Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lessons and Lightness

I woke up this morning feeling a bit lighter.

Yesterday went well.  I'm actually really proud of how it all came together as a family and am so glad my kids got to experience death, grief, etc. in a healthy, normal manner.  M was a mess in the morning (moaning, acting weird, etc. ), but was fine as the day progressed. D did a wonderful job in the first reading.  His little voice, speaking clearly and slowly from the book of Wisdom brought tears to my eyes.  He claimed all along that he was a pro and did it all the time for school masses and we certainly all believe him now.  C and my cousin Rich gave lovely eulogies. 

My grandfather was a remarkable man.  He left home at age 16 with $8 in his pocket and hitchhiked to New York, where he met my grandmother, started his career in the music business and established his own big band orchestra where he played for presidents, kings and queens, hundreds of celebrities, and at Shea Stadium for the Mets.  What we all remembered yesterday, though, was that his greatest pride and accomplishment was his family.  He loved all of us so much and you could see how that flowed through the entire family and our relationships. He would have been so proud to see all of his great grandchildren playing together yesterday in our yard, loving each other and making life long bonds.

Grandpa's promo picture for one of his that smile.

Yesterday also reminded me that I can give a damn good party.  Our house looked and worked great for the reception.  I've given 5 big family parties in the last 5 months.  Whew.  My awesome neighbor (Thanks Gina!) met with the catering people while we were at mass, so all the food was ready when we got there. K is actually a great host and I thanked him profusely last night for chipping in and making the day work so smoothly.  I know I complained about having to do it, but at the end of the day I was glad to do this for my dad and was really proud how I pulled it off.  It's not often that I'm able to pause and give myself that pat on the back, so this felt pretty good.

Not everything was great.  CA decided not to bring KT and MG to the funeral or even to the reception at our house.  Layer upon layer of lies about how MG will freak out.  It was really sad since they were the only great grandchildren not there and, more importantly, it was a great way to teach the kids that funerals are sad yes, but not scary.  It's okay to cry.  It's okay to be sad and our family and faith are there to help us through.  Such a shame.  Needless to say, E and M were really upset about it.

I'm exhausted this morning.  It's a good kind of tired though.  I'm proud of how we came together as a family, despite all the drama about the funeral logistics and CA's lunacy.  I'm proud of how I was able to teach my kids a great lesson.  I'm proud of being the "hostess with the mostess."

The weather is hot and sunny today, just the way I like it.  We have our usual crazy day of practices, school, and work today.  Seven people still need to be fed tonight and the never ending pile of laundry needs to be folded.  I feel lighter, though, and a bit more able to tackle it. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A list

1.  My grandfather's funeral is tomorrow.  Reception here.  My cousins are being annoying.  My dad spelled my cousin's daughter's name wrong on the draft program.  I took over and missed the wrong spelling.  It's printed, folded and done.  While driving down from NY he just asked if it could be changed.  Good grief.  Reception is here.  Not ready at all, but will be.  It's looking like a long night.  Just trying to focus on Grandpa and trying to stay positive for him. 

2.  Girls are being annoying as usual this evening.  M is making everything about her.  E is complaining once again about us making her go to bed at 8:30 pm at night during the summer so she can get up at 3:45 am to swim.  She somehow thought we'd be more lenient.  She stated tonight that she thought I was being unreasonable. She is absolutely clueless.  Her inability to have fun this summer is all my fault because I make her go to bed and get less than 6 hours of sleep and get behind the wheel of a car.

3. In good news, E had a great swim meet last weekend without a bad race in the bunch and a slew of best times.  She also rocked out the SATs and got the William and Mary Leadership Award this week.  Very proud of her.

4.  The boys are good.  Surprisingly, they keep plodding on and continue to be such sweet, funny and goofy boys.  A saved a snake last week that was stuck in a sticky trap in a neighbor's garage.  He calmly extricated the snake (warm water and his snake hook), at the same time educating the entire family on snakes and why they shouldn't be afraid.  It was too cute.

5. Summer break....yay! Summer break....ugh...This means swim team and keeping all the minions occupied while I'm trying to get work done.

6. K and I are doing okay.  I'm working hard to be patient and try not to worry too much about his health. 

7.  I'm tired.  I still have tons of things to do to get ready for tomorrow.  I can feel the tension growing in my jaws.  I wish I could put the kids to bed right now and get started.  I've got a case of Dr. Pepper's in the garage fridge that have my name written all over them.  I wish I could just focus on being sad and not have to host the reception.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Dear Zhea,

E turned 17 on Sunday.

I think you know this.

I hope you know this.

We had a great weekend with her, celebrating with the whole family on Saturday night and as the seven of us last night.  Geoff and Kathleen came to the party Saturday and we drank some of Mike's whiskey, talked about you and cried a bit.

She's grown up a lot this year.  According to her psychiatrist she's turned a corner with her depression and attachment disorder.  We're weaning her off her meds in the next month.

She still can be difficult, prickly and moody.  Some of that is being a teenager.  Some of that is her personality.  Some of that is due to the awful cards she has been dealt.

She worries about her sisters and feels responsible for them.  She fights with M incessantly, though, and really doesn't seem to understand how to help her little sister. 

She especially worries about MG and KT forgetting you.  It breaks my heart.  I'm worried about them too and each time we see them I am overwhelmed by the feeling that that are not where they are supposed to be.  Not who they are supposed to be.  The guilt is suffocating.

She misses you and Mike terribly.  I think she's spent the last 3+ years harping on all the things that have changed and what she's lost (her house, neighborhood, swim team, friends) and she's finally settling into her real grief. She needs to be here, in her loss, but I still want to protect her from the pain and any more heartache.

We talk about you all the time.  I want you to know that a day, and sometimes hour, doesn't go by that I don't think about you and the accident.

The boys are doing fine.  They love the girls and are still adjusting.  We all love them and are doing our best to give them a loving, stable family.  M and K especially are developing a really sweet bond.

As with most holidays, we went through all the motions and did what we're expected to do.  I made E her favorite red velvet cake.  We sang and she blew out the candles.  C and I caught each other's eye as the song ended with tears swelling.  You.  Should. Be. Here.  As much as this was E's day, it was yours too.

I promise to continue to do my best by the girls. I really do love them. I hope you're proud of them.  I hope you're proud of me.

Jeanne, you are forever in my heart.  It still hurts so much to think about our life before the accident and what might have been.

Love you,

Monday, May 13, 2013


Mother's day in this house sucks.  Father's day does too for that matter.

We tiptoe around the girls, and everyone, boys included, try to downplay the entire day.

At one point, M was laying prostrate on the basement stairs moaning.  This after I asked her what she wanted for lunch.

E and I actually cracked jokes about her plans to visit the cemetery at some point during the day.

We went to a barbecue at my in-laws and I had to remind my sister-in-law why the girls seemed a little "off."

I do their laundry.  I feed them.  I make the appointments and help with homework.  I cheer from the sidelines and poolside.  I console them when they need me, whether they admit their need or not.  I set boundaries and praise them for good behavior.  I love them.


I am not their mother.  They miss their mommy.  I miss their mom.  I wouldn't want it any other way.  I never want Jeanne to be forgotten.  I am not a substitute.

What sucks is how this reality impacts the boys and our family as a whole.  Mother's day should be a day when I get to chill a bit and get a bit of a break.  It's days like yesterday when the girls need me the most. I'd be lying if I wasn't jealous by the facebook posts of the other moms celebrating with their families.

My brain says it's just another day and the girls miss their parents everyday.

My heart hurts for them as the rest of the world highlights what they don't have.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Names, Herps and Funerals

We've hit a tough spot with the girls in their grief.  This one is completely out of my hands and it's actually a feeling we can share.

Last weekend KM (not my sister CA) asked to talk to me about something with MG's therapy.  She was weird about it and didn't want to talk to me in person.  Turns out that when the girls were together (without adults around) over spring break, E and M talked to KT and MG about how CA and KM are not their mommy.  This all came up because the big sisters discovered that their little sisters refer to their parents as Jeanne and Mr. Mike. 

Neither of the little girls call my sister or KM mommy.  In fact, KT doesn't even include "aunt" in front of their names, which is my opinion is disrespectful.  But KM and CA (and I guess MG's therapist), think that the word "mom" is confusing for the little girls.

As KM recounted this to me, it was apparent that it wasn't something that bothered the little girls but that it upset CA and KM.  It's like they are erasing Jeanne and Mike for the little girls.  It makes me sick to my stomach.  I have no problem with others referring to them as their "moms."  I get that all the times with E and M.  But to chastise the big girls for wanting to acknowledge their mom and dad and the connection the sisters have with each other is awful. I understand that the girls are each in different places developmentally, but how can it be healthy to have their parents disappear from their lives completely?

Jeanne and Mike are their mommy and daddy.  That is fact.  Mr. Mike?  Really?  How is it good for any of the kids to not accept the reality?  In a way it's stealing away the little girls' story from them.  I can't imagine any therapist would agree that not talking about or even using the names mommy and daddy can be good for their long term mental health.  CA and KM are so insecure in their role as parents with KT and MG.  In the discussion with KM, I was also patronized and given ridiculous lectures on child development despite the fact that I have been raising three children and HAVE A SIX YEAR OLD!!  Not once in this discussion did they show any empathy or concern for E and M and their feelings.  As K pointed out last night as we talked about it, CA and KM makes things so much harder on themselves when they wrap themselves in their lies.

Turns out that it's really been bothering the big girls and they brought it up with me last night.  The discussion also brought out all kinds of insecurities with M who admitted that she still worries that we'll send her away.  It was really sad and a hard discussion.  I had to make sure I didn't throw CA under the bus, but show the girls I understand how they feel.

We talked about writing a book (sister C's idea) with pictures for the little sisters to help tell their family story and show their entire family including aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and grandparents who all love and adore them.  I tried to show that we should try to deal with this in a positive way rather than attack CA and KM.

As we prove every day in this house, family is about love not names or labels like "aunt," "uncle," or "cousin." 


For A's 13th birthday, I made "Herping with A****" shirts to support his YouTube channel on herpetology.  I made shirts for the entire family.  It was so funny and the kind of spontaneous, goofy sort of thing the old Peg loved to do.  He was so cute when he first saw them, saying, "Mom, I've got a brand!"

Me and the birthday boy sporting our shirts.

The whole family.

E, my mom and dad.

M and her beautiful smile.

We love Herping with A****!!

If you can see it, the picture on the shirt is a photo A took of a timber rattlesnake last summer.  It was so much fun celebrating my smart, quirky little boy turn into a teenager.


My grandfather's funeral is on May 29th.  He died on April 17th.

It makes me so sad.  My cousins couldn't fit it in their schedule and my dad bowed to their wishes.

D is going to do a reading.  Sister C is doing a eulogy. 

We've talked a lot about death these past days and weeks.  More than usual, which says a lot.  There's nothing like having the tough conversations to make you realize how challenging parenting can be. 

I've realized though that it's these difficult conversations that help you earn those parenting badges that you can be proud of...although I have to say I really love those shirts.