Saturday, May 27, 2006


My computer puked all over me today. Took it in to Best Buy because we have a service contract on it, and it's either the power supply...or the motherboard. Yippee. So I may be offline as long as three weeks. And unfortunately, most of my phone numbers and stuff are on that very computer, so I can't call anyone, unless they happen to be in the local white pages I have.

Anyone from SP that needs to get ahold of me, my number is on I'll be checking my mail next weekend at my parents' house, but otherwise assume that I won't be getting any email until further notice.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

That kid rubbing his face in the sand? Yeah, he's mine.

We got the results of all the testing and assessments Gabe has had in the past month. He qualifies for special education in three areas: speech/language, sensory issues, and autism. They are trying to find him a spot in summer school, and he'll attend special ed. preschool in the fall. The good news is, it's through the school district, free, and they'll bus him. The bad news is we have to take what we get as far as his schedule...we don't get to pick morning or afternoon or anything like that.

I'm just so very, very thankful right now that he hasn't had any immunizations. I already feel pretty terrible that we didn't have him evaluated sooner...wondering if the autism was connected to mercury-containing vaccines, and thus something that could have been avoided, is the last thing I need right now. I wasn't all that surprised that he fit the school district's criteria for autism spectrum, but adjusting to it has still been a struggle, and has been harder on me emotionally than I would have thought. There's just so much going on right now...and it's just one more thing.

I started reading Raising a Sensory Smart Child, which I "accidentally" found at Barnes and Noble...I was there for a specific book, wouldn't even have gone to the parenting section (which usually just pisses me off, since it's right next to the birth books and they usually have NONE that are any good). I just happened to walk by it, and huh...something that could help me! And I think it will...when I'm ready for it. I read it about halfway through and realized it was just stressing me out. Thinking about keeping a log of Gabe's odd reactions to things, strange patterns of behavior, what he eats and drinks, how much he sleeps...I just can't do it right now. After reading as much as I have, I'm pretty sure I need to do the same for Allie, who we've always known to be hypersensitive to almost everything. And I'm just not up to it right now. The book did have one immediate benefit, inspired me to start massaging Gabe's arms and legs at bedtime, and he's going to sleep faster and better than he ever has.

Friday, April 28, 2006

My soon-to-be-kindergartener

Visiting her soon-to-be- school. Unbelievable.

The first and only time he will be interested in a card

Next year, they'll just be obstacles preventing him from efficiently opening his gifts.

Gabe's new, I mean Jonah's

There is nothing Jonah has that Gabe can't take away. Especially if it's a truck that makes engine sounds.

But they do look like they're getting along in the picture, don't they? It's an optical illusion. Clever of me, no?

Mmmmm, cake!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sometimes I can't resist

Tonight, outside Cub, my daughter misspoke just perfectly.

Allie (in cart): Mom! Mom! Can you be pushed?
Me: Only so far, darling.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bye Bye Baby

It seems impossible, but there it is. My bear turned one today.

Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of him enjoying his highly-sugared, artificially-colored, refined-flour-based, nutritionally bankrupt birthday cake.

Tonight I'm just nostalgic. And I want to thank everyone who was part of our birth crew-

Rachel and Colleen, who took such good care of our kids that I don't think they realized anything was going on until the next day, when they saw Jonah for the first time.

Lee, for making sure we had everything we needed, and directing traffic.

Sarah and Brynn, the best doulas a woman could want- honestly, how many women do you know who got to laugh (hard!) during late labor?

Rolla, for guiding me through my last pregnancy, and affirming my trust in my own innate wisdom. Sometimes I almost forgot you were there, and in my opinion, there's no higher praise I could offer. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect midwife.

And last, Jeff. Thanks for the last few long, hyper-fast walks around the block, when I'd have a contraction every 45 seconds, and trusting that I wasn't going to end up delivering a baby down at the other end of the block. Thank you for understanding why I needed to give birth at home, and for trusting that I could do it.

Happy Birthday, Jonah. We love you.

I have a good excuse

Honestly, there's a perfectly good reason I haven't been able to find the time to post. I've been busy listening to this. When I'm not listening to it, I'm singing it either out loud or in my head. Even Jeff likes it- and he's always made fun of me for liking B&S.

If you want it though (and you won't be seeing me anytime soon), download it from iTunes- you get two extra songs. Not the best songs on the album, but still- two extra songs. Nobody does bonus songs anymore, and that's kind of sad. Because you could always feel cooler than your friends if you had the special bonus edition and they didn't. Which might make someone wonder why I'm tipping all of you off about downloading from iTunes...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Wishful Thinking/The Cracks are Showing

I should have blogged a new post a long time ago (is it "blogged a new post"? "posted a new post" sounds really redundant- oh, the things I waste neurotransmitters on). Apologies. Jeff came home on the 15th. He's attending the partial hospitalization program at the hospital- his sister calls it "day care"- and it is doing him a ton more good than the month in the hospital did. Sad but true.

Post-trauma, we're rebuilding some around here, and realizing that we still have a long way to go toward health individually and as a couple. And as a family, for that matter. As I said, the partial program has been very helpful for Jeff, but I find myself annoyed and downright disturbed at the fact that the idea of Jeff leaving us, temporarily or permanently, has been covered not once but three times now by various staffers in the program. It's not a new idea for us- we'd discussed the possibility of him moving out to try to reduce his stress level before hospitalization became necessary for him- but at times it seems like they are pushing the idea. At least it seems that way to me, and I know Jeff isn't happy about it either. I realize that they are supposed to be pursuing his good and doing whatever they can to aid his recovery, but it honestly seems like they are doing this from the viewpoint that the only good to consider is Jeff's, an idea that horrifies me.

Obviously, his has been of foremost importance lately. A doctor in a war zone doesn't tend to people with bruises and scrapes when there are some who have gunshot wounds, and rightly so. But it just seems like they are dwelling on this as a possibility, when he has told them flatly he isn't open to it (incidentally, that's exactly what he told me when we tackled this before Christmas). I wish they would give him the skills and education he needs to better deal with the mess o' stress that is our family instead.

Note to the staff of the partial hospitalization program @ HCMC-
These things probably aren't going to change:
1. Jeff has a mental illness.
2. So do I.
3. Two of our kids have behavioral problems; one might possibly have serious ones.
4. All three of our older kids display, to a greater or lesser degree, either mood or anxiety problems (which is why we have Allie in counseling already, and we're keeping an eye on the other two).

So that's my big beef this week: why are his staff members wasting time on wishful thinking ("if only you didn't have a wife and four kids..."), which is totally unproductive, instead of dealing with reality? It just seems so counter to their job.


This reconstructing business isn't easy. To some extent, we have to start from scratch. Jeff is learning how to better take care of himself, which is good, but it's upset our relationship dynamic in some ways. It will all be to the better, but it's hard. I've known him (going on) 14 years, and we've been dating or married nearly the whole time. The things he's learning (like being direct about his feelings) are new- to him and to me. And we're both having to navigate it. So to go back to the example of being more direct, it is healthier for him to be open, but difficult. It's better for me to know how he feels than to guess, but it also brings me to the rather harrowing realization that it feels like a loss of control for me- it feels threatening. Part of me really likes passive Jeff. Repressed Jeff. It's a sad realization for me how the unhealthy in ourselves or those dear to us becomes, over time, so familiar that a change toward integration feels not only frightening but also bad.

At the same time, it is cause for hope. If we have gotten this far, stayed together this long, with everything we've had to deal with (separation, an exceedingly difficult baby, preemies, twins, a pregnancy after we'd decided we were done having children, financial problems, untreated mood disorders), then how much better will we be doing once we start to shed a lot of the junk we're still carrying around from our childhoods?

So to go back to the second half of my post title, there are definitely cracks a'plenty. To extend the metaphor a little- if we couldn't see them, they'd still be there; we'd be in danger of something collapsing without warning and burying all of us. Something did collapse, and it's a wonder we weren't buried. But I guess that the advantage in having our faultlines displayed to each other, and to the world, is that we can see where the repairing and rebuilding process needs to begin.

Cliches have their comforts in a time like this. Amen.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Falling to Pieces

It's not me that is falling apart- it's Jeff. For the last three weeks, we have watched him bounce back and forth between very good and unbearably bad. He had a good week that got him released from the hospital, then an overwhelming weekend that put him back there. And for the week since, except for one good day, I have watched him deteriorate, literally fall apart before my eyes. That one good day got him a floor pass- he is still using it, but feels that if he takes one step away from the front of the hospital, he will do something irreversible (my pretty way of saying he'll jump off the parking ramp that is conveniently located across the street).

His doctor is becoming part of the problem. Today he reported to her that he was having the urge to cut yesterday. She did NOT take away his floor pass; instead she asked if he was attending and participating in the group sessions (he is) and asked him to write down a list of "good things about himself". For those of you who have not experienced depression, this might seem like a reasonable request, and one that could potentially benefit him. Those of you who have, know that it is a self-defeating assignment. He cannot think of anything good about himself. The best he would be able to do is write a list of good things other people might say about him, and in his mind this will only reinforce the idea that everyone is decieved by his "good" exterior, and that the truth is that he is bad, awful, worthless. If people knew how "bad" he is, they would revile and reject him.

It seems like his doctor is still planning to release him to day treatment on Wednesday. This absolutely cannot happen. I cannot take care of four kids and keep a suicide watch. I have left a message for his doctor to call me, and once I know her feelings about his progress and plans for his course of treatment, I will be placing a call to HCMC's patient advocate. If necessary, I will go all the way up the chain of command. If necessary, I will request that he be assigned a different doctor. If necessary, I will demand a transfer to a different hospital.

He confessed to me today that while he wants to keep living for my sake and our childrens', it is no longer enough to protect him from the desire to die. I have never been so terrified.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Can we play good news/bad news again?

Good news:

-Jeff is feeling safe enough that he will probably be able to have a floor pass tomorrow. He's been locked in the ward previously (not the case last time)
-for no reason Tuesday night, after a really bad day for both of us, he suddenly felt a lot better (he says it was the long, difficult, but ultimately healing talk we had, but I'm not convinced)
-his doctor is planning a more transition-based release this time, with him coming home only nights at first, then being home all the time, and returning to work last
-I got to see my psychologist today, and talking about all the shit I am dealing with really helped

Bad news:

-we got Jeff's last paycheck last week
-with the transition-release, it will probably be two months or more before we see any work-related income
- DWP (sort of like welfare, but not) will only give us enough each month to cover our house and rent ($700). Food stamps will buy groceries ($700 more), but I have to figure out how to pay for our van, utilities, and household expenses (like toilet paper and deodorant)
-with all that has been going on, I have not been able to apply for Jonah's birth certificate and SS#. Yeah, I know, it should have been done a long time ago, but I lost the paperwork in our move (when he was a week old), and I keep forgetting to get replacements. I can't do our taxes until I have a SS# for him.

I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself right now. And honestly, I don't feel like it's really unjustified.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Well, that was brief

Jeff was discharged Friday, doing much better, and hopeful about returning to "normal" life. Tonight, he is going back. He feels different than he did going in, but in many important ways, he also feels worse. Whereas before he felt suicidal, we both felt that there wasn't much likelihood that he would make any sort of attempt. As of tonight, my gut feeling is that if he stays home, he might. He concurs.

He feels very internally broken and pretty much unfixable at this point. He is also suffering from a lot of guilt and self-hatred due to what this is doing to us financially, as well as the fact that he is once again leaving me and the kids without a husband and daddy. Your prayers would be very much appreciated.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Jeff's coming home tomorrow/today! Depending on whether or not you subscribe to my brother's belief that "It's not tomorrow until you go to sleep and wake up again" (I do). It's good news all around- he's doing much better, I got most of the stuff I messed up worked out, and I had a pretty good week, unlike last week (which was horrid, except for the people who helped me in one way or another- Carla, Jenell, Angela, Sara, Brynn, Jen, and Mel, plus our families).

I also got to go for a 2-hour visit tonight, which was so great. I think that besides last Saturday, when he came home for most of the day, I had seen him a total of three hours since he checked in. I saw him more than that when we were separated! It's been really hard on us both. I know this week in particular has been a really tough one for him. Ever since he really started getting better (late last week), he's been really, really bored at the hospital. There is literally nothing for him to do for most of the day, unless he wants to watch TV. That gets old pretty fast when you're in a hospital (speaking from my 6-day hospital experience after having Gabe and Eva). And he's been in long enough that this week it was pretty much just family visiting.

But all that aside, I'm just really glad he's going to be back. His sister, who has been visiting him almost daily (she works across the street) is taking off work early to bring him home (thanks Em! not that she reads my blog).

I saw my psychiatrist this week, and she did increase my dosage after talking to me about how things have been. I almost cried in her office, which was really scary- it is impossibly difficult for me to cry in front of anyone who is not Jeff or my kids, and I'd give almost anything to avoid it. I just can't be that vulnerable with other people. The time last year when I cried on Jeff's shoulder through pretty much an entire SP gathering is the one, huge exception- I felt awful, I hated doing it, hated attracting attention that way (even positive, sympathetic attention is more than I can bear while crying, most of the time). I can still remember how badly I needed to cry, and how completely mortified I was that I actually did it. But anyway. I guess that's just the exception that proves the rule, to be completely cliche.

I'm really good at shooting off on tangents. But right now, the thought that is always just under the surface of whatever I say or do is, "he's coming home!" and that is better news than anyone can imagine. As my very perceptive psychiatrist noted on Tuesday, he's been gone a lot longer than three weeks (did I mention that I love her?).

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How to mess up your life

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Use your imagination and you, too can get start messing your life up- maybe even permanently!

1. Get snippy with mother-in-law about how you are not seeing enough of your hospitalized husband. When she defends herself by apologetically reminding you of health issues that leave her easily exhausted and in a great deal of pain, sulk.

2. Cancel plans to see said husband days after making them, due to finding out someone else will be visiting at the same time.

3. Tell husband you've canceled plans to see him, and refuse when he offers to call the other visitor and tell them not to come. Make sure that he cries after he's done talking to you.

4. Feel jealous of everyone you know. People with unhospitalized spouses, people with no children, people who aren't married, people with less kids than you, people whose children appear to behave better than yours, people who get to see your husband more often than you do, anyone he talks to besides you (like, say, his doctor)...pretty much anyone is fair game. Get really angry about how much better their lives are than yours.

5. Feel free to vent the anger that is now a continual part of your emotional life at whoever happens to be handy at the, spouse, friends, cats. Again, anyone is fair game.

6. Alternate wrathful explosions with bouts of anguished depression, contrition, and self-loathing. Cry frequently.

7. Increase your emotional sensitivity to the point where a stern look sends you flying from the room in tears. To keep people on their toes, make sure you fly off the handle with them next time.

8. Occasionally, take a moment to project your inferiority complex onto a friend or two- deep down, you know they don't like you anyway. And if they continue to protest that they do, indeed, like you, then you have a convenient opportunity to practice feeling like an ass.

9. Forget to take your medication. It keeps life interesting!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Going Nova

Many of you probably know that Jeff checked in to the hospital last Sunday (if you didn't, now you do, heh). I've been wanting to post about it for a few days now, but I wanted to make sure I had permission from Jeff first. He's fine with it, so here I am (his comment? "Honey, I'm not sure if anyone reads your blog anymore- you don't post very often"...thanks, sweetheart).

So he's at HCMC being treated for acute depression. Anyone wanting info on calling or visiting, EMAIL me (link on left side). If you just leave a comment, I may never see it. I'm not good at checking for comments at the best of times, and I'm busier than usual right now, as you can imagine.

For now, it looks like he'll be coming home sometime in the first half of February. Which, from where I stand, seems a lifetime away. Last week went well here at home. Since Sunday, not so much (those of you who were wondering when I would turn the focus of this post from Jeff to myself, here goes). Some people have emailed me to check how I was doing, and if you're one of them, I want you to know that when I say I'm ok, I'm not lying. But for me, "ok" encompasses a pretty broad range. Anywhere from "coping well, feeling pretty good" to "not coping well, but managing to keep it together". Sorry if that is cause for confusion.

Sunday all of my optimism and positive feelings deserted me. Most of the day was spent ping-ponging between despair and anguish, punctuated by crying jags. I had visited him twice with the kids along, but didn't get to see him alone until Sunday night, and I think that was part of the problem- I am physically very isolated since we live on the edge of the metro, and am going through what is basically grief, which is emotionally isolating. I am incredibly grateful to Kayla, who came when I very much needed another adult to interact with, who listened to me bitch, uncomplainingly, and who drove me to the hospital so I could have a few precious moments (not the figurines, eeew) with Jeff all to myself. It has been almost 6 years since we have been apart this long, when we were separated in '99...but then at least we got to spend almost unlimited time on the phone (he has no private phone, just the two ward phones that he has to share with everyone else). Kayla also had my back when we returned from HCMC- my parents had been kind of mental about letting me go, and she came in to make sure they behaved themselves on their way out). Thank you, thank you, darlin'!

Today was a bit better, as Jeff got the doctor to agree to the course of treatment he wanted, but it was also another day alone with sole responsibility for four beautiful, sweet, and completely crazy-making kids, which made me want to explode (thus, the post title). I did explode a few times (Gabe and Eva throwing eggs from the living room onto the kitchen floor provoked one outburst). I'm thinking it is an entirely blessed thing that I got stable on my meds before this, as for the past two days I've felt as awful as I usually feel this time of year when unmedicated. It's scary to think of how I'd be feeling without that buffer.

Because we now know that his stay is going to be 3-4 times longer than the 7-10 days we were originally quoted, I'm starting to take people up on their offers of help. We can use just about anything- meals, babysitters, cleaning help (watching the kids while I clean), visitors (both here and at the hospital)...anything. The difficult thing is that I do not drive, so things are more complicated as far as me getting to the hospital or out of the house for a break. Many, many thanks to everyone who has offered.

Our number is in the SP directory if anyone wants to check in with me, and please don't be alarmed if I don't answer the phone or call you back immediately. I'm pretty sure I'm coming down with a cold, and sometimes I'm just not up to talking. But I will return calls when feel up to it, probably within a few hours of the message being left.

I know many people are praying for us- thank you so much. I may feel awful right now, but I feel confident that with the support system we have through family, friends, and SP, that things will turn out ok. And that's "coping well, feeling pretty good" ok.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I have nothing to say

So Jeff tells me (yesterday?) that it's been about three weeks since I've posted, and I feel very guilty, but at a loss as to what I should talk about. I have this weird thing (maybe a type 4 thing) where I feel like if I don't have anything deep and heavy to say, it's better to keep quiet (in this format, anyway). I find the intimate details of my day to day life fairly dull, so I have no reason to believe anyone else is waiting with intense interest for me to post about it.

I'm up to my maintenance dose (200mg) of lamictal now, and it is working very, very well. So well that the three weeks of sunlessness we all just suffered through hardly registered. Mostly I just felt a little tireder than usual, wanting to sleep in, or maybe take an afternoon nap. It beats not being able to get dressed and being intermittently suicidal, which is how I usually feel during December and January. I'm a bit irritable in the morning and evening, but since I'm not by nature an early riser (my kids are), and evenings here are chaos, I think that's perfectly normal and not a manifestation of mental illness.

Allie got into the magnet school that I wanted for her, and she's very excited about kindergarten. She keeps asking why she has to wait till fall to start. She likes her preschool, though. The other day she dictated a note to me for her teachers. I will reproduce it here for everyone's amusement:

Dear Mrs Rhodie and Mrs Greer,

I like my Christmas present you gave me and I would like another one. I want all four of my teachers to come to school again. When I go to kindergarten, I want all the kids in my class to come with me.


Part of me loves that she is so direct and isn't afraid to ask for what she wants, and part of me is mortified. But I'm sure they're used to it, and anyway, they love her to death.

Speaking of Christmas, the kids got mostly gifts that I approve of. Jeff will tell you- I am a gift nazi. There are toys that are ok with me, and toys that mysteriously disappear around springtime (I don't throw them away- they get donated to the Lupus Foundation). I'm not a complete meanie- if a toy I hate is especially beloved by one or more kids, I grant an exemption. But it is pretty rare that I have to. Thankfully. We have so many toys as it is (four kids and three grandmas who all go overboard with gift-giving will do that) that I go through every two or three months and get rid of some of them anyway.

Their favorite gifts this year are the Melissa & Doug cooktop set, birthday cake, and pizza party- my mother-in-law bought the first one, the other two they got from us. I'll admit I have a bias toward wood toys (Little People and teethers being exceptions- all my kids play with Jonah's teethers. Go figure). Ok, I'm really just nuts. My dislike of plastic toys borders on the irrational.

But there's also an element of practicality in my derangement. It's not a matter of educational value or noise or replacing batteries or anything like that. What it comes down to is that we don't have a ton of money to spend on gifts for anyone, our kids included. If I'm going to spend $20 on a toy, it better be something my kids are still playing with on Valentine's Day, or I will feel it was money wasted. Ditto if it gets broken a week after Christmas, like the fire truck Gabe got from his great-grandma that is already missing two wheels. And so many of the plastic toys you get at Target or anywhere else feature licensed characters, which, as far as I can tell, about doubles the price, with no corresponding increase in quality. It makes me really angry, so I refuse to buy them, and instead, I buy a lot of Melissa & Doug stuff.

I guess, upon reflection, it's not what the toys are made of that matters to me, but what kind of values they represent. Are they an extension of our throwaway culture's love of passive entertainment, violence, brand names, and flashiness? Then I'll probably hate it. If, on the other hand, it encourages imagination, improvisation, movement, or interaction (even if said interaction ends with one party crying, as is often the case here)...then it's pretty likely that I'll adore it. It's just a sad coincidence that plastic toys are usually of the former variety, and wooden ones almost exclusively the latter.

Honestly, I bet I'm the only person you know who could start a post titled "Nothing to Say" and write this much. G'night.