Friday, March 30, 2012

I Blew It

Those were the words I texted to C and repeated over and over again to K last night.

Last year, CA decided that she and KM were going to take the little girls to their cabin for Easter and not spend it with our family.  It was very upsetting.  For all of us and especially for E and M.  They didn't understand why they weren't going to be with their sisters on such a special holiday.  I confronted CA and the compromise was a last minute "party" at my house on Good Friday with egg coloring and a hunt.  It sucked.

Last week CA texted me that they were once again not going to be here for Easter and would I do the same thing on Good Friday as they head out to the cabin.  I didn't respond.  I was too angry.  My first reaction was that she could explain to E why they aren't spending this holiday together again.  So I waited until I felt better about being calmer.  I talked long and hard about it with C about the best way to approach her.  We came up with the solution that if they (CA and KM) didnt' want to spend Easter with the family then how about leave the little girls with me for the weekend and then I'd bring everyone to the cabin on Monday.

She texted me last night, pushing me for an answer.  I called her directly (enough of the passive aggressive texts) and explained my reservations about the sisters not being together and my offer.  She sounded angry and said "fine we'll be at mom and dad's Easter Sunday and you guys get your way."

I should have just ended it there.  I totally blew it.

I said, "Why are you so mad? What is wrong with being with family on a holiday?"

The floodgates opened.  She escalated the conversation into "You don't trust us with them!" "You always judge us!" "You always get your way!" Angry, irrational, hurtful words followed.

Again, I should have ended it there.  I didn't.  I went right with her and brought up all the concerns I (we) have about the little girls.  All the practical, basic care issues we have.  Why she shuts all of us out.  I tried to understand why the four of them establishing themselves as a family means that they distance themselves from the rest of the family.

I should have ended it.  What I got back was awful.  According to CA, she doesn't ask for advice or share with me because she doesn't want to be a mom like me.  It's obvious that I put a priority on the boys and only care about them and treat the girls as second class citizens...and they (the girls) know it.  I should prioritize the girls' needs first because they lost their parents.  Oh, and the boys are rude and dirty.  What?  (for the record, my children are well groomed, kind and awesome kids).  My favorite was that she wants to take all four girls and run away to Australia...away from us terrible people who put our biological children first.

A simple Easter request spun up into a tirade about her perception of our family as people who fundamentally reject her.  Yes, I admit that I have been judgemental of her recently given the condition of the little girls when they've visited my house, things sad by CA and decisions they are making that run contrary to what Jeanne and Mike would want.  Sometimes I just can't turn my mommy radar off.  Casually addressing the issues got the same reaction as me being direct and advocating for the MG and KT.  At this point, I don't know how to talk to her.

She is so sensitive and clinging to 25 year old grievances.  When I talk to her like I would talk to my other sisters, about the kids or life, I get either a lecture (she is a teacher) or lies and defensiveness. It is also really difficult to hear her talk about how the girls were forced on them and they were given no choice.  I guess there is some truth in that, but its hard to hear. What I do know is that I am done being the spokesperson for the rest of the family about issues with the little girls.  I am tired of always being the bad guy.  I am once again drained and don't have the energy both emotionally and physically.

I also know that I need to salvage this relationship and keep trying to make things better for the girls.  They deserve it.  Moreover, all of the kids need to see positive adult relationships and not feel further instability as a result of the accident (there I go again thinking of my own children).

If I really think hard and am honest with myself, it all comes down to the fact that I really don't want CA and KM with the little girls.  This has nothing to do with them as a gay couple, but everything about how they have handled the situation and their decisions.  This has obviously not been a natural transition for them and I just don't feel right about it.  I don't think we really thought through the decision or weren't emotionally able to make one.  This gut feeling is probably why I focus on lots of superficial issues (clothing, being clean, their house, and school).  The fact that the girls are loved and happy should be enough.

I wish I were a better person.  I certainly am not pleased with myself about how I handled the situation with CA.  Thank goodness for blogging, therapy and patient friends.   Somehow I need to find the fortitude to be a better sister, aunt, wife and mom. As with most things, recognizing it is at least a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Break

When she was 12, E was Michael Phelps for Halloween...she used a bunch of her own medals.

E is away for a week a Junior Nationals in Orlando.  It's US Swimming's national championship meet for kids under 18.  She made it last year at age 14 and was 17th out of 175 swimmers in 100 butterfly.  She had a phenomenal meet.  I went down for 2 days, along with S's husband, and her grandfather (her dad's dad).  She had a great time.

This year she went down by herself although I think her grandfather may go for a bit since he lives down there during the winter.

She has not had a good year swimming.  Her times haven't just plateaued, they have gotten some events by a lot.  She is still a great swimmer in the grand scheme of things, but it is not on the same trajectory that she and her parents thought she was on in the picture above.

Natural events have taken place.  She's added weight (weight needed to become a women) and unfortunately she is in a sport in which added weight makes a difference (buoyancy and all that).  She works harder than ever, but the results are just not there.  We've tried to work with her and with her coach to find the right balance of training, food and sleep/rest and I definitely don't think we've achieved it.  She also carries a tons of emotional strain and stress.  The main problem is that she isn't going to get taller and there aren't many Olympic swimmers at 5 foot 4 inches.

The bigger issue is that this is a little girl since age of 9 has been told that she is the best swimmer ever and, as a result, it defines her as a person (that and straight A's).  Her parents (particularly her father) did not do a very good job at giving her any perspective.  They were planning for her college scholarships at the age of 11.  In her mind, she has to be the best in every race at every meet. 

As I've mentioned before, K and I were both Division 1 college athletes.  We have both achieved a lot before, during and after college in sports.  One thing, however, that we have worked hard at, is not letting sports (or achievement in sports) define who are kids are.  You lose a game, okay,  let's get a slurpee and it's all over.  We have never wanted to put any sort of pressure on our kids.  I think we've done a pretty good job of setting the right perspective and, in turn, our kids enjoy playing and developmentally have progressed exactly where they need to be.  This runs counter to many, many parents in our area (and on our kids' teams) and definitely counter to Jeanne and Mike's philosophy.  I actually don't think they really meant to do it, but they got swept up in E's achievements early on and reliving past glory or lack of glory in their own childhood sports.  I regularly rolled my eyes and shook my head at how they put such a high priority on E's swimming.

Now we have inherited that attitude with E and M.  It is really hard to deal with.  M particularly feels the pressure, thinking she needs to be as good as E, and at the same time not being able to deal with a loss.  It gets so old listening to excuses from her about the terrible referees and mean players on the other team.  I try to explain that sometimes your team just loses and that's okay, but she'll hear nothing of it.

Swimming is also a sport that is so different from my experiences in team sports.  It is so black and white.  On the soccer field, I have multiple times throughout the game to fail and succeed.  Have a bad pass?  Do it better next time.  Your team loses?  Well, maybe you played well or can think of good plays you had.  You play terrible?  Well, at least maybe your team wins.  In swimming, it's all on you, winning or losing.  She puts so many hours in the water practicing, for sometimes less than a minute of success or failure.  There is not gray area and the clock doesn't lie.  I did run track in high school, but it was more about keeping fit for soccer and having fun with my friends.  I was good at it, but I had lots of other eggs in the basket with soccer and basketball.  E has one basket and one egg.    I'm sure there are lots of other psychological factors at play too in trying to honor her dead parents, etc.  With her swimming, I never know if I'm making the right decisions or saying the right things.  I depend on her coach and basically let her figure things out on her own.  By downplaying her swimming a bit, we hope that she'll gain the perspective she desperately needs.  We support her, but not with the same single minded purpose that she had with her parents.  In practical terms, we just can't do it with all of the other kids' needs.

So it's nice having a break from E and her swimming.  I miss her jokes and funny stories, but multiple texts a day from her have filled that void.  M has been more relaxed.  Honestly, we've all been more relaxed.  It is easier with one less kid, but it's her intensity that I don't miss.  Our whole house is palpably less tense.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Day

Morning comes.  Struggle to get out of bed and leave dreams behind.

Running a bit late with tired kids, an unexpected drop-off and the inability to give up a cup of coffee and morning shower before L's school drop-off.

Parts for a school project on comets bought. A stroll through next door Home Goods imagining possible additions to our home.

Quick trip to Trader Joe's.  Quick chat with C on the phone on the way there.  Laughs.  Sharing.

Preschool pickup for a grumpy five year old.  Sun shining as the temperatures rise.

Afternoon of lazy work on the couch and appeasing L with TV shows and Nook.

Pick up big kids and make executive decision to have M skip practice resulting in an activity free afternoon and evening.

Homework quickly done.  Playing at the park.  Adult conversation for me.  Pop flies thrown for D.  An eager "yes" given to request for trip to creek by themselves.

Second executive decision for the afternoon made...Dinner out.  No cooking.  No dishes.  Unused gift cards used.

Three unexpected phone calls from old friends.  One from Paris.  One old work friend.  One from Kathleen.  All of them replenish and comfort me.

Creek explorers return.  One snapping turtle.  One green frog.  One salamander.  One skinned knee, but lots of giggles.

M seems at ease.

Dinner out at favorite restaurant with pleasant conversation, full tummies and more giggles on the way home.

Laundry folding.  Teeth brushed.  Last minute hugs and tickles.  The Hobbit being started for the first time in one room.  Hunger Games being devoured in the other.

Sitting and writing with K on the couch nearby.  House Hunters.  Comfortable silence is a welcome state after horrible fight on Sunday night.  First steps in getting back in sync.

A regular day around these parts.  Another day forward together as a family.  Another day forward into this new life and another day further away from the terrible day that defined it.

Actually looking forward to tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Shift

Last night with M was pretty difficult and brought up lots of worries for the future and reminders of what the girls are going through.  Today I tried to keep life simple and in the present.  Beautiful weather helped and we spent a lot of time outside playing and being together. My goal was normal.  I was too tired to handle anything else.

I tired to shift my focus today and try to remember to be "fun" mom and keep moving forward despite all the (excuse my language) crap.  In the spirit of an attempt to switch gears, here is a list of some great things that have happened lately:

1.  I threw both D and L awesome birthday parties.  We rented an indoor soccer field for D's birthday and a gaggle of boys played football for 1.5 hours and had a blast.  He had a great time.  For L's party, we had a dinosaur theme and from the decorations to the cake to the activities it was one of my best.  I love throwing parties and it was a blast.  He was so sweet with all of his cousins and friends.

2.  Interim grades for this quarter for the little kids were really good.  M's grades went up.  A was notified he's up for junior national honor society.  D is right on track for his usual first honors.

3.  Work is settling down a bit and I'm really liking the project I'm on.  It's still, well, "work," but I'm feeling better about how things are going and how much better it will be in the fall when L is in full day kindergarten.

4.  I've been reading some really good books.  It's a nice escape. Many of my favorite authors have new books coming out soon too and that's something to look forward to.

5.  I love my Nook.  I rock at Words with Friends...another good escape. 

6.  I came up with a new laundry system with the kids and I think its going to work.  Color-coded bins and and a little more responsibility on their end is hopefully going to take a few things off my shoulder.

7.  I don't think I've mentioned her before, but we have the best cat in the world.  She makes us all laugh and seems to instinctively know when I need an extra snuggle.

8.  The weather has been spectacular around here.  Everyone getting outside has been a good thing, especially the boys. 

9.  Last Friday while the girls were at the birthday party for KT, I took A and L on a herpetology event at a local regional park.  We trooped through the some vernal ponds, mud and woods and A found his elusive spotted salamander.  He had been asking for weeks about this program and I was glad we could go.  It was cold, wet and dark, but the boys had fun and I was glad to be able to do that for them.

10.  Baby H (S's new daughter) is getting baptized on Sunday.  It will be nice to have a family event celebrating this new, adorable little girl.

Things still pretty much suck (again sorry for the crass language).  I am trying to work hard to remember the good things going on around me.  I've felt lately that I'm stuck in such a dark place and exercises like this help me when things get truly out of control like last night.  Thanks to my blogging buddy Rachel for inspiring me to recognize the good when I'm stuck in the bad.

At a Loss...

I spent last night (early morning) in the emergency room with M.

Last night she had a full blown anxiety attack and I couldn't calm her down.  My usual tricks didn't work.  She was complaining of a pain in her side, but my gut feeling was that this was one of her fake illnesses/injuries.  At one point she was pulling her hair and moaning "I want to go home."  Other sad, strange statements...

"KT is happy right?  She was playing with Liam on Sunday and looked happy...right?"

"It's not my's really my side...I can control my feelings."

"Help me, help me, help me...nobody can help me."

"I can't tell you what's wrong...nobody understands."

It was awful.  I didn't know what to do.  I called the pediatrician and they agreed that going to the ER was the best course of action to rule out a real physical problem.  I didn't want to be that parent that ignored their kid and then their appendix burst.  But I knew. I knew nothing was wrong physically, but that this was a mental issue.  Unfortunately (fortunately?), I was right.  We had the nicest, most understanding nurses and ER doctor who were able to assure M that we all believed she was hurting, but that going home and getting rest was the best course of action.

She is home today.  I'm trying to act like this is a normal day for her and the rest of the kids.  I did all the right things I think.  Contacted her therapist.  Called the pediatrician back (we increased her Concerta dose and I want to make sure that is not playing a part).  Paying attention to her, but trying not to overdue it.  In all honesty, I have absolutely no idea what to do and am just going with instinct.

My family is sorta freaking out.  From the ER, I texted the only person I knew would be up, my brother-in-law DG (husband of sister C).  He was great and made me feel not so alone.  Of course he called his wife this morning and the news quickly spread throughout the family.  I reassured them that we are fine and that making more drama out of this isn't going to help (of course I'm typing this as she is rolling on the couch moaning and baby talking).  I have to consider the other kids. The boys have no patience for her faker faker episodes, but this was different.  It scared them.  It scared E.  Frankly, it scared me.

This is just another example of how on the surface everything seems fine with our family and the girls.  It's not that simple.  Yes, we are all better than a year ago.  The fact of the matter is that we have adopted two grieving children.  One of those has been diagnosed with ADHD and an anxiety disorder.  Nothing in this situation is normal and it's a lot more complicated than people think.

I am exhausted.  Physically.  Mentally.  We had a really busy weekend with me on single parent duty with four of them since K was at a soccer tournament with D.  E had a bad swim weekend and refused to swim in her meet on Sunday (a huge issue and separate post in itself).  CA had a four year old birthday party for KT at a bar/restaurant on Friday night in which only the big girls, my parents and KM's mom were invited (yes, another full post).  This put E and M off all weekend.  This all created the perfect storm for last night.  Who knows why it happened.  Regardless, it completely sucked.

I don't know exactly what to do.  I cannot make this hurt go away for her.  I guess moving forward (one step in front of the other and all that) and trying to get to normal.  Whatever that normal might be.