Tuesday, May 27, 2008

When I get super fatigued, as I was earlier today, there inevitably comes a point when I pass by myself in the bathroom mirror and stop. Who am I, I ask. Why am I?

The answer comes back the same these days, if I'm honest with myself. If you can't be honest with your own reflection you should probably seek professional help. Who am I? I am a survivor who kept alive and whole through emotional and mental storms. I came through cancer, through abuse, through despair so black that I thought I would be swallowed up by it. I came through the learning of myself. I can tell the difference between brutal honesty and self-hatred when I examine my character flaws. I am a melodramatic-prone storyteller who learned to put those things aside and be a supportive wife capable of sucking up and coping with reality when it comes to the wire, so that my husband can worry only about his military career and our children- not whether or not I'll fall apart and be useless in caring for those children who will not understand for many years (if ever) why Daddy has to go away sometimes. Sometimes for very long times. I am also a mother. If I didn't care, I would be less tired, and not as good a mother.

This evening I saw paperwork coming through with the official results from the preschooler's psych evaluation. She's "officially" autistic. Although she was so non-cooperative with the official IQ testing as to present below-normal, the shrink says that it's definitely not an accurate assessment of intelligence and the likelihood (she told me privately, not on the report) is that she's really fairly bright. Which presents it's own set of challenges for me. Between the medical and the developmental, and where is the line between those two because I sure can't find it, I read that report and say to myself, "no wonder I'm so tired". I saw the mother of another child in the preschool program dealing with her mobile younger child and the autistic student. She looked every inch of what I felt as her son was displaying tantrum behavior and trying to do his own thing. Grim, non-humorous. Just trying to get the child safely from one point to another, to go about the business of daily living without losing her sanity or temper. I guess she learned what I learned; losing our tempers doesn't do any good. Being impatient doesn't do any good. If the child sees us upset they get more upset. We lock down the negative side of things, and with that in mind it's kinda amazing that the positive side doesn't get atrophied as well.

But that's the thing- those positive things, the smiles and laughs and moments when the child is biddable and sweet. Those moments we appreciate like gold and treasure those moments deeply because they are so rare and fragile. Don't let them go, whatever we do, because we'll need those memories to get through the next twenty years.

One set of papers I have gotten over the past couple of weeks says why we need "x" hours of respite care per month on the preschooler. It's because that she, though not mentally retarded, requires the same level of supervision on every level. I've learned to be hyper alert when it comes to her mental swings. Hyper alert, but relaxed all at the same time- sounds contradictory but it's not in practice. I know where she is almost all the time and what she's doing. I know the not-sounds of her getting into mischief. I know she's bright enough to be horribly frustrated at her body's lack of cooperation with speech and language. Her body won't cooperate, she feels like it's failed her although she doesn't know how to frame that coherently yet. I know the feeling. My body has been failing me for years.

I remind myself that it really hasn't, though. It successfully produced two living offspring. For someone who was told that she would never even conceive these children, that's a miracle. I'm all about the miracles.
I sit here wondering what else we can cut out of our budget; how economizing becomes second nature to a housewife who wants and needs to remain a housewife. It's an odd trip at times. Scarily unreal. I chase my husband around the house every day turning out lights, and our sleeping habits are returning to the daylight cycle (aided by a preschooler who wants to be up at dawn and has exhausted me by the sunset). It's a good thing, I tell myself. I dream of the old days when the Boy and I went out to IHOP on a whim, when we thought nothing of bringing home new books every weekend and renting movies to watch while hanging out at home.

We're still hanging out at home, but we're watching cable ondemand instead of renting movies. We stick with digital cable- the free offerings ondemand are just as good as renting stuff. If we rent, it's netflix to provide us with whatever we need. We cut back on eating out which isn't that steep a cut because we've been eating in since the Preschooler was born. On the rare times that I get to the Net these past days I've been looking up ways to cut back even further- things I may not have thought of just yet but which may mean I can squeeze a few more pennies out of the change purse.

It's easy to feel paralyzed and helpless in this economy. Especially when you've been living on the edge of check to check for a while already. I fight a double battle. There's the drain of my children. A drain I accept and embrace, don't get me wrong, but the constant supervision takes an effort. When she's sleeping I want to crawl into bed and hide. When she's under someone else's supervision, I want to crawl into bed and hide and sleep. There's also the new baby, the new preemie in my life who is struggling with feeds and weight gain. I've begun to have nightmares about the what-if's. The scenario of him developing the same problems that his sister does. The thought that I'll be coping with two children who need constant supervision until what... forever? My daughter started preschool and I rejoiced that she was someone else's problem for three hours a day, four days a week. Then I beat myself up over thinking that, when she makes me so happy the rest of the time. Then there's the guilt that the rest of the house has gone to ruin because I either spend my time supervising the kids or wanting to hide in bed.

Either way I end up feeling overwhelmed and hiding. Wanting to hide. Feeling worn out and used up. Would saving a couple more pennies help that? Or would I then turn and take them as a symbol of my worth? I don't know. What do you think?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Whether you're in law enforcement or a military buff, why spend more money than necessary on gear? Check out great bargains on a tactical belt, flashlights, and vests. Wear comfortable clothes that come from the same specifications approved for use in police stations and firehouses. Suited for camping and hiking these are hard-wearing and made to last. Don't forget the great deals in store this Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The price of gas is getting too high, I think we can all agree on that. This morning I paid $3.94 a gallon to fill the tank. That was onbase, where the price of gas is cheaper. If it goes much higher we're going to have to cut back on every single non-essential trip out of the house. I don't know how we're going to juggle things if this continues for a long time.

At that, we're still more fortunate than a lot of others around here. People are starting to choose between gas, food, and medicine. A friend of mine is eligible for a food box every month, but it doesn't take into consideration that she's diabetic and unable to eat 75% of what they give her. We swap- she knows that we're struggling sometimes, and so she passes on the box to us. In return I make her takeout trays of stuff. Extra casserole, extra bread, handknit wool socks. We are fortunate.

Meat is expensive here. Produce isn't. Which makes it easier to try and eat healthy for me and my family. Milk would be rationed out carefully if not for WIC, which we requalified for in order to afford Robbie's formula. Which is even pricier.

Where is it going to end? Where will the prices ease up? I'm going to have to start thinking again of all the little ways to economize and save money. It will be interesting to see how the bottom line comes out. I read an article today that estimates that most households spend double what a meal actually costs by eating out. Takeout, fast food, convenience meals all add up. I'm going to start making large batches of things and freezing them again. With the heat around here in the summer, this will not only make my life a little easier but help stretch the food dollar. How much easier is it to defrost a meal or two in the morning and reheat it? The major cleanup only once a week? Run the microwave instead of the oven? Cut the energy bill, cut the grocery bill. Cut so many things. It's worth it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

More challenges lay ahead for us. The Preschooler's tantrums grow slightly worse this week, with the addition of her first anxiety attack- at least, that's what it seemed like to me. If she could use more of her words I'd know more, but the fact that she could use any words in the middle of it tells me that she's making progress.

The fact remains clear though that as she gets older it becomes more and more obvious to others that she's not quite in sync with the rest of us. She's in her own space most of the time. Still doesn't like to make eye contact- but when she does she's all there and her smile lights her face and my heart. The tantrums are starting to get more age appropriate and although I know they could be so much worse it doesn't always help. Mothers don't like to see their kids tantrum. All the knowledge in the world about how best to handle it and how little it'll matter in ten years time does not help when it's your baby crying at your feet and throwing herself on the ground. It does not help when they thrash around so violently you're afraid they'll hurt themselves, and the only thing you can think of to help is to throw your own body between them and the walls. Please note: this does not happen often. Maybe once in a blue moon. Only twice since the start of this year, and rarely before that, and it does seem that she's outgrown that level of tantrum. However. The memory tends to linger in my mind because she's my baby. The two and a half pound infant that I nursed from NICU to Preschool, who I sat up with night after night and through reflux, colic, and sensory overstimulation. She's a big girl now, and I'm still the same on the outside but forever changed indefinably by the experience.

I think that last sentence pretty much sums up everything I needed to say today. Let's leave it at that.
There is a reason why I should never blog under the influence of drugs and depression. It leads to wierd things like last night's rantings. Let me recap into "sane" for you all.

I was tired. I took an ambien to help me fall asleep during a nice long lazy afternoon nap. I did not sleep. I sort of slept, then staggered around drunk-ish the rest of the night. I remember when it wore off (sorta) cleaning the kitchen. Nothing beyond that.

And so I begin a brand new week, still feeling as though both my personal life and my house have escaped my control. My solution? Baby steps, as thought up by FlyLady and her system. I've talked about it before, how it's slowly changing my life. Well, it can work again. Baby steps. Put away five things here, five things there. Every time I pass the dishwasher I put away another handful of things. I've tossed stuff into the laundry basket in the living room, and every commercial break I put away five more things. Given that I still have an ambien hangover this morning, I'm not moving that fast or easily. I have faith, though, that by the time lunch time rolls around I will have accomplished something decent.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I dropped my marbles today in an utterly stupid way, one in which I was fearing would happen at some point down the road. I thought I would be in control of it- isn't that what every borderline addictive personality says when they're this close to screwing up everything that they've worked for with one seemingly "fine" idea?

I still don't know the whole extent of what I've done, that will wait until tommorrow when I stop seeing double and when the Boy tells me what happened this afternoon. But suddenly between one breath and the next the kids are all asleep in bed and he's telling me to go sleep it off and drink plenty of water.

I've scared him. I've screwed up. I still don't know what happened beyond that original thought that seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Can I just say a great big "ditto" for the past three posts? It seems that I've run out of new and whitty things to say lately; the kids are about the same, the chores are still at the same point of undoneness, and the laundry continues to never quite be all done.

Today the clothesline broke under the weight of our laundry. My fault, likely, for overloading a slightly wobbly line. So now I have to bite the bullet and go out for a new drying rack- because we're seriously cutting back on the electric costs here this summer in an effort to reduce the bills. Because the AC is a necessity in this family, and I'm just now recovering from the shock of last summer's bills, and today the temperature is breaking the triple-digit mark for the first time (with no plans on cooling back to 99 until a few days into next week). Viva la desert. Who knew that a desert could experience drought? I certainly never really understood that concept until last year, when everything turned brown and crunchy and we went under a very tight water rationing type of system. Not that it affected us much- our lawn still died because we didn't water it, because there was just so much else going on.

Cutting back electric means cutting back on a lot of conveniences that one takes for granted after a while. Dishes by hand. Hanging out laundry instead of using the dryer. Turning off appliances. Conserving. It's nothing that a lot of people are doing all over the place this year. It's going to be good for us, good for the community, good for my kids to grow up knowing that this sort of lifestyle is fully possible. That we don't have to live totally plugged in to the grid with every appliance running 24/7.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My living room is a wreck, but the laundry is done and the dishes are being washed in the dishwasher; a constant swishing hum in the background. My babies are sleeping. My Boy is tucked up in bed, snoring away. I'm sitting down with my quilting, and watching tv, and feeling totally relaxed and happy with life.

Isn't it amazing how your attitude can run the entire day? There were so many points in my day that could have been different if I had let anxiety and pressure get to me. Instead we all enjoyed a relaxing Saturday. There was laughter and giggles and lots of hugs with my babies. There was a sense of loving partnership with my Boy. There was so much quiet joy.

It restores something deep inside of me. Something I've missed for a long time. Something wonderfully stretched to the point of fullness right now; because it's all full up. I'm full up of love and happiness. What a wonderful change from anxiety, hard long nights of cranky children, longer nights of no sleep and chronic worry.

Friday, May 09, 2008

This week, like the previous weeks, has flown past in a whirl of daily grind. My daughter went to school, my son didn't, both were cared for and fed every day. He went to the doctor. I juggled transportation issues with the Boy and got everyone where they needed to be everyday.

Plus we got the economic stimulus payment this morning. A good thing. We were strapped financially, as we are every time the middle of the payperiod comes around, between paying bills and putting gas in the car and feeding the family- money is tight. Tighter than ever. I'm trying to economize where I can, but there are a few luxuries we'd like to have around. One of them is, as always, non-negotiable. Funny thing to say, isn't it? Non-negotiable luxury. But a person can only pinch things so far. If we don't have something to splurge on every so many weeks, we both go crazy and overspend the budget to a horrible overdraft in the bank account. I hate that. Hate it a lot.

And the house is a mess. Have I mentioned this? In the process of taking care of the rest of the stuff, the house is a mess. Laundry is washed and dried one day, and put away three days later after the wrinkles have set in. I don't do ironing. Unless I have to. So far, I haven't had to- the Boy irons his own uniforms, and the kids are wash'n'wear. Who cares what I'm wearing? Today it's t-shirt and shorts, a standard Mom uniform of summer. If I'm going out in the afternoon, it becomes a tank top and shorts. Clean means that I change my shirt three or four times in a day. I have a lot of shirts. Maybe this is why my daughter likes to change her outfit several times- she may think that everyone does it this way because she's seen her own mom doing it constantly since she was born and brought the first refluxy baby into my life.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

In a way it's been a too-long day. I got some things done. I didn't get others done until after dinner, when my body's running on empty as far as energy levels and the rest of me is vaguely wired. I've been watching my diet a lot this past week; in the past three weeks I've been attempting to stick closely to the gestational diabetes guidelines that I went to class for- those numbers and guidelines can bring me almost within standards. It's the rest of the time I worry about... My fasting sugar is still too high. It throws off breakfast and mostly lunch. If lunch is too high, I might as well give up on dinner altogether because it's never been below a 190 no matter how few carbs I eat. This leads me to believe that it's back on the insulin when I do see the doctor next week. I can cope with that.

The preschooler uses more and more words. She finally had a meeting with the regional psychologist and has officially been given the title of PDD-NOS. Essentially, borderline autism. It's not quite autism but it's in that field. It is the diagnosis that I was fairly sure fit her. Knowing that she's finally got this condition makes me rest easier. Feel less like a rotten mother for feeling out of my depth when I tell people that she needs constant supervision- that I can't just assume that she'll follow the house rules or even common sense guidelines for safety. It's a hard thing. It wears me out emotionally and mentally, even though physically I'm doing better lately than I've been in ages. She's enjoying her preschool program immensely. I couldn't ask for a better placement for her than this.

And as for the Robbie, he continues to gain weight and thrive. Slow going, almost painfully slow. He gains weight at about half the rate the doctor wants to see. In the past two weeks he's been gaining 14gm a day, which is not quite what we'd like (20-40 is the norm). Still, he hasn't lost weight at all, which is the important thing.

We just keep on, keeping on. What's new in your life?