reflections, eighteen

The past number of years, the exact amount I’m not even sure of – however long I’ve been writing- I sit down on a quiet December morning and write this post.  Just like this, I sit by the glow of my Christmas tree while everyone else is quietly, peacefully in their spot, and I write my reflection on the year as it wraps up. Many of these get filed away in the “my eyes only” folder. I’m not sure yet which folder this will get filed in – “public consumption”, “maybe later”, or “my eyes only” are the options.  It seems these days, “maybe later” is the winner, and later never actually comes. The day to day ramblings about the details of our lives became so personal that it seemed irreverent to just throw it out there for “public consumption” even though “in real life” I’m once again becoming about as public consumption as you can get. My time of hibernation and my “I can do it myself” attitude has drawn to a close this year, and I’ve never felt so free.

It feels right to just spaghetti throw this time of our lives against the wall of life and hope that it’s done enough to stick. Even as I type that, I know it’s not. So many things were begun in this year that are still incubating in our lives. It only feels right to note life’s benchmarks in their beginning stages, so I can look back and remember my thoughts as they were developing. This was not an easy year; in fact, it was the hardest I’ve ever survived. Jim and I have regularly alluded to this in vague facebook posts stating “so grateful to have the people we do supporting us as we face the hardest time of our life” and so on. We throw it around casually in conversations, “this is the hardest year EVER.” That’s really saying something, considering our life together has rarely been easy. We chose the least travelled path, and that thing’s a bitch to navigate.

This year began on its heels for me – as a daughter, as an adult, and as a mother. Days before Christmas 2017, I said goodbye to my mother for what looks to be the last time. I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my parents since I was about 12 or 13, which has only grown more toxic over time. My parents are good people; this is not about them not being good people. We are just not good together. I bring out the worst in them, and I don’t like who I am when I am caught in the dysfunction that is our relationship. After years of back and forth and uncertainty, on a rainy December day that was everything Christmas in Seattle, my mother’s last words to me were “you’re just a fucked up person with a fucked up brain and that’s all you’ll ever be.” I returned some nasty comment akin to “well you gave me this brain” and hung up the phone ashamed of what I’d just said, but sure of one thing: I really was done. No two people should bring those things out in one another- not over the course of twenty years of adult relationship. Despite our efforts, it seems we will never be able to heal a relationship that I’m not even sure how it became so damaged.

I was not an easy child. Actually, I think I was a pretty easy kid. I was most definitely not an easy adolescent. Life happened – abuse, divorce, moving ten or more times in so many years, more abuse, loss and so on. By the end of high school, I was falling apart mentally and emotionally and no one knew how much- definitely not me and probably not my mother. I was sent away to a place that hoped to provide some kind of guidance and future for a life that otherwise would have probably ended in drug abuse or suicide on my part. My parent’s last ditch effort at hope for a productive life ended up being a cult that eventually just did more damage in different ways.  By the time I was a functioning adult, the road between my mother and I was so full of potholes and dead ends, I’m not sure it ever had a chance of repair. We most definitely do not have the tools to make it so 1500 miles apart. I am a constant disappointment to my parents, and somehow they always seem to think I blame them for it. If I’m being honest with myself, it’s an enigma that I just don’t have the energy to unravel right now. It was better to just throw in the towel than continue to hurt one another to the depths that we did in almost every conversation we were having.  A day or two after that last phone call, I sent an email explaining this the best I could at the time. I described what I hoped would become a new way of relating for us- the “terms,” so to speak, of what an adult relationship could be for us. I never heard anything back. Message received. Twenty-Eighteen has been a year of mourning that loss, and discovery of the freedom that it weirdly brings in my life. It’s a double-edged knife that cuts and heals at the same time. I hate it, but it is truth. Just as so much in our life right now, it is in process…

A few months into the year, we began facing our next hurdle.  As I was looking back at my own teenage turmoil, Elle’s was also hitting its stride. Fifteen seems to be the witching year for the women in this family. Hormones, trauma, really shitty brain chemistry…I guess we didn’t stand a chance.  In April this year, Elle was admitted to our local Children’s Hospital in the Adolescent Behavioral Health unit, also affectionately known in our dark humor household, as the nuthouse.  She tried to commit suicide. Saying those words still takes the breath out of my lungs. My bubbly, sparkly, always shining child was hiding a pain that no one, not even her mother that knew all of her secrets (or so I thought,) knew about. When puberty kicked in for Elle, so did memories of a years-long childhood sexual abuse that we had no idea the magnitude of. Its affects on her was twisting a web in her mind that none of us could fathom, and the dark corner of her mind was starting to creep into places that we were oh so unaware of. What seemed to be the typical ups and downs of teenage hormones and attitudes began spinning out of control so quickly we couldn’t catch our breath- none of us. The day she came to me and told me we needed to go to the hospital is etched in my memory as only trauma can be. The sight of your child in the room of a children’s hospital wing that looks more like a prison cell with a bed in it than the weirdly comforting bed for sick people, will leave you shattered in a way I can’t describe.

It took Jim and I two days to tell anyone the depth of what was happening to our little girl. We could not bring ourselves to say the words out loud. He cried first- for a full day, and as soon as I knew he was okay, I cried. For mind-numbing hours we just sat and cried and questioned. How had we missed this? Why didn’t we know? What had we done wrong? How had we failed her? The feeling driving away from the hospital, leaving your baby in the care of someone that isn’t you, and not knowing for how long or what will happen next, is excruciating. It is a hot poker stabbed so violently into your bleeding gut that your mind can’t even compute the pain in words that could ever be uttered; and much worse, you know that no matter how much you are hurting in that moment, she is hurting more. It is literal hell on earth.

Eight months later, she glows again. She shimmers and shines and laughs and… she cries. She cries real tears- tears that communicate real feelings, real pain, real sorrow, sometimes even real joy. She is no longer dull on the inside, unable to face the feelings that consume her but make no sense. As much as I love hearing that belly laugh again, I love seeing the tears. It means she is allowing herself to feel. She is alive.

Oh, she makes teenager decisions that have greyed my hair ten years’ worth in six months. She is me. My mother always told me she would be – spoken as a curse and a revenge for the hours of worry and heartbreak that I caused her. She defies, she challenges, she is wild and free and stubborn and obstinate. She is me. Oh Lord, is she me. And she is Jim, thank all that is good and holy, she has just enough of him to keep me from killing her myself. And I. love. every. minute. Oh sure, there are days I ache for peace. For one moment, I just wish I could have peace- peace of which I haven’t experienced since… I don’t even remember. This is my new normal. Teenagers, they give you no peace. But I will savor the moments. I won’t allow my heart to grow so hard against them that I no longer have the strength to care. I’ll never throw in the towel for my kids. I’d rather have chaos and heartbreak than peace ever again, if that’s what it takes to be their mom. I’ll never give up on them. Never.

In the midst of the giant things, life has remained steady in the small moments. The day in and day out of monotony. As I began working full-time for the first time since my kids were tiny, things shifted in a way that we couldn’t have imagined. Jim’s role as “Mr. Mom” (I do SO hate that term!) Jim’s ever-evolving role as Dad has had him handling all the doctor’s appointments, to the tune of two days a week usually. It has taken his attention from work more than we like, so I recently moved to part-time. If this doesn’t go well, we are resigned that our family of “extra needs” just wasn’t cut out to have a working mom for now.  We’ll know for sure in a few months where that’s going.  For now, I am beyond fortunate to work for a company that has made a way for me to make this work. I can’t begin to describe how grateful we are. But I hate working. I’m a mom to the core of me, and even though my kids need me far less than they ever have as their caregiver, they need me so much more than ever as their partner. This is the time in their lives that I want to be there to walk alongside them as they navigate life. However that works out, I’m hopeful that this season of life is at a great turning point for them- for all of us.

Jordan… oh this kid. He has been a champ this year considering all that has transpired. I’ve gone from doing every little thing for him to shouting orders from my desk in between phone calls as he gets ready for school. (I work from home, but am chained to my phone/desk during my work hours.) He is embracing growing into his new responsibility about as much as you’d expect…begrudgingly. And yet, he succeeds. This kid, who relied on a regimented schedule the military would be envious of, is learning to go with the flow. A phone call ten minutes before school lets out that he’s going to have to take the bus home no longer results in a meltdown. He takes the bus. This kid who needed help getting his pants on in the morning now fully dresses himself AND TIES HIS SHOES (most of the time.) This kid…this kid is going to be okay.  He is a quiet storm, but I think in a good way. This year, the focus will be on him. Puberty is going to begin at any second. I feel it brewing, and I am terrified. Please be thinking of him this year…God help us I’m not sure I’ve ever been more scared of anything. hahaha.

Twenty-Eighteen was a hard one- in ways I’m sure I still don’t even recognize. The one thing that it brought me, its gift to me that I didn’t even realize I wanted or needed, is my need for my people. We had been visiting Elle during our one-hour of visitation on the second or third day she was admitted in the hospital. In the car ride home, I looked at Jim and asked if he’d talked to anyone yet. We both expressed how we didn’t even know who to turn to. It’s not that we didn’t have people in our lives that we could talk to- my best friend of over twenty years lives ten minutes away, she would have been here in five if I had called her. My in-laws are minutes away as well. We have a tribe, and they are dear to us. We just forgot how to need them. We have been fighting battle after battle for our sixteen years of marriage. It has NEVER been easy. I don’t know what the hell we’re doing wrong, but we don’t ever choose the easy road. Somehow along the way, we linked our arms together, put our heads down to charge into battle, and never looked up. We were fighting alone, the only way we knew how. For the past several months, I have slowly started to look up, and what’s even better, around. My people, the ones that matter- the ones that have been through countless battles with me before, they’re still here. Still ready to link their arms with mine and hold me up when I can’t stand any longer. They are a gift of which I can’t comprehend. They are truly my tribe.

It may have taken literal hell on earth to remind me of what true, unconditional love and friendship means this year, but I will never take it for granted again. We all go through battles in our lives, and we all do it in our own way, but I don’t think we should ever do it alone. We may have to cut away the things that weigh us down to make room for the things that move us forward, but I think that’s okay. It’s scary and hurtful and HARD, and I admittedly don’t understand the whole of what that means right now, but for now…it’s healthy and right.

As I look forward, I hope twenty-nineteen is kinder and more gentle to us. I am hoping for new life. As those around me assign a word for their new year, a goal that they plan to achieve or a principal to live by, I assign a hope. Sometimes you don’t have the energy for a goal, but hope never fails.

mama bear

It’s midnight and Jordan has been asleep for three hours. In that time, he’s sleep-walked into the living room where Jim and I were watching TV twice. Each time there was a sense of panic in his eyes and he was talking about whatever dream he was experiencing through tears and the obvious confusion that comes when you’re walking around dead asleep. As funny as his sleep-walking and talking can be at times, this one has left me feeling gutted. 

It’s been a tough week for him. He was sick earlier in the week, but then he got well enough to attend a going-away sleepover party last night for a friend who is moving. It was a big step for both of us- his first sleep over with more than very close family friends and definitely his first large group sleepover. It wasn’t the best experience for him- some of the kids were very rude and treated him unkindly- but I was so proud of how well he did. The mama bear in me wanted to go and do what mama bears do when he told us how things went, but Jim and I know that this is part of life for all kids. We just need to do our part to teach him how to maneuver this time in life and trust that he’s going to be okay. (Within reason. I’m still me and can still go full on mama bear when I need to.)

After we picked him up from the party we went to a family BBQ with lots of people, stimulation and more opportunities for his anxiety levels to rise. The BBQ was at a house on a small cove on the lake, and Jordan’s big sis and her friend floated out into the cove on a giant float-toy. Jordan decided to go in the kayak to “rescue” them and, even though he’s gotten into that dumb kayak 20 times without tipping it, he just couldn’t do it today and kept tipping it over. It was so frustrating for him, but he was trying to rush so much to go and save the girls. He didn’t like them being out there without a rope or way to get back in. Some of the family was watching him struggle to get into the kayak, and of course it was comical, but to him it was far from funny. I could see his struggle- wanting to rush to get out there, feeling everyone watching, being so embarrassed that he kept tipping over. It was just an overall tough time, but again, Jim and I were so impressed with how he handled himself and how he bounced back so quickly. 

When we got home, he was so exhausted he just conked out. It’s been quite a while since he’s done a lot of sleep walking. I know being as tired as he was is a big part of it, and anytime he’s had a lot of anxiety he’s really a sleep talker. I can’t get the kid to give me three sentences about his day while he’s awake, but if he’s sleep talking I know it was a doozy. 

After his second time up tonight, we couldn’t get him to settle down enough to get some peaceful sleep, so I just decided to go to bed with him and try to keep him calm. In the time it’s taken me write these few paragraphs, he’s wrestled around three times and told me “We just can’t stay here any more. These people are not okay!” “We have to go. They don’t want us here and they’re just going to keep hurting us,” and “It doesn’t matter how nice you are to them, they will just keep trying to hurt us. This is a horrible place!” This is the same thing he’s been saying for the last two hours. 

I don’t know what he’s dreaming about, but as I lay here comforting him the knot around my heart just keeps tightening as the tears stream down my face. Maybe he’s dreaming about a video game. Or maybe the tension and anxiety from the last few days while he’s been holding it together so well are finally finding a way out. 

I know that nothing that has gone on in his world is so horrible. Kids feel left out at parties all the time. And I can’t count the times I felt the red heat of embarrassment creep over my face when someone laughed at a clumsy mistake I made as a kid- or even as an adult. This is life. But when you’re an incredibly sensitive kid managing more in life than the average person, it just sucks a little extra. And when you’re the mama bear of that kid, you just feel a little extra mama bearish too.  

Here’s hoping the nightmares end and peace can settle on his tired soul tonight. 

week one.

Jordan has been on a minimum dose of a common stimulant treatment for ADHD for one full week. Jim and I just keep looking at each other shaking our heads in disbelief. The child we see is such a dramatic difference than the child we are accustomed to I can’t even tell you. The positive changes are really remarkable. The side effects are actually very minimal to this point.

I decided to keep a log of all of this for two reasons. One, I want to be able to look back on this for us and for whatever use we will have. Two, once we are comfortable with where we are in this process and how Jordan is doing, I want to be able to share our journey with other moms and dads and caregivers. As we sat in our IEP meeting today, one of the counselors told me I should keep notes so I can share one day with others. I just giggled. She doesn’t know about my compulsive writing of all the details. Ha.

So, as I said, week one has been mostly euphoric for Jim and I. The doc told us we should see results of the meds within around three to five days, but that some effects could be seen right away on day one. So we were hopeful that we’d see some little something on day one. We didn’t expect it, but we said we thought it’d be great if there was something.

I gave him his first dose, told him of all the things I wanted him to pay attention to in his body while he was at school, and I put him on the bus. Just like any other day. HA! Then I emailed the teacher, his primary counselor and anyone else with a pulse at the school and asked them to be watching him closely. “Watch for tics and increased stuttering. Watch for fits and aggression. And for God’s sake please let me know if he looks like his pulse is racing.” Or some version of this.

Jim stayed close to home and worked on some projects. I think he mostly just knew I was going to drive myself nuts all day worrying and wondering. I walked to the bus to meet the kids and waited anxiously for him to do his usual descent from the steps and run my way screaming and wildlike. He sauntered down, strolled my way and gave me a nonchalant “Hey mom, what’s up?”

What the WHAT?!?! Who was this child?

He spent the better part of the last week being himself, but a little more chill and a lot more “I can’t put my finger on it but something/almost everything about that child is different in a very good way.”

We were around 5 weeks worth of homework behind. It’s not that we don’t work on homework with him every night, it’s that it takes so long we just can’t keep up with the class. This week, we did one week’s worth of work each night. Yes. We are now caught up. And he wanted to do homework. He asked to do it. He was proud of his work and he mostly understood what was going on. It honestly felt nothing short of miraculous.

The downside? He can’t sleep as well. At least the first few nights he really couldn’t fall asleep for hours. It took its toll on him. He has been taking Melatonin to help him fall asleep for a few years. We made sure with the doc that this would still be okay and continued as usual. Night one I had to triple his dose to get him anywhere close to falling asleep. No biggie- he wasn’t taking much to start with. It’s still a healthy level. The last few nights, it hasn’t taken as much.

The last few days have had a few changes. He’s still pretty level. The only difference I’m seeing is more of a “sensitivity.” He’s a little crankier than usual. He has had a couple of meltdowns when he doesn’t get his way, which wasn’t happening the first few days of meds. It is pretty typical from before meds though. I almost feel like his body/brain are getting used to the meds and they aren’t working as well. But, he also has a cold and it’s been a very long week of working double time on homework catch-up and his body getting used to this new normal. So I could be wrong. It could be anything. That’s why the doc has asked us to wait a month before re-evaluating his dosage. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of ups and downs.

So far, I’m glad it’s mostly ups! No side effects except the decrease in appetite (we are not concerned about this one!) and the sleep thing. So far, so good.

the decision.

{This post was written a few weeks ago and is the first in a line of “we choose meds” posts that I’ve been writing since. ¬†We wanted to get through the initial stages of medication privately before we told anyone. Without spoiling the ending ūüėČ I can tell you our life is forever, fabulously changed.}

 

This time last ¬†year, as we sat down with the professionals at Jordan’s school and learned their take on his “setbacks,” the first words out of my mouth were, “We will pursue all lines of help possible, but we will not be drugging our kid so don’t even bother going there.”

Last night, at 5:45 pm we sat in our pediatrician’s office and said, “Yes. ¬†We feel like it’s time to look into the medications that could help him.” ¬†It’s as simple as that. ¬†It’s time.

I won’t be publishing this post for quite a while, if ever, but I do want to write it today. ¬†It’s important I write it now both for me and so that eventually, if I do decide to share this, it will be the way I actually felt all the way through it. ¬†Today, as he takes his first 18 mg dose and heads out the door for school, I feel like a nervous wreck. ¬†He knows he’s taking special medicine that might help him slow his engine down and make it easier to listen to his teacher. ¬†He also knows it might make him feel funny, which Mommy needs to know about right away. ¬†He knows his heart might feel like it’s beating really fast and he needs to tell his teacher.

What he doesn’t know, is that Mommy is praying her face off that this special medicine only gives him all the benefits and none of the side effects. ¬†Is that too much to ask? ¬†I honestly don’t think so. ¬†I don’t want him to get a nervous tic or to begin stuttering worse than he ever has. ¬†And that’s just the beginning. ¬†I don’t want him to have heart¬†palpitations¬†or fits of aggression. ¬†I just want him to have a good day.

I just want him to be able to sit in his chair and complete a worksheet that kids half his age can do without a problem. ¬†I want him to be able to sit on the floor with the rest of his friends during carpet time rather than in a chair next to the teacher to keep him from rolling around on the floor. ¬†I want him to walk down the hallway rather than jump and fall and roll down the hallway. ¬†I want him to learn to read and understand that numbers are more than just a symbol on the page but they mean the same thing as the blocks he has stacked up in front of him. ¬†These may seem like silly things to care about. ¬†But they aren’t.

They aren’t silly because that’s what’s important to the seven year old giant child that crawls up on my lap and tells me that today he wants to put the plastic bag on his head and stop breathing because he’s stupid. ¬†There’s nothing silly about feeling so different and so stupid than everyone else around you that you just want to give up.

And that’s why, at 5:45 pm I sat across from our doctor and told him that yes, we are ready. We choose meds. ¬†Not because I’m a lazy parent that just wants the meds to turn my kid into the perfect child without me doing any of the work. ¬†Not because I want to appease the teachers that expect too much of little boys these days and don’t let them be “boys.” Because in 2013 society expects seven year old little boys to be able to read and count to 100. ¬†And 85% of seven year old boys do know how to do that without any problem. ¬†And trust me, seven year old boys know if they can’t do something that “everyone else” can do, and it makes them feel stupid and for some of them, it makes them depressed at times.

We aren’t telling anyone other than his teachers about our decision right now. ¬†Someday we will, but he certainly doesn’t need the added pressure of being in a fishbowl as it gets figured out right now. It’s time he’s just allowed to be a seven year old little boy.

 

when lightning strikes

Follow me on a little journey if you will…

A beautiful, well-organized, and lovely woman with a smoking hot body is on a relaxing stroll in the sunshine through the park. She has her perfectly behaved children and adorable puppy with her. The love of her life is off working at his perfect job and enjoying all that life has to offer. All of a sudden, storm clouds roll in, thunder booms in the distance, a downpour begins and the woman is suddenly struck by lightning.

Replace the woman above with an average looking, occasionally-organized, paunchy mom in sweatpants; the perfect children with unusually maniacal deviants; and the husband with a typically stressed and exhausted dad and you’ve got our life a year ago. There we were, walking through life with its usual stresses, but mostly just living a wonderful existence as a family. Then one day, lightning struck- figuratively, not literally. Don’t worry.

If you used to be a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that aside from the occasional “OMG I have to get this out of my head or I’m going to burst” posts about my children, I have been mostly MIA for the past year. My profanity-filled, snarky and sarcastic bitching about our silly life have pretty much dried up. I have recently received a few emails asking me “where the hell are you woman? What is going on?!?” Thanks to those of you that have wondered about me and asked. That means a lot!

Everything is fine at our Improper home! It’s just that, well…I got struck by lightning! This time last year, we began to realize that Jordan was having some learning issues at school. We were working hard with him to keep him caught up, but it became more and more obvious that more than just the “little boy wiggles” and distractions were keeping him from keeping up. In kindergarten. You’ve read this before, I won’t go into it again. Jordan has SPD, ADHD and an alphabet soup (as other moms so aptly put it) of issues going on that hinder his learning and behavior.

For a lot of people, this is no big deal. For me, it was truly like getting struck by lightning. I’ve been feeling the “after-shock” for a year. We’ve all been relearning how we live life. It’s not a big deal. Except it really is a big deal, for me at least. I’m a perfectionist. I need life to be perfect. When life isn’t perfect, someone freaks out. That someone is usually me. So basically, I’m always freaking out inside. Because when the hell is life ever perfect?

That’s not actually totally true. We’ve faced a lot of obstacles in our life together, Jimmie and I. Life has obviously never been perfect. We’ve faced all the usual situations- having babies, losing jobs and careers, being so poor you don’t even want to know, making questionable-at-best decisions, facing some pretty serious health conditions, being poor again, you get it. For me, none of that compared to having a life-altering situation to deal with in one of my kids. All I know is, thank God it wasn’t more of a health concern. At the time, I would have had a hard time handling it.

All of my days that were previously a leisurely time spent making our home and browsing blogs and socializing and being your average spoiled homemaker are no more. I have become obsessed with finding solutions to this problem and that; running to therapy appointments; reading books, blogs and articles on how to help with this thing and that thing, working with the school and teachers and counselors on what will best help which part of that piece of the puzzle and so on, ad nauseam. I’m obsessed with giving my son his best chance at life and a successful future while at the same time giving both my kids (and their dad) the most normal and rewarding home and school and social life I can. Basically, what I’m telling you here, is that my brain has been focused on one thing and one thing only for the most part- fixing this (unfixable) problem.

Most recently, I’ve been on burn-out. The “throw my hands up in the air, nothing is working, no one can fix my kid, I give up” type of burn out. It’s stupid. So, here I am to find balance. I want to help my kid. I will keep running to this thing and that and reading and researching. But I will also make time for me and friends and my husband and fun. And I will make time and space in my head for writing. Because it is, as usual, how I get the crazy out.

You’re welcome to walk away from this blog right now and never look back. It might actually be recommended. I know it won’t always be funny. There will be too much mommy talk and not enough cocktails and bunco. If that’s not okay then I understand. I won’t be mad. Thanks for being around for the journey up until now.

 

 

20130123-141112.jpg