He’s Back

I”ve mentioned an uptick in Little Man’s anxiety as the end of the school year approaches. Much as we know it’s coming, the expected change in routine, the difference between scheduled and unscheduled, and even the differences at school as all the end-of-year activities come up throw him off. His anxiety shows in different ways – he’s harder on himself, he cries more easily, his outbursts are more frequent. He’s much better than he used to be, but the anxiety is part of him, part of who he is, and all his triggers are in play this time of year.

It’s been months since he’s come into our room during the night and snuck into our bed. He’s been sleeping better for a long time, and I contribute that to a growth spurt and hormone change. He’s also been in a much better, more relaxed and confident place this year. Whatever the causes, better sleep for him is better sleep for everyone.

He’s been in our bed, or tried to get in our bed, four nights in the last week. I woke at 3:30 this morning to a clicking sound. I initially thought it was Spouse getting a drink of water. Then I realized it was the familiar sound of teeth grinding and jaw-clicking. Spouse does not grind his teeth, and in my middle-of-the-night stupor, it took me a minute to figure out it was Little Man in our bed, grinding his teeth away. Sigh…in my bed, and grinding his teeth – a sure sign his anxiety is at a high level.

He has 10 more school days. We will have the inevitable fallout of him adjusting to the summer routine/non-routine, so I figure I have about a month of him crawling into my bed most nights. I’d just gotten used to him staying in his own room and sleeping soundly all night. That anxiety-fueled, teeth-grinding, flop-around-on-the-bed insomniac is back. Dang it all anyways.

Finished

Finished – that word applies to so many things today. It’s been the word on my mind most the last few days. Finished. We are finished, we have finished, we will finish, we have yet to finish. Sigh….I’m in a funky place.

Big Man and P finished their school year Friday. P said she actually didn’t want the year to end. Wait, what? From my point of view, it’s been an exhausting, mentally and emotionally draining, dragged out, up-and-down/high-and-low year. I was not sad to see the door close on this one for them.

I am proud of Big Man – he pulled it together enough to have an almost-respectable GPA for the semester. It was a near-miracle, considering how deep a hole he’d dug himself. But he did it. We did have to push, and check in almost hourly to make sure he was doing what needed to be done, but he did it. Oh trust me, his final report card for the year wasn’t amazing, but it was nearly as ugly as it had been. For that, we say “Thank you Jesus!”, and heave a sigh of relief. Pray God he’s figured it out and we won’t have to face these same issues next  year.

After a long season of training (for me anyways  – Big Man didn’t really train at all), we ran the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon yesterday morning. I was really worried about this one, as my training was cut short due to various injuries. My last 11-mile run was five weeks ago. My last run of any significant distance was three weeks ago. My last run was a week and a half before race day, and that just 4 miles. I spent 10 days gently stretching, icing, heating, and praying it would come together and I’d be able to push through. I had a 2-hour massage. I went to the chiropractor. I faithfully used my foam roller.

Race morning arrived. There was a LOT of frustration early – parking was an unmitigated disaster. It took us nearly an hour to get into the lot from the time we arrived downtown, then we had a mile walk to the shuttle busses. We got on our bus at the time we should have been arriving at our corral. We were in the bathroom line when our corral started, and ended up crossing the start with a corral 9 behind our assigned corral. I’d decided with my training partner to just push for the goal we’d trained for – a 2-hour finish. I knew 2 miles in I wasn’t going to be able to maintain that pace – the three weeks without any significant running had killed me. I slowed to my old half marathon pace and regrouped. Three miles later, my IT bands started tightening and my knees started to hurt. I pushed on, with short stretches of walking, until I hit mile 7 when I knew I’d have to just let go of this race. It became a matter of finishing, and nothing else. I walked when I needed to – which was quite a bit – and ran when I could. There was a downhill at 9.7 that almost did me in. But I pressed on. My training partner finished (I was getting texts for her and for Big Man) – I was at mile 10 I think. Then  Big Man finished. I was closing in on mile 11. I was frustrated, in pain, tired, and so disappointed. At mile 12, I started running again, determined to finish the race running. I knew there was nothing structurally wrong with my body – just IT bands that like to knot up and make it feel like there are knives going into the side of each knee – and so I pushed, and crossed the finish at 2:41 – my worst half marathon time ever, by 16 minutes. I headed to the medical tent and had my knees wrapped in ice.

My training partner had a PR, under 2 hours. Big Man didn’t meet his time from last year of 1:58, but he really didn’t train at all (oh to be 16!). He finished at 2:09. But we finished. The race is more about the culmination of training – a cap to a season. I’m trying to let it go, the disappointment of a bad race. Training had been going so well. I’m trying hard to focus on the fact I ran my 8th half marathon and not everyone gets to say that. I am so proud of Big Man – there were 114 boys on the course in his division. He finished 51st of those 114. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? Out of 30,000+ people running (between the full, half, and half-relay), only 114 15-17 year old boys were running, and one of them was my son. I love that I got to share yesterday with him. What’s really fun  is being able to talk about it with him, remembering miles and sections like a football player will remember a play, a golfer will remember each hole on a course, a pitcher what pitch got launched out of the ballpark by which hitter. I love that shared experience. I’m proud of the fact he fought when things started to hurt; he didn’t give in when the course got rough, when he knew he wasn’t going to match his time from last year, when he got tired and wanted to quit. He finished. We finished.

Eleven more school days for Little Man. Then we will be finished completely with this school year. He’s hanging in there. He has had some increased anxiety – it’s so typical of this time of year for him. We will fight through, and then breathe another sigh of relief. It is so weird to manage two out of school and one still in, especially for the significant amount of time 2.5 weeks is. We’re almost finished.

Just Love Them

Eight years ago, I was flying home for my sister’s funeral. God, that sucked. It still sucks. Seeing the posts of when she went into Hospice, waiting for word, then when she passed, and then her services come up in my TimeHop – you just should be able to block some things from coming up in your social media memories. I miss her, especially lately when things have been such a struggle with the kids. I know she would have pulled up a stool to my kitchen counter, poured a glass, listened, and then would have given me some insanely awesome, sage advice. I know it.

Instead, I’m left with the last words she said to me, which were, “Just love your babies.” Lord, but I hope I’m doing her proud. And I guess when it comes right down to it, what better advice is there when parenting teenagers going through a ton of muck? Just love them. Everything else will fall into place. Love them enough to be strong. Love them enough to be consistent. Love them enough to stand by your rules, your values, your beliefs. Love them enough to help them become independent. Love them enough to not tolerate bad behavior. Love them enough to hold them accountable. Love them enough to require them to be respectful. Love them when they hurt. Love them when they’re unsure. Love them when they’re doubting themselves. Love them when they make mistakes, and help them learn to pick themselves back up. Love them enough to push them when they need to be pushed. Love them enough to let them know when they need to pull back. Love them enough to let them be independent while under your watchful eyes and the safety of home, and a known environment. Love them enough to talk with them, ask questions, know who their friends are, what their dreams and desires are.

I consider my sister’s words often – not just those last words, but all the words she gave me. She loved fiercely. She took such joy in living. Her laugh filled the room. Her sarcasm inspired all her siblings. She was our Queen. She momma-bear’d with the best of them – she taught me how to momma bear. She kept us together, reminded us the value of family, no matter how unconventional our family was/is.

She’s been hovering this week – I’m sure for my parents and my siblings, her children, her Spouse too. This year has been so difficult, and I’ve found myself in a deep, dark place too frequently. Nothing was getting through. But lately, I’ve heard her, and her reminders to just love them. I can do this. She’s gone, but her lessons live. 11:11

 

My sis with baby Little Man E and Deb

Just when I thought I was done with all that

I quit working full-time just before Big Man started Kindergarten. I wanted to be involved at my kids’ school….working in classrooms, being part of PTA, going on field trips, dropping off and picking up….It was important to me. And so I was. I helped in all three classrooms, almost weekly. I was on the PTA. I ran three book fairs, assisted one, and worked the rest. I went on more field trips than I can count. We went to art festivals, performances, band concerts, Back to School nights, and Open Houses. I felt like we lived there, but it mattered that we were involved. I knew the kids my kids were with every day. I knew a lot of those kids’ parents. I  knew the teachers, the staff.

As my kids entered middle school, I began backing away. They needed some space to become independent. I needed to not be quite as involved. I did volunteer for some things, and we still went to all the awards, concerts, and presentations. But I wasn’t in classrooms every week. I went on one field trip. I helped with one book fair. Even with Little Man’s school being more of an extended elementary, I’ve still held back from being involved. I’ve been burnt out (although that doesn’t mean I regret for one second all we did when the kids were in elementary school). Plus, my kids don’t need me hovering, constantly in their space.

I’ve always been one who struggled to say no, though. So I’ve recently felt myself being sucked back in. It started innocently enough – hosting a team building dinner for cheer last Fall. But then you start talking to this coach, or that parent, and suddenly you’re a team mom, and on the board of the Athletics Boosters Club (true story). Yeah. That. At the high school no less. Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy to help, and be involved. I just thought I was done with all of that.

I’m not quite sure how my kids feel about it. I haven’t invaded their space much, yet. But I’m starting to know people, things that are going on at their school, coaches, teachers.  I’m hoping to not be on campus while they’re on campus, and trust me, I won’t be chaperoning any dances, or field trips.

I think it’s important for our kids to see us involved, taking an active role in their education, including extra-curriculars. I think it’s more important now than an  in elementary to know the all the key players, to remain aware. They might be pushing to become independent, which they of course need to do, but that doesn’t mean I get to check out. So I’ll be a team mom, and I’ll be an Athletics Booster board member. I’ll jump back in to being an actively involved parent. And they’ll like it, darn it.

The Late, Quiet Moments

The Princess’ dance studio is twenty minutes away from our home. Well, it’s usually 17 minutes each way, but I’ve done it in 12 minutes when there weren’t any slow people in front of me, no traffic on the freeway, it wasn’t raining, and I needed to get there very quickly, but I digress. Let’s just call it twenty minutes away. It’s not a hardship to make the drive, most of the time. Some nights, I’m just tired, but for the most part, it’s just an accepted part of the deal. The family we’ve become part of there, including her directors, studio manager(s), and teachers, are worth it. And we can usually get her a ride back to a closer-to-home meeting spot when needed.

Tuesdays are her late nights at the studio these days. She finishes class at 8:45pm, which means I leave the house around 8:20 to go pick her up. I was making the drive last night, and realized I don’t mind those later-night drives. I appreciate the quiet. On the way there, I appreciate the time to quiet my mind, the opportunity to just breath. It’s dark, there aren’t many cars on the road. I enjoy the drive on the curvy road between the freeway and the village the studio calls home. I also appreciate the drive home with the Princess in the car.  Some nights, she’s full of chatter. Some nights, she’s lost in her own thoughts. Some nights, she falls asleep, exhausted from a full day of cheer, school, homework, and nearly three hours of dancing. Some nights, we sing our hearts out all the way home. I love them all.

The drives at night, those late, quiet moments, remind me of when my babies were babies, and we had those nightly 3am feedings. At the same time you’re wiped out and just want to sleep, you know those quiet moments with your baby are fleeting, they’re special. There’s just something different about them. Some of my friends think I’m insane when I say I miss those 3am feedings, but I do miss them. I miss that quiet time, holding my loves closely in the dark, the rest of the household sleeping, the world outside dark, the busyness of the day  held at bay.

Here’s the thing – I’m so very aware how short my time with my babies home is. In two weeks, the Princess will take her permit test. This time next year, I won’t be driving to and from the studio because she will be driving herself. Our quiet, late night drives will be done. In two years, Big Man will graduate high school, the Princess in three. They are growing up, too fast. Maybe I’m overly-sentimental, overly-emotional, but those things that used to be irritating, annoying, disturbances to my sleep and my schedule are now cherished, because they are fleeting. So I make those drives late on Tuesday nights, or after dress-rehearsals, or after shows, or after football and basketball games, and I don’t mind.

 

Winging It

You could probably safely call me a control freak, with a side of OCD. It’s just who I am, how I’ve always been. I’m a neat freak. I like things in their places. I crave order. I love routine. Change is difficult – it throws me off my game. I’m a planner, down to the smallest details. I hate when plans are derailed. Know what challenges all of that? Having kids, and living life.

We had Little Man’s birthday party Saturday evening. Now,  he is kid #3. I’ve spent sixteen years going crazy over birthday parties – handmade invitations, sleepovers with 13 kids, tea parties, American Girl trips, Pinterested out decorations/cupcakes/games. When he said he wanted a sleepover, I shot it down. First, I’m tapped on the sleepover birthday parties, seriously., and it was the night before I was running a 15K race. No go, my friend. His second idea was a trampoline park. Oh yeah! 1) I love any party that’s not at my house; 2) I wouldn’t’ have to provide any entertainment; 3) Food and drinks were included; 4) Did I mention it wasn’t at my house?

And so let’s just say, I was purely focused on the detail of getting the kids there, bringing them home, and the cake we were allowed to bring in. Have I mentioned things have been a little crazy around our house lately, and that I had a nine-mile race to run the next morning? See where this might be headed?

First off, Little Man, while having good friends, does not have a ton of friends, so his party was small. Spouse was at a golf tournament, so I was the solo parent. The trampoline park set aside three tables for us in their party area – THREE! We all fit, with room to spare, at one table. I put the cake and gifts on another table just so we wouldn’t look so pathetic. We also didn’t have any decorations. He isn’t a little kid, so there wasn’t a theme involved, and honestly, decorations never even crossed my mind. While the kids jumped, I sat there, by myself, at a huge, empty table, no decorations, not a ton of gifts, no other adults. #loser

I also didn’t bring any extra snacks or drinks. I knew pizza and soda were coming, and we were only there for two hours. So imagine how amazing I felt when the kids came back to the party area looking for hydration? I gave them a few dollars to get waters out of the machine as our sodas weren’t coming for another half hour.

Then it hit me….I had cake, but I hadn’t brought enough candles. neither did I have anything with which to light the candles I did have. I didn’t have any cake plates, nor forks, nor napkins. Even more, I didn’t have a cake cutter. The kids figured out something was going on, and I was honest with them. They just started laughing. So did I. Stress broken. We joked about using one of the paper pizza plates to cut the cake. When we did sing, “Happy Birthday”, a few of the kids held their fingers over the cake as imaginary candles.

They all helped clean up when we were ready to go. I checked out while they headed out to load up the car. When I arrived at my car, the Princess asked if the cake cutter the park had loaned us was ours to take. They’d efficiently, in their cleaning and gathering, packed the cake cutter in the cake box. Hysterics ensued. P took the cake cutter back into the trampoline park, from which I’m fairly sure we’ve been blackballed. And oh man, did we all laugh on the way home. I apologized for being a loser, overwhelmed mom, and for messing it all up. One of the boys said, “This is the strangest, but most fun, birthday party I’ve ever been to,” and one of the girls said, “I wish my mom were more like you. This is fun.” Hah!

Not one of them cared. Not one of them felt the party was ruined by my phoning it in Everyone had a good time. Everyone had enough to eat. Everyone jumped and had a good time.  That’s all that matters right?

I’m learning you don’t always have to plan to the last detail, especially when it comes to kids.  Sometimes things turn out better when you just wing it, rather than stressing about every little thing. And often, when you admit you’ve messed up, and are able to laugh at yourself, everyone around you will have your back. I can’t control everything. I certainly can’t control everyone. I’ve learned that while my need for order, control, organization, and routine is okay, it isn’t the end of the world when things don’t go the way I planned. Sometimes,  you get a better result when you epicly “fail.”

And I thought that was hard

Big Man was born 3.5 months too soon, and spent ninety-three days in the NICU. I spent countless hours driving back and forth to spend countless hours sitting by his isolette. I watched him forget to breath, watched his heart rate drop, watched him turn gray, watched him battle his own infections, watched machines keep him alive, watched him fight to survive. And I thought that was hard.

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Big Man on his birth day

Big Man came home from the NICU, and we had a home health nurse out every other week, a developmental specialist out every month, bi-weekly doctor visits for weight checks, monthly doctor visits for synagis shots to keep him from getting RSV. My life, my schedule was not my own. He didn’t want to be put down, ever. I had to learn to let go of my want for routine, schedule, time. And I thought that was hard.

When Big Man was four months old, I discovered I was pregnant with the Princess. I faced a pregnancy certain we were going to be back in the NICU. I was full of fear and anxiety. I saw a specialist OB (perinatologist) every other week, until we got past the gestational age Big Man was born. Then she had to be induced at 41 weeks 1 day. And I thought that was hard.

Big Man was developmentally nine months old when the Princess was born, so I basically had two infants under one roof. They are twelve months and nineteen days apart. Sleep was at a premium. Bottles were everywhere. We all three cried for hours every evening. And I thought that was hard.

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Big Man had high muscle tone on his left side, and a mild speech delay. Enter therapists visits to the weekly routine. And I thought that was hard.

When Big Man was nearly two, and the Princess eight months old, we moved….400 miles away.  I left my career of ten years. I left my family. I left my friends. I left my church. We moved in with spouse’s  (awesomely amazing) parents for eight months while our new home was being built. I found a new job I hated. It took forever to build new relationships. I had two toddlers in a new place, and I wasn’t entirely happy…yet. And I thought that was hard.

I had two toddlers under one roof – two toddlers who were like the wonder twins. I couldn’t keep up with their creative disasters. They finger-painted with baby shampoo in the middle of Big Man’s room. Baby shampoo NEVER comes out of carpet, ever. They unraveled a Costco-sized package of toilet paper up and down the upstairs hallway. They threw another Costco-sized package (out of the plastic wrapping) into my big jacuzzi bathtub. They ran away, down the street and around two corners, while I fed their six-week old baby brother. Big Man cut ALL of the Princess’ hair off, to the scalp, twice. They colored the underside of the pool table. I caught them, frequently, eating frozen waffles underneath the dining room table. Ditto bags of candy they’d climb on top of the fridge to retrieve. And I thought that was hard.

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I had three kids under four. I can’t even list all that drama, but I thought that was hard.

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The Herd in earlier days

There was a time they were all three involved in multiple sports….baseball, soccer, dance, piano lessons, golf. I lived at whatever field it was the season for.  I spent hours and hours in the car getting them each to whatever practice, game, lesson, or recital. And I thought that was hard.

Big Man was diagnosed ADHD, and with a mild visual processing disorder in second grade. We chose to medicate the ADHD. He fought the medication for the first year. I’d find pills hidden in the kitchen drawer, under the lazy susan in the middle of the kitchen island, and pretty much anywhere but in him if I didn’t watch him take it and make sure he actually swallowed it. He got glasses, and we got an every-six-months schedule of appointments with the pediatric opthamologist. And I thought that was hard.

I had three in elementary school. I went on field trips. I taped, glued, cut, copied, read to kindergartners and third graders, ran the book fair, was on the PTA, and basically lived at the school. We lived in nightly homework hell. And I thought that was hard.

Little Man was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and ADHD, in second grade. It nearly broke me, but we finally had an answer, and a plan, and help. We entered the world of IEP’s, special education, accommodations, speech therapy, psychiatrists and therapists. And  I thought that was hard.

We moved on to middle school for the older two – ugh, middle school and middle schoolers. They each got their first phones, and we had to start talking about internet safety, data plans, and had to come up with rules of how we would handle things. And I thought that was hard.

Now here we are…..two days away from having three teenagers under one roof. Two are in high school. I was ill-prepared for the drama, the angst, the emotional rollercoaster, the pushing back against rules we’ve had in place forever, the angry words that instantly bring tears to my eyes, the eyeball rolling, the intense search for independence, the life-lessons they are learning through which I just want to help but know I need to stand back and let them have at it, come whatever the natural consequences will be. I’ve watched my biggest baby boy struggle to find his way academically when it used to come to him so easily I think he took it for granted. I’ve watched P fight to find herself – somehow losing (hopefully temporarily) the brave, bold, confident girl we used to know. Then, recently, came the day Big drove himself and P to school, his driver’s license finally earned. And I think this is hard.

Within the next five years, I will watch as they have all the rest of those “firsts”, as they graduate, and leave for school, only ever to come back for what will essentially be visits between semesters and school years. I know I will look back on all those things I thought were hard and will know that was nothing, because watching them go be their own people, away from us, my heart living outside of me (possibly far away from home), now that, that will be hard.

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