Saturday, December 16, 2017

Oh December

Every night since Tuesday I've sat with a blank blog page in front of me. Monday actually gave me the most to process through my chosen form of self-therapy, but it was still too raw, so I back-blogged through the weekend before instead. And since that weekend involved an emotionally eruptive tween, there was plenty of fodder to work through there without touching the brand new stuff.

But Monday. This whole week really. It's been... something.

The moment when Cora runs into our room in her chosen outfit of the day is truly one of my favorites of the whole day... they're such an explosion of color and cotton

Monday began with PTSD from my emotion-charged weekend. My home used to be a haven. My haven. This beautiful place James and I had built (or, renovated... or, paid someone to renovate) where our sweet children played nicely for hours and we listened and laughed and chatted and/or snuck off to our room to play parcheesi when they weren't paying attention. It was a place where everything was generally where I left it and I understood all expectations placed upon me. I loved being home, and since we moved here without knowing a soul, we spent many peaceful and happy, if sometimes lonely, years just being us in our peaceful and happy house. But now my home has been invaded by feelings that are not mine, nothing is where I left it, my children discovered how to fight with each other last yer, and I neither know or am apparently capable of meeting any expectations put upon me by one of them. I'm adjusting, poorly, to the fact that my home is now not always my haven.

So I was a little less centered on Monday when I went to work. Except "work" on Monday morning was an FBI witness interview way across town and ever since my car wreck 2.5 years ago I do not "drive across town" well. Anything involving unfamiliar highways full of people who might decide at any moment to knock me out of my lane is hard for me and this drive involved about five of them (how can DFW have so many highways?!) and I have to yoga breath through every damn exit and entrance. But I had a self-care Starbucks on the way and the interview was good and as long as I could listen to my Christmas music playlist and ignore the fact I had testimony the next day in a case I kept on the back burner for too long and for which I had still not prepped exhibits or made an outline, all was almost well.

I got to work around lunchtime and got to prepping for my testimony that would be starting in 20ish hours. James popped up on my caller ID, "hey baby!" I joyfully exclaimed, thrilled that I now had a working outline that was at least a half-page long,

"My mom called."

Well, fuck.

Since her grandchildren and only child (and certainly not me) seem to hold no allure or value, a phone call from his mother- our first in 14 months- is only bad news. Bad news conveyed in the most emotional, least informative way possible while never once acknowledging that (1) we have children, (2) she has not met two of them, and (3) she chose to stop speaking to us 8 years ago over something so dumb I can't even believe it's real and neither their son or his AMAZING children are enough to make it worth talking to us again. It is hard for me to know that our children are worth so little to people who should love them so much. It helps to know that because that statement is true, they are better without them, but it doesn't change the sadness of the situation as a whole or the knowledge for James that he and his children are so disposable. I hate that my kids are missing half their family. I hate more that James grew up alone in that toxic half and 19-years and much therapy later is maybe finally on the downhill slope of healing from it.

"My dad has Alzheimer's. Pretty late stage. He can't really talk anymore."

And so I closed my door to talk to my husband. There's more, much more (including a bit about his grandma (finally?) being committed to a mental institution), and it's complicated. It changes some things and mostly changes nothing. It rocked us both and I couldn't stop thinking about it all afternoon.

When I got home Tara put in her two week notice. It's not totally unexpected- she graduates this month- but we had both planned for her to continue through the spring. She got a full-time job opportunity she couldn't refuse, especially since she's saving for grad school next fall, and of course I understand and am thrilled for her, but she's been our nanny for 3 years. Since Cora was a baby and Claire was a rounded-cheeked shiny-eyed Kindergartner and she is such an instrumental part of our life. She is the local family we don't have, my kids' cousin/aunt who knows them better than anyone outside of James and me and who loves them and delights in retelling their sweet and funny moments to me at the end of the day. We will miss her - I will miss her - so much.

So that was Monday. (Actually, no it's not; Landon also tripped while running across the playground, slid across cement, and directly into a large rock. Much blood and bruising ensued. This will be important later.)

I worked until 1 a.m. and took testimony at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. It went well, and was even buoyed during a break by the publishing of the 2017 Hater's Guide to the William's Sonoma Catalog. Truly one of my most anticipated and beloved holiday traditions.

The kids and I went to R Taco for dinner because that's just what I do after testimony now. Spend a day watching your every word on the record, end it with a cheap frozen margarita.

Dinner was great. The kids were chatty. Landon was the child I remembered from many days/lifetimes before. Around 6-7 p.m., things were looking good. Then, around 9 p.m. things were even better!

When things started looking better, scarily nervously better, I made James turn on CNN. I needed to work through some presidential election night PTSD, and then, when it was called for Jones, I needed to luxuriate in the goodness left in the world. I went to bed with a smile on my face and my twitter-filled phone in my hand.

On Wednesday, Landon woke up and couldn't walk. The swelling in his knee had gone down on Tuesday, then up Tuesday night and now it was worse but maybe because it was stiff? The wound looked not great but also not terrible and I don't know, we just all went to school and work and about our day and I vowed I'd take him by the pediatric urgent care after school to get the wound checked and ensure we shouldn't be doing more than cleaning, light wrapping, and ibuprofen.

By the time I picked Landon up on Wednesday (early! to check his boo boo!), he couldn't put any weight on his knee. His knee was now also red and squishy. Dammit. Urgent care, where I went with just Landon and Claire because SURELY this would take less than an hour and I could still get Cora before her school closed, immediately diagnosed an infection in the wound and ordered x-rays. They were very concerned about the infection spreading to the fluid that had gathered behind his knee cap. It all turned in to a much bigger thing than anticipated. While we waited for the x-rays to be read, Cora's school was closing. I texted her daycare director to find out if a few of her friends whose moms I know were there so maybe I could text them and I don't know. Tara was taking a final, James was in the pool... I didn't really have a plan. Her director said he'd drive her to us when school closed. It was so kind.

Claire had been doing homework and generally being so patient while we waited on all the medical things. Landon was awarded with a set of crutches, which he thought were very cool for about the first hour he had to use them.

They determined the patella was not fractured, but were still very concerned about the fluid becoming infected. We were sent home with orders to take his temperature every hour, keep close watch on his wound, use the crutches, and begin the very powerful antibiotic IMMEDIATELY. So we did. I'd still made a healthy from-scratch dinner after getting home and was pretty much over life and drinking wine by 8:30 while we continue taking Landon's temperature. After being on the fence about going to the ER, his temperature dropped a degree, back down to 98.3 and we felt good about sending him to bed. We did not feel good about the fact we had to find a pediatric orthopedist who would see us in the morning or the fact that we had already purchased lift tickets to ski on the day after Christmas in 12 days.

On Thursday, I had not worked out since Sunday but had eaten at least 6 Christmas cookies daily instead. Blergh. I started calling pediatric orthopedic offices at 8 a.m. and found one in Grapevine (45 mins away) that could see us at 11. Many highways later, I lost 5 sick hours to that appointment, but the good news is there are definitely no fractures, his bone is just badly bruised, and he now has exercises and a plan to get better. Maybe not by skiing day, but also maybe so. Now that he knows moving it is a good thing, we've seen huge improvements in his mobility and ability to bear weight. He hates the crutches very much, he hates missing PE and recess VERY MUCH, and he is EXTRA VERY MUCH over the whole thing. On the upside, he's been delightful company. It's almost like having a real emergency made him forget to make up some fake ones.

(Claire had woken up extra early on Thursday to make him a card that was waiting for him at the foot of his bed.)

(It was the cutest.)

Also on Thursday I did work for too few hours, picked up Claire and Cora, took the girls to swimming, came home, put on pj's, and made dinner. Partway through my chefing I remembered I had an event to go to that night at 8, so I took OFF my well-deserved pj's and put back on my clothes and ONLY the fact that I was meeting a good friend got me out the door.

Well, that and the fact that the event was to meet Beto O'Rourke, candidate for Ted Cruz's Texas senate seat. It was at one of my favorite restaurants, with one of my favorite closet Democrat friends, and it was SO GREAT! He's an incredibly impressive candidate. He took Q&A for an hour, facing all sorts of random questions, and met each with articulate, intelligent, heartfelt, practical answers.

I left inspired. The candidate. The full venue. The people standing in the cold outside the door to listen when they couldn't fit inside. The fact I got to talk to him about education funding and the importance of our schools (the first issue that vomited out of my mouth when he shook me hand; I had no idea which one would spill out).

I got home at 10 p.m. at the end of the LONGEST WEEK (there are so many other things I'm not even boring you with) and felt fired up and happy. Like Tuesday, it was a nice way to fall asleep.

Friday was a surprise wake up alone because I forgot James had a big swim meet way across town followed by much rushing to get the kids' out the door because I don't do mornings and am extremely out of practice with any childcare before 9 a.m. To make it better, Landon had to be at school by 7:30 for a practice thing and the girls were so tired neither of them acknowledged my gentle waking until I turned to big lights on and shaking of the shoulders. Our house is tired.

But I got everyone fed, dressed, and out the door by 7:25! And I was home and on my couch and logged in to my work by 7:30. It was quite a Friday morning. At 11:15 I had a much anticipated and mildly feared Photofacial (or IPL; I can't figure out which one most people call it). Basically a laser zaps your skin a bunch of times and pulls damaged skin cells and pigmentation to the surface so your skin can slough them off over the course of a few days. It's mostly done for aesthetic reasons (turning your skin into "baby butt face" as my gorgeous friend called it when I asked her how her skin got so smooth and perfect and glowy), but in my case serves a medical one as well- breaking up the pigmentation, including the skin damage under the skin, which means my chest is no longer such a fertile field of carcinomas simmering below the surface. And given all the brown spots on my chest that weren't there before (the skin that was damaged turns brown post-treatment and then sloughs off later), I had a LOT of hidden damage.

The treatment didn't hurt as bad as I feared, though I do have a super high pain tolerance and the esthetician kept commenting that I "wasn't flinching at all!" like it was a surprising thing. It felt like tiny rubber bands snapping on the skin. Except the rubber bands are also on fire. But they're tiny and they snap very quickly. We'll see. I'm excited to see how my skin looks and feels in a few days. Right now my face looks normal and my chest looks like I have a lot of freckles I do not actually have. Wear sunscreen y'all. Everywhere that sees the sun. I was really good about my face and really terrible about my chest. And even ignoring the cancers and the chemo cream that tried to eat my soul, the look and feel of my face and chest are decades apart.

After my appointment and after the redness on my face went down, I went to watch Claire's dress rehearsal for the talent show and take her home. She did great, but her eyes looked glassy and sunken to me. Sure enough, as soon as I hugged her I felt her forehead and found a fever. Straight home we went, with her crying "but I FEEL FINE" in the backseat, to watch The Santa Claus and think about making dinner (we did not; James picked up pizza). James went to bed early to be up at 5 a.m. for Day 2 of his meet and I stayed up watching The West Wing, wrapping presents, and feeling bad for not blogging.

Today I have homemade cinnamon rolls rising in the oven, homemade chex mix cooling on the counter, and a tween who just yelled, "I'm ripping up your Christmas card because YOU DON'T DESERVE IT" from his bedroom. Claire is working on her History Fair project, with only mild resentment at my carefully worded suggestions, and Cora is working on a puzzle. My Christmas playlist is on- I've added the Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra holiday albums so I can remember my childhood, back when I was too young to have my own tween to yell at me.

A week from today we'll be driving to Colorado for Christmas. Part of my yearly steps to make Christmas fun and non-stressful has always been to do everything early. My shopping has been done for two weeks. My cards went out in early December. I jotted down a plan for my baking- one or two projects per weekend so I could get them done and also KNOW I could get them done, so I'm not trying to do more on a day when I could otherwise curl up with the kids and watch a movie. Everything is good and sparkly and I have no stress involving Christmas itself. So I guess that's good, because December gave me an emotionally volatile tween with a bruised knee, a possibly sick 7-year-old, a surprise school project, a phone call from my in-laws, an unexpected Spring nanny search, a trip to Colorado, and more work deadlines than expected.

~ ~ ~

Landon just came out of his room after 2 hours of "please stay here until you have thought about what you just said and how hurtful it was for me to hear. ... That will require at least an hour." and handed me a shell and a homemade snow globe.

"I didn't rip your card." The back says "I made it better. I am so sorry. I really am."

So that's a better note to end on. Off to meet Cowboy Santa we go.


  1. I have read your blog for a while now (I think i stumbled upon it recipe searching?) and I’ve never commented, but I just want to empathize with an emotionally draining week. I love your honesty about parenting a tween. I’m not there yet but I read something the other day about how the hardest part of being a parent is acting like an adult, and I already know how hard it is for me a temper my emotional reactions to my kids’ emotions (And they are 3 and 5). We also have some in-law drama and are planning a trip to Disney, so I’m reading with much interest and just wanted to say hi like a big ok internet weirdo.

  2. Oh gosh! What a hard, hard week. I don't know if I would have been functional enough to get to R Taco at the end of that, let alone hold it together professionally. Amazingwhat we can do when we have no choice.

    And that last picture--what a good heart he has underneath all of that tweenage angst business. My heart breaks for both of you. Ugh, these complicated little creatures!

    And the nanny search thing. How hard! It's like losing a family member!

  3. Anothet Internet weirdo who reads your blog. Also a lawyer like you. I get super resentful about the practice of law taking up tooo much of my time during the Christmas season and the summer. Every damned time.
    I am older than you with grown kids- what my Mom told me when my kids started getting hormonal and critical is the following:”This too shall pass.” She was right! My oldest (now 31) used to scowl, tell me that I embarrassed her and that she wished I would die in a car crash. I still remember the hysteria around picking out the perfect dress for the 8th grade dance. Now, she is an adult and the best daughter that I could ask for. We traipsed over to Paris for my 60th and her 30th (her idea) using our combined stash of frequent flyer miles and points-had a blast. It does get better-and talking about it helps-you’ll soon realize that you are not alone.

  4. I’ve recently started reading your blog (via the shubox) and I love it - thankyou! Your writing is so funny and so honest and cheers me up. My life is weirdly-similar-yet-so-different - I’m a mum to a 2 and a 5 year old (still wondering about a 3rd but I’m 40 now so left it a bit late) a full time A&E Dr in the UK. You sound to squeeze so much out of your life it’s astonishing, and makes me feel better as I’m forever being told by people that ‘I take on too much’ like it’s optional... you only live once and all that, and a ‘big’ job/career and a family (and some time for your own interests too) shouldn’t be too much to aspire to! You make it clear that it isn’t. Keep going... and please keep blogging! Hope the knee is steadily on the mend.

  5. I didn't act like an adult in one tween-y instance this weekend and I feel terrible about it, but... well, I guess we are all human. This too shall pass. I'm sorry about all the extra stuff you're having to juggle, but I'm sure you'll handle it like a boss. Hope your time off will be restful and restorative.

  6. I, too, can relate to family drama especially this time of year. It's so hard and few people talk openly about it. Sending good vibes and raising a margarita glass to you. You've got this girl!

  7. Oh man, adult feelings in a tween body are so hard. But you have such a genuinely good kid. I hope the rest of the holiday season brings you a lot less surprises, and the ones you do get are of the present variety.

  8. So exciting you got to meet Beto! Thought you'd enjoy this: