Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Looking up




Things are looking up lately—DD1 is all settled into her school year, excited that she’s remained in her reading advanced class and it looks like she was elevated to the math advanced class this year, too.  I’m so proud of her! 

She really worked hard for the math, since she wasn’t in it last year.   I remember asking her teacher and even the principal about it (yes, I was THAT mom), only because I know she excels at math and she LIKES it.  If it weren’t for those two reasons, I wouldn’t have bothered.  It turned out that last year, her back to school math test had lowered her overall score (she’d excelled the year before that), and she missed “the cut” by three students.  So one year of extra math workbook (suggested by her teacher) and one summer of flashcard ‘math facts’ practice later, no problem, she was in like Flynn.  And the way that SHE was SO PROUD of herself, well—that makes my heart beat proudly, too!  I can’t believe how fast she’s growing up.  Some of the books this summer she read:

Tales from the Fourth Grade Nothing
Harry Potter, books 4, 5, 6
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (heart tug, one of my favorites!)
Holes
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (a bunch of different ones).

I’m not listing these titles to be an annoying overachiever mom, lol.  I’m listing them because these books, or books like them (since Harry Potter and Holes and Diaries didn’t exist when I was a kid), had a profound effect on my imagination, on my personality.  I was becoming a person, I remember feeling like a whole person at DD1’s age.  And now she’s there, doing the same thing.  Asking me about love and sex and why do boys act weird around girls.  And sharing with me her concerns and thoughts and I see the wheels turning in her smart little head.  Ah, DD1!  How on earth did you grow so fast?  (btw, I’m not saying we aren’t “persons” at younger ages…I just remember parts of my crystalized in fourth grade…)

As for DD2, she is getting excited about kindergarten.  Her preschool pals are one-by-one leaving preschool as they enroll in their respective schools.  She has two and half weeks left, I can’t believe it!  She tells me she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, or a worker, or a clothes dresser, or a helper.  I love how she thinks. 

Again, what happened time?

But I’m so grateful for the passage of time.  I remember four years ago—standing on the abyss, unsure of everything and the sleepless nights, waiting, counting, worrying.  DD2 was just a baby, she couldn’t even talk!  DD1, always the sensitive, loving, caring soul, so worried about everyone. 

Now they are embracing life and life’s adventures with gusto, curious to see what’s around the next corner, giggling excitedly at the newest sight.  Their delight and energy for life makes me realize that all that pain, those shadows, those demons fought and overcome—it was worth it.  It will always be worth it.

Friday, July 31, 2015

When it Rains, it Pours



I was torn on that last post—was it too much?  Is it wrong to share the private details of my marriage anonymously to the world?  I am very sorry if it is.  That I’m hemming and hawing and toying with regret for posting it, is probably an indicator that I may have done something wrong.

That writing helps me cope with the stressors of life and knowledge and my family woes, is okay.  Maybe it’s not okay to put it out there in the ether.

A part of me wonders if there’s anyone else out there in the world who shares similar struggles.  I remember sitting in my therapist’s chair, tears trickling down my cheeks, asking, are you sure there are people out in the world who don’t break things when they’re angry?  Are you sure there are people out there who don’t yell and scream and swear when they’re upset?

She said yes.

I still wonder if that’s true.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Melancholy...or, The Other Shoe



I got the news that my girlfriend’s mom passed, and my hubby’s step-mom’s brother passed—leaving our world behind all in the same week end.  My heart hurts for these families (now my family) and for all the people we’ve lost along the way.  I wish I could make a bridge to heaven so I could see them again, at least for a hug.  I was crying yesterday, just thinking about it.

Melancholy—well…it’s time to be honest and confess that’s the preamble to what’s been going on in the background and occasionally the foreground.  Hubby and I have been arguing, again, about how to best deal with my ex-husband, again, and it’s gotten to the point where I just don’t see us doing anything but going around and around the carousel, spinning our wheels, getting nowhere.  He can’t demonstrate an understanding that my “take the high road,” “disengage,” “do not behave like Exie behaves,” “concentrate on the children and not on what Exie might be thinking/plotting/doing,” approach is something to be considered.

And…I can’t take the constant pressure to “bully the bully back” approach that he wishes me to take.

Hubby wants a “win.”

I’m no longer fighting. 

That is not to say I’m a doormat.  When issues of private school, or supporting DD1’s ballet, or enforcing payment of medical and health payments, I’m all about being firm and strong and not taking any bullshit.

But as for the other stuff?  I can’t force Exie to change his personality.  Sure, he may lean on the girls for his own emotional care-taking, or conduct phone visitation in a less than stellar way, and that is why we have a play therapist for the girls, a neutral third party to be sure it doesn’t go beyond annoying.  Since 2011, I learned:  1) I can’t put a stop to Exie’s behavior, 2) my job is to help the girls be strong, find their voices, and stand up for themselves, and finally 3) rising to the passive-aggressive bait will invite more headaches and conflict in my life.  I’m done.  I leave Exie at the door.  Because fighting with the Exie, in my eyes, gives Exie the “win,” because he permeates our household like a third person.

Hubby sees it as he has no say in the matter and he wants to DO something about it.  He sees Exie’s behavior as harmful to me and the girls.  That I’ve been so ‘beaten down’ by Exie’s behavior, that I don’t see it, and that he has a fresh pair of eyes and he’s angry that I let Exie “get away with things.”  Even when we’ve consulted FOUR attorneys, who advise there are certain battles to fight (private school, extracurricular activities, copayments), but others are pointless to fight (passive-aggressive behavior—there’s no statute on being a jerk; there’s no prosecution for just boing a douchebag).

I’m no longer a victim.  Exie’s behavior is frustrating and sometimes I get pissed off, but I’m no longer tolerating any abuse in my house.  That is enough for me.  It’s not enough for Hubby.

So after two years of this back and forth, I hit the wall.  I could no longer see any way forward unless we started marriage counseling.  So that this argument can happen with a therapist, a moderator, a third party, rather than screaming at each other in our home.  And yes, screaming.  I’m done.  DONE with that. My heart breaks.

And to my hopeful surprise, he agreed.  Our first session was yesterday.  The discussion was heated, he raised his voice, and it was good to hear the therapist point out that while Hubby says he’s angry at Exie, it sounds like he is more angry with me.  And when she pointed out that maybe, there’s nothing that can be done, he railed against that, refusing to accept it, but it was nice to hear that what I’ve been maintaining was acknowledged.

Likewise, his very strong feelings of anger at the injustice of some asshole being able to “get away with it,” was also justified.  He has every right to feel as upset and frustrated and angry as he does.

So while I still see our situation as between a rock and a hard place, that we’ve carved out a safe space to have these discussions—rather than arguing in front of the girls (this happened twice in one week, which is why I hit the wall—I did NOT sign up for inviting more negative and unhealthy behavior in my home), I am hopeful.

We will be going again next week.  Please pray for my little family.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Comes and Goes


Believe it or not, my DD1 starts school next week.  Next week!!  Where did this summer go?

In light of that, our little family took an impromptu and very last getaway to the Big Island.  To introduce the girls to lava for the first time--#walkingonlava to be exact.

It was a quick and whirlwind arrival, just as the sun was setting.
  

The landscape on the leeward side is all lava rock, cracked and dried over thousands of years, black and glistening still in its solid shapes—forcing all to walk with care so as to not cut your feet.  It’s like driving on another planet, a landscape unfamiliar and almost friendlier to spaceships than to life.  But life grows.  And happens.  More on the volcanoes that make up the Big Island, here.

One day we spent exploring our area, a vacation development built upon and seemingly within the lava all around us, swimming in pools, finding a beach off the beaten path with body surfing friendly waves and my DD2 swears she saw a sea turtle.

The next day we visited Volcano National Park—and while there was no active lava flow here, there were breathtaking views of the rainforest at the rim of the crater, steam escaping from Halemaumau crater, hiking through a giant lava tube.
 
And at the end of the Chain of Craters Road, it was like we had driven to the end of the earth.



 
The girls loved running around from here to there along the lava paths, hiking through the rainforest, looking at the tracks that the lava left behind as it made its way to the sea.   


They loved waking up in a different place on ‘vacation,’ and swimming in the pools (we were lucky to have coordinated our trip with some very good friends) and when A had to return the day before we did for work, the girls cried alligator tears at his departure—a shock to me, their intense bond, since we were coming home the next day.  And while three nights away, with the last, luxurious day resulting in us sleeping in until--GASP—8:00!—it was still a wonderful taste of something different, something special, and a little magical, our first walk with Pele as a new family.


Our return to our regular life was as seamless as our departure.  G is wearing the cone of shame from her spay surgery, only two more days to go (we hope!) and is healing fine.  DD2 will start kindergarten at a small, lovely private school, which begins next month (important update—in the ninth hour the day before our trial—Exie settled!!  Agreeing to private school, modified CS, and extracurriculars—so the big dramatic items seem to have been resolved). 

Play dates with our friends as we prepare DD1 to go back to school—having to label each and every crayon and marker. 

Hugs and kisses and laughter and settling of arguments among the girls as they fickle over this toy or that stuffed animal or this game.

It all seems quite normal, no, more than normal--a beautiful trip and now we're home again. 

I’m not used to this as normal. 

Is this normal?  Are we allowed to be okay?  I think so.  The old me is waiting for the other shoe to drop and everything to burn up--kind of like lava.  The continually working and therapized me is hoping that--while conflicts do arise with hubby and myself over the best way forward in dealing with Exie--that this is one of those two steps forward, as we baby step our way to a new future, a new normal.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Let's Talk about Sex, Baby!



Salt N Pepa aside...I knew this day was coming, I just didn’t know when.  So when last week my precocious official fourth grade daughter piped up from the back seat, “Mom, have you heard about 50 shades of gray?  Sandy says it has lots of SEX in it.  What IS sex, anyway?,” I clutched my steering wheel a little harder, took a deep breath and dove right in.

It went something like this:

Me:  Yeah, honey, there’s definitely a lot of sex in that book!  Where’d you hear about 50 shades of grey?

DD1: Sandy.  She saw it on t.v. or something.  So what’s sex anyway?

Me:  Well, it’s something adults do, and it’s really special, a way to share your love for someone.  It’s also how babies are made.

DD1: So it has to do with private parts?

Me:  Yep, it definitely involves private parts.

DD1: But does it feel good?

Me:  It can, when you know what you’re doing.  That’s why it’s best to be sure you love someone and that person loves you, and why it’s good to be an adult before you do it.

DD1: But HOW does it work?

Me (deep breath, and after all she’s been talking penises and vaginas since preschool):  well…you know how boys have penises and girls have vaginas?  The penis goes into the vagina.  And that’s how babies are made.

DD1: EWWWWWWW.  That’s GROSSSSS.

Me:  I guess it does sound gross.  (trying not to laugh), but it’s a really good thing when you’re an adult and you love someone and that person loves you.  And it’s best when you’re an adult, and you’re with someone who LISTENS to you, because then you learn together how to do it.

DD1: Yeah, that just doesn’t sound good at ALL.    Ewww mom, does that mean you have sex with A?

Me (Awkk!!  Should have seen that one coming, lol):  Yep, but don’t worry honey, we never do that when you’re around, does that make you feel better?

DD1:  YES!

Me :  Well, like I said, it’s for when you love someone, and someone who really loves you and listens to you, because you learn together.  And—that your person listens to you—that’s how you know they really love you because they LISTEN. And that’s why it’s good to wait until you’re an adult. 

And by the way, don’t waste your time on high school boys when you get there, because they’re stupid and don’t know how to do it.  (Sorry high school boys—but it’s true!  Trying to set some boundaries for my DD1!)

DD1:  So is sex good or bad?

Me (oh my god I love my daughter with her great questions!!):  Well, that’s a really good question honey.  And sex isn’t good or bad all by itself.  People make it good or bad.  (pausing while I reach wildly for an analogy)  You know how the earth is a pretty beautiful place, right?

DD1: uh huh…?

Me:  Well, some people don’t take care of it, they make pollution and trash it, and that’s making the earth bad.  And other people, like you and me, we take care of the earth, and we try to make it good.  So it’s like that.  Sex is good if we make it good, and it’s bad when people don’t take care and listen to each other.

DD1:  Uh, okay…

Me:  Because you know, when you’re an adult and you really love someone, then sex is a really good thing, plus you can make babies. 

DD1: Oh gross, so that means you had sex with dad?  Ewww!!!

Me:  Well, yeah, but that’s why it’s important that when you and dd2 ask me if daddy and I still love each other, well the important thing is we really, really loved each other when you guys were made.

DD1:  But, you can get sick from sex, too right?

Me (Holy shit, who has she been talking to?):  Yep, you’re right, honey.  It’s true, you can get sick, and that’s why you have to be careful, and why it’s good to wait until you’re an adult, and even as an adult, there are ways to protect our bodies.

And also, your body is YOUR body, DD1.  It’s not okay for anyone to touch your body without your permission.

DD1: I know, mom.

Me:  Well, you know what I said about people making sex ‘bad’?  There are some boys in the world who think it’s okay to touch girls’ bodies without their permission and that is NOT OKAY.  And the sad thing about those stories is—that the girls think it’s THEIR fault.  And it’s NOT THEIR FAULT, okay?  So if you have any questions about your body, you can always talk to mommy about it.

DD1:  Okay, mom, I will. 

Me (by this time, about halfway home, wondering if it's all sinking in, still holding onto the steering wheel, taking a deep breath):  So what did you learn about sex honey?

DD1:  Someday, be sure someone listens to me.  And talk to mommy if I have any questions…

Me:  And wait until you’re an adult…

DD1 (feel her rolling her eyes):  I KNOW mommy, of course I’d be an adult.  That’s gross!

Me (phew!): Okay honey, and anything else?

DD1:  My body is my body… can we turn on the radio now?

Finis—at least for now. 

The next day I went to a bbq with Sandy’s mom and another BFF mom.  Over wine I let them in on the whole story—especially because Sandy was the one who brought up 50 shades, so I’m sure DD1 would be talking all about it with Sandy, and likely the other BFFs.  They cackled at my “earth” analogy, but hey!  I was on the spot!!  So I guess the SEX talk has begun.

Wish us luck!  I didn’t want to lecture too hard, and at the same time, since she came to me, I wanted to be honest and open and still sink in a few pearls of wisdom into the conversation.  I hope she knows she can always come to me for more questions in the future.  I guess I should feel happy that she felt safe to ask me about it in the first place.

So…I hope this will be the first of many conversations… that DD1 will always feel safe to talk to me about this stuff, and if one day she doesn’t, I hope I have the opportunities now and in the near future to give her enough information to navigate the complicated world of sex.  Awk!!!