Chaos reigns

There are times when things slow down, when you start to take the quiet for granted again after maintaining the status quo for a while. That’s when, as when we found out my cancer is making a comeback, life tends to go off track again. When shit starts to hit the fan from every angle.

When I was first diagnosed 7 years ago, I started making contingency plans for everything. One of the big ones was to confirm with all my beautiful strong women friends that they would be here for SG and my girls should the worst happen. I have built this amazing community of friends who I know will look out for my family if and when I am not here to do it. That knowledge has given me so much peace in my darkest hours.

There’s only one problem. That means we have to still live here when I’m gone.

Two weeks ago SG found out the funding for his position at work is gone. Keeping him around puts the department in the red. After some rearranging of the budget, it looks like we may get one more year here but it’s just not good. He hasn’t slept in 2 weeks. I have gone from denial and anger to full on panic.

We may have to move. IF he can find another job. There are other plans they’re attempting to put in place to save him but I’m not holding out too much hope. It means we move and it means my contingency family support plan is shot to hell.

Now what?

When we moved here the girls were little. That’s the best time to make friends. Your children make friends and you meet the parents – because they’re tiny and you don’t trust just anyone to supervise playdates. Especially when it’s your precious firstborn entering kindergarten.  Every friend I have here, with the exception of some work colleagues and their wives, I met through my girls.

But now they’re older and you don’t bond with teenager parents the way you do when they’re little. I’m struggling with what to do when I meet new people, wherever we may end up. IF we move. I’ve got to hold out a tiny bit of hope right?

Do I join the PTA and open with:  “Hi, I’m Annie, I have cancer. Are any of you willing to maybe look out for my family when I die?”

Is that a little too forward?

Should I tone it down a little?

In the meantime, I’m thinking of crashing the meeting the dept. chair is going to have with the dean regarding SG’s job. Do you think, “if you fire him I die” is the wrong approach. Too much?

Afterall, my meds are $8,000/month. How the heck do we cover that if we lose insurance?

Obviously my plans are all works in progress. I’ll let you know what sort of brilliance I come up with.

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Cancer makes me a little crazy…or maybe a lot.

When I found out the cancer was actively growing again I was completely calm. I don’t think I was surprised so I don’t recall even a skipped heart beat at the news.  I took it in stride. Made the phone calls, texts and emails I needed to make and went on with life. I got all philosophical about marathons. I was full of shit.

Then one night the girls were in bed, my beloved Science Guy was in the shower, and a Motrin commercial came on. I don’t remember much other than a little girl with the flu and her mother by her bed. They zoomed in on the little girl putting her tiny fat hand on her mom and I lost it. I don’t know what else happened or what they said on tv. I simply lost it.

I started to panic. I panicked that this new drug won’t work. That I’ll never see the tiny hands of my grandchildren. That I’ve begun the wrap up phase of this not nearly long enough life.

I got myself under control until a couple of days later when I was over tired. We were supposed to go to a hot springs with the girls but as usual we put it off. I’m not even sure why other than SG started looking up different places to go and it pissed me off. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew we were staying home. Staring at each other. Bored. Doing nothing. Again.

SG suggested we take a walk and the minute we hit the driveway I lost it. I didn’t speak to him for blocks and then when I did, I’m pretty sure he wished for the silence back.

I accused him of working too hard. Of never wanting to do anything. Of wasting the additional 7 years I’ve been given.

I brought up the 19-year-old complaint that we’ve never had a honeymoon. I told him I was going to die before we did. I told him I was going to die and the girls would have no memories of me other than staring at each other in our fucking tiny house.

Oh, I was on a roll. I was tossing the F word around left and right and generally making a complete ass of myself while he walked silently beside me occasionally apologizing.

And then I crossed a line.

I accused him of putting me at the bottom of his priority list.

He stopped. I stopped and looked back and the look on his face shut me up. He told me that wasn’t fair. That everything was on hold last summer while I trained, and went to, the marathon. Oh yeah, he went there. And he even raised his voice while doing it.

Then he reminded me how he’s trying to run two different facilities on campus and has no help and time for himself. Never takes time for himself. He’s right. HE is at the bottom of his priority list. Working is ass off and “where the hell are we supposed to get the money for some tropical vacation?”. At least he held back on the fact that all our extra income goes to keep me alive.  Yeah, I pretty much suck.

I think that was practically the first time in our marriage he’s talked back and stood up for himself. I’m kind of a bitch.

I apologized and tried to explain the panic of knowing that my time with the girls is finite and likely to end so much sooner than I’d hoped.

I assured him I wasn’t asking for a week in Aruba. I only wanted an afternoon. He understands as well as he can that I’m scared of running out of time. That we need to grab onto this time and make as many good memories as we can. That I’m afraid we’ve wasted so many opportunities because one or both of us is exhausted.

Life passes by all too quickly and it’s easy to push things to another day. But what if your number of days is unknown? What if every little pain reminds you of what could go terribly wrong?

And what if you take it out on the one person who loves you the most and has done everything he possible can to make your time easier? I wonder some days why he stays. He loves me but for the  life of me, I can’t figure out why.

We walked and we talked and I tried to stop freaking out. He tried to talk me down and in the end we had miles behind us trying to get my eyes to be half way normal by the time we got home to the girls.

I hope that in the end we both learned a little. I know I was reminded how easy it is to hurt people we love when we’re being so completely unfair and saying things we don’t mean in a dark moment.

And I hope he better understands that sense of panic that hangs over me as I watch life fly by and worry that I’m using up my good days.

I think I’ve also come to realize that the honeymoon I bitch about not having has maybe been happening all along.

Kitten mom

It would appear daughter #2 would like me to lower or delete any and all expectations I have for her academically.

If a Tiger Mom pushes her children, she would like me to go in the exact opposite direction. So what would that make me? Kitten mom? Tiny rodent mom? Webkinz mom?

She brought home a letter from her teacher yesterday telling us she’d been placed in an advanced math class for next year. Fantastic news, right?!

She handed it to me with a smile on her face, seemingly so proud of herself. She’s struggled at times over the years, mostly because she lacks confidence in her abilities and has a bit of test anxiety. So yay!! Advanced math class based on her performance this year and placement testing! Wahoo!

Being the multi-tasking scanner that I am, I skipped right to the bottom of the page where I noticed a parent signature was required. As I grabbed a pen, she yelled “Wait! Mom, what box did you check?”

Box? Ok, maybe I should go back and actually read it.

Section with great news? Check

Section with guidelines/expectations for students placed in this class? Check

Box where I decline placement and opt for regular class? Wait, what?

It turns out we were given 2 options:

Option #1 – Yes, I would like my child to participate in the 7th grade advanced math class.

Option #2 – No, I would prefer my child be placed in Course 2, the regular 7th grade math curriculum.

Really??

Guess which one she wants? Guess which box we’re going to check?

If you guessed that they aren’t the same, you’d be correct.

Why would I do that? SG is a scientist at the university level and sees first hand how weak the math skills of the incoming students are. Hell, the math skills of some of the grad students aren’t much better.

THIS is the age to finely hone those skills and give her the base she needs later on. Like he soooooo often says, math is everywhere. We battled the principal with D3’s 2nd grade teacher to give her the opportunity to walk up a grade to math class each day. We’re currently trying to work out details of her doing middle school math the last year of elementary school.

D2 knows this. So why the heck would she think we’d say, “it’s ok honey, we’ll let you do math below your skill level”?

I’m thinking they’ll place her in a lower level logic course.

Despite the lapse in judgement, can I just say how proud we are of her? She’s come a long way from our shy little girl who wouldn’t speak up and cried every day of 1st grade.

We know she can do it and I think, she does too. It’s the convincing that’s going to take some work.

A perfect excuse – or is it?

D1 said something last week that is sticking with me. Something that she blurted out with no hesitation – even in front of her friend.

I’ll get to what it was in a minute but a little history first. The elementary school the girls go/went to is a very crunchy granola peace love and understanding kind of place. Which is great! We love it there.  They have a wonderful “peace choir”, they do marvelous earth day programs and the are well-known among the other schools for the great music program.

That said, we’ve been there for 10 years. Ten years of programs, many of them the same. Over and over until the words come back to haunt you in the dead of night. When my patient wonderful loving husband says the music teacher is a loon and he’ll likely die if he hears another Indonesian Gamelan concert, you know it’s bad.

So let’s go back to last week. D3 knew there was an Earth Day program and opted not so sign up for it. She thought she was in the clear. The poor thing has been going to these things since she was 1. She didn’t want to do another, she didn’t sign up. End of story right? Wrong.

Turns out the head Peace Choir lady is also a 4th grade teacher so she decided that ALL of the 4th graders should participate by being in the background choir. D3 was pissed!!!! But, good parents that we are, we bought our earplugs and told her to suck it up and go.

We won’t even get into the part where she stood in the back row frowning and barely mouthed the words. This isn’t her story.

This is about D1. While on the drive back from Cultural Cooking club (I know), she asked what our plans were for that night. I reminded her about her sister’s program and the audible groans began. As well as the laughter from her friend in the back seat because she didn’t have to attend.

Then the excuses started.

I can’t go because:

I have too much homework.

I have to practice my piece for the state music festival.

I think I have a fever.

Someone should stay with the dogs.

While I shared her pain, I shot down them all and reminded her how many concerts/programs her sisters have had to attend for her. Then she hit me with this:

Mom, can’t we use your cancer as an excuse to get out of it?

Ok first, it surprised me that she’d just blurt out the C-word like that in front of her friend.

Second, my cancer is generally the motivator that pushes me to go to these things even when I don’t feel well. Six years ago I didn’t know how many of these events I’d live to see. Each one is precious and just because D3 is on the tail end of these things, and she’s as tired of them as we are, doesn’t make it any it any less important to see each one.

Lastly, is she really trying to benefit from my cancer? Is her silver lining that it gets us out of stuff? Honestly, I can see that.

It was a week ago but I keep going back to it. I keep hearing her voice in my head and I can’t help but wonder if I really have used the cancer excuse too many times. I know I haven’t for anything major but what of the small stuff? Have I skipped too many trips to the pool or downtown events that SG has taken then to while I rested? I didn’t think so until now.

The other thing that bothers me, that is out of my control, is that she’s so desensitized to my cancer that she just blurts things out about it at will. This is the girl who used to not want me to bring it up because it’s “awkward”. She’s acutely aware that it makes people uncomfortable yet she has no issue saying that in front of her friend.

Is guess maybe that’s a good thing? She doesn’t see it as a big deal anymore? I know it’s become routine for me. Just another fact of life. The way things are and will continue to be since my treatment will never end. At least not unless we run out of treatments, then the rest is irrelevant.

So tell me my friends. Is this a good thing? Has it become a non-issue? I explained to her that the cancer is what makes me go, not what prevents me from it. I even told her why – that I’ve never known how many I’ll get to see.

She gets that but she still hates the “We’re one small voice” song.

I’ll give her that one.

This is NOT my favorite “first”

D1 just left town. Without me. Without any of us.

She’ll be in a hotel with lord knows how many other kids and very few chaperones the next two nights. She’s had sleepovers with friends over the years but she’s never hung out in a hotel 200 miles from Mama! I don’t like it.

The good news is she’s in my hometown no more than a mile from my parents’ house should she need anything. She’s got grandma on speed dial 3.

She plays oboe in the city youth symphony and it’s what she loves more than anything else. They’re at a state orchestra festival and will be rehearsing hours each day before nightly concerts. She’s going to be over scheduled and have so much fun that I doubt she’ll be ready to come back.

I was a teen once, I can appreciate how much fun she’ll have.  I’m happy for her but I also know how teens act in hotels. I’ve been there, done that and am just grateful it was before cell phone cams and facebook. She’s a good kid and I trust her but damn, is she really at this point in life already? How did we get from first teeth and first steps to first nights in a hotel without me?

It’s only a tiny glimpse into the independence she’ll soon have in huge quantities – and it’s a small warm-up for me before she leaves me for an even bigger trip. Spring 2013 she’s going to Japan with her highschool band for a week.

I’ll let you know when you need to start talking me down from that one!

Taking the FUN out of fundraising

Alright so I’m not a big fan of school fundraising but hey, at least I get some nice wrapping paper out of the deal. Or a pizza kit, or chocolate.

But last week D1 brought home some forms for a fundraiser for volleyball. You know what it involves? Nothing.

People get nothing. We ask for cash, if we’re lucky they say no, if not they say go to hell. She’s supposed to bring in a minimum of 10 donations and a minimum of $100.  They are saying they won’t accept less than 10 donations. Guess what? It’s not going to happen.

We will write a check for 1 donation of $100 even though we don’t really have it because nobody else has excess cash to just give away either. We won’t let her go asking for money without offering something in return.

Is it just me or is that a crappy message to send out there?

I feel like the kids should learn a better lesson than that. Sure selling things is hard but it’s a give and take. They learn that they have to work a little for their money.

This way all they learn is to expect cash for doing absolutely nothing.

I’m thinking most kids are already pros at that!

In other news, does anybody want to buy a magazine subscription to send the high school band to Japan? Oy!

Balancing Children

No, I’m not referring to a new circus act for the school carnival. Nor am I setting up an audition tape to get my daughters on America’s Got Talent.

I’m talking about trying to balance time and energy among more than one kiddo. Right now my time seems to be very D1 heavy. If I’m not at one of her volleyball games, it seems I’m running down to pick her up from practice. It’s been great to spend more time with her and in a way I feel like I’m getting to know her all over again. Or maybe for the first time as this new, more mature version of the little girl I used to know.

In the next couple of weeks, D3 starts soccer so we’ll add her into the mix. She also leaves for school 30 minutes after her sisters every morning so I get to have one on one time with her each day as well. She’s bright, fun and energetic in the morning and I love that about her!

But what of D2? It seems most of my time with her this week has involved the words “Hurry up, you’re going to miss your bus!” or some variation of that which may or may not include the words, “Move your ass NOW because if you miss that bus you’re going to walk !” I’m expecting my inbox to overflow with requests for parenting advice any minute now. Parenting Magazine will be asking me to do a weekly guest column I’m sure.

She started middle school this week. A whole new chapter for her in a place where they estimate 80% of the students go through puberty while they’re there. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement for middle school teaching as a career path, I don’t know what is!

This morning she was exhausted from the 1st week of school and unable to make decisions even about lunch. I gave her two choices, a sandwich or pizza, and she said she didn’t care. I’m guessing that when she comes home this afternoon she’ll be complaining I made the wrong choice!  The child who curled up next to me in the hospital 5 years ago just to find a way to be near me, has stopped kissing me goodnight or saying goodbye on her way to school.

Do you suppose it could be the yelling at her to move her ass?

I feel like this is the kiddo who needs more time but doesn’t necessarily want it. I’m pretty sure some of this also hit when D1  started middle school so I know can ride this one out too. In the meantime, I’ll try to find ways to sneak in a few minutes or an hour alone with her here and there.

She likes to help me cook so maybe we can do that side by side or hang out down by the river. Playing in rocks and sand will never be something she outgrows whether she has a fishing pole in hand or not.

I am trying to find the balance between my girls but I worry that when D2 finally decides she wants to chat, I’ll be too busy with one of her sisters to notice. If only I could clone myself so that I’ll always be handy for whichever child needs me at a given moment.

I always hear about middle children getting lost between older and younger siblings. I’ve tried like hell to be aware of that and not let it happen but this week, I’m afraid I’m failing miserably.