Thursday, April 29, 2010

Overwhelmed, but it's all good...

So culinary school is a lot of work! It's not that I thought it would be easy - I knew I had a lot to learn - I just didn't realize there'd be so much homework. And, I thought if I did have homework it would be baking a cake or making a lasagna or something involving me spending time in a kitchen. I had no idea there would be research papers! Who woulda thought?!

In the past four weeks I've been working really hard (I'm definitely doing more work than I did in college and those of you who went to college with me know I'm not lying), getting very little sleep - my classes start at 7am, therefore I get up at 5am - and learning a lot. For the most part I love it. A five hour class goes by before I know it, I don't even look at the clock. I get to make all sorts of things I can't even pronounce! It's fun and quite challenging; it's a good thing.

In addition to going to school, I'm also hoping to put my house on the market in the near future and find another house to move into (don't worry - I'm not leaving Pittsburgh, just changing neighborhoods). Again, a lot of work! My house needs help - besides all the things that need to be fixed, I have lots of stuff to organize, get rid of, pack up and store. I'm sort of 'forced' to go through my kids things, which is difficult but necessary. Fortunately, I have great friends who are willing to help. For the most part I'm keeping and packing up everything because there isn't much I can part with, and that's just the way it is.

It's weird - a few months ago I wanted everything to stay where it was, I couldn't imagine moving my kids things at all. Now I guess I'm ready. I'm starting to separate myself emotionally, spiritually and physically from my house and it doesn't really feel like my house anymore. I'm looking forward to the change and it's good to know I can take all my kids' stuff with me (and more importantly, that they'll be with me wherever I go).

I have my work cut out for me - with both school and moving. And if that isn't enough, I met with the Parks Conservancy today to talk about recent developments in planning Kate and Peter's Treehouse. Things are really moving, which is very, very exciting!!!! As soon as I have anything concrete to share I will, but for now I can tell you that we've received some design proposals and are reviewing them. It's almost surreal to me that all these designers have ideas for Kate and Peter's Treehouse, that they want to help make this project a reality. But it is real and this treehouse is gonna be amazing. Thank you so much to everyone who has donated to the project so far!

So while 'overwhelmed' is sort of an understatement for my life right now, I'm glad I'm overwhelmed with good things. And now I must get back to my homework...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Peter...

Dear Peter,

Six years ago you came into this world and made it a better place. You changed me and everyone you met and brought so much joy into our lives. I am exceedingly grateful for every moment that I got to spend with you and that I had the honor of being your mother. There are no words to describe how much I love and miss you!

I hope that wherever you are you are safe and happy and surrounded by love. I have always and will always be so very proud of you. Happy Birthday!

With all my love,

Here are a few pictures from each of the birthdays he got to spend here on Earth:

And a few of him just being Peter:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

trying to move forward...

After all the intense sadness and anger I've experienced in the last couple of weeks I'm doing my best to pick myself up and keep going. As I mentioned before, I just started culinary school. I've wanted to do this for a long time - I looked into it when Kate and Peter were around the ages of 4 and 2, but realized at that point there was no way I would have time. Now I have all the time in the world.

So here I am. And so far I love it. I can sit through a four hour lecture or a five hour practical class and not wish class would end because I'm so interested in what I'm learning. I can actually go home and use what I'm learning! What a concept.

There are challenges to this whole going back to school thing, however. I'm not just talking about homework - though there's a lot of that. The biggest challenge I'm finding is how to tell people who I am, something that comes up rather often, without making me sad or freaking them out.

The first day of class we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves, explaining why we're in school and what we hope to do when we graduate. Easy enough. "Hi, I'm Amy. I used to be a guidance counselor, then I was a stay-at-home mom. Now I'm looking into getting back into the career world and I love to cook. I'd like to be a personal chef." Clear, concise, doesn't raise any questions.

I'm also taking an online class and our first assignment was to write an autobiography. Seriously.

I figured I'd basically expand on what I said in class but first I read what everyone else posted. For the most part, the posts went like this, "Hi, I'm Happy McHappington. I live in Atlanta with my wonderful husband and my two adorable children. And I'm pregnant with twins. I love cooking and I'm so excited to be taking this class! Life couldn't be better!"

Ok, so I exaggerate a little because I'm jealous and sad. But really, almost everyone in the class was a stay-at-home mom with two or more children. They all shared the names and ages of their kids and how fabulous they are. Why shouldn't they? I was so torn about what to write. I was afraid that if I shared my real story, I might freak everyone out. I wasn't sure that assignment was the right forum for such sad news. On the other hand, I felt that if I didn't talk about my kids I was denying their existence. And that felt even worse.

Fortunately, my good friend Jenny called while I was in mid-internal-debate. She encouraged me to share my story and speak my truth. After all, it is the truth. My kids are every bit as important to me as everyone else's kids are to them. So I did. As clearly and concisely and non-dramatically as possible. one commented on my autobiography. Oh well, I can't blame them.

Now that I'm getting to know my classmates in my real-life classes a little more this issue is coming up more often. We talk about what we did before coming to school, I mention I was a stay-at-home mom and the next question they ask is "How old are your kids?" It's a logical question.

Unfortunately, I find myself minimizing the situation. I find myself saying, "It's really sad, but they died in a car accident last year. It's ok though." WTF? Why do I say this?! It's not fucking ok! I just don't want to deal with the awkwardness everyone feels after I drop this information. But then I feel like a jerk. Ugh.

I've run into this problem all year. When I travel, when I go out - whenever I meet new people. I guess I should be used to it, but I probably never will be. And I know it will never be "ok" so I'm going to stop saying that. Maybe instead I'll say "I'm doing my best to keep going, to move forward, but I miss them everyday". That sounds better and more honest.

On the bright side, I really do LOVE the cooking part of culinary school. I leave there every day feeling energized and like I want to go home and cook some more. So that's a great thing. I am moving forward, but I will never move on.

Monday, April 12, 2010

This is one of those posts...

that maybe you shouldn't read because it's really messed up. This may even be one of those posts I shouldn't publish because it's just too dark and it should stay somewhere in the corners of my mind. I guess I'll just write it and see.

Lately that dichotomy I wrote about before is getting worse. I'm starting to feel like I have two completely separate personalities (that's probably not good - think I'll discuss it with my therapist). There's the me who goes to work, goes to school, spends time with my friends, smiles, laughs and sometimes even has fun. Then there's the me who is constantly tormented by the fact that my kids were killed.

And this is the part that's really bothering me lately: my kids didn't just die, they were killed. It's not like they got old and their bodies gave up and didn't want to live anymore. They were perfectly healthy little kids one minute and the next minute they were dead. I'm not trying to blame anyone, really I'm not, but I'm just saying...this idea of being killed is making me crazy. Honestly, I think part of the reason why this is bugging me is that I blame myself for allowing this to happen. A mother protects her kids. I have failed as a mother. In the biggest possible way.

Now I know you're all going to comment and say there's nothing I could have done, I was a good mom, etc. As much as I appreciate that and understand it rationally with my mind, I don't feel it. I feel...desperately sad, remorseful and like I would give ANYTHING to undo this.

Since my brain has been on the topic of being killed lately, I've been thinking about all the unbelievably shitty things that happen in the month of April and how weird it is. Peter's birthday is April 21st, however his due date was April 19th. Not long after I learned his due date people started saying, "what a horrible day...that's when the Waco, Texas thing happened...and the Oklahoma City bombing". I thought "Seriously?!! I don't want my child to be born on that day...hope he comes before or after". Then I learned that April 20th is Hitler's birthday and was the day of the shootings at Columbine High School. This is what I'm saying - what is up with April?!

Last year on April 4th, while my kids were playing, I remember watching the news about the 3 Pittsburgh police officers who were killed in the line of duty. I remember being horrified about the whole thing. Little did I know that two days later my own personal horror would happen.

Since the day of the accident I've spoken with one person who, I believe, truly understands what I'm going through. She's a friend of a friend who lost her only two children many years ago. She was separated from her husband at the time and her daughters were spending a weekend with him. They died in a house fire, not a car accident, but the situation is frighteningly similar. While I was talking with her she mentioned something about Easter so I asked her when her kids died: April 5th. WTF?

Now this year, on April 5th, 29 miners die in a West Virginia mine explosion?!! This is what I'm saying. I realize bad things happen at all times of the year and I'm probably just more cognizant of what happens in April, but really?

I'm not sure why I'm putting all this negative information out there, I normally try not to do that. Maybe if it's in cyberspace it'll stop bothering me so much. Maybe I just want to warn everyone to be extra careful this month. I don't know. And I'm sure lots of good things have happened in April - my mom's birthday is in April and so is Peter's. In fact, I know a lot of good people who have April birthdays. There - it's not all bad.

Sorry to bring everyone down, but this is where I'm at right now. Please be careful out there.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

getting through "the day"

So I've made it through a year. I can't thank all of you enough for the overwhelming love and support on you showed me on Tuesday - you have no idea how much it helped!

Honestly, I think the build-up to "the day" was far worse than the actual day itself. The week before I started freaking out, reliving the whole experience. By the time April 6th arrived I was so stressed I sort of disconnected from myself and walked around in a fog all day. I didn't cry much that day, I really couldn't feel anything.

Fortunately, because I have the best friends EVER, I was surrounded by people who love me for the majority of the day. I met some of my friends for lunch at the Square Cafe, a little restaurant in Regent Square where my kids and I used to eat often - they loved that place. Then I met some other friends for dinner at Mad Mex - another restaurant my kids enjoyed. There I ate one of their favorites (and mine) for dinner - a hot fudge brownie sundae. I would have never let them eat that as their dinner, only after they ate their dinners. Kate always had soft chicken tacos with black beans and Peter always had Dino Nuggets. Now I'm thinkin the sundae is probably more nutritious than the Dino Nuggets...shoulda let Peter skip right to dessert.

I wanted to do something "in their memory" or something to honor them. I know people often take flowers to a grave site, but my kids weren't buried so I don't have a grave site to go to. Their ashes are at my house with me. However, three trees were planted in their memory last year - 2 at Kate's school and one at Peter's school. I considered taking flowers there.

A few days earlier I met up with Kate's Kindergarten teacher, who works at the school Peter attended last year, and I knew she was taking care of the tree there. She put pumpkins by the tree for Halloween (one decorated like a princess and one like Captain Jack Sparrow), hung eggs on the tree for Easter and brought flowers to the tree on "the day". So I figured I would do something with the trees at Kate's school.

My first thought was flowers, but then I reconsidered. Flowers are nice, but my kids would prefer toys. So I brought a Sleeping Beauty Barbie and a Spiderman action figure and, with the help of some friends, secured them in the trees. I'm hoping my kids liked that.

The best part, for me, was when the Vice-Principal of the school called me later that day to tell me she overheard some kids leaving school saying, "Cool! Check it out - Kate and Peter put toys in their trees!" I'm so happy to know the kids remember them.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I'm still here.

I apologize that I haven't posted anything since Monday. I did make it through "the day" and have been working on a post about my experience of that day, but I haven't had a chance to finish it yet. Wednesday, the day after "the day", I started culinary school so I have been getting up at 5am, spending hours in class and trying to keep up with homework. I want to write about that as well...I just haven't had time.

I'm sorry if I made you all worry. I so appreciate all your support this week! I promise to post more soon.

Monday, April 5, 2010

tomorrow is "the day"...

Tomorrow, April 6th, will be the 1st anniversary of the day my kids died. I don't like to refer to it as an anniversary because, to me, the term anniversary suggests a celebration. I won't be celebrating. I'm not even sure I'll be breathing.

I don't want to make too big a deal out of "the day". In many ways it's like any other day - just another day on this earth without Kate and Peter, at least in the physical sense. However, I do feel like I'd like to do something to honor them tomorrow. I just don't know what. If anyone has any ideas I'm open to suggestions.

I was hoping to write something more eloquent, but I'm finding that I have no words. Just lots of tears. So I'll end this post with a few of my favorite pictures.