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Crossroads, Chapter 2

On July 2, 2017, I made the decision to stop drinking. I wanted to share the story of how I came to this decision. In order to do that, I needed to go back to the beginning. If you missed those posts, you can catch up here:

Chapter 1        

 

Chapter 2

My brother began chemo and radiation treatments shortly after he was diagnosed with leukemia.

He would go into remission only to relapse a short time later. This happened more than once.

Eventually he  reached the point where the chemo wasn’t working at all, and there was one final option left.

A bone marrow transplant.

It was a Hail Mary.

If it worked, it would save his life.

If it didn’t, he would die.

At the time, I was a sophomore in high school. The bone marrow transplant would be done  across the country in Seattle, Washington.

We lived in a really wealthy town in Fairfield County, Connecticut.  The two acres my parents built our house on was a gift from my great grandparents. My great grandfather had a farm back in the day, and the property he gave my mom and dad was part of what  had once been the apple orchard.

So for $30,000, my dad built our house from a kit with the help of my uncles in 1974. It was a small, three bedroom, 1  1/2 bath house.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad was a mechanic.

It was next to impossible to afford to live in the town I grew up in on my father’s salary.

But my parents were frugal and good with their money, and with the generous  gift from my great grandparents, they managed to make it work.

But they did not have the money to go to Seattle for my brother’s bone marrow transplant.

He’d need to be there for about four months. My mom, understandably, did not want to go across the country alone with my brother.  But there was no way my dad could afford to stop working for four months.

Nowadays, a GoFundMe campaign would have been started. But back in 1984, there was no GoFundMe.

There wasn’t even an internet yet.

That didn’t stop my parents’ friends and family. They rallied together and organized a fundraiser for my brother. It would be a night of fun. Dinner. Raffles. Auctions.  They were gonna do everything they could to raise enough money for both of my parents to be able to make the trip to Seattle together.

It was kind of a big deal for my family. I was fifteen at the time. My younger brother was thirteen. I remember being so excited.

Until my parents told me they weren’t letting us go to the fundraiser.

My younger brother and I would stay home and babysit my baby brother.

Thirty-five years later, I am not knocking my parents. I know they had their reasons for not allowing me to go. And who knows what the fuck I would do if I were in their shoes. I can’t even imagine.

But I was crushed. I was sad.

And I was really fucking mad.

All of my relatives would be there. My cousin, who was one of my best friends and only two years older than I am would be there with her boyfriend.

I did not understand why I couldn’t be there. Why I couldn’t be a part of it. Why I wasn’t included.

My great grandmother lived right through the woods behind our house on part of what used to be the farm she and my great grandfather had. It was probably 100 yards from our back door to her front door.

A few months earlier, she had gone into a nursing home. Her house was up for sale, but nobody had made any offers yet.

And so, on the night of the fundraiser, as soon as my parents left the house, I did what any level-headed kid would do.

I had a party at my great grandmother’s house.

 

I’m not sure how I managed to make it happen, but my friends bought food and beer and we got drunk at great grandms’s. We smoked on the front porch and riddled her yard with cigarette butts.  

I left my thirteen-year-old brother at home with my baby brother with instructions to come up to Nanny’s house if anything should happen.

At one point my baby brother woke up. His name was Christopher.

My younger brother, Eric, got a hold of me.

I ran home through the woods.

I got Christopher out of his crib, sat in the rocking chair with him, and rocked him until he fell back asleep.

I don’t remember most of the things that happened during this time in my life, but I remember those thirty minutes as clear as day.

Once I got Christopher back into bed, I hurried back to Nanny’s house. The rest of the night is fuzzy except for a couple moments.

I remember dancing to Rick James’s Superfreak on the flagstone floor in the breezeway.

And I remember ending up in the driveway in the back of a Jeep making out with Sam, the same guy who had given me my first completely unromantic kiss in the leaves behind a stone wall a few weeks earlier.

And while we were out there, out of nowhere, two people in fancy clothes banged on the window and scared the crap out of us.

Holy shit. My parents!

Sam and I bolted straight up and then he hesitantly opened the door of the Jeep.

It was late and dark out so we couldn’t really see much.

But boy were we relieved when we realized it was my cousin and her boyfriend standing there. They had left the fundraiser a little early.

And they were pretty impressed with my ballsiness. (Is that a word?)

I won’t lie.

Being the bad girl, the rebel, the hey-mom-and-dad-I’ll-teach-you-to-leave-me-stuck-at-home-kid was a major rush.

My dumbfounded but impressed cousin and her boyfriend helped me to get the party cleaned up as my parents were going to be home before too long.

We got everybody out and got the place cleaned up, and I was in my bed before my parents got home.

They never knew anything.

At least I thought they didn’t.

It would be a couple weeks later when I would retroactively get busted for having a rager at my great grandmother’s house.

But it didn’t really matter.

I had discovered alcohol, for the first time ever I officially had a boyfriend and I was no longer a good girl.

All this helped me forget what was going on with my brother, and it helped me give a big finger to my parents.

And I didn’t have plans to stop doing any of it any time soon.

 

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20 Things To Do With Your Kids Over Spring Break

If you are like me, your kids have spring break next week and you are staying at home.

If you are also like me, you may be looking for things to do with your kids that won’t cost you an arm and a leg but will keep everyone in your family from killing each other before Easter.

So, with the help of some readers, I compiled a list. We have already done one of the things on the list, and I’m hoping to do a couple more over the course of the next eight days.

Stuff to do when the weather is good:

1. Put the bikes in the car and head to a bike path or rail trail you’ve never checked out. Not sure where to find one? Just Google “rail trails” in your state and you’ll have a whole list. We may check out the Farmington River Trail in CT this week.

2. Take a trip to the zoo. If you live near NYC, the Bronx Zoo is free on Wednesdays. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it!

3. It’s baseball season! Some minor league teams have started their season or are starting it this week. Check out a minor league game! They are cheaper than major league games, you can get decent seating fairly inexpensively, and there are often some fun activities for the kids at the game!

4. Visit a state park you’ve never been to before. Here in CT it’s supposed to be 80+° on Tuesday, so we may check out one of the beach state parks, bring some shovels and buckets, make some sandcastles, pack a picnic lunch, and chill out!

5. Go for a hike. One of our favorite hikes is at Kent Falls State Park in Kent, CT. Lovers Leap State Park in New Milford is also an easy hike when you have young kids. Google “easy hikes for kids in (your state) and you’ll get a good list of choices.

6. Visit your local nature center. We just visited ours for the first time yesterday and the kids loved it!

7. Try geocaching! We just discovered this yesterday also (which is what led us to the nature center). The kids absolutely loved this, and so did I. Definitely fun for all ages.

8. Go on a scavenger hunt! You could do this in your own back yard or you could do this on a hike/at a state park/nature center.  Need some ideas? Check out these 30 printable scavenger hunts for kids!

9. Make an American Ninja Warrior course/obstacle course/decathlon in your back yard.

10. Put your kids to work and do a family yard clean up. If you have space, help them clear out an area where they can have their own garden, or set up some container gardens for them.

11. Visit a local working farm. UCONN’s animal barns are open to the public seven days a week. Google working farms in (your state) to get a list of farms you can visit with your kids!

12.  Try your hand at disc golf (Frisbee golf). This is so much fun, and it’s just like regular golf, except instead of using golf clubs and a golf ball, you use a Frisbee, and the “hole” is a metal and chain basket. If your kid can throw a Frisbee, your kid can play disc golf (you’ll need to bring your own discs). There are courses all over the country — in CT there are more than ten different courses (I’ve played the one at Cranbury Park in Norwalk).  Click here to find a course near you!

13. Make a bonfire during the day and make s’mores.

Stuff to do when the weather sucks:

14. Make a seriously kick butt fort. Simple string/rope, clothes pins or binder clips and a couple bedsheets are all you need. Or, if you want to go one step further, check out this one that uses pool noodles, duct tape, and sheets.

15. Visit a museum you never have the chance to go see during the year. Your local library often has free passes to many museums.

16. Clear a space inside where you can grow some seedlings to plant outside when the cold weather is gone for good. Recycle egg cartons/milk cartons/yogurt containers/etc. to plant seeds in. (If you are really ambitious and make those gardens/container gardens when it’s nice out, you can transplant the seedlings into the gardens you prepared outside on one of the good weather days).

17. Have a Stay in PJs Movie Marathon Day and make popcorn/snacks/etc. If you’re worried about the kids getting antsy make a chart and every time they say certain words in a movie everyone has to do jumping jacks or jog in place etc. ( A modified drinking game!)

18. Have a “Messy Day.” Make slime, flubber, playdough, all DIY recipes you can find on Pinterest. Simple, easy fun without too many rules!

19. Have a “Chopped — Spring Break” competition. Take four ingredients out of your pantry/fridge and challenge your kids to come up with an appetizer/entree/dessert.

20. Give your kids a cookbook and let them pick out a new dish to try as a family. Make a list of ingredients. Take your kids to the store and teach them how to shop for the least expensive items on the list. Then get cooking!

Be sure to take lots of pictures of whatever you do. You could even make a Spring Break Staycation 2017 photo album, just like you would have if you had gone away. Get some individual pics with each of your kids with you. Moms are so often behind the lens, your children will appreciate a Mom and me photo, and they will love these in the years to come!

Is there something your kids love to do that isn’t on the list? Please share!

Have a great spring break!

 

 

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The Problem Wasn’t My Son. It Was Me.

Number 3 and I have been going head to head recently.

A lot.

Of all the kids in the house, he’s the one that frustrates me the most right now.

This title of MFK (Most Frustrating Kid) shifts from child to child.

It seems just as one of them settles into a happy and agreeable place, another one fills the button-pushing spot.

Number 3 has held this title for a while. And I’ve pretty much been blaming it all on him.

Even though I know that’s not where the problem is starting. I wish he was the reason. I wish I could justify simply pointing my finger at him.

But I can’t. Because it’s not all on him.

It’s all on me, really.

But it’s so much easier to point the finger in the other direction!

One of the solutions to this problem was made abundantly clear to me last week.

It’s very simple.

I don’t spend enough time with him.

I don’t spend enough time with any of the kids, really.

Obviously the number of kids we have poses a challenge.

Then there is the fact that I coach the swim team every night from 5 – 8 pm.

I’m out the door just as most of them are getting off the bus, and I’m not home until just before bed time. Every single night.

I coach the groups that Number 4, Number 5 and Number 7 swim in, so I do at least spend that time with them.

It’s not exactly quality, one-on-one time, but at least I am interacting with them, and I’m also watching them do what they do. Which kids love. (Although coaching your own kids among a whole team as opposed to being able to watch your child and focus mostly on them isn’t the same thing, but that’s a topic for a whole different blog post).

Since Number 4 swims in the last practice of the night, we drive home together. Just the two of us.

Even though it’s only a five minute drive from the pool to the house, Number 4 and I have a daily opportunity for a one-on-one conversation in the car. We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary, but it’s still our special time. And I know it’s special to her because last night Number 5 stayed late after her practice and came home with us.

And Number 4 was pissed.

“MOM! WHY IS SHE COMING HOME WITH US??? WHY DIDN’T DAD COME AND GET HER???”

But Number 3 gets pretty much no time with me.

He swims in an earlier practice with a different coach at a different pool, and I usually drop him off first before I take everyone else to their practices. So we are rarely in the car alone together where we would have an opportunity to talk about anything.

Then there is the fact that I’m often dropping him off late or one minute before practice starts, so he has to rush into the pool, which he hates. I don’t blame him. I hate being late because of someone else, too.

And when that happens, he is super short-tempered and annoyed, he doesn’t want to talk to me at all, and he leaves the car with a heavy sigh followed by a loud door slam.

When his practice is over, my husband picks him up, and he’s home for about two hours before I get back from practice.

And by that time it’s late, it’s time for everyone to get into bed, and I’m tired and running very low on patience.

All of our weekdays are like that.

The weekends aren’t much better.

About two weeks ago, Number 3 got pretty sick. He got strep and bronchitis and had a stomach bug, and who knows what else.

After about a week of being on antibiotics and pretty much staying in bed, he wasn’t contagious anymore and he was definitely feeling better, but he was still coughing. A LOT. Too much to send him to school.

The doctor had recommended that all the kids get outside as often as possible to get some fresh air, and we had some unseasonably warm weather last week.

65 degrees in Connecticut in February!

So I told Number 3 we were going for a walk.

There is a newly paved trail through the woods along a river in town, and we hadn’t ever been there. I told Number 3 we were going to check it out. We got in the car and headed over to the trail.

Number 3 was not impressed with me. I didn’t know where I was going, and he didn’t understand exactly what this whole trail-thing was. Venturing into anything unknown causes major anxiety in him.

“MOM! THIS IS STUPID!”

“MOM! WHERE THE HECK ARE WE GOING?”

“MOM!  PEOPLE ARE GOING TO WONDER WHY I’M NOT IN SCHOOL.”

“MOM!!!…”

Once I realized where the entrance was, he reluctantly followed me.

“Mom! This place is actually kind of cool,” he told me after approximately 30 seconds of walking.

We walked and walked.

We talked about anything and everything.

We walked from one end of the trail to the other.

And then, as we were heading  back to the car, Number 3 asked, “Mom, can we do this again?”

The next day was also beautiful out, and the cough was still pretty bad, so we went for another walk. I suggested that maybe the whole family could go for a walk on the weekend and Number 3 yelled, NO, MOM!

I asked him if he wanted it to be our special place.

“Kind of, ” he said to me.

That was the light bulb moment for me. That’s when it clicked that I haven’t been giving Number 3 what he really wants. And needs. This kind of attention. Not for doing something infuriating  or negative. But genuine quality time. Special attention. Just me and him.

The following day Number 3 went back to school.

He also decided he wanted to try to go to swim practice when he got home.

Rather than do the after school scramble with everyone, I left the younger three in Number 4’s care for ten minutes so we could leave early and he wouldn’t have to rush. That would give the younger kids a few extra minutes to get their swim stuff ready, and I’d come back home and get everyone after I dropped Number 3 off.

He was thankful to be leaving early and not to be rushing, and in the car he was talkative and relaxed — the complete opposite of how he’d acted in the last couple months.

When I pulled up to the front door of the pool and came to a stop, Number 3 wasn’t sighing heavily or rolling his eyes. He was calm. And he was happy.

And as he opened the door and got out of the car, I looked back at him from the driver’s seat and told him to have a good practice.

Number 3 looked at me and he smiled.

“Thanks,” he said.

And then, for the first time in, well…

Honestly for the first time in as long as I can remember,

Number 3 looked at me, and he smiled again, and then he said, “I love you, Mom.”

And with that, he gently closed the door, turned around and walked into the pool.

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Stop Driving Like An Asshole In The Snow

I was born and raised in Connecticut.

Although we’ve had a relatively mild winter in New England this year, we are used to significant snowstorms.

Some years we are hit with multiple blizzards. Some years we only get a couple inches here and there.

A couple days ago, we had a near blizzard here. About a foot and a half of snow fell in twelve hours.

The kids had a snow day, swim practice was cancelled, most businesses were closed, and we didn’t leave the house.

But if I was forced to drive somewhere in an emergency, I would have been okay.

I’m used to driving in a snow, it doesn’t bother me, and I have a big-ass Suburban that has four wheel drive.

That being said, having a large, heavy car with four wheel drive doesn’t mean I can drive like a complete moron.

Unfortunately, the other five million people in CT driving SUVs apparently aren’t all aware of that.

Yesterday I went to a swim meet with Number 3 and 4. It was about a 50 minute drive from our house.

A small snowstorm was supposed to come through the area last night.

It started snowing as we left the meet at 9:30 last night.

By the time we were about 20 minutes down the road, the snow was coming down steadily and it was starting to stick. It wasn’t treacherous or anything, but the roads weren’t dry, snow was accumulating a little bit, and it was getting slick in some spots.

As we were driving down 84, there was a truck in front of us treating the roads. It was driving in the middle of the left two lanes so the salt covered both of them. He was probably driving about 40 miles an hour. The speed limit was 65 mph. So if you were behind him you had to drive pretty slowly.

It was late and I wanted to get home, but I wasn’t in a major hurry to get anywhere.

I happily drove slowly and stayed behind the truck, especially since he was treating the roads. It was the safest place to be, for sure.

Other people, though, were apparently facing life or death emergencies. There were at least a dozen drivers who must have had women in the car who were about to give birth, passengers who were bleeding out from gunshot wounds, in the midst of massive heart attacks, and suffocating due to obstructed airways.

I can’t tell you how many people were driving like complete idiots, weaving in and out of traffic to get past that truck at all costs.

It was unbelievable.

When you are first learning to drive and your parents tell you it’s not you they are nervous about on the roads, it’s the other people, well…

If they had seen what I saw last night, no teenagers anywhere would be allowed on the road. Ever.

Last night as I was driving, I realized something.

They don’t tell people to stay off the roads during snowstorms just because they are too dangerous to drive on.

They tell people to stay off the road during snowstorms because they drive like total assholes.

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?????

We are getting another storm here tomorrow. They are predicting anywhere between one and ten inches of snow, depending on what part of the state you live in.

I’m supposed to be driving to another swim meet tomorrow. I’m not nervous to drive in the snow if the meet doesn’t get cancelled.

But I am nervous to drive among the multitude of douchebags who were on the road last night.

If you are driving in the snow tomorrow or during any other snowstorm in the future, do me a favor.

Pull your head out of your ass.

Don’t be stupid.

Remember that the possession of an SUV and 4 wheel drive does not make you impervious to the elements.

And one more thing.

SLOW THE FUCK DOWN.

If you can’t do those things, then do us all a favor,

Stay home and go sledding.

You can go as fast as you want then, and when you have an epic crash, the only person you’re gonna hurt is yourself.

 

 

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