The Last Few Days (of the Greatest Summer Ever)

Every toy we have, every last paint brush and bead and art supply, every piece of clothing including all the winter gear and too-small boots, all the camping gear, all the swim bag towels and goggles, all the mostly empty boxes and bags of snacks, every last dish and cup and fork, all of these things are on my living room floor right now.  My children are in that pile somewhere repeatedly, brainlessly pushing the Dinosaur Train button, “Next Stop, the Jurassic Time Period!” or playing Toca Pet Doctor.  I myself am still in pajamas that I put on three days ago and am subsisting on bagels and avocados.

We have wrung every last drop of sunshine out of this fantastic summer and now we are finished.  We just have to muster enough to get on the bus next week, and I’m afraid we didn’t leave enough to do it.

Friends have been posting First Day of school pictures all week.  We don’t start until Tuesday for the elder and Thursday for the younger in this house.  Why didn’t we go to Catholic school?!?

I thought a few weeks ago that we would institute “Mystery Monday!” and take day trips, within about a two-hour radius to the cool stuff nearby.  Great idea.  Except for all the other days of the week.  Two weeks in a row now I have used up all my dwindling energy on packing and planning and executing awesome trips.  And then “Tragic Tuesday” rolls around and I can’t even muster breakfast making skills for them.  They are eating mostly cereal crumbs, pinata candy one of them has squirreled away somewhere and grapes from the yard at this point.

I’m a planner.  So yesterday, since I am clearly done with summer, amid the flotsam of indulged childhood I sat with my notebook and started planning for this fall.  The younger will be in morning 4K, so what will we do in our afternoons, especially without big brother to argue play with?  Turns out there are a lot of morning activities for four- and five-year-olds. And next to nothing for afternoon ones.  What are they thinking?  That these little people are in afternoon school or perhaps napping?  Delightfully being entertained by their loving stay-at-home parent??

I keep getting asked if I’m excited for school.  Well.  No.  Yes I love my kids and love having them around and all that precious garbage, but yes, I am also, clearly, ready to send them off for a few hours every day and leave me in peace and learn something on someone else’s watch.  I just don’t see it actually happening.  I’ll believe it if it does.  The thing is that we tried preschool with the younger two years ago.  Epic fail.  She wanted to go.  Really.  And then she cried.  A lot. AND she went back to sleeping in my bed.  That gave me serious pause.  Why I pulled her from school though, is because the second week of school I watched her cry on the playground for 20 minutes from a classroom window, and not one of her teachers came to sit with her or comfort her AND at the end of the day they said “She seems to be doing better.”  That’s one way to get ready for school, but thanks, but no thanks, Meeting House Nursery School.

Last year we were slated for three days of preschool, which I immediately dropped to two mornings.  We went to open house and she made friends, actually spoke to other kids–all of whom went on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and bonded with exactly no one in the Monday/Wednesday/Friday group.  So we switched.  Two 2 1/2 hour days is a drop in the lake and even getting her to go there, with friends!  and teachers you like! and snacks! was a trial.  The last month of school we turned a corner and she wanted to go and stay longer.  But now she’s spent three months adhered to me and her brother every moment of the day and she’s fretful again if I dare to be in another room.

So we’ll see.  I have very low expectations for this year. I know she is ready.  I also know that she doesn’t know that yet. In theory, she’ll climb on the bus next Thursday morning and cheerily wave good-bye.  In reality, I just don’t see it happening.  Of course, all along, I’ve been worrying about the wrong child.  We went to meet the kids’ teachers this afternoon, both lovely, with awesome classrooms.  And the younger LOVED it.  Loves her classroom “There’s a play kitchen!!!  And pretend food!  This is the greatest room, Mommy!” She says she can’t wait for school. (I’ve heard that before.)  What she doesn’t know and I’m very, very hopeful doesn’t happen, is that we could still enroll in afternoon 4K at her preschool.  Except that I have been waiting for seven years to have a quiet morning to myself to work and I don’t know if I can wait one more year. So, keep up that great attitude, my peanut! Go, ride the bus! Conquer 4K at your new school!

Aaaand the older sat with his amiable new teacher, and clammed up, barely spoke, even about his favorite subjects.  He’s always been a thinker, carefully processing before saying anything.  His teacher had a lot of questions about what he did this summer, what he likes to do, what he likes to learn…and my son was like a deer caught in headlights.  Minutes passed before he responded, me and the teacher trying hard not to fidget or jump in and answer for him.  Then we came home and he’s had a terrible afternoon.  Nothing is working for him.  Nothing is right.  Everything is dumb.  He’s thrown stuff at his walls, ripped up two art projects, acted completely out of character. I’m not totally clueless to see he’s worried about school and this is how he’s showing it.

So, yes, this looks like another beginning that we’ll stumble through, we just don’t know who or what about yet.  Who knows who will cry, but right now, I suspect all of us.  Certainly two out of three. Wish us luck.

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School days, ahoy!

A Whole New Migraine

There are four stages to a migraine, apparently.  I forget the technical terms right now, but essentially, the stages are 1. Before the migraine. 2. Onset of migraine & Despair. 3. “I wish I were dead.” and 4. After the migraine in which you try to regain footing in a normal life and clean up all the shit that piled up in the last 36 hours, noted for lingering irritability coupled with a profound gratitude for life.  This is how I used to experience migraines, anyway.

This Tuesday I got to experience a migraine I’ve never had before, in my 17 1/2 years of experience: Either an Ocular or Silent Migraine, but the name doesn’t matter—lets just call it Misery— followed by a regular old, boring migraine.  The kids and I were walking (rather, I was walking.  They were running, stalking, leaping, you know,) through Olbrich Botanical Gardens.  (Go.  It is lovely.  AND there are a million zig-zag paths your kids can run on and “explore.”)  Then the pavement started moving, and the sky started moving.  Then my right side arm, stomach and leg fell asleep.  My head, oh my head, feels so hot and fuzzy and stupid. Then I stumbled to a rock to sit down and thought really, really hard about how to say “If anything happens, go get a grown-up.” to my seven-year-old.  Nearly impossible.  My mind was a thick sludge. The words just wouldn’t be found, refused to be spoken but I pull them out of the sludge one at a time.  Tried texting an S.O.S. to my husband.  The ground is moving faster now and a couple walks by and I use all the brain power I have left to tell them as calmly as possible that something isn’t right, they should call 911, and then I turn and vomit spectacularly.

The pins-and-needles sensation subsides quickly, unlike the smell of the vomit, which will follow me for the next 15 hours.  In my mind, I know I’m in the clear now.  This can’t be demyelination.   This isn’t good but it isn’t an episode of MS.  How do I know?  Because the numbness went  away in minutes instead of lingering for two months.  Yet, here we still are, now sitting in a mud puddle, surrounded by EMTs, with a blood pressure of 82-over-zombie and two tough, brave kids who aren’t acting worried or scared at all.  I am not fooled.  They have me stand up to see if I can.  Of course I can.  I can run a marathon right now if those four little eyes are on me.  The EMT says “You don’t need to put on a brave act, you know.”  Well, why the hell not?  And yes, yes I do. They are always watching.

We all troop to the ambulance, me in a gurney, saying things in a chirpy voice to my children to make it seem like this just a game.  “Yay!  We get to ride in an ambulance!  Woo hoo!  We’ve never done this before!”

Enter the wonderfully, boring, but very long ER visit.  Fluids.  Some sort of medicine that simultaneously makes me want to run down the halls AND take a nap.  Right. NOW.  FLEE!  OH, but I’m SOOO tired.  Thank goodness the “MUST NAP” sensation won out.  I dozed.  I answered a billion questions about my health, about what happened, about any reason I should not have an MRI.

So then I had my fifth ever MRI.  Absolute champ.  A++ for me.  Head and C-spine, with and without contrast.  8 billion minutes long.  I thought of my own personal dub-step concert.  I thought of the wide open space of Fort Myers Beach.  I thought about friends, naming them alphabetically with each pulse.  Then foods. Then I sang the state song and tried to count to make sure I got all 50.  I tried to think of all the dates I’ve gone on with my husband starting with the tennis game of champions and leading all the way to the “quality time” in the hallway just before the MRI. Only 7 1/2 billion minutes to go. I cried a little.  I only squeezed that stupid panic ball once.  I didn’t try to rip the IV port out.  I didn’t stand up and faint, trying to run out of the room right after the MRI. I didn’t hug the technicians.  Total. Champ.

I’ve gone through the things that made for the perfect ocular/silent/AreYouKiddingME migraine storm. The list is too long, even for me, to include here.  Instead, here is the list I made on “What to do to never, ever have a migraine like that again”:

1. Always Be Hydrating

2. Calcium, magnesium intake up

3. Regular exercise, regular stretching, meditation, walking, stress-reduction, blah, blah

4. Pay attention to triggers and warnings:  Lots of yawning, increased sense of smell, glare, heat, bread, BREAD DAMMIT, food additives, altered sleep schedule.  BTW, WHAT ARE MY TRIGGERS?!?

5. Nutrition, Do that Better.

What does this mean?  It means I bought, and ate, two pints of ice cream yesterday. (Yes, I am aware that dairy is a trigger for some, and that sugar is a trigger for me in particular.  However, I had been dairy-free for reasons of vanity for a month before this migraine,so NOT the trigger for this migraine, and well, ice-cream wins.)  It means that I filled my trusty old Nalgene bottle and swapped it in to my camera bag, leaving my camera behind. (Sigh.)  That I go nowhere without my cellphone, just in case.  Also, migraine medicine and Excedrin.  That I worry about another migraine like this happening at any time, at any place. With no warning.  I worry about how I scared the kids.  I was already worried when someone helpfully pointed out how shaken up they were.  Very helpful.  We’ve talked about the parts that were scary (when I told them to find a grownup for help, when they put me on that “wheelie bed” and couldn’t walk, when Daddy took them away from me to Nana’s, when it took so, so long for me to come home,) and I’ve tried to explain away the fear, because that always works. Always.  And yes, I have two children sleeping in my bed almost the entire night these days, how did you guess?

I began this summer by injuring my back in such a way that I haven’t picked up the kids or played hide-and-seek, or run races, or tickle-tackled anyone in two months.  I FINALLY got some relief from good old fashioned (impatient) waiting and healing.  I also have been doing my little PT exercises and have been seeing a Structural Bodywork therapist, which basically means he finds a sore spot, presses down on it with a knuckle/elbow/power tool and I stretch and grimace and after an hour I walk a bit more upright.  I was finally making progress. I am so ready to jump in and play a game of tag…..but now I’m not.  I’m too worried about this lingering migraine, about the heat (Sigh.  I’ve turned into one of those people,) about too much blood rushing to my head.  I’m too worried to play.

The kids, oh the beautiful kids, have had an amazing summer.  The things they have experienced in the past two months surpass the excitement of my entire childhood combined, I’m sure.  I really hope they remember it that way, and not that “Oh, that was the summer Mom sat around like a sloth with an ice-pack.”  For my part, it does mean a lot of sitting and watching and saying “I just love to watch you guys play.”  (Truth.)  We also do a lot of what I call “Pioneer Day” activities, where I sit and we read, or learn needlepoint, or make acorn necklaces and then the kids do chores, then some more chores, then run wild for several hours, then pick whatever is ripe in the garden for dinner.

Actually, you know what?  Maybe this isn’t a bad way to do summer after all.  Next year, however, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to just do the sitting without the ligament damage and crippling migraines.  Yes.