Friday, October 25, 2013

October 25 evening

Spark is laying out the four pairs of mittens and gloves.  He's preparing for the winter cold.  The end of October here means an opportunity to trick-or-treat in freezing rain and/or snow; I can think of many childhood Halloweens where I had to design a costume that would fit over my winter coat.

I'm on the couch with the laptop, looking for new jobs.

The kittens, Hazel and Mabel, are hiding in the folds of five layers of blankets on Primo's bed.  Our house is uninsulated, yet we find ways of keeping warm.

When I'm stressed out, I tend to write less and less.  I eat less. I sleep more. In the last three months, we've had one cat go missing, one cat need to be put down, my parents moved across the country, and I received official notice that my employment will end by December 31.  It's been a bit of a hard go for my emotions.

Primo's voice is changing.  Spark is getting taller and skinnier and sweeter by the moment.  We filled the kitty void with two seven-month-old female kittens.  Hero is playing more music with friends. Maybe we're finding some balance of the difficult with the joyous. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A family with new twin babies. What would you tell the parents?

I had a delicious and delightful, yet long overdue tea time with a dear friend and my sons yesterday.  We went to a tea house that I'd never visited before.  Each one of us feasted on banana-coconut-chocolate cake, the colors of the walls and pillows in our tea room, and the presence of those we love.

This morning, my friend sent me a message about some friends she has, who have just become first-time parents to a boy-and-girl pair of twins.  The mother asks, "How can I do this?"  We are gathering love and strengthening words for them.  Feel free to add yours to mine:

Keep them alive, minute to minute.  Yourself, too.

Drink lots and lots of water.  Eat everything your body tells you to.

Ask for help for the things you don't feel you can get to.  Ask often and with force, if necessary (just like the babies do).

Sleep when they sleep.  

Do not wake sleeping babies on purpose, if you can possibly help it.

Invite people to come and hold the babies while you take a shower, feed yourself, etc.

Let you mind be blown by the amazingness of new life.  Boom. Pow. And go back to bed.

It's all right to be afraid.  Just push through it.  

There's going to be the next nursing, the next diaper change, the next bath, the next and next and next . . . you'll find your rhythm.

Overthinking in the first few months of their lives is a first-world problem.

There is evening, there is morning, and each day is good.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Looking up into blue eyes

In the quiet of the upstairs hallway this week, the family going through our morning routines, Primo came upstairs to say Hi. I was freshly dressed, putting on makeup in the bathroom, getting my hair in some proximity of rightness. He stood in the hallway, wearing his size 13 shoes for the first time. It was the last hot day of a long hot spell; we were looking forward to wearing pants and sweaters after a rainy day.

I asked him how the shoes felt.  He said they were a little tight.  I looked down at those big feet of his, and assured him that he'd find the shoes comfortable pretty soon.  He sighed and shifted his weight.

I then realized that, as he was facing me, his nose was above mine.

For the first time, in his shoes, this boy is taller than me. I told him this, and we and laughed a little. I hugged him tight and kissed his cheek, telling him I love him. 

There is only one moment like this in our lives.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

An adult child, letting go

I knew when I started this blog that I would eventually need to write about my parents.  I'm just now starting to be well and truly honest about my feelings regarding my relationship with them.  I need a safe place to work through the emotions and ask for advice from peers.

The main reason this blog is anonymous-ish is that I want to keep it from being easily found by my parents.  They would, of course, recognize my family and me from the content right away.  I firmly believe in owning one's truth.  The conundrum is being willing to write it out, knowing that if my dad finds this, I'll have to deal with the consequences.  So be it.

Six days ago, we had a fantastic Sunday. It was one of the best days our family has had all summer!  We'd been to a local town fair and parade, had a cookout with Hero's family, relaxed with cousins, remarked on the beautiful blue sky, and left before there were any meltdowns from the kids.  I went to work, had a successful and productive shift, and came home to Hero just getting a meal on the table and kids running to hug me at the door.

Then my dad called in the middle of dinner.  He's got great timing.

A little background: This year, my dad turned 70.  He and my mom know that they may not have many more good and healthy years left.  To celebrate the summer and his seventieth year, they decided to take an around-the-country tour of his brothers and sisters, and some of their friends.  The trip ended up with them visiting my own brother in Pennsylvania.  They'd been thinking about the fact that my brother is their designated medical power of attorney person, and that it could be good to be nearer to that person, should health concerns become an issue.

My Dad said that he and my mother will be moving halfway across the U.S. to live near my brother and his family.  He told me that they had found a condo just minutes away from my brother's house, made an offer the same day they saw the condo, and that their offer was accepted. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Two times twice exceptional (aka, We Hit the Jackpot!)

As I wrote to a dear friend today,

Now I've been drinking some gin + lime + soda, trying to recover from an empowering but emotionally draining day at the therapist's office with the youngest son, who is getting through the process of being diagnosed as twice-exceptional: gifted to the point of genius in certain ways, and also having dyslexia and dysgraphia.  

Another Saturday gone, hours upon hours spent with therapists.  Finding out that Spark ranks in the exceptional/genius range for some innate skills, and he's at kindergarten level for what his teachers have been trying to help him learn for the last three years.  What a mixed blessing.

Spark is gifted in some of the same areas that Primo is, which will be a great help as we try to build on their shared interests.  But where Primo taught himself to read at age 6, and read Rowling's complete Harry Potter series TWICE over the summer when he was 9, Spark is still trying to keep his lower and uppercase letters straight.

We're also looking at moderate to severe depression in Spark.  My mother heart aches for him, knowing that this kind, creative, spunky, imaginative kiddo thinks of himself as one of the 'dumb' kids.  Can't keep his days straight.  Never knows how long a minute or an hour feels.  Can hear everything that's going on in a room, but can't focus on what one person is saying.  We're all going to learn how to support him in this.

So, this family is blessed with two healthy, amazing sons.  One may be going to the university at age 15, and one may turn out to be an engineer who can't spell.  

Like many special-needs parents, I'm in it for the long haul.  I might have to pull over and cry every now and then, but I know these guys are worth every bit of effort we exert on their behalf.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Time, and time in the garden helps a lot

Two days ago, (see previous post) Primo and I had an interaction in the car that ended up with him pinching a huge bruise into my upper arm, and me speaking in a hurtful way.  

I was truly shaken.  I sank into an ugly and dark funk.  I wrote that post.  I felt deeply saddened by this violence, discouraged that we could have such a setback, ashamed that even though my son had hurt me, I wasn't able in that moment to keep my temper in check and stay calm enough to keep from scaring him.

Then we cried separately and together for forty-five minutes, talked, apologized, hugged, and moved on.  Here's the rest of the story:

At age 12, Primo is almost as tall as I am now, and though he's very much better at controlling his temper, he does still have trouble with safety issues when he's angry.  He said that by the time he thought to calm himself and be safe, he'd already torn apart some things in the car and pinched me.  That's his fight-or-flight response and the autism delay.

Tomorrow Spark is going in for his second all-day dyslexia evaluation appointment.  I'm so excited to get the data and strategies that we need, but I'm not so happy to give up my only day off to be there.  We do know he's right in the middle of the 'spectrum' of dyslexia (forgive the autism metaphor), not severe and not mild.  We're starting to be able to tell him about the ways he is smart, and we'll learn how to help him know it for sure.

And well, that Hero, and the music, it's something that's integral to his being, something that cannot change, even if he tried.  I think I'm feeling, first, the pre-summer crisis of confidence in our abilities to manage childcare without school; second, a lack of shared purpose in my life with Hero.  We need a spoken agreement on our priorities.  We've been just surviving and tag-team parenting for so many years now.  

Our marriage is a true partnership based on deep love (and wacky humor), but the part where we enjoy each other and have fun together is missing.  The majority of the time we spend together occurs when we're asleep.  We don't know who's the leader when we're both home at the same time.  We don't know how to make conversation at the dinner table when all of us are together.  

I'm hoping that a change in schedule at my office may be coming, so that we'll be able to be a complete family more evenings each week.  I'm not sure whether that means I will have a new job at a different business, whether my position may be terminated, or whether I'll be allowed to simply work a shorter schedule.  My next career step is a big question mark right now.

That brings me to today.  Today has been pretty grand.  I've breathed deeply.  Our geographic area has had a week of stormy weather, drenching downpours, rapidly shifting temperatures, and then sunshine.  Today is a mostly sunshine day.

When the boys and I got home after school, Spark went outside to explore the yard and observe bugs.  I let the cats out so that they could bask in the sunshine and eat grass tips.  They were calmly joyful, as cats can be.  I looked through all the little parts of our yard where I like to plant things, and got more ideas for what I'll work on this weekend.  

I was a very lazy gardener last year, planting very little, not weeding, not mulching.  A perennial that looks very like creeping bellflower (campanula) went to seed and has started taking over our and our neighbors' yards.  Time in the garden, just keeping my mind on the plants and getting my hands in the soil, is healing to me.  So that's the plan for the weekend.

Dyslexia, gardening, and laundry and family.  Sounds all right to me.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sad today

Oh, Lord, I am not the one best suited to raise this child.  Please help me.  God, please, please help me.  I'm married to a man who seems to love music more than he loves me or his family.  He is so often distracted and un-present. I have one son who is sweet as pie and so very smart, and dyslexic.  This other son, the one who hurt me today, has autism and mental illness.  We are just starting to dig our way out of debt after years of being in it up to our eyeballs.  I feel like everyone expects me to keep us functioning on an even keel.  When I've asked for help, I first get a question about payment for services.  I feel so alone.  The weight of this life is so much.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Two small confessions.

I have two confessions to make today.  First, when I sit on my couch with my laptop on my lap, catching up on all the news of the day, I'm really mostly doing it to keep my lap warm.

Second, I've started to hate being at work.  I think it's the complete lack of windows.  Three years is enough of this.  Also, I no longer feel like I'm making a difference there.  I'm not helping enough, and no one really needs me.

And a bonus confession: Winter is not ended here in the Upper Midwest.  The tulips are growing and snowdrops have already faded, but it's snowing little f-bomb white pellets and blowing and gray all over.  Sigh.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Big rig gig

Instead of writing this post, I've been making stew, emptying old condiments from the fridge, watching cartoons with the boys. A new blizzard has arrived, so perhaps the pressure change drove me to the household things.  Or perhaps it's just good ol' procrastination.

I feel like this life I'm in is a journey on a long gravel road in a country with no maps.

Some parts are smoother than others.  Some are muddy, sloggy, and rutted.  There's often no good vista or clearing to tell me where we are or what's coming next.  Not a lot of faces of people I know.  There's only the onward, the forward, the road.

When I was a girl, one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up was a long-range truck driver.  The open road, the big rigs, the time to myself . . . called to me.

Primo has just graduated from his mental health/social skills program, which he started in October of last year.  The first few months were very hard; he pushes people to their limits of tolerance, so see whether and how much he can trust them.  He pushed almost too hard, sometimes physically, in those first months.  He was nearly kicked out of the program on a number of occasions.  But the therapy staff there saw something in him, the same something Hero and I see.  There is potential for greatness in this boy who sometimes would sooner throw a punch than acquiesce to a simple imperative that's not of his own choosing.

We struggled through it together.  Sometimes I'd have to take him home early, because he wasn't able to get into the groove of the day.  The police were called a couple of times, when he'd hurt others.  It could be scary, knowing Primo had hard work to do on his inner Self, and that he might not up to the day's challenges.  He was pushed to learn about his own emotions and triggers, to understand the way the rest of the world would expect him to respond, and how to respond appropriately even when he didn't feel like he could.

But it was a safe place for him to be, this program was.  The staff of therapists was strong and usually unflappable, except when praising the kids for good work.  They covered the details of almost every day with me.  They cared and persevered, when many adults would choose to give up on Primo, or recommend some other program or even an institution of one kind or another.

He ended up with a couple of friends (!!) in the group who actually looked up to him, a graduation celebration, and gave a gift to the program's other kids.  It was an ending that suited his journey.

So now we're in the rig again, away from the support of that group, and I'm wondering what comes next.  I'm trying to remain calm.  I'm nervous, though.  There isn't a lot of solitude on this road.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sometimes dreams have such clarity, they must be written down.

Here I am, one morning last summer:

When finally opening her eyes for the day, the sun behind the green curtains of her bedroom was making patterns like underwater waves on the ceiling.  Leaves moving in the trees and cars going by on the street outside changed the shadows to look like things moving in the depths.  It was the first night in the weeks since the heat wave began that they had been able to sleep with the windows open.  She had woken from a deep, clear, wondering dream.

Joe and his family had moved in next door.  It was her own neighborhood, but not her own, as often happens in dreams.  Summertime, still, with bright hot days that some people love.  Through her curtains on summer mornings, she would look across the space between their houses, and see his wife and children smiling and playing inside their own house.  Sounds of laughter and music drifted over on those mornings when it was cool enough to have the windows open.

In her own house, things were quieter.  They­­­ usually woke up later than Joe’s household, and kept the curtains closed for longer.  Then things became a little stranger in the dream.  Some mornings, she’d awaken later, and go to the front windows, ready to push back the curtains.  Her own big son was quiet, playing a computer game in the corner of the dining room, shifting softly on the hard wooden chair.  She was still in her short nightgown, breasts hanging loose, hair all a tangle in back.  She’d open the curtains, and there on the porch was Joe’s wife and a friend of the wife’s, laughing and smiling, having tea.  Startled, she pulled the curtains shut, metal rings sliding on the metal curtain rods.  The wife’s conversation paused.  She flicked the corner of the curtain back, smiled and waved, then retreated.

Another scene, late afternoon on a weekend.  Joe’s house, a big, rambling bungalow with a couple of additions on the back, sits next door.  The house is one of the loveliest on their block, just so interesting and compelling inside and out.  But the yard, some would say, was not.  Rather small for such a house, and it ran, unfenced, next to the sidewalk that led down the inside of the block to the school.  Her own house, was smaller, shabbier, in need of updates and repairs.  Casual and comfortable, if run-down.  The yard, though!  Big and parklike and sunny.  Low maintenance.  Fenced off from the schoolyard behind it with a chainlinked fence and good gates that could be locked.  Her family could do what they wanted there.

She came home from a neighborhood walk with her own husband.  Her husband knew about her old feelings for Joe; at least he knew enough.  Something was happening in their yard, though.  A party?  A party for Joe’s older son.  Lots of friends of Joe’s children and family were there, gathered in her yard, watching a soccer game being played, not in the schoolyard, but on her own tired lawn.  The weather had been hot and dry for a while, and with the activity of the players, bare patches of dirt and brown puffs of dust were showing where the grass had quickly given way.  His friends were sitting on blankets around the edges, cheering, snacking, and leaning on the fence line.  Other neighbors came by, leaning in toward the action from the outside of the fence.  Younger children rested their foreheads against the links, making dents in their skin.  Their little fingers hooked around then links next to them.  She dropped her husband’s hand and went over to Joe.

“What is going on here?!” she didn’t care if she made a scene.  Joe looked at her and smiled, his eyes calm and that faraway look in them that she could feel before she saw it.  “Oh, just a get-together today.  Isn’t it a fun time?”  She would not betray her current life.  “This is not all right, Joe.  I need to talk to you now.” 

“You moved in next door.” Her voice was quiet, forceful.  “Next door!  I see your wife and your children every day.  And I love them with joy and innocence.  They are bright and shining in so many ways, and though I don’t know them well yet, I am so happy to have them near.  But this, what, this!  You are in our yard!  You!  And your wife, and your children, and all these friends!  With the home, and the life you lead and the ease you have, you know!  This not welcome, Joe!”  Heads had turned.  She could hear that the players had paused in their game.  He leaned closer to her, his body’s closeness encouraging her body to turn toward the open gate.  Some of the guests near the gate moved aside.  “C’mon,” he said.  Let me show you something.”  She glanced at her husband, but he had sat down on the ground, grim.  He lifted his hat, hand brushing over the stubble on his shaved head.  He looked away.

She felt weak and weightless at the same time.  The players had restarted the game, and attention turned back to them.  It was almost as if no one noticed her moving away, Joe beside her.  They went toward the front door of Joe’s house.  Up three steps to the wide porch, the door next to a big bay window with a window seat.  Comfortable, tasteful furniture stood, waiting.  A box of toys.  A porch swing at the far end.  It was quieter here.  He pushed the latch lever down and the door swung open.  She had not yet been a visitor here before.  He started to say something to her, but she wasn’t listening.  She was looking instead, and feeling how it felt to be in this, the first room she could see.

It wasn’t what she expected, as houses in dreams often aren’t.  The room was dim and quiet.  A big sectional-style couch snugged up against two walls of the room.  Extra cushions and pillows were scattered, in a very comforting and haphazard way.  A sunlit doorway on the far side of the room led to the kitchen.  The big bay window was not part of this space.  She could feel him beside her, barely touching the side of her arm with his.  Joe.  She sensed he was going to speak, to lead her further.

Instead she awoke and let herself lie there in the bed.  She stretched out her arms and pulled her toes toward the ceiling, Achilles tendons stretching, ankles popping softly.  The space next to her was empty, but for the small striped cat at the foot of the bed.  Her husband had left gotten up much earlier.  It was Saturday; she could hear the boys downstairs.  Cicadas pulsing outside.  A look at the clock showed 11:12am—far later than she expected.  Thirteen hours of sleep.  Finally, fully rested.  She knew that as soon as she rose, the cat would thud down from the bed and begin to cry for breakfast.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thankful, January 8 edition

This blogroll on the side of the screen--yeah, all those blogs I regularly read--these writers are special, hilarious, caring, marvelous people.  On the days that I don't have much courage to face the chores or the mystery of my own thoughts, I can still read their words and be strengthened.

I've wanted to write about my transition into married life, into parenthood, into becoming the parent of not one, but two special-challenges kids.  (Yes, we've noticed that Spark has his own issues.)  And I know I will.  But today, today, I just need to day that I am thankful for the people who put their love and their truth into the world.  I am thankful for those people who do the everyday living and sharing, who keep showing up and keep going on.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Blizzard day, December 20th: early start to Holiday break

Now the snow is here, a blanket for the winter.  We've got about 12 inches so far, and more is falling and blowing.  It's wet snow, too, perfect for packing and sculpting.

I keep wanting to curl up and sleep some more now, but I did that this morning.  I woke up at the regular time and monitored the emails and phones to make sure our business was well and duly closed for the day: phone messages changed, signs up on the front doors, emails sent to all the staff.  At least I was able to be in my pajamas and bed all the while.  When the flurry of messaging calmed down, I tucked myself back in.

It was after noon when I woke up!