altarflame: (deluge)
I'd like to say, first, that I don't think there's anything wrong with loving yourself just as you are, thin, fat or otherwise. I OFTEN see weight loss before and afters where I feel the before pics are more attractive, to my own subjective tastes. We're all much more than our looks, and don't owe looking a certain way to anyone, regardless. And I know health can be - and is often - very unrelated to size. So this entry is in no way meant as a scolding or a prod at anyone. Nobody is under any obligation to be trying to lose weight, and I think it's important to say that sometimes because there's this subtle but constant pressure on women to feel like they are.

I always feel uncomfortable about adding to the omnipresent cloud of "diet talk" that permeates every corner of modern society, because, eww.

That said, if you are someone who is trying to change your body, for whatever personal reasons, or you are just curious about what I'm doing with mine and how it's working out - here we go...

I've been using Weight Watchers for 5 1/2 months now. As longtime readers know, I've tried a lot of strict and rigid restriction-style diet plans over the years (being vegan, or on the Eat To Live program that is basically fat free vegan, going gluten free, saying no sugar or white flour ever, etc). They all work well but none of them have been sustainable for me. I am too much of a foodie to cope with knowing any sort of lovely indulgent thing is off limits permanently. Or even semi-permanently. In some health and ethics related ways, this is definitely a flaw - BUT. It is what it is, for now at least.

I feel like I could do this - Weight Watchers - basically forever.

I have a long history of compulsive and emotional eating and really lost any ability to regulate food intake by hunger cues as a child. As a result, this points-system guidance is extremely helpful. It actually feels like magic that I can use this tool to change my body. All I have to do is stay the course and be patient.

I have tried just counting calories before, and had the (free) MyFitnessPal app at the suggestion of my therapist for that last year, but I hated it for a few reasons:

-*way* more math and research time on my part, vs the simple and built in points system for everything from restaurant menus to my own recipes that I put in.

-no differentiation between healthy and non-healthy calories; WW has made daily points limits lower than they used to be because unlimited fruits and vegetables are now zero points, which automatically encourages you to eat healthier. They are also calculating points values for other things on an algorithm that involves fat, carbs, fiber and protein, rather than just calories.

-I didn't like it just being on me to feel like I failed when I occasionally decided to splurge. WW has 49 "weekly points" built into the program that are above and beyond your daily point limits - you can eat them all at once as one crazy buffet dinner, or spread them out as glasses of wine and scoops of ice cream throughout the week. I suppose I could have worked out some sort of similar system for myself, but instead I usually just figured a day or week was shot and gave up on it, when I went over my max calories. With WW I really feel like there's nothing I can't have. This is hokey, but I often think "I can eat anything I want, I just can't eat everything I want."

-This may be bs, but a lot of research suggests that people actually lose weight much more often when they use a program that costs money, because the investment gives the whole effort more accountability. It would be nice to just psych myself out that I'm smarter than that and can milk a free program, but I think it's true. Subscribing to this plan that charges our bank account makes me feel like it's real and not just in my head (or my phone, or whatever).

I also enjoy all sorts of things Weight Watchers offers, like the weigh in days, chart that shows my weight loss over time, the recipes searchable by point values, and the forums. Those things are sort of incidental, though. I do not go to meetings or buy any WW brand products (which honestly seem pretty gimmicky and silly to me, and often not very healthy at all). I am also aware that Weight Watchers may well be the least punk thing I've ever done in my life.

I've lost 29 pounds so far, since late February. I feel better, which I've written about before, but there are other tangible differences too that have been noticeable, lately:

-My ASOS plus leggings are now baggy around the knees and over, for me (which is actually a tragedy, I don't have many clothes, love them, and can't really afford more at the moment).
-Bras I was using band extenders for, for years, can now be worn on their own again.
-My hip measurement, which includes my hernia bump, has gone down 7.5 inches.
-I can actually see it when I compare old pictures to new, now, which is wild for me since I really haven't felt I can SEE much difference in the day to day.

Currently, my daily points target is 35. Under the cut is me describing everything I ate today, and some other eating things from this week, in case you want to see just how this actually works in the day to day in my case. )

There are still times when I get anxious or moody because I can't just binge eat - I do think going through counseling as I do this is part of my success thus far. Intensive counseling before I even started has been pivotal, because I really understand that I was self sabotaging like a motherfucker since I know that losing weight is a path that ends in the OR, for me.

I've learned, partially through the points system, that I don't actually enjoy food at all when I eat compulsively or binge. I enjoy the lead up sometimes? But it's this mindless hand-to-mouth thing that's very disconnected from enjoying anything, I almost feel dissociative when it's happening. I suspect this is similar for addicts of all types. For me, though, I FEEL like I'm really enjoying food much more because I'm enjoying all the food I have, rather than just some of it, or enjoying it in my mouth but not my stuffed stomatch, or liking it but feeling emotionally bad about it, etc etc.

Also, it's important to point out that I got my B-12 levels back up before I started... deficiencies like that, as well as all kinds of hormonal and thyroid troubles, and med side effects, can make weight loss REALLY FUCKING HARD/semi-impossible, even when you are "doing everything right."

I saw someone on facebook the other day who has lost over a hundred pounds and kept it off for several years talking about how he hates when people make excuses - you just have to want to do it. He talked about how walking is free, and jump ropes are cheap, and it was just too angering (and complicated) for me to even go into there. Obviously chronic health conditions and mental health conditions can be huge obstacles that require MEGA RESOURCES to tackle, that not everybody has got. Ultimately that's about him anyway, and not anyone else.

I read a lot for my Health Psych class about how the most successful treatments for people with obesity involve cognitive behavioral therapy that starts with writing down every single thing that you eat. I reminded myself of that often in the early weeks of Weight Watchers, when logging points ANYTIME I ate ANYTHING still seemed like a hassle. I do think it's part of what's helpful and what works, about the program (built in food journaling). These days it's very automatic and not a big deal at all.

altarflame: (deluge)
I have 4 different drafts of entries in progress, one of which is 3 weeks old. And probably 40 pictures to post, some of which are a month old. There is just so much, though, so good much, so hard much, so much.

Today, I already snuck money and fairy dust under two pillows, picked Annie up from a sleepover and took her to her new cello mentoring program, studied for one of my online classes, and set up a ride for her to this mentoring program another week when I can't do it. I have a date with Jake to help plan his birthday party invites. Right now Grant is taking Annie to GMYS and derby, picking Aaron up from a (different) sleepover and taking him to the movies (while they wait for her). I have TONS of online schoolwork to do. I'm also hoping to at least finish editing pictures and post them, along with one half-done entry, after dinner... And, I'm emailing the Psychology Honor Society (which I've been invited to join) and scheduling a practice GRE for a couple of weeks from now.


-everybody's chores
-A&A revising papers from last week
-moving on to new math with them
-Annie practicing cello from her mentor sheet
-Jake and Elise continuing sentences, as well as multiplication for him, clocks for her
-reading those two the classic Hansel and Gretel

-printing out Halloween dover pages for them to color
-getting Isaac to and from school (in pajamas, with $1 for "pajama day") with cheerleading uniform in tow, and picking him up late from cheerleading practice
-get Isaac a new reed (clarinet)
-pay the electric bill
-loan payment if G doesn't do that
-get a notarized letter I need for Gloria, who's staying with everyone during an upcoming trip, for medical care
-get invitations for Jake's party done/sent

-taking Aaron to and from 3 hours of dance, during which I'll
-go to counseling
-help Isaac with his homework
-take an online test (then, after dance block)
-make dinner
-read to everyone
-start on a paper that's due Tuesday by midnight

-reserve my tickets online for this play I have to see for my theater class


-get Isaac and I ready for school, with lists and activities for other kids in place (G working from home)
-go to my 3 classes; buy Jake's "big" birthday present from B&N at FIU while I'm there (Nook)
-meet with theater group about project
-post contest winner

-come home, immediately turn around and carpool Aaron and another kid to dance
-come home again, love on everyone, check on their work progress, talk to them in general
- tea time
-make Annie, Isaac, Jake and Elise practice their instruments
-read to everyone

-finish paper due by midnight
-make meal lists and print out chores, for Gloria to have while we're gone


-Isaac to and from school + his homework; cheerleading day again

-schoolwork for other kids, including science experiments for Jake and Elise and SciShow for A&A
-Annie cello practice during the day
-talking about our PATH presentation choices for upcoming events; write progress goal dates on calendar together
-start on my online school work for the week; try to knock out one class
-post office

-to-do list for horror story reading on YouTube; check in with Memo about pdf dl cover art
-Annie's derby and Aaron's dance carpool in the evening (I just drive them there)
-make Isaac, Jake and Elise practice instruments
-online class work for the week

-write out alarm system instructions for Gloria
-and emergency contacts
-get bags of bathingsuits and towels ready, with floats, for Gloria
-serious bathroom scrubbing


-Isaac and I to school
-their lists need to include new papers for A&A
-Annie practicing

-me in 3 classes
-stats tutoring in the lab
-Isaac, Jake and Elise at GMYS (I have to move between their classes taking notes so that I can facilitate their practice through the week)
-make sure the cooler is clean for Gloria
-BJ's run, including her requested secret chocolate stash
-list of activity times and places for her
-go see play


-Isaac's school/homework - $1/crazy hat/hair day
-everybody else's school, including research for PATH presentations

-more cross stitching with Jake and Elise
-Make sure I have Gloria's payment money and "play" money, and LJ's gas/snack money for driving Annie, all ready and set aside
-insurance cards/AAA card/gas card with money
-tooth fairy small bills/dust just in case

-van full of gas
-kitchen and bathrooms clean

-all online schoolwork done
-paper about the play written
-tea outside with all 5

-at least an hour totally focused on them, no distractions, hanging out
-big together breakfast planned for Saturday
-uh, PACK

And then Saturday, after breakfast - Gloria and LJ take my kids to a farm with a Groupon reservation that involves fruit baskets and tours, and generally take over/move in while Grant and I FLY TO BOSTON FOR FOUR DAYS AND 3 NIGHTS FOR OUR JOINT BIRTHDAY PRESENT!!! In case you haven't been paying attention, we both turn 32 in October. 32!

We'll be eating and staying with Nancy that first night, which none of us can wait for - seriously I feel like I should be writing her name like !!!♥~*~♥Nancy♥~*~♥!!! So much love. *sigh* Since she's coming to Florida in November instead of February, we'll be seeing her AGAIN so soon, too - it will almost be like we don't live 1500 miles apart this fall :)

We will probably be meeting up with the artist formerly known as Julierocket the next day, and possibly calling on a certain [ profile] idiolecto as well, before Monday night, when we crash this fucking fabulous looking combination ART PARTY AND DRESDEN DOLLS REUNION, featuring Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman as MCs...Read All About It Here, if you feel like it. Ananda is sending along a shirt she wants autographed by everyone there :D Excited, psyched, words do not convey.

Tuesday we will sleep in, eat something somewhere, and then fly home. We'll get in kind of late. Grant has that whole week off, and Jake's birthday is Friday, and his party Sunday. Jakey will be 8 - 8, I tell you! My fourth child will be 8 years old. He's having a pajama party and a bed cake (all his idea).

And our very first day back will hit the ground running...Wednesday will arrive with me slightly behind on schoolwork, with an appt for Annie to go get spacers put between her teeth (she gets braces on the 14th...which reminds me she needs a new special mouth guard for derby before that...), and a dance carpool thing...

So I am REALLY swamped. The terrible triggered PTSD feeling I referenced on 9/11 has been over for awhile...that was a shit week, but research and counseling are helping. Not long after that eased up, my pain suddenly came back big time...I'm still feeling the end of some serious week+ long pain that has me making a new doctor's appt for me (I haven't been back since I cut gluten and felt mostly better, back in...late February). I feel good, though. Achey and somewhat low energy at times, but also... Really good. Trepidacious that I don't want the pain to ramp back up and it could at any time, almost euphoric that it's gone - and kind of heavy when I think about where I'm at in counseling (surgery and medical's the first time I've actually been directly tackling it in counseling as the main topic we're working through. I always wuss out and quit before it can get this far). I left after my hour of sobbing and talking last week feeling exhilarated and lighter, though. And I'm SO excited, about October in general! Our trip, Jake's birthday/party, All Hallow's Read, everybody's Halloween plans, the weather getting cooler...I love October.

The days before our Maryland trip were a total avalanche of responsibilities, similar to this one... it was between semesters, but I was putting the kids' homeschooling portfolios together and getting their evaluations done, and Isaac was going back to charter school so all of his uniforms, supplies, lunches, snacks and fees had to be ready to go, in addition to cleaning/stocking the house, prepping my mother in law with lists and info, trying to charge everyone up with lots of extra love and affection...I got there riding on almost zero sleep, and had to cry my eyes out in the hotel room before I could take a deep breath and relax. The trip, though, was amazing and worth it, blah blah blah :)

So yeah if I can get my homework done in time and dinner knocked out in an efficient manner, I'll be back with pictures, and more...
altarflame: (deluge)
-the latest in a string of really productive and helpful counseling sessions

-5 wake up calls, breakfasts served, lunches packed, and camp drop offs, for Isaac, Jake and Elise

-feeling really lonely really often, and getting frustrated with how hard to reach and unable to talk Grant and my sister are

-feeling a spectrum from guilt to irritation about a few people who are calling and texting me really often, that I don't feel up to talking to - like this one chick from school who sent me 8 emails and kept calling til 10:30 the other night, when she was having final exam anxiety, and how my mother and grandfather are really eager for me to talk to my Nana - but only when all the kids are here and not after 8 and my phone gets no reception inside while I try to cook, all these caveats that basically make it really hard

-lots of communication with this new prospective illustrator for my nieces-and-nephews series of children's books

-not enough communication with my editor about where my royalty check is

-installing the C25K app

-making tacos, and a pot of soup, roasting chickens and vegetables, slicing a million tomatoes, browning too many mushrooms, heating frozen pizzas, cooking this stuff, french pressing (never enough) coffee

-hacking my lungs out anytime I talk too loud or too much

-drinking soooo much emergen-C, and forcing it on kids left and right, too

-two trips to the airport

-two dance rehearsals for Aaron

-one grocery run

-one gas station

-a totally creepy late night involving my (exterior) bedroom door being unlocked with my curtains moved, that was probably just about my kids, but also featured me seeing Grant's stupid fake arm and bloody hand sticking out from under the bed, SO I ALMOST DIED BASICALLY

-gratitude for and hosting of Gloria, who picked up the Grant's-in-Maryland slack so we could do what we normally do (mostly rides and supervision while I was in school)

-cumulative hour and a half coaching Annie through GCFs, turning improper fractions into mixed numbers, common multiples, longer division, inverse operations...if we don't work on math concepts for awhile, it seems, she COMPLETELY forgets them as though she never knew...

-triumph when she finished her (high school! as was the guitar class she finished) science class with an improved grade

-4 hours of late night studying

-lots of ongoing thoughts on Robert Maslow and self actualization - I uploaded 10 pages worth of my textbook here hoping other people would want to talk about it

-2 final exams, one other exam, and one quiz

-selling my textbooks back

-accepting my fall financial aid package, getting my disbursement dates, and being totally irritated by how EVERY FUCKING CLASS IS FILLING UP AND THERE WILL BE NOTHING ELSE BY THE TIME I CAN REGISTER ON THE 6TH

-starting my period

-feeling too aroused to live or be in public, too distracted by erotic fantasies, and too foot-stomping OVER sexual frustration (the frustration part, not the sexual part)

-scheduling our homeschool evaluations

-lots of texting about bee keeping resources with a PATH kid

-taking 300 selfies and then deleting 295 of them <--those are slight exaggerations

-conversation with a woman at school about why Santeria means she can't take a class on voodoo


-actually doing a modified day 1 of couch to five k (with sneakers on! Out in public!) and damn near dying

-cathartic and wonderful welcome home sex leading directly to blacking out and then sleeping in
altarflame: (deluge)
Last Wednesday night, Aaron didn't get home from dance until 9, when Jamaii's mom dropped him off here. He had to be back at 8, the next morning. At around 10pm, tired and irritable from our AC being broken for part of the day, I was sweating and reading The Prisoner of Azkaban to Isaac when Aaron came into Isaac's room in a panic. "Mom, I NEED a Disney costume by tomorrow!" he interrupted. "She assigned me to Peter Pan since I didn't come with one ready today!"

The day before had been the first time I'd ever heard this costume thing mentioned. I had told him then to dig through the dress up chest and put something together, and instead he ran around confused and then seemed to forget all about it. Now it was an emergency.

"No way, Aaron."
"Moooom I'm out of the opening on Friday if I don't have a costume!"
"How does she expect you to get a costume? You left the studio at 8:30 tonight and have to be back at 8 in the morning. When are you supposed to get a costume?"
"She doesn't care!"
"She can bite me, it isn't going to happen."

And then do you know what he said? DO YOU KNOW WHAT HE SAID? The one freakin' thing in the whole world that could move me at that uncomfortably warm, sleepy, late point, knowing I had to be up before 7 Thursday.

He said, "Tomorrow is my birthday!"


So off I went, to Walmart that I try to boycott altogether, searching every section for all these components (big men's dark green polo, bright green tights, felt and yarn...) Just after midnight, I was crocheting a belt and sewing a hat.

When I did get up, far too early, he was thrilled and told me I was awesome. I'd made him a (bleary eyed) birthday breakfast and gotten him spicy sweet chili doritos to take in his lunch (all time favorite).

Off we went, to pick up Jamaii and go to dance. Then, Ananda, Elise and I had an hour to kill before Girl Scout camp started, and I'd promised Ananda's guitar teacher - who I very nearly sued for harrassment, and I'm only half kidding - that Annie would complete her last assignment last week and be done with the course. Of course Annie's crushing social/phone anxiety kicked in and I had to pep talk and then ultimatum her before she consented to use the guitar we'd brought in the trunk, and the laptop I had in the backseat. Finally she sat, logged in to wifi, while Elise and I watched her from inside Panera so nobody else could HEAR HER (God Forbid). Then she came in and I congratulated her with a chai tea latte and a fruit tart, while she was in the bizarrely hyper, almost manic high that always follows overcoming anxiety, for her.

I skipped my classes that day in favor of shopping for Aaron's birthday dinner, baking his cake and making his frosting, being home (along with Grant, who wasn't leaving) when he arrived rather than hours later, and taking a damned nap. He ended up having tomato tart and sushi. I thought it could be related to how long it had been since I'd had gluten, but others agreed that the carrot cake was the best cake I've made in years. It was...insanely awesome. Just perfect. And enormous. I mean, 9 eggs and a dozen carrots sort of enormous. I went up to 1.5 times the recipe I generally use to bake us 4 dozen cupcakes, for a single round layer cake in my widest spring form pans.

His presents (all requested):
-quad skates, to skate with Annie and possibly ref derby
-a hot pink morph suit
-a 14" beach ball, for a paper mache project
-more stupid overpriced Iniji or whatever toe socks to go under his Vibrams
-light up disco glasses

Anyway. Aaron is 12 :p I am very proud of him, and think he had a good day.

This week, nobody has anything to go to, and I am glad. I had classes and counseling today, and we're hosting a 4th of July party on Thursday evening, but that's it. It's glorious.

In counseling, this evening, I was doing emdr about my mother. EMDR is chronological and believe you me I was irritated as all hell to have this man, after our initial interviews and my first homework assignment, say that we had to start with my mom. I've been talking about my mom in counseling since I was 16. Gah. It is not what I was going to him for. And he's right, blah blah blah.

So I'm there holding these alternately buzzy things in my hands with my eyes shut, thinking about my mom, and then he'd turn them off and I'd talk about what I'd thought and then we'd start over, again and again. That's basically the gist of how EMDR sessions go, although they require some set up info for prompts and minor guidance here and there, and you do some assessments before and after each session.

Twice, today, while I was holding these things, I got SO DIZZY. Room spinning vertigo like I was drunk or...I don't even know. I could even make it reverse direction to make it feel like my brain fluid was all spinning the other way. No nausea or anything, but very distracting and intense like my skull was just slipping by continuously. I would open my eyes to anchor myself here and there, but then it would start again as soon as I shut my eyes. It felt like some kind of crap related to the alternately buzzing hand things, and/or the alternately stimulated halves of my brain.

The session was ok overall, he told me something challenging I probably really needed to hear. As I was paying my deductible, I mentioned the dizziness off handedly and told him that had happened twice before during EMDR in 2008.

He immediately said people have phantom symptoms all the time based on unconscious triggering of memories that involved feeling those symptoms. Stomach aches during a tv show, whatever.

Well. I definitely spent months using every afternoon as "spinning time," following my parents' divorce. I ended up at an ENT at one point who told my mother it seemed I'd destroyed my equilibrium by fucking up my vestibular system permanently. <---Note, that ENT was a quack who later tried to cauterize the insides of my nostrils for bleeding from the sinus cavity. Just sayin'.

But I spun and spun and spun, that year. Retrospectively, as a parent, I do not understand why my mother or one of my grandparents didn't come out of the house and say, "Tina, you've been spinning for THREE HOURS, what is going on? Let's talk." This is very similar to how it baffles me, now, that nobody ever KNOCKED ON MY BEDROOM DOOR and pulled me out, in later years. Just.

The point is, yeah, I spun, and yeah, we were talking about that same time period today, although I never consciously thought of the spinning. I'm also about 98% sure that when that dizziness happened in 2008 EMDR, it was when we were talking about my parents splitting up.

I have two thought processes about this that kinda run in tandem:

1.) I do wish my body didn't feel the need to hold onto every fucking thing, along with my brain. I wonder if I can let it all go, or only the mental part, or what.

2.) I am more skeptical than I have ever been in my life, but also more eager to be shown real magic than I have probably ever been. It felt like my therapist had tricks up his sleeve, today. Illusions to pull out and impress me.

Another one: Francine Shapiro, the (somewhat controversial) inventor of EMDR, had a book come out in the last year, that he has in his office partially because she thanks him in her Acknowledgements, since he allowed her to use a bunch of his work in the early chapters. Including some of his success cases involving victims of 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina.

It made him seem like a very accomplished magician, and reminded me of the Wizard of Oz.

I have a lot of pictures to upload, and I may even do it soon, but I'd like to note that this website makes uploading pictures a phenomenal pain in the ass - they have to be resized in PSP or something and then uploaded to a separate host site of your own, and then linked - and so I end up doing it on tumblr, where I can just use my phone to basically copy and paste from my gallery, way more often. My tumblr does have a "personal posts only" link that is easily clicked if you ever want to see original content of mine without the reblogged tumblr stuff all mixed in - it's here: I don't usually do a lot of long text posts there like I do here (and I am somewhat more likely to be uncensored/controversial, there, although it's not more or less honest...) It's not taking the place of my lj. It is just easier sometimes to do short things on the fly, on tumblr.

Since I've done a lot more "personal" tumblr-ing recently than I generally do, I thought I would link some of it individually for the interested. There is:

-This one about my obsession with, and endless parade of, white flowers at all stages of life.

-A little story about ordering chickens, and me talking about how I loved our buff orpington, Belina.

-A video about an overgrown section of our yard that we have sacrificed to dozens of butterflies as well as a a picture of how it looks from in our tv room window, where we watch the caterpillars building and hatching from chrysalises.

-Something short about our ridiculous Florida weather.

-Gardening with Elise (our lettuce has gone mad, and the chickens keep eating our chard)

-Some pictures of Annie's new hair, as modeled over the weekend from another city, where she skated in her first derby bouts.

-A couple of different posts about the joy of having new books to read for the first time.

-And one ridiculous shot of Aaron in one of his many get-ups.

I've been really enjoying the downtime of laying low and staying home much more than I have in awhile. Washing massive piles of dishes and putting away mountains of laundry like it isn't torture, even. It's one of those very homey times when our bathrooms are stocked with folded stacks of rags by the sinks, and everyone has their own socks sorted into their bedrooms, rather than just having "the sock basket" available to dig through (our usual system). I hot glued a fairy's wing back on, sewed a stuffed animal that was losing it's spikes and scotch taped several books, over the weekend. They had all waited for me to repair them for a long time. I've hosted Laura and her kids for dinner, greeted everyone with oatmeal and coffee as they woke up, and read to people in the afternoons AND at night. One day, I had an entire to-do list of plant related tasks (prunings, repottings, watering, etc) and relished it every minute.

There has been more Summer Oldies Pandora station and less Dresden Dolls, playing.

I remember when this feeling was just how I felt about life staying home as a mother and sometimes I even toy with the idea that it can last forever without any sort of supervision or maintenance, now. But I know the truth is that this is not then, and I need to leave and come back to enjoy it, these days. I need to do pre-emptive things like go to counseling, classes and my writing time BEFORE I find myself struggling to not just go in my room and lock the door. I am one of the people I have to take care of.

It is what it is, and I'm grateful for a whole lot.
altarflame: (After the kiss)
Awhile before I went out of town this past weekend, I read a lot of stuff abouthow contraindicated isolation is for PTSD. I'd already been thinking about it a lot - as a stay at home mom and a writer, there's an inherent amount of isolation, you know? I talked about it with Grant, though, because we can both look back and see clear patterns that correlate - I was doing very well, being productive and fairly happy, when I was in school - even though I was WAY busier, and had MORE to do that could have been overwhelming. Productivity/happiness then took a clear nose dive after I got my AA, my friend Kristin (who I normally saw a LOT) moved away, and he started travelling constantly. It didn't feel like it was related, because I don't necessarily have a problem with being alone, in the moment. At all. I crave time alone and will purposely isolate myself, which is this whole danger sign of PTSD that you're supposed to watch out for, *sigh* I mean I am normally kind of on the line between intro- and extroverted, throughout my life, and get tired of almost any company eventually and need a break to recharge.

Except PTSD does this thing wherein being around others starts to seem harder and harder - NOT something that's ever been natural to me before - and it creates this downward spiral effect that leaves me burrowing deeper and deeper into solitude as days and then weeks pass, and I'm dissociating way too much. I wrote about this in January/February a bit - first complaining about being lonely and then, later, talking about how I had to admit to my sister and to Nancy that I'd been avoiding them on purpose and MAKE myself go see people again because I was becoming a miserable slug. To be fair, constant pain issues and lumps in my hands were not helping.

Back to more recent history - this past weekend, I was CONSTANTLY around people (and getting a great break from the kind of tedious drudgery that housekeeping can get to be, too). Lots of people. I had long good conversations with Tawanna and Terri from Dance Empire, but also with acquaintances from the studio, and waiters, and with total strangers. I spent a whole day with my mother (and she's trying wasn't nearly so sucky as it might normally have been), a few hours with Bobby, and briefly caught up with my brother and his girlfriend (Bob actually has a job and drives and shit, can you imagine?). I sat in crowds to watch performances and sat in small groups to rehash things and sat one on one with people. I texted a ton, with Grant and some others.

You would think there would be some inherent stress here - my mother normally weirds me out, Bobby and I have some historic animosity that can pop up, I haven't talked to my brother in months. I didn't get a fraction the sleep I usually would have, and spent way too much time driving. My mom's house was tiny, cramped and generally uncomfortable. Aaron was an over-stimulated SID flibbertigibbit half the time.

And YET...

I felt so good driving and getting home, Sunday night. Our freakin' van AC stopped working and Aaron slept the whole way and I was still happy as a clam the whole way. So sweet and lovely to just hug everyone and be back at my house, once we arrived. So awesome to get back to Grant, and our cats, and my bed. At first I thought this was just about the cramped sleeplessness I'd been dealing with, but the next day I felt SO CLEAR HEADED, so sure of myself and so able to do things that needed to be done. It was a really big deal, not compared to the weekend but compared to the four months prior. Big chunks of the last few YEARS prior. I was actually confused about it. I wanted my husband a whole lot, exactly as he is, and was so grateful for him, and generally had this comparative sort of ease, after Orlando and Lakeland (both of which I hate in different ways), like I love our house. I love our life. I love what we've built here - I chose all of this. Chose! Whereas I've spent so much of the past few months feeling TRAPPED as all hell.

I walked around wondering - am I bipolar? Am I crazy? WAS I crazy? Will this just pass soon? I felt like I used to feel with Jake or Elise on my back, cooking big breakfasts and lunches with kids on counters - you know, before PTSD when I was good at life and stay at home motherhood was in no way contraindicated... Grant was home Monday and I got a lot of texts from the Dance Studio and all week I've had a ton to do, with transferring to university. Still, I've been cooking and cleaning and guiding schoolwork and writing scholarship letters and getting up early like it's not even hard, hopping on my bike to take Isaac to school with a smile and, for emphasis here, I'm even on my period, and now that I'm not taking anti inflammatories that is sort of the seventh circle of hell, except not hellish at all while I'm snuggling with my beasty (Elise) and having crazy hot awesome sex every day <---O_o

I mean, WHAT? How is this happening?

I'm still talking to counselors (in the search for someone who takes our insurance and is right for us, I mean). I'm thinking, I in the biggest checkout from reality I've ever experienced? I am so not. Is this really just the result of me spending a couple of days around deeply depressed folks (mom and brother) and a lot of stage moms (there was some horrific critical scolding going on). Now I appreciate my easy peasy kids and like minded husband more? Do you really need a break to make you appreciate things, sometimes? When I got back from New York I was like, ugh, I don't want to be back in this pit of laundry and dishes and constant demands. Which is very similar to how I've felt after weekends away with Grant; ugh, no, let the break last longer!! I am not generally happy to get home, whether after an outing or a day or what have you :/ I deal with it, and there are good parts, but I never feel "ready to be home" these past years, when I'm back home.

I gradually worked my way around to thinking of how muddled and messed up I've been, though, PTSD-wise. I have been so ridiculously triggered for the past few many doctors' appointments and ER visits and outpatient tests and even the ultrasound to get my IUD checked annually (my strings are really short and undetectable, so this happens when I go in for a pap). My nightmares and dread of sleeping were back full on, and my general uselessness in the day to day was getting ridiculous. I was on some kind of tense eggshells all the time, ready to burst into tears over any and everything and totally shutting out those closest to me - and that part, is new for me to recognize as part of this. So yeah..."engaging with the world" is generally one of the most important parts of PTSD treatment. And I don't normally do a whole lot of that. And maybe I really, really need to do a whole lot of that.

The point of this whole entry is that I went googling yesterday, for the first time, about PTSD and relationships, specifically. And it made me cry. During a week I am not crying or on any sort of hair trigger ;) During a really happy week, the first one I've had since probably New Years. I sent Grant a bunch of screencaps I'll post here, because, well. *sigh again* Yeah.

PTSD divorce rates are INSANE. It seems that almost nobody with PTSD manages to stay married :/ It makes me think back to how I was feeling just a week and a half ago, like I couldn't deal with not only Grant but anybody and just wanted to live alone, by myself, like man I can't wait for my kids to grow up so I can live totally alone...

I don't want to be totally alone. I don't want to have some fucked up mental illness that makes it impossible for me to maintain relationships.

I keep doing this thing, recently, where I go to people I know pretty well and just rant and ramble nonstop about Grant and our relationship and don't want to hear anything they tell me (and what they tell me varies wildly). I'm thinking back on those conversations now, remembering my own words, and just going, "Geez. GEEZ! So desperate to get away from this shit that is INSIDE OF YOU and you can't escape from."

There is this desperation to avoid triggers and the feelings they cause that can extend in all kinds of weird directions, like, the desire to avoid people who remind you of these things or push you to get help, just as an example. More than one person has recently asked me why I haven't been in counseling and it's like, um. Because I'm terrified of being back in counseling. I dropped out of emdr right as we got to the worst parts, in 2008. And it helped a lot, all the work we did do! But I don't want to go back there.

I'm going to. But I sure as hell don't want to. And so days can pass without me making calls and I'm relieved when I realize it's too late, again.

G always gets the worst of this kind of stuff because I'm not willing to do it to the kids. I get distant from the kids, sometimes, though I try to force it when it doesn't come naturally; but I vent my shit in other directions.

Every night I'm falling asleep in his arms...which I have also done over the past four months, in a more platonic and tensely confused sort of way...I'm thinking, wow, I am really fucking glad this man is not just done with me after all the shit I've put him through, all the complicated bs my brain is, all the ways I've hurt him to avoid hurting myself.

It's not just that simple - there are some real issues Grant and I have had that I can see objectively. It's really amazingly better and different when he can manage to not be super codependent and/or super workaholic, and of course he slips into old/natural patterns with that stuff in ways that can suck for me, at times. He's also been wildly improved since figuring out some dietary stuff a couple of years ago - that shit is like night and day. And our sex life started out kinda wack and we had to figure out how to make it better (although there is something really cool about sex that gets better and better rather than tapering away like the cliche goes). But I don't want my stupid fucking PTSD to make me blind to what is or is not good about us and ruin everything regardless! It makes it so much harder to deal with the normal levels or hurt and vulnerability that are just part of being in a relationship at all. It makes things he's gotten past seem so much more glaring and current, in my mind. I feel as though a huge part of what a successful marriage is, is a refusal to give up on one another, and I feel a little ashamed of how ready to duck out and just end it all I've been, at times, this past year...

I just wanted to archive and get out...this revelation. This relief that is also a whole new set of fears (HOW DO I KEEP THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN, FROM BEING CYCLICAL, HOW DO I SEPARATE IT FROM REAL ISSUES THE TWO OF US HAVE WHEN I AM TRIGGERED, BECAUSE I WILL BE?!). I'm putting a lot of energy into strategizing ways to "engage with the world," which is a huge part of PTSD treatment. I'll be back in school soon (summer semester even, I set it up at the last minute to not wait for fall), and counseling. And I'm fighting this new thing, now, this hesitance to say anything positive or nice to him? It's about vulnerability, but it's not how or who I typically am in this relationship and I'm trying to cut through it and beat it...

And that is big, because I do have to see this as a thing. I have PTSD. It's hard to even type it, even though I type about it all the time :/ But I do, and I'm not on any meds, and I have to at least DO THINGS - like counseling and "engaging with the world" - if I don't want it to ruin my whole life. Which, you know, I definitely don't. I like to think in my upswings that triggers are behind me, when that isn't really how this works :/

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary, I realized yesterday. Seven years married, how time does fly... Ananda and Elise watched the very silly video Shaun was sweet enough to make, after our reception, and I thought about the parts I would do differently now, and the parts I love just the way they happened, and I thought, well. Maybe we can do a really badass vow renewal thing at 10 years that stamps approval on the past and starts everything fresh, at the same time.

I would really like that.

For now, I've got a babysitter lined up and I'm taking a shower before he gets home. It's the little things ;)
altarflame: (deluge)
1.) People who are vehemently against EMDR therapy for PTSD, and insist it is quackery, really frustrate me. Yes, I understand the controversies, the relative newness, and the problems with existing data. Here is some info, though, taken from sources cited by naysayers:

-EMDR has been proven through well controlled, academically sound research to be more effective for PTSD than no treatment, or supportive counseling (regular "talk therapy").

-Well controlled, respectable research has also shown it to be as effective - which skeptics like to call "no more effective than" - cognitive behavioral therapy with anxiety provoking stimuli (the standard, APA endorsed PTSD treatment).

-Case studies of EMDR, which are less reliable as a data source, are consistently overwhelmingly positive.

-And, individuals who have had it often say it was life changing, hugely helpful, etc, which basically nobody cares about, because anecdata. Articles seeking to "debunk" EMDR have enormous comment threads filled with PTSD sufferers swearing by it and practitioners who go on and on about how it's helped their clients like nothing they've ever seen.

-The main problem areas surrounding EMDR are that some of the success may be a placebo effect, and nobody can conclusively prove the eye movement part specifically is actually doing anything. Thus; pseudoscience!

-EMDR is recognized by the APA as a type of therapy, but they neither approve nor disapprove of it...although they do also offer a certification in it O_o

Ok! So, PTSD is something that is generally understood as a "chronic and debilitating condition that tends to respond poorly to most interventions" (Scott O. Lilienfeld, Ph.D.) and the only non-EMDR treatment on the table has traditionally been 20 or more 2 hour sessions of extremely heightened anxiety as you re-experience your traumas until your triggers hopefully, eventually trigger you less. Even that is acknowledged as not always working; some experts have thought at times that it could actually make things worse.

OR! EMDR works as well ("no better than") that torture... WITHOUT HAVING TO GO THROUGH THE TORTURE. I'm not sure people without PTSD can understand what dealing with triggers is really like for people who have it, but if the data is actually telling me that there's an option that does not involve 40 hours of adrenaline and sobbing...yeah. Bring it. I don't give one fuck if the eye movement part hasn't been proven. I don't care if it's silly as hell and done by someone with a crystal ball who's wearing a kercheif and lots of dangly jewelry - we have clinical proof of benefits!

Skeptics say that EMDR might just be effective since it also (like cognitive behavioral therapy) involves some re-imagining of traumas - which it does, you can't process anything without going there, and I remember EMDR sessions as being emotionally gruelling - but EMDR is not FORTY INTENSE HOURS OF PURPOSEFUL TRIGGERING. I can imagine plenty of people, particularly combat veterans, avoiding treatment altogether if it's the anxiety provoking stimuli but going in to give EMDR a chance. And if they do, and it works better than nothing or talk therapy, and as good as much more arduous options...what the hell is the problem with that?

If people with PTSD are somehow managing to "placebo" the process of EMDR into fixing them, LET THEM DO THAT. Because PTSD sucks, and the alternative to the placebo is often horrible. NO research has ever shown that EMDR wasn't at least somewhat helpful, let alone that it could hurt. Many people who have had it, swear by it - I personally have never read a single account anywhere of a person who went through EMDR and had bad things to say (although I'm sure there are some out there somewhere, and it depends on your practicioner, and your own willingness, like any counseling). My own experience of EMDR in 2008 took me from being a barely functioning wreck to being someone who lives a basically normal life, but has some triggers. It was huge for me.

It's not like we have a ton of really awesome options that are always effective for treating PTSD, that are being ignored in favor of something that does nothing! But that is kinda how skeptics of EMDR treat it - like people are just insisting on choosing snake oil over chemotherapy. More studies? Open access to information? Proposed experiments with tweaking the therapy itself based on results? Sure! But what is up with the people who shoot it down angrily anytime it's mentioned anywhere as having helped someone?

I've talked about this before.

2.) I dislike our cultural aversion to acknowledging the risks of accepted practices, or the way that we blow up and then fixate on the risks of activities outside the norm. The first example that pops into my mind is veganism: when someone hears that a person has gone vegan they immediately start in asking questions like, "But what about protein? How will you get enough B vitamins? ANEMIA!!" Nobody asks people who eat fast food every day whether they have any nutrient deficiencies. I've had moms who do hot dogs, ramen and kool-aid all the time ask me how I can keep Ananda healthy, if she's a vegetarian. There is also an automatic suspicion involved with finding out someone has made any dietary change - "Who TOLD YOU you have a corn problem? What do you think is actually wrong with refined sugar?" People go off about self-diagnosing sensitivities, as though it's somehow harmful to eat differently and see if it changes the way you feel. Like it's a major personal threat to them, if you get results. I don't see this level of stigma when people decide to keep their desks stocked with candy or when they live on microwaved frozen meals. Why? Because that doesn't go against the grain (haha, grain...gluten....not funny). End tangent.

Back to assessing risk - I've been asked how I can know I'm teaching my kids everything they need to know, as a homeschooler, dozens of times. The answer is: I can't! Do you think schools are teaching kids everything they need to know? There are flaws in every diet, holes in every educational system, but somehow rather than honestly evaluating choices we overlook the risks we're used to and worry over the ones we're unfamiliar with.

Birth choices are a huge relevant area. People really jump straight to "endangering the baby's life" when a mother says, "homebirth." But you are treated like an alarmist weirdo if you tell people TRUE RISKS, actual facts, about birthing in a hospital! Or cite studies about the great (low risk pregnancy) outcomes in homebirths, here and abroad. I'm treated like what I'm saying is "true, but..." when I talk about my own actual, personal experiences with hospital birthing risks - that I had a healthy infant who caught a superbug from the hospital and ended up in quarantine on vancomycin, that I had a spinal hematoma from anesthesia and a retained surgical instrument that almost killed me. None of that would have been possible, in a homebirth - they're risks of birthing in a hospital, along with many others. That isn't me saying hospitals are killers and home is always safe; both have risks and benefits that vary by case. They're worth evaluating. I just don't understand the unwillingness to honestly evaluate risk, apart from familiarity. Over and over, I hear midwives I know talk about the hell they catch if they have to transfer from a homebirth and the baby ends up in the NICU. Hospital staff act as though their NICUs aren't comprised of 99% babies whose mothers labored and birthed right down the hall, yet still had complications. Comfort levels =/= actual safety.

This thought process started because a friend tagged me in a facebook post about homemade infant formula that's vastly superior to standard, manufactured formula (better nutrition and gut protection, no corn syrup, less allergens, etc). I immediately said, "Yeah, that's probably better, but just wait til that baby gets any normal sickness and the mother tries to explain to a pediatrician or nurse that she makes her own formula in the blender out of ingredients they've never even heard of." It's a fast track to a CPS case worker and mandatory nutrition classes where they'll tell her all sorts of mainstream, untrue things from the old food pyramid - like that we all need 6-11 servings per day from the "bread, cereals, rice and pasta group" to live.

I think a lot of this stems from the assumption that most people are stupid, and thus we need protocols and systems for everything to save us from ourselves. Doctors, news anchors, governments and busybodies so forth do not trust people to do things like take necessary supplements while vegan, do their homework to make a complete baby formula carefully - I doubt many doctors believe midwives can recognize problems during labor or that women can truly cope with the pain at home. We lay people don't trust each other with these sorts of decisions, either. Everyone wants to know if your doctor will "let" you do this or that. I've been asked many times about things like homeschooling and co-sleeping, "Is that even legal?"

I saw someone on tv years ago saying that 100% fruit juice is pretty good for you (debatable, go with it), but when they tell parents that, parents buy "juice," meaning dyed corn syrup and water, and so since they can't trust anyone to actually read labels they just put a blanket AAP no-no on all juice. Like how they do the vaccinations in big clumps of 10 at once or something, and cram them all into a few months, because otherwise nobody comes back to finish the sets and get everything they need. There has to be some kind of societal taboo on doing things in a "weird" way to keep parents from piercing their children's ears with rusty nails and staple guns - thus, people act like anyone ordering safe, sterile home piercing kits for ears that are far superior to a mall gun must be a CRAZY PSYCHO.

The problems with this model are that, 1. people do not address problems with existing protocols and systems because they don't even understand that there are alternatives out there, and 2. people who do dig deeper and go for alternative lifestyles - even objectively superior ones - are marginalized for it.

There is probably also a fear of blame at work here; it's hard and scary to step out on a limb and do things differently, especially against the advice of "experts." The risk is all on YOU, then, if/when you screw up somehow. Nobody faults parents whose kids are shortchanged in schools; everyone looks for things to fault homeschooling parents for. I don't understand this mentality at all. Isaac's school sends home hand-outs with wonky layouts and typos all the time, but when I make grammar mistakes on the internet people immediately jump to "and she HOMESCHOOLS her CHILDREN? :(" A preschool teacher I was in college with last year didn't know what several words I wanted to use in our group essay meant, but she still questioned how I could be qualified to homeschool my own kids.

For me, the personal liability aspect of going out on a limb is neither here nor there, and that could just be because I, for whatever reason, feel the same sense of guilt and responsibility for trusting to norms when I shouldn't as I do for stepping out on a limb when I shouldn't. Meaning: it was really fucked up of me to listen to my OB and go for an early c/s with Isaac. I was so sick to death of that ultra hard pregnancy that I swept my own judgement and research under the rug and went along with medical advice based on my platelets and this and that, and then it turned out they weren't right about my dates or the level of platelet urgency. Next stop: newborn intubation and transport. By contrast, with Jake, I took a supplement for my platelets and carried him safely to 42 weeks (and later ended up writing about that for Midwifery Today). Right vs wrong can be subjective or even on a gradient, but whatever "wrong" is, it's "wrong" regardless of whether you are wrong with the rest of society or wrong out there on your own. I was wrong assuming everything was fine during the first hours of my labor with Elise, and maybe would have avoided all the problems she had if we'd had the damn repeat c/s weeks earlier like doctors told me I should. Or maybe some other thing would have went wrong! The point is, everyone tries to tell me I was totally justified listening to the doctor, with Isaac, and many (mostly anonymous) people have told me I was dead wrong NOT listening to doctors, with Elise... and that doesn't make any sense. I was actually doing the best I had with available information, with Elise, who suffered a rare anomaly nobody could have predicted; with Isaac, I was being selfish. Understandably selfish in some ways, but it is what it is.

Thus concludes my rambling for today; this dinner ain't gonna cook itself. I really forgot how spaced out and choppy trying to write an entry during the daytime can be.
altarflame: (Default)
Ananda and I went out shopping for a dress for her, for the PATH end of year dance that's tomorrow night. This dance is a plot hatched by moms partially just to give them all the experience of hating/standing around at a dance, which is sort of a quintessential teenage experience (we even hired a dj that's gonna make them LINE DANCE!!), but it's backfired - as I type Annie is spending the night with Izzy and Mia and her curling iron and a lot of nail polish and excitement and so on.

Izzy's house is AWESOME, btw, like wut. It's a tiny place in an overgrown tropical sort of lot on the outskirts of the gables, all jalacy windows and every floor, wall, and built-in shelf made of different sorts of wood. You have to step over the boat that they're refinishing, as you come in the front door, and her mom is a painter and her work is all over the house, and they have a freakin' house ferret running around on the floor, and skulls on the kitchen counter, and steps either up or down for every single room, and Ananda was thrilled.

ANYWAY, we went shopping for a dress for her, remember that part? We found one at Goodwill for $6. Fits amazingly - though I had to shorten the straps - and she loves it. She is adamant that she's wearing her Converse with it, and my mother and husband assure me I have no room to complain since I tortured everyone by pairing all my own dresses with combat boots as a teenager.

The dress is blue velvet with a shiny purple edging, and straps, and it's pretty modest and age appropriate - goes up past the tops of boobs and down to the tops of knees and isn't tight on the butt or anything...but...she's just so beautiful and she's some kind of WOMAN in it.

All these PATH boys used to seeing her in baggy tie dyed tshirts, I dunno, I think it's gonna be like Hermione at the Yule Ball for them.

It makes me REALLY happy for her, that she can actually enjoy dressing up and get excited about it. There are so many things that were this huge big deal for her, a couple of years ago, that are just not even issues at all, anymore.

I had the feedback session with Isaac's psych evaluator, FINALLY, late this afternoon.

It made me sad - to hear his synposes of things Grant and I were concerned about, and Laura in her packet of paperwork, and to learn the somewhat disturbing question-answers and short stories Isaac came up with during the sessions, and to sit and ponder the lengthy list of recommendations.

I also sat and felt good, though, that Isaac is happier and doing better right now than he ever has before, by a long shot, and is still only just 8 years old.

Actual diagnoses, right now, are:

-high-average and above average intelligence, respectively, based on two different tests
-reading disorder
-at and above grade level math skils
-anxiety disorder, NOS
-borderline clinical childhood depression - this had to be administered orally since Isaac can't read, which, owing to how self conscious and guarded he can be, most likely skewed the results to "less depressed" based on the moderate answers he would give out loud

Other observations include:
-uncomfortable in social situations
-gastrointestinal discomfort (needs more medical research)
-very unusually self-conscious and guarded
-articulate and verbose
-lack of empathy

It's a whole lot and it's also nothing, since none of it exactly surprises me.

I really like Isaac's therapist, and this evaluator guy is ok, but I have had an ongoing tense conversation with both of them about homeschooling. They are so quick to say, "Isaac needs to go to school," and you know what? I think Isaac probably needs to go to school. Isaac is currently #3 on the waiting list for a 3rd grade spot, this fall, at a local charter. However, the counselor and psychologist are basing their opinions on horseshit - it's a knee-jerk reaction wherein they go, "Hmm, kid's acting weird - oh, he's homeschooled. Homeschooling is weird. Probably that's not helpin'!" I would like to know when the last time was that anyone at their institute recommended that a kid be taken out of school, or suspected school was the problem.

One example of this ridiculous attitude they have is that both of them have said multiple times that Isaac has to have opportunities to get out of the house and to socialize with peers, over and over. EACH AND EVERY SINGLE TIME this comes up, I say, "well you know Isaac does have a couple of hours at a library doing indoor play with one group of kids every Tuesday afternoon, and 3-4 hours every Thursday at a park playing outside with another group of kids, and he is in violin classes every Friday. He's going to a music day camp this summer at the same place where his classes are, and where he had day camp last summer." EACH AND EVERY SINGLE TIME, they go oh! That's awesome then. Cool, keep up the good work. But then without fail the Homeschooling Issue comes back up again, and they say it again - well, he really needs to be socialized, he really needs to get out of the house and see other kids. And I repeat myself and they stand corrected. I mean, wtf?

Likewise they act as though he doesn't read because he's homeschooled. I bring up the fact that I've got a severely dyslexic daughter, a boy with SID, and a 6 year old and they're all reading really freakin' well. I talk about how I have a lot more time and energy to devote to Isaac learning to read than a teacher of an entire class would, and how I spend a lot of time just reading TO him to preserve his love of books, and can step back and give him time when he is too stressed about it, and they have nothing to say, except some vague crap about how he could be in classes for kids with special needs - because, oh yeah, above average intelligence kids do GREAT in public school LD classes <----ugh. Just ugh. They go on about this critical point of early intervention that we can never get back and it's like, how does me sticking him in school all day where they're gonna devote a tiny portion to GROUP reading stuff equal "tackling this head on" whereas me painstakingly working with him one on one and trying different approaches and getting him software he enjoys, etc, does not? It's just stupid, to say it like that, to have that close minded attitude. They don't think his advanced math skills are because of being homeschooled or that my other kids' outgoing personalities are because of being homeschooled. They just stared at me when I asked if they realized that all over this country people are paying thousands of dollars a year to enroll their kids in waldorf schools that preach that you should not even BEGIN to teach boys to read until they're 7 or 8 years old.

Anyway, as I said, I would like to put Isaac in school - for reasons like, he is really manipulative and has a scary amount of influence on and lack of empathy for Jake, and so homeschooling is magnifying that situation in ways I fear are not healthy. I also think it's unfair for Isaac to spend so much time around siblings that have stigmatized him as various annoying caricatures of himself. He also tends to thrive on more structure than I am good at being consistent with.

But I can't have a real conversation with these mental health professionals about my concerns that Isaac will fall FURTHER behind in language arts and/or miss out on really valuable enriching homeschooling activities we partake in with PATH, or be left out of our group dynamic in another way when he already is the odd one out in so many ways, etc - because they're too busy parroting this "oh homeschooling's a variable let's pare this down to the status quo" bs around. I can't expect their help evaluating the pros and cons, at all.

Additionally, they're both really big on this "You (meaning I) can't do everything, it's too much" stuff. They say it over me, they interrupt me to say it because just the fact that I have FIVE KIDS is so overwhelming to their mindsets, and homeschooling is just an avalanche of holy shit we have to save this poor woman before she drowns. Fernando in particular will lay a hand on my knee and say, "Tina, it's too much. You have to be able to get a break, too." I can tell he means this very sincerely as someone who works at a place that emphasizes the whole family of each child, and he wants to give me some relief.

But, how do they presume to know what is a burden to me? Picking up and dropping off Elise at specific times, along with forcing her out of bed early and trying to get her in bed on time, and finding her clean preschool tshirts, and dealing with all the colds and flus she's brought home and the time she got lice and the nickle and dime expenses and special activities we have to come in for - all of that has been way, WAY more work for me this year than just having Elise at home those three hours on weekdays would have been. Like, by a landslide. I think just getting her physical and her medical exemption and her county forms in order were probably more trouble than just having her home would have been. Likewise, forcing Isaac to go to school when nobody else has to and arranging that drop off and pick up around our homeschooling activities and dealing with homework in the evenings when we're eating dinner sounds like a NIGHTMARE lot of work to me - sitting down with him with workbooks and activities when we're here in the afternoons, and curling up on the couch with books together and bringing him along to plays and beach days and PE class we're all doing, sounds EASY AS HELL.

I feel like I can honestly open myself to the possibility of school for him, and of what is truly beneficial. I just don't think they can.

Speaking of "how badly I need a break," I had one badass lot of great weekend. I wrote about our beach day (Sunday) already, but Memorial Day was also amazing. Highlights:

-really good sex followed by collapsing into a two hour nap.
-standing around with a glass of wine on my christmas-light strung deck, talking with kids and cats on the trampoline, feeling blessed in the night
-eating amazing - I'm talkin' AMAZING - steak and shrooms Grant grilled. There are not words for this steak, people, I'm serious. I was freaking out.
-talking and laughing and watching Antiques Roadshow and drinking an awful lot of wine, with Shaun and my kids (they had lemonade).
-great bubble bath with Grant, and even better sex


It was interesting but worth it, sitting around in biology with what I believe to have been my first hangover, this morning. At least I had the van today.
altarflame: (Default)
Last week, Isaac missed a counseling appt for the first time because it was scheduled for Thursday afternoon and I spent the entire previous night in the ER, and was at the Hernia Institute all day Thursday (with very little sleep...) I spoke with his counselor that day to apologize for the last minute cancellation. Then, unfortunately, Elise got really sick this week - she's been out of preschool every day, and by yesterday morning Jake and Ananda were feverish and coughing, too. I cancelled Isaac's appt again, because I was thinking he would also be sick any minute, was probably at least contagious, and it seemed wrong to leave the others in their pathetic state. It was not really a last minute cancellation this time since we were on a "let's wait and see" basis for this week anyway because of me being in the hospital last week; he knew I'd be confirming or saying I couldn't on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Anyway, counselor called me up yesterday evening with this whole lecture on taking this seriously, being committed, how valuable psychological evaluation is as a tool, how we have to keep building this relationship between he and Isaac, etc, and I just couldn't believe it. I mean, does he think I'm lying about the reasons we haven't been there, or that they aren't good enough? Grant just met with the psych that did Isaac's evaluation at this same office Wednesday night, as in less than 24 hours prior to this lecture. Isaac and I are on our way to have our last meeting with that psych momentarily, even though Isaac is starting to cough and saying his throat hurts.

The two places I go for these guys are half an hour, and an hour north, respectively. I've been going to one or the other of them an AVERAGE of twice a week for the past 2 months (including one entire 9am-3pm day), with and without Isaac, as well as spending hours on the phone with the regular counselor and turning in whole packets of questionnaire paperwork to the psych filled out by me, by Grant, by LAURA, by Isaac's VIOLIN TEACHER - the counselor also knows Isaac has been to the pediatrician in the last month just to see if there's a physical component to a couple of his tics, and that I've spent multiple afternoons calling everywhere to try to find a way to afford getting him to a gastroenterologist on a regular basis until we can figure out what's going on with his stomach.

What the hell does this guy want from me? I assure you, Mr Guy, that I care about my child even more than you do, which is why I sought you out from the beginning.

The only thing I can think is that he feels entitled to act like this with me and/or assume I'm "slacking off" because Isaac has qualified from the beginning for free services and so this is all grant money, rather than, uh...Grant money. Wow that's a dumb play on words. We aren't paying for it, so maybe he feels like that gives him the right to act like we're beholden to them?

I do appreciate the free services. Which is why I don't bitch about the CONSTANT DRIVING in addition to the WAY TOO MUCH DRIVING I already do, even when I have freaking whiplash and even when they have ridiculous rules like that my other kids cannot wait in the waiting room or play in an adjacent room full of toys and I can't stay with them, either - I have to just sit off to the side in the same room while Fernando and Isaac play board games and draw pictures, then drive down and get everyone else and drive back up again, to go to PATH. Which is also half an hour north. I mean...

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This day, like every other freakin' day lately, can best be described as "gah" and best be handled through coffee.

I took Grant to the train station.
Got Elise to preschool. And because I went to the Health Department the other day she finally has her permanent vaccine exemption so I was able to be like "I got you that form!" rather than "Oh dear, I am gonna do that, I swear I am".
Am now texting Annie's GS troop leader about cookie/money exchange later today since I forgot it conflicts with Isaac's counseling.
I have a humanities quiz and humanities bulletin board posts due today in one of my online classes, that have to be done before I get Elise from preschool (at noon). I'm going to be squeezing them around getting something out for dinner, and making the remaining kids do various enriching or house cleaning things.
Then cookies, and counseling.
Then PATH. Where Annie can sell cookies and I can talk with Karen about A and A doing two days with her kids next week like we previously mentioned.
Then picking Grant up from the train station.
Then dinner, dishes, reading to everyone, their bedtime.
My bedtime, which will, I imagine, be far too close to my wake time (5:45am to drive Grant to the train station again tomorrow, so I can have the van to take the kids to GMYS since Annie still doesn't have a case for her cello and I am not taking a cello with no case for blocks of walking and then a trolley ride through rough parts of town).

Yesterday I filled out an insane stack of printed (registration and scholarship) forms for over an HOUR, so that all five kids can go to GMYS music camp this summer. They're sitting in a manila envelope with our printed taxes from last year until A and A can get their teachers to sign off on them doing intermediate rather than beginners this time around, tomorrow. It was interesting picking preferred electives out with them. And this is an interesting add on to my filling out and submitting applications galore for charter schools for the fall just in case and to keep options open, and the preview to picking Girl Scout camp weeks and locations for Ananda, and deciding whether or not to do VBS O_O It's crazy to me that in order for these things to happen in 6 months, I have to worry about them NOW before everything is full and deadlines are past.

I have to do the math tonight so that if I don't understand it I have tomorrow and the next day to go to the learning support lab before my test Sunday.

I'm on my stupid (torrential) period.

I have a meeting with a complete fruit bat this Saturday, to talk about whether or not she (as a groupless leader) and I (as an interested party) will start duo-style Overeaters Anonymous meetings. She's just a harmless garden variety Florida Keys fruit bat, saying a local bar would be the perfect place to meet and telling me about all the nice Hell's Angels in her area, including her podiatrist. She has that weird Keys accent that means "everyone here is from a different part of the country if not the world and it blends into a mush". I am extremely comfortable around people like this.

The place recommended by the therapist who told me I have too severe of an eating disorder for him, as a student-therapist, to possibly help me with? That place is a freaking RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT CENTER with a spa-like website. Right.

My high school best friend, who is also Ananda's first GS troop leader, and who's wedding I attended last year, wants a case of cookies. I'm meeting up with her after Algebra on Sunday, and I'm glad. We really don't see each other enough.

I managed to cram in an hour and a half with Kristin two nights ago, during which she fed me fabulous things, we showed each other way too many texts and pictures on our phones, and there was a lot of laughter.

However, I realized on the drive to the train this morning - which Grant passed sleeping in the second row of the van under a blanket since he feels like crap and it's an hour drive - that I have still not managed to find an opportunity to talk to my husband this week about things that happened on MONDAY.

I'm buying a french press because otherwise the next time someone outgrows their shoes I'm gonna have to be like, "sorry guys, from now on you wear old Starbucks cups on your feet".
altarflame: (CharlieBrownChristmas)
-walking a little girl to and from preschool
-riding my bike to the bank and to go pay a bill
-frying (a dozen) eggs and (a pound of) mushrooms to go on (a loaf of) toast
-bossing some people around (chores, schoolwork)
-hopefully, getting some sewing done
-thinking I left my phone in the van and Grant has it at work now O_o
-making two dozen christmas cupcakes for a preschool christmas show I'm eagerly anticipating, this evening (her preschool director asked for 2 dozen like it was a burden...I was like, lady, I make four dozen for MY HOUSE)
-making gingerbread and shortbread dough for fridge/freezer, with children
-making a roast chicken, baby carrots and twice baked potatoes for dinner
-sex date (because it's come to that :p)

One thing I really like about being back in school, is how when I have a semester end now, it's like this wild freedom to just relax and be at home. "All this time" I didn't appreciate when I didn't have to.

I am really sad and stressed about how impossible it seems to get to Nana and Pa's house for Christmas Eve, now that they've approved it as back on and my sister may be going and Grant got the time off approved. Money is just SO non-existent right's very difficult to let go of, though. We keep exploring hair brained options like driving to and from Lakeland in one day and just spending the hours with them, so that we don't have to pay for accomadations or extra meals (sandwiches in the van, kids sleep at night on the way back....) Even that is $130 in gas and tolls, as I struggle to figure out how to finish Christmas shopping, let alone handle bill problems... *sigh* We really thought Christmas Eve with them (something I did every year of my life until I was 27) was over forever, since Nana had strokes that left her disabled, and now Pa is having health problems that scare me re: how much longer he's gonna be with us, and WITHOUT Christmas as the fallback guaranteed visit it's way too easy to let YEARS just pass without visits...

And I'm having some Advent angst, because I love Advent (the Christian season leading up to Christmas....4 weeks anticipating Christ's birth). I keep saying I'm going to start lighting candles at home with the kids or going to Sunday Mass until Christmas and not quite doing it. Advent seems really beautiful and comforting to me. I suppose I need to be proactive and plan it out today so it really happens.

Isaac's counseling went REALLY well yesterday. It was just an intake/interview "Getting to know you" with he and I, but it couldn't have been better. My biggest fears were that, with limited financial options, we would get stuck with someone we had a communication barrier with, or who didn't approve of how we live. By that I mean, someone who doesn't speak english well or understandably (this is very common here, even in professional and business circles, and something I had to work around when looking for my own counseling), and/or someone who would see a lot of non-mainstream things about our family (homeschool, selective/delayed vaccines, Annie is a vegetarian, Elise still nurses, whatever) as red flags. Neither of those things were even remotely true though - we were paired with a really intelligent, easy to talk to, great guy who I think Isaac already really likes and who acted extremely impressed with certain aspects of our life (that we sit down and eat dinner together, that I read to them, that Isaac is learning violin, that I have a real RELATIONSHIP with our pediatrician that has been ongoing for many years...) We met in a room filled with toys and after Isaac signed some consent forms himself alongside me and answered some questions he was allowed to play while I talked to the counselor. Our initial approval is for a three month program of weekly sessions - 3 just with Isaac and one with Isaac and various family members is the initial monthly setup. At the end of the time period, it isn't over, just evaluated to see if it should be over, transferred or continued. We're going to talk on the phone later this week so I can tell him things without being overheard (by Isaac) and the appointments begin after the new year. I feel very positive about the whole thing.

Alright, time to make all this domesticity happen...I think I'm gonna torture my big kids and thrill the littles with ♪ Christmas pandora ♪

P.S. It is so great to have Annie back home ♥
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It's 10:00 AM, and seems like I'm on a pretty good roll here, considering that today seemed like it would be impossible chaos as we tried to plan it out last night.

Of the options I was given by a help line I called, I had contacted two groups about counseling for Isaac. One of those happened to have a new batch of funding and slots for 24 kids (FREE) through a grant program. I was told yesterday afternoon that I'd get a call in early to mid-January, to set up an appointment. Then I got a call a few hours later, while we were at TLC, saying that they had a cancellation and so I could bring him today at 12:15. Today, when I would normally not have the van; when Grant was trying to figure out his own gas money two days before pay day (we spend about $30 a day on gas with his new job commute - or $15ish and $8.25 in train fare!); when Elise needs to be picked up from preschool at noon, half an hour south of where the appt is :/ But how could we pass up an opportunity like this?! I agreed to bring him. Somehow.

So I woke up this morning and called Elise's preschool director, and got permission for her to stay late with the other "full day" kids, packed her a lunch and a blanket, pillow and favorite doll for naptime, talked to her about it, and took her in. Her teacher is so sweet and wonderful (and a neighbor, and Aaron's friend's mom) and said if she feels nervous at naptime she'll lay down with her ♥ Then I came home, got my textbooks from this past semester that I remembered I can now sell, and went and sold them ($93.25 and I can still bring in another to sell in a few days...). Came home again, fried a bunch of eggs and toasted a bunch of bread and woke up my boys to eat and get ready. Grant is getting ready; he's going in to work late.

Ananda is still at Cybele's. She was supposed to come home from TLC with us yesterday afternoon but was texting me yesterday morning "Can I have more time? Our virtual school isn't functioning and the economy isn't sustainable yet - every time we let the city run for 5 minutes it goes bankrupt!" (except all spelled wrong, of course :p) (and they're doing a SimCity for the Future City competition) Also "Can you bring me more underwear?" We have to pick her up on the way from getting Grant, this evening, because I told her she has to be home tomorrow evening for Elise's preschool's Christmas show. Elise is SO EXCITED about it, dancing and singing carols all over the house for us for the last 2 weeks. The Future City promo is due Thursday anyway (they have to build a scale model that's due months from now, but the initial promo is done with Sims).

I told Isaac he was going to start counseling over lentil soup last night. He seemed really pleased to have something of his own to be doing; I really can't think of a kid that would enjoy a captive adult audience more. I basically explained that it's a grownup you talk to, and that I was in counseling for awhile and Annie and Dad have both done it. He was like, "So now it's my turn?" and I thought that was simple so I took the easy out and just answered, "Yep."

I had this idea that while Ananda was out of the house for 4 (5...6...) days, I was going to get all this Christmas crafting for her done. Ha! Really I took a final exam, and went to traffic court for that accident months ago (all charges dismissed!), and didn't get enough sleep between staying up reading to kids and getting up driving Grant, and had an unexpected dinner party over the weekend...I do have a lot of fabric all over the library and my sewing machine on the dining room floor, but that's as far as it's gotten so far O_o
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Yesterday I went to my gyn for my IUD string check and she couldn't find it, so today I'm going in for an ultrasound to make sure it is indeed still in there. Apparently during heavy bleeding it's not unheard of to lose one in the toilet and not know? I feel like I would know. And I don't want to pay $70 for an ultrasound at the diagnostic center when I just payed $25 for the string check yesterday, and it BETTER be in there because the stupid thing itself was $400 less than 2 months ago.

We discussed the possibility of checking my thyroid but decided to hold off until Grant has insurance through the new job. Because of my incessant bitching about my weight gain, I'm sure, she quietly slipped me a sheet on my way out with info on all the local Weight Watchers groups, Overeaters Anonymous and a dietician. She is a good doctor and I might persue something. *sigh*

I also got a nice letter yesterday. Like, in the mail.

And, went to my first cheapo counseling appt at UM's psych clinic. It was definitely something. A student conducts your session on camera and then goes over the tapes with their supervising clinician as part of their training o_O The guy seemed really awkward and new to this, and it is definitely a first for me to be in counseling with someone YOUNGER THAN I AM (wut). But...he warmed up and I like participating in this program. It's really interesting to imagine I could be on his end of it in a few years. And, I left feeling good.


-went out for pizza as a family
-long walk "suited up" in sneakers
-nursed/cuddled Elise, hugged everyone
-oversaw chores
-read to children

AND finished Ananda's hair. We bleached strips of it day before yesterday, and colored them last night. She is thrilled with how it came out.

modeled here with her "pachyderm pajamas"

It's a weird day, I feel really unproductive even though all those things sound like so much. I'm still feeling kind of sick and blah, and I slept in really late today feeling sick in bed, and it's very gray and raining out and dim inside. Grant is using up his PTO (paid time off) at the old job before he leaves so he's here, too, just basically playing computer games with the kids crowded around his chair complaining about how bored they are. I managed to kick the burdgeoning ear infection last week with a twice-daily regimen of emergen-c to wash down a handful of echinacea, probiotics, raw garlic cut into chunks and anti-inflammatories. I'm back on that routine again now to try to fend off this crap everyone (Laura's family, PATH, Kristin's kids) seems to be passing around (sore throat, sore joints, cough, intermittent misery). Ugh. All I want lately is fruits and vegetables (and coffee and alcohol, haha). Yesterday I ate a piece of bruschetta with tomato PILED on, a slice of triple mushroom pizza, a massive salad (spring mix, peas, tomatoes, mushrooms, seeds, almond slivers, craisins, kalamata olives and bits of chicken), a mango, and I had a caramel macchiato.

G and I watched Black Swan really late last night. It was stunning cinematography, truly freaky in spots, amazing acting, and...overall sort of pointless in a way that made us look at each other and roll our eyes as the credits started.

AND THEN!! My sleepy, up-too-late self scratched somewhere and caught a glimpse of my suddenly bloody looking fingers and had a split second freakout before I realized I'm just stained from Annie's hair dye and lol'd.

Ok, so...the kids are done with their chores. I guess I'm gonna make us all salads again and go to this ultrasound with homework in tow because they said to anticipate a 40 minute wait. English tonight.

I am REALLY excited about my own non-school writing. Things are so much closer and more real than they've been before!
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My Christmas present from Grant is a coupon in my stocking good for the kind of bed I've always wanted - which he always heard me say was "four poster". Now that he's seen examples, though, he says the style I'm after is actually "sex den". He claims that when we give people tours of the house, they'll say, "Oh, THAT'S why you have five kids" when they get to the bedroom. This reaction was after I showed him my top choice:

I have to admit, I got all my ideas about cool beds from Anne Rice novels. Speaking of which, I'm reading the Twilight series now, and my gosh is it tedious to deal with all this sexual tension and vampire struggle without any hope of an actual erotic scene. Cursed young adult pish posh. Not to mention, blood typing in biology class? Paper cuts that ooze? Really? Anyway...

We went today, while Jake and Isaac cuddled under blankets watching movies at Oma's house, and Ananda and Aaron played with Robbie and Patrice, and we took Elise and actually picked out this:

But King Size, like our mattress on the floor now is, and we're going to have it with this fabric on it:

I think it'll be rather smashing with our light wood floors, turquoise-gradient walls, and semi-coordinating Craiglist'd armoire and dresser. It makes me think of staying at The Westin, and Rooms to Go agrees with my perspective, since the bed is called the "Key West" canopy bed.

I mean, really, the Key West bed. Come on.

I'm feeling disheveled and wrecked, I keep being on the sudden verge of tears even though I'm happy. Resurfaced memories, tons of creative energy...I'm living in floor length dresses and long thin sweaters with my hair down, because it makes me feel safe, like I'm cocooning. I was drawing in a sketchbook while I cooked dinner tonight - this dinner.

I'm so full of so much anger. I read the bible and it says, you shouldn't hate anyone, but then I remember, and. Well. It's good that I'm not God.

I'm all aching for this time that's long past, so much guilt, so many regrets, so. much. guilt.

I went through all five of my kids' old baby clothes, and I kept getting taken aback, caught off guard. I'm still tired from that hour of sorting that happened yesterday.

And it's so good to have Grant home. He understands everything. It's just talk to him. Like thinking, with a resolution.

I have counseling tomorrow, and I'm afraid, and eager. Counseling and writing with my laptop. I'm afraid and eager for both.
altarflame: (CharlieBrownChristmas)
I've had a weird, mixed up, interesting sort of Christmas.

Physically, this has been a crappy week, as I've had a bad head cold with tons of muccous all along, and gotten very little sleep several nights in a row, and also been either far too full, and/or crammed into my girdle thing every minute. Plus I just started my period today so I keep having sudden bouts of bloating and inexplicable bad moods.

Spiritually, I feel good that I'm sort of keeping on task - by reading the kids the birth story from Luke before we opened presents and eating Jesus' birthday cake with them at Aunt Laura's and continuing to do devotions and bible reading myself every morning. It's like I'm putting out all I should, but not taking in...I really, really miss being able to go to church on Christmas Eve and with this whole "My grandparents live in Lakeland now" thing it's totally logistically impossible if the family is going to get together. I am uneasy about how many things get prioritized before church on Christmas, everything from packing to wrapping to cleaning. And yet it's a hypocritical uneasiness.

Moving right along, "emotionally" has been quite the headache. This past Monday, my counseling session ended right in the midst of me uncovering some horrible repressed memories and opening a giant can of worms. It hasn't RUINED Christmas for me, but it's made for a draining lot of talk with Laura and Grant and more nightmares than I would like to have had this week. Plus some confusion about how to proceed with various things.

"Emotionally" has also included seeing my mother for the first time in a couple of months and having her be shockingly thin, and this after her barely making it to join us at the last minute, and trying to deal with the "my brother is 18 and completely unprepared for life and totally handicapped by family shit" situation, all with some "Pa has prostate cancer" thrown in and a sprinkling of "sister in law's fiancee might be cleaning out our house while we're safely out of town" (he wasn't, but some weird circumstances led us to worry about it when I'd like to have not).

And then with Grant, we've done a lot of driving up and down the state in separate vehicles, sleeping in separate hotel beds with toddlers, going to sleep at different times because he has work the next day, existing on opposite ends of the room with 15 other people between us. There've been a few nice connecting moments in between but also a "long uncomfortable talk" (we're doing great overall, it was just an isolated thing).

There have been Some Great Things. That were really and truly great. Which is what has made me dub this Christmas "mixed up and interesting" rather than "horrible" or something to that effect.

-I'm really satisfied with all of the gift giving we did, it was great to have the means to really give people relevant and awesome stuff tailored to them and I think we did a great job with it. For instance, Mindy's girls? Nadia is in a place right now, like a behavioral problem, mental health stabilizing place for kids, for 6 months or more. So I got her a couple of really cool paperbacks, a sketchbook and colored pencils, and a bracelet. Patrice, on the other hand, is left at Oma's house without her twin sister or anyone having time to do things with her much - so I got her an American Girl doll with the promise that we're taking her, along with Annie, to the American Girl meetings at Barnes and Noble for the next few months. She was thrilled, by the way :D And when we last visited my Nana and Pa, Pa had a "CD burning for Dummies" book, a bunch of cds and a headache, and couldn't get his music imported or burned or any-damn-thing. I got him an iPod. He was all about it. My brother's been wearing the wrong prescription glasses with a burn on one lens and no nose guard and I got him a Lens Crafters gift certificate. And so on.
-I had a lot of opportunity for talking with my sister. We talk A LOT all the time, but in this scatter brained Mommy-brain way that is constant interruptions and putting each other on hold and never remembering what we were just saying. It's really different to spend 5 hours in a vehicle with two sleeping kids in the back and go deep. I think it was really helpful.
-We pulled off a lot of great stuff with the kids. They all wore their fancy Christmas clothes to Bob Evans and then my Nana's house, wowing everybody, and then changed into Christmas pajamas for the ride home and opening presents the next day, which was so adorable. They played with my Uncle Steve a ton, gave Nana and Pa plenty of hugs. They loved the stuff they got up there, some things to the point of real joy and fascination, said Thank you a lot, we had a good easy breakfast of leftovers yesterday morning, back here at home, and then present opening - we got a tiny recliner of ours out as the "gift chair" for whoever was sitting in it, and for the first three little kids' turns in it, Grant took pictures, I passed things out, Aaron collected wrapping paper and Annie had scissors and was helping people open things.

It can get overwhelming, how much WORK everything is as an adult running the show... I mean really, between cookie crumbles, popcorn bits, pine needles and torn paper I've been vaccuming twice a day just to continuously find more ants and neverendingly still have a filthy carpet. Mess per se doesn't bother me too much, especially during the holidays, it's the Herculean effort to clean constantly just to avoid descending into full blown squalor, that wears me down - we loaded the dishwasher three times before we left for Lakeland the other day and still came home to a messy kitchen, for instance. It just doesn't end. And then because I spent an hour and a half putting together a drum set and my sister was wrapping our presents for us for hours and my husband was trying to keep everyone amused and book the hotel and get the oil changed, I don't know. I think I'd feel less neutral and more genuinely happy "if" all sorts of variables were shifted a bit. Perhaps if I were healthy, if my mother were doing better, if the counseling thing hadn't played out the way it had, if my hormones weren't conspiring against me.


The counseling thing is the big thing for sure.

I am completely certain my kids had a wonderful Christmas Eve, Christmas day, Christmas week in general. And watching them has been the major highlight. I have a lot of pictures and will be posting some soon.
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I was irritable all day and depressed all evening. I cried my eyes out all over Grant at the end of it all. This sort of thing is really not at all uncommon anymore.

I remember not eating any white flour or refined sugar for a year and a half - I lost 30 pounds and then had a glowingly healthy pregnancy and a big old baby.

I remember baking every afternoon and having tea outside under the trampoline or in the front yard, on a blanket, all throughout Jake's infancy. Coming up with a new question for each day that we could all go around and answer. Just spending hours outside with a tray.

I remember loading up a bike, a scooter, a big wheel, the double stroller, 4 small kids and my giant PATH notebooks, every Tuesday, for an entire schoolyear. Getting to the park, unloading it all, tying Jake on, and leading a meeting. Getting them all back in. All four of them in the shower with me afterwards, one especially gritty, sandy, sweaty day when PATH had drug on for almost 6 hours. I was so big and pregnant that I couldn't see Jake under my belly. We were just laughing and laughing.

I don't know where I got the strength for any of this. I don't know how to find it again. I can't even imagine getting up and making oatmeal banana pancakes, or sitting around the table with a craft caddy making things.

My children are louder, more argumentative, less patient and generally more annoying, and I know that this is at least partially because I am annoyed with them, now. I want to be left alone.

One thing I never experienced or understood before, was bitterness. I actually thought it was funny, whenever I saw or heard anyone acting bitter, because it just seemed ...theatrical. Like, oh, COME ON. I'm bitter, now. Not like a completely bitter person, but there are a lot of things I'm bitter about. I am theatrical enough that I was telling my wonderful husband tonight that sometimes I think I SHOULD have died, because I am just a shadow of who I used to be before. I can imagine all this as the surreal lull between when I should have died, and when I actually die getting my belly fixed.

Sometimes I hate the nanny when she shows up, or when she's coming, because as we are all running around together cleaning the house, I suddenly, desperately want to have a good day with my kids by myself again. I want to do schoolwork and take a long walk and get a blanket on the ground in the yard, all in our own house with no intrusion. But I can't just turn her back around at the door when she gets there that day; and there are a lot of days when I'm raring to head out the door as soon as she arrives, or NEED help because I can't get to counseling or the chiropractor or another doctor's appt without her help, or whatever. There isn't really a solution. There never seems to be a solution anymore - to organizational challenges, to time management, to weight loss, to my mood swings.

For instance, writing makes me feel good, and excited, in spurts. I still feel truly confident and secure in my abilities there. And also, I was feeling self-motivated and eager about my sewing machine - I took it up to Jo-Ann's and it's being fixed and cleaned out inside and this woman who works there is going to give me lessons on it.

But I feel guilty as hell for those things. Taking up my time and pulling me away from kids I'm already not giving enough to. Kids who are not just dealing with me now, but have also been through the past year and a half right along with us. Kids who will only be young once.

I know...I really, truly know...that this is one of those times when I have to take care of myself so I can get back to the point where I can take care of them. It's just hard to deal with that sometimes, my standards and my abilities don't mesh much anymore.

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I hand over seasons of my life?

...Time makes you bolder, even children get older -
And I'm getting older, too.

And don't get me wrong...I make dinner (unless Grant does). I nurse Elise a lot and Jake a little, change her, dress them and Isaac and keep the laundry moving through. I still give A and A school assignments and cart them around to their activities and read to them before bed (almost) every night.

But there is no joy or fulfillment in domestic tasks for me anymore. It's not filling me up inside just to have a conversation with one of my kids, I don't run for the camera. And they're all getting clingier because I just really want to push them away and have my own space whenever possible. Rather than getting someone's attention individually or finding a way to distract rowdy little people - or even being happy that they're playing on their own - I yell over all the noise to be heard and ask everyone, over and over, to quiet down. I can't even remember the last time I had someone sitting up on the counter or standing on a chair helping me cook, and that used to be a daily affair.

Grant asked me what it is specifically that I think has changed to make things so different for me.

I thought for awhile. There are two things that I think have been/are at work. Both (until now, at least) unconsciously:
1. I felt last year like however much I did for my kids, could be undone, and whatever I planned for, could go awry, and in the end, I had no control. Elise's birth was a big giant mess that left her hurt, I was hospitalized and away from them for 6 days once and then 10 days another time, I spent a total of 12 weeks recovering from abdominal surgeries without being able to lift people, hug hard, be climbed on, or even deal with much stress period. Not counting the month I was actually dying. My parenting power and autonomy were taken away over and over again - I can't count the number of times I listened to Grant on the other side of a closed door, explaining to someone that mommy needed to lay down, or watched him strap some screaming someone into the stroller again or lead some crying person with feet planted to the floor out of a hotel room. So much for taking advantage of the last of wearing Jake. So much for ever slinging Elise. So much for their secure attachments - Ananda can't even sleep and sulks around miserable and unable to tell me why! She lies in bed in the morning afraid to get up and find me gone again. And, of course, I could just die, leaving them all to go into some kind of frantic shuffle between Oma, Aunt Laura, Opa, Grandma? and Daddy trying to work and grieve and take care of them all himself? It left me feeling decidedly overwhelmed with the burden of protecting them, or guiding them. Frozen and powerless.
2. I am still afraid of dying all the time. Right now I have a new HARD, solid thing protruding from my weird, mishappen abdomen. I had Grant confirm for me that it is in fact new and bizarre. All day every day, I am either uncomfortably shoved into a complex, compressing girdle thing that it hurts to bend in, or my back is absolutely KILLING me and I'm nauseus. I have wack ass periods that my doctor has been sending me for ultrasounds about, she's mentioned hysterectomies. Blah blah blah, etc. I realized that I have spent most of my time - the vast majority of my time - since last Fall, worrying. Lying awake in bed worrying, asleep but having worrisome dreams, making worried LJ posts, talking worriedly to Grant or Laura or a doctor, going to an appt or other because there's something to be worried about. It's just what I do, now. And I think it leaves me feeling too vulnerable to resume life as usual lest I be caught unawares. I have to stand guard every minute against death so it can't sneak up on me.

I'm not saying that makes sense, only that it is how I feel.

There's not exactly a clear answer to any of these dilemmas. Keep going to counseling, keep praying, get tested for whatever I should be, as I am, get my abs fixed when I can - that is quite a subject. Sometimes I want to just do it right now. But I know it's safer and more effective if I lose weight first, I want to let Elise get bigger and Ananda get through some more counseling, first, and I want G to have the vacation time to take off during my recovery.

Not to mention the enormous matter of my hopefully having worked through some of my sheer terror of more surgery in my own counseling by then.

*I* am sick of the redundancy of all this, I cannot imagine how sick of hearing about it other people are.

Speaking of redundant. I am considering going cold turkey off of white/refined/processed again. Grant thinks all the sugar and takeout and crap may be effecting my moods, which is definitely possible. And I would definitely lose weight if I did, even if I continued to eat as much and often as I wanted to within the parameters.


May 2017

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