From two days ago: "She loves reading and I think I can do this." There was so much last year that I didn't think I could do. So much I just couldn't do. The fact that Julia missed the bus three times last year amazes me. How did we ever do that?? I never missed a class, and only missed one clinical assignment. Another miracle. I organized and rand PTO meetings, volunteered at church, and paid all the bills relatively on time. I took care of my mother's estate and pushed the oil tank clean up along. If I had only thought to ask some emergent saint for help with these tasks, I am sure I would have helped with someone's canonization.
But there were those other things as well. We had clean clothes, but how many times were they picked out of the "clean" basket and finger ironed before they were put on? I almost stopped reading to Julia at night for the entire year. And there were only as many as absolutely necessary baths for her. I missed snack days when I was the mom scheduled to delivered. The field trip permission slips were sent home many times before they were retrieved from the clear plastic envelope, signed, and slipped back into place in the school backpack.
Thanks goodness I had the forethought to have a cleaning lady (is that not PC? A house cleaner? Is that better?) I don't necessary get on with her that well and it took me until this summer to notice that she was not spending all that much time cleaning my house, but even a quick dust and vac of the house and swipe of the bathroom and kitchen save me from real dirt. Deep, deep dirt. When I came back home after vacation and unpacked our belongings, I had to clean every surface that was not taken out of the house because even covered with plastic, everything had wood dust on it. As I was cleaning, I felt the novelty of the work. When was the last time that I had cleaned anything? When was the last time that I cared about it.
Oh, about two years ago.
Yeah, a year of holding my breath and a year of grief can sure make for a dirty house. And don't look at the garden yet. I was saved last year by two doses of a professional coming to clean it up. Still, for most of this summer I did not have sufficient interest to do more than minimally maintain. This last week, getting out and rearranging a compost bin and cutting some overgrown bushes was the first hard and creative work that I've done. Again, in the last two years.
And I am so grateful that I've stopped yelling so much at Julia. Her behavior might have improved over the past year, but it is not her behavior but mine that was suspect. I was inpatient and demanding and could not be kind. I was not her good mother. It is not that I have stopped being frustrated, the child can still push ever button I have, but I have recalled that I am the adult and in charge and can walk away to count to ten or scream into that pillow. Really, just stopping what we are doing which inevitably is some school work that I think I am explaining perfectly clearly that she is not getting or getting ready to go somewhere that we are late for as Julia drags on and on in her preparation -- just stopping is all I need. Just looking and seeing that there is another way to teach or being late doesn’t matter.
One more thing, I am cooking again. It has been emerging slowly. Way back before the need for a heart transplant was announced, I was becoming a more interesting cook. I was enjoying exploring new foods and new skills in the kitchen. I jokingly thought that my Madison years would be my master cooking years. I grow into the grandma or great aunt whose Christmas packages would be waited for and savored. My dinner parties would be legend. Well, maybe I didn’t fantasize that far, but I was having fun in the kitchen. It was one of the reasons to have a new, cool, useful kitchen.
And then, I lost that, really it all crashed when David died. We ate, Julia and I, and just thank goodness, that my food was better than a Chinese orphanage. But that was a pretty low bar that I was meeting.
And none of this is earth shattering. None of this is unique to me or us or even our new single parent circumstance. But it has happened to us and it has surprised me and turned me upside down.
It has been muggy and rainy all day. I hoped to shop the farmers’ market -- I am addicted to real tomatoes and fresh basil salads-- but the sky was dripping and even if the farmers were selling, Julia would not have been walking. So, it was the supermarket and then trader joes for broccoli rabi. Oh, I was hungry for sausage, broccoli rabi, onions, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, and oregano. I have always mixed this with pasta and added cheese, but with a bit extra vegies, I was satisfied sans pasta. I did make some pasta for Julia -- whole wheat shells that she loves with butter.
Julia and I worked on reading and parts of stories today. Her speech therapist gave me a story puzzle page. The pieces are labeled setting, character, problem, wish, turning point, lesson. There is also a row of action squares. We read a story book about kid tooth fairies and fill out the puzzle, and then retold that story using the filled out form. Then Julia wrote a sentence about the story and drew a picture in her Reading Journal. It took us a long time and I don’t know if Julia will have the patience to do it again, but it was good work. If we can do it more often, Julia will learn about how to make a story. It will not be quick work for her to learn this, but ya’ know she betta’ get started if she is going to be the author-illustrator that I have in mind for her.