Thursday, July 28, 2011

Futile

fu·tile

adj \ˈfyü-təl, ˈfyü-ˌtī(-ə)l\

Definition of FUTILE

1
: serving no useful purpose : completely ineffective futile>
2
: occupied with trifles : frivolous
and last but not least:
3: Attempting to harness your nervous energy by trying to organize your son's 5.2 million legos by color, size and shape while he is away at camp.
Seriously, if this isn't my biggest WTF was I thinking?!? moment of the summer, then I'm very, very scared to see what the rest of the summer will hold.

Loneliness

This has been a very lonely week for me.

I miss Hatfield and Atticus so much it hurts. I'm a bit surprised to realize that many others do not get this or think it is somehow weird. But, I think it is one of the dynamics of being a homeschool family. I'm with my kids all the time. They are who I prefer to be with. I'm not used to them being away from the house day after day. And I miss the terribly and feel so lonely.

I recognize that their job in life is not to make me feel less lonely or keep me emotionally regulated. I'm not a parent like that.

A couple months back in marital counseling, I was crabbing about something. In return, our therapist said something which shocked me and first, truthfully, angered me. He said, "It sounds like Sarah is very lonely in the marriage."

I was pissed. I mean, how pathetic does that sound? I don't want to be looked at or viewed as a sad, lonely person. I want to be a person who lives life to the fullest, or at the very least, survives with finesse.

But the therapist was right. I feel lonely, and quite often. I don't blame my husband or my marriage for it. I don't blame my kids. Really, it comes down to me and how I choose to handle my life.

I can't control how other's treat me. Ask any Trauma Mama and you'll get a huge Amen, Sister to that one.

Having a child who rejects you constantly is a terribly, lonely experience. Because as a mother, your job is to love. I was smart enough to know that my children would come home and not love me. Having lived in an orphanage for four years, I knew my sons would have no idea what a mother is, what a family is, and how to function in them.

I knew there would be struggles. I knew that I would have to give a lot of love, and that love would feel like it was falling flat.

What I didn't know is just how terribly stinging and lonely the constant rejection would be. Having a child look into your eyes while they are peeing on the floor less than 6 inches from you is maddening, yes. But the overriding emotion for me is loneliness.

I see how fearful and alone my son is, and I know he is drowning in it.

Even as I extend my hand to him, I feel my own loneliness crashing upon me like tidal waves as my love and care is constantly rejected.

I've had to set a lot of boundaries in the past few months for myself. Within my role as a mother, wife, friend, extended family member.

While the boundaries are for my self-health, self-worth, self-dignity, some of those boundaries have angered others. I knew that they would, but at a core level, I have to take care of myself.

But I'm finding that feeling others' resentment and anger and disapproval directed at me for those boundaries, again, leaves me feeling lonely.

Which makes me feel kinda pathetic. Like I'm destined to be a lonely old woman with a ton of cats when I grow old.

A friend of mine received an assignment in therapy where she had to write an essay on who she is. The kicker being that she couldn't use her roles to define her.

&#*$, I thought. I can't even been to imagine having to write that.

Which is a problem, because I should be able to. I'm nearly 37 years old, and yet, there are many times where I still feel like I'm just kind of floating between a bunch of situations that I'm not really conquering or surviving. I guess by floating I really mean treading water.

Sometimes I feel very strong and kick-ass. I feel like no matter what is thrown at me, I can handle it and move forward and get smarter and stronger.

Loneliness undermines that, and quickly.

But I have to start, once again, focusing on me and my own person while I move beyond the uncomfortable gnawing feeling loneliness leaves me with. I am worthwhile. My feelings are valid. I am strong. I am my own person without apologizing for who I am.

Seriously, I'm 36 years old, and I think it's time that I start defining myself for myself, loneliness be damned.




Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Away Camp




This past Spring, we found out about a great camp in Michigan that our friend's family (grandparents/parent/children) had been attending for years. They asked if Hatfield and Atticus were interested, so I asked my kids, and they enthusiastically asked to attend.

Knowing that I'd be nervous when the time came, I nonetheless signed them up because I think going to camp for a week is a great way for a kid to grow as a person and come into their own person. My kids are pretty much with family all the time, and I felt that it's great for them to get a chance to spread their wings for a time.

On Sunday, we dropped Hatfield and Atticus off at camp, along with our good friends and their extended family. Atticus is bunking up with his good buddy, and Hatfield is bunking with dear Jill's 12 year old cousins.

The kids were SO excited. Upon arrival, they claimed their bunks and put on their suits for a Swim Test.
When we left they were happy, content and excited. Atticus was chilling on his bed, waiting to take a camp tour with his cabin. Hatfield was playing tetherball with a bunch of girls from her cabin. They pretty much gave us a casual wave goodbye.

I tried not to smother them with hugs and kisses.

I held it together until we got home. My kids have never been away from us. I feel just lost without them here. I am so lonely. And worried. And pathetic.

I know that they are having a great time, and I can't wait to hear all about it on Saturday during pick up.

I laughed when I downloaded camp pictures off of Hatfield's i-Touch. Here is what kept her busy on the drive to camp. She turned her family into unicorns.

Oh, the indignities from which little boys suffer at the hands of an older sister and her iTouch.


Paloma will be thrilled, as she is upset that we are people and not unicorns.

And the Mister, well, sorry for posting this, but I can't help myself.

Man, I love that kid.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pete, Re-Pete & a Parenting Quandary

This summer, Keenan is going through the same anger/grief/adjustment cycle that Miles went through last summer.

The good news is that I'm a BTDT Mama, and so I'm not making the slew of mistakes I made with Miles.

The bad news is that I'm finding some behaviors just as draining, as misplaced u*rine has never lost its magical ability to suck the marrow clean outta your bones.

On occasion, I'll ask my boy, out of sheer exasperation: "Don't you remember Miles doing this last summer? How fun was that?"

He can tell me, yes I remember, and not fun at all. Miles will often exaggeratedly smack himself on his forehead, shake his head and say in his cute and deep voice that carries a trace of his Haitian accent: "Oh, Keenan, Keenan! Dees is ridiculous! Have fun! Play!"

Doesn't matter how much we say in the moment. Keenan will get there when he gets there. I do believe that me saying it, however, that repeating my mantra's of: "Mom's a good Mom. Mommy takes care of you because she loves you. Mommy is a safe Mom. This is a Safe House" and so on and so forth does seep in.

Miles can tell you those facts in his sleep, and it seems to be part of his internal dialogue now. He's certainly fierce in his protection of me, often scolding Keenan and telling him: "I do not like it when you act not nice to Mommy! It makes me angry because she loves us."

Holy Cow, what a turn around with this child.

Yet, Keenan is a completely different child with a completely different set of issues. Why the great delay in processing this grief and anger? Well, he hung on to a deeply ingrained set of coping mechanisms-- pretending not to understand, speaking unclearly, basically acting cute but dim-- which prevented him from ever having to face his trauma.

Now that he's been essentially stripped of those behaviors--and now that he's not in a school environment, which is basically a daily hallucinogen of 8 hours of free "feel good" love with no strings attached--he has no escape where he can resort to those long held coping techniques.

Hence, the anger, rage, grief at his short but tumultuous life that has had so many major changed that he could not control at all.

So now he's trying to control everything. He's remarkably good at trying to take "time and energy" away from me (something we are working on in therapy.)

No matter what I ask this child, he will take a full 2 minutes to answer. Even if I ask him, do you want an Oreo or a chocolate chip cookie?" he will look at me and wait. Not because he's trying to think of a way to get both, or he's stuck in the throes of indecision. It's just his thing. Making others wait.

This are really sticky behaviors.

The waiting 2 full minutes to answer a question. Or to respond to his name, no matter whether I'm calling him or one of his siblings.

The answers which don't match the questions I ask: "We're going to dance, where's your backpack?" answer: "My shoes are in the garage."

The constant interrupting, as I'm talking to the neighbor in the front yard. "Mom, Paloma is wearing a green shirt." "Mom, they are painting their house." "Mom, we have 3 dogs."

The constant asking: "Can I play with this?" "Can I get out this toy?" "Can I play with Miles and Paloma?" "Can I play with this?" but never doing anything of the things for which permission was granted.

I have read the books and understand the different techniques for how to handle these types of situations. Our intuitive therapist is great at offering perspective.

But here's my quandary: How do you deal with a child who is trying to suck the time and energy out of a day, when you have 4 other children, who are doing great, to parent?

Last summer, I gave ALL of my energy to Miles. The other kids were maintaining, and I let them.

Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

I'm trying to teach Keenan that it's not okay to steal time and energy away from the other kids. I refuse to make the same mistakes again.

Yet, at the same time, I owe him the time/energy to help him heal, learn and cope.

I am finding this so frustrating. I have not seen this issue addressed in books. And our therapist, God bless him, has one perfectly adorable, neuro-typical child, and does not truly get this situation. Or he does, but the theory behind it and putting it into practice are two very different things.

So that pretty much sums it all up. We're here, and despite dealing with Keenan's coming to terms with his life, we're doing well. The kids are enjoying their summer, and it's flying by with dance, camping and swimming. And I'm trying hard to live in the moment with them, making sure it doesn't go by with me missing out. But it's sure not easy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Force is Strong in These Kids, Yes

Note to Readers: The title only works if you say it to yourself in your very best inner Yoda voice. Or if you imagine me saying it to you in my very best Yoda voice (which is surprisingly good, if I do say so myself.)
Every Spring, Atticus' violin teacher holds Summer Family Fun Recital. An opportunity for her violin students, and their families, to take the reins and have some fun.

Last year, Atticus played Andantino or something like that. All by himself. Sans family. Because apparently, I had never gotten the memo (or made the connection) that Family Fun = familial involvement. I just thought it meant the entire family went and everyone got ice cream at the end of the recital.

That recital, we were put to shame by the Nick U. family quartet's rendition of Old Joe Clark, complete with two kids on violin, the mother playing the washtub bass, and the dad on a fancy ukelele while singing in an Irish brogue.

To shame, I tell you.

I remember the Mister and I looking at each thinking, whoa. We are totally out of our league.

This year, my kids decided to bring it. They channeled the inner depths of the Force, and this was the result.



That's Nick U. in the front row, videotaping it. I imagine that he will force his kids to sit around the kitchen table all year and watch the video, much like a football coach forces their team to watch video footage of the opposing teams' most recent game, evaluating what my kids did and how they can up their game next year.

Sure, that dad can sing. And play the ukulele. And the mom can take ordinary household items and make music out of it. So what?

Can they play toy drums, dress up like Star Wars characters and look cute? Do they have the honest to goodness, one and only FORCE on their side?

I think not.



Thursday, July 07, 2011

An Update on Mr. Stinky Pants

You wanna know what Mr. Stinky Pants' bowel movements and horror movies have in common?!?

Really, really bad sequels. And threequels. And let's not take it further than that.

Effin' A, man.

Back in April, I blogged about my dear, sweet son, Mr. Stinky Pants and his unholy bowel movements and breath.

We received a dx of giardia, cryptosporidium and a (gag) tapework from rat feces.

We treated with a cocktail of pharmacological wonders.

The tapeworm, we're happy to say, has left the building.

Best not to picture that.

The giardia test, we were told, came back clear.

Yeah, uh huh, whatev.

Mama's intuition and sense of smell prevailed.

Something was rotten in Denmark, and by Denmark, I mean Mr. Stinky Pant's intestines.

Earlier this week, I called the pediatrician to double check on his most recent stool sample.

All clear! I was told by an annoyingly chipper nurse. Clearly, none of her children ever had giardia.

"Ummm, I'm thinking it's sticking around, because my lord, it's like an exorcism in the bathroom several times a day at our house,"

I'm guessing the nurse did not appreciate my honestly graphic descriptor. "Huh," the chipper nurse said. "I'll call you back."

She calls back with a plan to see a pediatric GI specialist. Who is in Milwaukee. Because GB doesn't have one. And Milwaukee is 2 hours away.

No problemo. A bunch of schedule re-working, and my boy and I were on our way this morning.

The specialist walks in and announces: "So, why aren't you treating your son for giardia?"

Say what? I tell him what the ped's office tells me, and he points to the test results. All I see are "Giardia" and "POSITIVE," with the POSITIVE being in all capital letters.

Now, I'm pretty sure POSITIVE isn't secret code for something else. I'm kinda an expert in secret code (like when my kids say to his siblings: "Hey guys! Watch our Old Mama dive off the diving board! I didn't know old mama's can do that!" I know that the secret code for Old Mama is Smoking Hot Buff Woman Who You Would Never Guess Has 5 Kids. Right? Right! It's like I majored in it or something. Not really. It just comes naturally.)

So, we end up with an aggressive treatment plan for this whole gross giardia business, all done in the comfort of a (pretty cute) specialist's office only 121 miles away from home despite the fact that the testing was done in the comfort of an office only 5 miles away from my home. But whatever. The plan is aggressive, and we're ready for action.

Which, in the end (and for Mr. Stinky Pant's (rear) end), is all that matters.

You have to forgive me for all my juvenile butt jokes. It's kinda hard to stop myself because laughter is the only way to survive such grossness.

But you know what? I actually found a huge silver lining in all of this.

My poor kid has had giardia, a highly, nastily contagious condition, in my home for 23 months.

And no one else has caught it.

Clearly, my house is way cleaner than my mother thinks. Boo-yah!


Saturday, July 02, 2011

Revisiting Roots

The past two weeks have been such a blur of activity (and post-vacation catch-up) that I haven't even had a chance to blog about our whirlwind cross-country trek to Seattle.

The Mister had his 20th year high school reunion, which was both our reason for the trip and for the ridiculously short nature of the trip. He was in Vegas for a mandatory work meeting through that Friday, so we arrived in Seattle Friday afternoon. We left Sunday, because Monday was Hatfield's birthday and I don't miss my children's birthdays. Not evah. So, a 72-hour trip it was.

This was our first time back since we were married back in 2000, and Atticus' first trip ever out there.

On Friday night, we ate dinner with Granny and Papa, and then Atticus spent the night with them.
We are so incredibly blessed to have Granny and Papa in our lives. They are technically Hatfield's birth grandparents, but they are Granny and Papa to ALL of us.

Oh that Granny and Papa! They visit, send cards and gifts and have always worked very hard on making sure they are a presence in our lives, even from afar. We are SO incredibly, incredibly blessed to have them. The moment they found out we'd be out there, they dropped everything to accommodate our wonky schedule and spend time with their boy, Atticus.

Thank you, Granny and Papa. We love you.

Before we caught up with the Mister's family, we were able to drive around his hometown of Port Orchard. My boys at the docks.

Atticus was able to spend a lot of quality time with Cliff's family and all of his cousins as well. It was so fun to see them all at play. My MIL made an awesome Chamorro feast for everyone, which was soooooooo good.

I loved watching Cliff catch up with his family. Especially when he was schooled by our niece in Let's Dance.
Cliff's beautiful sister, Clarice, who is a wonderful person and auntie to our kids.
Funny little multi-racial family side note: Upon leaving, the Mister asked Atticus if it felt different to be around all brown people. Atticus shot him a strange look and said, "Uh, Dad, the only people who are NOT brown in our family are Mom and Hatfield. We outnumber them."

Touche, my son.

I was able to touch base with some college roots of mine, in the 5 minutes that it chose not to rain on Saturday ;)

Here is my alma mater.
Here is my freshman dorm.

Actually, right here was my freshman dorm, if you want to be super specific.

We totally scored in getting a second floor balcony room. Oh, those nights of Henry Winehard-induced craziness on that darn balcony.

How I ever managed to live through--and graduate from-- college is beyond me sometimes.

Which is totally why Hatfield is going to college at UWGB. And living at home. In her room. With her sister.

Okay, maybe not. But I haven't found an anti-anxiety med yet that makes me not hyperventilate at the thought of her going away to college, especially since I remember all too well what we did at college.

I digress. But for all of those out there who were wondering if we would return home with the Mister gung ho about moving back?

He was able to decide that within the first two hours of being back in Washington.

Minute 1 (upon airport pick-up): Oh my god, Sarah! Did you see the city and Mount Rainer on the way in?!? I totally miss it! It's gorgeous! It's so green!

Minute 5 (upon entering I-5 to get us from SeaTac to Tacoma, a 17 mile trip): Look! We can get right onto the carpool lane! See! I told you that you were being overly negative in your memories, Sarah! This is going to take no time, you'll see!

Minute 60 (turning to Atticus in the back seat) @ Mile 6: You see, son, if we lived here, this is where I would be spending a lot of my time, in traffic. It'd be something we'd have to get used to as a family.

Minute 120 (turning to Atticus again) @ Mile 12: See, Atticus, this is why we don't move back here. It's gorgeous, but man! I'd never be home to see you guys!

Minute 147 @ Mile 16.6: Wow, we're almost there! Good God.

Pictures of the class reunion to come. Have any of you been to your 20th yet? This is how the Mister's began.

Me to the Mister: This can't be the right restaurant. The reunion site said they rented out the whole place.

The Mister to Me: I'm pretty sure it is. Why do you think it's not the right. . . . Oh my god! Are we really that old? I'm pretty sure that is the dad of someone I went to high school with!

It wasn't the dad. It was the classmate. And yes, some were looking that old.