Not a Neat and Tidy Life

Things feel entirely out of whack around here. This week is the last crunch to make the kitchen habitable. Countertops are due to arrive any minute. The backsplash goes in this afternoon. Then plumbing and electric. The workers are pounding in the molding just a few feet away, as I type away at my computer which has been relocated to the bedroom.

Chaos just twelve feet away has become the new normal. After feeling cramped in our basement and bedroom spaces for a few weeks, now it’s okay. It would be quite easy to downsize to a two bedroom apartment, when Ian finishes school.

Tomorrow, I’m heading down to Newark to do another round of interviews. I spent most of yesterday clearing things with a new editor and getting the schedule for the day. The opportunity came up, so I jumped. Unfortunately, it was also the same day as Ian’s IEP, which couldn’t be rescheduled without inconveniencing a dozen people. So, Steve took the day off from work, which inconvenienced his people, and has been given a laundry list of issues to discuss. Steve has new responsibilities at his job, so he’s been working too hard.

We’re in the midst of trying to craft a long term plan for Ian. It’s complicated and requires lawyers and money and research. I’ve started attending evening talks on the subject. We’ll take away all his rights when he turns 18. This is quite complicated when the person is highly intelligent and verbal, but does not have the social-emotional ability to care for themselves. We’ve already created a special needs trust for him. He can’t have a cent to his name when he turns 18, so he can collect social security and be eligible for various government programs. He’s excellent at computer programming — his teacher says that he’s gifted – but he would have trouble in a typical workplace. We think. We don’t know. We are planning for the best and worst outcomes.

Anyway, the school district is semi-responsible for helping us make that transition, so that’s one of the things that Steve will have to discuss with the district tomorrow.

And somehow, Ian’s after-school activities have multiplied like bunnies. He does two activities every day after school — speech, swim, Kumon, drums, keyboard. He love-hates all those activities. He complains about them, but when we stop one, he tells me that he misses his teacher, which kills me, so I sign him up for more. We’re paying nearly $1,000 per month on after school activities. And I spend two hours every day reading books or answering e-mail in the hallway outside of all these activities.

In the midst of this tumultuous home, both Steve and I are trying to pretend that we’re normal. Just like other people. Who have nothing to worry about except work and golf on the weekends. It takes a lot of work to cover up for the fact that our lives are not normal. Sure, the workers will leave in a couple of weeks and I’ll vacuum up all the clouds of dust, but we have an added level of chaos that will never leave and is very hard to explain to people.

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45 thoughts on “Not a Neat and Tidy Life

    1. very cool! Hope it’s a good interview.

      It always amazes me the expertise it’s possible for an ordinary person to develop when necessary, whether it’s about special needs kids, a medical problem, or – on the lighter side – how to renovate a home. It makes me realize we have all of this untapped capacity in our brains, and for some of us, how much energy it’s possible to summon to tackle a problem that absolutely must be solved. It’s impressive.

      1. Sorry, guys. This blog attracted interest beyond our little group this week. Feeling shy. Going underground for a couple of days.

  1. Plan for all possibilities with Ian, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t seem to have any direction now. S developed direction in her senior year. E is directionless now, just enjoying life (and the tennis team again! Whaaaat?). I just sit around and try not to panic.

    Say hi to Cory. (Or so I am assuming.) Tell him one of my students (here in RI) gave me a water bottle with his name/face on it back when he was mayor because I was always gushing over him in class. I still keep it on the doohickey shelf in my office.

    1. I should say that that was back when he’d shovel snow for his constituents and run into burning buildings to save people. 😀

    2. “and the tennis team again! Whaaaat?”

      !!!!

      One of our younger relatives was like that with cello in college. On and off again, over and over again.

    1. Tulip said,

      “No one has nothing to worry about on weekends except work and golf, no one. You’re much more normal than you think”

      How about the president?

  2. Both Steve and I work with a lot of people without children. They all seem to have more time and energy that we do. One 20-something editor would send me edits at 2am. And, pathetically, I would respond, because I have perimenopause and don’t sleep, so I read twitter and check my e-mails all night.

    1. I strongly advocate for the not pretending to be “normal”, but, of course, I don’t think you really do, to the point where it’s a burden.

      I, myself, have absolutely loved that you re-tweeted both the solar map by county and the collection of digitized 19th century books at the Baldwin library. Those re-tweeted links are now sitting with my browser window containing, as well,– the atlas of redistricting at 538, an interactive map of bird migration, cumulative snowfall this year mapped from the Wa Post, and your life in weeks.

      My kiddo suggested the other day that I acquire some “small talk”, and I told him I wasn’t going to, and that people can expect a discussion of science climate change if they bring up the weather.

      And, I’m guessing it’s not a surprise that 20 year olds without children have a lot more energy than we do? I think I’m protected from realizing just how much by the fact that I don’t spend much time with 20 yo, and, as we’ve already established, 17 year olds seem more stressed out than middle-aged mothers.

      1. bj said,

        “My kiddo suggested the other day that I acquire some “small talk”, and I told him I wasn’t going to, and that people can expect a discussion of science climate change if they bring up the weather.”

        I see you are also getting parented by your kid.

      2. Yes, but honestly, the kiddo is right much of the time, and I have the power to resist when kiddo is wrong. So it’s OK.

      3. bj said,

        “Yes, but honestly, the kiddo is right much of the time, and I have the power to resist when kiddo is wrong. So it’s OK.”

        I know–I get the same thing from my kids.

      1. Yup to the crazy perimenopause sleep! I need that Ben Franklin first and second sleep with a few hours being up in between. My ideal would be to go to bed at 10, be up from 2-4, then sleep til 8:30. Life doesn’t work well with that! Books and a reading light in bed are my best friends. You would be amazed at how much fiction I plough through in the wee hours!

      2. OMG, I thought I was crazy for sleeping that way! I can’t do it right now because of life/work stress, but I plan to start up again over the summer with the 2 hour wakeful period in the middle of the night. I would get some great reading done.

      3. Wendy unfortunately it’s all too common “at a certain age”. I just go with the flow – some nights I have a reasonably decent sleep and some nights not at all. I’ve been known to catch a 20 minute nap parked in the school drive thru…

    2. “One 20-something editor would send me edits at 2am. And, pathetically, I would respond, …”

      Gosh, you’re responding because of a reason that isn’t work. But, she is totally all about the job. Really?! No chance she’s worrying about other things and working just because she is up?!

    3. I’m your age and I bet I have more energy than you because I don’t have children. At least I have more time.

  3. A friend of mine, lawyer, had a niche practice setting up arrangements for special children after their parents’ deaths. Looked like really God’s work, to me. She was helpful to families, she liked what she was doing, didn’t have to deal with the turmoil of BigLaw. And she wasn’t helping bitter divorcing parties fight over custody of the damn poodle.

  4. Wow, this is big. Thanks for sharing all these details with us, Laura. All of us who have known you for years and years now (14+ for me) really “get it”, but it’s hard to deal with everyone else who doesn’t know everything you’ve gone and is going through.

    Your kitchen looks awesome, it’s very inspiring to me — we NEED to renovate our kitchen ASAP or we won’t get to enjoy it when we sell this house in 4 years. Sigh…

    Thinking of you today and tomorrow. Hopefully everything will go well.

  5. Best wishes storming the various castles. I hope neither of your boys ever surprises you with a giant tattoo on their back.

      1. I keep meaning to try pot. It’s just that I’m so happy with alcohol, I’d feel like I’m being unfaithful.

      2. I keep trying to interest my children in forensic accounting. None of them have taken me up on it.

      3. Cranberry said,

        “I keep trying to interest my children in forensic accounting. None of them have taken me up on it.”

        Funny!

      4. Two words: Robert Mueller.

        Forensic accounting is about to have its moment in the sun. Also, watersports, but that’s not a good career path.

      5. Might be a viable career, depending on how things go, says the person living in the state where it’s, like, totally legal. Now working on conveying the idea that driving while high is unacceptable (they seemed to grasp that driving while drunk is, through the marketing PSAs).

      6. “Or surprises me with the life goal of using that botany degree for hemp farming.”

        Research scientist for Big Pot. Not even kidding.

      7. One of my relatives is attempting to talk her high school senior kid out of his plan of going to super fun Germany and doing his engineering degree there.

        His parents (who have both studied in Germany) are attempting to explain to him that while Germany is super fun, college and specifically engineering school in Germany is not, and it might make more sense to do his first year of college in the US first. (Kid hasn’t been in the German educational system since something like 4th grade.)

        One of the areas of concern–German higher education is final-exam centered, so it would be easy for a less organized student to putz around all year and then flame out spectacularly, much to his own surprise.

      8. AmyP: Have his parents looked into the cost comparison between Germany and the US for a college degree?

        http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32821678

        “How US students get a university degree for free in Germany”

        There are also scholarships for international students: https://studyabroad.careers360.com/articles/top-scholarships-study-in-germany

        A student is just as likely to flame out in the US as abroad. Why not let him try? Of course, the “worst case scenario” for the parents could be that their son falls in love with a German girl, does well at university, and decides to stay for the rest of his life in Germany. (Which is probably the upside for the German government in offering generous terms to bright foreign students.)

      9. Cranberry said,

        “AmyP: Have his parents looked into the cost comparison between Germany and the US for a college degree?”

        They’re very, very familiar with it (his mom did the bulk of her college in Germany as an American), and the low cost is a major point in favor of letting him do it.

        It would be a big confidence crusher to fail at it, though.

        “A student is just as likely to flame out in the US as abroad.”

        Because of the final exam focus, it’s much more likely under the German system. It’s not like the US, where you get credit for assignments and participation during the school year. A disorganized kid might not be able to muster the self-discipline to work consistently all year.

        His mom also says that German professors are (on average) less helpful.

        “Why not let him try? Of course, the “worst case scenario” for the parents could be that their son falls in love with a German girl, does well at university, and decides to stay for the rest of his life in Germany. (Which is probably the upside for the German government in offering generous terms to bright foreign students.)”

        The thought is that he would have a higher chance of success in Germany after surviving a year of college STEM coursework in the US.

        His parents may yet let him do it (kid WANTS this so much). Also, he has his Oma and Opa and an aunt and uncle in Germany that he knows well–kid has been spending his summers in Germany for a number of years now and the German family visits the US regularly.

        I don’t think that worst case scenario would concern the parents–although it might be hard for an American kid to fit in with German corporate culture.

      10. German multinationals have branches in the US. I can think of at least five that have large divisions within 30 miles of our home. Whether or not he attends college in Germany, he’s quite likely to end up working for a German corporation.

        If he’s interested in study overseas, it may be better to let him do it in a country where he 1) knows the language and 2) has family support nearby.

        Don’t they still have multiple chances at passing the final exam? It might paradoxically work better for a male student, to be freed from the grade depressing effect of graded homework.

        Then again, this program at the University of Georgia might be tailor-made for him: http://www.gsstudies.uga.edu/news/stories/2015/germanengineering-dual-degree


        The five-year program will include a semester of study at one of Germany’s top technical universities, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), followed by a semester-long internship with a German company abroad.

        “Combining high quality engineering education offered at UGA with the cultural literacy provided by the German major will make for well-educated, highly employable graduates who possess excellent job, foreign language and cultural soft skills,” said Dr. Martin Kagel, professor and head of the department of Germanic & Slavic Studies.

        I am in favor of the proposed plan, because I’ve seen young relatives flourish after leaving their home country for university study abroad in Asia. Stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing.

      11. “His parents (who have both studied in Germany) are attempting to explain to him that while Germany is super fun, college and specifically engineering school in Germany is not, …”

        He must have a different definition of super fun. I just find Germany stressful.

      12. Tulip said,

        “He must have a different definition of super fun. I just find Germany stressful.”

        I think his parents work him pretty hard at home in the US, so Germany with his doting grandparents is pretty relaxing (he was an only grandchild into his teens and his aunt and uncle don’t have kids).

        Cranberry said,

        “German multinationals have branches in the US. I can think of at least five that have large divisions within 30 miles of our home. Whether or not he attends college in Germany, he’s quite likely to end up working for a German corporation.”

        Interesting.

        I believe his dad worked for Bayer at some point–in the US, you don’t even think of it as a German company, but it is.

        “Don’t they still have multiple chances at passing the final exam?”

        Yes, but I believe it might be the following year.

        “It might paradoxically work better for a male student, to be freed from the grade depressing effect of graded homework.”

        That’s true–but you can see how it might wind up taking a loooong time to get through.

        The University of Georgia program you mention sounds fantastic, especially for Georgia residents.

  6. I really love Newark. It’s just a part of me. My father was from Newark, and I went to law school there, living on campus for three years in the 1990s. Went running from campus, through some housing projects, to Branch Brook Park, which was beautiful. Dined at the Iberian restaurants in the Ironbound, where the sangria flowed like a magic spring. Walked into a retrospective of Sarah Vaughn at the Newark Museum, where the other people said, “you would not know about Sarah Vaughn.” This at the time was true, but I said, “I want to learn.” Checked out books from the Newark Public Library headquarters. White people evacuated during the Rodney King riots that broke out elsewhere, but I stayed. A law school class mate from the South Side of Chicago and I were watching the youth block some streets–streets that would have had no traffic on them even on a busy day–and I said “What do you make of this,” and he said “I do not know, but it’s not good.”

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