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Sep 13

September Updates

We’re settling in.  The first few weeks of school are underway, and so far, this seems like a much easier year than last year.

Jessie LOVES eighth grade.  She’s waking up on her own, getting her homework done right away and loving all of her classes.  She started a new discussion group at the synagogue last night, and it was happiest I’ve seen her at the synagogue in years.   She had such a rough time last year, with the bat mitzvah.  On a side note – the bat mitzvah had the exact opposite impact on her – I was hoping it would really cement her relationship with the synagogue and her Jewish identity.  Instead, she walked away thinking that she didn’t want to go back to the synagogue ever again, had no interest in ever reading Torah or being actively involved in services at all.  She agreed to take the class conditionally, but walked away loving it.  She’s taking Model UN, of course, on Wednesdays, and then maybe yearbook or knitting.  She’d also like to me to investigate singing lessons (not signing lessons, which I inadvertently spent some time searching for as well).

Julie is rocking first grade.  When she’s there.  She still hates getting up in the morning, and begs most mornings to stay home.  I’m trying hard to keep the faith – she does LIKE school, and she’s happy to be there.  But every single morning – she wakes up crying and trying to stay home.   But she’s happy while she’s there, and she was so proud of herself yesterday afternoon.  She BROUGHT HOME HOMEWORK.  Granted it’s first grade homework, so she had a bunch of work sheets (each of which took all of three minutes for her to complete), and it wasn’t due until Friday.  She finished all of it yesterday.

I think I’ll probably end up homeschooling Julie.  Not certain of it, because things might change.  Maybe she’ll continue to love and adore school… but if this goes well with Sam, then I think I’ll want to do the same thing with Julianna.  With Jessie – I’m not as certain.  She’s older, for one thing, and she really LOVES school.   We’re tentatively planning on South High for her next year.   It’s a big urban high school, which terrifies me a little, but we’ll see.

Homeschooling with Sammy – it’s going… well.  I think.  I’m going to be an eclectic homeschooler (which you’d predict, I think).  And this year in particular is going to be a little haphazard.  We’re still trying to get a grip on what he can see, and what is the best way for him to learn.  Right now, we’re reading out loud, all the time, and when we aren’t reading, he’s audiobooking (which I’m now using as a verb).  We’re working through a math curriculum and then we’re just reading.  Big appointment next week with the low vision doctor, and I think we’ll get some answers there about what he can see, what kind of technology is out there that he can use, and what he’ll qualify for.

Sep 06

J Massage

Julie has created a small company for foot massages.  She’s been an accomplished foot massager for a while now, and has recently decided to step it up a notch.  She now does full blown pedicures, with foot soaks.  The best part is that she’s taken to calling me to schedule my appointments (by using the landline to call my cell).   She also likes when I call her to schedule the appointments.  Last night, I got a call, from my home number, and it was Julie.  She wanted to let me know about a discount program that she was offering for frequent customers, I could get a card that would enable me to get foot massages for free.

Flasback to the J Cafe that Jessie had created when she was younger…

Sep 02

Roasting chicken

I’m not a good cook.  I’m not a terrible cook either, I’m an apathetic cook.  Which is why there are certain things I make that are phenomenally good.  For example – pancakes.  Granted, I have made them almost every day since the accident.  But they are the simplest things to make – you literally just add water.  I don’t bother to measure, I just dump some powder into a cereal bowl, run enough water in to mix it up and then fry them in butter.

Sam thinks I’m magic.,Every Friday, I make Shabbat dinner.  We’ve done it for years, but it’s taken on a special meaning for us since the accident.  It’s the day that everyone looks forward to – the crowded table, the candles, the laughing, the fighting for your turn in the conversation… it’s what we do.  And I really always kind of make the same thing.   Chicken.  For the past couple of months, I’ve been making it two ways, I take a big package of chicken breast, and half of it gets shaken and baked, and the other half, I dump into a baking pan with a bottle of bbq sauce.

Jessie asked earlier this week for roasted chicken.  Like, a whole chicken.

Since I’m an apathetic cook – I didn’t give it much thought until this afternoon when I was at the store.  My only real experience with these things is the  Thanksgiving turkey – and that’s a 20lb disaster that takes most of the day to cook.  I found a guy who was wearing a white coat (presumably a butcher of some sort), and asked him if I was insane to think about roasting a chicken for Friday night dinner at four o’clock.  He assured me that I was not, and handed me two chickens, one four pounds, one five, and sent me on my way.   Two hours, he claimed.

I came home and hit pre-heat, and turned to my helpful friends at google.  The wasn’t a clear consensus – I read it could take four or five hours, or maybe just an hour and a half.  Martha Stewart claimed that an hour and a half would be good – and I think the longer time frame was when you were adding the pounds together, i.e. a nine pound chicken instead of a four and a five pound chicken.

So I lugged out the roasting pan, and cut off the plastic.  I fished out the yucky stuff (with tongs, because I’m classy), and then I rinsed them out.  Martha suggested that I rub butter all over them, and season them under the skin, but all of that seemed…. complicated and I was mildly concerned that the butter would burn, so I just sprinkled a bunch of adobe seasoning on the top and shoved them in.

Sep 01

Three days in

It’s the first week of school.  I specifically didn’t start homeschooling this week, because I wanted focus on getting the girls into a good routine.

The first day was rough.  Not for Jessie or Julie – both of them were delighted to go back to school, psyched about their new lunch boxes and new school supplies and happy to get up early, get dressed and bounced out the door.  Jessie didn’t want to take the bus on the first day, because she wanted to be at the school to help welcome the new scared 6th graders.  Marc dropped Julianna and I off at Flagg Street, drove Jessie back to school, and then came back to get us.

At Flagg, on the first day, parents always walk their kids to school.  Julie doesn’t like me to walk her to class, it’s always easier for her to have me drop her off quick, in the car pool lane, and then she bops out to class.  If I walk her there, she has TIME to get misty and think about the fact that she’s going to be at school all day without me.  But on the first day, I insist.  Mainly because I don’t want her to be the only one without a mom there, and partly because  I like to see everyone.  It’s tradition, and I’ve been doing it since Jessie was six years old.

This year was different, and a little bit tough.  I have peer groups with each kid – I know the eighth grade parents, the fourth grade parents, and the first grade ones.  I smile winningly at parents of kids in other grades, but the ones who match up with mine – they’re my peeps.  On some level, at least.  And this year, I don’t have a fourth grader.

Anyway – this week is about the girls.

Julie asked, last night before bed, if she really had to get up and go to school tomorrow.

I do think she likes school.  She certainly adores her teacher, and she loves learning.  She soaks up knowledge, just soaks it all in.  She struggles sometimes with the social complexities of first grade, but that’s part of the process. But because I’m homeschooling her brother, and becoming steeped in that whole culture, there’s a part of me that wonders if she’ll be homeschooling eventually as well.  She’s got a playdate this afternoon, and I’m trying to sign her up for girl scouts or art class or some sort of THING for after school.

Jessie is growing up.  I mean, of course, she is.  That’s the whole point, right?  But she just is…. it’s not just the height (although I had no idea how disconcerting it was going to be to have my baby taller than I am).  It’s the general sense of … completeness.  Does that make sense?  She’s just grown – she feeds herself, dresses herself, figures out what she needs, how to get it, has her own likes and dislikes and opinions and presents them in a coherent and friendly manner.  Unless she’s got five blisters (which is what happened on Tuesday – and she sobbed like a two year old for most of the night).

 

Aug 26

Last official day of summer

I’m ready for summer to be over.

Normally, I try to stay present, enjoy the stage that we’re in and not rush things.  But this summer has been kind of sucky.  We were really, really struggling financially, after Sam’s accident.  We’re so lucky that we had great health insurance and don’t have any medical bills – but the time off from work for both of us, and the reality that I had to cut my hours by 2/3 permanently was a brutal blow to our budget.  Add in some massive car repairs (we ended up having to replace three tires and a broken axel on the van), and the reality that we are down to one car, plus the limitations on Sam’s diet… we didn’t DO anything really.  We went to ocean once.  We went to the lake a few times, but only hit the pool down the street once.  We went out for frozen yogurt a few times, but we weren’t able to do the drive-in because he can’t see the screen.  We didn’t do the star gazing, because he can’t see the sky.  We didn’t DO a lot of things.

I’m ready for summer to be done.

I think the fall will be better.  I think once we settle into a routine of girls back in public school, Sammy homeschooling, Marc working in his new office, apple picking and pumpkin pies, Jewish holidays and Halloween and Thanksgiving, – it’ll all be easier.

 

Aug 25

New Stages

I took the kids for a walk yesterday.

In and of itself, this isn’t that remarkable.  They required a little incentive, but a $1 ice cream from the dollar tree was sufficient to get everyone dressed, shoes on and out the door.  So off we set, wandering down the hill, going the “tricky way” around the restaurant and into the shopping plaza.  We talked about poison ivy and why the pool wasn’t that crowded today, and whether or not it was a good idea to go swimming tomorrow.  We talked about school and homeschooling and what we liked about this summer and what we wanted to do this fall.

I was struck, as we walked down the hill, and then back home, by how OLD they all were.  Sam lost patience with how slow we were going (because I had to literally drag Lucky back up the hill – he kept trying to lay down) and snagged my keys and walked ahead.  Julie and Jessie alternated between race walking and then resting until I caught up.  There was no carriage to push, nobody begged me to carry them home.  This was an entirely different experience.

I used to walk with the kids all the time.  I walked when I had just Jessie in the super expensive pram that I had to have.  I laid her in the bed, and would push her all over the place while she slept.  I walked with her in baby carriers and then in bigger strollers.  I walked with Sam in a sling, Jordyn and Harrison in the double stroller and Jessie trudging alongside.  I walked with Jessie in the stroller and Sammy using his little monkey leash, and I’d pull on the tail to keep him from falling over.  I walked with Julianna in the pram and Sam running along beside me.  I walked in the rain and sunny weather, with kids sobbing and kids laughing and kids sleeping.  I’ve walked more with my kids than I’ve done anything else.

But now… we’re going for very different kind of walks.  I take a kid with me to walk the dog, and we talk about stuff.  All kinds of stuff, about politics and nature and street signs and what the future might hold.  I’m not doling out snacks and water bottles and goldfish crackers, I’m not insisting on hands before crossing the street.

I’ve really struggled, this summer, with coming to grips with the family I have.  With accepting that there will be no more babies, that the children I have are all that I’ll get, and that’s perfect.  That my job now isn’t so much to be creating a family as it is to be raising one.  It’s not easy, I don’t think I’ll ever not miss the idea of another child.  But I’m learning how to find the beauty in just these three kids.  In Jessie’s height and grace and intelligence, in Sam’s sense of humor and resilience and his ability to survive, in Julianna’s sweetness and sarcasm and style.  In the reality that I don’t have little kids anymore.  I have three kids, and our adventures are different from what they used to be.

Aug 15

Home Stretch

Two weeks left.

I don’t think this summer flew by.  I think it went by at a reasonable rate.  It wasn’t necessarily a summer I’d like to do again – but it got the job done.  We’re in a much better place, all around, than we were in May.

I’m excited about the fall, I’m looking forward to easing into home schooling with Sam.  I’m happy about Jessie starting eighth grade, and I’m cautiously excited about Julianna starting first grade.  I feel like she’s going to end up coming home with me eventually as well, because I feel like homeschooling is going to go so well – but for now, she likes the idea of going to public school and seeing her friends.

I want apple picking and homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Hot chicken soup and cuddling up under a blanket.  I want the dog to stop shedding so much.  I crave structure and stability and routine.  I want high holidays and halloween and Thanksgiving.

I’m ready for the end of summer, not in a bitter oh-this-summer-was-horrible kind of way, but in a this-summer-filled-it’s-purpose-and-now-I’m-done.

 

Aug 11

This is…. so much better

It’s not that my life is simple now.  It’s not that it’s a walk in the park, or that I have no problems any more.  But it feels that way.  The truth is that when you’ve gone through what we went through, one of the only bonuses is that you get a sense of perspective.  Things that used to be so hard suddenly seem insignificant.  One example is head lice.  We got head lice back in May, and it… just wasn’t that big of a deal.  I did the shampoo, did the laundry, did the combing, and when it didn’t seem to go away, I got an rx from the pediatrician and did it all again.  It wasn’t a big deal, because at the same time, I was also dealing with brain surgery, and a little boy who was terrified and a team the best doctors in the world who couldn’t decide on a way to fix it.  Head lice just wasn’t that big of a deal.

Sam diet is still a mess.  He still eats white rice and pancakes every day, and very little else.  And I don’t care.  I mean, I care.  I encourage him to try new foods, and cook him whatever he’d like.  But you know what?  When  your child has gone two weeks, literally, and ingested no food whatsoever – picky eating is such a silly thing to waste your time on.  He’s got food he’ll eat, and I just let go of any power struggles or emotional attachment.  He’ll eat something, and he’ll take vitamins occasionally.  We don’t ever argue about food anymore.   I used to get all invested on making my kids eat the same thing – I wasn’t going to be one of those moms who made a special meal for anyone.  But now?  I whip up pancakes at parties, because I know he’ll eat it.  I keep white rice and tri-color pasta in the fridge at all times, just because it works.  And once you start doing it for one kid – well, why not do it for all three?  It’s a good meal when I can hit two of the kids at once with a meal – but I don’t make a big deal about it anymore, because Sam can’t eat it too.  Making a big deal about everyone eating the same thing makes it harder on him – he can’t eat what the other kids are eating, and I refuse to make him feel badly about it.

Things are still a bit challenging.  I make little concessions all the time to accomodate the injury.  I don’t make him pour his own drinks or get his own clothes, because he can’t see that well.  I buy more take out chicken than I’ve ever bought before.  I don’t force them outside to play, because he overheats fast, and can’t see well enough to feel comfortable running around yet.  But all in all, this time in my life is so much simpler and easier than it was.  These problems, these are NOTHING compared to being in the hospital, to seeing him in so much pain, to knowing that your daughters are missing you and need you and you can’t do anything to make it better.

I’m happy these days.  I’m grateful.  It’s not all sunshine and roses, sometimes I’m bitchy and irritable and I think if I have to do one more load of laundry, I might just lose my mind… but overall, it’s so much better than it was.

 

Aug 06

Realizations

I thought I was pregnant the other day.

This, in and of itself, isn’t that remarkable.  As Marc has said in the past, I’ve successfully predicted 37 of my past three pregnancies.   It wasn’t that remarkable that I’m not either, we use birth control, and I’m in my early forties.

What was remarkable was that I didn’t really want to be.

Every other time I’ve convinced myself I was pregnant, I’ve wanted it.  Every other time (except for the three time when I was, in fact, pregnant), there was a part of me that was disappointed when I wasn’t.  This was the first time that I just didn’t want to be.

I spent all day, trying to figure it out.  What was different?  Sure, financially, it would be hard, but no harder than it’s been other times.  Yes, Julie’s pregnancy was brutal, and each pregnancy got progressively tougher, so you’d have to assume that this one would be even harder.  Marc and I are both older now, more tired, and less patient.  I’ve got three kids, all of whom NEED a lot.  I’ve got Sam, who’s going to need a lot of additional time and effort because of the injury.

But that wasn’t it.  There were all these perfectly logical reasons why a pregnancy would be a horrible idea, but that wasn’t it.

It was that another baby would make me that much more vulnerable.  Another baby would be another baby who might get hurt.

I love these three kids.  So much.  And I let them outside, into the world, every day.   I have to, I want them to be all that they can be, but I walk around, every day, with the knowledge that at any time, at any point, out of nowhere, they could be horribly, horrible injured.  It’s not in the forefront of my mind.  It’s not even something I’m conscious of, but it’s there.

I don’t know if I could do it again.

I look back over those six months, from January through June, and I am terrified of doing it again.  Of watching him suffer, first with the crippling anxiety, falling deeper and deeper into a cycle of fear and terror – and not being able to stop it.  Then the accident, and the pain… oh my God, the pain.  Watching him hurt, hurt so much worse than I’ve ever felt, and not being able to fix it.  Seeing him so afraid, holding him down for bloodwork and anesthesia, searching for answers and not knowing what was coming next.  Watching his vision going dark, trying to balance out saving his sight with saving his sanity – because I legitimately didn’t know if he’d survive another hospital stay.  Being in that place – when your child is suffering so much, and you can’t fix it… I don’t know if I could do that again.

I love these three kids, so much.  And I’m so grateful for them.  I can let them out into the world, and live their lives, because there is no other option.  I send Sam off Pokemon go-ing in the afternoon, drop Julie off at tennis camp, and send Jessie off to Harvard for Model UN camp.  I encourage them to go, to do, to not hesitate and achieve whatever they dream.  But somewhere down deep, in a way that I don’t think about and have a hard time articulating… I’m scared all the time.

I can do it.  With these three.  Because the alternative is unthinkable.   But starting all over again – with another baby, with a greater statistical chance of down syndrome or autism or a million other challenges that being an older mom with an older dad presents… the thought of it is terrifying.

I’m not pregnant.  For the first time in my life, I’m relieved.

Jul 27

Grief

I read a lot.  One of the things I read a lot about is parenting – and inevitably, I end up reading about special needs kids.  None of my kids were technically special needs, other than Sam’s anxiety diagnosis, they are all neuro-typical.  I claimed the special needs label a while ago, because Sam was.  I actually found myself using it without consciously thinking about it, when I was trying to enroll him into religious school, and I couldn’t get them to understand that he needed things the other kids didn’t need.  Other kids would be fine if their parents just dropped them off and left, two of mine would be fine if I did that.  Sam would scream and rage for two hours.  His had different needs – special needs, if you want to get technical.  He was (and is) different.

The point that I’m trying to make is that I’m fairly used to thinking of him as dealing with more challenges than the average kid.  But anxiety looks so simple now – I wish that it was just anxiety.  Now we’re in a new place, and I almost look backing longingly to when I just had to deal with school phobia and separation anxiety.

I deal with what happened to Sam, with what is still happening with Sam, and what will happen in the future all the time.  I feel a little crappy about it often, I process it, I grieve and I get mad.  I let the feelings come and process them, and then I move on.  Because that’s what you do.

Marc handles it differently.  He doesn’t process a little bit all the time – he holds it all in, and then it bursts out in this flood of sorrow and sadness and regret.  Yesterday it hit him that he wouldn’t be able to play catch with Sam again.  Wishing he had spent more time playing with him when he could, before the accident, before he lost the ability to see a ball flying at him and be able to respond.   Grieving for what we’ve lost, for what Sam lost, for what we, as parents, have lost.   Life is going to have different challenges, for Sam, different from the challenges that the girls will face.   And while I know the counter argument is that of course, everyone has a different path and different challenges and rewards – it still seems so monumentally unfair that this kid has to go thru this.

I know feeling badly for him doesn’t help.  I know that lowering my expectations, and coddling and protecting him isn’t going to make it easier for him in the long run.  But it’s so hard – forcing him out of his comfort zone.  When it was just anxiety – it was easier.  I could force him, because I knew it was for the best.  But forcing him when he’s already socially anxious to the point where we had pulled him out of public school just before the accident – and now he literally can’t see what’s coming at him until it’s right on top of him… God, just going out in the world must be so much harder for him.

He goes.  Even though I worry that I’m not pushing him enough, I still drag him out into the world.  He cried and begged to go home when we went to the beach the other day, and we got through it.  He found the strength, and went.  And when the waves would clobber him, and he’d come staggering up out of the water, and beg to go home again, I’d wipe his face, get him a drink, and wait it out.  He always went back in.

Because, in the end, as much as I wish this hadn’t happened to him, as much as I wish he hadn’t had to learn these lessons now, at this age, the truth is that he has learned that the world isn’t safe.  That terrible things can happen with no warning and that your parents can’t keep you safe.  That you can feel horrible, excruciating pain, and still come out on the other side.  That the worst can happen, and you can survive.  He’s older now.  He’s wiser, and there’s a wisdom and a strength that comes from going through something like this – as much as I wish it hadn’t happened.  He’s come so far, struggled so hard.

I cling to that.  I remember when he was so scared to go outside, when crossing the street terrified him, and when driving down the road was panic-inducing because it was entirely possible to him that every single car could careen into us.  I remember when every cloud had the potential to become a tornado, when every tree limb might fall on the car if we parked under it.  He’s past feeling like that now.  He’s able to adjust, to feel the fear, and then move past it.  There is a resiliency now, and strength.

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