Monday, June 22, 2015

thinking things through

This post isn't about the kids, or our family- it is about me. A week ago I received terrible news- a client who I had seen 5 days prior was dead. He had died Friday- less than 48 hours after he was in my office. My first thought was that it was suicide, but his brother, who delivered the news, said that he didn't think it was. They were doing an autopsy but didn't have the results.  I haven't heard anything more.  The funeral was Saturday (I found the obituary online; it didn't say anything about cause of death) and we were out of town, so I didn't go.

I don't know if I should contact his brother to ask about the cause of death or just assume that since I haven't heard, I don't need to know.  I have a fear that I will get to work to find some kind of subpoena or something suing me because it was suicide.  I worry his family will blame me because I blame myself.  If he was suicidal that day, how did I not know? How did I not stop him from walking out the door?  How did I not assure him of the fact that there were better days ahead?  I don't even know for sure if it was suicide, but I feel somehow responsible in his passing. He was sad when I saw him last, but many people are sad in my office.

I am also struggling with the fact that he is gone. Just gone. In the middle of a life that had so much potential.  He was someone I had worked with for over 2 years, and while I always felt that he was keeping a wall up to protect himself, I knew him well. I enjoyed our work together, and he seemed to be doing well, and looking toward the future. Did I read everything wrong?

Last week, during his scheduled appointment time, I kept waiting for him to come, even though I knew, rationally, that he would not. I even scheduled another client for that time but found myself with my attention divided; waiting to hear the front door of the office open, a knock at my door.  Of course he never came; instead, I found his obituary posted online immediately after that appointment.  How can it be?

As a result, I am having a hard time feeling enthusiastic about my work. I feel like I am a fraud who isn't actually helping anyone and I should just close up shop and move on. I hope that this isn't the truth, but I can feel myself getting anxious and dreading my work. I feel a reluctance to be there and an eagerness to be anywhere else, which I tried actively to work against last week, but nags me constantly outside of sessions.  I think, if only my clients knew how useless I am.  How can I take their money and give nothing in return?

My supervisor, who is no longer legally required to supervise me but still acts as my supervisor and mentor, said she thinks I am the best therapist in our practice. Part of what she considers good about me, and what I am fighting with right now, is that I care deeply for my clients.  They are important to me, what happens to them is important to me, how they feel is important to me.  I valued my client, and his life, and all that he had to offer the world with his intelligence and humor.  I feel his death as a personal loss, because although we weren't friends, he mattered to me.

So I sit with this, as I have for the past week. I no longer have the weight on my chest that I had for the first 24 hours, and enjoying my family over the weekend helped remind me that I am here, and life truly is good, and beautiful, and full of love.  But work looms tomorrow, and I am afraid to go.  For the first time in 4 1/2 years, I said I want to quit. Not because I think there is something better out there, but simply because I think I shouldn't do it anymore, because I'm not good at it like I thought I was, because what if everyone who comes to me ends this way?  Crazy and catastrophic, I know, but that is where my thoughts go.  I am hoping that the acute pain will fade with time, and that I can immerse myself in the wonderful aspects of my job and my work, but I can't feel them right now.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Weekend in our Paradise

We escaped (the whole family) for a long weekend on Cape Cod. We leave tomorrow- we'd hoped for a beautiful day where we could play all morning and drive home at night, but it looks like rain all day, so we're planning to leave earlier.

We all love it here. Asher cries every time we talk about leaving. My emotions are complicated when I'm here; I feel happiness at being in a place that brings me such pleasure and contains such warm, wonderful memories. I also feel some sadness when I think about my grandparents; knowing that they selected the items in the house, remembering how they used them, remembering how they used to be when they were independent and vibrant. It is amazing to me to be here with my own family when I first started coming here as a self-conscious teenager. I don't know if I could have envisioned what the future held if I had even tried!  I feel a great sense of nostalgia here, too, since there are so many things that remain unchanged over the past 20 years.

We arrived here on Thursday afternoon after a rocky start (Asher was throwing up!), and made a quick trip to the beach, although it was too cold to swim. I ran to the beach to get some exercise, and Eric drove with the kids.
Trying to keep warm! 
Footprints in the sand
 We came back to the house and I cooked dinner for everyone, which we ate out on the deck (Asher's favorite place in the house). Then we rushed out for ice cream, of course!
 Friday was predicted to be rainy and cloudy all day, but after pouring rain at about 8:30, the skies cleared and we had a beautiful, warm day.  I packed our lunch and we went to our favorite pond, Great Pond. The kids played for hours, just entertaining themselves and enjoying the water.
Charlotte is "swimming"
 After we got home, the kids all took excellent naps. I ran around town running my mom's errands since she is in Paris, and then went to the rail trail for a run.  There was much debate over what we would have for dinner and where we would have it, and we ended up making a stop at one restaurant for mac & cheese to go, and another restaurant for seafood for the grown-ups.  I had a lobster roll, and Eric had a clam roll, and we shared a clam chowder.  Then soft serve for dessert- we were really cramming in all the favorites!

The view of the bay from the pier after dinner
My girl and me. Benjamin is hiding behind my legs.
 Today we woke to bright sunshine. We decided to go out for breakfast since tomorrow is Father's Day and we don't want to be in a restaurant!  We went to the Wicked Oyster, our favorite pancake place.  The boys were great; Charlotte's behavior left a lot to be desired.
He needed to sit on my lap before I had finished my meal
Then into our bathing suits and off to Long Pond.  We had the place to ourselves.  It was a little chilly because of the breeze, but it didn't seem to bother the kids. I have discovered that somehow, over the years, I have turned into a totally boring wimp of a person.  In my youth, nothing stopped me from getting into the water and swimming out and back, or splashing around for hours. Now I dip my toes in and think, "Eh. Too cold." I told Eric, I am so boring, I don't even want to get sandy and dirty with the kids. How did this happen?  I am hoping the kids haven't realized yet how un-fun I am, but it is probably only a matter of time.
The kids are playing and I am watching from the comfort of my chair
 The kids took great naps again in the afternoon, and then I cooked dinner at home.  We were going to go out for dessert, but instead went to walk on the beach and look for pebbles.
Two big guys
We did a pretty good job of cramming everything wonderful about Wellfleet into just over 2 days.  We balanced rest and relaxation with fun and exploration; eating at home with eating at our favorite restaurants.  We're lucky to have this piece of paradise at our disposal, and to get away from the craziness of our day-to-day lives. There will be tears when we leave tomorrow, but I am glad we took this chance to visit- the week at the end of the summer never feels like enough.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Asher: 5 years old

On the monkey bars, which he long ago mastered
 A very long overdue 5 year-old post for my Bear (Asher says he wants his REAL name to be Asher Bear; I'm giving it some time before I go change his birth certificate).
On the Ferris wheel with mommy
Asher is affectionate, loving, sensitive, and empathic. He is also bossy, competitive, and sometimes sneaky.  Fortunately we see more of the kind, sensitive Asher and less of the bossy and sneaky one. Asher is my snuggle bug- the other morning we spent several minutes just snuggled up together on the floor because we hadn't seen enough of each other during the week.  He has always had a way of fitting in my lap perfectly, no matter his size.  He loves to be held and kissed, and I love it- and greatly fear the day he thinks he is too old for it.  He is adventurous and interested, and sometimes shy.  He is athletic and strong, but doesn't want to play if he isn't going to win.

He loves to be helpful and feel like he is involved.  It gives him great pleasure to be a special helper both at school and at home.  He will help set the table, empty the dishwasher, and carry plates to the kitchen.  He always gets himself dressed in the morning right after breakfast (we eat breakfast in our pj's in case we spill food, which we often do!) and at night will brush his teeth and wash face and hands all by himself with no prompting.
Heading up the "ant annihilation" team
With his medal after running his 1/4 mile race
He is very curious; always wanting to know what I said, or about whom I am talking.  What's for dinner, what are we doing tomorrow, where is someone going?  And, most importantly, when are we having dessert??? He sometimes likes to lord his knowledge and abilities over others, namely Benjamin.  Benjamin had a near-accident with poop one day, and while I was helping him in the upstairs hall bath, with the door open, Asher paced back and forth in front of the door making unhelpful comments like, "Benjamin! You pooped in your pants? That's disgusting!" In a moment of poor parenting, I leaned out of the door and yelled, "Asher, shut up!"  While he is my most loving and affectionate child, he also brings out the worst in me.

We still struggle with Asher and food.  He is very picky, and prefers carbs over everything else.  We did try several sessions of occupational therapy to try to get him to eat a wider variety of foods, but met with no success.  He continues to refuse all fruits except dried fruits and Trader Joe's freeze-dried banana chips. On his own, he has added back in eggs, applesauce, and Polly-O string cheese, which is great.  He likes carbs with sugar on top- peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, waffles with nutella, pancakes with maple syrup. Crackers with peanut butter are a favorite snack. He also loves crunchy textures, which has worked out since he will eat carrots and hummus as a snack.  Asher will also eat cereal, crackers of almost any kind, and pasta of almost any kind.  He does eat chicken, chicken meatballs, dumplings, hot dogs, and pork. And he likes almost all vegetables, thank goodness!  There is nothing he likes more than sweets and dessert. Asher thinks it is his right as a human being to have dessert at least once a day, and is pretty persistent in getting it.  We always laugh when he comes into the dining room about 10 minutes after he has finished dinner, because we know what he'll say next- "When are we going to have dessert?" Overall I do try to make sure he gets a fairly well-rounded diet and he is certainly growing up big and strong, with plenty of energy.  
In a hot pink squid hat my grandma Tenny gave him
Asher is a generally wonderful sleeper.  He still naps on the days that he is home.  I sent an email to the principal at their elementary school requesting he get morning kindergarten so that he can get his naps. Even with a 2 hour nap in the afternoon, he will sleep well at night for about 11 hours.  He is great at self-soothing with his thumb, which he sucks all the time.  

I don't know when that will stop, because it definitely won't happen voluntarily. We went to the dentist on Monday and she took X-rays- his adult teeth are coming in behind his baby teeth and they are HUGE. He will likely spend 6-7 years looking like a beaver with gigantic front teeth. And I spent Monday night fretting about the demise of my baby's adorable gap-toothed smile.
Beautiful smile, and proud of his very own library card
With a Lego creation
Asher loves art- he colors, paints, and draws all the time.  He likes books and being read to, and he likes to keep me company in the kitchen and help with baking (mainly because he likes the results of my baking).  He is adept with Legos and can put them together in no time.

Asher is incredibly loving and helpful with Charlotte, and I trust him to take care of her.  One evening Charlotte wanted to play outside while I cooked dinner, and Asher said he would take her out and watch her.  A few minutes later they came in and I heard him say, "Now, stay right there while I pee!" and stood her by the door to wait for him.  I was impressed with his thoughtfulness and care with her.  And she adores him- some nights when we ask who she wants to put her in her bed- mommy or daddy- her answer is "Asher!"  He calls her his "sweetie pie," which makes my heart skip a beat to hear.
Goofing around with his sweetie pie- photo by Benjamin
Sharing Daddy's birthday attention, and getting himself as close as possible to dessert
He is so expressive and funny in the way that he talks- gestures, facial expressions, and intonations.  I can't stop watching him when he is telling a story; he seems both adult and child-like at the same time.  He is 100% a parrot and will repeat back whatever Eric has said.  The other night Eric asked the kids to pick up their toys, and Benjamin and Charlotte were participating in their usual fashion (Benjamin: finds one toy to put away but instead becomes engrossed in playing with it and forgets that he was supposed to be cleaning up. Charlotte: takes out new toys and empties their contents on the floor.).  Asher was actually cleaning, but kept walking around saying, "Why am I the only one cleaning up around here?" He will often bargain with his siblings the way Eric tries to bargain with them in order to convince them to do something they don't want to do.  I don't know how much Eric likes his words when he hears them out of the mouth of his 5 year-old son!

That is a little about Asher, but of course there is more.  He is a love bug, a snuggle bug, a sweet-a-saurus.  I love to see his face first thing every morning, and to kiss him goodnight each night at bedtime.  I love that boy, and the joy he brings me is boundless.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Preschool Graduation

Yesterday the boys "graduated" from preschool, and all 3 kids had their last day of school.
Charlotte with her teacher, Miss Karen
Their teachers held a small ceremony at the school complete with little gifts for the parents, some songs, and individual attention on each child.  It began with the announcing of each child, and they came in and handed us our little gifts.  The kids were wearing t-shirts stamped with their classmates' hands and names.
Asher with a rose for mommy and a birdhouse for daddy
Then the class assembled, sang some songs, and showed self-portraits they had drawn at the beginning of the year and at the end to show how their artistic skills had improved over the year.
Most of the kids' class, with Benjamin picking his nose
Each child received a diploma and a hug from the teachers.
Asher with Miss Carol and Miss Marsha
Benjamin with Miss Carol and Miss Marsha 
I held it together completely, I think because I was preoccupied with getting as many pictures as I could, despite the fact that I was in the 4th row and am only 5'2". I had also rushed there after working in the morning, then finishing the teachers' gifts (I was the one and only room mom) with only 10 minutes to spare.

After the ceremony there was a little reception with banana bread and pumpkin bread and ice cream for the graduates.  Benjamin came up to me with a sad look on his face, grabbed me for a big hug, and then started sobbing.  So that's when I started to cry.  I totally get it- I am also terrible with endings, goodbyes, and changes.  I had forgotten that Benjamin is, too, since he is usually so calm and go-with-the-flow.  It was the first time that I remember him getting so upset about something emotional- a big milestone on a milestone day.  My smart, sweet, caring boy.  I covered his face with kisses and he told me he was sad because he was going to miss his teachers and he wasn't ready to go to kindergarten.  He was able to recover, eat ice cream, and enjoy his friends' company.
Benjamin and Asher with their friend Valerie. Valerie's mommy and I grew up around the corner from each other and used to play together when we were our kids' age.
Both boys with Miss Carol 
Both boys with Miss Marsha
We were very lucky- both boys ended up having a wonderful year and a great preschool experience overall. I think they are more than ready for kindergarten in the fall, and could even be reading before then if they wanted to.  Despite whatever social challenges arose this year (mainly Asher's sensitivity to other classmates' behavior), they finished on a high note.  Miss Carol's end of year evaluations indicated that they had both met their mid-year goals and made improvements.  Watching them sit with their classmates as the ceremony went on, I was impressed with their behavior (except for Benjamin's nose-picking!) and maturity.  I get very accustomed to how reliably good-natured they are, and it was nice to be reminded that they are very well-behaved for their age.

The ceremony was over by 2:20, and even though the kids were allowed to stay at school until 5, they both asked to come home.  Asher went right to bed to take a nap, and Benjamin watched the ipad on the couch while I went out for a run (Eric was home working!).  Then Benjamin and I went to pick up Charlotte and collect all of the extra clothes we'd left in their cubbies.
Benjamin and Charlotte tucked in the empty cubbies
We celebrated graduation the way my parents used to celebrate with me when I was a kid- a hibachi dinner!  We'd never been to hibachi, and the kids had a great time watching the chef do theatrics while he cooked our food.  We went with another family whose older son was in the boys' class and whose younger son was in Charlotte's class.  
Benjamin is pleased by the chef's skills
Now it is time for it to sink in that it is summer vacation- even though the weather is making me think it is still March.  I have been sleeping poorly for the past week or so, I think because I have anxiety about the milestones we've reached and how quickly we got here.  I love my boys, and how wonderfully they are growing up, and the people they are becoming. I hope I made their special day special for them.