I'm a mentally ill person raising another mentally ill person. With chickens.

Posts tagged ‘Family’

More holiday musings

mom and dad

My parents

I honestly don’t have much of an idea today. I think I vented so much yesterday that now my brain is tired. My husband is annoyed with me for insisting that I am not traveling for Christmas, but he will get over it. Especially when we save a bunch of money on not kenneling the dogs. Actually when he heard I wasn’t going, my son said he wanted to stay home with me-something we’ve done before-so it will be interesting to see if he does. It’s not like my husband’s grandmother or mother really want to see him, or at least not for more than a couple of minutes, because they don’t really get him at all. And Alex doesn’t like going to my husband’s grandmother’s house at all. He likes to have everything on: the lights, the TV, his Kindle, the computer, another TV. He LOVES having a screen in front of him at all times. My husband’s grandmother spends the whole time Alex is at her house telling him to turn things off. It drives him crazy! He wants all the TV’s in every room on, and yes, he is watching his Kindle AND the TV because that’s what he does to tune out everyone else. She can’t let it go, she’s on about her electric bill all the time, and is constantly making Alex go turn things off.  My husband even yelled at her about it once. He told her that if she could afford to go to Europe twice in one summer she could afford for the TV’s to be on for a few hours. That didn’t go over well,  but even that didn’t stop her from demanding our presence at Christmas again and I’m not having it, and hopefully I can protect Alex from it too. He and I can watch all the TVs and eat pizza while my husband deals with his relatives. That would be ideal for both of us.

I have been thinking about how I’d like to visit my own family. I haven’t seen them in over a year. I don’t know how it got that long, Audrey and I usually go in the summer for about ten days, but it didn’t work out this year. Part of the problem was that my brother-in-law didn’t have his two-week national guard drill–that’s when we usually visit, in order to not drive him crazy. And then my mother wanted to come here, which my sister and I knew wasn’t going to happen, but she really wanted to.  My dad is 85, he doesn’t travel anymore. The last time they were here was 2005, and I gave them all the stomach flu (seems to be a recurring theme?). I’ve tried to convince them to come on the airplane, because dad used to like to fly, and there is much less risk of blood clots with that than with the twelve-hour drive. But he hasn’t flown since 9/11 and I think the new security stuff scares him a little and the dogs can’t come on the plane with him, and he absolutely will not kennel his babies. Dad was the other reason I didn’t visit. Every time I brought it up he was worried about the dogs getting upset, or the septic tank, or the well.  The idea just seemed to stress him out.  So it just never felt like there was a convenient time to go and stay at my parents’ or my sister’s house. My sister also informed me she had a brown recluse problem in her upstairs bedroom, which is where I sleep, so if she wanted to keep me away that is the way to do it. Oh my do I hate spiders.

So now it’s been a year and a half at least, and my parents have two new dogs, and they’ve redone their living room, and my mom got hearing aids (yay!) and I haven’t seen any of it. And my nieces have grown so much they probably won’t even recognize me. It was my choice to live here and be this far away, and I don’t regret that most of the time, but thinking about the holidays makes it a little hard. Honestly, just acknowledging that my parents are getting older is hard. And I know that I am luckier than I lot of people, having dad be 85 and really doing pretty well.  I should just appreciate that, even if it is from a distance. But it would be nice to be home for Christmas.

Family

Me, my sister, my mom, my dad, and the granddaughters. Surprising my dad with a celebration of 70 years of church work (He started playing church services when he was 12)

Bah, Humbug!

Christmas mug

When I was a kid I loved Christmas. Not just because of presents, although they were awesome, but because it really was a magical time. When you grow up in the church you get lots of time to anticipate Christmas while practicing for the Christmas Eve program at school, and doing Advent calendars, and finally moving into the New Testament in religion class. When your parents work for your church and a Lutheran college you get even more anticipation with extra services and Christmas concerts and recitals and your dad practicing Christmas hymns on the piano (and Christmas hymns are just Christmas carols so it’s kind of like having your own piano bar accompanist for the holidays).  Lutherans are similar to Catholics in some ways, but not when it comes to singing, we LOVE to sing, and Christmas services are a great time to be a kid in a Lutheran church, so many awesome songs: Joy to the World, Angels we Have Heard on High, Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, and if you’re lucky, Go! Tell it on the Mountain. And of course there were cookies and homemade candy. My mom baked, my mom’s piano students baked for her, people at church baked for dad, even some of his students gave him baked goods. The wealth of sweets at Christmas was truly amazing. But Christmas Eve was the best. The program was always in the evening at our church, and there were fancy Christmas dresses (My mom made the most amazing Gunne Sax dress by hand one year: I’ll never forget it, it had big leg of mutton sleeves, and a ribbon and lace edged neckline with a row of tiny buttons with loops down the front–making that dress was the first time I heard my mom swear, but it was fantastic.) and hair-dos, and my brother even had to wear a tie. The  programs themselves  all kind of run together: (except one where I had a big coughing fit up front and had to leave in front of everyone, childhood strep reared its ugly head again) there were carols and Luke chapter 2 and Mary and Joseph. And on our way out one of the church elders would give each kid a white paper bag full of candy and an orange.   My brother and sister and I would wait for our dad to be done playing the postlude and packing up his organ shoes while our mom took the other car home;  we’d take a drive around to look at Christmas lights on the way home. When we got to our house we’d walk in to our family room where the tree was and it would be lit and the presents would be there,  like Santa had actually been there while we were at church. It took us years to figure out that it had been first my grandparents, and then my mom, who put the presents under the tree while we “looked at lights”. And even after we knew, and had moved several times, we would drop my mom off after church, drive around for a while, and come home to presents under the tree. It’s just one of our traditions.

Then I met my husband, and Christmas with his family is a WHOLE other deal. It involves piles and piles of presents and even more alcohol.  The first few years all the booze made things pretty funny; then I started to notice the bickering and veiled insults that went with it.  As years went on and life brought tragedies the insults became less veiled and the bickering got meaner. There’s still a lot of presents though. There are so many presents that one year my  husband’s cousin accidentally threw out the leather gloves I got her with the trash because she didn’t see them (and then complained to my husband’s grandmother that I didn’t get her anything).  My husband’s mom wraps stuff and then doesn’t remember what it is or who it’s for. She also wraps things for herself. There’s no real thoughtfulness to the gifts themselves, I don’t think, because my husband has gotten the same sweatshirt two years in a row (two identical sweatshirts, two separate Christmases) as well as a pile of other shirts that he will never wear. I’ve received a lotion from my mother in law that I had given her the previous year, and one that my husband’s grandmother had given her previously. My kids receive all kinds of things that don’t remotely interest them or that are completely not age appropriate. They are always yelled at for not saying “thank you” enough,  and so am I, but I think we’re just stunned by some of the craziness of it all.

A few years ago, after driving on glare ice for a large part of the trip to the Twin Cities, we said no more. We were going to spend Christmas in our own home, so our kids could have their own tree and not be dragged all over during their break. And we made that happen for a couple of years. And then we got the “but  I might  not be here next year” speech from my husband’s grandmother, so we agreed to go in for Christmas Eve 2012, even though I had had stomach surgery three weeks prior and Alex came down with the stomach flu two days before were supposed to leave. We should have stayed home, because the night we checked into the hotel my daughter threw up ALL OVER. And the next day I cooked for everyone anyway, a prime rib that I couldn’t even swallow yet because my stomach was still healing. (Only my husband’s step dad thought this was odd, and he helped me in the kitchen all day.)  Right before they started in on presents I realized I did NOT feel good and had my husband take me back to the hotel.  That was the start of my near death experience. My  surgery (a Nissen Fundoplication) makes it so NOTHING goes up your esophagus: great for getting rid of acid reflux, bad if you get the stomach flu from your kids. So I went from being in a little pain to being absolutely convinced I was going to die. and I was out of anti-nausea drugs. All I wanted was to get some Zofran so I would stop wanting to hurl and not being able to, and stop feeling so much pain. But did we go to the ER or urgent care? NO. My husband took his grandmother tile shopping at Home Depot because that was super urgent. Then he visited his dad who was feeling neglected. By the time I went to the ER when we got home 3 days later they were like “what took you so long?” but all of the sutures held and there was no bleeding. So I was miserable but lucky.

But I’m done.  I will not be talked in to any more Christmases that I don’t want to participate in. If it’s just me and the dogs and the chickens I’m cool with that. At least that’s genuine.

My tree

A bit silly

So today was pretty quiet until this evening. Everybody was gone for a chunk of the afternoon, taking my mother-in-law to the airport. She’s in Phoenix until Spring. Since she doesn’t baby-sit like a normal grandmother, likes to tell me how awful my house looks, and demands very specific gifts while being the original re-gifter I’m fine with that. I don’t dislike her exactly, she’s just not a person I would spend time with if she wasn’t my husband’s mother. She’s much either to deal with from a distance, that’s for sure.

My husband and daughter went pheasant hunting after the airport. I’m kind of surprised she wanted to go with since it’s pretty cold out, but I guess she had fun. I don’t know how I feel about her hunting, but so far she doesn’t have a gun, she just walks with him so right now it’s ok. Also, they haven’t actually gotten any birds yet, so I’m not sure she’ll still like it after she sees the dead pheasant.  I don’t mind walking around in the country with my husband and the dog either, but I’m not fond of dead birds,  so no pheasant hunting for me.

She came home with a headache. She gets them once in a while, and unfortunately migraines run in my husband’s dad’s family, so that concerns me a bit.  Hearing loss also runs in his dad’s family, but so far none of the grandkids seem to have ended up with it, which is lucky, but very nice.

So this evening I went out to check on my hens and change their water (I only have one heated dish, and it gets pretty nasty) and I noticed that Thelma was acting weird and not eating. So after checking her out I thought that it might be Egg Yolk Peritonitis (where the egg ends up in their abdomen and gets infected) and decided to try treating it with Flagyl because I have a whole bunch of that and it’s one of the few things that works. Not having a chicken vet is hard, because you’re always kind of guessing, but when I called my vet-who is a FARM vet-his office said they didn’t do chickens because “they’re just chickens, there’s no money in them”, which I guess is true. They’re $1.75 at the feed store, but that doesn’t change how attached to them you get. Anyway, after looking at several chicken sites (thank you Poultry Pedia and BYC) I decided on Flagyl and figured out the dosage; the thing is, Flagyl is the foulest (ha, ha, I’m punny) tasting stuff on the planet and Thelma  hates being handled so this was not going to be easy.   And it wasn’t, it was like the WWE in my chicken coop.   If she improves I get to do it for the next five days, yay.

So then there’s my dog. This is Roxy. She needs a Twelve-Step program. She is normally a very well-trained and well-behaved dog. But she is addicted to sugary foods, particularly Twizzlers and donuts. When she’s in the same room with them she forgets all of her training and turns into a thief. She can surf a counter in complete silence, leaving no evidence of her crime except the empty package. Currently she is in doggy jail (her kennel) for stealing five cinnamon sugar donuts which are absolutely not going to agree with her as she normally eats grain-free food. And guess who has to sleep with stinky butt?!? Don’t be fooled by that face, she is an addict and everyone knows you can’t trust a junkie.

Roxy under cover

A bit random today

Feeling old today because when I turned on the computer Google reminded me that the Berlin Wall came down 25 years ago and I remember that day.  I feel even older because trying to explain the Soviet Union or East Germany to a nine-year old is exhausting (and I did not do it well).  The cold war and the Soviet threat–and the threat of global nuclear holocaust–were such a part of being a child in the 80’s that I don’t think most of us really noticed it much except in movies and TV and maybe Pepsi commercials. I wonder how she’ll look back on our whole Global War on Terror?

The chickens are mostly winterized, so I figure it probably won’t snow. We’re upgraded to a warning from a watch and to 7-11 inches possible from 4-6, but so far there’s no snow, so I’m making my daughter do her homework. She insists that there’ll be a snow day tomorrow so she doesn’t need to do it. I told her the quickest way to make sure we don’t get any snow is to not do your homework. She didn’t believe me, of course, she said “weather doesn’t work like that”, but when it comes to snow days it totally does.

My son had the state Special Olympics Bowling tournament this weekend.  It’s a big tournament, it started Thursday afternoon and ended today. There were opening ceremonies and karaoke on Friday and a banquet and dance on Saturday. We had some concerns about him being allowed to participate because his behavior earlier in the week was so bad, but Thursday rolled around and he was totally fine, and he was fine the whole weekend even though it was crowded and loud and the schedule was not what he was used to. So that got  me to thinking and I looked back over my emails from his teacher to see if there was a pattern to the outbursts at school and their kind of is. They all happen during or right after an activity he really doesn’t like including gym, SPURS (a therapeutic horseback riding program) and their job skills activity (which is cleaning the cafeteria). So I should probably talk to the teacher, right? Except we had this exact conversation last year (right around this same time) and it led to an extensive round of meetings and a very detailed CAP plan, but not any actual changes. He still spends most of his day in the self-contained classroom, he still has to do a job that he would never do in real life. So I don’t know what to think about school for him. I just don’t know that he’s getting much from it, except irritated. He’s supposed to be getting job and independent living skills but I just don’t see that happening. I guess we have yet another meeting coming up in December so I’m going to try to figure out what our options are.  Part of me would so love to be done with the endless meetings and bureaucracy that is Special Education, but I don’t want Alex to miss out on services he may need just because I’m over it all. So we’ll see.

I couldn’t help myself:

Exhausted by it all

Today is a tired day. I slept into the afternoon after the kids went to school, and I dragged through laundry and chicken chores. My Adderall and coffee were just no help at all. Some days are just tired days.

Honestly, it’s probably stress.  There is a lot going on here. I’ve been delving into the past, and relationship stuff, but the reality is there is a lot happening under my nose that I would rather not deal with. My son has autism, as I’ve mentioned before. And he’s 18. So we’re in the process of becoming his legal guardians because he is not capable of making most decisions on his own.  He doesn’t really understand money beyond getting stuff at concession stands and using Target and Amazon gift cards he gets for his birthday. He’d never go to the doctor if we didn’t make him, because he’s terrified of them. He doesn’t drive because he doesn’t see well and also because I highly doubt he has the judgment necessary to do so. He has a very hard time telling the difference between what happens in a movie or on TV and what is appropriate for real life.

It’s that last one that is getting us into trouble at school. He has absolutely no filter at all. And he may be developmentally delayed, but he’s still a moody teenager. SO, when something gets on his nerves at school it’s entirely possible that he will let fly a string of expletives or threaten to “kill you while you sleep” or attempt to punch or kick you. Which is bad. He’s not actually violent by nature I don’t think, or mean. He just is kind of a parrot. He repeats things he hears or sees and he tends to do it in context, like a parrot who says “good morning” in the morning or “hello” when the phone rings. He’s always been like that, but it wasn’t so bad when he watched Toy Story or Aladdin over and over again. But his tastes have changed as he’s gotten older, so there’s a lot more anime and video games, and even though I have parental controls on EVERYTHING, and really limit what he’s allowed to watch or play, there’s a lot more violence and threatening language in things rated PG than you realize. People say “I’m going to kill you” all the time on TV, because everyone knows that it’s a joke. And kids on TV hit each other and trip each other all the time, because physical comedy is funny. But none of that is funny in real life, and he just does not get that. And YouTube is impossible to control. You have to either block it completely or hope he watches appropriate things. He LOVES to watch video game play-through videos on YouTube, which you would think wouldn’t be that big of a deal, because he only watches games he’s allowed to play. But even those games rated E or E-10  are usually narrated by some of the most foul-mouthed people I have ever heard (And I swear like a sailor on occasion!) and he just does not get that you can’t talk to people like that in real life. Or if he does, he doesn’t have the impulse control to stop things coming out of his mouth.

He usually knows after he’s said something that he’s going to be in trouble, but often times that just causes things to escalate because he doesn’t WANT to be in trouble (that usually results in losing his electronics at home, which he hates). When that happens he will lash out and hit whoever’s closest, or the kid in his class that he doesn’t like. So this week we’ve had a couple of incidents, one of which was pretty bad. He had a bad morning at home and I took his stuff away and said he could have it back as long as his day was good. Well it started good, and then he told someone to F-off, so he got sent to his alternative classroom per his behavior plan and all seemed well until someone decided to talk to him about it. Then he got mad and picked up a dumbbell used for PT and raised it at the teacher’s aide like he was going to hit her. So he’s basically been in in-school suspension since Monday, and things didn’t go much better when he was let back into the classroom this afternoon.

There’s a lot more to it than a week’s worth of behavior of course. There have been a lot of medications over the years, and we have a therapist and a psychiatrist.  We didn’t have this much trouble in elementary or middle school, but the environment at the high school is just not comfortable. It’s one of those buildings that just FEELS oppressive when you walk in, and if I notice that I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone on constant sensory overload. And we haven’t had much luck with teachers or curriculum at the high school, so I think he’s bored and I know he hates the job training that they’re doing (cleaning the cafeteria after lunch, not a job he’d ever choose). So right now I’m torn about school for him. Technically the district is responsible for him until he’s 21, and I had always planned on leaving him in school ’til then, but now I’m questioning if it’s the right place for him. He’s 18, he doesn’t have to be there and if he hurts someone, even accidentally, he could end up arrested or in a state facility which is certainly not what I want for him. And I know that won’t happen at home. I don’t know what he’ll do all day at home, but at least everyone will be safe. Too much to think about for sure. I do have plans to talk with Adult Services, but I’m pretty aware of what’s available in our town and its not really geared toward people on the autistic spectrum at this point. So we’ll see.

Alex

So yeah, it’s a tired day here.

NaBloPoMo Take 2

Marshmellow

So its been awhile. But I figured it was time to attempt to get back in the game, and what better motivation than NaBloPoMo.  I tell you what, just getting started today was overwhelming and I almost called it quits.  So many badges and sign-ups and “post here’s and prompts! It’s enough to drive a person right back out the door (or away from the keyboard). But after a couple of attempts at adding the badge I gave up and decided I had better just start or I’ll never get any actual words on the page. And ultimately that is the goal: words on the page. I made myself a little more accountable this year, and announced my NaBloPoMo intentions in a Facebook group. It’s actually a health group, but I decided this counts as a mental health goal, and I really do need SOMEBODY keeping an eye on me, because I don’t really trust myself to stick with it otherwise.  And I do think writing again is important for my mental health.  I think I have lost my “voice” somewhere along the way and am just going through the motions every day.  Not going through them very well, I might add, as my house currently resembles an episode of Hoarders again.

For awhile I did okay at setting a schedule/daily goals for myself around the house, but I have given up for the most part. It’s such a thankless job, you know? And it never, EVER ends.  The minute the laundry is done the chute is full. The second you pick up one room you can’t walk through the next one. Immediately after you load the dishwasher the sink is full again. The instant you finish cooking they’re hungry again and right as you put the last grocery away there’s “nothing to eat”.  I just can not for the life of me see the point of any of it.  It was easier when they were babies, babies are so HAPPY when they’re fed and changed and they snuggle and smile at you and you want to do anything to see that smile!  And when they got a little bigger and I worried about them putting stuff in their mouths and choking or getting hurt I was much more careful around the house too.  But now they’re 9 and 18 (yes he has autism, so its kind of like having a big 10-year-old, but still, technically he’s an adult) and I feel like a maid and a personal chef and a taxi driver more than the mom a lot of the time and quite honestly I’ve kind of just quit.  I know there are people out there who get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from a spotless home and organized linen closets, but there is just no way I will ever be that person.

I got to thinking about this because my husband’s mom was texting me at midnight last night about how the state of my house keeps her up at night.  And it took every single ounce of my will power (and that is not something I have a lot of) to tell her that it was probably the vodka keeping her awake at night more than my house. She’s obsessed with STUFF, that woman. Getting stuff, organizing stuff, “selling” stuff (I don’t know that she actually sells much of anything, but she has little booths at places and an Ebay account), knowing how much stuff is worth.  Stuff is kind of her thing, stuff and vodka.  She raised my husband in a very clean, almost sterile, house full of stuff. But she wasn’t into mom stuff like attending sporting events or school activities or helping with homework or just hanging out with him. So it kind of irritates me (okay it a lot irritates me) when she tells me how worried about my kids she is because my house is messy.  Because yeah, its messy, but I’m still there for the important stuff and my kids don’t doubt for a second that they’re loved. They think I’m weird, and they are every bit as messy as I am, but they know that at the end of the day I’m there for them no matter what, and that no stuff is more important than they are.

Weird, so NOT where I expected this to go. Funny how that happens..

 

I’m telling you now

So before I continue giving my younger self advice (there really is a lot to say) I just want to say how happy I am with last nights election results.  Maybe we will start to actually look the first world country we’re supposed to be over the next four years.  I doubt it, but today anyway I’m hopeful.  (I can still get more affordable health and dental in Central America, but at least now I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.)

Younger Julie:

You will look for family everywhere, attaching to people like one of those sucker fish on a whale.  I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s an abandonment issue.   Figure it out or you will make choices that you will later regret.

Do not rush into marriage or parenthood.  They are both so much harder than you think they are going to be.  And while marriage can be undone, divorce isn’t the pain of ripping off a band-aid, it’s the pain of losing a limb.  And it doesn’t begin to compare with the pain that children can bring.  Not that children are bad.  They are a gift that I don’t have words to describe.  But loving them is a fierce and powerful thing; it is not the stuff of bunnies and teddy bears that you think it will be.  And that child-birth video from Mr. Baake’s class?  Remember how awful you thought it was?  The real thing is worse.

I know it seems like I have had nothing nice to say about relationships.  I’m trying to find something encouraging and I can’t.  So let that be a warning in itself.  If you spend your high school and college years settling for boys who don’t deserve you, you will be a bitter 40-year-old who thinks relationships are merely a necessary evil and that sex is a tool to get something you want.  You will be complacent and comfortable, but you will not be happy.

Do not settle for someone who doesn’t attract you: you are worthy.  Do not settle for someone who belittles your interests:   you are fascinating.  Do not settle for someone who wants to rescue you: you are a warrior.  Do not settle for someone who makes you feel guilty: you are blameless.  Do not settle for someone who tells you you need to be more.  You are perfect.

Love,

40-year-old you