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Writings on Motherhood, Judaism, and Happily-Ever-Afters

Holiday Angst

I don’t actually have any angst. Yet. I’ve mostly decided to avoid any of the December Dilemma crap that abounds this time of year – and it’s not easy. I don’t like most of my community in December, as far as I can tell, I’m the only person who enthusiastically celebrates Christmas as a Jewish woman – and I’m simultaneously angering the Jews and the Christians. I’m either doing it too much, or not doing it enough or doing it for the wrong reasons. And the reality is that I’m chugging along, without enough money or time or enthusiasm, and mostly just hanging in, waiting for spring.

What I do have is a lot of general irritation. Pretty much everyone is at the end of their ropes, emotionally. Sam has taken to gleefully counting down the days to Christmas, which I’m trying hard to not take as a personal attack because I haven’t started shopping yet. Jessie applied to a five week fellowship in Israel for the summer, and in the back of my mind, I’m already missing her. Julie announced that she might be interested in going to Camp Ramah this summer, which makes me both delighted and horrified. The idea of shipping my by then 17 year old off for most of the summer is rough enough, the thought of not having my baby around all summer is an anathema for me.

Plus, there’s all this snow. Everything is wet and cold, and I miss being barefoot.

Thanksgiving 2019

This will be the one known as the holiday where everyone drank too much.

I don’t drink, as a rule. In part because I really don’t like the taste of alcohol, in part because I think I owe my kids a functional parent at all times, and in part because I’ve got a family history of alcoholism, I just don’t really ever drink. But the holiday was so stress-filled and emotionally laden, it was a nice coping mechanism. Not one I plan on utilizing more than once a year, but upon reaching the point where I was going to get super irritable and fight with someone, I chose to down a mimosa like it was medicine and giggle my way thru the tail end of Thanksgiving prep.

Marc also chose this holiday to drink liberally. He also doesn’t drink as a rule, due mainly to the fact that I really, really hate it when he drinks at home. So I can’t remember the last time I saw him actually intoxicated – but he took the mantra of “lubricate the cook” very seriously this year. But still managed to pull off an incredibly well cooked dinner, the turkey was amazing, everything was wonderfully cooked, and well… at least it makes for a good story. Eventually. I hope.

This also marks our last Thanksgiving with Glennys while she’s in high school. She’s been coming down every year since she moved up to North Conway, and I’m already missing her. Julie got her new glasses – and she looks so adorable all the time I can’t stop complimenting her. Jessie’s been sick with a migraine, and Sam’s been throwing up off and on since Thursday morning. Oh – and we wrapped up the weekend with the first official snowstorm of the season – a foot of snow is expected, and the girls already have tomorrow cancelled. Honestly, with a foot of snow, sleet and icy rain, followed by more snow Monday night, I’m assuming that Tuesday is a no-go as well.

Shopping

Happy to report that I’ve figured out how to shop.

I hate shopping. I mean, I really hate shopping. I hate spending money, and when I’ve got a TON of shopping to do, I get really anxious and stressed. Today, I had all the Thanksgiving shopping to do, and the list was long (spanning three different lists – one for the actual holiday, one for Pie Day, and one for general groceries).

The key is a book and multiple stores. I went to three different stores, bought only what I was in the mood to get at each one, and read for a while before going in and before driving to the next one. Yes, it did take about an hour or so longer than it should have, but I emerged unscathed and not afraid to tackle the rest of it tomorrow.

In other news – Sam is back to not sleeping at night. Not sure if it’s just being a teenager (because that’s what he is now) or if it’s that he’s naturally a night owl, and periodically, his body reverts to that. But either way, he didn’t get a hell of of a lot of school in today. Some, but when his eyes are falling shut as I read to him, it’s not a good feeling.

We also got Jessie’s hair cut today, and while it looks stunning, I’m waiting for her to freak out. It’s her first real hair cut (as opposed to tiny trim) since the Great Hair Crisis of 2015. She says she loves it – but my girl is a mistress of self-delusion, and may well be lying to me and herself because as we learned four years ago, there’s not a damn thing you to do once you’ve inadvertently cut off all your hair. She almost talked Julie into getting her hair cut as well, but I nixed that idea. Julie would have done it, just to keep her big sister smiling, and then would have fallen apart later. I only let them get their hair cut when they’ve been begging for a few weeks and I’m positive they really want to do it. And even then, the odds are 50/50 that they’ll end up in tears that first night.

Continuity

I watched my cousin Lea’s baby boy this weekend. Or rather, my Jessie watched baby Michael this weekend. The whole time, I kept thinking back to me at her age, watching Lea. There’s sixteen years between Lea and I, and it’s completely surreal to have the generations repeating themselves.

It’s oddly disconcerting – Jessie uses my phrases with babies. Which makes sense, but it’s still… just weird. She says “avec moi” when she wants them to follow her – and I’ve never seen anyone do that before. Except for me. I used to joke that the only French I retained from high school were phrases that went along with motherhood – with me, right now, and I’m so tired.

Then Julie fed him her ice cream cone in the car on the way back, and all I could remember was taking little Lea up to Erickson’s and getting two kiddie cones that we’d trade back and forth.

It went by so fast

That’s the thing with raising kids. It just never stays the same. As soon as you figure out how to handle a newborn, you’ve got a baby. And then a toddler, and then all of a sudden, she’s dancing off to preschool. And then you turn around and she’s taller than you are and trying to figure out if the outfit she wants to wear is professional enough for the networking event she’s got tomorrow. At court.

I mean, yes, it’s teen intern program. But still – I know from how ridiculously fast she went from 0-16 that it’s a matter of minutes before she’s actually dressing for real court. Or the office, or wherever she ends up. Because she’s still all over the place on what she want to do and where she wants to go.

I’m in no rush. She’ll get there, sooner than I’d like, and way before I’m ready. But for tonight, she’s wearing some flannel pants with owls on them, and eating cut up hot dogs mixed in with beans. She’s bugging her brother and dancing her sister around the kitchen. For tonight, she’s sixteen, and I’m going to pretend that it’ll last forever.

Rough Times

I don’t like the phrase “the new normal” and yet, that’s where we are. I’m adjusting to a new normal, in a way that I haven’t in years.

Forest Grove did not go well for Sam. It was a disaster, from start to finish, and looking back, I really wish that we hadn’t even attempted it. On-line public school is so much better for him, he’s so much more confident, and I know that he’s learning. He’s going to school every day, it’s just school that’s in his living room, with his dog, and an iPad to fiddle with, but he’s learning and growing and it’s so much better than it was.

Both the girls have settled down too. September was so hellish, and October was just trying to catch our breath and figure out what to do next. But now it’s just … normal. Jessie gets up, I drive her to school, come home, Julie’s up and getting dressed. I drop her off and then come home and Sam has school until it’s time to do the whole thing in reverse.

There are still a lot of elements that need to be worked out. As per usual, Sam’s case is completely unique and nobody knows quite what to do with him. Because he’s visually impaired, he requires a lot of services that are paid for by the school – but because it’s on-line school, there’s debate on who pays for what. Academic services are relatively easy to figure out – orientation and mobility is a bit more challenging. And at the end of the day – I need help figuring out how to make the curriculum accessible for him, and that’s all still got to be organized. We’ve got another IEP assessment coming up, and we’ll see what happens with that.

I’m still here, only now, I’m shoving off any major decisions about what I want to do with my life because right now, what I’m doing is raising these kids. Sam’s education, at least for the next little while, is essentially my part-time job while the other two are in school. It’s like he’s attending public school, with a full time aide. So he’s getting a FANTASTIC education. Which is what matters.

Plan B

Forest Grove did not work out.

In the end, it was Jessie who helped me to understand and accept that it wasn’t going to work, sending Sam to middle school. She said he could be two of three things, but he couldn’t be smart, visually impaired and suffering from an anxiety disorder all at the same time. They could have handled two of the three, and made it work, but all three was a constant disaster and it was just a matter of which way it would all fall apart.

I hate that this didn’t work out. I wanted so badly for him to be able to go to public school, to be able to bounce into the building and have friends and teachers he loved, to excel in a new setting. But it didn’t. It just didn’t. He was miserable and the school was struggling. The reality is that he’s dealing with a physical and emotional disability, and he’s too bright to languish in the special ed classroom.

So we pulled him out, and started on-line public school. Three days in, and I think it’s a much better choice for him. The schedule is demanding, and it takes a lot of time and effort on both of our parts – but it’s manageable so far. It’s a lot more work than we’ve done in years – homeschooling was so easy and fun. We just read all the time, discussed and read. It was great. Forest Grove – the education he was getting there was so far below what he was capable of, so far below what Julie was capable of. This is better. He’s learning and challenged and knows that he can do it.

More changes

God, it’s really happening. In less than a week, I’ll have all three kids in school, again, for the first time in four years. SO MANY EMOTIONS happening right now, all over the place, and I’m feeling overwhelmed and slightly inadequate and mostly afraid of it all crashing down again.

Sam did great for the orientation, and there’s every reason to think that it’s going to continue to be great. There’s a TON to still straighten out, and getting used to a whole new IEP team is confusing and tricky and I’m constantly wondering if I’m missing a step or should I be doing more.

Jessie started her new job at Tougas Family Farm this morning, she’s going to be working through the apple season. I was nervous about her getting a job – she’s got a lot on her plate this year, junior year, three AP classes and she’s still not done with her summer internship. But she really wanted a job, really wanted THIS job in particular, and I’m so happy for her. I’m still concerned about her health – she’s low-grade not healthy. Daily headaches, lightheaded, nausea… nothing debilitating, but still not in a position where I’d feel like she’s totally healthy all the time.

My Julie is so ready to go back to school. I know I say this every summer, but I always go into September swearing that I need to make sure she’s signed up for ACTIVITIES all summer, and then every spring, I talk myself out of spending hundreds of dollars to shove her into activities she’ll hate and beg me to let her stay home. But then she’s sitting at home all summer, watching too much television. Insert dramatic sigh here… I’m hoping for a more active and engaged fall.

The other hiccup I’m facing – is that I’m actually going to have all three kids in school starting next week. Four hours a day, every day, with nary a responsibility. I’m mostly too overwhelmed with figuring out everything for next week to panic about it yet. But after the first week or so, I’m going to have to make a plan that’s a little more comprehensive than “… I don’t know – maybe I’ll read more.”

Terror

Okay, I admit it. I’m straight up terrified of Monday.

Monday, Sam starts back to school. For the first time in four years, only now he’s going back to a new school, with people I don’t know and trust even less. With a zillion other kids – and with the added problem of being LEGALLY BLIND.

We’ve done everything possible to get him to this point. From last summer when he first said that he’d like to try going back to public school up until now, everything we’ve done has been working towards this goal. Fighting for the right location, arguing over what services he’s going to get, getting documentation and letters and God, so much more. Everything comes down to this.

And it’s the ideal set up for a first day. The school has set up an orientation for Monday and Tuesday of next week, and school formally starts the following week. So the two hardest things about going back to school will be split up. He doesn’t even have an official “first day” because he’ll have two half first days. This is the pep talk I’ve been giving him off and on over the past few weeks.

I’m trying so hard to stay positive and relentlessly optimistic. He’ll be fine. Of course he will. He’s been through way worse than this – and I’ll be right there, available via phone, the whole time. It’ll be a walk in the park. Easy breezy lemon squeezy.

But the hard reality that I won’t show him is that I’m unbelievably terrified of what Monday brings. What if he can’t do it? What if it’s too hard? It’s such a HUGE change, he’ll be out of sync with everyone else. He’s had four years at home with me and his sisters, how is he going to fit in with the average 12/13 year old boy? His education is all over the place – he can’t spell, at all. His reading isn’t a hell of a lot better, but it ‘s because he can’t see all of the letters all of the time. But he’s so damn smart – he does all this math in his head, and his vocabulary is way above that of an average seventh grader.

He’s super nervous, and we’re bouncing off of each other in a way that’s not at all helpful. I don’t think he knows how panicked I am, but every time he talks about how nervous he is (and my God, the fact that he can articulate it is amazing and fantastic), my heart squeezes a little tighter. He knows it’s irrational, he knows it’s not based in anything real, that he’ll be able to handle whatever comes his way – but he’s still super stressed and tense.

In order to pull this off, I have to be able to shove all my own fears and panic (and to give an example, I literally started crying earlier when the head of the Special Ed department emailed me back about an aide that he’s going to have) and pretend that I’m completely and totally confident that he’ll be fine. And I am.

Because while the truth is, Sam is going to be fine, and he’s going manage whatever Monday throws at him with grace and humor, the reality is that going back to school is still a huge deal. He couldn’t do it before, it was so awful, we had to pull him out of school entirely, but not before fighting like hell for two months to get him back into the classroom. It was awful and traumatic, and followed by a horrific accident that changed everything.

Sending him to school on Monday isn’t the hardest thing we’ve done. Not by a long shot. But it feels that way this weekend.

Summer Updates

So much happening these days….

Jessie has been tentatively diagnosed with something called POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome¬†). She’s started getting headaches every day, some really bad, some not so bad, but accompanied with dizziness and lightheadedness. She’s only passed out once, but once is enough, really. At least, as far as I’m concerned. She’s managing it well, because it’s summer, and if her head hurts, she can just go into a dark room and shut the door, but that’s not a good long term solution once school starts. So we’re heading into to see a cardiologist and there the possibility of an MRI. I’m not panicking about it – but low grade concerned.

She’s working along with her permit – she’s still got to cram in more actual driving lessons with the driving school, but she’s been driving more and more when I’m out and about. She’s still doing her internship, but most of that is done at home with her only going into the office a few times a week. She has Model UN camp next week in Boston – so that’ll be a whole lot of me hauling ass in and out of Cambridge every day.

We had Sam’s glasses evaluation today – and it went SO much better than I anticipated it would. He actually is getting bifocals. He had worn glasses before the accident, but it never seemed as though glasses would help after the damage to the optic nerve. We tested him each time, and he was adamant each time that he saw no difference. For some reason, this time, he did. I don’t know if it was just maturity, or if his vision is improving, or what it was, but I was so thrilled.

The glasses won’t fix everything. They don’t fix the damage done to his optic nerve, and they won’t fix the pockets of blindness in his left eye. His right eye is still functionally useless on it’s own, but when he uses both eyes, his vision can get down to 20/50 in optimum conditions. That’s stunningly good – good enough to potentially get his license one day. It’s not good enough to make reading easy or effortless, he still struggles with being able to read a continuous line of text. I still worry about how he’ll function in a classroom, and what September will bring. But glasses will be a huge improvement for my boy.

My baby Julie is in the throes of adolescence. She’s emotional and sassy and weepy and silly and angry and delighted, often one after another in rapid succession. She’s SO tall – easily fitting into all of her older sister’s clothes (much to Jessie’s frustration), but still seems so young at times. She still needs me to tuck her in every night (last night, she stayed up until after 10 when I got back from the vet ER with Lizzie), and she still wants me to do her hair. Thank God. I’m in no rush for this one to grow up, she could stay my baby for a lot longer and I’d be happy.

Fourth grade is coming, though, and I know that we’re on the precipice of a whole new stage in her life. Decisions will have to be made about what school she’ll be attending for middle school, she’ll have to get a phone and please God she’ll pause in growing so fast. I’m literally at the point where school starts in five weeks, and I refuse to buy her school clothes until the week before, because I know she’ll outgrow it by the time September rolls around.