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Working

I don’t like working.

I mean, I don’t mind working.  I like my job.  I liked it a whole lot more when I was there 32 hours a week, when my hours are reduced to eight hours a week, it’s just enough to be irritating and not enough to feel like I’m actually doing anyone any good.

I was at work today all day – which is exceedingly rare.  But I had missed some hours earlier in the month and was making them all up at once.  So I worked for eight hours, and came home…

Marc works so incredibly hard all week long.  I know that.  And I do the house stuff.  I mean, I do the bulk of the childcare, handle all of the executive decisions that go along with three kids, plus all the housework.  ALL the housework.  Marc does the trash, picks up dog/kid vomit when he’s home, and kills the bugs.  He also mostly puts away leftovers.

But the rest of the stuff… it’s mine.

And mostly, I’m cool with it.  I’m home, after all.  And we’ve always had this mutual understanding.  He couldn’t work the hours he does if I wasn’t at home taking care of the stuff there.  I couldn’t do the at home stuff if he wasn’t working the hours he does to support it.  But it falls apart when I’m at work and he’s at home.  Because I’m not making anywhere near as much money as he is, and he works so hard during the week.  It’s his day off.  But I’m at work, and coming home to a sinkful of dishes, kids that are crying with headaches and see me and beg for food, dog vomit on the bed that hasn’t been cleaned, and laundry that’s bubbling over…. God, I get so frustrated.

I know that stuff goes on all day, and he worked with Julie on her girl scout project, and he’s not feeling great – but I can’t help feeling like a bitch because I’M SO DAMN FRUSTRATED.

I am a runner

It because clear to me today that I must take up running.

I am – ATHLETE.

We took Lizzie for her first long walk today – and it turns out that she really likes running.  Like, a lot.

So, a runner I shall be.

I dug out my old sports bra (leading Jessie to gesture confusedly at me, saying “it’s just so much Mama everywhere”) and yanked on some old shorts.  I hooked up my little dog and fished out the headphones that I bought for Sam.  Off we went.

Only when I run, the left headphone keeps popping out of my ear.  Not to be deterred, I tucked it into my bra (where my phone was already hanging).  On I ran.  Well, walked mostly, but I ran periodically.

Then the poor dog had diarrhea.  You really can’t, in good conscious, take a dog with diarrhea running.  So we ambled back.  Slowly.

I’ll try again next weekend.  No need to rush into my new life as ATHLETE.

 

 

The drama of it all

Julianna is a drama queen.

Having raised one before, you’d think I’d be better at it.  But the truth is that when you’re raising a drama queen, there’s no one solution that will always work.  You can try indulging it, you can try fighting it.  You can ignore it, but it rarely goes away on it’s own.

She and Jessie are so alike that’s it’s frustrating for everyone.  I have to mentally remind myself that they are not, in fact, the same person just separated by seven years.   They’re both brilliant and imaginative, with huge emotions, a tendency to hold a grudge, and a fiercely independent streak that makes everything harder than it needs to be.

Sam’s still the one that I think of as my easiest kid – which is ironic, as he’s the one with an anxiety disorder, a print disability and still gets stomach pain severe enough to require meds a few times a month.  But he is easier, in a lot of ways.  He flows with it – whatever it is.  Unless of course, it’s something that he absolutely refuses to do.

 

First Day of School!

Ah – summer is over.  And I’m happy about it.  This was an ODD summer.  It started out strong, with the trip Hermit Island.  But then Lucky died, and Sam stopped sleeping for a month.   We got Lizzie, and our world revolved around potty training the dog.

So it wasn’t a BAD summer.  Not exactly.  We lost Lucky, which was horrible, but we got Lizzie, and she’s adorable and cute and puppilicious all the livelong day.

Jessica Mary danced off to high school like she had done a zillion times before.  Except that we couldn’t figure out where we were supposed drop her off, so we followed the bus and ended up driving right back out of the school parking lot.  But the second time around went better and she got out of the car.

Julianna was delighted about going back to school, but got clingy at the drop off.  Not Sam-level of clingy, but sad and a little weepy.  She missed Lizzie, and was pretty sure that she needed to go home and take care of her.  She’s in second grade, and I know for a fact that Jessie seemed so much older when she was in second grade.  Julie still seems little to me.  I know that it’s my issue – she’s not technically any younger than Jessie was when she entered 2nd grade (well, three months, but still).  But Julie is my baby, and I think I’m going to always think of her as younger than she is.  She looked so beautiful, in her little dress and braids.

Sam and I are embarking on our second year of homeschooling and I think we’re both pretty excited about it.  Last year, the first day of school for the girls was hard for me, it felt like Sam was missing out on everything.  I hated seeing the kids he used to go to school with traipse past me on their way to fourth grade.  But today, it felt different. The longer I’m homeschooling him, the more I think this is so exactly what we should have been doing all along with him, and the more ridiculous it seems to have him go to public school.

 

 

Still here

It’s been an odd summer in many ways.  We started out strong, but then Lucky died.  That quickly spun into this three week disaster of Sam not sleeping at all night and only sleeping during the day, which effectively killed any homeschooling/summer adventures we had planned.  Then we got Elizabeth Mocha Latte Tallulah Boo Cohen, and quickly realized that having a sort-of-not-really housebroken baby puppy meant that we were doing that for the rest of the summer.

Despite all of that- it was still a really lovely summer.  Marc started his new job at the beginning of June, and there were six weeks of absolute hell, in terms of his schedule.  But it’s gotten significantly better.  Even when the schedule was a disaster, he was so much happier and lighter and more relaxed.  It’s a job that’s incredibly demanding on a physical and mental level, but it’s hard in ways that he’s super good.  He’s successful at it, and still has time to eat dinner with us a lot of the time.  That – more than anything – has led to an overall sense of family well being.

Jessie had her week in Boston, and worked her little butt off all summer on her homework for high school.  She’s finished with the tough stuff now, and reading a Harry Potter book for fun.  She’s thriving – she’s just this gorgeous, focused, and fun kid – if this is what high school looks like, I like it a lot.

Sam and I are still working on homeschooling.  The summer hasn’t been as productive as I would have liked, but he’s still learning and growing.  We’re plowing ahead in science, history, and math, and he’s continuing with his audio book obsession.  I’m looking forward to the next year – I love homeschooling, and I think it’ll continue to be the best choice for us.  For him.

My Julie is probably the one going thru the most change right now.  She’s growing up a lot, assuming more personal responsibility, taking on a more active and vocal role in the family.  She’s the little one, the baby, and it’s not always easy or fun to be in that place.   She and Jessie squabble all the time, and it’s frustrating because it seems as though they’re the same person, arguing the same point, just separated by seven years.  There are times when I’m wishing that school would start up, just to get them separated for a few hours.

Summer is winding down, and I’m looking forward to fall.  Pumpkins and apple picking, sweaters and sneakers, and hopefully some down time, some weekends when we’re all home and chill, and nights when we’re all together and happy.

Mid to late summer update

It’s been a summer.  A good summer, in a lot of ways.  Sam is SO much better, and we’ve been able to do a lot more.  Everything came screeching to a halt last Thursday when we had to put Lucky to sleep.

We’ve regressed to where we were last summer.  Part of is that it’s so damn hot that nobody wants to go outside and do anything.  Part of is that I want to save all the money I can towards school shopping and getting a new dog.  But a bigger part of it is that Sam has stopped sleeping.  At least at night.  He sleeps GREAT during the day.  But, as you can imagine, that doesn’t lead to a lot of quality time.

Jessie and Julie went back to bunk beds earlier this summer, and that involved a few days of cleaning and rearranging.  Then Jessie’s hanging rack, with all their clothes, toppled over under the weight of said clothes, which led to a few more days of cleaning.  We had to dig out the closet – and get rid of THIRTEEN bags of clothes that they had outgrown, stuffed animals that we were able to give up (it helped that Julianna was in the living room for most of that discussion).

Marc has been training all this summer in his new job – and while he’s much happier and more relaxed, he’s never home anymore.  Leaves the house before anyone gets up and gets home long after Julianna goes to bed each night.  But this is the last really rough week, I think.  Starting next week, he’ll have half days of actually doing the job, and half days of training.

 

It’s been less than a week

Less than a week.

We’re adjusting to the loss of Lucky.  It’s hard.  Jessie and Julie are grieving in easier ways, if that makes sense.  They get sad, they talk about it, they move on.

Sam’s stopped sleeping at night.  His appetite is off.

The not sleeping at night thing is the hardest to deal with.  He tries, but at night is when he misses the dog the most.  So he starts off okay, and then wakes up after an hour or so, and is up until after Marc gets up for work.  Then he crashes for the bulk of the daylight hours… which sets him up for being up again all night again.

I’m at a loss as to how to deal with it.  I’m worried about him all the time, but then Marc pointed out that there’s a reason that Judaism has the ritual of sitting shiva.  When you lose someone, you need time to exist outside of the world’s expectations.  To miss him and be sad, to do what you need to do to get thru the day, or the night.

It’s been less than a week.

I’m trying to give him this time.  We took a break from homeschooling (we’re on a reduced schedule during the summer anyway).  He’s focusing on audiobooks and youtube videos.  He’s not depressed, at least not presenting that way.  He smiles and laughs, is openly affectionate and loving.  But he doesn’t sleep anymore.

At the mid-way point

We’re not done with childrearing.  Obviously.  With a seven year old, we’ve got at least another eleven years before she ships out for college.

But we’re at the point where our kids are becoming adults.  With Lilli heading off to college this fall, Sarah going into her junior year and Jessie starting high school, our biggest kids are either out of the house, launched into adulthood, or at least with one foot out the door.

I’m trying to adapt to being a mom with older kids.  With adult kids.  Because that’s what we’re talking about – adult kids.  They aren’t just older, we’re not just talking tweens and early teens.  Lilli is actually a bonafide adult.

I’ve still got my baby.  My little one, who whines too much, and pushes the limits of my patience sometimes.  The one who still curls up into me at night and won’t fall asleep unless she’s got my arm wrapped around here.  I’ve still got Sam, and while he’s older than Julie, he’s still within the “kid” range.  I still do a lot of hands-on parenting with him.

Lilli and Sarah – it’s a little different with them.  I’m the stepmother – so I’ve never really done the nitty-gritty parenting stuff.  Not the doctor’s appointments and school conferences, not the planning of after school activities and nagging them about homework.  What I did do was provide a safe space for them to be themselves.  To play and run and create religions on my porch, and sell homemade perfume, and race tricycles down the hill.  That’s what’s ending.

I still have my Jessie – and fourteen is not eighteen.  While she may be edging ever closer to adulthood, she’s still mine.  But Lilli and Sarah are, for all intents and purposes, grown up now.  Sarah is still in high school, and will still need rides around, and she’ll still come for Shabbat dinner – but the days of playing outside with my kids are over.

I’m not done with childrearing yet.  I’ve still got a ways to go.  But more of it is behind me than in front of me, and I’m wistful and sad.  And proud – because we’ve done a good job so far.  The kids have grown up together, with a sense of belonging and togetherness.  The three Cohen girls are a unit, and I’m incredibly proud of that.

I’m also incredibly glad that I’ve still got a little one who needs me to wash her hair in the tub, a boy child who still calls me “Mama,” and a fourteen year old who might be within walking distance of adulthood, but isn’t there yet.

Lucky died

It was very sudden, and we’re all still in shock.

He got sick on the way home from Hermit Island, and seemed to be getting better the next day.  But by Thursday morning, he was non responsive, and by the time I got to the vet’s office, he had slipped into a coma.

We’re all so sad.  I know I miss him, so much.  All the time.  Everywhere I look, I see reminders.  My day revolved around giving him his meds and walking him, and I’m perpetually having to tell myself that he’s really gone.

The kids are all handling it.  They’re all sad, and they cry, and then pick themselves up and move on.  Sam, in particular, is really struggling.  He’s not sleeping at night anymore – because that’s when he misses Lucky the most.  So he stays awake, later and later, and then finally falls asleep when he can’t stand it anymore.  Today, he slept almost all day, just to try and catch up – so he’ll be up again all night.  I feel almost powerless to fix it – because I know that it’s that he just misses his dog so much, and facing that empty bed every night is more than he can bear.

I’m looking for another dog.  I was thinking that I’d like to wait until after Jessie goes to camp at the end of the month, because it’s going to be all sorts of crazy trying to get her in and out of Cambridge every day, and I didn’t want to try to add getting a new dog acclimated to us at the same time.  But I’m almost thinking that the sooner the better – if for no other reason than I’d like my son to sleep at night.

 

I’m either wicked good at this or a miserable failure

Parenting a kid with a disability is so much harder than I think it will be.  And in some ways, it’s easier than I anticipated.  I’m always aware of how lucky we are – that the accident only damaged his eyesight.   An inch higher and his face would have been so much more hurt.   I miss his chin, before the scar, but it’s still his face.  His sweet, sweet little face.  And inch lower and he would have broken his neck.  We could have been dealing with paralysis or worse.

I alternate between thinking I’m super good at this.  I’m in tune with my son, I catch his moods and can usually fix a panic attack within a few minutes.  I reassure him, and can make him feel safe.  I know I’m not magic, he’s made amazing progress from where he was mentally just before and after the accident.  But the reality is that Sam responds to me, all the time, and with my help, he’s usually able to get thru whatever he’s struggling to do.

I adapt what I’m asking – I find the curriculum that suits him best.  I know when to push and when to step back.

I’ve managed to get him a computer, a desktop CCTV, an ipad and a portable CCTV – all without the help of the school system or the MA Commission for the Blind (although to give them props – they did hook me up with contact info for the Memorial Fund, and they provided the ipad and portable CCTV).

But then I find a website, for the National Federation for the Blind, and their sister site – for parents of blind and visually impaired children, and kick myself because it’s been fifteen months since the accident and I’m just finding this now?  And I can only handle reading one or two articles before I have to stop because it’s just too much and I get too sad.  I’m not strong enough to do this – to fight for him, to figure out all of his needs and make it all happen, when the entire world seems stacked against him.  I’m all he’s got (and I know that’s not true, because I couldn’t do any of this without Marc – but in the moment, it all feels like it’s me), and I’m not good enough.  I don’t know enough, I miss things, I don’t push hard enough for what he needs because I don’t know.  I accommodate the anxiety, which means that I’m not doing enough for the visual impairment.

I spend most of my time – going between these two completely different feelings.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve got it all under control, and I know what I’m doing and he’s thriving.  And then I feel like I’m missing EVERYTHING he needs, and he’s going to end up with so much less than he should have, simply because I failed on a core level to do my job as his parent.  I’m supposed to protect him, to guide him and teach him, and encourage him.  But what he needs is so much more than just sending him off to school every morning with a healthy lunch, and making sure that he’s got warm clothes and doesn’t lose his mittens.  I have to figure out every aspect of his education, with the added complication of a disability that may not impact his ability to walk down the street, and he might even be able to drive a car someday – but he’ll never be able to grab a paperback and sit and read it.

No more website reading for tonight, I’m too sad.  Too fragile for tonight.  Because tonight, I’m just beating myself up that I haven’t taught him braille yet, or gotten him a white cane.  That I’m not pushing him to write essays or do standardized tests.  Tonight, it’s all I can think about – and reminding myself that he went thru hell over the past year, that taking the time to deschool and figure out homeschooling is okay, that’s he’s brilliant and motivated, and I shouldn’t be terrified by the statistic that 70% of people who are blind or visually impaired aren’t able to find a job.  Tonight, I just feel like crap, and I’m terrified for the future.