Sunday, February 16, 2014

Half Way

This week marks the half way point in this tour. I would love to say that the past six months have flown by, as many people said it would.  We've been up and down, but the truth is, the time is dragging.  We are all experiencing this Unaccompanied Tour with varying degrees of challenges. I can't speak for Mitch, but I have no doubts it's the worst on him.

Jack has kicked the ass of his last year of high school. He tutors the girls in math, does his volunteer work in the favela school, maintained his grades in the rigorous IB program, and has generally taken over the 'man of the house' role, which apparently includes keeping his younger brother in line in that special way only brothers know about. Example: after several hours of tutoring Henry in preparation for his math final, Henry came out of his room, quite pleased with his progress. "Jack is a really good math teacher, mom.  If I miss a problem, he punches me, so I try really hard not to miss any." While Jack knocked my socks off by getting a perfect score on his math SAT, he was much more excited last week when he got home from school and said, "Mom! I beat the Asian kid on my math quiz!"  Unfortunately, he has also been utilizing his drum set nearly every day, much to my bleeding ears' dismay.

Henry is your typical middle child, flying under the radar most of the time.  His voice is changing and he's almost as tall as me. He's funny and mostly sweet, although lately he's really been pissing me off by not letting me cuddle him. He scooters back and forth between our house and his friend's house, who lives a few blocks away. Sometimes he goes to Adam's several times a day, and sometimes he goes if he just doesn't like the contents of our refrigerator. He's teaching himself to play bass and guitar, but that's not nearly as painful to me as Jack's drumming.

Grace is grace. Kind, loving, innocent, and happy. She's into painting her nails and making miniatures out of polymer clay. She loves drama and piano, and has recently begun guitar lessons. She despises tennis lessons, but not as much as she despises other sports, so she perseveres. The tennis courts at the embassy are right outside of my office window and I can hear her laughing her way through her lessons with every ball she misses or hits into the cafeteria seating area. She makes brownies a lot.

Olivia has been my biggest challenge. She is sick all the time. We've been to several doctors, and while eliminating gluten has helped her stomachaches, she is still getting migraines. We have an appointment next week with a pediatric neurologist, but I think her problems are emotional. Last week she had plans to go to her friend's house after school with Grace. She had been looking forward to it all week, but when the time came to ride her bike over there, she burst into tears and said she didn't feel comfortable leaving the house. As a person who has experienced similar phobias, my heart broke. Grace went, but Olivia and I snuggled on my bed and watched a 'Cake Boss' marathon. I knew she was truly her mother's daughter after about an hour, when I said, "Olivia, are you feeling well enough to go to Caroline's house now?", and she replied, "After this episode.  A drag queen is going to jump out of the cake and I love drag queens." I know, right? I love drag queens, too! I hate her being sick all of the time. So far, we've eliminated nuts, gluten, MSG, nitrates, color dye, and food chemicals from her diet, and there has been definite improvement, but dealing with doctors whose English isn't great is tough. We will get there. She is also playing guitar and is having fun in the marimba band at school.

I'm doing better than I was. I no longer wake in the middle of the night to check the news of attacks in Kabul. I chat online with Mitch all the time, but our internet is either so slow or not working at all most of the time, so Skype and phone calls are rare. I often ask myself what the hell I am doing all alone in South America, but the answer makes itself clear to me when I see things like my kids playing with our gate guard's kid, speaking portuguese and laughing at his jokes. I miss Mitch all the time. I don't mind going to bed alone, but waking up alone is the worst.

So, that's where we are. Mitch will be home at the end of this week for a short visit, and he will surely enjoy our mostly vegetarian, gluten-free home. I kid, of course. No doubt he will be charring up all kinds of animal on the grill. Ohmygod! I forgot to tell you. I have muscle tone. I can plank for almost two minutes and can bench press the medium to small round thingies on the pole thingie at the gym. I hate exercise, but I hear it's good for you and whatnot, so I'm giving it a try, but I only do the exercises I want to do, so no stupid dumb stairs or treadmill bullshit. I've been trying to get the girls to join me in yoga. You guys should see Grace try to do a downward dog. It is absolutely precious.


Alix Bryant said...

love the update!

Lynda said...

Thanks for the great update. Hi to your Mitch! Still enjoying his work at OHHS.

Anonymous said...

You have a special family, Whitehead

Stacey said...

I love drag queens and you and your whole family after reading this post. But especially Olivia. <3