For Posterity

I usually start posts in a note to myself and then work on them bits at a time until they are ready to go. I probably delete 50% of them for being too something. Too short, too long, too whiney, too radical, too whatever. The one I was working on seems so inconsequential that I didn’t bother to finish it before dumping it. Everything seems inconsequential.

I read somewhere that journaling is a way to keep yourself sane during a pandemic. Moreover, journaling is important work during a pandemic. I assume so that someone someday can read it during their own pandemic and think aha, here is what we should have done. That family, they were doing it right. Except I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible to do it right. Also it’s probably no one will ever read this but you, Reader, and since we’re going through it together, it won’t do us much good.

But let’s commiserate anyway. Here’s my part of it. Homeschooling and working is rough. I think we’re lucky RR’s school is still providing lessons for the children (and remarkably well-done lessons) and I, in particular, am lucky my wife has been able to pick up the homeschooling so I can focus on work. RR, for her part, is an excellent distance student who grows more, and more bouncy during the week so that today, Friday, she is off the walls. 

Spring Break is coming. I’m afraid the teachers will stop work for a week. We can’t take RR anywhere. I’m going to go insane.

We had to cancel our Spring Break trip to Disneyworld and while it’s not the end of the world, it’s a disappointment. I’m feeling it heavily, not because I was dying to stick on a pair of mouse ears, but because it meant a road trip, an adventure, time away from work that was truly time away. And now, nothing. More of the grind. I’m sure that’s also how her teachers feel. It’s hard on everyone.

I want to cry over this but I’d want time alone to do it. That’s in short supply but, when I have it, I find I can’t cry anyway. It seems so futile. It also seems painfully self-indulgent. Put on big girl pants, work, love my family, persevere. 

On the humorous side, our desks are in the basement where there is a support pole for the house. RR, twirling around it, said, “I need to stay on the pole, mama” and I wonder if this is a sign of the future. 

Tropical Nut Island

Three-year-old RR gave us the saying Tropical Nut Island. Long time readers will remember that it’s how she referred to herself over a short period of time, usually shouting at the top of her lungs, “I’m a TROPICAL NUT ISLAND!” The non-nut island folks near and dear to her have never figured out where this came from but we can dissect its meaning well enough. When she was three, it meant running around, hair flying, arms waving, laughing. Craziness, we called it. Now, at nine, it feels more like Enough Already.

The other day she brought her Tropical Nut Island self to the observatory where we were having an intimate gathering of co-workers and their families to sky gaze through the giant telescope. There were other children there – a 4 and 5 year old – and a few adults, all of whom were ushering the little ones calmly from place to place. Our child eventually laid on the floor and spun herself in a circle. I don’t think she was bored, rather the opposite. She just had nowhere for the enthusiasm to go. Now we call it ADHD but not I’m going to take you home right now. I truly think she was doing the best she could to find an outlet for the bouncing inside her head.

I’m probably the stricter of the two of us, with a (probably needless) focus on manners and seemliness. But even my wife’s body language was WTF even though she, mostly calmly, snapped at RR to get up. RR was a bit dismayed as being sharply spoken to but I’m 100% with my wife on this one. There’s no floor spinning outside of your own house. At home, with just your family, spin all you want. Not that she ever has. This was…new.

Mostly her ADHD manifests as distraction and wandering. She either has a laser-like focus on what she’s doing or she has no focus. There’s no middle of the road. The resurgence of Tropical Nut Island made me question whether we’re doing her a disservice by not looking into medication. I have really complicated feelings about that and it wasn’t recommended, not yet, so I have a spit of time to wonder about why my feelings are so complicated and what we’re going to do about that. In the meantime, welcome to Tropical Nut Island.

Grandparents

I found myself bothered the other day. Bothered because I was whining (in my head), and muttering (silently) about how it isn’t fair. Both things that bother me. I really don’t like hearing it’s not fair, especially when it’s said with a high pitched whine which, have you ever heard a sentence so likely to be whined? It’s not fair that we’re out of grandparents.

Here I am, surrounded by kids accompanied by fit grands, ones that are able and willing to take the kids to roller skate or gymnastics. Who take the kids out for dinner and ice cream. Who are generally present in their lives. Who appear to be putting the kids first without having made the day about themselves. So now you can see where I’m going with this.

We’re not totally out of grandparents, we still have one – my mother. But I think it’s well established that she’s not up to doing any of the above. Especially the bit about putting RR first. RR never knew Debra’s father although time has shined up his memory for all of us. He was probably the most fit to be a grandfather, even though he would have been quite elderly. Then we lost Debra’s mother, who would have been great at hanging out with RR at home but wouldn’t have been up to excursions or stepping in to help out if needed. My father followed her – the first grandparent RR really got to know before losing. Still, his last two years were filled with cancer and she was so little. And now we’re left with one. And since she moved away and isn’t the best communicator (especially with me) we’re out of grandparents altogether.

I do sound like I’m whining, I know. It feels like the only place where it’s halfway acceptable. It’s not fair. I’d like a grandparent like the ones I see holding hands with their grandkids. Just one would be okay.

Observation

My childhood self would have very much liked to be in a Montessori school, I think. Ours in particular. We had the chance to observe RR’s classroom and it was a revelation. All of the children were focused and working on different tasks, a lesson on finding areas was going on in one corner and another on geography in the quiet ecology space. Even my child, the one full of vim and vigor, was settled on her knees, deep into square roots.

I’m sure there are days when the volume is louder and the kids more antsy. Just as there are days where a stillness falls over the room. But I imagine the sheer number of places to work – carpet, tables, comfy corners for reading, a laptop area, even outside – mean that the kids have just enough room to spread out. And by kids I mean all 30 or so of them. It’s not a small class. At one point, the sun came out from behind the clouds casting warm light over the entire classroom, leaving the kids with little halos of sunbeams.

Every month when a bagillion dollars comes out of my account, I think of this classroom and these teachers. The kids with their work ethics. And, of the gorgeous grounds over which they have the independence to roam. It hurts, the money, but we are so very lucky that we can do it at all. Very, very lucky.

Rolling into 10

RR is on the far side of nine and while she’s not quite staring double digits in the face, we’re marching ever closer. She’s a young nine. Of course, what do I know about nine year olds? She just seems younger. Plays with much younger kids, hasn’t picked up on the playdate sleepover lifestyle that other girls her age have embraced. I’m not in a hurry for her to grow up so if I’m still occasionally reading Green Eggs and Ham, I’m still going to read it, even with a fox, even in a box.

A couple of weeks ago she came home with a silver charm on a piece of pink yarn strung around her neck. She hasn’t fully grasped the concept of jewelry yet so I knew she hadn’t put it on that morning. No, in fact a boy at school had slipped it around her neck at recess. It’s a friendship necklace she told us. He found it and gave it to me.

Later that week we set up a playdate with the same young gent to go rollerskating. Now you’ll remember that this is the child who refuses to ride a bike. I had real questions about her capability on skates. And that was how we found ourselves looking straight in the face of determination as we tried on skates at the local secondhand shop (the only pair they had and they would fit, by god) and then practiced her new skill in the carpeted aisle.

The next stop was a piece of pavement where she and I went up and back until she could wobble toward me on her own. Debra hid behind a bush because watching RR flirt with physical harm is too much for her. And I don’t blame her. I spent all of the practicing and most of the playdate sure she would suffer grievous injury.

But she didn’t. She was slow, he was fast, they didn’t skate together so much as skate in the same room. But she announced to me halfway through that she was very good at this and would surely be an expert the next time we went. I’m not sure I agree, but her clear confidence made my heart swell with joy. I didn’t think she was going to get it. And she did. She totally got it. And she and her friend decided together to move the playdate to a park. Which they did, his blue necklace and charm just peeking out to match hers.

Love Letter

I don’t think I’ve mentioned lately that my wife is pretty amazing. I imagine I did in the early years. I suppose I fawned over her now and again. Not often enough, I’m sure, but I wrote love letters then. I was different then. More romantic, more something. We’ll be married 15 years this March which is a pretty long time to keep newlywed standards of affection. We’re not even in therapy right now. We graduated with no expectation of going back. No, this is a love letter all on its own. 

If you’re expecting something sweet, I’m probably not your girl. I’m rough around the edges. Tattered here, jagged there. Not so easy to love. But she is. She fixes things. Fixes me. Last week, she was carefully pouring cinnamon into an ant hole. THE ant hole. The place we can’t seem to stop the ants from using as a revolving door. They come, they go and she’s there with ant bait and kitchen spices, ready to do battle. She hauls things. The trash, a new rose bush, a sink the contractor left in our basement. She handles things. She called when the paper started arriving late and met the oven repair man. She dealt with the homophobic vet and she deals with RR when the day is long and I can’t read another page to a squirmy nine-year-old. 

She knows me. We’ve been wrestling the basement into some semblance of normalcy after my mother dumped half her stuff and abandoned it. My wife shows remarkable resilience when she uncovers yet another box with a single crumpled receipt inside. But when it came time to sort through her old papers, cards, and letters she soared through sentimentality to make progress. I think that’s hard work for anyone. She knows my grief and knows when to be the stronger one. That must not be easy to do but she never fails to be there.

And while you’ll have to go elsewhere for torrid tales, suffice to say she delivers. 

I’ve never been this in love. I think that’s what you get after so many years invested. It’s easy though, like I said, she gets me. It doesn’t hurt that she’s attractive and charming. She’s also a wonderful musician, mother, and she does the budget. What more could I ask for?

Nothing’s Okay But It’s All Okay

You guys, I feel like a hot mess. In fact, my health insurance company has pointed this out by sending “helpful” pamphlets on combating anxiety, as if it were an army one could see and defeat. At least I haven’t gotten a diabetes one in awhile. That’s exasperating when it’s based on weight alone and not evidence. Anxiety is one of the things that’s not okay but that is going to be okay come hell or high water. 

Once I saw that I was losing sleep and reluctant to do my public facing job, I took myself back to the doctor and what she prescribed made me gain a lot of weight, fast. My eating habits didn’t worsen and I started exercising a lot more so that’s frustrating, to say the least. We talked, I cut back on the dose, and I’m hoping that the weight comes off, even if it’s not as quickly as I put it on. So it’s okay, even though it’s not okay. The thing is, the week we cut back, the anxiety got worse. On the plus side, I’m still okay enough that I can look the anxiety in the eye and name it which is better than it was before.

And to be honest, I could be eating cleaner but I’m watching my dog go downhill fast and I’m coping as well as I can given that he’s my first born, my best dog, my constant comfort. We put our mattress on the floor so that he can get up on it. I can’t get off of it in the morning because I am old. So it’s not okay. Losing him, stiffly struggling to get up in the morning (both of us), but it’s okay because I don’t have to worry he’ll puncture a lung falling off the bed or listen to him whimper and fail to get on it. I can’t help the rest of his problems, but I can do this. 

So perhaps saying nothing is okay is an exaggeration but it sometimes feels that way. But it’s all going to be okay, one way or another, now or eventually and hey, maybe those mindfulness classes paid off after all.