Tuesday, December 31, 2013

News Year's Reflections

Lily keeps asking us to write our New Year's Revolutions. Instead, I am writing my new New Year's Reflections. This has been a year of great joy (my niece Willa was born) and great lows. My little family has continued to grow.I am so proud of the girls' hard work. Despite pitfalls they continue to amaze me everyday.

We had a nice break. We took the girls and Cristhian to New York City for 2 days. They got see Times Square and some of Central Park. The rest of the time we just hung out around home. It was hard, but we are trying to start some new traditions without changing too many. I got to end my break by experiencing a new parenting "crappy milestone." Head lice! Thanks to Google and some realistic and comforting mom bloggers, I now know that it is not the end of the world and washing everything that Lily came in contact with was probably not necessary. I do believe that I have done more laundry over these past two days than I did during the norovirus epidemic of 2011. I attacked the problem with my usual combination of determination and education. My family is not as thrilled with my new found lice expertise. They call my methods aggravation. I did make up a fun "die, lice, die" for Lily's entertainment. I am also pretty sure that I might be one of the first mothers to vacuum the coach and spray the "anti lice spray" while yelling "die you little f!@#ers!" Then again, probably not.

I am not sure what is in store for us in the new year. All I know is that I can handle it. Hopefully, it will be a good one. No matter what, I am not wishing away a single moment. They are all precious and make up our lives, even the bad ones.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dancing Such an Odd Tango

I became as story teller as a way of dealing with the oddness that is my life and the subsequent oddness that dwells in my brain at all times. On a daily basis, I pass as just like everyone else, but if people could see inside my head, I think they would run for it. I am sure this is why I loved Alice in Wonderland as a child; a trip inside my mind is like traveling through the looking glass. Everything that seems right is wrong. I am pretty open and honest about my wackado brain. Sometimes having a learning disability and being a successful functioning adult is empowering. Most of the time, though, having a brain that betrays you at every stop is exhausting. When I am tired and sad and run down, it feels like being lost in an abyss. Add anxiety to that and then add the basic facts of heredity and finally add the fact that my genes could very well have cursed my child.

When I met Rob, he fascinated me. He was part of this world that I had always envied. He was Gifted. From my point of view, everything seemed so easy to these kids. The same kids were together year after year, learning amazing things, doing amazing things. Man, I always wanted to be there with them. Rob has since told me that more often than not they were annoying the hell out of each other and nothing amazing was going on unless, you feel listening to people whine about deserving better grades amazing. Still, I thought that if we had children, we were guaranteed two things: height and smarts. We got: height and huge blue eyes. I've said before that my kids are smart in unconventional ways. Caroline has taken that and the most advanced work ethic and turned it into success.

Lily is a completely different bird. I spent the entire summer worrying about her social skills. I think there has been a great deal of success there. As I battled though this summer, my only comfort seemed to be this idea I had in the back of my head that she was brilliant and misunderstood. I was raising the next Sheldon Cooper. I was so very wrong. School has been so hard for her this year. Things that she seemed to always be able to count on are completely scrambled. For the first time in her life, she is not learning. She is confused and frustrated and stressed. Her mantra this year is "I don't get it." We have studied and studied, only to have her barely pass tests. At this rate she won't pass her state assessments. That means summer school and more anxiety. Each round brings a new nervous habit, eye brow picking (right before school pictures, thank you very much), nail biting, lip chewing... She is a mess. She is happiest here in the house with us where she can joke around and be her goofball self.

Rob and I have managed to create such a hybrid of us:  his introversion and anxiety with my processing and anxiety. We are going to meet with her teacher in January. I have my suspicions (LD or ADD), but want to hear what her teacher thinks. I used to think staying up with her when she was so sick and little was the worst thing, then I thought it was watching her get stitches after she got bit by a dog. Those things were all temporary. If I am right this is not temporary and it sucks. Well, I taught her how to navigate crowds (we managed to go all the way through Times Square at night last week without her losing it), I can teach her how to remember facts, and add, and spell... I think I might need some help this time, though.

I know that I need to look at the big picture. Lily has so much to offer the world. Caroline struggled and is now doing so beautifully. I also know that there are so many more qualities that I have given my children besides processing difficulties. I also know (better than most) that a learning disability does not mean unintelligent. As a matter of fact, I would argue that learning to navigate the world in a different way makes you more intelligent. I also know that most of the time when people find out about my learning disability they look at me in a different light. They perceive me as somehow less or damaged. Actually, I have proven time and time again that I am very smart. I have learned to fight and scrap and stay polite through it all. The trick is to teach Lily to do all of this without being bitter and angry.

Comfort in Words

I have always found such comfort in words. It doesn't matter if I am reading them or writing them, they always help.Caroline has this same outlook. Honestly, she needs words like oxygen. Early in the winter, when things seemed to be spinning out of control, I found time to meet my friend at the library and look for books. My system for finding books has always been so random, and yet I always find what I need for just that moment in time. Every since I first learned how to read, I have tended to go through the library alphabetically. I find an author that I like, I read everything available by him/her and then move on to another author on the same shelf. Lately, I have found myself in the B's. The first one was The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. This is why I needed this book:

For Lillian's mother, every part of a book was magic, but what she delighted in the most were the words themselves. Lillian's mother collected exquisite phrases and complicated rhythms, descriptions that undulated across a page like cake batter pouring into a pan, read aloud to put the words in the air, where she could hear as well as see them.

Oh, Lily, her mother would say, listen to this one. It sounds green don't you think?

And Lillian, who was too young to know that words were not colors and thoughts were not sounds, would listen while the syllables fell quietly through her, and she would think, This is what green sounds like...............

Not surprisingly, when it came time for Lillian to learn to read, she balked. It was not only an act of defiance, although by the time kindergarten started, Lillian was already feeling toward books private surges of aggression that left her both confused and slightly powerful. But it wasn't just that. In Lillian's world, books were covers and words were sounds and movement, not form. She could not equate the rhythms that had insinuated themselves into her imagination with what she saw on the paper. The words lay prone across the page, arranged in unyielding precision. There was no magic on the page itself, Lillian saw; and while this increased Lillian's estimation of her mother's abilities, it did nothing to further her interest in books.

What a gift it must be to be a writer, someone who loves words, and yet to be able to put into words how it feels to be betrayed by them. I swear this must be how it feels for my Lillian. She loves to listen to books. She can follow and pay attention to some of the most complicated plot lines. This is how she developed her amazing oral vocabulary (well Rob, Caroline, and I also helped). And yet, she hates to read. Lately,  I seem to have hit pay dirt with Ivy and Bean, as long as she reads them on the Kindle.

Next from the B section came A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards by Ann Bauer. Yes, I needed that too. No, I am no way in the same situation, however, it describes so perfectly the lengths a mother will go to fight for her child, all while explaining in painful detail how agonizing that fight can be. It was bittersweet in the most perfect way. Someday, I will make a book club for people who can see and appreciate the beauty and absolute necessity of the bittersweet novel.

Ironically, the next two books from the B section had main characters who died from cancer. I guess, both books were necessary in the fact that I proved to myself that I can read books about cancer without falling apart. It seems kind of like poking an open cut, but it works for me.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Steady as She Goes

It seems like I have composed dozens of posts while sitting in traffic, but the reality of day to day life has kept me from typing them out. Throughout the past months everything from newsy reports on the girls to philosophical musings have crossed my mind. This has been the most difficult of any grieving process that I have been through. The hardest part is that the world at large has gone on around me, often needing me to be an active participant. It is hard to convince people that it truly takes me longer to do things and grief makes that all the more complicated. It feels like every time I sit down to work, someone comes into my room seeking information, or an ear, or chocolate. I come home grumbling that I need to "turn off the lights, lock the door, and work with a miner's helmet on." The truth is most days I don't mind listening or finding or sympathizing. The other truth is, holidays suck when you have a hole in your heart. It is all I can do to push through for the girls.

There was a period of intense anger on my part. Everyone that I have lost died due to life style choices. That's the harsh reality. It feels like blaming the dead, but it is the truth. Sometimes when it is quiet and my brain has too much time, you can hear a little girl in the back of my mind stomping and yelling "What about me?! Aren't I more important than a cigarette, a drink, more and more food?!"

I have some predictable patterns after death. One of them is the need to make the holidays magical. I am running around creating "memories" and being a general pain in the ass. Of course every time it blows up into a fiasco. I have come to realize this is one of those "outcome based" life moments. As long as you get what you intended (or some semblance), and you have broken no laws or done anything immoral, than who the hell cares how it came about? For evidence of this, simply go to my Facebook page.

Two things have drawn me out of my most recent fog, first, family is coming here for Christmas. Never under estimate how happy planning menus makes me. Now I have a holiday party with my friends, cookies to bake for my neighbors, snacks to make for Christmas Eve, Christmas breakfast, and Christmas dinner. There is a reason that so many people use denial as a coping mechanism; it works.

The other is that Lily got really sick. She had a 103 fever on and off for three days and did not eat for four. I slept next to my furnace of a child and prayed and prayed. Of course my first instinct was to call my mom. I couldn't really seek out the advice of my brother and step-father. They are great guys, but not fever experts. My step-mother is in the middle of moving, so this one fell to me. I dug back through all of the advice that my mother and grandmothers gave me and proceeded forth. I gave her ibuprofen and bathed her with cool cloths. I carried her very large, scared self to the bathroom at 3a.m (and forgot to put on my glasses and bashed my knee in the process). I soothed her raw blistered throat with flat Sprite. I took care of her like they took care of me. She is better now (it was coxsackie virus). I know that I can do this, it won't be easy and it will often be sad (Mom has already missed Homecoming, Lily's first violin concert, Caroline's Academic award, me meeting her boyfriend's parents....). I can use everything they taught me to be the "matriarch." I can make sure everyone has their favorite comfort food, I can listen calmly, and I can fight fiercely. Just like they did for me.