funeral.  This of course got me thinking about how we handled the wake and funeral for Jeanne and Mike when it came to our kids and the girls.  First, let me say that I really think it depends on the circumstances.  We had a family friend die a few months before my sister who knew and loved the boys, but I did not bring them to the funeral.  At the time, I didn't think they'd get it and to be honest, I just wanted to go and cry and not have to worry about the boys.  I also think you need to gauge your own kids.  If you think they are the age to behave appropriately then I think it's a good think to allow kids to be there.

Hundreds of people attended the wake for Jeanne and Mike.  We had two visiting sessions for about 5-6 hours total and the line never ended.  Not only did friends of Jeanne and Mike attend, but we all have a lot of friends that were there to support us.  K and I, in particular, had tons of friends there for us.  The big girls were there for the first session for a bit and E stayed for part of the evening session to pray the rosary.  We did not bring 3 year old L to the wake at all, but we did bring A and D (ages 9 and 7 at the time) to be there for their cousins.  At that time, and months to follow, the boys also did not want us out of their sight.  A wasn't eating unless I was there and D was having diarrhea and bathroom accidents.  The funeral director set up a room for the kids (and any weary adults) with food and we brought games, books, crayons, etc. to keep them occupied.  At some point my sister-in-law brought the kids to a mini-golf down the street.

Wakes are weird things.  Everyone was there to show their love and respect, but most of the time I felt like I was there to support them in their shock and grief.  By the end of an hour, my shirt was wet from the sobs of others on my shoulder. I took many breaks during the day to "hide out" with the kids and get a much needed break.

During the afternoon session we did have a viewing for only the family.  We gave all of the kids the option to participate.  E and M wanted to go in, but M only wanted to go if one of boys would go.  A said no very quietly.  My brave, kind D stood up and said he'd go with M.    I walked in with both of them wrapping my arms around their shoulders wishing it wasn't really happening.  They eventually pulled away from me and D held M's hand and approached the coffins.    I remember thinking how small he looked. 

E was kneeling next to her dad.  M looked at her big sister and mimicked her actions in prayer.  D hung back, eventually leaning into his dad with he eyes fixed on the two coffins.  I could tell M was getting fidgety so I approached her and walked D and M back to the break room.  The conversation between the two of them was so honest and funny.

"My mom looked like my mom, but my dad looked weird."

"Yeah, your dad didn't usually wear make-up."

They both went back in the room and joined A, filling him in on the viewing in a direct, innocent way.  He listened, changed the subject and they were back to being silly and laughing.

K and I drove E home from the wake that evening.  I'll never forget K and E laughing and comparing notes about what were the most awkward moments from the day were.  E thought it was seeing her 13 year boy classmates crying and hugging her.  I thought it was hugging my hugely overweight and sweaty boss at the time.  K thought it was calling the same person the wrong name twice.  We actually were laughing as the three of us drove past the accident site.  Strange.  It was such a long, tiring day, we couldn't help from giggling to relieve the tension.

For the funeral, we decided that all the kids would be there.  Even though they wouldn't remember, we didn't want the little girls as adults feel like they missed out on something so momentous.  We decided to bring L for many reasons.  First, we thought he'd behave pretty well and we have my sister-in-law on board to bring him out if he got squirmy.  Also, at that point we were all so stressed and tired that I couldn't think of anyone I trusted to leave him with that wouldn't be at the funeral.  Selfishly, I also wanted my boys with me.  I needed them.  Moreover, I wanted them to be there for their cousins.  Not even knowing what their future would hold in our family, I knew that this bond among the cousins was going to be important if we were going to get through this.  D and M during the wake had already poignantly demonstrated that.

In the long run, I am so glad that we had the boys as much of a part of the process as possible.  This one event has had such a huge impact on all of our lives.  It's become even more important I think since the girls have joined our family.  Funny thing about kids too in their ability to jump from sadness to joy fairly easily.  We all got back to my sister's house after the burial, changed out of our fancy clothes and played some whiffle ball.  On a day in which we felt all was lost, they helped us step outside of our adult grief, if only for a bit.  That kind of respite is priceless.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

There's a gecko loose in the house...

No, really.  A didn't close the top all the way for his panther gecko (Reggae) the night before last when he was feeding him and he escaped.  We've searched everywhere after he discovered Regs was gone after school.  I didn't handle the situation very well.  Rather than show any sympathy and understand how distraught he was, I laid into him about being irresponsible and that this was all his fault.  Yes, it was his mistake, but my major mistake laying into him.

I then stormed downstairs and yelled pretty much about everything.

"D! Finish your homework!  Get ready for soccer!  Hurry up!"

"L!  Stop hanging on me and for heaven's sake stop whining!"

Medication anyone?

I still wavering about getting meds, even with encouragement from people online, friends at home and my therapist.  I ran into a good friend at soccer practice and she took one look at me and begged me to go and urged me to start exercising.  She's gone through a bunch herself (terrible divorce after her husband cheated on her with her only sister-in-law when she was 6 months pregnant with their 3rd). Going on some temporary medication really helped her.

I think at the heart of my hesitation is that some pill may make me feel a bit mellower, but the source of my stress, anger, pain, etc. isn't going to go away.  My sister is still dead.  I miss my old life.  The kids still need me.  The girls are still a mess.  I still feel so alone.  Won't the pill just be a band-aid for what's really wrong?  In the long run, I need to figure out how to accept the life I have and find the energy/motivation to tackle it with love and joy.  I have no idea why, but going on medication only highlights how broken I feel.  I have absolutely no qualms with anyone else medicating for mental health issues.  Maybe it's pride?  Scared about who I'll be on meds?  A combination?

The earliest I'll be able to get to the doctor is next week.  My therapist agreed that going to my primary care may be the only way I'm going to take the next step.  Trying to find someone on my insurance in a timely manner has been a bridge too far.

Anyway, if you are so inclined, please send a few prayers to St. Anthony (patron saint of lost things) that we find Reggae safe and sound.  And, if you've got a any left, send a few my way that I'll find the courage to choose the right path, whatever that might be.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Just Write

So I have a few minutes this morning.  I just ordered fleeces for the big kids online (they hate hate hate big bulky winter jackets, so rather than fight it I ordered extra warm fleeces).  I need to run to Tar-jay in a few, but there is no rush. 

I thought that this is a perfect time to write a post.  Ideas for my blog pop up in my head throughout the day.  However...

I have no idea what to write.  I'm a bit out of practice.  Writing about a certain theme or event that highlighted itself during the day has always been my approach whether it's a personal reflection or something that happened with the kids.  I don't know why writing a list of random thoughts bugs me.  I actually enjoy reading blog posts in that fashion.  Little snippets of what is on their mind or stuff going on in their life.  I love candid pictures.  Maybe I want this space to be different, writing pieces that involve serious thought and time to write.  Do I want to be a writer not just a blogger?  Is there a difference?  Some of my favorite bloggers (Stirrup Queens, Korinthia) write pieces that could stand alone outside of their life's context.  But some of my other favorites (Enjoying the small things, Rach, Lessons from an Infertile Social Worker) do a beautiful job weaving their everyday lives into moments of clarity and insight for me as a reader.  Sometimes I just like a good story.

But back to my current problem.  I have not idea what to write. So here's another list of random things going on.

1.  My dad really came through on the cemetery / memorial issue and now we will possibly get a waiver for a tree AND we're probably going to replace both markers with a larger more personal one customized by our family.  I can't wait to tell E tonight (wow that sounds weird and depressing).

2.  Kindergarten is going very well with L.  He is happy to go every day and has only missed getting a sticker for good behavior once.  He had "refused" to complete an activity that involved lots of little, detailed cutting.  It was hard for him, he got tired, and in tune with his personality he simply refused to finish.  We talked about it after school and we haven't had any other incidents.  He is pretty tired once the day is done. It's a good tired born from playing, learning, and being a big boy.  I'm so proud of him.

3.  Having a kid with learning issues is a bigger challenge than I ever anticipated.  I tend to have to focus so much on M's emotional issues, that her ADHD and LD are sometimes forgotten.  We're having her student assistance plan meeting next week and I hope I'll have time to do some more research between now and them to construct a better plan that helps her more this year.  I'm not thrilled with our school's resource teacher and feel like I have to be a lot more informed to be the best advocate for M.

4.  The girls are supposed to go to a family wedding in Indiana for their cousin on their dad's side of the family.  They are understandably excited and have been talking about it for months.  The Indiana relatives are being completely unhelpful and aren't taking care of the girls at all.  I get that it's a wedding and that is their focus, but for once it would be nice if they tried at all to incorporate the girls in their lives.  CA and KM are going to bring the little girls and we'll have the big girls stay in an adjoining room at a hotel.  What could be an opportunity for letting them share in their other family is turning into more of a crisis management exercise to temper the girls' disappointment in not being part of the event and dealing with their frustration with CA and KM.  It's never easy.

5.  Teenage angst.  Enough said.

6.  K is planning an anniversary trip for us at the end of November to Naples, FL.  I'm hoping it will be a chance for us to recharge individually and together.

7.  I took leave last week to give myself a break from the work drama and get our house squared away.  I was a bit ambitious in my plans.  I did get three rooms done and most importantly got our family office / computer room cleaned out.  It was a dumping ground for crap from my sister's house and boxes of the girls childhood things (books, etc) that needed a storage place in our house.  I also started a wall of family photos in that room and it looks really good.  Yay me!

8.  We have 5 soccer games, 1 baseball game and a team bake sale this weekend.  Somehow we'll get everyone where they need to be and squeeze in mass and feeding the masses.  I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

9.  No progress on medication.  I can't find a psychiatrist that my therapist knows on my insurance.  I'd rather not have to pay out of pocket.  The momentum of my difficult decision is slipping away.  Sigh.

Well, I did it.  I wrote something. Not sure it's very interesting or thought provoking, but then again, who am I writing this blog for anyway?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In the Air

It's starting to get a bit chilling around here in the morning and evening.  A few days this week the kids wore sweatshirts to school (only to tear them off at dismissal in the 80 degree temperatures). 

We all feel it. The countdown is starting to the accident anniversary. Strange how our bodies remember and it translates into emotions running a bit higher and a sadness that one has a hard time shaking.

I spent time this morning talking with the memorial park where Jeanne and Mike are buried.  E would like to install a bench or tree at the gravesite to make it a bit more personal.  Nobody, especially E, likes the grave markers.  (they are actually buried on top of each other in one plot with a marker at the head for Mike and at the foot for Jeanne). Since Mike was technically a vet (flew a reconnaissance plane in Desert Shield), the military paid for his marker.  This limited what could be written and boiled down his whole life in terms of his military service.  Jeanne's simply says, "Beloved Wife."  I get why my dad and Mike's dad went with the "free" option, but it definitely doesn't sum up what they meant to the rest of us left behind.  And let's be honest, Jeanne and Mike don't really care, but it's our feelings and what we think they would have wanted that leaves us unsettled.

Turns out we can't have a bench.  It's not the right kind of plot and being a memorial park not a traditional cemetery the idea is that markers are flat on the ground to give it a "park" feel.  Like anyone is there to happily stroll the grounds and have a picnic.  The very kind lady on the phone explained that they limit the type of memorials because the groundskeepers kept knocking over the big headstones or benches and the memorial park had to pay to replace them.  Only people with family plots can "riff" with different memorials.

E is not going to be happy.  She spends the most time there and really wants to have something that reflects the fact that they were her parents.  We can replace the bronze plaque on each of the marble slabs, but it will probably cost a lot of money.  C and I brainstormed at lunch today that maybe we could install a bench with their names at the local regional park they loved so much. I've seen similar benches throughout the park.  I'm hoping this will make E feel better.

We all still keep our grief stove piped within our own pain.  Sometimes I think we haven't made any of these grand gestures for them because we try so hard to be sensitive to the girls' feelings (especially E).  But I lost my sister.  Mom and Dad lost their daughter.  Others lost a friend, cousin, work colleague. I hope one day we all can arrive at a place where our walls built by grief are broken down and we can share this loss together while celebrating their lives.  It's still a tricky thing.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How did this happen?


How is it that my big guy started Kindergarten this week?

He turned and ran toward his class line on the first day without even saying goodbye.  He walks with confidence, with his new backpack secure on his sturdy shoulders ready to take on the world (or at least the happy hallways of Holy Spirit School).  When I expressed my utter astonishment at his independence, one of the teachers (who I've known since Aidan started) commented that she wasn't surprised at all. "He rules this school, Peggy!  He has grown up here.  All the teachers know him and half the school.  He could probably give the class the school tour today and not many of the other newbies walk right up to the principal and give her a high five!"

She's totally right.  His whole life has revolved around sitting in that car seat twice a day as he watched his siblings go off to school and now it's his turn.  He's had to sit patiently in the back of a classroom while I volunteer.  He was loved and embraced almost three years ago when tragedy struck.  He was ready.

Me being ready, on the other hand, is a whole 'nother story.  It's been a rough week.  I am so happy for him and proud that he's made this transition so well, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I miss my little buddy.  Moreover, it's a huge transition for our family as we now have all five kids in school.  I still felt like we had another baby in our plans and for some reason watching him grow up highlights that pang.

Of course he reminded me quickly last night that he still needs me when he called from the bathroom, "Mommy!  I need help wiping!!"

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Work sucks.  No other way to say it.  If I could quit I would.

Pompous, male Phd's are not on my good list right now.  In previous positions, I got used to arrogant, male military officers.  Now I've got a puffed up professor who treats me like his TA, not a colleague, and repeatedly takes my ideas as his own, looses a gasket whenever I respectfully disagree with him, and has basically cut me out of a project that I've worked hard on all summer.  I'm trying to remind myself that it's a paycheck, but my ego has taken a huge blow in the last 3 weeks.  I've got other more important things to worry about like living with a depressed teenager, sorting out M's student assistance plan (SAP) for the year and figuring out the our new logistics with the new school year and new sports seasons.

I know I'm good at what I do.  I just need to keep reminding myself and ride out these waves.

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K and I are in a bit of a funk again.  Same old, same old.  Short of couples therapy, I'm not sure how to approach it.  Our marriage has definitely been one of ebbs and flows. I wish the times of us working as a team lasted longer.  When things get tough, he tends to distance himself from me and the kids.  I get frustrated and lose my cool.  Rinse and repeat.  I want to break the cycle.

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So school has started.  E is a junior.  A and M are in seventh grade.  D is the king of fifth grade.  L has jumped into school with both feet and (crossing fingers) so far, so good. 

Despite accidents, funerals, pain, stress, tears, and a whole lot of crap, life still marches on.  If I teach the kids anything through all of this is that we need to keep moving forward and living our life even when all of us just want to move to Costa Rica and live on a family compound made up of tree houses (A's latest fantasy).


Here's to a new school year!




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Cars and Next Steps

We just bought a third family car (or at least that's what we're calling it). It is primarily for E to use for driving to school and practice.  We're also hoping it will be used for helping me with driving to practices, etc.  I'm not sure how much of that is going to happen once school starts, but she's already driven her sister to the dentist which was a big help.

I'm nervous.

I'm excited for her.

I'm worried about her reaction when we lay down the law about her use of the car.  She seems to think that she can drive it whenever she wants.  Whenever I try to explain that's not the case, she doesn't seem to be really listening to me.  She did get the message about her phone (NO WAY) in the car.

K is vacillating between annoyance about having to deal with another car and excitement in getting a good deal on a nice, safe car for her.

I'm not sure how this is all going to play out.  I guess we'll just take it one day at a time.

In other news, I finally, finally, finally talked with my therapist about trying medication.  The nudge from you guys and a nudge from a good friend gave me the push I needed.  She thinks it's a very good idea.

She gave me some names of psychiatrists she trusts.  They don't take my insurance.  My friend said she just went through her primary care, but I'm nervous about that.  Thoughts?

I told K.  He was quiet.  Then he cracked a joke.  We haven't talked about it since.  He seemed okay with it.  I'm not sure how he'll take the expense if I decide to go out of network.

Even without the actual drugs adjusting my brain chemistry, I feel better after making the decision.  I feel hopeful.  I want to be a better mom.  They deserve it and I have to believe that this step will help me get there.  Right?

Friday, August 17, 2012

A tough week for A

Poor A has had a really tough week even beyond the "private parts" injury.  He started off Wednesday with a dentist appointment which went fine, but I'm sure everyone can imagine how much kids love dentist appointments.  While there, I stepped next door to the ortho office to find out about his palette expander and when it was supposed to go in.  They were supposed to call me and I hadn't heard yet.  Well, the appliance was delivered to the wrong office and they wanted to rush to get it in so he could get used to it before school starts.  They had an opening that afternoon, so we had to go back later and have it inserted. 

He is absolutely miserable.  In addition to the palette expander, she put in a tongue trainer to teach his tongue to move properly when he swallows.  That's making it hard for him to get food in and he's struggling to swallow.  He's talking funny, not eating and altogether grumpy.  The worst part is that he's having a hard time getting to sleep.

The three boys each have a lovey that they've had since they were newborns. A has "Rufus" (Ru or Rufie).  D has Louis (or Lou...pronounced LOO-ESE with a Spanish accent when he can't find him).  L has Boo and Blanky (or blanks).  A has always slept with Ru.  He sucks his fingers (hence the ortho) and sniffs Ru.  Prior to the accident, Ru was kept on his bed and only used at bedtime.  For about 6 months after the accident, Ru went everywhere with A.  In the car, while watching T.V, the computer or drawing.  We let it go because we knew he needed the comfort.  He got better with Ru for a little bit, but for the last few months Ru has come out again in full force.  When home, he always seemed to have Ru in his face.  We have gently reminded him this time to put Rufie up in his room, but again see this as a stress relief for him and tried not to make a big deal.

The tongue trainer, however, keeps him from being able to suck his fingers.  The cold turkey approach is probably what is best, but I feel so sorry for him.  He already is sore from the skateboard accident, his teeth hurt, he's not eating normally, and now he can't have Ru.  The mommy in me has tried to be supportive and be practical about it.  The mommy in me also cried in the shower yesterday as I thought about my little boy growing up and putting aside a piece of his childhood.  The gradual transitions of growing up are just that, slow and not that noticeable until you pause to consider.  This sudden change has been hard.

In typical A fashion, he's whined about the unfairness of it all, but found a way to make the best of it.  He started playing soccer Wednesday night too which makes him a bit sore "down there" but he says he's okay and will be able to play in his soccer tournament this weekend.  That makes his coach (daddy) happy and has been a good distraction.

It's hard to see him hurting and upset.  He's a cool kid and has already had to deal with so many heavy things.  Check out his latest video when he came across his first timber rattlesnake.  There is also a cameo by his little bro which is pretty cute.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So

I'm tired.  I'm overwhelmed.  I'm struggling in so many ways, but...

I'm going to attempt to capture some of what is going on here on my blog before I completely lose my writing mojo.  All I can muster is a boring list, so here goes...

The good:
--For the most part, we had a nice time in Hilton Head.  The weather wasn't great, but we had more fun times than bad.  Golf, beach, pool and lots of ice cream kept the little kids happy and exhausted most days.  Multiple alligator sightings didn't hurt either.

--I drove down by myself with the boys.  It took us close to 11 hours, but with three great movies, good tunes and a laid back attitude by all we had lots of fun.  K drove the girls down later after their all-star swim meet.  It ended up being a great decision.  The boys got me all day without drama from the girls and the girls got a little focused time with K.

--Spending a full week with K without the distractions of work and coaching was awesome.  He definitely took the pressure off me with the attention seeking from M.  They get along really well.  He doesn't necessarily "parent" her in terms of discipline, etc., but he relaxes her in a way that I don't and that is worth an awful lot.  He also did the brunt of mini-golfing and made breakfast for the kids each morning so I could sleep in a bit.

--L is just the cutest kid ever.  I love every age, but five is so much fun.  He is getting more and more independent (dressing himself, getting his own ice cream, learning to swim), but is still my tenderhearted little guy.  I can't wait to experience kindergarten with this special boy.

The bad:
--E has been really difficult.  We can never do anything right.  Teenagers are so hard.  Depressed teenagers are astronomically hard.  I'm getting conflicting advice from my therapist and her psychiatrist on how to deal with her constant neediness while trying to be there for the other kids.  I don't even really know how to articulate the confusing, exhausting, and emotionally draining nature of dealing with her.

--While on vacation, A hurt himself pretty badly skateboarding.  He "credit carded" himself which necessitated a trip to the ER and four stitches in a very sensitive place for a boy.  He is still bruised, swollen and sore.  Everyone is calling him "numb nuts" or "split balls."  It pretty much ruined the trip for him and scared me.  I was calm and cool during the ordeal, but balled like a baby later that night when I thought about the terrified look on his face.  5 days later I still feel sick to my stomach thinking about it.

--The swimming explosion from L was awesome.  The resulting ear infection was not, especially since he was up all night the night before I had to drive him home 11 hours on my own. (K did a side trip with the middle 3 on the way home).  Antibiotics for 10 days.  Yuck.

--My sister-in-law's marriage has completely imploded.  The kids are a mess.  Neither of them will grow up and put their own issues aside and parent their hurting children.  My heart goes out to K's parents who are trying to help as best they can.  Both K's sister and her husband have tried to drag me into their drama.  K and I are just trying to be there for the kids (especially the youngest R who is very close to our kids).  I can't take on any more stress.

--Work is simply awful.  I just can't be the analyst I need to be and deal with the chaos of home.  I'm hoping things will get better when they all get back to school, but I'm not sure it will help.  Without going into too much detail, work is causing me immense stress and requiring late nights which creates a vicious cycle of not enough sleep.

--On that note, I am simply not sleeping well.  I go to sleep fine and then wake up either on my own or when L climbs into our bed sometime in the night (yes, it's still going on) and then I can't get back to sleep.  My mind races non-stop about how I'm going to get everything done and worry about the kids. In a similar vein, I'm not eating well either.  Bad, bad and more bad.

So.  The same cast of characters with our same issues and drama.

I need to start writing again.  It helps me in so many ways.

I try to remind myself to take deep breaths and find little ways to "escape" and give my mind and body a break.

I need to sleep.  I need to eat.  I need to try not to take everything so seriously.

Medication is becoming more of an option in my mind.  I need to get over the idea that it would be a move of weakness rather than a step in the right direction.

So.

One of my favorite albums by Peter Gabriel.

A simple word that can express your emotions in the superlative or denote utter exasperation and a loss for what to do next.

It seems to fit me right now.