Posted by: Hannah | 11/08/2018

I hardly know where to start. I mean I could stretch out all the stuff that has happened since September into a whole series of posts, but that seems a bit silly. I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to write anymore. From the time my alarm goes off at 6AM until I tumble into bed at 10:30PM I’m busy, my hands and mind and heart full of challenges and stressors and triumphs. Sharing them here feels like whistling into the void.

But I need to offload somewhere, so here goes.

1 – For his birthday in May, Michael wanted to sign up for one of those online DNA testing sites. It sounded weird and unsettling to me – you could find out anything! anything at all! – but as an adoptee in Nova Scotia where we still have closed records he was desperate for information about his birth. I freely admit it was with a lot of trepidation that I signed him up and watched him send a test tube of his saliva to Dublin. As of yesterday he’s now met his birth father – a genial man who had no idea he’d fathered a child with that “pretty girl who liked to bop” he dated in teacher’s college – and one of his half-brothers, and plans are in the works for all five siblings to meet up soon. Of all the possible outcomes I was expecting, a whole large extended family willing and happy to accept Michael without question was not even on my list. I’m so happy for him while also feeling a little bit like Mickey Mouse with the bewitched brooms; it’s all happened really fast, and the more information we have the more connections we’re finding.

2 – Harry (he’s 13 and in 8th grade for those keeping track) had a really tough re-entry into school this year, after an incredibly bad 7th grade experience; he was outed at school by his erstwhile best friend, ostracized, teased, and bullied. Add in that with a multiplicity of teachers, learning a new language, and the usual stress of puberty and he became an unhappy, angry, depressed kid who withdrew from social interaction, missed a ton of school, and couldn’t regulate his emotional responses to even minor upsets. Summer was a bit better – no deadlines – but baseball went from being a fun activity to a delicate balancing act where I was constantly running interference between him and his teammates, him and the umpires, him and his own too-high expectations for himself… it was awful. Three weeks into this school year he had two meltdowns in two days, and we ended up at the children’s hospital mental health crisis clinic. From all of this came something we’ve been trying to get for him since the 2nd grade – support at school. After intensive lobbying the school planning team agreed to refer him for a full psych ed evaluation – that starts Tuesday. The school psychologist feels he is gifted (duh), probably ADHD (not surprising; related to the first point on my list it would appear that ADHD doesn’t run through Michael’s paternal line, it gallops), and suffering from the effects of trauma surrounding his outing last year. We’ve been reading up on ways to help kids with ADHD cope and he’s fully embraced everything we’ve suggested; as a result his homework is getting done, he’s not flipping out over small things like lost paperwork or missed assignments anymore, and he’s generally a pretty happy smiley guy again. I could probably write a blog (or a book) just on our experiences from the past year… but suffice to say advocating for him and supporting him has been and continues to be the biggest test of my life, one that for his sake I cannot afford to fail.

3 – I think I may have mentioned Ron’s Halloween phobia before (he’s now 10 and in grade 5). From the age of 3 he has been completely terrified of all things to do with October 31st. Masks in particular would bring on shaking, tears and panicked gasping, but really the whole thing just upset him far more than it was worth to him. Last year he wouldn’t even go trick or treating. This year his close friends begged him to go trick or treating with them, assuring him that there was safety in numbers and that he would be OK. He put together his own costume and said George (6, grade 1) could come too so I could accompany them just in case. On the big night we had six boys and two adults in a herd… and by house # 3 he’d conquered his fear. By the time I and his brothers were ready to pack it in he was begging to carry on, so I watched him run off down the street with his friends, feeling entirely too many feels for a Halloween night. It felt like one of those life-changing moments, one that he will always look back on, and then I had to discretely dry my tears as we walked home.

4 – George doesn’t believe in Santa Claus anymore, he informed us all calmly at dinner the other night. “I sort of think he exists, like as an idea. But I don’t really think he has a flying sleigh.” Fair enough. I had thought for a while that he was skeptical, given that he asks for the Lego Death Star every year and never gets it. There are simply not enough creative fictions in the world to account for socioeconomics. I am both relieved that I can keep doing all the fun Santa things (stockings! parades! baking cookies to leave for him!) and feeling quite guilty that I couldn’t keep it going longer. I myself believed in Santa until I was ten, and just shy of seven feels young to me… but he isn’t upset or heartbroken, he thanked me for being Santa all these years, and cheerfully announced he would revise his letter to account for “the family budget instead of magic elves” so really it went as well as anyone could want.

I haven’t even touched on a bunch of other stuff… about the salsa lessons I’ve been taking and the entirely inappropriate crush I’ve developed on fellow student Hot Jamie, or the baby I’ve been transitioning into the dayhome for the past week, or that we’re getting heat pumps for the house and I’ll finally have air conditioning during those humid weeks in the summer when everyone just wants to peel off their own skin, or how I am so in demand professionally that I have already signed a contract for my next scheduled vacancy which doesn’t happen until September. About how I’m generally in a better place mentally than I’ve been in my entire adult life, or maybe ever, but how sometimes I’m worried that it is more because I don’t ever stop for breath rather than that I’m actually healed. About how we finally have money, and how I’ve never *had* money, and how it keeps surprising me all over again that I can buy things I need or want, and how I feel guilt about spending anything on myself, even now.

Man, I miss the golden age of blogging. Anyone else? I loved those little snippets of people’s lives. What’s new with all of you?

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Posted by: Hannah | 09/24/2018

the sweater

Today is the first really cold day of fall. The first morning that I woke up regretting slightly that I’d left the window open all night. The first day I insisted the kids wear warm jackets to play outside.

I don’t mind. This is the time of year I love the most. Nova Scotian summers are humid, the springs are non-existent and the winters a damp cold marathon, but September & October are as close to paradise as you’re ever likely to get. Cloudless skies of a deep penetrating blue. Leaves red, yellow and orange. Purple asters blooming along the roadsides. Fresh breezes and warm sunshine but enough chill in the air that a sweater makes you feel like you’re getting a hug all day long.

It almost makes me feel guilty, when I know I have dear friends out west who are already in winter. Almost. Mostly it just makes me want to entice them to come here and see for themselves.

Right now I’m sitting in my sunny living room. The house is silent as I only have two dayhome kids today and they’re both napping. I’m wearing fuzzy slippers and my new sweater, drinking double spice chai out of my favourite mug and nibbling ginger biscuits. Literally the only sound right now is the tapping of my keyboard and the dog’s gentle snores.

I think I need more time alone in my own house.

A word about my new sweater. It is soft. It is a cream & black twill. It is a cardigan-style with no buttons or zippers. It is nice and long.

IT HAS POCKETS.

As I get comfortable with being in my 40s I am becoming obsessed with the whole pocket thing. There were two very similar sweaters on the rack the night I bought this one and one was much cheaper but there were no pockets and reader, for the first time in a long time I did not stint myself based on saving a few dollars. I bought the sweater with the pockets and I use the pockets every goddamn day. They can hold my phone, tissues, snacks, my car keys. Michael said he likes my sweater and leered encouragingly at me to which I replied “I am not wearing it for your male gaze!” and then hissed menacingly “it hasssss pocketsssssss” so I guess the next ten years should be super-fun for all concerned.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what comes next for me, professionally speaking. On the one hand I’m getting pretty good at this dayhome gig and have lots of routines worked out that make things run smoothly. On the other hand I’m 40 and getting pretty tired of being so entangled with families I’m not actually friends with. In 2020 I’ll have two spots opening up and the thought of starting over again with two new babies and their parents just make me feel tired. I think I will be closing. But what I’ll do then… I don’t know. I don’t want anything earth-shaking. Two of my best friends are currently doing work that they are passionate about, work that makes them feel fulfilled, and I am so happy for them! I am! But I also am not fussed about that. I’ve had my passion project. I’m doing it now. All I want after this is a job where I clock in and clock out, and have a set list of tasks and I never have to offer marriage counseling or parenting lessons.

I think I’m stalled out on what comes next because I feel this pressure to choose something I love and that will complete me when really I just want to make widgets and earn about what I do now. And never work overtime.

Do you know how hard it is to say that to people? Really hard. People want you to have A Big Dream You’ve Been Putting On Hold But Now You’re Going For It. It can be incredibly hard to say “look, I wanted to be home with my kids for as long as possible. I was. It was great! But I still have a very busy family schedule and want my evenings and weekends free, so I’m fine with whatever job lets me do that”.

I think I need to give myself permission to stop trying to think of something AMAZING and instead just think of SOMETHING. In the meantime I’ll be looking out for opportunities to make my existing skills more current (online courses to update some of my software training, for example).

My sweater and I are ready.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Hannah | 05/04/2018

in which I turn 40

Last week I turned forty, and it was mostly pretty good. I mean there was some shit that went down around any special day for which I have expectations that my family for whatever reason struggles to meet, you know? Harry bought me a small bag of chips in my favourite flavour to smuggle into Infinity War which was admittedly quite thoughtful, but then he also fell apart during the brutal last half-hour of said movie and proclaimed himself too sad to attend my birthday dinner… into every life a little rain must fall, and I’ve mostly managed to pretend I didn’t miss him around the table at the incredibly hip taco & tequila bar we went to. I wanted to not lift a finger to do anything for anyone else, and that decidedly did not happen; if I am ever hit by a bus on a Monday when my children are still living at home please send a replacement ASAP because while they all try, I am confident that it would be The Walking Dead season 1 by Thursday.

Parenting and adulthood are all about reconciling expectation vs. reality, you know? I mean I should really have known that it wasn’t suddenly going to happen that things would go the way I wanted them to just because sitcoms and Instagram have told me what I should expect. And besides, things are actually fine! My kids love me and are mostly happy people. My husband is a good kind man with a sexy beard who tries every single day to do right by his family. I am good at my job and have many loving friends. This is entirely exactly what I always wanted my life to be like and except for my personal fitness level which is direful and in need of repair, I have pretty much ticked all the mental boxes I had for entering my forties.

And yet. I’m struggling these past few months. I’ve had worse depressive episodes. I am getting up in the morning, getting dressed, making coffee, managing to remain pleasant no matter how many times I have to go knock on Harry’s door to get him up and ready for the bus. I’m really killing it dayhome-wise; I’ve got a bang-up routine down that works well and the littles are thriving. I’m putting a healthy and tasty meal on the table almost every night. The laundry is usually caught up. I’ve started reading again and I’ve been getting out for more walks and I’m not completely stuck in the Slough of Despond. Just… it’s there, out of the corner of my eye. I can see it, and I’m trying like hell to stay out of it, but sometimes it’s only a mere suggestion like a heat mirage on the highway in August and other times it’s lapping at my feet while the tide comes in.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about emotional labour, and how every thinkpiece I’ve ever read about it says it is things like remembering to book the kids’ dental appointments, or what shoe size everyone wears, or if today is library day. Those people are missing the point. The real emotional labour is offering guidance and support to your child who is having a hard time adjusting to the social minefield that is junior high, or figuring out if your other child is quirky or lonely, or making sure that your youngest child is remembering to make friends his own age. It’s making sure you remind your spouse to care for his mental health while stubbornly refusing to make space and time in your life to care for your own.

If you don’t remember your kid’s shoe size that’s what those shoe sizing gizmos at every single store that sells shoes is for. You don’t need to remember that, it’s not important. You do need to remember the names of your kids’ best friends and worst enemies, though.

Sometimes I worry that by the time all three of my boys are raised and gone I will be a husk, scooped out and hollow. Other times I can remind myself that I’m in the weeds right now; that we’ve had a very difficult year, that for a whole host of reasons it makes perfect sense that I would feel weary to my bones with it all just now. There will be a time after this I whisper to myself, a mantra, as each new crisis pops up and I’m rolling my sleeves up to deal with it, again.

I assume that when the sun begins to shine again, finally, that I will feel better. We’ve had a miserable rainy spring here and on the odd sunny day I can feel my mood change minute by minute. I hang out bedding and scrub floors and plan hikes and do big projects and I know that me is still in here, somewhere, waiting to come out and meanwhile passing her time hate-watching Riverdale.

Still, as my friend Nicole says (HI NICOLE!) at least I’m not pregnant in a covered wagon.

 

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