Thursday, January 23, 2014

Index Cards

When I was in college, I used to work on research papers using index cards. Each card represented a different topic or a source with all of the bibliographic information and facts gleaned below.  When I'm tackling a really complicated project at work, I often pull out the old index cards to provide a familar comfort and tangible representation of my research and thoughts.

Their use has moved into our family life.  The kids use them all the time at school for vocabulary words in spanish and study tools.  They become shopping lists, to-do lists and notes of love and support tucked into lunches or taped to the front door for E as she leaves for swimming in the wee dark hours.

For this, our third snow day, the big kids were given online assignment #3 from one of their teachers.  The 8th graders also had science fair stuff they could do to get ahead and little L had to fill out an animal report due tomorrow (so funny that he chose a spotted salamander and used as his reference "my brother Aidan").  They also had a few chores to do around the house.

Rather than spend all day bugging gently reminding them to get stuff done, I pulled out my trusty cards.  Each kid got a card with their responsibilities for the day.  I simply handed them out and told them I expected them to get completed by the end of the day.  15 minutes later I looked up from my laptop and saw A and M quietly working at the table.  L asked me a few times how to spell something, but other than that he worked diligently on his report including a detailed drawing with body parts identified.  I'm not sure how much D got complete, but he's my guy that always seems to get things done without too much harassing encouragement.

I just sent the 4 little guys off to the sled hill, while E went to a friend's house to make some cheesecakes. Korean barbecue beef is in the croc pot and the house is peacefully quiet.  I promised them popcorn and hot cocoa when they get back (it's currently 21 degrees out there so not sure how long they'll last), but for now I'm enjoying the calm.

I'm giving full credit to the index card.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

God Help Us... was just cancelled for tomorrow.  Let's hope the temperatures get above 20 so I can send them outside in the snow at least for some sledding and snowboarding.

Kory...I'm thinking some cookies might be on our agenda.

A Real Snow Day

I'm supposed to be working right now.  Computer on my lap. Ipod in my ears. Work stacked next to me. The heavy snow falling outside, however, is incredibly distracting. 

The kids are all home....AGAIN.  We just had a 4.5 day weekend. They have been off school in the last month and a half more than at school it seems and this is creating a bit of tension around here.  I certainly do love them all, but collectively they are driving me and each other kinda crazy.  A bit of a mutual break would be nice.

I totally lost my shit yesterday when I got home from therapy and errands and nobody had eaten and nobody was ready for their respective practices and skateboard trips.  This was all despite the fact that another adult was in the house and decided at that point to do some yard work rather than feed the 6 year old and remind the others to get ready.  I walked in with a pile of groceries (in anticipation of the current snow storm) and they all decided at that moment to get sometime to eat and talk AT me concurrently.  For some reason, I just snapped....literally.  I yelled for everyone to get out of the kitchen till I was done putting things away, chastised A for not being able to figure out how to make his own lunch, and barked at E that getting out of the kitchen meant her too since she decided to continue making her lunch (IN MY WAY the entire time)...oh and then she proceeded to eat the soup I had gotten for myself.

I went upstairs after putting everything away, locked the door to my room and sat on my bed with my hands literally shaking.  Not sure why I was so pissed.  Misdirected anger at K?  Too many days together in this house having to feed/entertain/discipline the minions?  Tired?  Low blood sugar?  I'm just a cranky shrew?

The 4 little guys rallied from my little temper tantrum and things were back on even keel the rest of the day.  E, however, has been sulking and given me the cold shoulder the last 24 hours.  Teenagers sure know how to hold grudges.  The irony of all of this being that the day before I had driven her all the way up to University of Maryland (an hour away) to swim one race and she decided to scratch after a bad warm up.  Did I complain?  Nope, I just said I'm sorry she wasn't feeling up to it and drove home.

I'm going to try to make this snow day (or two given the forecast) to see this as a time of peace and respite.  A time of cozy hours on the couch.  Warm dinners.  Lego building.  Book reading.  Game playing.  Good memory making.

NOT the confining, exhausting trap this house is starting to feel like with all of them home.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Sunday night I had an 11pm soccer game.  I normally back out of these late games because the late night is hard to recover from.  This time, however, our team needed bodies and I've been having fun playing the last few weeks so I decided to just suck it up and go.

The game was fun.  My exhaustion the next day was not.  I limped through the day on Monday, getting everyone to practices, rocking out a killer dinner for 7, helping with homework and getting some playing time with L. Even though I should have gone to bed, I even stayed up late with K on the couch last night watching a movie in the spirit of marital accord.

This morning was another tired one.  I got the kids off to school and came home to eat breakfast before I started the work day.

Here's the confession...Instead of taking a shower and hopping on my laptop, I took a nap.  A glorious 1.5 hour nap on the couch.  I don't know why I feel guilty about this.  I used this guilt to bang out a deliverable to my boss and make the long overdue call about M's admission into high school next year.  I then ran to the store and got stuff for dinner tonight and tomorrow.

My therapist tells me all the time to find some time for myself during the day.  It's hard. though, to add another person onto my list of people whom I'm responsible for.  Even if that person is me.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

On Marriage

Just give me a reason
Just a little bit's enough
Just a second we're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
It's in the stars
It's been written in the scars on our hearts
We're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
-Pink, Just Give Me A Reason

K and I have been together for over 24 years, with 18 of those as a married couple.  We have actually known each other for even longer since his sister and I were friends in high school and played soccer together.  I'll never forget the phone call I got from her a few months after we started dating asking increduously, "Are you dating my brother???"  We really got to know each other in college where we both played on the soccer teams and happened to have a few history classes together.  We clicked right away with a very similar upbringing (big family, Catholic school, etc.) and similar sense of humor, but more importantly, in my opinion, enough personality differences that we bring out the best in each other. We started our romance first as very good friends and I think it's that friendship that has sustained us over time.  Outside of stress, work, parenting, etc., we really like to hang out together.

Marriage can be hard.  You not only bring to this new partnership your own needs and wants, but the legacy (whether good or bad) of the marriages you each have experienced.  My parents were pretty old school with my dad being the provider and overall "fixer" in the house, with my mom taking care of us, cooking dinner, carpools, school, etc.  With all girls in our family, my dad defnitely "took care of us" and we depended on him heavily to help us through our transitions into adulthood.  Throw in some pretty serious health issues with my mom and I was definitely provided a strong, take care of everything "husband/father" model.

K, on the other hand, is the oldest of a very British family.  He is the eldest boy and treated a little special, but as the oldest of 9 he had to constantly stake out his independence and fight to get his needs met.  I joke all the time with my sisters about how K and each of his brothers and sisters (some more than others) are all inherently a bit selfish in order to be noticed and heard.  My mother-in-law did (and still does) everything for her kids.  My father-in-law, while a lovely person, was definitely more hands off and much better with the kids as they got older.  He travelled a lot and worked very hard in order to provide for his large family.  In some ways, K is an awful lot like his dad.  Brilliant intellectually, but not the most practical (or handy) of people and a bit clueless when it comes to noticing or understanding the needs of those around him.

My family is also a very boisterous, talkative brood with lots of both verbal and physical expressions of love.  I end most conversations with my sisters with "I love you."  I enjoy to give and receive hugs.  K comes from a stereotypical British family with no real outward signs of affection.  There is definitely a lot of love there, but it's not spoken of and expressions of feelings are kept at a minimum. 

That being said, K has certainly broken the mold in some ways.  He is very affectionate with the boys and M (E keeps him pretty much at a distance which is a entire post in and of itself).  He is much more hands on than his dad in terms of childcare.  Our life before the accident entailed a pretty good balance of efforts and, while sometimes challenging, we worked things out without too much drama.

So October 2009 happened and our life turned completely upside down.  This horrible thing occurred and it not only sent both of us in a tailspin emotionally, we found ourselves having to parent our kids through a very difficult situation, dealing with my family and struggling to take care of the girls.  It was rough.  Really rough.

In the last few days, I've been trying to step back and think about how all of this has affected K.  First, our loss in all of this is very different.  I lost my sister.  While he was and still is sad about it, there is a difference.  It's hard for him to understand my loss.  His loss is more centered around our family. He has had to watch his wife change and not for the better in many ways. As documented in this blog, I have struggled with my grief and depression while trying to be the mom I want and need to be. He has had to watch his little boys go through a pretty awful thing.  Not only losing Jeanne and Mike, and adjusting to the girls moving in, but struggling to find their footing in all the instability and trauma.

On a practical note, we also added two kids to our household.  This means a host of additional financial, logistical, emotional and parenting burdens.  They are girls, which as those of you who are parents to both boys and girls, is very different.  They are two very needy, greiving children who have lost their parents and siblings.  One of them can be considered special needs with her ADHD, learning disabilities and anxiety.  The financial responsibilities alone are huge.  All of the legal nightmares of the first year were horrific and timeconsuming.

He also almost died a year ago October.  The result has been a shock and huge lifestyle change for him.  The coumadin regimen (and constant testing), uncertainty about the causes, etc.  have been a huge stress for an active, athletic 44 year old.  He no longer can play softball, soccer, ski and other things that could risk a bleeding episode.  This has been a hard pill to take for him.  I have worried about him and depression in this last year (according to lots of websites this is very typical in his situation).

All of this for a guy who grew up not sharing feelings, not being overly affectionate, and the oldest of nine kids who pretty much took care of himself.  While we had our share of difficulties prior to the accident (miscarriage, work losses, parenting challenges), nothing prepared us for the strain of our new normal. 

None of this excuses his behavior.  It does not make my feelings invalid or take away the hurt he has caused. But it does put it in perspective. He desperately wants things to go back to normal (pre-accident) and sometimes that means for him to run off with his dorky buddies for a long weekend or a bachelor party.  Or when things get tough and emotionally difficult at home between us or with the kids, he often defaults to hiding out and not wanting to deal with it, or irrationally exploding at me (his safe place).

The last few days have found us slowly working our way back to each other.  It's nearly impossible not to with five minions who need us (both of us).  When you love someone, understanding and forgiveness are part of the package even when doing that takes you being the bigger person.  Beneath all of the layers of hurt, grief, anger, stress and fear, still sit two people who love each other.  Those two college friends are still there.  Sometimes it just takes a little more effort for them to find each other.

p.s. thank you so much for all of the messages of love, support, and insight for the past few posts.  You have no idea how much they help.  This blog has been a space for me to get a lot of stuff out, but it certainly has turned into something where I get a lot in return.  So thank you.  Really, really thank you.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Things that suck:
1.  I am feeling pretty crappy and the person I usually look to for comfort is the one making me feel crappy.
2.  My friend's little girl has a diagnosis.  Very rare peripheral T-cell lymphoma.  Rarely found in kids.  Never found in the brain.  I feel sad and paralyzed with not being able to do anything to help.
3.  It's ridiculously cold (school is actually cancelled tomorrow).
4.  I'm starting to get the kids' gunk and feel less than stellar but I have a huge client meeting tomorrow that I CANNOT miss.
5.  Work (see number 4).
6.  Teenage girls are moody, annoying and are excellent at saying mean things that make you feel so very less than.
7.  Still needing to take down Christmas decorations.
8.  After two weeks relatively off from school, sports, etc. we're back to our normal level of crazy.

Things that do NOT suck:
1.  Winning indoor soccer games, scoring tons of goals and having your teammates send sweet emails about your play all day.
2.  A kind therapist named Harriet who also thinks one's spouse is being an ass (see item #1).
3.  6 year olds.
4.  Pulled pork in the croc pot so you don't have to scramble for dinner.
5.  Good music.
6.  Good books.
7.  Internet friends.
8.  Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered pretzels.
9.  Funny texts from good friends.
10.  Having a "things that do NOT suck" list longer than a "things that suck" list.

Friday, January 3, 2014


Keeping my focus on what's important...these five beautiful little souls.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Good things about the holidays:
1.  The kids had fun and we managed to get in all of the decorating, gingerbread house making, and tradition making things that make the holiday special in our house.  My boys especially are creatures of habit and like to celebrate the same way and re-tell stories from years' past.
2.  Everyone liked their loot for the most part and I was able to get things purchased and wrapped and under the tree by Christmas morning. Highlights included a Nook for D, DS 3DSXL's for A and L (huge sale on Thanksgiving night), the right clothes for E, and boots for M that she's been pining over.  The gifts shared between the kids were also cute, particularly the Boomslang hotsauce purchased for E by A and M (she's obsessed with hot sauce and puts it on everything).
3.  I pulled off another Christmas eve dinner for my side of the family and it was a nice evening.
4.  Winter break has been a nice respite for everyone.  Lots of movies, games, legos and Just Dance 2014 which has translated in fun all around.
5.  CA let me have the little girls for a weekend.  7 kids was quite the handfull, but we made it work and everyone had fun.  I'm hoping she'll allow more of this.

The bad:
1.  K came home from the stupid trip and acted like nothing happened.  He actually expected me to welcome him with open arms.  Even the kids have kept him at a distance.  His reaction has been typical and grossly immature.  He blames me and had a lovely tirade on New Year's Eve which included him telling me how awful and selfish I am...all in front of the kids.  I don't even know where to go with this.  He's been sleeping in the basement and ignoring all of us since Tuesday.  I'm just too tired and busy to know how to address this.  Frankly, I'm too hurt too.  Sigh.
2. The daughter of my neighborhood friend has continued to worsen without any explanation still.  It's heartbreaking.
3. Everyone in the house except me and E have been sick all week.  I was in urgent care with A yesterday morning thinking it was strep.  Hacking cough, fevers and sore throats all around with varying degress of severity. I'm hoping the last of the fevers were last night with A and L.  I felt good enough about their overall health to sneak out today to the office for a few hours.  A little change of scenary didn't hurt either.
4.  Holidays with the girls still stink.  They struggle to settle into our family routines and lash out at me in particular when they are hurting.  The boys also deesrve to have a regular Christmas and not be dragged into their grief and have their Christmas spirit held hostage by it.  My family also struggles to respect boundaries during this time.  My dad was realy bad with E this year, guilting her into visiting the cemetery on Christmas day when she had pretty much decided just to come to the inlaw's with us.  Then there was little sister S buying M about $400 worth of presents  (each of the cousins does a secret santa) including another new pair of boots.  My heart sunk as she opened up present after present which outdid what Santa provided in our house (seriously, what 13 year old needs 2 $30 jcrew tshirts???).  Throwing money at their guilt doesn't help anything, definitely not M.

I've wanted (needed) to write this out for a few days, but things with K especially have left me raw.  Building lego sets and paper airplanes with L has taken priority.  I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season and I certainly look forward to starting a new year.  The current mess that is my life needs a fresh start.