Monday, January 30, 2012

Muscle Memory

I had a soccer game last night.  The stars all aligned perfectly and K walked in the door just in time for me to be able to rush off and get there relatively on time.  I play in an indoor league with a bunch of ladies that I've known for awhile.  We are pretty competitive and regularly play teams 10-15 years younger.  I think I've talked about it here before that when I play soccer it really is when I feel the most like "Peg."  The ball at my feet, seeing a pass at a split second, zipping past someone, and ripping a ball into the back of the net.  Even without playing everyday like I did in my youth and twenties, I still have the same skills and game awareness.

Athletes regularly do repetitive actions in order to perfect certain aspects of the game or activity and soccer is no exception. I have 33 years of creating muscle memory. Last night at my game, there were several times when instinct took over and I can't tell you "how" I did something.  It just happened and felt awesome.  On the field, how I strike the ball, carry the ball at my feet or thread a pass in simply natural.  I don't really "think" any more.  It's completely liberating.  Great stress release to say the least.

As I was driving home, contemplating this last night, it got me thinking about the "muscle memories" I'm creating in other aspects of my life.  I'm stuck in this cycle of working hard all day with the kids, switching over to "work, work" once they're in bed and then staying up way too late reading or watching useless TV to unwind.  This results in a very tired Peg the next day who gets energized after a cup of coffee and shower in the morning and keeps the train going with diet cokes and random bites of sugar (usually involving chocolate) till I collapse in my bed at night.  I've been justifying this by admitting I"m still in survival mode.  This excuse is getting thin.

Ultimately this has created a very inpatient, grumpy mom.  My first instinct lately is to yell, say the wrong thing or generally just overreact at the kids.  As with most things, I'm a lot harder on the boys.  My worst moments are first thing in the morning as I'm hustling 4 of them into uniforms, fed, shoes on, bags packed in about 25 minutes.  A close second is bedtime in which I'm trying to get 5 of them bathed, jammies on, teeth brushed (not batting 1000 on this one) and into bed.  The last one a real challenge with a 15 year old who needs to get to bed since she gets up at 3:40 am for swimming.

I want to break this cycle.  I don't want this to be this mom.  I know I've written about this before, but I'm still struggling with how to make the right steps to fix this.  More sleep.  Better organized.  I guess recognizing it is a step in the right direction.  No more excuses.

I don't want this muscle memory to be as natural as a left footed certainly doesn't feel as satisfying.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Seeing Clearly

This is one of my favorite pictures of D.  It captures his intensity and competitiveness.  I love his self confidence on the playing field, whether it's soccer, baseball or basketball.  He carries himself with the same sense of self in the classroom too.  He is quite the star.

What I don't understand is how this little bundle of self confidence is still so lost in our new family.  He has taken to actually "marking" his territory.  All around our house (in permanent marker) he has written his name.  Baskets from Rwanda.  The wall.  Tables.  The windows.  Infuriating, yet sad all at the same time that he has taken these steps to let everyone know that this is his house, his family, his turf.

Today he had his first optometrist appointment for glasses.  He's failed the vision test at school twice and it was time to finally get him an appointment.  He confessed earlier that he snuck his friend's glasses last week and agreed how much better the world looked.  We had a crazy day today with everyone really busy, but I was able to arrange it that it was just me and D at the eye doctors'.

It was wonderful.  He was charming, sweet and funny.  The anger and defiance that he seems to wear as armour throughout the day was gone.  We talked, laughed and just felt so comfortable and relaxed together.  We had about an hour together and it was worth every minute.

I try to think of each of the kids as little banks.  I have to make sure that I make a deposit in them everyday.  A quick talk.  A special snack.  Another game of Go Fish.  Sometimes one of them gets a little extra, which can be saved up for the times he or she may not get enough.  I realized today that D really needs some extra deposits.  Right now he needs to be reminded more than all of them that he matters, he is loved and that I care about what's going on in his life.

I want him to have the same little "swagger" in his step around here that he has outside of our house.  He deserves it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Grieve

Grief (n) deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement.
--Merriam Webster Dictionary

Grieving is exhausting work.  Most of my casual acquaintances would be shocked to think that I'm still in the whirlwind of grief.  It's been two years since the accident. 

My life is completely defined by grief.  Mine.  The girls.  The boys.  My family.  Sometimes I feel like it's similar to being in really rough surf at the beach.  I work hard treading water to keep my head above the choppy, swirling ocean.  When needed, I hold my breath and dive under the waves, quickly popping my head up waiting for the next set of waves to crash my way.  But sometimes, I let go and let the waves crash on top of me and envelope my body and carry me towards the shore.

Last night was one of those times.  But it wasn't about Jeanne.  Yes, I miss my sister terribly and think about her every day.  I'm still not ready to directly deal with that grief yet.  I don't have time and it hurts too much.  I have too many people depending on me to indulge.  I think if I really accepted it, I'd stay in my bed under the covers and not be able to get up. I like to think about that grief as a little jar that I keep on a back shelf, a little out of reach, but always within my sight.

Many different triggers this week steadily increased my feelings of being overwhelmed, culminating with me sobbing in my bathroom and bed last night.  It all comes down to one simple fact...

... I miss my family.  I miss my life with my three little boys and funny, energetic husband.  I miss the mom, wife and friend I used to be.  I'm grieving the future I was hoping for my children.  I'm grieving the life I want for them in the present.  I have come to accept that my level of work and responsibility with the girls, but what I still struggle with is seeing my children suffer. 

D has had a really bad week (bad sleeping, eating and anger).  As an adult, I have a hard time keeping my feelings about the changes in check.  His little, 9 year old body just has had enough.  He wants his own room back.  He wants more time with me.  He wants to be able to be a silly boy without getting eye rolls and comments from at 15 year old girl.  He is already complaining about swimming this summer because the girls' swim team may disrupt our family vacation traditions.  He doesn't understand why everyone gives E and M special treatment.  As his mommy, it is hard to see him so upset.

L has also had a tough week.  His talk about death and his "family dying" has been on an upward swing since we had the little girls with us.  He has had to be physically attached to me at all times.  My patience has not been perfect and his constant "under foot" status and made me snap at him way too much.  This is not what I want for my little boy.  Even without the girls living with us, I'm sure he'd be confused about death with his aunt and uncle dying, but the girls living with us makes it present in our family life on a daily basis.

The girls have been difficult this week.  Their demands for attention are exhausting.  The boys get lost in their needs.  A hides in his room drawing and reading.  D hangs out in the basement shooting hoops.  L clings to me until I snap at him to give me a break and then hides on the couch playing Angry Birds on my Nook. 

Anytime one or both of the girls are out of the house, the level of tension in our house drops noticeably.  Sometimes the four of us try hiding in my room with the door closed to physically separate ourselves from the girls.  We all just need a break.  We toss the nerf football (our room is huge), watch shows the girls wouldn't like or just curl up in my bad telling fart jokes and letting them be silly little boys.  Sometimes it's only for 15 minutes and that is enough.  Lately, I crave these moments.  Tears are pooling in my eyes as I type this.

This makes me feel incredibly guilty.  It is not the girls' fault that this happened.  I know in my heart we are doing the right thing as a family by taking them in.  Sometimes its hard to ignore, though, how their presence in our family has been disruptive, difficult and at times painful.

So last night I cried for what we've lost.  I know I should be thankful for what I have (we have), but the physical and emotional toll of 2+ years of grieving has worn my resolve.  Sometimes its just all too much to bear without screaming. Sometimes it's easier to let the waves carry me along for a bit and wallow.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Drumroll Please...

As of yesterday, I have been writing this blog for 1 year. I'm a blogger. I still am a little shocked that I took this step and I write words that others read and sometimes provide comments, love, and support. Wow.

I thought I'd have something profound to say. Some insightful words to mark this occasion. As I've pondered it, lots of disjointed thoughts have trickled through my mind. As I tend to do in this space, here's a list of things I'd like to share about this blogversary.

Writing. I like to write.  I enjoy the process.  I like the creative outlet this space has provided me.  I like to think about how I'm going to present an idea, a feeling or a funny story.  I've always been a voracious reader.  In recent years, I've added blogs to the genre I enjoy reading.  I just never thought I've have the guts or ability to write anything people would want to read.  This blog has opened a creative side to me that frankly I didn't think I had.  It really rocks.

My Blog as Therapy.  Writing about what's going on in my life has been extremely therapeutic.  I force myself to think about the heavy stuff in my life and process it in an articulate manner.  The act of putting things in black and white on the page is sometimes more meaningful, more vulnerable than working with my therapist.  Maybe it's the anonymity.  I'm not sure why, but this space allows me to be completely honest in a way I can't always be in my real life.  Sometimes writing here forces me to remember the good things in my life that get overshadowed by the drama.  This is a very good thing.  The freedom, yet vulnerability of my blog is liberating.  I'm sure other bloggers have expressed this in a more eloquent manner, but blogging has allowed me to express my raw feelings, fears, joys and hopes in a uniquely satisfying way.  Again, it totally rocks.

Support.  As I said before, I have been reading blogs for years.  Just reading that other women have been going through similar situations or other challenges has made me feel not so alone.  I've laughed.  I've cried.  I've marvelled at how someone has had the ability to write something that describes exactly how I've felt.  I've sporadically commented when a post really moved me.  I don't think I can adequately express how receiving comments on my blog has touched me.  Simple words of support, love, empathy and understanding.  Sometimes it's just someone saying I'm listening, when nobody in my real life is.  Simply put, I don't feel so alone.  For those who have regularly read my words and known exactly what to say...Thank you, thank you, thank you.  You guys totally rock.

The Future.  I've been thinking about the future of my blog.  I've got some areas I'd like to write about more.  I think I'm ready to write more about Jeanne.  I haven't written that much about my wacky in-laws (my husband is one of nine in a British family...the stories and how I fit into that family abound).  I've thought about how I can write a little more about me and less a recitation about the things going on around here.  As with most bloggers,  I hope to write more here in the future.  Sometimes life just gets in the way.  Blogging rocks.

Pride.  When I try to think of a word that truly encapsulates what I feel about this blog, Pride comes to mind.  I am really proud of myself for taking this step.  I am proud of many of my posts.  I am proud of being part of an online community of women writing about their lives and supporting each other despite different backgrounds and experiences.  This creation of this blog makes me feel good about myself and that absolutely rocks.

Oh yeah, and the title of this post was defnitely inspired by my awesome little rock star who was practicing his drums this afternoon while I was contemplating this post in my head.  My sweet little D and our entire family totally rock.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I think it's a pretty natural thing to play what-if games in your mind.  What if I had taken that job?  What if we had bought that house?  What if I had decided to leave that frat party on my own instead of with the tall, red-headed captain of the men's soccer team?  (it's okay, I ended up marrying him).  In order to embrace my new life, though, I try really hard not to go down this road too much...what if we didn't take the girls?  What if we had taken all four of the girls?  What if the accident never happened at all?

Sometimes I can't help myself.

Last week from 10am on Friday and 4pm on Saturday MG and KT stayed with us.  I'm worried more and more that the four sisters aren't together enough and are starting to be more like cousins.  The Christmas break was a perfect time to get them together without the distractions of school and other activities.

It was great.  I loved being with them and everyone had fun.  I tried to make it fairly normal with nothing too special so it would be more about them being together a give them some normalcy.  Yes, 7 kids was hard.  Yes, K was on a business trip which added to part of the difficult, but overall we did fine.  There were times of weirdness for all of them (M in particular).  The little girls also just really wanted to play with L most of the time, which is only natural given their ages.  I tried to find times, though, where the boys and I did things together and just let the girls be.

It was almost too easy.  If only for a short time, it gave me a snapshot of what our life might have been like.

My mind started down the path of what-ifs.  Spurring this were also the glaring parental issues CA is having with taking care of the girls.  Seeing them wearing clothes too small for them.  Seeing KT wearing boy pajamas.  Seeing KT's awful rash in her privates and terrible eczema.  What if we had taken them?  Could we have done it?  Would them have been better off?  What about the boys?   I try hard to not be judgmental about CA's decisions with the little girls.  I know only too well how bad that can feel.  But she consistently is making decisions that baffle the mind.  I tried to be honest and direct with her about them and I got lies, excuses, and weird accusations.  Disturbing and upsetting to say the least.

I took some action this morning and called Dr. L (awesome therapist who helped us decide what to do with the girls) about setting up some sort of meeting between the sisters to work things out.   He was wonderful as usual. He really thinks that CA is a very guarded and defensive person and that she can't come to us honestly because she feels so judged. His suggestion, actually, is for CA and I to meet with himself and Julia, who has been working with CA with MG.  He felt my relationship with CA was most important out of the sisters and that I could hopefully work with CA to come to all of us with a more honest place.  I'm hoping this helps.  I'm hoping I can improve things with her, so this in turn lets me help her with some basic care issues with the little girls.

Maybe this will quiet the what-ifs that bounce around my head late at night.