Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Not Twins

A and M are exactly 12 weeks apart, each born on a Thursday.  We actually have pictures of M as a baby in my hospital room to meet A for the first time.  I gave a stack of them to M because there are some great pics of her with her dad.


Even before M became an official member of our nuclear family, people thought A and M were twins.  They look enough alike, but more importantly, the bond between the two of them is blatantly apparent.  We often remark that A is M's security blanket.  M is the usually the first person A goes to with a joke or when he's bored and needs someone to get into mischief with.  When M first started at our school, the older kids who didn't know the whole story were convinced they were twins.  While A would quickly correct the error, M would smile broadly and declare, "why yes, yes we are twins!"

I would never claim to understand how it is to parent twins, especially in those early years.  I watched my sister C go through it and was in awe of how she survived those first 6 months. 

I get the question about their twin status now that they are official siblings.  It comes when people ask the ages of our children or when they see them together.  M is the older of the two, but it's sometimes easier to lump them together as the 8th graders or the 14 year olds.  Regardless of how their sibling connection has been made, I regularly experience what it must be like to parent biological twins.

Wow...it is tons of work and a lot more complicated than I ever thought.  The school aspect is pretty tough sometimes when both of them are stressing out about science fair or a big social studies project and I have to help both of them. It has been pretty difficult to navigate their academic paths at the same time given their stark differences in ability.  An 88 on a math test of M is awesome!  An 88 for A often begs the question, "hey, did you study for this?"  If they were in different grades, I think it would be a little easier.  The last two years they have also been in the same homeroom given their different math classes, so most of their other classes are the same prompting a day-to-day comparison, and playing the tricky game of meeting each of their academic needs.

Last Wednesday's science fair awards ceremony was a perfect example of this daily struggle (on steroids).  As I've described before, A wants to be a herpetologist when he grows up.  It is his passion.  He did his experiment on a lizard's bi-hemisphere brain and hypothesized which side were they most likely to strike at prey and which one would yield more accurate results given the side of the brain controlling instinct.  It was fascinating and he spent weeks filming all of the cricket feedings of his geckos (yes we have 4 lizards in this house), collecting the data, analyzing and creating elaborate charts.  His board was neat, colorful and included pictures he took of his lizards that were spectacular.  He spoke with confidence and passion during his interview and the last judge said his was the best project he had seen all day.  He came in first place last year in his category, so he was convinced that all of this work was going to result in another top finish and suspected he'd be up for best in show.

M also had a good project.  She tested how accurately people can identify the location of a sound.  She had a clever title and her board was neat and organized.  We kept the math at the basic level.  Even with the simplicity, I basically did her project for her from design, data analysis, building charts, writing the abstract, etc.  She didn't understand any of her research and at one point argued with me that 29 out of 30 meant 29%.  It wasn't as bad as last year, but things like science fair highlight M's difficulty in basic math and executive function.  We got through it with a lot less tears and I was truly proud of her for doing her best.

Like many things in life, middle school science fair judging is subjective and not necessarily fair (no pun).  Each kid gets three judges and you don't have the same three judges look at each project in a given category.  At this point, you can probably guess what happened.

They both got second place in their respective categories.  M was thrilled.  A was devastated.  He barely kept it together while at school. The tears flowed in the car.  M, on the other hand, was understandably thrilled since she's never gotten any academic accolades...ever.  Talk about complicated parenting.  Trying to comfort the one for getting second place, while high fiving the other for the same accomplishment.  To make things worse, A, who never makes M feel bad for her challenges or bad grades, knew that I helped M and that she didn't work as hard as he did.  His project was also completely centered around his passion which made him question whether or not he'll be able to follow his dream.  This last part was a bit over dramatic, but trying to point out the big picture to  him at that point was, well, pointless.

I know that going through life together is a huge benefit for both of them.  M makes A chill out and be silly.  A provides M with a comfort and gentle, but tough love that she needs to keep an even keel.  I joke about how in high school, she's going to get him dates and he'll keep her out of trouble.  In the dark moments or instances of panic in the middle of the night when I once again question our decision to adopt the girls, I can look to their relationship and remember how right it is for them to be together as siblings. That's not to say that it isn't always easy, but keeping their love in mind helps.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fast Forward

Weep for yourself, my man
You'll never be what is in your heart
Weep, little lion man
You're not as brave as you were at the start
Rate yourself and rake yourself
Take all the courage you have left
Waste it on fixing all the problems
That you made in your own head
But it was not your fault, but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn't I, my dear? Didn't I, my dear?
--Little Lion Man, Mumford and Sons
One of my favorite songs from Mumford and Sons is Little Lion Man.  I distinctly remember E asking me if she could download that song because of the f word usage (it's doesn't come up as an explicit song on itunes).  I looked at her and said, "You know what E?  Sometimes there is really no other word that makes sense and in this case I think it totally matches the mood of the song.  I know you've heard the word before and I trust that you won't use that word."  It was a really special moment between us.  An adult conversation that didn't involve death, accidents, or gay aunts.  It was a parenting moment that didn't involve laundry, food, or her complaining about our messy house.  I think about this moment often.
We tend to listen to my ipod in the car to and from school, practices, games, etc.  I like to put it on shuffle and pop through my eclectic library of tunes.  I swear sometimes that a higher being is controlling my ipod, playing a song that is exactly what I needed, whether it's a good cry or raucous dance tune we all can sing to at the top of our lungs.
So every so often my ipod shuffles onto Little Lion Man.  If I'm all alone the words flow seamlessly from my lips.  If the kids are in the car, however, I have to make sure I'm paying attention to either turn down the volume at the right time, or just go ahead and fast forward.  Sometimes I do this better than others.  M, who usually sits up front with me, is pretty good about reminding me with a giggle and rolling of her eyes that once again I mistimed my volume control or fast forward. 
The tough, soccer player in me wants to simply say, "Fuck it!" to the comments questioning my anonymity.  Unfortunately, the vulnerable, over-tired, stressed Peg took those comments very much to heart and piled them on top of the never ending list of things that I'm failing at these days.  It had been a tough week and those comments were the proverbial cherry.  I also poked the bear a bit by writing a post about it.  Hindsight is twenty twenty and all that.
After a bit of time away and some thought (and good conversation with lovely neighborhood friend and my therapist), I'm not going to embrace the Little Lion Man "I fucked it up this time" mantra, but embrace my fierce soccer self and say, "Fuck it." I am writing a personal blog that reveals some intimate details of our family.  I don't use the real names of our immediate family.  I use Jeanne and Mike's names because I NEVER, NEVER, NEVER want to not acknowledge that they did exist.  If you want to track down our family, you'd have to find out about this blog in the first place, and scroll through years of posts to piece together the clues.  Nobody knows about it in my family.  Examples of blogs were given to me that I should model mine after, and guess what?  I know exactly where that blogger lives and other details of her life because I live in the same area.  So what?  Would I ever use this information?  Of course not.
I started this blog to share my story in a way that helps me, and perhaps connect with other people in similar circumstances.  I understood the risk of exposure enough and respect our privacy enough to superficially hide our identity, and have declined offers to increase the public nature of this blog (guest blogging, writing a memoir, etc.). This blog helps me to write out what's going on in our complicated life. I enjoy the process of writing. It has also helped me not feel so alone when other people simply comment that they are listening or can empathize.  I've gotten great advice.  I've made some lovely friends both by getting comments on my blog, but also by going to their blog and learning about their life.  I refuse to take this medium and let the risk of negative outweigh all the positive.
Let's fast forward to a future where members of my family find this blog.  If the girls eventually read some of my words, I hope they see all my love for them.  I hope they read some of frustration and gain some perspective about how hard this has been on all of us.  If the boys read it, I hope they understand how hard this decision was to take the girls and that we did it out of love.  I hope all of our kids are proud of me and get to know their mother in a more honest, vulnerable manner. If my sisters read this (I actually hope sometimes that they actually are since I write things I wish I had the guts to say in person), I know they love me and will understand the circumstances under which I wrote some of these words.  As for K, there is nothing on here that I don't say to him in person.  We may go through our ups and downs, but he is my ultimate confidant and I never worry about expressing to him my current frustrations with our relationship. 
Continue to read if you'd like.  If you think I'm too open with details of our life, don't read. Be sneaky and track down who we actually are in real life.  I'm willing to take the risk.  Fuck. It.  As my soccer teammates and I used to cheer after each goal, I'm determined to "KEEP GOING!!"

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Another Comment

Things I'm writing about that could possible invade or hurt people in our family according to another commenter
--mental health issues (ADHD, anxiety, depression, medication) of the girls
--my sister's sexuality
--family conflict

Summary of comments is that I'm not anonymous enough (even though nobody knows about my blog except for 3 close friends who I tell this stuff in person to anyway). It would be easy to figure out the who, what, and where of our family from our blog and this could be used to damage my family by others OR if the kids find out in the future they will feel I've invaded their privacy.

Things I'm struggling with on this:
--I don't know how to write without being totally honest and telling details of the story.
--As a family, we are very open about the girls mental health issues, especially M's ADHD and anxiety.
--My sister is gay.  Everyone knows this and it's not something we hide.
--There is a lot to our family story that I don't share and that is not included in this blog. 
--Despite the commenter's best intentions, I now feel horrible and guilty and that this blog, which has given me a great outlet and support system, has been selfish and despite helping me, it's something that inadvertently I have created to potentially hurt my family by invading their privacy.

I'm at a loss with this one.  It all comes down to people finding out that I write a blog and then tracking it down.  It's easy to do this if you are a reader and can use information from the blog to form search criteria in google, but not that easy if you don't know what you're looking for. If they google about the accident using the names "Jeanne and Mike" they can find their last name but no where in the press is my last name or the names of the girls. I honestly think it is a bit far fetched someone would use information found from my blog to hurt my family.

If in the future the kids or K find my blog and read it, I'm not sure they'd be all that upset.  They lived all of this.  I think they could be upset that I shared stuff they may feel is private.  But again, I wasn't posting this on a billboard or all over facebook to be read by people they interact with on a daily basis or even distant acquaintances.  My blog isn't read by very many people.

I feel awful and now incredibly naive and guilty.  Another mark on my "I suck at this" chalkboard.  I want to write.  I need to write.  I just don't know whether or not I'm going to be able to continue.

A Night

Last night was senior night for E's high school swim team. It was the last time she'll swim for her school in a dual meet (when the entire team is there). She still has two more championship meets in the next two weeks for school, but this is a special night to acknowledge the seniors.  We all were there including my dad, sister C and her three kids.

We made signs and completely embarrassed her.  It was awesome.  She was the only senior who had so much support from either team and the coach even came up to comment how cool it was.

My dad put together a photo frame with pictures of her swimming each of the four strokes. It was very cool.
Afterwards, we all went out to dinner (C and her kids included) at a cool, new brick oven pizza place.  The stars aligned for an ice storm last night which gave us a 2 hour delay for school today.  This gave everyone a little extra sleep after a late, fun night.
It's nights like this that reminds me of how much I love our family.  A reminder of how we are creating a beautiful life for all the kids despite crappy circumstances. 
It's all a little bittersweet.  I'm glad we were all there, but still wish it was her parents sitting in the stands cheering her on and then Jeanne calling me on her way home to tell me how it was.  These moments in the girls' lives that they are missing are happy and sad all at the same time.  It's not the first time and certainly not the last, but this is still one area where time hasn't been the cure all.  It still hurts.  A lot.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Bit #1. I got a weird comment (since deleted) that suggested that I'm not anonymous enough and that this will negatively affect the girls in the future.  Nothing about the boys, although a reference to K's work.  It has put me a bit off my writing game.  I hope that the person who wrote the comment had the best intentions.  I found it creepy.  I guess I got my first troll.  If you are reading this and are said troll, I'm sorry if this is offending you, but your suggestion that my little blog could harm the girls is pretty far-fetched.  Of course, it did make me question my blog and whether or not I'm being selfish.  A few days of thinking and missing writing hopefully has set me back on course.  I'm not going to lie, though, I was rattled.

Bit #2. Today is M's birthday!  Yay!  She is 14 and such a funny, sweet kid.  She has certainly gotten served a rough hand, but she gets up every day and tries.  We had a joint family birthday celebration for M and D, our February birthdays, last night for the Super Bowl.  The party was a blast and both birthday kids had fun.  The highlight of the night was my dad giving D the crossed little league bats he made for him to commemorate his little league career (this spring will be his last little league season since he turns 12).  The hand turned "D--- Slugger" bats were amazing.  He even put a hook on the box holding the bats for his all-star hat.  D and my dad have a tense relationship at times and it was so nice to see D give his grandfather multiple hugs throughout the night thanking him for such a great present.

Bit #3.  The further and further we get away from October, November, and December, the easier things seem to be around here.  The emotional toll of those months is hard on all of us.  It's gotten better each year.  I think that my recognition of this is actually a good step in the right direction.

Bit #4. We are going into a tornado of sports activities with the kids in the next 7 weeks.  I'm not sure how we're going to get through.  Swim meets, basketball playoffs, away soccer tournaments....yikes.

Bit #5.  Take bit #4 and add to it science fair for two 8th graders, the state geography bee for one 6th grader and two birthday parties.  Can you say stressful?

Bit #6.  I talked to my therapist today about trying to admit more to myself that things are going well with all of the kids and that I need to cut myself some slack.  This is hard for a bit of a control freak and perfectionist.  There is always something that needs to be done around here whether it's laundry, cooking, work, cleaning, driving or just hanging with the kids.  I'm not sure how to get to the place where I can be satisfied and proud of what I do get done.  And, more importantly, proud of how well our family is doing in the big picture. I tell everyone all the time that our new family is still a work in progress.  I need to recognize the real progress that we've made.  I'm trying.