Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Finally a September to Remember?

As we head into September, I find myself feeling a little apprehensive.  All my life I've had a bit of a birthday hangover to manage.  For most people they wake up the day after their birthday and it's just another day.  Maybe it's a bit of a letdown once the excitement is over, but for me, the day after also signifies SUMMER being over.  And when I was a kid, that also meant that school was generally less than a week away, which was a double bummer.  As I've grown up, things have been a little easier, but the last two autumns have brought many challenges, and I can't say that leaves me feeling any love for this one.

Two years ago I was still feeling pretty cruddy as I moved out of the first trimester into the second, and then had a bit of a funk in October when I found out that Carter was a boy.  Obviously he has more than made up for that by being his wonderful, charming self, but I'll admit it was a tough time there for a bit.  But last year?  All hell broke loose.

The end of summer was when the worst of Jacob's behavior started.  Those last few weeks of August nearly killed me.  We had no idea what was going on with Jacob, and it was so hard.  I was so sad, so heartbroken, so angry, and so confused.  Everything was overwhelming.  The start of Kindergarten was just plain scary as a result.  I looked back in the blog and was reminded of how the joy of that day was replaced by fear about everything--how he'd settle in, if he'd make friends, what would happen if he had a meltdown--and quite frankly, a lot of those fears weren't unfounded.  He had a tough year.  Yes, he learned a lot, but we had a lot of speed bumps along the way.  And let's face it, he didn't really make any solid friendships...unless you count those with the psychologist and the counselor.  My fear this year isn't any less.  The worries I had about him being in a new place have been replaced by fears about how he'll respond when the work gets harder.  His behavior in general is a little better--or at least, we know a little better how to manage it--but he is still terribly stubborn and almost never wants to listen to us.  Particularly when it's about something he doesn't want to do--go to bed, get ready for school, leave his toys/shows to come to dinner, do homework.  I am dreading getting back in the routine of getting home late, forcing him to do his homework, eating dinner, and battling him when we say it's time for bed right away.  I wish he'd do his work at the afterschool program, but he's a bit into instant gratification and can't quite comprehend that if he does the work now, he can play later at home when he'd most like to.  He just sees the opportunity to play and doesn't care about anything else.  We also know better now just how epic his attention span/distraction problems are.  Aside from hoping his teacher connects with him better, we have no illusions going into this year about the challenges we're facing.

In addition to all of the behavior issues last year, at this same time we were discovering that Carter had a rice intolerance.  By itself it might not have been such a blow, but on top of everything else it was devastating.  I felt like everything was spinning out of control.  Then Craig's dad needed open heart surgery.  Obviously we were crazy worried about his health first and foremost.  But beyond that, our trip with Craig's parents to Disney was a couple weeks away, and after already postponing it a couple times, this put it into limbo yet again.  It just seemed like no matter which way we turned there was something to worry about.

The trip to Disney itself was...interesting.  On one hand it was great to have a change of scenery, and no place is more magical than Disney.  On the other hand, it was hard enough to deal with our issues on our own turf, let alone on vacation where kids are always out of their routines and more prone to meltdowns.  On top of it all, our first full day there was the day we found out Jacob probably had Celiac disease, which was just another giant weight added to the burden we were carrying around.  Luckily we got to play around with Disney's ability to cater to those with food allergies, which felt like it gave us something constructive to do with the news, but yeah, it was tough.

Looking back on that trip, by some miracle the better memories have come to the top.  That hasn't always happened for me in the past, as often when I look at old pictures of Jacob I'm reminded of the trouble I had to go through to get that photo, or what he did to make that event particularly difficult.  Yes, I know that's sad.  But for some reason the Disney photos aren't like that.  I know how hard the trip was--the heat, overtired kids, the ill-timed lack of gluten-free foods, the cold I caught--but I remember the good stuff, too.  I think about how cute Carter was, how surreal it felt to walk around such a lovely resort, the times that Jacob was legitimately sweet, and the fun of riding the rides and gobbling down an ice cream treat shaped like Mickey's head.  There were good parts of the trip, and I think if we weren't so spent going in, maybe those would have been even clearer at the time.  I'm glad we got the chance to do it, but I won't lie--I don't need to do it again for a while...well, unless it's just Craig and me :)

Once we got back we were faced with the reality of Jacob's likely diagnosis.  We had to get back in the school groove, catch up on some homework, deal with doctor's appointments (the GI doc and his therapy appointments, not to mention Carter's allergist visit), find new foods to eat, and just survive Jacob's daily challenges.  I honestly felt like I was living in a fog for many months.  It was a combination of the weight of these challenges, the disbelief that we were dealing with such serious issues, and the exhaustion of having to deal with all of it.  I probably shed at least a couple tears daily for a couple months straight.  It was just SO HARD.

A year later things aren't quite as intense.  Carter's intolerance is gone, Craig's dad is doing well, and Jacob is still very difficult but we manage.  We're still working with a therapist, still trying everything we can to motivate him, and muddling through each day.  It's not ideal, but at least for now it feels functional.  It definitely didn't feel functional last year, so I guess that's progress.  It's been a long year.  Fall is slowly but surely making its way here, and I pray that this year makes up for the past two.

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