I took a leave of absence. Things got crazy, both in real life and in my own mind. It was hard to think clearly and frankly, my heart hurt. Writing is feeling, sorting, being. And it takes effort and energy. I had no energy left over, and all my effort was going into getting through each day. NOTHING left over.
And then as the spiral continues, I wake up one morning and see all the bathing suits and towels on the porch railing. What does that mean? It means summer. It means swimming. It means kids. And suddenly, it means happiness. The heat, the hum of the insects, the faint smell of wet towel and chlorine; they make me happy. They offer proof that we not only get through each day, we cannon ball in the deep end.
The Alzheimer’s is still there. The COPD, the nut allergy, the asthma, the learning disabilities, the family drama, the constipation of life is all still there. And yet, bright blue and pink towels and damp swim suits drape across our porch railing, their fluttering existence proof that we are here, living, being, present.
My leave of absence is over.
A couple weeks ago the kids asked to go camping. They wanted one last summer adventure. So, being good sports, we dragged out the tent. And when I say we, I mean me. When I was setting it up Sam was bouncing around me like a eager puppy. “Are you sure you can? Do you know how? You should wait for daddy!” Where does this kid get his ideas? I am an independent, capable person – woman – and a good role model. Anyway, he and I together with the girls, got the tent set up pretty easily. I think Moira’s expression reflects her accomplishment. Or her irritation with her brother. Probably both.
We went fishing – Sam loves fishing! He caught a couple of catfish, which we released back into the pond. Maggie was very happy with her haul- she caught tad poles galore and even got a crayfish in her net. And, of course, a few frogs. Moira caught poison ivy, which we did not realize till later.
We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on the fire and the kids had a fantastic time. The benefit to this method of cooking is minimal clean-up, so I was on board. At bed time the kids were over the moon to climb into the tent. They were actually pretty tired. So, after brushing teeth and scrubbing marshmallow faces clean, we climbed into our sleeping bags. And when I say we I mean not me. The tent, as I explained to Scott, really won’t hold 2 adults, 3 kids and a dog comfortably. So, thoughtfully, I volunteered to sleep inside. Which is how I had the bed to myself for the first time in TEN YEARS! I love camping!
Back to the insanity of daily life… but boy, it was sweet while it lasted. We unplugged – there is no internet or cable at the camp – so we played cards and read books and took walks. We also just sat on the deck and looked out at the water and talked.
We saw bald eagles fly by… yep, seriously. Sam and Maggie went fishing and caught nothing and had a great time doing it. Daddy untangled lines and untangled hooks and did not have a great time doing it, but he would rather do that than be at work, so there.
Maggie’s favorite part was riding the carousel and she would have happily done so for hours at a time had we let her, but we did not. We also went out in go-karts and Sam loved that, while Moira and I realized we have absolutely no future in NASCAR. Maggie adored the little go-karts and drove like a pro, except when the attendant raised his hand to tell her to slow down and she raised her own hand, gave him a high 5 and kept right on going. Even he giggled.
Daddy and Moira got goofy – I’m not even sure what they were doing, I only know daddy regretted doing it the next morning when he climbed from bed moaning – ouch.
We were all tired, in a good way and we slept well and ate well and it just felt so nice to be together. Then we had to pack up and head home and the girls were sad. Until I told them they could finish the left over ice cream for breakfast. All better… and the Water House will be patiently waiting for us to come back.
Start spreading the news, we’re leaving today… wait, no. No, we aren’t. You Nork will have to wait. We are packed, stacked and ready to roll out in the morning for our almost-full-week of vacation in NY, when Sam, who has been a little blah all day, says, “Can you take my temp?” And sure enough, a fever. Not too high, but a fever none the less. Is this connected to the weird rash from last week? Could it be Lyme again? Do we leave for NY and hope for the best? We decided to wait a couple days and post-pone rather than cancel the trip. I kind of want to wait and see where the fever goes (hopefully nowhere.)
Last summer the Lyme was such a nightmare for Sam. He suffered through days of fever, chills, fatigue and feeling awful. When we went to the doctor and diagnosed the cause, we still had major issues. He was 7 at the time and the most effective antibiotic for Lyme at that age is amoxicillin, but he is allergic to that. The most effective drug for 8 and over is doxycycline – we were about 7 weeks from Sam’s 8th birthday, so the consensus was – we’ll go for it. My question – his Dad is allergic to doxycycline, could Sam be allergic too? Mmmmm…(picture Winnie the Pooh -think, think, think) good question. Our doctor’s office called the CDC, we waited for call backs, they researched the question… meanwhile Sam is spending the second week of July on the couch dressed in flannel pajamas, wrapped in blankets, too sick to even enjoy extra Wii time. And that is SICK, let me tell you! Finally, on a Friday afternoon (we’d initially gone to the doctor’s on Tuesday) we get a call saying the doxycycline is go. They call in the script, I call the pharmacy and am told that that medicine requires prior approval from the insurance and the process takes 24-48 hours. Starting Monday. Really???? When our doctor found out about this she was FURIOUS and called in a 4 day supply of the medicine and put it on her own credit card. How awesome is that? Wait, because this story gets better. We get the medicine, give him his first dose Friday evening. By Sunday morning he is covered in a strange red rash. We go back to our doctor (yes, on a Sunday morning we see our own doctor in the office.) She confirms what I suspect – Sam is indeed allergic to doxycycline. He needs to be off it for 24 hours before he can start a new medicine. What medicine? Well, after another round of research we have to special order a drug from a compounding center in Boston and then drive 45 minutes out of the way to a pharmacy that will agree to mix it (it comes in brown glass bottles.) Sam does okay on this medicine (I can’t even remember what it is) for two weeks, but the symptoms don’t entirely go away. By late August we are back at the doctor and put on another round of the brown-glass-bottle-antibiotics.
Sam has had no lasting effects, thank goodness. But when he starts with a fever and loss of appetite, I get a little nervous. Hopefully by the end of the week we can head for You Nork. Maggie is looking forward to seeing her booster seat (we keep one out there, not sure why this a highlight for her, but she is weird.) I am looking forward to sitting on the deck and looking out at this… only wish I enjoy a cocktail while I enjoy the view, but the medicine I am on for Lyme disease doesn’t allow for it. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
Moira went to Cake Camp this week. 3 ½ hours a day of culinary delights and countless calories brought home, but she adored it. And we devoured her creations. She loves baking and with a peanut/nut allergy in the house, our baked goods must be from scratch, so it is a great and useful skill. The class was full of girls (and one brave boy) and I admit to being surprised that so many kids would give up being outside on a July morning. Then, Scott pointed out to me that kids don’t play outside anymore, but he was surprised that kids would give up their electronics to spend a day in the kitchen. The class included the basics like the importance of hand washing and even had the kids helping clean-up and do dishes at the end, because, as the teacher pointed out with a wink, cleaning up the kitchen is part of it.
So, I’m sitting on the front deck this morning and enjoying a piece of blueberry crumb cake (made with fresh blueberries from the farmers market) with my coffee and thinking how Moira can take over the baking duties. It is a win-win if she loves it and has the benefit of giving her and me a chance to spend some time together in the kitchen. I’m thinking of cool fall temperatures and the lure of applesauce muffins and pumpkin bread. Then I think of school. She’ll be in school till nearly 4pm. Home, unwind time, homework time, supper time, pack lunches and bags for tomorrow, get clothes ready and …. And when are we going to bake? Midnight cupcakes?
More and more I think about homeschooling. I think about what it might mean for our quality of life. We would sacrifice my meager earnings, but most of those will go to pay for Maggie’s preschool tuition, so that might be a wash. And what would we gain with the sacrifice? We are sad to think of summer coming to a close, but is it summer, or the schedule, the freedom of time together, time to play, read, explore and enjoy? I need to think some more… and another piece of blueberry cake wouldn’t hurt.
Maggie was very excited about our recent trip to NY. Or, as she calls it, You Nork. We had talked about the city of NY being the Big Apple. Maggie loves her apples, but she always wants them peeled, or again, in her words, “I like my apples naked.” Thus, our trip was dubbed the voyage to “You Nork, the Naked Apple.”
Traveling anywhere with 3 kids and a 65 pound dog is always fun, but 7 hours in a car in the dark, in the middle of a driving rainstorm makes it extra special. We arrived soggy and cold, but we arrived and woke the next day to brisk sunshine and cool breezes.
The kids love treasure hunting on the shore of the Hudson, seeing what the currents have washed ashore.
And even though the temperatures were chilly, Scott was a good sport and they loved fishing by the canal. Sam thinks he is going to hook a river monster and fancies himself the next Jeremy Wade. There certainly are big fish in the Hudson and like all good fishermen, Sam has lots of stories about the ones that got away.
We went to the service for Scott’s grandpa and while there were no goats, it was a nice service and we are glad we could be there. We did spend a day in Saratoga wandering through Congress Park and browsing in lots of little shops. All the fishing and shopping exhausted daddy, though, and while the Naked Apple was great, there is no place like home!
My car desperately needed new tires. It was getting to the point where it felt unsafe to be carting around the kids. There in lies the problem – when is a good time to get new tires when I am always using the car to cart around the kids? But, last week the stars aligned and the planets tilted the right way and the scheduling gods cooperated and I made an appointment with Sullivan tire. Is it crazy to say I was actually looking forward to it? To a morning where Daddy would drop the kids at school, Auntie J would take Mags and I could take myself and my book to the tire place for TWO WHOLE HOURS ALONE!
We wave good-bye to daddy and the older kids and Maggie and I get in the car the morning of the appointment…. mmmm… where are my keys? We look, we hunt, we go back inside, we go outside… we call Daddy n the phone, and Daddy says, “How would I know where your keys are?”
Okay then… we look so more and by now I am supposed to be sitting in the waiting room of the tire place with my free coffee and free Wi-Fi. I walked Maggie to Auntie J’s and go back to looking now that she is out of ear shot and I can use a few choice words to express my +@&*@ dismay. And then Daddy, who is on his way to a job interview, calls to say, “Uh, hey, I found your car keys.” Yep, he found them. In his car. Where he had put them. Yes, indeed, sense of humor required.
So, Milo the rattie is still peeing on EVERYTHING. Trying to keep things clean is a full-time job and I am honestly, sadly, reluctantly ready to just admit defeat. He recently had a full medical work-up. He is not old, merely middle aged. After speaking with a private trainer, the trainer for the SPCA, my vet, a second vet, the adoption counselor for the SPCA and two rattie rescue groups, the bottom line is that everyone feels the behavior is anxiety driven and there’s a 50/50 chance that if he is re-homed to where he is the only dog and in a quieter environment the behavior will stop. Great. Who can help me re-home him? The SPCA says he is “not a good candidate for our shelter, given his anxiety he would just deteriorate in a kennel situation.” Ok, I get that…. I contacted the rescue groups and given his behavior they are saying (I emailed 4 or 5, only 2 got back to me) it would be tough to find a home for him. Yes, yes, I see the problem. EVERY DAY! And the behavior is getting worse. Someone suggested a belly-band (read doggie diaper) but OMG, really??? It was bad enough when the kids were in diapers. And that is just masking the symptom and not managing the poor things anxiety. Sigh…. It may time for some very tough decisions. I hope, like my daughter, I can rally to the cause and manage to tackle the hard stuff.
We have 2 cats. One is Birdie, the other Dorothy. The year Dorothy came to live with us, Moira was 5 and dressed up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. I was almost 9 months pregnant, when on October 30 a small, black cat sauntered in from the cold dark and curled up in a pink princess chair in our living room. Dorothy has been living with us ever since that night 4 years ago. And Birdie, named after our aunt Bird, came shortly after from the ASPCA. But, I digress.
It was just after midnight a couple nights ago that Birdie began her throaty, trilling, meow that signals, “Hey, look what I’ve got!” I peered out from under the covers and saw her sitting beside me with a mouse in her mouth. Of course I very calmly called to my husband to please wake up and take care of the situation. Okay, really I yelled, “Scott, wake up! Help! Get the mouse!”
Either way, my wonderful, brave husband sleepily crawled out of bed, rolling his eyes and mumbling under his breath. I ducked back under the covers and closed my eyes till it was over. Thank you, babe, for being the mouse cleaner-upper in the family.