Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Festive Festivus! Joyous Kwanzaa! Happy Freakin’ New Year (please dear baby Jesus let 2019 be less of a dumpster fire than 2018, amen)! Or enjoy grumpy Grinch-ing. Whatever. You pick. I just wanted to wish you and yours a bounty of whatever floats your boat during this ridiculous season of both joy and frustration, generosity and over-commercialism, gratitude and guilt. Or maybe that’s just me. Again: whatever the season means to you, hooray! Enjoy it.
This letter is both overdue and far less interesting than you probably suspect. 2018 has been a long year and yes, sure, we haven’t actually sent out a proper holiday card with pictures of the children and a newsy “here’s what’s happening in our lives” letter for many, many years, but perhaps it’s time to try to return to that tradition at last. Dressing up the kids in matching sweaters and making them pose for photos until one or both of them was in tears used to be a regular feature of my holiday preparation. Somehow in the trials of A Life Not Going According To Plan this tradition fell away, and I regret that. This year I have succumbed to good old fashioning Baking Therapy (would you like a cookie? a cheesecake? a gluten-free pumpkin bread French toast? TWELVE DOZEN COOKIES, PLEASE, TAKE THEM!), and it just feels like a good time to get back to basics.
Fortunately, I did lose my mind a little bit this month and so I’m well-prepared to show off my babies in festive holiday style. I mean, sure, they’re no longer BABY babies, but they’ll always be my babies. And did they bicker while I snapped pictures? Yeah, they did. Did they complain, fall over in exaggerated displays of displeasure and bonelessness, and was there some epic eye-rolling? Of course. DID I GET A GODDAMN HALLMARK MOMENT ANYWAY BECAUSE I SNAPPED ONE HUNDRED TERRIBLE PICTURES? Yes, I think I did. Hopefully it makes up for the letter because they’re pretty cute.
Aren’t they precious? Being a mom is so rewarding!
[Sidebar: Licorice always needs a sweater of some type in the winter. She is a delicate princess and will shiver and burrow into the nearest available human as soon as the temperature hits 50 or below. She also LOVES this sweater because previously she was wearing a velcro-closure coat that regularly stuck her to the couch whenever she rolled around too much. I have no excuse for the bows on her ears other than to say I took them to a new groomer and since this photo was taken, one bow has been eaten, I think, and the other I removed a few days ago when I discovered the first one missing. Duncan has mellowed quite a bit over the years, and we’ve had no reason to call him Bitey McBiterson for a long time, but it took two solid days and some real danger of losing a finger to get that sweater on him. Now that it’s on, though, he loves it. I suspect he was also cold. Thank goodness he’s mostly blind and has no idea how silly he looks.]
Oh, did you think I was going to have a festive photo of my HUMAN children? Silly. Sure, Monkey’s going to be 19 next week and Chickadee is 20, but the last decent photo I have of them TOGETHER is from… uhhhh… I think Chickie’s senior year of high school. So. Yeah.
Anyway! 2018! What a year, huh? Allow me to recap everything wondrous each family member has done this year in excruciating detail, complete with photos!
Just kidding. Let’s pretend I did that. Instead I’ll just tell you about the more entertaining (to me) highlights, in the most verbose possible manner because I’m a jerk like that.
Monkey turned 18! 15 years of having to navigate a very difficult (for a multitude of reasons; look at me not elaborating or blaming anyone) coparenting relationship came to a quietly-celebrated end. I think my ex is much more willing to treat me as a reasonable human being now that 1) we hardly ever speak and 2) he no longer has to pay child support. So that’s pretty neat! Still, not gonna lie: I do kind of miss the child support. All those hookers and blow don’t pay for themselves.
I accepted a chair on the board of a local theater company despite having no idea what I was doing. “I am giving back to the community!” I told myself, as I voted on things like what sort of benches we should buy for outside and whether we should replace the water cooler. “I should maybe also start paying more attention to my career,” I mused, as I spent many, many hours doing this volunteer work instead of, you know, my actual job. VOLUNTEERING IS REWARDING AND ALSO DUMB.
Monkey and I began Invisalign treatment together, because nothing says mother-son bonding like “Hey, I landed this sponsored campaign to finally get our teeth straight.”
Chickadee returned to college after break and Monkey joined her after convincing us that a smaller school was what he needed/wanted and that he was ready to go back to college. Otto continued working too hard on a billion different projects at work, and a colleague and dear friend of his passed away and that sucked.
Licorice—who had been scratching so constantly she was starting to have bald patches, and who had cost us hundreds of dollars at the vet without any sort of solution—visited our local Fancypants Veterinary Teaching Hospital and was poked and prodded while the billing department drained my checking account. But then they put her on a magical injection which solved all the itching, finally. Hooray! The vet even taught me how to inject her, myself. Licorice felt way better and only hates me a little.
After months of hard work and literally years of dreaming about this role, the production of Brighton Beach Memoirs that I was in opened and was not a disaster and people came to see it and said they loved it and I experienced a lot of guilt over the time I put into the production because “silly hobby” but then also I was proud of it so basically, I spent a lot of time in therapy that month but ultimately felt like it was a good experience.
I woke up on Valentine’s Day (no lie) to Otto telling me, “The first thing I want to tell you is that everything is fine now,” followed by a grim description of a catastrophic failure our dishwasher had suffered overnight. Apparently the heating element never shut off. We were very, very lucky that the house didn’t catch on fire. As it was, everything non-ceramic/non-metal inside had melted into modern art and our kitchen counter is still a little warped. Romantic!! We have a new dishwasher now.
The kids seemed fine. Otto continued to work too hard.
Our oven broke. Again. (I am too lazy to link to previous instances. Our appliances are all cursed.) Otto fixed it because he is a rockstar. Yay!
Monkey came home for spring break and I fed him All The Food while trying to ignore the nagging voice in the back of my head that whispered he wasn’t doing as well as he claimed. Chickadee went on her first big vacation trip with friends and I only randomly texted her “WHATCHA DOING? HOW ABOUT NOW?” a few (dozen) times.
Chickadee negotiated her first apartment lease (for the following year) and I fell down a DIY rabbit hole as we began purchasing/refinishing/swapping various furniture pieces around in preparation. I (more or less successfully) refinished Monkey’s dresser for Chickie and bought and refinished a new-to-us dresser for Monkey. I also spent the next few months driving around the greater Atlanta metro area to meet strangers selling various items made of particle board because I hate myself.
Otto spent our tax refund on a new mower and seemed pretty excited about that, probably because he works too hard.
I was called for jury duty for the first time in my entire life, despite having been registered to vote for nearly 30 years. I ended up being at the courthouse for most of the day and we’re not even allowed to read paper books during wait times when nothing is happening, which is bullshit. Eventually I was sorted into a group for voir dire for a case involving gun violence. When questioned about my “opinion on guns” I said, truthfully, that I think the second amendment should be repealed. I was dismissed. Go figure.
In an effort to further my crunchy hippie tendencies, I joined a CSA. In a testament to my failure to achieve said hippiedom, we almost immediately started throwing away a lot of unused, weird-ass vegetables, although I have to tell you that JUST THIS WEEK I found a fossilized beet (I think; hard to tell) in the back of the refrigerator.
Chickadee turned 20! I baked cupcakes and Otto and I brought them (and a bunch of random furniture) down to Tinytown to celebrate. We stashed the furniture in her future apartment, fed everyone cupcakes, and went to a concert she was playing in. We also ran into her favorite professor at the concert and I mortified my child by saying, “Oh! I’m so happy to meet you! We’ve heard so much about you!” I am officially The Worst.
One week later Chickadee got so sick we feared she had mono for a second time. She was admitted to the hospital in Tinytown and after the fastest drive down there of my life I spent 36 hours curled up in an uncomfortable chair by her bedside. Eventually I talked the doctors into springing her, brought her home, and we were back in the ER here that night. Fun! Except not! Eventually she got better. Not mono, just a random who-knows-what, complicated by her New Deluxe Complete Lack Of Functioning Immune Systemâ„¢. After what felt like a verrrrrry long week which was actually only five days, she returned to school.
Otto finally realized he was working too much and decided we should have a Cinco de Mayo blowout party to celebrate the end of a grueling semester. He grilled a variety of meats and I made a zillion cookies and many friends came over to eat, drink, and generally bemoan the difficulties of life. It was the most relaxed I’d seen Otto in quite a while.
The semester concluded at Tinytown College and the kids came home. It quickly became apparent that Monkey had a terrible semester and another course correction would be necessary. Because of course it would. (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA no I’m not breathing into a paper bag, you’re breathing into a paper bag.)
Mother’s Day! Familyversary! (Otto and I have now been married 11 years and we still like each other. I am so proud of us!) Otto and I managed to run away to the mountains for a few days, just us, all romantic-like. It was amazing, but then we had to come home because of “work” and “responsibilities” and stuff.
Chickadee finally saw a “top” rheumatologist after months on the waiting list, and he was both useless AND rude, which was neat. We had to see him multiple times before he admitted he had no idea how to help her, though, so at least he was also expensive!
Otto was out of town doing work things for most of the month because (say it with me) he works too hard, so I stayed home and missed him and whined a lot. Later in the month he came home, but then left again for a family reunion trip with Chickadee while Monkey and I stayed home. June felt like a long month.
Around about this time was when I realized that whole “get back on top of work stuff” thing wasn’t working out as planned, though I’d spent so much of the first six months of the year dealing with various Kid Crises that I was grateful that my work is so flexible.
I spent the majority of this month dealing with stuff related to my position at the theater, reminding me again about how no good deed goes unpunished. Did I want to watch a movie with the family? Sure, let me just sit here with a laptop and a stack of season ticket orders while we do it, no problem.
Instead of working too hard this month, Otto decided it was Time To Reorganize The Fleet, a.k.a. do a bunch of car stuff. Under his grand plan and maneuvering: 1) Monkey acquired a car so that he could both get a job and get to and from said job on his own before I drowned him like an unwanted kitten; 2) Otto sold both his daily driver and our spare hauling truck and replaced them with a single larger/hauling-capable daily driver; and 3) Chickadee and I both spent a lot of time remarking on how we still had our same cars and felt no need to play musical vehicles along with the menfolk.
Chickadee was evaluated for neurological issues when she started exhibiting symptoms of neuropathy, and once again we were treated to a hearty round of “Huh, we’re stumped” by the medical community. Fun! At this point we made a bunch of “big guns” specialist appointments, which of course meant waiting and waiting while her health continued to deteriorate. Also fun! (I may not be using that word correctly….)
Every single damn thing related to our pool broke because of course it did.
Everything felt stupid and terrible so I took Chickadee to New York City for a few days before she headed back to school because why not? We had a fabulous time even though it completely wore her out. And she loved Columbia a lot so she is grounded. (But hey, good news: due to her health issues she’s now planning to take a year off before grad school so I have more time to talk her out of going so far away!)
Chickadee went back down to school, mid-month-ish. I finished my Invisalign treatment! Otto went back to teaching, which hardly looked any different than his summer “off” because he works too hard even when not teaching. Monkey continued looking for a job. I had a birthday because I continue getting older.
I baked a lot of stuff.
Hurricane Florence! Friends from South Carolina came to stay with us for a bit and we had a good time with them.
Monkey decided to go spend some time up north with his dad. Chickadee started coming to grips with the fact that her health really isn’t getting better, and dropped her course load from Crazypants down to Normal (which, along with her two jobs and the rest of everything else she’s involved with, meant she was now simply doing Too Much instead of doing More Than Any Sane Even Healthy Person Does). She also announced she was considering joining a sorority, and once I figured out she wasn’t joking, I died. Fortunately I came back to life to hear about how it’s a service organization, co-ed, etc. What, like your totally-anti-sorority kid didn’t suddenly want to join a sorority her junior year totally out of the blue? Weird.
Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford testified. I did a lot of rage baking.
Otto worked too hard and was out of town a lot. We hosted our second annual Pie Night for his students, which is another one of those things that makes my husband ridiculously happy and so I love it, too. I tried to make a gluten-free buckwheat pie crust for my pie and I am here to tell you that is a terrible, terrible idea. But the other pies were good.
Chickadee came home a bunch for doctors’ appointments, including finally seeing her new cardiologist (hello, POTS; hello having to take medication to RAISE her blood pressure so that she can hopefully someday take medication to LOWER her racing heart rate) and visiting the not-covered-by-insurance geneticist who supposedly knows all things Ehlers-Danlos and can diagnose where others can’t. We learned that Chickie misses a diagnosis of Hypermobile EDS by one point under current criteria, but the geneticist feels “certain” she has an underlying connective tissue disorder which explains everything, most likely a type of EDS with a genetic marker. We sent off samples for genetic testing and crossed our fingers for good news, even while not really knowing what would constitute good news.
Chickadee officially joined a sorority, confirming that life never runs out of surprises.
MONKEY GOT A JOB. Finally. And all God’s people said AMEN.
I was cast in and started rehearsals for another big show, feeling guilty (again!) about all of the time and energy doing a show takes, but also excited to have the distraction from real life stuff.
Toward the end of the month, our water heater died one chilly morning. Because of course it did.
The great state of Georgia “forgot” to mail Chickadee’s absentee ballot to her and so rather than shrug and be annoyed, she drove home and got up at the crack of dawn on Election Day and went to the appropriate district office to make sure she could vote. Then she voted and went back down to school. Because she’s awesome. (Spoiler: everyone she voted for still lost, because Georgia. Sigh.)
Otto continued working too hard, but did take a break for us to have a nice Thanksgiving with friends. Monkey got the hang of his job. I spent a lot of time in rehearsals. Chickadee continued handling everything down at school and coming home for medical stuff.
The genetic testing company sent us a letter confirming that they expected our insurance would cover testing and our out-of-pocket expenses would be $0. I heaved a sigh of relief. [This is called foreshadowing.]
I tried to order a nice custom sorority ornament for Chickie from an Etsy seller who turned out to be insane. As in, she sent me something not at all what we’d agreed upon WITH A GLARING MISSPELLING ON IT and then tried to tell me that “handmade items all have some variation.” She then demanded that I send the item back at my own shipping expense (pro tip: PayPal now has a nifty thing where you can request that they refund your return shipping) and then never responded to me again, all while conveniently forgetting to issue my refund. Weird! I had to file for a claim through PayPal—to which she also never responded—and so got my refund about a month after this whole debacle began. Now, I know what you’re thinking: maybe something happened and she was away! But oddly enough, her store continued to operate and THE CRAPPY ORNAMENT WAS LISTED FOR SALE AS SOON AS I SENT IT BACK. If any of you are in the market for an ornament bearing the timeless slogan “Unity in Serivce” [sic], hit me up. I know where you can get one.
Mid-month I inexplicably developed an allergy to wine. Because of course I do.
I ordered a new ornament from a different seller, and it’s adorable. Happy ending!
The play I was in opened, ran, and concluded. It was an awesome experience and I’m so glad I did it, and also I’m really glad to be done because it was a lot of work.
After two solid months of waiting, the geneticist sent us her report on Chickadee’s testing results. She has a genetic defect consistent with a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos, but… *insert entire page of medical and scientific stuff about computer modeling and rare diseases and new diagnoses and science being slow to catch up here* without full-genome sequencing we cannot be POSITIVE of the EXACT diagnosis. But it’s LIKELY! And we are learning more all the time, and we are welcome to make an appointment to discuss further! Neat! So that was… only sort of helpful.
This was then followed by a letter from the insurance company stating that the genetic testing company billed them $9,900 and they were going to cover $0 of that so we were left with the balance of just $9,900, you’re welcome! (Related: Would anyone like to buy a kidney…?)
To cap it off, Chickadee came home at the end of the semester and and began the Grand Tour Of All The Doctors’ Appointments While On Break and has experienced—in no particular order—the addition of eight new medications she must take daily, the news that her blood pressure is still too low for the medication needed to mediate her POTS symptoms (so up that med and wait another three months), a doctor who ran her through a million diagnostics WHICH CONFIRMED INDISPUTABLE, SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES who then brought her in and proceeded to vacillate between treating her like a mental patient and treating me like maybe I had Munchausen’s by proxy, and then, this week, we capped it off with a small surgical procedure that went off without a hitch until we tried to get her up to get dressed and her hip almost entirely dislocated. (Two calm nurses and some deft maneuvering saved the day but it was… Double-Plus Ungood, I promise you.) (When I frantically called for a nurse and told her what was happening as she ran toward me, I could see she was skeptical, but once she stepped into the room and took a look at the bone protruding in a place no bone should protrude, she snapped into action right quick. Thank God.)
Otto worked too hard, even after the semester ended. (Surprise!)
Duncan decided that in addition to his current penchant for sleeping 22 hours/day he would also like to add “pooping in the middle of the family room” to his daily routine, so we’ve been, uh, working on taking him outside a hundred times a day to curb that particular behavior. (He seems fine, otherwise. He’s just old and cranky, I think.)
Christmas was nice. My desk is covered in crap and I need to clean it. I feel like I didn’t accomplish 99% of what I meant to this year, but I also feel like maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe.
I baked a lot of things this year. It’s not a terrible coping mechanism as coping mechanisms go.
I hope 2018 treated you well, or at least tolerably. I hope for a lot of things, but as I’m nearly 4,000 words in, perhaps I should wrap it up. Was this too long? You have my permission to just look at the picture of the dogs and skip the rest. (Probably should’ve said that earlier, huh? Whoops.)
Happy New Year!