Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Grief of My Own

There's been much written and discussed lately about Sofie's grief and how I've been finding ways to help her explore that grief. There's also been slight mention of my grief over Debra's death, too. What I haven't been talking about with anyone other than my therapist and a few friends, is the harder grieving I've been faced with. Even now, it's hard for me to write about it without a pang of guilt, so please bear with me as I move forward.

For those of you who aren't on Facebook or one of my friends on Facebook, you may not be aware of the tough times I'm having with single parenting. Recently I jokingly posted a status update eluding to a tantrum I had that morning. It wasn't a joke. I had a major tantrum. If I'd been a toddler, my mommy would have had to drag me out of the room kicking and screaming! The catalyst for the explosion had to do with all the junk spread around the guestroom by another child and Sofie but it had nothing to do with the core of the fit I had.

Standing in the middle of our family room throwing air punches at nothing was my release that morning. (Sofie was NOwhere near me...she was in the shower, playing happily with her loofah and wasting water.) The tantrum I had was a result of me coming to the realization that I didn't ask to be a single parent and the loss of the life that went away with that change.

Please understand, this is only me expressing loss for the life I had. I love Sofie and love being her mom. I truly believe we were meant to be each others person. We're both learning and teaching so much to the other. I'd rather be co-parenting than single parenting, that's all. It's just not what I expected my life would be. I was in denial about this for first year but have slowly(and not always graciously) been dealing with this since.

There's still a bit of guilt around this for me. More so about how I am when I'm tired and cranky. The fuse gets shorter and the tongue lashings get longer. As I'm getting cranky with her she mostly throws it right back at me...which makes me crankier. Then, as I become reflective and self aware, I become sad. I don't want her to have the short fuse that seem to have when I'm overwhelmed.

This summer there will be at least 2 weeks when she's away. There will be much respite for me. For sure there will be a week in the mountains with her godmother and a week in Charlotte with both MY mother and my best friends family. Potentially, she'll be in California for a couple of weeks but I'm not 100% sure that's going to happen at this point. Whatever time she's away, I'll miss her while enjoying a touch of the freedom I once had. Hoping that time will allow me to clear my head and figure out ways to not let this get out of control like it has over the past few months.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Karma Chameleon Kid

So much is being written about grief in our lives I often forget to share the funny or good moments. Even through the grief there is much laughter and joy.

Last night we were hanging out with a friend and her daughter. Her daughter is quite the little performer! She did a few "costume" changes, practiced on the front porch then had Sofie introduce her before she belted out "If I Could Fly." Sofie, not one to perform in front of anyone, quietly stepped aside to hear her friend sing. After a rousing round of applause, both girls escaped back to the other girls bedroom for more playing. Fast forward a few friend and I were engrossed in a deep conversation when I heard a familiar voice singing. Through the closed doors I hear Sofie let loose that fabulous 80's hit, Karma Chameleon in near perfect pitch! She was even singing the harmony parts and ALL the words...correctly. Why, you might ask, would my child be singing that fabulous 80's hit Karma Chameleon? Simply, she's currently obsessed with chameleons, she heard the song on the radio one day and asked me to download it onto my iPod. After several weeks of nagging me, I finally remembered to do it. She listened to the song about 5 times and had it memorized, recently proclaiming, "Mommy, did you hear me sing the ENTIRE song...all the way through?!?" She was beaming with pride. It is the simple things that make her smile (and my heart melt.) Oh, and "You're Welcome." I know you wanted that song stuck in your head the rest of the day, right?

Monday, June 1, 2009

More tears

Is Spring really a time for renewing or is it a time for reliving? For a girl who who's opening up more about the loss of one of her mother's, it seems to be reliving the same stories over and over again. Sofie's grief continues to reach heights I didn't realize possible. I'm not sure who offered this tidbit of advice to her, but I'm about ready to kick that person in the shin. Recently someone(and I honestly cannot remember who) told Sofie to think about all the good times with Debra. That would help her feel less sad. Well, that couldn't be farther from the truth. She's now circling the drain on a few certain memories...what she calls, "the good memories" and it's doing nothing but making her more sad. Interestingly when I ask her what about those memories make her happy, she can't tell me. She just says, "Mama Debra was alive." So I don't think it's specific memories, I just think it's anytime she can remember when Debra was alive. I have an idea that she's forgetting Debra and this might be the spark igniting her sad flame. Recently, anytime she thinks of or misses Debra she wants to see pictures...more specifically a couple of random accidental videos that Debra recorded on her digital camera...those accidental videos have her voice present. I admit, sometimes when I miss Debra, I listen to them, too. I know all of this will pass, it's just hard to see your baby girl suffer so much.

Yesterday was a particularly sad day for Sofie. When I couldn't think of anything else to do for her, I remembered a letter that Debra had written to Sofie the night before she was scheduled for her hysterectomy. Debra thought she was going to die during the procedure so she wrote a note and labeled it to be read to/by Sofie in the event of her death. Fortunately she stuck it away in a book and forgot about it because she never got around to writing anything else for Sofie. That saddens me so much. This winter I rediscovered the letter and last night I read it to Sofie. The first time through, I sobbed as much as Sofie. After the initial run through, Sofie's sobs permeated the air. Her body heaved and thrashed with so much pain. I pulled it together and read it again, this time with the flair that Debra would have used. It was a perfect letter for Sofie. Even though it alluded to a 5 1/2 year old Sofie, the nearly 9 year old Sofie soaked up the words. For that, I am grateful.

We still have bumpy days ahead but I know it's a mere blip in our long journey ahead.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Emotional highs and lows of parenting a grieving child

To my dismay, Facebook has taken me away from blogging as often I used to blog. It's so much easier to write a few sentences several times a day to update your friends on what's happening in your life. Recently, many of my friends probably got more information than they wanted to know. Some of my "friends" are virtual in nature...I never see them, they don't know what's truly going on in my life nor do I necessarily want to know them in those ways. However, the past month or so has been pretty emotional. Initially I had no idea what was going on with my baby girl. Yeah, I know she's almost nine and no longer a baby. But as my parents say about me, she'll always be my baby.

Much of what has taken place did so quickly. Although as life was occurring I felt a slow, stabbing pain in my heart every time Sofie was sad, crying or just plain checked out. Initially, I had no idea what was happening. It could have been a number of things. She didn't quite know what was going on for her, either. Her sadness was projected onto many "objects" including her new bed(that isn't even here yet!), her teacher, the cats, name it, something else often had misplaced sadness enveloping it. During this time, I felt so lost and alone. This aloneness created a Facebook monster who shared too much. Much of what I said was thinking outloud. Regretably, my loving friends who, try as they might, couldn't advise me and I couldn't take one sad little girls pain away.

My previous post answers the "why" to all the sadness. Simply missing Debra was the culprit. This week post Mother's Day has been very emotional. Sofie is now responding to what seems like "permission" she was given to grieve out loud. I want her pain to subside. Apparently, Mother's Day may be a trigger for her. It certainly was this year. I'll be more prepared next year...yeah, right! At least I'll be aware that there may be more heightened grieving in early May!

What's this last month been like for me? A mixture of heaven and hell. Disrupted sleep night after night does not make for a kind Mama. Constant requests for cuddles makes a swollen heart, bursting with love, Mama. Emotions all over the map. Often feeling so out of control and lost I wanted to (and sometimes did) scream! We've made it to the other side for now. The cries are farther apart. The mentions of missing Debra are less frequent. I know we'll come out of this okay. Unfortunately, the ride to the good side can be bumpy, lumpy and make Mama grumpy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day - 2009

Last year on Mother's Day, Sofie and I were coasting through life, exisiting on pure love, bliss and ignorance. I'm grateful for this blog because, to be honest, I don't even remember last Mother's Day. We were definitely on autopilot.

This year has been quite different. Don't get me wrong, it's been a great weekend. The weekend just hasn't gone without some notable sadness on Sofie's part. Many emotions are leaking out of her soul that's punctured with so much loss. I had a friend recently tell me that for kids, the first year of grief/loss can be the easiest because many just sail through not quite realizing what's really taken place. Only after they feel safe and secure do they really let it all hang out and the emotions become real. That's our life right now. Much sadness, clingy-ness and filled with grief.

The couple of weeks leading up to this weekend have been somewhat torturous while all the while overflowing with love. Sofie is a very "feeling" child. That's much of what I truly love about her. I envy her ability to show her emotions at such a young age. I never could and sometimes still struggle with showing appropriate emotions.

There have been many theories about what's going on with her. From separation anxiety about the impending "loss" of her 2nd grade teacher to the fact she's finally settling into our lives and feels comfortable expressing her sadness, loneliness and fears, she's settling into her own existence and life without Debra...and this morning she actually brought up for the first time, her birth mother. The bandage on her psyche was ripped off and I think Mother's Day may have been the underlying culprit.

The discussion about her birthmother, although unexpected, went basically the way I expected it might. During breakfast she asked if Mother's Day was meant for *all* mothers. By the way she asked that, I clarified with, "Do you mean Mama Debra, too?" She said yes but her body language told me there was a "but" or something to add to that. So I asked what she meant. "You know" was her answer. I thought a minute and said, "Do you mean your birth mother?" She nodded and said, "Why did she give me up for adoption?" And there it was...the question all adoptive parents anticipate, practice answering over and over in their minds and dread for life...was I going to answer it right?

Without missing a beat I mentioned the economic environment in Ukraine and the fact that her birth mother did exactly what was right in her situation. And of course I added that I'd be really lonely and sad if she weren't in my life. She had questions about Ukraine and why it was a poor country. Try explaining that to 2nd grader!! She had great questions that I sometime felt I was pulling the answers from the air, but I think the conversation went well. I can say one thing changed...she slept like a log last night. No sadness or clingy-ness. She actually had a reason not to sleep well last night. She had a pretty bad scooter accident last night, complete with several patches of road rash and a nice flesh wound on the palm of her hand.

Suffice to say, the girls alright. Here's a picture from Saturday just after her new haircut...which is perfect for her!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Healing Continues

Yesterday, after arriving home from work to see Sofie playing happily with the babysitter, I thought just maybe she was starting to forgive and forget. I couldn't be further from the truth. After the sitter left, literally after she walked out the door, Sofie says, "I'm still mad at you for getting rid of Scout!" The she started crying. I just listened for awhile and assured her that I was sad, too. To which she counters, "How can you be sad! You're the one who gave him back!!" Wow, she asks some very pointed questions.

After explaining to her just how that was possible, we talked about future dogs. I told her when we're ready...not anytime soon...we'll look for a good match that's an adult dog with the help of a trainer who specializes in that type of work. She said,
"They don't get to live with you as long!" I clarified, not an old dog, just a dog, not a puppy. Maybe a year or two old and house trained. Then comes the stab to the heart, "Can't we get Scout back after someone trains him?" My heart shattered right there.

After that comment, I explained that probably couldn't happen because if someone takes the time to train him, they're probably not going to give him up. She cried some more, but after cuddles, laughing and reading she fell asleep normally. Actually I fell asleep mid sentence while reading to her! "Mom, why aren't you reading?" she says as I snore lightly in her ear! We laughed, then both fell asleep. It wasn't until I woke up wide-eyed at 1a did I even realize I'd fallen asleep at 830p and completely missed Obama! Guess I'll have to read the text.

On the way to school this morning she said the van smelled like puppy. She wasn't sad, just a matter-of-fact observation. Maybe she's starting to forgive...and forget.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Morning After...

Thinking I would get a good nights sleep last night was a ridiculous notion. After the departure of Scout(to be known as Donner from now on) last night, I had to write about it...process the previous 72 hours(plus the weeks leading up to all this.) How did I let this happen? What was my motivation behind choosing a puppy? Why did I give up so easily? How am I going to tell Sofie? What am I going to tell Sofie? And so many other thoughts occurred. My brain churned and churned all night. If it were made of cream, it would be a big blob of butter about now!

After blogging last night, I got into bed and thought about reading. Apparently, that's all I did because the next thing I know, Sofie is in my room asking me why I was still up. (I wasn't, but lights on meant I was awake!) She curled up next to me and we fell asleep...with the light on. At some point she woke up and asked me to turn my light off after she got some water. I did and for whatever reason, I blurted out, "Scout's gone back to Jackie's. He's going to live there now." Breaking the news like that was not quite what I would have chosen. As the news streamed out of my mouth I realized I had some 'splaining to do, Lucy. Let me just say, the realization that you've just ripped the heart out of your child will wake you out of the deadest of sleeps! She burst into tears. I explained, in the most coherent way I could in the middle of the night, I had had made a big mistake. It wasn't about her, it wasn't about the puppy, it was about me just plain and simple. She sobbed like I'd never seen her sob before. Oddly, it was more intense than she cried after Debra died. (I think she was overwhelmed with the whole death thing...and the tears lasted for a long time.) She finally feel asleep, weeping in my arms.

Gracie, the cat, was back in bed with us this morning...finally emerging from the guest room. I wondered if that would make Sofie feel better. She was glad to see Gracie, but still remained teary during much of the morning routine. Feeling a tad guilty, I offered her breakfast at Elmo's before school. She seemed skeptical, like it couldn't happen since they "take a long time to cook." (Her words, not mine.) Often on Tuesday's I go in late, so I knew the timing wouldn't be difficult for me. We had a lovely breakfast out, then off to school she went.

I'm not sure how the day went for her. I know I'll hear all about it. She's really upset, but I think she knows I was stressed and not being a nice Mom to her. I just worry that this is another loss in her life. She's been through so much. As resilient as she is, she's still heartbroken.

One thing I offered as a future possibility was getting an adult dog. Not now, later, after we've healed from this. She's open to that. I just better be damned sure this time that I can take care of the dog and maintain sanity!!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lessons learned - my initial thoughts

Tonight, after much deliberation and loving discussions with Jackie, the foster mom to all the pups, Donner/Scout/Donner again is now back in their loving home. She and her husband came in the dark of the night to retrieve the world's sweetest pup and all the accoutrement. I'll now get a good night's sleep and won't be the evil mom I had become tonight. Sofie doesn't know, but we talked about it tonight and I was bitch mom from hell, so after initial sadness she'll be okay. We do have visitation rights if we choose to exercise them. I hope Sofie chooses to visit him on occasion.

There are a few key lessons I've learned. The biggest is TRUST YOUR matter how deeply buried that feeling is, it's there for a reason. Listen to the whispers. Sanity could be preserved and all would be well in the world. I had puppy dreams that should have clued me in. I thought I was doing the right thing. Simply put, I was wrong. Jackie and I had an honest, loving discussion tonight. What a kind, kind woman she is. No judgment was passed and only loving thoughts were expressed.

Lesson number two...DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP!! This was a life lesson. A hard one, but definitely not as difficult as others I've learned. This is a lesson that I won't soon forget, but I won't let it weigh me down. I have to figure out how I'm going to let my darling daughter know that the puppy is back at his other home. It will help that we can visit Donner.

HEAL THYSELF BEFORE SPREADING THE LOVE TOO THIN. Jackie helped me realize that both Sofie and I are still healing and although the love of a dog wasn't wrong, the timing can. We aren't emotionally equipped to handle puppy duties. At some point down the road I do believe we will have a great dog in our life...just not now and just not a puppy.

I'm emotionally drained and physically tired so off to bed I go. There will more to write about tomorrow.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Our journey into puppyhood...a first night perspective

Apparently my regular life is too boring to write about anymore, so now that we have a puppy the excitement is back?!?! Kick me, pinch me, send me a scathing email if I become a person who ONLY talks about their puppy(and the puppy's bowel habits.) I still have a very spunky girl to write that will include her adventures in puppyness, too. Currently he's curled up at my feet, sleeping while I cute is that?!?!

Scout had a very successful first day and night home. He was neutered yesterday afternoon, so we picked him up around 230p from the vet's office. His bother Winston was being picked up at the same time by our friends S and J, and their daughter's E and K. After signing tons of paperwork, getting instructions for post-op care and saying good by to their foster mom, we were off to the new home. Scout wasn't quite interested in leaving the vet, but since he's food oriented all it took was a treat or two! The 5 minute ride home was uneventful...a little whining, but encouraged Sofie to speak quietly and lovingly and reassure him.

We arrived home and our lives into puppyness started. He explored his new surroundings, well the limited version of his new surroundings. He was starving so I filled up a Kong with kibble and fed him. Feeding a puppy in his Kong is a way to encourage chewing on his chewy and discourage chewing on anything else! He's still learning that there is actual kibble IN the Kong, but he's smart and I'm sure he'll figure it out. Below, you can see that he is a bit perplexed!

I purchased a baby gate for the stairs to keep him in and give the cats a refuge from him. Our friend Matt came over to help install it. It looked pretty simple because the manufacturer included a template to use for wall placement...only after he installed both sides and tried to hang the gate did we realize they included the WRONG template!! Matt is a great guy so while his son was playing with Sofie, he undid what he had installed, then we just did our own measuring and replacing of mounts. It's installed beautifully! All thanks to Matt!

Sofie and I took Scout on little jaunts to encourage outdoor toileting. He didn't go and didn't go and didn't go, so we put him in his crate and headed to dinner at our favorite Chinese place. We were gone a couple of hours and upon our return took him on another jaunt. This time he was successful on both accounts! We threw a party each time, with treats. Want to give him all the positive reinforcement possible!

After coming back inside, we played a bit with his tug toy. I encouraged Sofie to play, but unfortunately he likes to chew and climb on her and it's a little hard to deal with. We're going to work with a trainer, so I hope she can work with Sofie and Scout to develop a good relationship. I'm a little worried that Sofie is going to have a hard time with Scout. He doesn't jump on me at all, so I'm not even sure what that's about with her! Maybe he thinks kids taste better!!

Sleeping was very much like a newborn last night...except newborns aren't in crates...well, now that I think about it, cribs are very crate-like! Each time he went into his crate there was initial whining, which evolved into the cutest howling. Eventually he'd just plop down, sigh and fall asleep. I was up at 1a, 4am-ish and 7a. When he whined at those times, it never subsided so I assumed there was a reason. I assumed correctly. Every time we went out, he used the potty. Smart dog!! At the 1a outing he got a little play reward for peeing and pooing within 3 minutes! Here's a picture of that play time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Our new addition to the family

Introducing Scout!

He’ll be joining our family this coming Saturday after he’s neutered. Scout (formerly known as Donner) found his way into our hearts a few weeks ago after friends who are adopting Comet told me their story. If you’re interested, please check out the blog that the foster family kept during their time with them.

There are lots of pictures from birth on, and each pup has a page describing their personalities. Check out Donner’s page. He’s a big softy. (And I thing big is an accurate description…take a look at his paws!!) Breed is, well, ½ German Shepherd(his mother)…his father is an unknown, but highly suspected to be Australian Shepherd due to the fact that 3 of the 8 puppies have stub tails(Scout included!!) His mother is a beauty and very smart…she literally broke away(collar and chain included) from her previous keeper(who wasn’t taking good care of her) and found her way to a Vet’s office the day before she dropped those 8 beauties!

We’re adopting through Independent Animal Rescue, a Durham based organization. Through this adoption he will come to us micro-chipped, neutered with first round of shots and Frontline treatment. The foster family has also done a great job with crate training so that will make the transition to a crate at our house easier. Also included with the adoption are 3 free one-on-one sessions with a local trainer. We’ve also signed up for a 6 week puppy course that is built on trust and respect between puppy and his people. Both Sofie and I will attend the class.

Before you all start offering advice or concerns, just know that we’re not entering this blindly. I know it’s like having a baby. I know it’s going to take time to build a good relationship between Scout and all the other inhabitants of the family home. Interestingly, for the past few weeks I’ve been waking up between 4a-5a every morning…getting in the habit before he arrives! I’ve also had numerous talks with Sofie regarding responsibilities (good and bad.) This is a great age for a kid to get a dog, too.

Of course my biggest concern is introducing to the cats, but everyone I’ve spoken with and every book I’ve read says it’s much easier to introduce a puppy to cats than dogs to cats! So here we go on our next adventure. Fingers crossed it’s a good one!!

I'm sure there will be more posts in the near future on our adventures in puppy training with lot's of pictures, too.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sofie and Jamie's Excellent California Adventure (Part 2)

Day two-Santa Cruz to Brisbane

After having a lovely first night of Hanukkah with Laurie and Maya, plus a nice visit with Alan, we went to bed fairly early to play "catch-up" on our sleep. From Laurie's house you can see the Santa Cruz Boardwalk which had absolutely no activity while we were there. However, right beside the boardwalk is the pier that houses many sea lions lazing on the pylons underneath the pier. I know this because at 3a, I woke up to barking...not dog barking, sea lion barking. Later in the day Laurie, Sofie and I headed down to explore the pier and allow Sofie to snap some photos.

It was a beautiful, sunny day with a brisk breeze blowing about. The sea lions were contently perched beneath the traffic of holiday shuffling. Is it me, or do you think this sea lion is posing?!?!(Notice the catty glance upwards towards Sofie.)

It was also quite breezy that day. To my surprise, Sofie actually admitted she was cold! We meandered on the not so crowded pier, shopped a bit, had hot chocolate, then off to Laurie's for packing up the car but not before we saw this as we were leaving:

Yep, that's a seagull with a starfish hanging out of it's mouth, seemingly stuck in the bird's gullet. There was discussion in the car wondering if we should pull the starfish out of the sea gull's mouth. (As if that bird would have stayed there waiting for one of us to grab it around the body and yank it's dinner out of its' mouth!) I was worried that it couldn't swallow the meal, since it was probably only slightly smaller than the bird. We witnessed it try, with no success, to swallow. In the end, we left poor Gully to fend for himself. Maybe the pelican could help him out!

After fun in Santa Cruz, Sofie and I packed up the car and headed Northwest to Brisbane to visit the Wexler's and share in second night of Hanukkah. It was rainy, foggy and nearly dark when we were finally on the freeway heading north. If I uttered these words once, I uttered them a dozen times..."Yay, thing I really don't miss about the Bay Area!" Sofie agreed, but alas we were on the road again!

It was dark by the time we arrived at the Wexler's home. Parking(another thing I don't miss) was a pain. There were teenage boys with fake guns(I hope) running around their street playing some sort of laser tag or non-paint paintball. At some point, Becky and Wex came out and instructed me to park in their driveway. Which I happily obliged with the rental car fully blocking the sidewalk. As we went inside, I was just hoping the teenagers were kind to the cars.

Walking into the Wexler house I always get a warm fuzzy feeling. With a chef in the house, there are usually wonderful smells wafting about. That night was no different. Naomi, the eldest Wexler child(who is actually a freshman in college) was making a heaping pile of latkes. Sofie and Tamar(the youngest Wexler) immediately went off to play, so I enjoyed chatting with Becky, Wex, Naomi and Nathan(the middle Wexler.) We caught, reminisced about prior visits that had included Debra. (One day I really have to write about the time Debra and I took Nathan and Naomi to Los Angeles to see Lion King on stage and a day at Universal studios. It was less than a month after 9/11 so we experienced airline travel in its utmost fearful state. With all that was going on in the world, we managed our own "Escape to L.A." for a wonderful trip with fun memories including losing Nathan at Universal Studios...but I digress!)

We lit the menorah, discussed the meaning of Hanukkah. Afterward, we sat for dinner. A lovely dinner with tasty food. A dinner where Ms. Picky eater ate a plate of turkey...that's it, turkey. Whatever. I enjoyed every morsel. We chatted more thru dinner. Nathan talked about getting the part of "Mark" for the local community theatre only to have the play yanked from any community theatre production. Bummer. He's such a talented guy. Luckily, they had a DVD of his recent performance as the Master of Ceremonies in his high school performance of "Cabaret." I'm amazed every time I see him on stage. Keep an eye out for him...or his sister, Naomi. The Wexler family is bursting with talent. Naomi is a gifted singer and studying music in college. Tamar seems to be the athlete of the family, something she and Sofie had in common.

By 9p I felt as if I'd hit a brick wall. I needed to sleep, right then! Originally we were supposed to drive to Palo Alto and stay at Debra's mom and sister's house. Fortunately, the Wexler's rearranged and Sofie and I slept like logs in Nathan's bed.

We snuck out of the house around 730a to head to Palo Alto. Nancy, Sofie and I were heading into San Francisco to spend some time at the newly re-opened (after years of being closed for renovation) California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park.

Since that was such a long day, I'll continue on with that day in Part III of our adventure...soon.