Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Conversation

Thirteen years ago*, Chris & I met at a party.

We were both 18, just a few weeks into our first year of college. The party was one of those over-crowded, noisy, sweaty dorm parties thrown by freshman who don't know any better. It was there, over random concoctions involving Peppermint Schn*pps for the girls and cheap beer for the guys, that we had our first conversation.

I can't remember everything that we talked about. I'm sure we covered all the typical "Where you from? What's your major?" questions before moving on to more important topics, like how optimistic we were about the football team's new coach (Bob Davie, an absolute disaster) and how cool it was that Chris's friends were able to sneak a whole keg into their room (by senior year they'd moved to an apartment and acquired a keg-a-rator, strobe lights and a fog machine).

At the end of the night, moments after Brown-Eyed Girl came on and I shrieked and forced Chris to dance with me while I belted out the lyrics, he kissed me. I quickly told him I had a boyfriend (fine, I may have kissed him back for a minute or two first). He walked me home anyway and boyfriend or not, from that night on, he was the first person I wanted to talk to when I screwed up yet another chem lab or heard a new song on the radio.

We didn't officially start dating for another two months. A lot happened during that time.

The crisp beauty of fall became the dreary gray of winter.

My high school boyfriend and I self-destructed.

The football team completed the first of five mediocre seasons under Bob Davie.

And Chris & I, with student center hot chocolates in hand, spent night after night walking around campus, building on the conversation we had started that first night.

I often wonder what the 18 year old versions of ourselves would think of who we are today; the pre-med student and the history major who became the stay-at-home mom and the businessman. I like to think they'd be pleased. We may have swapped out the hot chocolates for Starbucks and we may be frequently interrupted by the two children we are pulling in the wagon behind us, but that conversation we began 13 years ago ,with Van Morrison blaring in the background, is still going strong.

*Technically, it was 13 years and 8 days ago, I've been a lazy blogger this week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bright Spot

Its easy for me to get caught up in bad days like this one and most recently this.

It's easy for me to get discouraged and frustrated, to focus on the parts of the day that go poorly and test my patience.

It's easy for me write in detail all the things that aren't going well...how the kids have been sick since Sunday....how its been 11 days since Buddy slept through the night....how the only time the boys aren't fighting is when they are staring at the tv.

Instead, I'm going to focus on the cookies we made...how on Monday, when everyone including Chris was home sick, I gathered everybody in the kitchen to make cookies from scratch instead of moping on the couch all day. How the boys waiting patiently for their turn to pour ingredients into the bowl. How they laughed when I enlisted them to be chocolate chip taste testers before we poured the whole bag into the bowl. How Buster inhaled the spoonful of cookie dough I gave him in one mouthful, while Buddy licked it slowly, savoring every bite. How they sat calmly on stools at the counter waiting for the cookies to come out of the oven. How carefully they ate their warm-from-the-oven cookies off my "fancy" dessert plates usually designated "For Adults Only". How for those 25 minutes, no one whined or cried or hit his brother. How for that short moment in time, we had so much fun we could have been filming a freaking N*stle T*ll House Cookie commercial.

Things haven't been easy, but there have been bright spots. That, along with homemade cookies, is enough.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pity Party

If whiny, ungrateful people tend to annoy you and you don't want to feel that way about me, I recommend you don't read any further. I try not to go down the "poor me" path too often, but today I'm granting myself this little indulgence of releasing all the bitter thoughts swirling through my mind.

The NYC trip is off.

I know I was nervous and reluctant to buy my ticket, but once I did, I was excited. Really excited. The modeling-my-oh-so-perfect-new-clothes, crossing-the-days-off-my-calendar, creating-the-perfect-iPod-playlist-for-the-flight kind of excited. And now I can't go and I'm stomp-around-the-house, sigh-loudly, glare-at-happy-people disappointed. Oh, except I can't actually display that kind of disappointment because I have two kids to take care of and they don't deserve a mom who acts that way (see why I warned you about whiny & ungrateful behavior?).

Maybe another day I will write about the events leading up to this decision in detail, I'm not in the mood right now. I'll just say that as the result of some issues we are having again with Buddy, Chris & I & Buddy's therapist agree that its not a good time for me to be away for an entire weekend. Before any well-meaning people post "oh go anyway! give yourself a break!", we did consider that. The problem is doing that would almost certainly lead to intense anxiety issues with Buddy. Not only would that impact his adjustment to school (which he is handling so well and is currently our primary focus), but would also create that unbearable environment we had at the beginning of summer. A few days away is not enough of reward for me suffer through that situation for an unknown length of time. So I'm not going.

We made the decision a few days ago and at first I was okay with it. I wished the situation was different, but I knew as sucky as it was, I was making the best decision for our family. Doesn't that sound so level-headed and adult of me? Well, all that level-headedness wore off and quickly was replaced with bitter "life is so unfair" thoughts.

I hate that I have to keep giving stuff up so that Buddy doesn't spiral out of control. I know that's a selfish, awful thing to say, but its the truth. I went into parenthood with a pretty realistic view of what it would be like. I knew things were going to drastically change and no longer be all about me. Those regular challenges of parenthood - lack of sleep, dirty diapers, toys scattered throughout the house - can be annoying, but not in a way that really frustrates me. Parenting a child with emotional issues has gone way beyond that.

Of course I love both my children in a fierce, all-consuming way that means I will do absolutely whatever it takes to make sure they are happy and healthy. When you have a child with special needs, that kind of love can be exhausting. Its terrifying to me how much energy and sacrifice it takes just to keep our heads above water. I do the best I can to find balance, to have dinner with friends & date nights with Chris, to take solo trips to the grocery store & read books instead of clean the bathrooms during naptime. Still, the reality is 98% of my time is spent being a mom and I find myself feeling so resentful when a nice night with Chris ends with a child crying hysterically for 3 hours because we went out without him and when I have to postpone indefinitely a trip I was looking forward to taking.

I'm really worried about the person I'm in danger of becoming. How many more ruined date nights and canceled trips will it take until whiny and bitter is no longer an indulgant mood but a permanent lifestyle? That's not the kind of mother, wife and friend I want to be. But how do I give myself the space and the breaks I need when those very things intensify the issues we are working so hard to overcome?

I know in the world of special needs Buddy's problems are minor. I know there are parents struggling with much more severe and frightening issues. I know that Buddy has come so far over the last 3 years. I know with time and hard work he will continue to improve. It will not always be this hard. I know that. But right now it feels like too much work to put on a happy face.

*Sorry for any typos & misspellings. I hate whiny, ungrateful people so there's no way I re-reading this to proof it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Leaving the nest

Dear Buster,

I often wonder if, as the younger brother, you will feel like your "firsts" don't matter as much to us - especially since you are just 15 months younger than Buddy, reaching so many milestones just after he does. I'll admit it's something I worried about before we adopted you. I hoped I'd be able to make you feel special.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about; not only do your "firsts" feel as momentous as they did when Buddy reached them, but they also feel unique. You accomplishments are so distinctly you and make me feel happy and proud in a way that only you can do.

So Wednesday, when I walked you to your first day of preschool, I felt the same nervous butterflies I felt last year when I took Buddy. After I waved good-bye, I sat in the car and wiped the tears from my cheeks just like I did the year before...except maybe I even cried a few more.

You are my child who views life as one big adventure. The child who isn't afraid to climb to the top of the tall slide and jump in the deep end and fly down the big hill on your tricycle. The child who does not cling to me and beg me to stay, but rather releases my hand and darts away, confident you can handle whatever comes your way.

I know you will embrace all that life has to offer and I love that about you...but it makes my heart ache a little bit too. Today I had the priviledge of picking you up after school, of taking you out for a special lunch and sitting across from you while you told me all about your day. I can't help but think of all the days in the future, when your need to explore the world will lead you further away from me.

Buster, where ever life takes you - whether its the school down the street or a city far away - I want you to know that I will always be here, cheering you on and looking forward to the next time I get to sit across from you while you tell me all about your day.

As hard as it is for me to let you go, I'm so excited to share in your adventures.