Sunday, November 25, 2012

My choice

I didn't have to go back to work. We have acrued insane levels of medical debt in the last 12 months. It's not suprising. Everything you read about how people's health tanks when they lose someone very close to them has been totally valid x10 people this year, not counting the expenses of the one who actually died.

In the last 12 months, we have endured 10 Emergency room visits, 8 hospitalizations, 6 ambulance rides, 3 surgeries, 1 helicopter life-flight, and 1 death. We have good health insurance. However, there are always co-pays and deductibles. When S first came to us, he was not under our medical insurance. All of the promises of the first adoptive family to cover his medical expenses was a bunch of malarky--something we soon learned ALL of their so-called promises were. That added more medical debt. Even all of that doesn't account for gas to drive to medical appointments, food that has to be eaten out, mealas that must be consumed while inpatient with children, etc, etc.

I was already considering going back to work this fall because I wanted something for ME. As the medical struggles continued to pile up and pile up, well after Micah died, our budget became tighter and tighter.

In the past, we always put my staying home as top priority. In times when finances got tight, we would buckle down, drop to needs only spending and get our financies back under control. We can absolutely do that now. We could tell the children no spending, no allowances, no eating nothing that is not a strict need. We would make ends meet and by the first of the year we would start to get back on top of the mess, by spring it would be forgotten.

Except, something has changed in ME now. The two years II did not have a full-time job and we were both in school, we lived on the bring of oblivion. We were in abject poverty and sometimes even basic needs were denied because there was no money to accomplish such things. I had never lived like that in my life--EVER. When II went back to work last summer, we were pulling out of that poverty and I prefer it that way. We were back to more than comfortable and I liked that lifestyle. I liked being able to buy simple things for the kids when they needed them.

The more the medical bills acrued through this fall, the more I didn't want to go back there again. We had more than suficient funds to meet our needs. Yet, I wanted MORE for my kids now. I wanted to be able to honor their wants and not merely their needs, like we were always able to do before outside of those two years.

I realized I did have a choice. I could remain home, just like I did all those years and just like I contributed to II's stress by leaving him the ONLY wager earner. Or, I could go back to work. I can make GOOD money and only work part-time. With that money, we can maintain the level of living the kids are accustomed to most their lives while we pay off the debts. By spring, all of the medical bills will be paid down, and we'll be better off without having to stop living a normal, middle class life.

For the first time in our marriage, my choice was different. I no longer felt that staying home was sacrosanct and the ONLY option. I no longer feared the idea of finding reliable childcare for the little ones, nor asking II to support me in the adjustment back. I pay the childcare for daytime care of the ones at home. I pay allowances for the teens to watch them after school until Dad and I get home. I made a choice, and it wasn't the choice I always thought I would make.

I am working, and when I'm there and not thinking about how much I miss my babies, I am too busy working to struggle. I am miserable when I am home and thinking about going to work, but it goes away almost immediately once I'm there again. I want to give myself six months. I always swore I would start working on what to do with my career once the baby was three. I already finished my degree sooner than I thought. While part of me did feel the pull back to simply staying home again. At the end of the day, I made a choice and my choice was to go back to work, for so many reasons that made sense this time and I never imagined I would choose for most of my years of parenting until now.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Little L reminds me why I like homeschooling so much. I had started her in public school this fall for Kindergarten. However, she was not learning anything new. She was so tired that all she did at home was rage and fall asleep before dinnertime (and we generally try to serve dinner 5:30-6pm now that we have kids getting up at 6am for school). She was raging every morning about not wanting to get ready for school, raging every evening because she was overtired and complaining about how bored she was.

I made the decision that I would return to my passions of homeschooling for the foundational years. I brought L home. I wasn't sure how I would balance homeschooling with a part-time job initially, but I knew I wanted to try to balance things instead of just giving up. I never entertained the concept of balance when the other kids were little. It's possible I couldn't have done it, but I knew I also never tried either.

As it turned out, I found a homeschooling mother to provide childcare when I work. Her oldest is in kindergarten, so it was easy for her to add L into her schooling routine. J plays with her toddler boy, which actually makes it easier for her because J lovingly entertains her son. Actually the two of them have become quite obssessed with Bob the Builder and if they are not watching to "learn" from their "favorite builder" then they are attempting to copy building all over the house on her. However, it keeps both boys occupied while she does the homeschooling with the girls.

There was just one problem. I was creating most of L's curriculum this fall. Having homeschooled for over two decades, I wasn't in the mood to purchase curriculum yet again for basics I can teach without formal materials this time. Except, the childcare is teaching her first kindergartener and is heavily dependent upon curriculum to guide her. That meant that she couldn't ad lib and expand upon what I provided for L and thus L was finishing too quickly.

This wouldn't be a maajor issue, except L decided she would do the other little girl's schoolwork....faster than the other child could accomplish it. So....mommy bought some more formalized materials that L can use at home and at the babysitter's house. It is working out well. I'm just concerned that L will go through what is supposed to be a full school year of materials a bit TOO fast. I'll buy more if so. It's just funny to me how fast my children learn when provided lots of opportunities and are taught to learn for the sake of loving knowledge and not task oriented.

For years, I lived in fear of public school. Unfortunately, when you drink the kool-aid of the religious right homeschoolers, you tend to believe public school is truly something to fear. Then, I put my kids in public school and discovered that it is not an entity to fear, but there are good and bad schools. Finally, I have come full circle in realizing that while I understand why public schools build foundations of learning in the manner they do, it is not how I want my children to have their foundations established. We have had far more success when I homeschool for early elementary and then transition the kids in middle school. Those who have transitioned in that manner have thrived. Everytime I have tried using public schools too early, we have issues. S came to us at the high school level, having never been to school before. I suspect his transition would have been easier if the last family had not used "homeschooling" as a mask for severe educational neglect. However, I see a lot of social struggles that S has experienced which lead me to believe if I am going to put the littles in public school at some point, it really needs to be done before high school years.

So, I have found peace in accepting I will homeschool the elementary years of the last two littles, but like their older siblings, I will transition them into public school when their foundations are strong. There is only one child I will refrain from ever putting into public school. The combination of severe dyslexia, Asperger's Syndrome and insanely high IQ is a BAD combination for public schools. I had to laugh when the middle school Psychologist (the same one who has been sweet and unbelievably helpful in transitioning Ch with his ESL and spelling challenges) gave me a funny look when I described C and asked me to please stick to my committment to never put him in public school, as no public school can provide the very unique, one on one education that C requires. I've actually been told this same thing by several college professors, so putting C into public school is not actually on the table. However, outside of the child I wonder why God thought I was capable of helping him thrive and overcome his Eistein level challenges, I realize that the others will eventually go to public school.

Teaching L kindergarten has reminded me that I really do LOVE teaching. There's little enjoyment for me in schooling C. Teaching him is the constant experience of having a sponge suck all of the moisture out of you and leaving you exhuasted for the effort. With L, I have remembered the passion I brought to homeschooling before I drank the fundamnetalist kool-aid, the teaching I pursued because I knew I could do better for my little ones than assembly line education. I am also keenly aware that these years are rapidly coming to an end. While I count down the days until I can turn C over to PhDs and he can pepper the with his non-stop questions, with L and J I realized they are the end of an era. I get the thrill of building their foundations and then I get one last time setting my babies on the world and watching them integrate and thrive. I will honestly miss these days when they are gone from us.

Friday, November 23, 2012


I cannot decide if I am okay working or if this might be the worst mistake I have ever made in my life. Daily, I remind myself that it took a full six weeks for baby J and I to both adjust when I went back to school three years ago.

I have the best childcare arrangements I have ever had for my babies before since I stepped into the arena of needing actual childcare. Ironically, it's also the cheapsts costs I've ever paid before, even after I offered her more than she charged because I was concerned she would lose money on my babies at the rate she quoted me. She provides homeschooling for L and she provides a write-up of the little ones day and what they ate every day she has them. They LOVE going there, more than they have liked any other childcare arrangements before now.

It does help to know my babies are in good hands and are deliciously happy while I am working. Even so....I'm just not sure if I am really okay with leaving my kiddos. My original plan was to work nightshift so I wouldn't require childcare for the kids. My original plan would have required I have the littles watch movies on the mornings I got off nightshift but to be fully here by the time the older kids got home from school.

I really, really wanted to only work two days per week and right now I am working three days per week. I was specifically hired for the purposes of expanding hours at my office. When we do that, there is a strong possibility that we will move to 12 hour shiftss and that would reduce my days to two per week. However, that is not a guarantee and for now I am working three days per week. Three days per week feels like too much time away from my babies. I feel disconnected and like I barely have time to see my kids before it's time for them to start getting ready for bed.

The other problem is that when I work three days per week, all of my errands, appointments, visits to schools get jammed into one of the two off days. I really don't get time off when I have to accomplish so many things while I'm technically off. I am hopeful this will settle down but right now it feels quite overwhelming.

As a nurse I am not easily reachable when I am working. Technically, possibly legally, I am supposed to get breaks morning and afternoon. However, I am a nurse. I don't get a break if patients require attention. I rarely actually get those breaks. I take lunch, and during lunch I check in with the kids, check to see if someone is trying to communicate with me and jam my food in as fast as I can. Lunch is only thirty minutes out of my shift.

Yet, the work.....I am REALLY good at what I am doing. We work with primarily chronica or terminal patients. Most days I have the opportunity to encourage someone who has trouble getting needles into their veins but is terrified of getting a port placed. Today, I even pulled up pictures of Ch's port so show a woman that you cannot SEE a port when it is not accessed. For twenty years, she has faced continual needs for a chronic cancer type condition. She's terrified that a port will take away form her quality of life. She was stunned to see how much a non-issue a port can be. I get to educate and reassure patients daily. I get to help them feel better in real and tangible ways when they are with us.

Then again working with terminal and chronic conditions, we have a nurse assigned the duty of reading the obituaries in the paper every day. We have to watch to see when our patients die. We had one first of the week coming for his last visit and will be starting with Hospice next week.

It's a good compliment to the reality that I wanted to work for Hospice and our only local hospice requires you hold the Bachelors in nursing, which I don't have. I am using the skills I am absolutely BEST at using. I can see that I make a tangible and immediate difference in the lives of those I work with every day. I am also so insanely busy at work that I don't remember to miss my babies.

I don't know what the outcome of this new adventure will be. I really am committed to sticking with this for six months. I really believe I cannot make a full opinion if I don't give this a full chance to work. I just cannot decide if this is something I want to be doing a year from now, or something I will do temporarily just to escape and to use my nursing skills again. I don't know.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Here it is.

I finally saw a dermatologist this week. I have had a nasty, itching, flaking rash for ages. No two doctors have agreed upon what this actually is. Every measure they have taken has done little to nothing for the rash. In August, I took one of my children to a pediatric dermatologist for a different rash. Thinking they might be related I showed her mine. She emphatically stated I had Psoriasis. Psoriasis is an auto-immune disorder where the precense of stress causes your body to erupt into these lesions that look like rash. She was the only doctor to be so certain it was Psoriasis.

I was devestated with the possibility that I might have a third auto-immune disorder. I tried another caregiver and she tried treating the rash as if it was fungal based. It provided a small improvement of my symptoms but then faltered and did nothing else. I finally agreed to see a specialist simply because I was too miserable to continue to live like this, even though I have huge personality struggles at the idea of spending large amounts of funds to deal with my medical condition.

Today, mere days after I started the treatments under the guidance of the specialist, the lesions are 80% gone. Those that are still lingering don't hurt and rarely itch. My body is healing rapidly. It was so simple to fix yet so difficult to overcome my internal guilt and my inability to care for me to get there. So much for thinking I was making progress at taking care of *me* and not merely everyone around me.

My oldest asked me as this stuff rapidly disappeared from my body, when did this come. Honestly? I cannot pinpoint the day I knew I had some sort of rash on my body that I could not overcome on my own. My first clear memory of this stuff happened 18 months before Micah died. Immediately after Micah contracted influenza, I remember sitting in class, scratching behind my ears and realizing I was flaking all over myself in class. I have no memories of it being present before that point. I cannot guarantee I didn't have it, but I don't remember it.

I do clearly remember when Micah got influenza. We called his doctors and gave him Tamiflu immediately. However, influenza is terrible on lungs. On a healthy person, it can take approximately two years for their respiratory condition to recover from one bout of genuine influenza. For a Cystic, it is far worse than even that. II and I discussed way back then the chance that influenza might be the final straw that Micah could tolerate. 18 months later, of constant decline afterward, he was dead. To be the best I can determine, this rash was a direct response to the stress and turmoil of losing my son. I do know it stayed on my head and ears until the very week Micah died. The lesions appeared in all sorts of random points of my body only in the week that Micah died, and after he died they overtook my ability to function and think for awhile.

Psoriasis is an auto-immune disorder that you are not cured from. Once you have it, stress can always cause it to return. The doctor says we can absolutely manage this. We can eliminate this flare-up and put this back into remission. However, it can still happen again at any point in my life. I don't know if a lower threshold of stress will cause it to return or if it would require something as dramatic as my child dying again. I only know this makes three auto-immune disorders I know suffer, and every additional one increases my risks for Lupus, the one I fear.

It's been a long, struggling fall physically. Most of the research on grief I can find says your health will rapidly decline after you lose someone very close to you. They don't tell you that your physical struggles will make you lose yourself and you won't even remember you are supposed to BE grieving some days. This rash was the last piece to the puzzle of my physical ailments. However, some days it now feels like the grief is fresh and new when it washes over me. Now I have to grieve in process in the manner I wasn't doing so well when I was numb and sick from thyroid, blood pressure, asthma flare-up and psoriasis.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Working 9 to 5

I got a job. It's only part-time, and I'm so not sure how long I want to do this. Orientation was a bear and I've committed to giving myself until first of the year before I decide if I like it or not.

I really enjoy my job when I'm actually working. We work a lot with chronic and terminal patients, providing them with medication administration that makes them feel better. I can see I am making a difference to them. I know that my clinical skills allow for them to be treated gently and that I make a huge difference in their day when they come to see me.

I had asked the director of Hospice if I could work for them. She felt I would make an amazing Hospice nurse but she only hires Bachelor prepared nurses. Having my Bachelors in Sociology didn't compensate for lacking my Bachelor's in Nursing. So, hospice was not an option at this point in time.

I then experienced a health crisis and brought L back to homeschooling and really thought I would just not job seek afterall. However, I made a committment this spring that when Micah died I would need to go back to work for awhile. I am highly introverted and I know I can hole up in my grief and shut the world out. I knew I would need to have something consistent like a job to force me to step out of my hermitage.

Then, I saw a position that fit with my last several years of experience perfectly, and I had a direct connection to the department, so I knew I could get them to see beyond my not earning a paycheck and recognize I have been nursing all of these years. So, on a whim I applied. Three weeks later, I got the job and this month I began working again.

I am only working part-time. For now, I have three days per week, now that I'm out of orientation. In the upcoming year, I will likely drop to 2 days per week when we go to 12 hour shifts for all of us in the department. I had to work more than that for orientation and it was pure torture for me and the kids, but it's just part-time now.

After the last experience with a nanny, finding safe and reliable childcare was vital to whether I could take the job. When at-home, I never had to account for needing childcare for my babies. In college, II and I balanced our classes so we didn't need full-time childcare. I had a good friend that the babies LOVED who watched them for the one gap in the week we had, and in exchange I watched her kids once a week. She was awesome for my kids and they still love and miss her dearly since we have moved. However, she was not my lesson in childcare balancing acts.

Our current provider is wonderful with the kids. Like their part-time caregiver before the nanny disaster she gushes constantly about how wonderful they are. However, she had an emergency right as I was starting back to work and thus I got to learn in a trial by fire how you balance work and childcare.

For all of the working mothers out there, let me say this is exhausting! KUDOS to you for working at finding that balance and not throwing your hands up in frustration. My patience in this arena is still a work in progress. Mostly I am grateful our caregiver is back to work and I only have one conflict in my schedule before the end of the year now.

So, now I am working, part-time, and homeschooling two children, and in the spare time I don't really have I balance the needs of the rest of this large family. Then to make sure life stays VERY interesting, I will return to academics in January. Fortunately, my classroom time will be done online for my BSN. However, my clinical work will need to be yet another day I step out of the house and leave my babies. I am hopeful I will have transitioned to 12 hour shifts before I begin those clinicals so I will simply remain at 3 days out of the home and still spend the rest of my time here and available for my family.

I don't know if this is a career path for me or not. When I am at work, I love what I am doing. I am quickly gaining confidence and less dazed about the normal functions of my department. However, I miss my babies like crazy--the big ones AND the little ones. I miss being home and seeing all of their steps and being 100 percent available for them. I just do not know if I will continue this for long or if I will give this six months, consider it an honest effort made and come back home. I figure only time will determine that answer.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Every time we hit the month anniversary of Micah's death, something catastrophic seems to happen to us.

The first month anniversary, the nanny went off the deap end and we had to fire her. It was bad, really, really bad. II kept insisting she was just overcome by her grief and running away and I just kept saying she was crazy and I wanted her away from myself and my kids. Instead of being able to even process it was the ONE MONTH anniversary of my son passing, I was in survival mode trying to remove a parasite from my life and protect my kids from the crazy.

That crazy kept going for nearly a month, especially with the trashy call to CPS because the nanny decided that *I* and not her ex-husband called CPS on her for events that were necessary to call CPS. The case was settled quickly, the call was nothing but lies, and the case worker clearly felt uncomfortable even having to bother us, but the events were insanely traumatic for everyone. Here we were raw and grieving and we had to allow an invasion of our home and access to our children who did not want anyone outside coming in just to prove that lies were lies. All I kept saying was that her actions proved why I needed to fire her.

The second month anniversary, I was having significant health issues. I developed Psoriasis that was consuming my ability to function night and day. I actually had it for two years at that point, without knowing what it was. It jumped off my head as Micah was dying. In the stress after his death it just went haywire. So did my blood pressure. My thyroid also tanked on me. So, on the second month anniversary, I developed chest pain and shortness of breath.

At some point after we discovered my blood pressure was approaching stroke levels and I was trying to rationally deduce whether the shortness of breath and chest pain were *really* a concern, I realized it was time to let someone else evaluate the situation.

I was not having a heart attack, as the Emergency Department determined. We did discover that the children were causing a direct reaction in my blood pressure, though there was little to do about it at that point. The chest pain? The cartilage around my ribcage was inflamed. I had taken myself off NSAIDs out of concern that after two months of taking them daily for the pain I had started feeling when Micah died. Evidentally it caused the inflammation I didn't know I had to flare back up, thus the chest pain and shortness of breath.

Once again, it was not safe for me to process the anniversary.

On the third month, the most bizarre thing in the world happened. My sweet son with Hemophilia came home from school and started puking. I figured he had a virus. The morning before the anniversary, he felt "dizzy" and I figured with his car sickness issues, he would puke on the bus and get sent home so I sent him back to bed instead. At ten o'clock, he came downstairs to inform me he had puked "black stuff." While I was evaulating him, he passed out and hit his head on a metal chairframe.

After a careening ambulance ride, two units of blood and a transfer to Children's hospital, the dear boy found himself having GI surgery on the day of the third anniversary to determine where the pure blood he was puking was coming from.

It is very safe to say that processing an anniversary was the furthest thing from my mind that day. Instead we learned that our other son had an H. pylori caused ulcer. It might be uncomfortable and painful for a normal person. With Hemophilia, it filled his guts with blood and put him into a medical crisis. We were grateful he was safe and sound and released to come home again, antacids and two antibiotics later.

Then we came to the fourth anniversary. Surely this time we could avoid the bizarre incidents, right? Nope, one of my children became so overwhelmed with their grief that it became necessary to take them to seek professional assistance, inpatient. My heart breaks that one of my children is that overcome in their grieving that therapy and supports were just not enough. However I know said child is getting the support they need now so they can process their grief better and return to the full functioing soon.

This precious child will be spending Thanksgiving away from us. We've promised to bring food and a visit that day. The rest of us have made a choice to boycott Thanksgiving this year.

Last year, I took the kids to my family Thanksgiving. One of my brothers did not come, since he had a newborn child and did not want to make the trip with a tiny baby. However, the rest of my entire family convened at my dad's. I knew what I had not told the children, that it would likely be Micah's last Thanksgiving. Certainly, it would be his last one where he could function as well as he was at that point. He was surrounded by family, by love, and by those he adored. For Micah and his siblings, it was truly a perfect Thanksgiving.

There's nothing we could possible do this year to not feel Micah's loss even more accuately on that day. I can make a turkey and serve it to a house full of weeping children. Or....I can do something totally off the wall and distract all of us. We'll be going to a Chinese buffet that day. Afterward, we're going to the movies, something we had to stop doing with Micah because he could not behave and be quiet....and frankly we grew tired of the 30 potty trips just so he didn't have to sit still. He did not enjoy the movie theater. It was too overstimulating for him, and too much of a stress on the rest of us to try and force him to go simply because the rest of us enjoyed it. This year, we won't have to decide who is on Micah bathroom duty but merely whether we will all see ONE movie as a family, or whether we will divide into two movies at the same time.

I can only hope we stabilize soon. Grieving has been raw and exhuasting for all of us. My own grief has manifest itself physically and I am now finally nearly on top of the medical fall out from losing my son. Even as we are still often struggling, I am stepping back into a life that is also for me, focusing, finding balance. I hope to write more soon, but I am juggling homeschooling only two children, working part-time after what feels like a lifetime at home, and preparing to re-enter the academic arena this spring. There are positives and negatives in this journey beyond the grieving this family is experiencing. I made a promise to never lose *me* in my life again. Some of these changes are about keeping my promise to myself. Others are simply the reality that life must go on for all of us, no matter how much we miss and desperately wish we could have Micah back with us.