Tuesday, June 25, 2019

It was quiet; too quiet.

The night before I dropped Ryan and all of the kids off at the airport was like the cherry on top of the week of no sleeping sundae. It started last weekend when I ran out of my back medication and they wouldn't refill my prescription until four days later. I thought "Well, this is as good a time as any to see if I can go without it!" and simply--stopped taking it. Cold turkey. My weird arthritis issues didn't come back but apparently you are not supposed to stop taking that particular drug abruptly lest you STOP SLEEPING FOREVERMORE.

The first night I was up and down and restless. The second night there was a MASSIVE thunderstorm that knocked out the power and made our smoke detector go off repeatedly at two o'clock in the morning. The other nights were more of the same: fall asleep reading a book, awaken forty-five minutes later seized with a weird fight or flight sensation, try literally everything, then conk out finally around three o'clock in the morning. This should have made me feel groggy and terrible all day but it was more like my body and brain had simply decided that it would not need to rest again ever and I felt weirdly clear headed.

Then Thursday night I had finally fallen asleep only to be visited by a little person somewhere in the predawn hours. Exhausted, I pulled this person in bed with me and tried to go back to sleep. After the third time this person woke me up by scraping her toenails down my back, I told her it was time to go back to her room. Only she refused and threatened to start screaming if I picked her up. With great flouncing, I grabbed my pillow and went to lie down in her bed. I had just gotten settled in when I noticed that I could hear someone snoring softly from somewhere else in the house. I flounced back to my room, told the interloper that it was time to be brave and go back to her own bed and fortunately this time it worked.

So magical.

On Saturday I drove everyone to the airport and dropped them off at the curb and then got back into my car to try and figure out what to do with the six days of solitude I was facing down. Since I don't know how to cook for only one person the first place I went was Trader Joes to buy enough ready to eat microwave food as I could. I got there twenty minutes before it opened so I just sort of...sat... on a bench and waited. And it was FINE. This was the first signal that things were going to be very very different. By seven o'clock that night I had grocery shopped, cleaned the entire house (including the bathrooms which were UNBELIEVABLY bad, like OSHA violation bad), written a newsletter, waded into Mary's closet and returned triumphant with a cubic yard of things to donate and two full kitchen trash bags of garbage. I'd done all the relaxing I wanted to do and I didn't feel like opening my computer to work. And it was SEVEN o'clock. So I put on my swimsuit and drove to the pool to work out.

Friends, I have had a pass to the good lap-swim pool for six weeks and the closest I've gotten to working out is watching the kids' swim practice. It felt so good.

Then I went home and picked up my crochet project while I watched Four Weddings and a Funeral and drank wine.

Sunday I woke up and since no one was supervising me I was thirty minutes late to church. And when I got home from church my neighbors were all in my neighbor's pool so I went over there and hung around until it was time to get ready for a meeting at my house. Also on Sunday I basically had a beer and a donut for lunch. Sunday night I had an online meeting with my students that ended just in time for me to make it to the symphony's concert in the park downtown. While there I observed the children dancing on the light up dance floor in the middle of the park and had a strange moment of recognizing that children are actually pretty charming little creatures. Sunday was a lovely day.

Going to work Monday without a hard stop deadline was freaking magical and after that I dropped off all the donation stuff from Mary's closet (running errands AS THEY ARISE WHAT WITCHCRAFT IS THIS?) AND THEN WENT TO THE POOL TO WORKOUT AGAIN. I returned home, changed into comfortable clothes, made myself some stirfry (kit, from TJ's), and then read a BOOK FOR TWO HOURS.

Some things I have learned.

1) I am not a slob, I live with slobs
2) I am not suffering from dementia, I just have five other people who have claimed my brain for their own use
3) I am not undisciplined with regard to working out, I am TIRED.
4) My work day is much easier and more productive when I do not arrive from and return to UTTER CHAOS at home.
5) I require more interpersonal interaction than I get when living by myself.
6) I miss the little psychos something terrible, but I am not looking forward to returning to the role as the One Who Holds Back the Entropy. The house is SO CLEAN! I am not assaulted with a cloud of aerosolized urine every time I pass by a bathroom door!

I've been hearing such happy things from Ryan and my mom and can picture it all in my mind. I talked to the kids on the phone and heard all about the terrifying turbulence they flew through, the part when Mary started screaming so loud on the plane that everyone turned around in their seats, the way Charley swam all the way across the bay and back, and how the plane had VIDEO GAMES, MOM. VIDEO GAMES ON THE PLANE. I join them on Friday night and a really looking forward to it, though I am afraid the contrast between living alone and living in nine hundred square feet with seven other people, four of whom are kids all hopped up on vacation is going to be...startling.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

The pool: we live there now

I already knew this but you all are the best.  So much lovely online and in-person feedback from that last post!  Mwa!

And the trouble with writing a well-received, heartfelt post is that there is pressure to now try to make all of them at the same level and if you have been a longtime reader then you probably already know that consistent writing/content level is not one of my strengths.  #goodatotherthings

One thing I will tell you is that my children are benefiting tremendously from the fact that I feel guilty and wistful about having to work this summer, so they are having a really freaking magical time.  It helps that I found a LITERAL Mary Poppins on care dot come who on her first day provided a calendar with detailed entries about the fun things they would do every day.  She is one of my favorite humans and I'm trying to find the right moment to ask if she would like us to adopt her.

Because she endured rush hour traffic with a carful of overtired kids on Monday (on their way home from a museum, which they stayed at for two extra hours because they were having such fun) I bought them movie tickets for today.  I bought them for the theater that's also a brewery and told her helpfully that if you write "bring it after the lights are off" on the order card the waiters are very accommodating.  But I think she's only twenty.  Maybe she will order a milkshake instead.


I've got about a hundred pictures of the pool with various kids' heads sticking out of the water in various stages of various strokes.

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And eating things at the pool is our new hobby slash lifestyle now.

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Charley had a meet for his year-round team one evening last week and a giant storm came through right in the middle. I saw the gust front approaching and noted it on the radar and was just hoping it would hold off long enough for him to swim his second of two events.

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Unfortunately about six events before his last one it started raining torrentially. Charley and I stood in a breezeway filled with people waiting to see what would happen and surprisingly they continued the meet like nothing was happening, probably because there was no lightning. It was POURING and they kept calling swimmers up to the blocks. As it got closer to Event 26 I made Charley go stand by the blocks because I couldn't hear the announcer over the rain. We both stood out on the deck until his event and then booked it back to the car, which was sitting in a six inch puddle of water.

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Saturday after the meet we were all dozing on the couch and floor in front of Star Wars when I remembered that I had signed the kids up for Kids Night Out at church that evening. Everyone was completely exhausted and I had serious misgivings about dropping them off, especially because Charley is WAY TOO OLD to be hanging out in church childcare, but it's been a long time since I've gotten to have an uninterrupted conversation with Ryan, so we packed the kids into the car, loaded Charley down with the incredibly dark fiction he favors, and went for it. Ryan and I went to a brewery to relax and play board games while drinking craft beer and eating pierogies stuffed with bratwurst and also something called "brachos" that is nachos covered in bratwurst. Perfect evening, really.

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And when we arrived to pick them up Charley was patiently explaining something to our friend's five year old and the other kids were watching movies. One kid perked up when he saw us and exclaimed "Come see the train track I built!" (!!!) Then the nursery worker handed me a bag of clothes and said "I don't know if you knew, but Mary came here in a wet bathing suit. We gave her something dry to wear." JUST LIKE OLD TIMES.

I will leave you with this: Yesterday at rowing I was part of a conversation in which a guy was talking about visiting Beyonce's family in Poland. He and Beyonce's dad did vodka shots after dinner and it was weird but they had a great time. Friends, it took me at least ten minutes to realize that he was talking about visiting his FIANCE'S family, not BEYONCE'S. Of course that made way more sense. Listening comprehension is hard.

Monday, June 3, 2019

On bragging

I am proud of my kids and try to highlight their accomplishments and often I hold back (People who follow me on social media are like "Yeah OK you hold back") because I've often felt a pang of jealousy around school award season. "Survived sixth grade" should be an award, but it is not, for some reason. That shit is hard.

(Other awards that might be relevant to my family: One Week Without a Concerned Email from School Staff!, Brought Lunchbox Home 3+ Times!, and Resolved Interpersonal Conflict Without Swearing!)

(I kid, I kid, mostly)

We've tried sports before. Soccer was a no-go because the whistle was too scary. Tee-ball was too confusing. Kinderdance was too adorable and not as rigorous enough to justify the time commitment (for us). We've been pretty commitment phobic in the past I was never sure we'd actually be able to leave the house on a given day. Who would be losing it. Who would be sick. What nightmare scenario involving a call from the school had unfolded earlier that day.

We had a particularly tough school year beginning the year Mary was born until the following fall when we finally settled on the magic combination of meds and therapy for one of the kids that allowed to live as normal a life as we were ever going to live. I was intentionally pretty quiet about that part of our lives on here both for privacy reasons for the kid involved and also because it was REALLY EFFING TERRIFYING.

Then we made it through that and kind of hummed along for a while, navigating lots of support at school and managing the business of the rest of the kids. That was fine, but organized activities and sports still seemed out of reach. There was too much we couldn't predict. Too many unknowns. Things could go dark in a heartbeat and none of us really ever felt like we could relax. That made signing up for an eight week baseball season, or soccer, or karate seem overwhelming.

Things started to improve and then we had a Situation with another one of the kids and his teacher that plunged us right back into that world, now with a bonus dose of PTSD from the last time. Once again we got therapy on board and meds figured out, thanks to our AMAZING psychiatrist, whom we refer to as the Med Ninja, who has done entire sessions with us on the phone, at night. That was last summer and since we hadn't seen that coming, we had already taken a deep breath and signed the kids up for swimming.

As you probably already know, swimming has been LIFE CHANGING for our family.

It's fun, of course. While they wait for their turn to practice they run around with a familiar crowd of kids on the playground, filling their caps with water and throwing them at each other, playing a scary game called "Groundies" which involves running around on the playscape with their eyes closed, and eating TOTAL GARBAGE at every opportunity. Meets are a crazy circus, with more friends, unlimited screen time, more junk food, and occasional races.

But during practice, you guys, they work SO hard.

The boys all have an hour-long practice and swim hard the whole time. On Adventure Day they make an obstacle course that combines swimming and things like doing lunges all the way around the pool, tricep dips on the benches, relays, and the diving board. Mary, who spent one of her first practices sobbing "I don't want to drown!" on the side of the pool, now swims a forty-five minute practice filled with laps and kicks and figuring out how to get your face to stay in the water without almost dying (on her adventure day one of the stations was "crazy dancing").

All the kids have surprised me this year with their focus and competitiveness, which somehow has not turned into anger and frustration like I had feared. When another boy in Charley's 100 IM won the heat so handily that he was out of the pool before the other kids made the final turn, Charley just smiled and said "That's Danny. He's on my year-round team too and he is AWESOME. Nice guy, too!"

(Also, the 100 IM is Charley's favorite event, which is confusing and mind boggling because that is kind of an intense event, you know?)

We first had an inkling last year that maybe this was the sport for us when Charley won a heat in the 25 free at a meet late in the season. We had spent the whole season having a blast, enjoying the kids' positive attitudes, but not really expecting them to stand out from the pack, since this was their first year, and because of all of the above, having generally assumed we'd be people who excelled at other, non-sporty, things. But when Charley started pulling away from the group with ten yards left to go I started screaming. And when he out-touched the next kid in line at the end of the heat I shouted (involuntarily) "HOLY SHIT!" and turned to face Ryan for a giant sweaty hug with snot and tears running down my face. Ryan said "I'm going to text my entire contacts list and say 'My kid is good at a sport!'"

(Charley's butterfly still almost makes me cry every time. Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds)

Saturday we had a meet in the neighborhood I went to high school in. In fact the pool was about a block from my old house. My parents used to walk over and buy breakfast tacos from the meets even though my sister and I didn't swim.

And it went really really well. James won his backstroke heat, coming in tenth overall in his age group. Mary is getting better every day and even added in the arm piece of the backstroke a couple of times. She had time improvements in both her events. Wes has a ferocious freestyle that I ADORE watching. And Charley had a great 100 IM.

James swam up in the 9-10 boys 100 relay and SURPRISE! He was on Wes's relay team AND they were on the same side of the pool AND James was the anchor. This scenario was RIPE WITH POSSIBILITY for an embarassing and public brotherly conflict but fortunately they managed to hold it together and James swam for his (literal) life on that last leg and absolutely held his own. He even gained some ground on one of the other swimmer and a kid from the relay team (not Wes, naturally) told him what a great job he did.

So I'm going to brag about my kids, both because I'm so proud of them for their hard work, and because I am DEEPLY grateful to their coaches and all the parent volunteers for making this experience so positive for them.

Opening the family folder this morning was the best birthday present ever.

Rattan Meet
Left to right, Mary, James, Wes, and Charley