This weekend was KT's 5th birthday party. K and I were unable to be there due to sports conflicts with the big boys. C took L and M to the party, and we let E drive (on the beltway) to the party since she had to swim.
Immediately after the party, I got all kinds of reports from people who attended. L had a great time and was the kid who busted open the pinata. According to C, M and KT spent a significant amount of time together one-on-one and M was great. C innocently told me that on the way home, M told her she asked KT about how much of their old life she remembers. C thought this sounded sweet and M seemed fine...my red flags went up. E showed up right as the party was ending, claiming she got out of the pool late. She stayed 25 minutes and left. Again, everyone thought this was great that she stayed, but she had nothing else going on that afternoon and could have stayed hours to play with her sisters. My red flags raised slightly higher, especially after she sent me texts that it was the worst swim day of her entire career (her times did not reflect that in the least).
This weekend was a perfect example of how people see the girls and think that everything is hunky dory as long as they are smiling and seem happy. I'm not saying they aren't generally happy kids, but their grief is often a palpable feeling in our house and there is nothing we can do to help.
Nobody wants to acknowledge that fact that we separated these 4 girls, after they already lost the two most important people in their young lives. I know it was a reality that we tried to avoid and failed, but it doesn't make it any easier to stomach.
All day Saturday I got the happy texts from my sisters and my dad. Party was great, girls were great, all is wonderful.
But I remember last year after KT's birthday. M ended up in the ER. E refused to swim claiming her heart just hurt too much.
Unfortunately, my gut won out on this. I got home around 8:40pm after doing a switch down in Richmond with K for D's soccer tournament. Within minutes of me getting home, M broke out in horrible hives and started acting weird. After ruling out a food reaction, I figure out it was stress hives. My poor little girl. A dose of Benadryl and cuddling up with me on the couch calmed her down enough so she could go to bed a little after midnight.
No hives on Sunday, but a repeat on Monday gave us a physical reminder of the girls' grief. As we explained to the boys on Sunday afternoon...the girls miss their sisters. We can try to ignore it, but sometimes a bout of hives drives the truth home. It sucks, for all of us.
On the flip side, though, this year didn't result in a trip to the emergency room, and E swam great Sunday morning, getting another personal best and junior nationals cut. We were able to talk to M about her hives and why they happened in an honest and straightforward way, which was definitely different from last year. K has been especially good checking in on her the last two days and giving her some extra love.
We're making strides one glacial inch at a time. I hope for the day when everyone else's vision of our family is the true reflection. I'll take these little victories for now, though, even if my assessment is based on just different levels of suck.