I took the girls down to my mother’s today, and we went to Harvard, MA. My great grandparents grew up there, and my mother drove us all over the place, looking at houses where she had played as a little girl, roads she had biked on a teenager, and the cemetery where my great grandparents and assorted other family members are buried.

We bought hot cocoas and an assortment of chips, loaded my mother’s insane little dog in the back with the girls and set out.

There’s something about the chemistry of my mother and my daughters. It’s not full-proof (flashback to the sunrise trip to the ocean, whereupon my girls tried to kill each other), but when it’s good – it’s really, really good. And today, it was just good. The girls got along (almost the entire time) and it was so lovely to spend that time with my mom.

For what it’s worth – I’ve always thought that bemused is a perfect meld of befuddled and amused. Which is what I am right now.

It’s 4:08 on a Tuesday afternoon… and I’m alone. Each kid is sequestered in their bedrooms (okay, Julie is in my room) and using some sort of electronic device. It’s possible Julie is reading a book. I’m hopeful she’s reading.

I’m sipping my second cup of coffee, working on Lilli’s blanket (I’m hoping to get it done by Thanksgiving), and watching television. Everyone is happy, content and quiet. Without my involvement.

So much of the past few months have been all about togetherness. The kids can’t go to school, we really shouldn’t be going anywhere or doing anything, so we spend a LOT of time together. And we still do. I mean, Jessie filters in and out of the living room, and I spent most of the day educating Sam and Julie. But this quiet, alone time seems so bizarre to me.

For that matter, so much of the last seventeen years have been me with a kid. First with baby Jessie, and then Sammy, and then my little Julianna Ruth. Once Julie was off to school – we almost immediately had Sam’s accident, so I’ve always had a kid at home with me. All the time. And now… they’re all good. All content doing their own stuff and leaving me with time to crochet and sip coffee and wonder how it all changed so fast.

I miss those years. I do. But I kind of love this time as well.

The coronavirus is still here, and appears to be taking over the country. To say that I’m relieved that Biden was elected is ridiculously understating it – there’s a weight that’s been lifted. Donald Trump was simply… beyond description, and I’m profoundly grateful that he was ousted. I’m also really hoping that the language around covid will both calm down and get more realistic. Because so many people seem to not believe that it’s real, the ones who do go overboard trying to convince them. I’m hoping for more caution, more measured information. More information, period.

Marc is back to work on the road – while he’s been working for a few months now from home, now he’s back in the car. I’m cautiously, hopefully, and perhaps foolishly ignoring that he’s going into people’s houses daily, multiple people’s houses, and putting all my confidence in PPE and assiduous use of sanitizer and masks.

Jessie has given up all hope of a normal senior year. Originally, there was talk of some kids going back in November, and her grade/group was slated to go back at the end of January. Now the November date has been pushed back to January, which maybe pushes her back to March – and given that AP exams are at the end of April… she’s probably just going to be home for the year. I’m hoping for some sort of graduation for her.

Sam is dealing with a LOT of stomach issues. Dry heaving, throwing up all the time, and there’s no explanation. Sam suggested that it might be the allergy shots, because the throwing up got worse after we started immunotherapy – but Sam wants to continue with them, because he wants to not have allergies anymore. His allergist essentially told me I was crazy, people don’t throw up from environmental allergies. But we can’t find anything else.

My Julianna is bopping around the house. Homeschooling is going really well – we’re on the third or fourth curriculum, but it’s been hard to figure out the right one. I think we’re in a good routine – she’s doing an interactive notebook for science and history, and workbooks for ELA and math. I use a lot of videos and make her read a lot. And I’m also pushing reading. All the reading.

We’re on hold with the house hunting. As we’ve been for years now. First it was that we didn’t have enough credit. Then it was that we had not enough income. Then it was that we should get even more credit, and then we had enough income – then Marc got furloughed. And then it was wait until he’s back to work, and back up to where he was pre-covid. And now it’s that we can’t count any of the unemployment income, so we have to wait. Again.

I’ve lost all hope.

But I JUST found out that Julianna got into TECCA, which delights me. She’ll start second semester, which means that she’ll be able to transition back to in person school without a hitch once school goes back. Which it has to, at some point, right?

Feeling overwhelmed.

Jessie is applying to colleges. Really. I know we’ve been thinking about this for a few years, and I’m glad we started sophomore year. It really did help. But it doesn’t, in any way, make this less stressful and scary. And it’s not about me – because as stressed as I am, I’m not actually DOING anything. I’m just being supportive. But by being supportive, I’m also stressed about making sure that I am supportive enough. I’m stressed about her being stressed – which, I’m sure you can understand, does not actually help her to be less stressed.

I’m not even sure why it’s feeling like I’m stuck on a treadmill that won’t ever stop. It’s finally Thursday, and this week has taken several months to get through. In part it’s just that we did a LOT this week. I think. All the days blur together to some extent, between covid-19, this never ending summer vacation, etc.

Monday we started Sam’s immunotherapy. Because he’s allergic to all the things – he gets three separate shots once a week. One for cats and dogs, one for all the trees, and one for weeds and grasses. Tuesday, we had his first vestibular therapy appointment. After a summer spent ruling everything out (including a CT scan, an MRI, an upper endoscopy), we’ve concluded that his little brain is just fine, but because he’s still so dizzy, this seems to be the best way to deal with it. The physical therapist said that it’s probably a combination of a whole bunch of things – some of it is probably stress related, as it started pretty soon after the world went crazy in April, with the shutdowns all over the place, both the girls and Marc suddenly home full time. Some of it is probably caused by his vision – he has a neck tilt because one eye is substantially better than the other, and he gets off-balance really easily. His neck muscles are very tight, and the muscle tightness could be compressing or pressing on nerves that could cause the dizziness. His core isn’t that strong either, which means that he has to work harder to get balanced. In addition to weekly shots, we’re also doing weekly physical therapy to improve his balance and ability to deal with the dizziness.

Wednesday, we went to the beach. Jessie wanted to see the sunrise over the beach, so we woke up at quarter of three and picked up my mother and headed to the ocean. It was gorgeous, so much prettier than I can describe, but Jessie was grumpy the whole time, and the more grumpy she got, the more anxious Julie got. The more anxious Julie got, the more she irritated Jessie, who would then get grumpier. After the beach, we stumbled into a three hour wait for a covid-19 test. My mother wanted to be tested to be able to go camping (because you have to provide a negative test within the last 7 days in order to enter ME, I guess), but what we thought would be quick and easy lasted an easy three hours.

Plus I’ve had this headache that just WILL NOT go away. I think it’s mostly hormonal, because my period is getting sketchy and tough to predict, and my headaches have always gone hand in hand with my cycle. I think me going thru menopause at the same time that Julie is prepping to get her period is a good example of why being a woman sucks sometimes.

Marc’s working his butt off – starting each day around seven or so, and ending 12 hours later, roughly. He’s stuck in a weird place too – working all the time, two D&D games each weekend day, and trying to cram in gym sessions when he’s not too exhausted to attempt it. Working from home is both a blessing and a curse, I guess. He’s got four or five, sometimes six audits a day, but there’s no downtime. He’s just working all the time, relentlessly.

And me… I’m just here. This is my last week before school starts for Sam. Julie’s homeschooling, and I’m going to start her on that towards the end of next week, and Jessie starts on September 15. I feel like this is my last week before things get really crazy.

It’s my favorite part of covid-19, and my least favorite. We don’t have to go anywhere or do anything. It’s the best thing we can do. The safest. Stay home. Read a book. Bake a little. I still feel guilty though – like I’ve got my mother’s voice on autoplay in my head hollering “It’s too nice to be inside, go outside and play.” Not that I ever liked playing – mostly, I would stay inside and clean something until she got distracted and then I’d grab my book.

But now it’s covid-19 time, and it’s suddenly acceptable to make no plans, to go nowhere and do nothing. It’s a dream come true – except that I miss people. I went to the grocery store today, and smiled at someone in the parking lot. Then realized that between the sunglasses and the mask, there’s no way anyone would see my smile.

Other than the trip to the grocery store (a necessity given that we were out of cream for coffee), I sat at home almost all day. Marc and I took Lizzie to the dog park and then went out for coffee. Jessie watched Gone with the Wind and made fudge. Julie and I watched Pitch Perfect and read for a while. Julie danced in the rain, and took two showers. Sam slept in, and then played D&D with Marc, Jeff and Jacob.

It was a perfectly slow, boring Sunday.

I miss my real life.

Got my homeschool approval letter today, and suddenly, all my angst went away. The decision is made, it’s happening. I realized that it’s going to be fine. She’s literally already testing into sixth grade, if I do nothing, and she exists in a vacuum, absorbing nothing until I put her back in, she’d be good to go. I’ve got a complete 5th grade math curriculum, complete with a totally proficient and excited older sister who will teach it to her. I’ve got English and science grade level workbooks, and so much history stuff that it threatens to take over everything else she’s studying.

It’s going to be just fine.

I’m still planning on putting her back into public school when it’s safe to do so. But until then, this girl will be perfectly well educated at home.

So far, homeschooling Julie has not been a stunning success.

I loved the Build Your Library curriculum. Loved it. A whole curriculum designed around books – what could go wrong there? Oh yeah – if you don’t like reading, and you especially don’t like people reading to you, then Build Your Library is just a recipe for unhappiness. Which we learned the hard way.

She is all set for math. I had a bunch of textbooks for fifth grade math that I had gotten when Sam’s special ed teacher was leaving Gates Lane, so I ordered a workbook that came pretty highly recommended. Sarah is home this semester, so she’s going to take over teaching her math a few days a week.

I also ordered a work book for ELA and science. I’ll supplement with khan academy and youtube and whatever else I can cobble together. History, I’m going to follow the BYL curriculum and the state standards.

This’ll be okay. It will. It’s only fifth grade, and she’s a bright kid. As long as she’s learning and challenged, it’ll be good.

Please, let it be good. I hate this so much. I love homeschooling Sam because it was the right thing for him. He hates public school, he loves doing it at home with me. Julie wants desperately to be in school with her friends. She wants teachers and lining up and recess and lunch time. She wants her life pre-covid 19. And I can’t give her that.

She understands and she knows that this is the best choice for her. I think the absolute best choice would have been on-line public school, like Sam, but we missed the boat on that one. The wait list is crazy long, and while Worcester is providing online school, it’s zoom school, where she’d have to be online at the same time every day, and all day. Or most of the day. She’d be miserable.

I know that I can provide her with the education she needs. I know that what she really needs is to be able to go back to public school with her friends, and I can’t give her that. But hopefully, I can find a way to keep her challenged and engaged and learning until we can all go back to normal.

So this is happening.

Marc is back to work, and working at home. Which is fantastic, because he’s HERE, and not out catching covid-19. Plus he’s just here – available for chatting or a quick kiss or coffee prep every afternoon. Jessie has two more weeks on her Fellowship, and today is her first day working from our house, as opposed to trekking to my mother’s house.

I’m 99% sure that the two girls will be doing remote school this fall. My only hesitation is my Julie. I think she needs to be in school, even if it’s just for the one day, for her mental health. It’ll allow her to have a connection to her teacher, have some accountability to another adult, and maybe allow her to have a little bit of her life not be centered around the living room.

But then I read scary stories about camps in GA where 260 of the less than 400 kids came down with covid in a week or two. And articles from Arizona from a superintendant who’s already lost one teacher, has eight others under quarantine because they tested positive – and that’s in a school where there were no kids – they were just teaching over zoom in a large classroom with plenty of space and all the safety precautions imaginable.

I’m hoping for treatment, I’m hoping for a vaccine, and mostly, I’m just hoping that we all stay safe and don’t get sick.

I’m not really a helicopter parent. I’m not. I encourage my kids to go outside, to play independently. I’m happy to actively advocate for my kids, but as Jessie got older, I stepped back more and more. I talk to her teachers once a year, on Open House night, and she completely manages her own academic career. She makes her own decisions about clothes, about a social life, about seeking out Fellowships and internships. I encouraged her to visit her sisters at college, to go to college parties, and told her that if she wanted to try drinking, it was okay with me, as long as her sisters were there, she limited it to one and was careful. She manages her own money, found her own job, and buys her own clothes.

Jessie is fiercely independent and I love that about her. I respect her. I trust that she’s old enough, and mature enough to make her own decisions about her life. She’s in charge of her college search, making her own choices about what classes to take, which teachers to approach for recommendation letters, and manages her own distance learning.

Which is why I was so surprised when she told me that I was a helicopter parent when it comes to doctors. I make all the appointments, talk to all the doctors and chase down the referrals. I don’t entirely trust her to advocate for herself, to be honest with the doctor about symptoms that don’t seem all that significant to her, but might well be indicative of a serious problem. She’s got celiac disease, and has been dealing with a lot of joint pain and major fatigue. So when a routine ANA test came back positive, I jumped into mom mode. I called three different hospitals, and begged for an appointment before her Fellowship started. It took two days, and multiple calls all over the place, but I got her a tele-health appointment with a pediatric rheumatologist out in Boston.

I got the requested blood work, brought it down to her pediatrician so that it would be ordered out of her office and then made sure they added in a celiac test. Brought her in for the blood work, but on the way home, she asked me to please let her manage the process from here on out. She wants to be the one calling for the results, making sure that the results are sent to the doctor in Boston. I can be in the car, I can provide suggestions and helpful tips – but she wants to be the one driving. As she put it – it’s a lot easier on her when I do it, and she knows that I’d rather be the one in charge, but if she doesn’t start, she’s never going to know how to make her own appointments, how to advocate for herself.

She made so much damn sense, I had to agree. I had to really acknowledge that as much as I think I’m a free-range, laid back and trusting parent, raising a kid who knows she’s capable and can talk to me about anything – I’m a complete control freak when it comes to medical issues. I like to know exactly what’s going on with my kids, to ask the questions that might not occur to them, to know what to watch out for, what to worry about, and what’s no big deal.

I think any parent who’s had a kid in the PICU is going to be a little extra when it comes to medical issues. Jessie’s issues aren’t life threatening, but there’s a lot more than I ever dealt with at her age.

We compromised. She’s making all the calls, and doing the vast majority of the talking. But I still get access to her on-line medical records and can check and double check and obsess over results to my heart’s content.

This letting-go process isn’t easy, and I’m not at all sure that I like it. Turns out I’m fine with letting her grow up when it means picking AP classes, talking to her teachers, even taking the T to get around in Boston. But letting her be in charge of her own healthcare feels like an impossible ask. But ask she did, and so I’ll try. I’ll honestly try.

And selfishly be grateful that Sam’s just as happy to let me do all the talking to all the doctors. Forever. And Julie’s still too little to fight me on it.