My wife and I have received some very nice telephone calls and conversations lately, all with people asking how to help. And, man, we're having the damndest time answering it.
We definitely need help right now: we're both feeling very overwhelmed at the current time. It's difficult taking care of a normal, active 1-year old with two working parents and no grandparents living particularly nearby. (That's not an indictment of our parents, who have gone well above and beyond the call of duty since The Boy was diagnosed with his Wilms Tumor back at the end of June.) Because of marching band (see yesterday's post) and my side jobs, I'm out of the house a lot during the week, leaving my wife to cope with The Boy by herself.
It's not like he's particularly demanding. He likes some cuddles, but he likes his naps. He needs constant supervision while he plays, though; even though he hasn't quite learned how to play with somebody yet, he likes playing nearby others. Plus, no matter how much you babyproof, there's still going to be stuff that he should avoid (which means that that stuff is like crack to him). But, still, it's difficult or impossible to find time to 1) relax and unwind from the demanding workday of a middle school teacher and to 2) take care of the house in an appropriate way and to 3) take care of decent exercise habits.
So, what do we ask for? We don't need money right now. We got our first two hospital bills - one for about $500 for his stay in the hospital for the first surgery, which is actually pretty reasonable. I want to ask for an itemized bill (to make sure that I'm paying for what we should be paying for), but that's not out of the question. The second bill is just stupid. Our insurance company says that $3000 of services in July and August aren't eligible because 1) they had no referral from our pediatrician (false), 2) The Boy had secondary insurance from his father (false - my new insurance didn't kick in until September 1), 3) the medications are not necessary for treatment (uhh... false) and similar reasons. That won't stand up to a review, so I'm going to see if the Valerie Find Center can take care of it before I start writing letters. (Of course, there's no telephone number on the letter.) Plus, our relatives and friends have been very, very generous to us. Long story short, money is okay at the current time.
Food is kind of a funny thing, mostly because we keep a kosher house. People can't just bake a casserole and drop it off, because we can't cook it in the house and we can't keep it in the refrigerator. We need to be careful of Kosher meals for a different reason: our freezer is full of the stuff we normally eat (frozen waffles for my breakfast, some tv dinners that have been there for a couple of months and frozen veggies and meat0 and isn't big anyway, and our refrigerator is usually pretty full with our normal foodstuffs. Since we're big on the whole organic / Kosher thing, we usually have lots of veggies and fruits and meats and stuff in the fridge. Plus, The Wife enjoys cooking and can cook, even while caring for the baby.
Really, the hook & crook of the help is with some of the housework - help getting the house cleaned (bathroom and kitchen especially) and vaccuumed. That's not really something that you can ask for, though; it's difficult to imagine asking people to show up at your door wearing cleaning gloves and carrying a bucket. "We're here to clean your toilets!"
Uhhh... yeah. What? No. Okay.
Don't get me wrong - at this point we wouldn't turn down the help. It's just that we have a really difficult time imagining ourselves asking that of friends and family. Lawn care, maybe? That's different than asked someone to run a Lysol wipe on the rim of the toilet bowl.
Laundry and ironing pose similar problems. I think that we're going to take our ironables to the cleaners for the next two months while it's difficult for me to iron because of scheduling. We might look into dropping our laundry off at a local laundromat for washing, as the washing and folding parts do take up plenty of time. But, even so, that's not a lot of time and not challenging to do with the baby. Cleaning the bathroom and kitchen is much more difficult with The Boy around. Even vaccuuming isn't that bad, once you get over The Boy's quest to take out every toy that you put away, as quickly as you put them away.
I don't know. What do we ask for? We're simple people. Other than my propensity for gadgets and gizmos, we don't do anything. We don't go anywhere. We don't eat exotic foods (other than Indian, every once in a while). We don't go to concerts. We're just boring people, intentionally so. I don't want to ask people to watch The Boy, because I don't get to see him enough as it is. It's not a break to have others watching him, because I want to spend time with him and with my wife, together.
I dunno. We had a 25 minute conversation with a local lady who runs a group that helps families with sick kids and still weren't able to come up with an idea of a list of things. We're so much luckier than other parents: she told us the story of a local family whose kid had a brain tumor at age 3 that was the size of a baseball or something. The community wound up creating an organization that paid this family's mortgage, because one parent had to quit their job to spend their days at the hospital for, like, a year or so. That's not us, thank G-d. The Boy isn't THAT sick, thank G-d. Neither one of us has to leave our jobs or take leave from our jobs, and our insurance plan is really quite good! That's one of the reasons why we haven't gone to any support groups yet (other than the whole lack-of-time thing) - we don't want to sit in on meetings and have to say, "We're lucky because our lives have not been entirely destroyed by our child's illness - we've had to miss some work and change some vacation plans, but that's about it. Oh, yeah. We lose sleep every week after chemo. That's pretty bad, right?" Granted, the stress is a freaking killer, and not knowing what the fudge is going on is really, really challenging also. But, we're very, very lucky and hyper-aware of it.
The only thing that I can think of as "help" from people really winds up being company for The Wife and The Boy during the days and nights that I'm not around - for instance, this weekend, I've got a football game Friday night (home at 11 or so) and a competition on Saturday (currently slated to leave home at noon and arrive home around midnight). Maybe that would help, but I also don't want to spring people on my wife that she isn't really friends with. Maybe if people donated a week of their cleaning service - we've spoken about hiring a maid to come in every other week during the marching season, but I've never gotten around to finding one. Easier said than done, I suppose.
Eh. I don't know if it'd be that different if The Boy wasn't sick. I still wouldn't be around, and my wife will still be left holding the baby while she vaccuums. (Ha - everyone knows that Jewish women are allergic to vaccuum cleaners. It says so in the Talmud.) Some days, I almost wish that things were "worse," because then it'd be easier and simpler to ask for help.
To end on a funny note: last night, I was working on the computer as I was bringing stuff from the upstairs to the downstairs. As I started up the stairs with a basket of laundry, several things whizzed past my ears. The Boy was throwing toys in between the bars upstairs, and he had inadvertently bombed me with his toys. This was quite funny to him, mostly because he enjoys testing the theory of gravity on a regular basis.