And those differing phases were exactly what I was thinking about. Not long after we moved in, this neighbor’s grandchildren rang our doorbell to sell something for their school. They were elementary-aged then. A decade later, they must be mostly grown, I realized. So I got to thinking about time flying. It does with children. My daughter will be 5 in October and, yet, I still feel like she was just born. My son is almost 18 months old and, yet, I still feel like he was just born. I was struck in that moment at the difference in our lives, my neighbor and I. I was also struck by the similarities. I marveled that it was 8 p.m. and she was out and about while I am never out and about at 8 p.m. That’s bedtime for my kids. But, she is beyond that phase. Maybe she misses it; maybe she doesn’t. Maybe it’s a combination of both.
What struck me for the first time is how short-lived this motherhood thing is. I will be a mother the rest of my life no matter how long I live or what happens. It is a part of my identity. It is part of me and it won’t ever go away. However, I won’t be consumed by motherhood the rest of my life. Right now I’m in the thick of it with a toddler and preschooler who need so much from me. But, they are both gaining more independence almost daily. They will slowly and steadily need less of me. In 17 years, my baby boy will graduate high school and move on to college. I will have an empty nest. 17 years! That span of time both seems like forever and also like a blink of an eye. When I think that next month my husband and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, I realize again how fast time goes.
And so I was left to realize that in the midst of all the pressing needs of mothering small children, I must cling to pieces of myself where I can find them. While I need to give myself to my children, I also need to take breaks and give myself to me and to my husband. They really are only with us a short time. I won’t stop being their mom when they are 18. No switch flips like that. My own parents haven’t stopped being my parents now that I’m a grown-up, but our relationship is vastly different now than it was 30 years ago when I was my daughter’s age. I think about what it will be like when my babies are grown. I can’t quite wrap my head around it. I don’t know exactly what choices they’ll make and how they’ll turn out. I don’t know how I will feel when my time of really rearing them is complete. But I do know I will be left with myself and I don’t want to lose her.
It’s very easy to be consumed by motherhood and perhaps it’s completely necessary. However, it’s also quite taxing and leaves little room for much else. Sometimes I forget that I am more than a mom because I simply don’t have the energy left at the end of the day to be anything else. I think that’s OK for now, mostly because it just has to be. I just want to make sure that I don’t completely disappear over these next 17 years. I will change, I’m sure. I have already changed and I wouldn’t go back. I love being a mother. I love being defined as a mother. I love the person my children have made me. I pray and long to be good enough to raise these little ones as they deserve. I pray for strength to be the best me I can be for them. They are my world. But my world is one day going to not be so tight. My world is one day going to go out on its own. I don’t want to forget the Stacey I am underneath the mother I am.
I can only smile as I think about my neighbor and her oblivion to what just seeing her out and about 8 p.m. sparked in me. We don’t know each other well. I won’t ever share this with her. That’s OK. I find myself wondering now whether she has any regrets from her child-rearing days. I wonder how she was left to define or redefine herself when her children were grown. Maybe it’s an abrupt change and maybe it’s gradual. I will see one of these days. But for now I’m going to keep snatching small pieces of myself here and there amidst the chaos and joy of mothering small children.]]>
But, it’s not the town or the food that gets me. It’s the lake. Byrdstown is perched right beside Dale Hollow Lake. This man-made creation is huge. It has a multitude of docks. It has a city still buried beneath it from the old days. It has a history all to itself that is fascinating, but my history is what I think of when I look out over the waters of Dale Hollow and smell that lake water. I have vivid memories of good times with family and I feel as if I’m come full circle now that I’m able to make new memories there with my own family. Both of my kids swam for their very first time in the lake. For me, our vacation is relaxing but it also swirls together past and present for me.
I smell the lake water and I remember swimming off a dock with my family as a small child and my grandpa soaping up in the lake. I smell the boat engines and think of the many, many fishing trips I’ve taken with my dad, grandpa and older brother. We didn’t always say so much, but we were together. We made memories. We laughed when someone went “squirrel fishing” and got their line caught in a tree. We whooped when anyone reeled in a fish of significant size. Heck, if I’m being completely honest I even remember the coffee can I’d use for the bathroom when I was little as all the guys turned their heads the other way before I really even understood that much about modesty.
The lull of curvy roads (which are quickly disappearing) reminds me of rolling around in the back of my dad’s camper truck with my brother and cousin as we wound our way down to the lake. A visit to a local restaurant reminds me how we’d often get to share a hot fudge cake sundae on vacation. It also reminds me of being a child and ordering my breakfast for the first time with one egg scrambled and one fried. My family laughed about that. The waitress look at me like I had two heads. To this day, when I make eggs for myself that’s exactly how I make them. I no longer try getting them that way in a restaurant, though.
While so much remains the same, a lot has changed as well. When we drive along the “new” highway, I remember when I was a child and it was being built. I remember one particular trip with my grandparents, brother and cousin where we walked along the dirt that had been pressed down in preparation for the new road going in. It’s much straighter than the old road and makes loads more sense, I suppose. But it’s different than it used to be.
I also have new memories sneaking in with the old ones. When I look at the ducks and fish swimming off of Sunset Dock, I think of my pooch and how much he likes to bark at them and swim beside them. This trip he stayed home with my in-laws who have his littermate brother and only met us at the end of the trip at a family reunion, but he usually goes with us. He had a back injury flare up, so we knew he’d be better off not going.
When my daughter and I feed the ducks, fish and turtles from the dock, I think of my mom who loves doing that very thing with us. I remember last summer when my daughter was finally old enough to start feeding the fish with us and how much she enjoyed it. I chuckle when I think of making bread balls to sink down to the fish and my husband and daughter telling the fish to enjoy their “spicy meatballs.” It makes no sense, but it is a funny memory to me.
When I watch my son splashing his hands on top of the water at the beach, I remember his sister in her green watermelon two-piece bathing suit doing the same thing.
When I look at the bunk beds where we stay, I remember how for two summers now my daughter hasn’t been allowed to sleep on the top bunk, but she’s loved climbing up there and sitting atop the comforter to read her bedtime stories.
I have so many vacation memories. I have distant ones from childhood. I have ones that are bittersweet as I think of my grandpa who is now in heaven and my grandma who I’m not sure will ever make the trip south again. I have closer ones from recent years. And this year, I’ve added to my collection of memories. I’ll remember my daughter lighting up with joy when we stopped at nearby Dinosaur World on the way down. I’ll remember my son feeling very unsure about the sand between his toes. I’ll remember my daughter snuggling beside her dad on the loveseat watching episodes of Transformers from the 1980s. I’ll remember my son wanting a hat on most of the trip. I’ll remember my daughter being way more excited about the stuffed unicorn she got at a candy store instead of caring about the actual candy we bought. I’ll remember my son already learning to climb up to the top bunk and how my heart skipped a beat when I realized he could as I stood behind him ready to catch him at any moment. I’ll remember the few moments of peace on the dock as the four of us sat together eating ice cream and watching the sun sink lower into the sky. I’ll remember hanging out with my husband watching movies and reading after the kids were fast asleep. I’ll remember the night he got out around 11 p.m. to go find WiFi to download a book for my Kindle.
Of everything, I’ll remember the love and the laughter. We definitely had some cranky moments from all of us. We had a few small challenges here and there, but those are already fading in my memory less than a week after returning. I’m sure there were cranky moments when I was a child as well, but those have also faded.
Along with all of my specific memories, trips to Byrdstown and Dale Hollow leave me with a memory of peace and love. I feel more at peace on the lake than I do anywhere else. I have had moments of struggle and physical pain in my life where I’ve stopped and envisioned being on the lake to soothe my weary soul. All of these feelings and memories are wrapped up in a tiny Tennessee town that feels like a homecoming to me, though I’ve never lived there. I count myself blessed to have fallen in love with this place and even more blessed to be able to continue to share it with the people I love.]]>
As a journalist, one of my favorite things about this country is the whole free speech thing. However, it is sometimes one of my least favorite parts as well just because I get to hear so many opinions and mindless thoughts that would be better off left unsaid many times. Political and religious happenings this week have brought out the best and worst in people. I’ve heard all sorts of opinions and thoughts. I have my own opinions and thoughts, of course, but I don’t feel the need to enter the fray and noise of it all.
So, in honor of free speech, I offer some random thoughts from my head that have nothing to do with pretty much anything. (And, in full disclosure, I’m running low on topic ideas at the moment. So there!)
- I’m still marveling that the boys are 5 today. That’s just not possible.
- I think I’m completely becoming a geek. Last night my husband and I were discussing our upcoming vacation. He mentioned that he’d like to visit a cave in the area sometime. I told him it’d been years since I’d been in a cave and now it would remind me of the Underdark (a complete D&D reference thanks in great part to The Legend of Drizzt series by R.A. Salvatore).
- I have a very long to-do list for today. I’m making a decent dent in it thus far at least.
- I bought a new purse yesterday for the first time in a couple of years. It’s nothing fancy, but I’m quite excited about it. My daughter gave it rave reviews. I like that about her at 4. I know that will change in about 10 years, so I’m enjoying her constant support for now.
- I got my hair cut yesterday. And when I say cut, I really mean trim. I almost never make dramatic hair changes. It freaks me out for some reason. But, I’m happy enough with the trim. And now I need to tweeze my eyebrows a bit since my bangs aren’t covering them so much.
- I need a vacation from getting ready for vacation. And I’m not going to pretend that a vacation is nearly as relaxing now with a 1 and 4-year-old as it used to be before they were born. But, that’s OK, too.
- I am thinking very seriously about having dinner out tonight since we have to get out for a trip to the drug store anyway. I know. Earth shattering information!
- About three weeks ago, I went for the second pedicure I’ve had in my life and got purple sparkly toes. I quite enjoy purple sparkly anything. One of my nine piggies got chipped, though. Unsurprisingly, I had a huge amount of purple nail polish in my drawer to wade through and touch it up. It now looks pretty much like the other nine toes and has bought me some time for redoing them. Sweet!
- I decided not to buy my son a 4th of July shirt this year. My daughter’s from last year still fits her. My son, however, will be patriotic with Spider-man. I mean, superhero red and blue is pretty darn patriotic, right? It is for my family!
- I am perplexed that it is 2014 and no one has come up with a good design for baby bibs to keep them in place and from being pulled off by determined toddlers. I should come up with something and make a fortune. But then again, I’m far from an inventor.
- My husband has a bag of rubber bands. I thought it was party mix and got excited. I may need a life. Or a snack. Or both.
- Sometimes I get an extra five minutes to myself before getting my son up from his nap or for the day simply by turning off the baby monitor. (He’s happy and playing in his crib. I’d be right in there if he were upset.)
- I realized earlier today that I had given my daughter expired children’s Benadryl when she was sick last week. It was only expired by a few months, but I still feel bad about it.
- Speaking of expired, a few years ago I found a container of Parmesan cheese in my parents’ pantry that had expired something like six years before. Evidently once I got married and moved out they didn’t go through very much Parmesan cheese. This is still true and for my birthday in May, my mom sent me home with the small container she’d bought just for my birthday dinner. What’s wrong with those people? Who doesn’t love Parmesan cheese?! I’m happy to report that though my husband doesn’t like it, my daughter has the same affinity for it that I do.
- I think I may talk about food too much when it comes to random thoughts I post on here.
- I’d better stop typing now and go get the boy out of his crib before he tries to jump out of it or something. That kid. He is going to give me a heart attack with all his daredevil attempts!
And thanks to living in the land of the free and the home of the brave, I can share these random thoughts freely without worry. Happy birthday, America, on Friday! I also need to call three little guys so their cousins and I can wish them a happy birthday today!]]>
The good news is that neither kid has been hit super hard with this virus, just enough to make them tired, a bit grumpy and clingy. It could be way worse. However, it’s also highly contagious. Somehow they shared their germs with my mom who hasn’t seen them in more than a week. Fortunately no one else has come down with it. We’re staying in and missing out on a good week of activities to keep our germs to ourselves. Maybe by this weekend we’ll be all clear of contagions. I can’t wait. Sick kids aren’t super fun, but being sick isn’t super fun, so I don’t blame them.
Last evening, though, my son was feeling better but still grumpy. He started getting back into things he hasn’t in weeks, like the dog’s water dish, over and over again. He was climbing on the table. He wanted to simultaneously be in my lap and on the floor. My daughter wanted to play. Her ideas were having me mimic her dance moves. I was tired. It had been a long day. It was the kind of day that lasted longer than my patience. I debated about loading everyone in the car in their pajamas just to go for a ride. I didn’t care where, I just needed to be out of the house and not have someone hanging off of me.
It was also raining. My husband had recently repaired a gutter and went outside to check on it. Lucky duck, I thought. At least he got to get out of the house. (My son might not have been the only grumpy one!) He came back in and said he had something neat to show our daughter. She slipped on shoes with her nightgown. I scooped up the baby and we went out, too. It was raining, but we have a covered patio. The “neat thing” my husband had to show off was an intricate spider web. My son could care less, I didn’t care much and my daughter thought it was pretty cool. However, we were out of the house! We sat on the patio, listening to the rain on the metal roof for a little while. It was the change of scenery that I think we all needed.
Sometimes it’s the simple parts in life that make it so good. I wouldn’t say that this has been an overall great week. It hasn’t be horrible and could definitely have been worse, but it also could certainly have been better. My daughter is missing out on her first experience with Vacation Bible School thanks to being sick. She has literally been counting down the days for a month and was looking forward to having me be with her leading around the preschoolers. I was looking forward to her having fun and learning more about God. She is so very interested in God and Bible stories right now. She has a love for Him that makes my heart burst. I don’t want to quash that. I want to encourage and nurture that. I thought VBS would be one way to do that. However, God had different ideas. And I’d be lying if I said I understood completely or knew what He was thinking. I don’t. In fact, I’ve cried about it this week a couple of times. I’ve prayed about it. In fact, as soon as my son got sick, I prayed that somehow my daughter and I wouldn’t so we could still go. I firmly believe God heard my prayer; He just said no. Sometimes no is a hard answer to hear. I think I’m more disappointed than my daughter is. But, I do know that always God has a plan. I do know that always God is in control. I do trust that I can trust Him even when hardships — whether small or big — don’t make sense.
I’ve learned that lesson time and again even when I doubt. I’ve learned that in living with a chronic illness when I’ve not understood reasons for suffering. I’ve learned that when proverbial doors not only closed on me but slammed shut in my face and smashed some fingers in the process. God doesn’t always make sense. And sometimes in my humanity, I get mad about it. Sometimes I get my feelings hurt. Sometimes I get so frustrated that in trying to do the right thing and making choices God has led me to make that I still can get punched in the face with a hardship. It’s not always fair. But, God never said life would be fair and therein lies the rub. Therein lies the difficulty.
However, I have always learned that even when life doesn’t make sense, God does make sense. I have told my daughter time and again that she doesn’t always need to understand why my husband and I ask her to do something, she just needs to do it because we said so. (Trust me, the girl wants us to explain everything all the time and sometimes she just needs to trust us.) Just like I’d never lead my children astray, just like I have valid reasons for disciplining them when they do something wrong, so does God do the same for me. At the end of the long, hard day even through my hurt, frustration and tears, all I have left (all I really had to begin with) is to trust God and lean fully on Him.
I can look back now other major hardships in my life and see how He worked them for my good. I can look back at other hard times and still not understand them, but I trust that just like I look out for my children, He is looking out for me. My toddler and preschooler can’t understand as much as I do at age 35. I can’t understand as much as God does as the maker of the universe and creator of everything in it. I just have to trust in One Who loves me more than I can fathom.
And so even in small hardships like having temporarily sick kiddos who are missing out on things they were looking forward to, I can trust. I can know that God really does work all things to the good of those who love Him even when little things (and big things!) don’t make sense.
While I wouldn’t mind a bit of a break in the craziness of life this week, I am working to be thankful in all circumstances at all times. Because God really is good all the time.]]>
I read a blog post somewhere recently talking about having a laidback 1970s kind of summer. And that’s sort of what we do around here. It wasn’t just like our summers because it involved things like letting kiddos watch hours of TV on TVLand and one of my kiddos isn’t old enough to watch TV, yet. And it suggested tossing kids outside to stay for the day, and that also doesn’t happen around here for a variety of reasons from age to fair skin to heat. But, the premise was keeping it simple and that’s how we like to live.
So here’s what I’m looking forward to over these next couple of months with minimal activities:
- Time away on vacation with my husband and kiddos. Vacations aren’t the same kind of relaxing now as they were before kids, but they are still relaxing. I’m looking forward to time to just play and hang out with all three of them without chores and obligations getting in the way. We’ll eat good food, hopefully get some naps, visit the beach at the lake, feed some fish, play outside, read books (for the kids and for me!) and end with spending time with extended relatives at my husband’s family reunion.
- Time to hang around our house with the kids and play. Without having to take anyone to preschool, we have more downtime to do this. And, in spite of having done this a lot when I was recovering from surgery and such, it’s nice to do this by choice. We’ll enjoy time in our backyard and play. I’ll let the big kid eat popsicles and the little one have a taste, too.
- A few trips to the local frozen yogurt place where we can top our own yogurt cups and eat outside at the picnic tables if it’s not too hot. Sure we can go when it isn’t summer, but it’s even more fun to go there in warm weather.
- Hitting up the library for story time sometimes and finishing up the kiddos summer reading program. We love to read around here and the kids love to get rewarded for it. There are also some great events the library puts on in conjunction with summer reading that we enjoy. My daughter is especially looking forward to seeing Ronald McDonald’s magic show next week. She loved it last year.
- Going to the annual fairy walk and tea party in our city. My daughter loves dressing up and roaming around looking like a fairy. I even let her wear a bit of makeup to be extra fancy. These events speak to the little girl in me as well.
- Visiting the state fair. We took the big kiddo last year when we got tickets through the summer reading program and will take both kids this year. She loved it and we all had a great time. I look forward to that visit again.
I hope it will be a good summer. We have planned both activities and downtime, which makes for the best kind of summer. It’s good times. And it’s about enjoying our family together.
All of this leads me to my second point of this blog post. I’m looking forward to time with my family over the summer. I’ll still post blogs, but they may not be my regular two a week. And I might even have times I miss an entire week, but I will be around. I’ll try to keep checked in with you on my Facebook page, too. Sometimes, in spite of loving writing my blog, life gets in the way. It’s just what happens. The good news is, though, that if life didn’t happen, I’d have nothing about which to write!
What are you looking forward to this summer? No matter what you have planned (or not planned), I hope you enjoy it and have a good time in warm weather! Check back often and I’ll keep you posted on how our summer is going, too.]]>
As the school year progressed, it was becoming more apparent that shutting down my alma mater was inevitable. And a few months ago the decision became final. I had been invited to participate in events to try and save the school. I didn’t participate. I can’t say that I completely trust the school board in my city to make the best decisions when it comes to education here, but I did understand that money needs to be saved and changes have to occur.
But, then the decision was final. I had a variety of other things going on in my own life that perhaps compounded it, but the school closing bothered me way more than I ever expected. I didn’t think I would care that much, but I found myself tearing up. I found myself feeling a bit nostalgic. I understood the change was necessary. I understood that the community needs most to come together in support of one single high school, but my heart was somewhat broken. I delved deeper into what was going on inside and figured out why this bothered me more than anticipated.
First, this high school has been part of my life since I was a baby — and I mean that quite literally. Both my parents graduated from the school and were high school sweethearts (well, technically their romance started in middle school). When I was a child, high school basketball was what we did for fun. We went to all sorts of the games. We wore our red and white with pride. We resented the other high school in town.
And that brings me to the second point. My entire life this has been a two high school city. This hasn’t always been the case. The school I went to didn’t open until 1962. My aunt, in fact, was a member of the first class to go all the way through the school. (See my roots?) For a brief time there was a third high school, but it didn’t last too long. From the beginning, there was a deep rivalry between the two schools. And by deep, I mean deep. It’s beyond a normal rivalry. For my entire life, my school was the underdog. We were the high school that was deemed to be lower class. It was looked down upon. It wasn’t that. It wasn’t that at all. But, I had quite a number of experiences going to community events representing my school in a variety of ways from academically to musically where I had adults literally stop talking to me once I told them which school I attended. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. In fact when I asked my high school guidance counselor for an application for a full tuition and room and board academic scholarship application to our university, she gave it to me with a sigh telling me that students from my school didn’t usually get this scholarship. She was very clearly implying I was wasting my time. I got the scholarship in spite of her “encouragement.”
And as a result of the above two reasons, I have also been proud of where I came from. I have never been ashamed to say what school I went to. I have never been ashamed that my school was filled with students who had parents primarily in a blue collar workforce. My dad was among them and spent decades working hard at a factory to provide a great life for our family. I am proud of students I graduated with. Off the top of my head, I can think of a lawyer, a professor and a dentist who were all in my graduating class.
Along with the pride and history I have with the school, I also had a lot of good experiences in high school. I met my husband there my freshman year. Near the end of the year, on my 15th birthday, he asked me to be his girlfriend and I haven’t stopped since. He graduated two years before I did.
I was very involved with school from student government to academic quiz bowl. I participated in marching band in the summer and in concert band all year long. I went to basketball games and football games and played my trombone. I loved it. Band is another component in and of itself. When I graduated from high school, I only felt sentimental cleaning out my band locker. It was a big part of my life.
Knowing all of that history is falling by the wayside makes me sad. I’ve felt frustrated that the school board wouldn’t consider possibly renaming the one remaining high school to avoid adding insult to injury. And then the band came through for me yet again. Band kids are good kids. I am a “fan” of my former high school band on Facebook. A few weeks ago, its logo changed to reflect the new school. The new band name has combined the two band names and made a new name that fits well. The band kids are leading the charge to bring the community together into one. Even before the bell rings in one combined high school next fall, the band kids are coming together this summer as a unified marching band representing our city.
I feel sad to know things that are familiar to me and part of my history will be gone. I feel sad that the school song I can still play on my trombone and sing word-for-word will no longer be used. I’m unsure of what the future will hold for my city and its one high school. I don’t know if in the end this will be a good change and my city will have one really strong high school or if it will flop and the community will balk. I can’t predict the future. I hope that the former happens. I hope in a decade when my 4-year-old is getting ready for high school that if we are still in town the school will be a strong one that I’ll be proud to send her to. We’ll just have to see.
For now, I’m left feeling a bit nostalgic and a bit sad. I’ve found my ways to say good-bye through attending a high school basketball game and then last week attending a ceremony taking down the flag for the final time on the last day of school. Sadly, a part of history is going to be missing in my town. I and so many others are left only with our memories and hope that somehow, in some way our city will find a way to come together as one in spite of a divided past.]]>
But in the midst of that love and laughter, there are struggles. And sometimes we miss connecting the way we used to before we were parents. Neither of us would give up our children for anything in the world. We love them so deeply and profoundly. They have changed us, mostly for the better, in getting us even more out of ourselves. But they also changed us in distracting us from one another sometimes. That’s our reality right now with a 1-year-old and 4-year-old. I’ve been thinking of what I want to make sure my husband knows that I don’t always get a chance or think to tell him.
- You are an awesome dad. There is no one on the face of this planet who is better equipped to be a dad to our children than you. You love them, play with them and provide for them in so many ways that I can’t.
- You think of things I don’t even see that helps our family. You’ve identified issues both of our kids have had before I saw them. You keep me on track in thinking of what we need to do now to prepare them for the future and shape them into great people. You come up with solutions to problems I have that make our life run more smoothly.
- You are still my one and only and always will be. I’m sorry when I don’t always act like it. I’m sorry when I get distracted by our kiddos from showing and telling you how much you mean to me. I’m more in love with you today than I was the day we got married, but I don’t get a chance to show it nearly as often. I wish that was different right now and I’m sorry that it’s not, but I promise you that I know each and every day how blessed I am to share my life with you.
- You are the strong arms of this family. Of course that’s true in the literal sense (thanks for doing the literal heavy lifting!), but it’s true in the emotional sense as well. While God is the center of our family, as He should be, you are the leader of our family in quiet, strong ways. You keep me from sitting on the floor sobbing sometimes. You calm our children when they are upset. I know girls can be crazy emotional and sometimes your daughter and I leave you shaking your head is disbelief, but you still comfort us when we need it.
- You’re so stinking smart. I’ve always thought of myself as a smart person. I did well in school, got two college degrees and all that jazz, but you are just innately smart in so many ways. You see solutions to problems I didn’t even know existed and I respect you and appreciate you for that.
- You keep our house running smoothly. While I may manage the household, you keep the roof over our head from leaking (quite literally a few months ago when you patched part of it) and can do handy things like install ceiling fans, USB outlets and deal with our sometimes wonky plumbing.
- You show up every single day. You don’t have to be here, but you are because you are a good man. I feel blessed that you can work from home often and are glad to do so. I appreciate and love how you see the fleeting nature of childhood and you don’t want to miss any more of our kids’ childhood than you absolutely have to.
- You’re not perfect, but you’re perfect for me. If I’m being completely honest, of course there are times when you drive me a bit crazy. I know without a doubt, I drive you crazy sometimes! But, you are the perfect counterpart to me. I look at you and still see the cute 16-year-old boy I first fell in love with and the now 30-something family man who you’ve become. I see in you my past, my present and my future. I can’t imagine life without you.
And for all of these reasons and so very many more, I say thank you. I thank you, my dear husband. Happy Father’s Day! And I thank You, God. I am blessed. I am so very blessed.]]>
Toddlers are adorable and sweet. They really are, but they do resemble bullies in some ways.
1. While bullies may steal your lunch money, toddlers just steal your lunch — or breakfast or dinner or snack or anything you think you’re going to eat without sharing. It doesn’t matter if my son has the exact same food on his tray as I do on my plate; he still thinks my food is way better and I must share it. If I don’t, he protests. Just last week when he was off schedule and I was eating lunch while he wasn’t eating, I paid him off in the oyster crackers I was having alongside my salad just so that I could eat without him screaming at me the whole time.
2. Bullies and toddlers are physically abusive. I’ve never been hit by a bully, but I’ve been hit plenty of times by my kids. I’ve been head butted and smacked. I’ve had my nose pinched and my lips pulled and contorted. We won’t even discuss the internal organ squishing I endured while they were in my belly.
3. Bullies and toddlers think only of themselves. It’s true. My son is a sweet boy, but he wants what he wants whether it’s hard on anyone else. If he wants to stand on the back of my legs while I’m kneeling at his sister’s bed reading her a story, then he will. He won’t consider whether that might not be comfortable for me. If he wants a cuddle in the middle of the night, he won’t consider that maybe I was trying to sleep.
4. Bullies and toddlers can make you question your self worth. I know we’re not supposed to take toddler actions personally. I don’t always, but there are times when I’m tired and worn down and I question if I even know how to be a mother. They wear you down!
5. Bullies and toddlers are unpredictable. You never know what you’re going to get. One day when I go get my son out of his crib, he can hardly wait for me to pick him up. The next day, he wants to stay in his crib for a few minutes and teasingly play with me. And let’s not get started on food. One day grilled cheese is like manna from heaven that he can’t shove in his mouth fast enough. The next day it’s the most disgusting food he’s even seen or tasted and woe to the person who puts it on his tray.
6. Bullies and toddlers can hold you hostage. OK. I don’t know if bullies actually do this, but toddlers sure do! When my son isn’t feeling well in some way, he doesn’t want to go to sleep alone in his room. I have sat on the floor. I have laid on the floor. I have slept on the floor. I have been his hostage knowing that if I leave the room even to go to the bathroom across the hall that he will erupt in wails.
7. Bullies and toddlers have no regard for your personal space. My son does not understand that anyone has a personal bubble. He steps on my toes while I’m making dinner without a care in the world. He plops in my lap with no regard just as I was starting to get up to go to the bathroom. He crawls all over me at any given time. He delights in putting toys down the front of my shirt. Personal space for me? No way. Instead, I’m his personal, portable playground.
8. Bullies and toddlers are possessive. Everything that’s mine is his. Everything that’s his sister’s is his. Everything that’s his is his. Everything that is my husband’s is his. Just yesterday he was lugging around his big sister’s backpack while she was trying to put things in it. It ended in a battle of wills between the two of them with one yelling for him to let go and him just yelling that someone was trying to take what he felt strongly was his. I won’t even begin to explain how he also is sure everything in the trashcan is his. That’s an ongoing battle around here.
9. Bullies and toddlers are loud. I don’t think any of the bullies I knew as a child were ever described as the quiet kid in the corner. (Nope, that would have been me!) Toddlers are the same. My son pays no mind to where we are, what we are doing or even who might still be asleep as his hollers and carries on whether he’s making happy noises or distressed ones. He gets quiet when we’re out to dinner or in public oftentimes because he’s too busy observing everything. People remark about his quietness from time to time. I want to tell them how they’re being fooled. I usually just smile. The boy is not quiet.
10. Bullies and toddlers want their way and get mad when they don’t get it. If the dog is sitting beside me on the futon in his room, then he must be moved. This can best be managed with force. If I’m in the middle of making dinner and he comes to the kitchen holding a book up for me to read to him, then he’s going to be loudly (see number nine) angry when I don’t comply. When I remove him from gathering contraband from the trash or standing on the end table for the 10th time, he turns into a spaghetti noodle and flails about protesting on the floor.
All that said, bullies and toddlers do have their differences as well. Toddlers can be quite lovable, entertaining and funny. I’m pretty sure if this wasn’t the case then humans would have died out long ago. Because there are just as many times that he comes to my lap for a cuddle or gives me his huge, sparse-toothed smile that melts my heart. There are many times I see him love on his sister, his dog or my husband and I burst with pride and love. This toddler/bully stage still has some time to go. My son is learning how to interact with his world. My husband and I are teaching him. We’re teaching his super sensitive big sister to not give in to him all the time because he’s upset or crying. We’re getting there. We made it through toddlerhood once before. I’m pretty sure we’ll survive this final time. Pretty sure. Mostly sure…]]>
I first starting learning this in dealing with a wonky bladder as a young adult. Because despite good intentions of taking medicine and eating only IC friendly foods and drinking only white milk and water, my bladder would still randomly rear its ugly head and leave me clutching my heating pad on my couch in yoga pants. In fact, this still happens. I just don’t get nearly as much couch time as I used to thanks to my two little kiddos, but they also serve to distract me from my misery so perhaps it balances out. My plans could change just like that. All of a sudden a day out of town with friends turned into a monumental task that seemed impossible and I’d have to cancel or muster through. Heck, even a trip to the grocery store to pick up a few items would become insurmountable.
However, I have learned this way more as a mother. My children are even more unpredictable than my bladder — and that’s saying quite a lot! I feed them healthy food. I refer to myself as the Schedule Nazi when it comes to maintaining a consistent routine and sleep schedule for them. You seriously don’t want to encroach on that. I am slightly obsessed with germ management and make everyone clean their hands usually as soon as we are back in the car from visiting a public place. At the grocery store or Target, I wipe the cart down with cleaning wipes then cover it with a cart cover for the toddler. Yet, I still clean his hands when we’re finished because you never know where germs lurk! When we dine out, I use a high chair cover and a self-adhesive disposable placement. I do everything in my power, short of making us all live in a bubble, to avoid germs.
But, you know what? They still get in. My kids still get sick. It happens. It has happened a lot more in the past year as my daughter started preschool. I’m pretty sure that building is a petri dish for cold germs and random viruses. In spite of all my good intentions, in spite of all I do to keep my children happy, healthy and safe, I can’t always do that. And sick kiddos change plans.
For example, over Memorial Day weekend, we were planning to head to Ohio with my in-laws on Sunday to visit my husband’s aunt and uncle. I looked forward to the day away and to the visit. I planned and thought and figured out how to best manage a nap for my son in the middle of the afternoon. I had ideas for how to get them both ready and out the door by 8 a.m. when I knew I’d have to wake up them both, but even the Schedule Nazi can be flexible sometimes. Then my son started in with a fever on Friday. Uh-oh. Plans changed. He ran a fever the whole weekend and was quite miserable. He broke out in some spots. We determined it was a reaction to his chicken pox vaccine the week before, but it didn’t change facts. We were staying home. Traveling with a toddler is tricky enough. Traveling with a sick toddler? Forget it!
My weekend plans were out the door. I felt a bit mopey. And then I worked to lower my expectations. So we couldn’t do what we planned. Well, at least I was getting some downtime at home. At least I was getting extra snuggles from my little dude.
The same is true for birthdays and holidays. When it comes to life with kids, sometimes less is more and the less I expect, the happier I am with what I have. This year my birthday was a truly happy celebration for me. The actual day was spent focusing on my daughter’s dance recital, so we celebrated the day before. In the past I might have thought a dinner out and big fuss would be nice. Now? I just think a dinner I don’t have to cook is divine. And I know eating it at my parents’ house is way easier on all of us than getting both kids and my elderly grandmother in and out of a restaurant, especially since my birthday coincides with graduation day for the university in town. I had a yummy spaghetti dinner at my parents’ house. It wasn’t a huge fuss, but it was perfect. Low expectations work well. The toddler was still napping while we started dinner, so it worked much better than if we’d have planned to go somewhere. (And I say all of this knowing that it was a bunch of extra work for my mom. I don’t mean to downplay that one single bit. I appreciate that lady!) If I’d have expected to go out to a nice dinner, it would have been a disaster figuring out waiting for the toddler to wake up or risk waking him early and risk waiting forever for a table on graduation day and then hoping that the server brought food in a timely manner and that the toddler didn’t meltdown or the preschooler didn’t get grumpy or my grandma didn’t gripe continuously about how late we were eating or I didn’t spend 10 minutes setting up the highchair and placemat and all we do for eating with the kids at a restaurant. I’d have been disappointed. It would have been far from relaxing and enjoyable. Right now dinner out with a bit of a fuss over my birthday just isn’t all that realistic. I don’t expect it and so I thoroughly enjoy what I get.
The same worked on Mother’s Day. I think there are times in life with small children, especially, where having lowered expectations of what’s going to happen is just necessary and realistic. Life changes. Kids get grumpy. Kids get sick. Kids change their nap schedule on you just when you’ve come to count on them sleeping at a certain time. Kids take extra work. Kids make some things more difficult. Kids keep you from eating warm food. Are they worth it? Heck, yeah. But that doesn’t change the facts. And the facts are that even on Mother’s Day or my birthday, I’m still going to have to change dirty diapers. I’m still going to have to make meals. I’m still going to have to continue on being who I am. I can’t expect that I’ll have the whole day to just rest and relax and do nothing. That’s not reality right now. Do I need days where I rest, relax and do nothing? Of course! Do I get them? Sometimes, with a bit of planning, I do. And sometimes those days I had planned to rest, relax and do nothing while the kids visit with grandparents change when someone gets sick. It’s just the nature of this phase of life.
And that’s why for now, I’ll keep my expectations low when it comes to planning activities and doing things. It’s less stress. It’s less disappointment if things have to change. And it’s more happiness if something actually goes right as planned.]]>
I’ve written about IC both personally on this blog and more often professionally for publications. It’s a chronic, painful bladder disease I’ve dealt with my entire life. In fact, when I was assigned to write an article about children with IC, I didn’t think too much of it because I was a child with IC. My symptoms started when I was 3. By the time I was 5, I had been through the whole gamut of bladder and kidney related tests. I’d been on a crazy amount of antibiotics to prevent UTIs. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I heard the diagnosis of interstitial cystitis. I saw a few different urologists. I saw a pediatric urologist who told me that kids don’t get IC and I just wasn’t urinating correctly. I saw an adult urologist who told me I’d have to give up all sorts of food and come in every so often to have medicine put into my bladder. My mom tracked down the one urologist in the state who specialized in IC (not so easy to do in those days before the Internet) and he finally helped me with some oral medication. In fact, it’s the same medicine I still take to this day.
While I had a very good childhood with a loving and supportive family, I also have many memories of my childhood intertwined with my bladder. There were the gym classes in school where I had to sit out because I felt too bad to run or do vigorous activity. There was the day I got my first 10-speed bicycle and I felt so bad with a UTI that I only rode it for about two minutes before parking it in the garage until I felt better. There were the sleepovers when I’d have to take along my antibiotics for my friend’s mother to give to me. There were the parties where I had to ask for something to drink besides punch or juice because I knew I couldn’t have it. When I got older, bottled water made my life so much easier. (In fact, a couple of years ago, I went to an event with my mom and found that we had both stuck bottles of water in our purses for me just in case only punch was served.) There was the special pass I had in middle school to allow me access to the bathroom at all times. There was the letter I got from my high school just before I started my freshman year saying that hopefully I wouldn’t have as many absences in high school as I had in eighth grade, which was one of my worst IC years.
These aren’t necessarily bad memories, they are just part of my life. My bladder has always played a role in my life in some way. I’ve been aware of it far more than the average child, young adult and grown-up. It is what it is.
And so for all of these reasons, I wasn’t trepidatious about writing about children with IC. I knew them. I was them. But, something has changed since then. I’ve become an aunt and a mother. While I related to the children, I also realized I was now relating to the parents. I have all the usual fears mothers have for their children, but I also am terrified of passing on IC directly or indirectly. I literally pray about this multiple times a week. I ask for God to stop this disease with me. And I plead for His help in dealing with it if it’s not His will to stop with me. As I talked to sources for this article in the back of my mind I saw more than myself as a little girl with bladder issues. I saw the faces of my niece and my daughter. I worried still about my nephews and son. I worry most about the girls, though, because the majority of IC patients are female. When I thought of what I went through, when I heard what other children were going through, my breath stopped as I related that to the precious little girls I love who are now 6 and 4. Neither of them have bladder symptoms (praise God!), but I know that can change.
And my heart has broken. My heart continues to break for children who go without diagnosis and are told they have nothing wrong with them or they are going to the bathroom incorrectly. My heart has been broken in doing research for this article and finding there is no one strong advocate in the medical community for children dealing with interstitial cystitis. No one. My heart has broken and my blood pressure has risen in anger after numerous pediatric urologists told me they didn’t know enough about IC to talk with me. Of the nine pediatric urologists I reached out to, only two would talk with me and both told me they were far from experts on IC in children. Do these children not deserve better? Do they not deserve more? Do they not demand attention? Do they not deserve a better way of life? Do they not deserve to be children? Is there no one who will stand up and fight for them? Why is there this horrible gap in medical care? Why are pediatric urologists still so afraid of diagnosing IC? Why are some pediatric urologists still so backward in thinking that children can’t have IC?
While I always find hope for the future in my faith and in my God, I also find hope for the future in researchers who are delving into IC in adults. I find hope for studies being done that might one day find answers to help adults and children alike. My hope comes in doctors like one in particular I spoke with who has a passion for caring for his pediatric patients and will do whatever it takes to make sure even his IC children patients are well cared for. I find hope in the parents who are out there fighting hard for their children and demanding better care. I saw it in my own parents who refused to settle for unhelpful, callous doctors. I saw them listen to me, believe me and fight for me. I see it in other parents who are now doing the same for their little ones with bladder issues. It’s not an easy road. I can only now start to understand where the parents are coming from. I know that no matter what either of my children may face, I would fight for them if it took everything I had in me and then some. I would not stop until someone listened, until someone gave me answers. And that is what we need for interstitial cystitis. We need to find answers for adults. We desperately need to find answers for children.
Is there more to say? Is there hope to be had? I don’t know. I really, truly don’t. As I continued work on the article, which doesn’t include any of my personal experiences or opinions (as it shouldn’t), I thought of what I would say to a child and her parents dealing with IC. This is the best I can offer to the child:
Don’t give up. Your bladder will always be a part of your life. You will always be aware of it. It will intertwine itself throughout what you do, but it will not define you. You are now and always will be more than a messed up bladder. You are a person. You have talents and abilities unique to you. Don’t let your bladder overshadow those. Some days it will, because that is the nature of this disease, but don’t get stuck there. Keep fighting. Keep fighting every day to become the person that you were created to be in spite of and perhaps because of the challenges you face. Stay strong. Keep fighting and know that you will make it through this. Know also that you are not alone. There are others out there who are going through the same things you are. And we all agree that it’s not fair. It’s just not, but it will be OK. You will make it through.
And to parents: Keep listening. Keep fighting. Keep understanding. Know that your child is more than her bladder. Know that the little things you do, like making sure she has something safe to drink or eat at a party, may make her a bit grumpy right now because she doesn’t want to be different, but she will appreciate it one day. She will look back and know that you did your best and that you made sure to look out for her always because that’s what you do. That’s how you love. And that’s the best gift you could give. Understand and don’t discipline for multiple bathroom breaks. Be compassionate. Be caring. And keep fighting. I say it again because it’s important. Keep fighting until you find a doctor who will listen and work with you to give your child the best quality of life possible. Good doctors are out there who are treating children with IC. Don’t stop until you find one.
We are in this fight together. Fight the good fight!]]>