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.

So this is what we’re doing now.

Poker.

Right now, I’m sitting in my spot – this one remaining piece from a sectional where every other part of the couch has been destroyed to the point where we threw them out. So I sit in this one section, the corner piece, that I’ve crammed in between a hand-me-down couch and a futon that I have unfolded and spread a sleeping bag on it for the coolness.

And I’m sitting here, watching Marc teach the kids poker. Only the way he teaches them poker is by swearing a lot and sharing drinking and gambling storiesi from his past. Julie appears to be some sort of poker savant, because she’s an accomplished bluffer, and for the second time, the whole table erupted into swearing and yelling as the tiniest member of the game kicked everyone’s ass. Again.

There is an alarming amount of profanity.

We found out today that Sam is allergic to everything. Grasses, weeds, ragweed, oak trees, cats, dogs, dust mites. For the past 14 years, I’ve been nagging him to go outside and play, and he’s desperately allergic to all of it. We bought an air purifier, an allergenic mattress and pillow case cover. I’m more than halfway convinced that his abdominal issues are caused by constant and unending allergies, and am now not sure if we should see an allergist, go back to his gastroenterologist or just call his pediatrician and throw myself at her, begging for guidance.

I also have to take Jessie into the doctor’s office tomorrow, because I think she’s developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Four months of remote learning, summer work for four AP’s and an upcoming fellowship at the Federal Courthouse is not a good combination for my girl.

Julie is drifting through the longest summer vacation ever. I’m the most concerned about her for the upcoming year. Lilli is moving to Boston and Emerson will be mostly back to normal. Sarah’s college hasn’t made any final decisions yet, but she’s resigned herself to potentially having the fall semester at home. Jessie is going into her senior year, and honestly, she likes working from home just as well. Sam is going to continue with TECCA, and while there will definitely be some changes, we have to get his IEP up and running and he’s going to be in charge of his education. At least a little bit.

But Julie – oh, I worry about Julie. Will schools reopen? Will they be safe enough for her to go? Her fifth grade year is entirely up in the air. I could pull her out and homeschool her. So we wait, hoping against hope that the school department (which failed so badly at trying to come up with something for March-June) will magically come up with the perfect compromise between being in the classroom and being safe.

All told, it’ll be close to four months that we have been doing this. Quarantine, social distancing, covid-19-ing. Marc’s scheduled to go back to work on July 7, and we started this on March 13. That’s a long time to be basically at home, 24/7, all five of us.

The nice thing was that it was (and is, because we’ve got a few weeks to go) just… nice. Everyone basically likes each other, Jessie and Julie didn’t kill each other, I didn’t lose my mind listening to them battle and brawl. Sam finished up a normal school year, Julie started unschooling in March, and Jessie embarked on nearly independent study course of her junior year. Marc taught himself Hebrew, designed and ran two different dungeons and dragons groups, and lost a bunch of weight because he’s walking nearly 24 miles a week.

I crocheted a blanket and a half. I mean, I’m sure I accomplished other tasks – but mainly, I tried to keep the girls from killing each other, tried to keep the house clean, and crocheted. I read a lot.

Jessie starts her fellowship in a few weeks (the same week Marc starts back to work), and after that, things are going to kick in high gear. I’ll have both of them out of the house (if Jessie isn’t in Boston, I’ll ship her to my mother’s for quiet), and just my two little ones. And of those two little ones – ONE IS GOING TO BE 14.

I’m going to stop there, because the idea of Sammy being 14 is a lot to process.

Two and a half months into quarantine, self isolating and social distancing. The end is in sight, at least for this first part. Marc is going back to work at some point – he’s been in contact with his boss, and they’re hoping to start back up in two weeks. Not sure if that means Marc will be back to work in two weeks, but at least it’s a sign that hopefully by the end of the summer, he should be back to something resembling normalacy. No idea what normalacy is going to look like in the age of covid-19, and I’m still pretty sure that we’re going to have a rough fall…

Jessie got the Nelson Fellowship, and there’s talk of it actually taking place, partially, maybe, in Boston as opposed to on her computer. She wants to ride the train in, and I’m terrified of it. Marc’s more concerned about her being in the courthouse, and less worried about the train – so we’ll discuss and debate and come to a decision together. At 17, she’s certainly old enough to be a huge part of this discussion – and reality is that I know she’s capable of doing everything right and taking all the precautions. But you can do everything right, take all the precautions and still get sick.

We’re spinning from covid-19 into protests and the news coverage I listen to in the mornings has shifted from reporting deaths from coronavirus to riots and police brutality. I can’t keep up with it – and I certainly can’t figure out how to explain it to my kids. Julie just wants to go back to school and Sam was already pretty sure that the world is dangerous and scary and he’s better off at home. Everything that’s happened in the past two and a half months has served only to reinforce that.

We’re in this odd holding pattern, on the cusp of everything. Buying a house, sending Jessie off to college, starting Sam’s orientation and mobility and more independence in terms of education. Julie’s starting fifth grade, which I’m refusing to think about because it’s not possible that my baby is going into fifth grade.

But everything feels tentative and like we’re waiting.