A Tale of Two Summers

One of my last ambulatory days of 2011
One of my last ambulatory days of 2011

I’ve been enjoying myself quite a lot lately. Other than the breathless busy-ness that is the inevitable outcome of trying to DO ALL THE THINGS, we’ve been having a lot of fun. This past weekend we spent at the beach, my children increasingly fearlessly ducking through waves. We’ve been hiking and camping and beaching and farmer’s marketing. I walked through London.

I was thinking, the other day, how much more pleasant this summer seemed than last. Of course there’s a lot that goes into that. I’m in a different job, which plays a role. My sons are 6 and 3 instead of 5 and 2, which also plays a role. But one of the most critical factors to my family’s happiness has to be the condition of my left knee.

As you all well remember, last May I epically blew it out. Or rather, I prosaically finished a long slow decade of disintigration with two major tears of my meniscus, precipitated by the fact that I had no ACL to protect those secondary tissues. I spent last summer in physical therapy, in my doctor’s office and in constant pain and fear. Pain obviously, but fear that I would step wrong or it would hurt worse. Fear that was, I should say, regularly reinforced by coming true.

Camping ended up being brutal. The shifting sands and rolling rocks of a beach, plus the fear that my then two year old would attempt to swim his way to France, meant that we entirely avoided the beach the entire summer. Last summer vacation, right after the MRI revealed the massive extent of the internal damage, I spent my summer vacation processing the reality that I would need my first ever major surgery. Mt. Rainier’s shoulders went unmolested by my feet – except for the tamest trails. I did PT in the hotel room and packed a large bottle of extra strength Ibuprofen. I planned ahead for my next “vacation”, quickly exhausting my paid time off and attempting to work through the sheer exhaustion of a healing body and pain-ridden system.

It’s amazing how much more fun it is to be out of pain and relatively healthy.

That’s where this post was intended to end two weeks ago, when I first thought it up. (What can I say, I’ve been too busy having fun to actually write about it!) My knee had finally reach all better, about the time I went to London. Look ma! I can kneel!

And then something went oogly. I’m kind of so used to limited motion and pain that it took me a bit to notice my knee hurt and I was favoring it again – limping a bit. I know it’s not the ACL, but I have to wonder if there’s still a tear in the mensicus, or even a new one. I think the way I was sitting might have “caught” it.Or maybe it’s the new normal – I have very little cushioning my knee now, with the meniscal tears removed. Maybe running for a bus one day is an action I pay for over the course of the next few weeks. I realize that the right thing to do is to call my dear Orthopedist and ask to be reviewed.

The idea of initiating anything like that is appalling. So instead I’m ignoring it for now. If it is a really remote meniscal tear that only gets activated when I sit a particular way, well. I can learn not to sit that way.

My husband and I were commisserating the other day. He was going through his extensive nightly ritual of caring for his hands and feet. When not attended to with slavish devotion, the skin on both tends to crack and not heal, which is just as painful as it sounds. This accumulation of familiar aches and chronic (minor) issues is almost like a rite of passage itself. It marks – as if our increasingly gigantic and independent children did not – our transition from the flower of youth to the fruit of middle age. You notice you’re walking with a limp – after 26 sessions of PT and two hours of surgery – and you kind of wonder if you will ever spend a full year in which you do not limp, and what it might mean to be the Mom that Limps a Little. (Of course, putting it that way almost resolves me to call my orthopedist. After vacation.)

What about you? What aches and pains have you accumulated, that have become as familiar as your own face in the mirror? Or tell me about ones you have resigned yourself to, only to be unexpectedly and permanently freed from them.


Some of what I've missed telling you about
Some of what I've missed telling you about

When you get out of the habit of frequent posting, you get tongue-tied. There’s a pressure behind your speech, of all the things you meant to say that are unsaid. This blog is part friendship, part letter home, part baby-book, part journal and part sanity check. But it also only touches a portion of my life. There are realms of my life that go unsaid and undocumented here. For example, I rarely talk about work in any but the vaguest of ways because, uh, not to put too fine a point on it but it’s really dumb to talk a lot about the details of your work in your personal blog. (See also: Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

Why haven’t I written very much lately? There are a few elements. First of all is the sheer time/energy factor. I’m really crazy super annoyingly busy. I just simply don’t get much downtime between a full time job, obnoxious commute, small children, real dinner, housework, church work (another place I’m horrendously behind/lax) and needing 8 good hours of sleep a night.

Second is, truly, that tongue-tied factor. It’s harder to restart than it is to continue.

Third is the stoooopid leg. OK, a bit more story here. We all remember how I brilliantly busted my knee leaping off a 5 foot stone wall. Right. Then we all remember how much BETTER I was getting. Well, about a week and a half ago, doing yoga as prescribed by the orthopedic surgeon to restore my flexibility before I hurt myself, I stretched the opposing tendon to my injured one. It seemed minor. I went to PT the next day and we got some stretches to work on that. Look how GOOD I was being people! Then on Thursday night I went to dinner with people I totally didn’t know. It was fun. I sat with my knee bent, which was sort of novel and fun because I hadn’t really been able to sit that way for two months! When I went to get up, uh, I couldn’t. I really, really, really couldn’t walk. I couldn’t put any pressure on that leg. I needed help to get to my car, which sheesh. Talk about embarrassing! Then my knee blew up to balloon size.

I did the only logical thing I could do. We left the next morning to go camping.

Then my stoooopid lower back which I’ve totally had completely under control since Thane was born decides that one bum joint isn’t enough. I have kept my lower back issues under control with a combination of massage and core strength. With the enforced inactivity, the core strength has been compromised, and the additional pulling off of significant limpage has caused some serious back issues which infuriates me past speech.

So yeah, things have taken longer than they usually do and I’ve been in pain.

And fourth? Well, there are big things afoot in the parts of my life I don’t talk about here. And that’s where I’ll leave that, in incredibly tantalizing and confusing form. Best of all, from an annoying-my-readers point of view, if this thing doesn’t pan out, you’ll never know what it was! Muahahahah! If it does pan out, it’s too big to not be mentioned here. So you should cheer for success with it (which makes it clear, I hope, that the THING is an opportunity not a threat).

So what haven’t I told you? Well, we went to The Gloucester Fiesta with our neighbors the weekend before last, and had a complete blast. Watching our kids play together in the surf (in their diapers, the weather was supposed to be awful but turned amazing!) in the foreground while the walking of the greasy pole went on the in the background totally made my day.

Grey has started summer camp. It seems fun, but extremely tiring and logistically challenging. Each day is different and requires different gear! On the other hand, they get two fantastic field trips a week!

I am on my third batch of jam for the summer. So far there’s two strawberry and one strawberry rhubarb.

We went camping for the 4th weekend (see also: things that are challenging with one leg). I took no pictures. Our Saturday was fantastic. Our Sunday was good. We came home Sunday night, and then had fun watching fireworks with Crazy Unka Matt on the 4th proper. Grey fell asleep in the kitchen chair eating a post-fireworks snack.

The meeting I was at when my knee conked out was a really neat one about setting up a Presbyterian Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program in Boston focused on food justice. The best part was all the locally sourced dishes that were fed to us there. YUM!!!! Or maybe the best part was the fun and interesting ideas tossed around. It’s hard to pick.

We’re getting ready for our summer vacation. My knee has BETTER behave, but I find it oddly prescient of myself that for once I opted NOT to go backpacking this summer. Instead, we’re going to Ashland Oregon. We’ll be seeing 5 plays in a week for our vacation, and I can’t wait.

OK, those are the big things I’m willing to talk about. What’s going on with YOU?

And the thunder rolls

Fierce weather has cut a swath across this continent. Tonight it is touching down in my small Commonwealth – but so far distantly. Tonight, after the children were tucked in, I snuck up to our high attic to watch the lightening. It was truly a remarkable night for lightening. The sky flickered as though some distant celestial campfire threw shadows upon our darkened world – illuminating the spring-heavy trees and church steeples. The thunder was a constant rumble. The lightening I saw never touched down – it threaded across the sky like revealed veins in the encircling arms of the sky. But here, north and east of Boston, it seems not much more than a summer storm, ushering fast, cool winds.

The fifteen minutes I spent there, in a dark room watching lightening flicker ceaselessly, seems like the first quiet fifteen minutes I’ve had in about two weeks. It has been a busy stretch! When I think of all the things I’ve saved up to tell you – important things! – I feel nearly overwhelmed. And tonight I feel too poetic for bullet points. Last night I stayed up until 1:15 in the morning transcribing 18 pages of notes on the risks and mitigations of an ERP transition for a 9 hour meeting I attended. If I never see another brutally factual bullet point, it may be too soon.

Two boys and two puppies
Two boys and two puppies

So instead we will wander on together, long form.

First: my knee. When last we left our favorite joint, it was in dire discomfort. I checked that wall I so blithely jumped off again yesterday, and I must confess that it might be closer to five feet than the four I defended myself with. A week after the initial injury I met with an orthopedic surgeon, who got me to PT not 5 minutes later. Really. Remarkable. I did a few PT sessions, and now I’m quite certain that it was a bad sprain. Today, I managed to do several flights of stairs leading with BOTH legs. I even ran for a bit before I realized that was probably a bad idea. (But it was pouring!) I kneeled to pick up toys. I am pretty sure in two weeks there will be barely a twinge left. I’m going to try to actually get ahead of my pre-injured state with the PT sessions I have remaining though. This knee has never been quite as strong and capable as we might desire. But at this point, it is only hampering the most enthusiastic of my activities. (No 5K for me this weekend, not that I was planning on one!)

Second: it’s a darn good thing I was 90% mobile, as we went camping this weekend. At the time, I would’ve told you it was buggy, stressful and I was unsure of whether this was all worth it. It has only taken a few days to fade into lovely memories. How wonderful and odd our minds are to make it possible for us to enjoy things in retrospect that we did not enjoy at the time, or to forget pain and remember pleasure. One of those remembered pleasures was swimming. Our preferred campground, White Lake State Park boasts a lovely sandy beach offering access to a lovely mountain lake which is surprisingly warm, even in May. We went swimming three times, which is a pretty good ratio for so early in the season. Grey displayed significantly more water skill. Thane showed significantly more water-wariness (after recreationally attempting to drown himself constantly last year). I got to take some lovely swims out towards the middle of the lake, past the sight of inflatable alligators where all I could see were mountains, trees and water. Grey made a friend in the little boy at the next campsite. Thane did 1000 puzzles, just like he would’ve done at home. We also had a lovely “car walk” across the Kankamangus, down to Lake Winnepesaukee and back. I have concluded that the thing that would make camping super fun was if some of my friends came too, so we could tell tall tales around campfire. Unfortunately, my friends all seem to have either a) lake houses or access thereto or b) sense.

My boys
My boys

Third. It has come to my attention that my children are growing up too fast. I’d like to complain to the management, please! This morning was, truth be told, Kindergarten orientation. We went up to Grey’s to-be classroom and met his to-be classmates and to-be teacher. It is a lovely classroom, with books and colors and name tags. It is a place where I think he will be happy. The school is super duper. I mean, I went to FOUR elementary schools, and you could combine the enrichment features of all four of them and still end up short of this one. There’s a music room, and art room, a gym, a stage, a science room (seriously?!!?). They have onsite physical and occupational therapists. There is a school nurse and school psychologist. The library was large and friendly. There was a well equipped computer classroom. The children we saw all seemed to be engaged, having fun, learning, doing cool things. They were very friendly, welcoming the little kids to the school. It felt like a very healthy, happy place where the kids learned good things – and where there was room for them to be themselves. I am super-pleased, since this is just our local public school!

Then, when I picked Thane up, I got the word that he will be going to preschool next month. Indeed, he had apparently gone for a visit today, and his teachers had a hard time convincing him to come back to the Toddler 2 classroom. “He’s so ready” they told me. I know he is. I can’t argue. But sometimes I look at him and wonder where my little baby went. I can hardly see any traces of the infant in his determined features and flamboyant curls.

So while the accountant in me looks at these big changes and says “KACHING!” (because lo! Preschool + public Kindergarten < toddler care + preschool!), the woman in me, growing a little older, looks a little wistfully at how quickly her sons are wantonly abandoning their baby-hoods in preference for boyhood. I like babies. I was rather fond of my babies. I'm proud and pleased by the young men my sons are becoming, but I hope they don't feel the need to be too grown, too soon.

There you go – the momentous events of the last week and a half. Perhaps sometime I'll have the leisure and opportunity to post things that are NOT bare-bones updates… but we will all have to wait together for that moment.
A nearly preschooler looks for frogs