Anti-Anxiety Vignettes: #1

The past week plus can pretty much bite my ass. That bitch anxiety has moved back in to the house. Actually she has been around all fall, but I’ve been doing a pretty decent job of coping. Suddenly I wasn’t coping anymore.

It’s scary when the physical symptoms come roaring back. They feel new every fucking time. I’ve been doing my damnedest to act as normal as possible around everyone in my life. But I’ve noticed constant self-criticism escaping from my mouth before I can stop. It drives Z crazy when I say bad things about myself. He thinks I sound like I’m digging for compliments. I’m not. Really. I’m just informing everyone I know that I’m in on the secret. I know I suck, too.

It’s a fantastic way to make everyone feel uncomfortable.

So. Four migraines in a week. IBS….let’s just say it is very active. Like active enough to wake me with stomach cramps in the middle of the night. Pretty consistent low grade nausea. Two pregnancy tests taken even though I’m on the most effective birth control out there. Crying. So much crying. And pretending to be a normal person when I leave the house.

I’m exhausted. Z doesn’t know what to do. A call to my shrink will be placed today.

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C is a hustler. At three years old he uses his sweet and beautiful face to get what he wants. I know, I know, of course I think he is beautiful.

sweet faced c

But he really is. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

He’s a drama queen who knows how to work it.

cranky pants leonard

See? Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

More than a year of speech therapy has paid off tremendously. He is still working hard on enunciation, but he can express himself beautifully with words these days. It is pure pleasure to finally discover what has been going on in that mind of his. Mostly. Wasn’t so great when he told me he didn’t love me at nap time yesterday. But seriously? He did express his frustration verbally so it still felt like a tiny victory. Ok, a tiny hurtful victory, but a victory all the same.

When we drop T off at kindergarten C darts into the classroom and over to the teachers distributing breakfast. He often cons them out of a container of cereal. This morning it was Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I settled him back in his car seat for the quick drive to his school as he opened the little bowl and started chowing down.

Five minutes later I called hello to a fellow mom before bending down to unbuckle C. His lips had a thick coating of cinnamon and sugar, it was like he was wearing glitter lipstick. I burst out laughing. He smiled up at me. “My face is very cute!” he informed me.

It has been a shitty week. So the wave of joy almost knocked me on my ass. My eyes filled with tears for all the right reasons. It felt so good.

And his face is, in fact, so very cute.

It is not my boys’ job to save me. I cannot and will not depend on them to do it. But man, they keep doing it anyway. They bring joy and frustration and delight and rage into our lives on a roller coaster of emotion. Concentrating on them helps me get my head out of my ass. Having kids is obviously not necessary for happiness and a full life. But for me? It is the best thing I’ve done.

Our family made the front page of Syracuse.com last Thursday! C is in a sleigh that was used by Z’s grandmother who was born in 1908. We have used it every winter, it works like a dream. Photo by David Lassman

Drop Off

“So remember, I’m not going help…”

He cut me off. “I know, I know, Mom. I am going to put my stuff in my cubby myself. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy!”

Easy-peasy lemon squeezy is something his most excellent kindergarten teacher says.

T has changed so much in the short time he has been in kindergarten. He is growing into his own person. It is messy and exciting and wonderful and sort of heartbreaking. I looked over at him this morning while I was strapping his brother into the car seat. His hair was swept up under his winter hat which was framing his face. I saw the baby, the hilarious and bald baby, that he used to be. Man, I miss that baby. I looked at his face and start to laugh. He looked back at me and laughed himself.

“What?”

I smiled. And sighed. And suddenly was blinking back tears. “Nothing. I love you.”

We looked at each other and started laughing again.

I’m pretty much the definition of over-sharer. I know, understatement of the year. But many of the moments involving T that crack me up, or teach me something, or drive me up the wall are starting to seem like his stories. He should get to choose to share them or not. He isn’t going to disappear from the blog altogether, but I’m going to do something very hard for me and try to have some actual discretion when it comes to him.

At the beginning of November I told T we would work towards me dropping him off at school in the morning rather than coming in with him to get him settled. His teacher said he was ready. He panicked.

We decided we would take the month to slowly get used to the big step and have him ready by December. December came and I was no closer to dropping him off. Even though it meant C was late to school every day. Even though T’s teacher said he was ready. Even though I knew deep down that T was ready. Because it turns out I was not ready. I like walking him into the building and having the opportunity to check in with his teacher. I like feeling involved with his school life. I don’t want to let my boy go. When I think of dropping him off outside…it is another 10 minutes of his day that I’ve lost. I feel left behind.

I feel left behind. And when I realized that it became very clear that it was time to make the drop off happen. I can’t keep him close because it hurts me too much to let him go. It would be a different story if he needed me for a while longer, but he doesn’t. I’m holding him back. My job is to let him go. It is the best job I’ll ever have. And the hardest. I cannot tie my happiness to him. It isn’t fair to either of us.

It might seem early to start worrying about letting him go, but if I don’t start now it will be impossible when he is grown. If the idea of letting the kid walk to the door of his school, without crossing a street, with me watching him the whole time is tearing my heart out how is going to feel when he is ready to go to college? I need to get used to him growing up and away and into himself. Because it will happen in a million tiny steps between now and when he is a man.

So we started the work on Tuesday. I told him he needed to get his stuff settled without me, but I’d stand nearby. It didn’t work. He told me he couldn’t do it and begged for help. We talked more about it Tuesday night. He did better on Wednesday. I thought we would struggle for a few more weeks, but this morning he was all “easy-peasy lemon squeezy”!

He didn’t struggle this morning. I did.

skinny jeans

I mean, look at him! He is an honest to god kid!

floris hoodie

Hamming it up in a hoodie I wore to kindergarten at Floris Elementary a million years ago.

inside the lego table

Brothers in the lego table. Not allowed anymore. Because it is now falling apart, probably because the boys were sitting it in….

Leave the Light On

For the last few months T has been falling asleep with his light on because he is scared of the dark room. Even with its rather bright nightlight. On the way to bed for the night I stop in, look at his sweet sleeping face, give him a kiss, and turn the light off.

A week ago my parents arrived for a visit. T loves their visits for a million reasons, but one of the biggies is having his Grandma do bedtime with him.

She asked him if he wanted the light off after stories and he told her to leave it on. As she was getting ready to leave he called her back.

“Grandma? I sleep with the light on, but sometimes when I wake up in the morning it is turned off. Before you go to bed will you come in here and check that it is still on?”

Oh.

Oops.

Man.

I’m an accidental asshole.

T kindergarten picture

Look at this nut. He has 12 more school pictures to go, but I cannot imagine loving any as much as I love this one.

grandparents goodbyes

Goodbyes with the grandparents.

Anxiety Vignettes: #3

Z stayed downstairs and had a quesadilla when I went to bed last night. He came upstairs 20 minutes later. I was still up, reading in bed.

Me, “Hey.”

Z, “Hey.”

Me, “Do you know how I know I’m really anxious?”

Z, “How?”

Me, “I’ve decided that you left the stove on after making your quesadilla.”

Z, “Huh. I didn’t leave the stove on.”

Me, “I know.”

Long pause.

Me, “But I really think you left it on.”

Z, “Wow. It must take a lot of energy to be as crazy as you are.”

Me, “Dude. I said I knew it was the anxiety. I am acknowledging it is the anxiety. I know deep down that you didn’t leave the stove on. I’m just upset that you left the stove on.”

Z, “If you are so upset about it you can go down and check.”

Me, “Well, since you are the one that left it on I really think you should go check.”

Z, “I cannot handle how insane you are.”

Me, “I cannot handle how you left the stove on.”

He read for a while and I read for a while.

Z, “Shit.”

Me, “What?”

Z, “I forgot to put the whites in the dryer.”

Me, “Oh….that probably shouldn’t wait until the morning.”

Z, “I know. I’m going down.”

Me, “Will you just pop your head around the corner in the kitchen and check that the stove is off?”

 my guy

Alligator beard.

sick t 2

T had a stomach bug on Halloween and he missed the parade at school.

typical c

This captures exactly who C is right now.

Anxiety Vignettes: #2

Last night Z and I were lucky enough to attend a session about preschooler behavior at the school that provides speech and O/T services for C. Not only is this two part class being offered free of charge, childcare is also provided. Jowonio is an incredible institution.

C was evaluated and qualifies for occupational therapy (O/T). But I’m going to be honest. We don’t really understand what it all means or how the therapy is going to help him. The sensory stuff, which is C’s issue, will be covered in the second class next week. I’m hoping that what we learn can influence how we help C at home.

I’ve been both looking forward to the class and really anxious about it at the same time. The boys were having a rough time behaving yesterday afternoon and I engaged in some rage eating to try and calm myself down. Z came home early and decided we needed to get outside so we took a walk and dropped by our friends’ house. They had invited us over for dinner, but we’d declined due to the class. And then we just sort of showed up anyway. We are awesome like that.

My grazing continued and I’m not going to lie, I drank a hard cider pretty fast. My friend roasted a chicken and the last thing I did before we darted out the door was pick a bunch of crispy skin off the carcass and devour it. I am a delightful dinner guest.

In the previous several hours I’d eaten an obscene amount of cheez its, two cheese sticks, a bunch of pumpkin seeds, some pistachios, a cider, delicious mashed potatoes and carrots, chicken, and a shitload of chicken skin. My anxiety was climbing right alongside the number of bad choices I had made.

On the way to the school my stomach started to hurt. So when I saw the spread of food set out for the class I grabbed a plate and loaded up on cheese, crackers, carrots, dip, and grapes. I also snagged one of those big logs of tootsie roll. I pounded that shit back pretty fast.

The class was 90 minutes. About 20 minutes in the colossal amount of food in my belly started producing gas. As my belly expanded enough to make me look 5 months pregnant my jeans started to cut painfully into my flesh. The stabbing severe pain made me break out in a sweat. There was a group activity and everyone had to ask a question. Someone ahead of me used the one I’d been able to think of in my gastrointestinal distressed stupor, and the one that popped out of my mouth instead was both dumb and borderline offensive. I was no longer able to listen to the speakers and was pretty unsure how I was going to make it through to the end of the class.

An hour into the session we took a quick bathroom break. I was not sure what would happen if I stood up, fear kept me glued to the seat. The last 30 minutes were torture. Finally, finally the class was over. I carefully stood, clenching my butt cheeks and prayed to any deity that might exist that the gas would not exit my body quite yet.

I hobbled alongside Z to pick up T and C from a classroom. The boys were having a blast. I was trying not to cry. Z started playing with T and I knew that I did not have a lot of time before I gave birth to my gas baby. I whispered in Z’s ear that I was in terrible pain and we had to go NOW. He has been with me long enough to take that kind of proclamation seriously.

Finally, finally I sank into the drivers seat and closed the door to the car.

I let it rip.

The boys sat in awed silence. Finally T said, “Wow.” Z looked at me with his patented combination of amusement and pity. “Good lord, do you need to change your pants?” he asked.

I summoned every ounce of dignity left in my body and stiffly proclaimed that I did not, in fact, have to change my pants. And then I started laughing. We all started laughing.

Z and the boys had s’mores around our fire pit the other night. They told ghost stories and this was C’s. I recorded it before bed that night so I could text it to the grandparents.

t carving pumpkin

For the first time we let T do a little of the pumpkin carving. He was very careful with the knife and still had all 10 fingers when he was done.

star wars pumpkins

Star Wars pumpkins! We used stencils from a set our friend gave us. The boys loved them, but holy crap, it was very slow going!

Broken Lightsaber

The rule is C walks or he rides on my shoulders. He always chooses to ride. I should be making him walk, he is three. But he is my last baby which means he’ll always be my baby. Also we run late every damn morning. Hoisting him onto my shoulders means the walk from the car to T’s school takes half the time. He often begs to be carried. I tell him he is a big boy (nothing like mixed messages!) so he can walk or he can do the shoulders, being carried isn’t an option.

And yet, on the way back to the car this morning I found myself carrying him in my arms without really knowing how he got there. His head was nestled into my neck and it just felt so good. I ignored the strain on my back and enjoyed the feeling of holding him close.

“Mama?” his muffled voice came from my shoulder.

“Mmmhmm?”

“I broke my lightsaber.”

“Mmmhmm.” This morning he did break his lightsaber. Broke it beyond repair.

“It was my fault.”

My heart stuttered and I held him tighter. I thought back to this morning. The rule in our house is if you break or lose something that is it. The thing is gone. We aren’t buying another one. The boys need to take responsibility for their actions, even as little kids.

On C’s occupational therapy evaluation it was noted that his inclination to be destructive towards books and toys and basically anything he can get his hands on is tied to the fact he is seeking sensory input. When Z and I read the report earlier this fall we were relieved. It was in line with the evaluation C received over the summer and it provided a reason behind some of his more frustrating behaviors.

Not only has preschool special education explained some of C’s behaviors, it is providing an opportunity to improve those behaviors. He is starting O/T this week. Z and I are attending a two night class on using sensory strategies with preschoolers that starts Wednesday. We aren’t expecting a magic bullet, but we are ready to do the work.

C has an extra set of challenges, but that does not mean he is off the hook when it comes to behaving. We will support him and give him some latitude, but at the end of the day his difficulties cannot be an excuse for him to do whatever the hell he wants to do.

My heart stuttered, not just because he was facing hard things, but because I was simultaneously flooded with joy. Weird, I know. But hear me out.

I have never heard him take responsibility for his actions before. He simply hasn’t had the words to do it. Speech therapy has done wonders for him. Just over a year ago he was basically non-verbal. He is a different kid these days. The leaps in verbal development are positively influencing his social and emotional behavior. He is engaging in imaginative play with his peers, he has special friends that he seeks out at school. His teacher actually used the word blossoming to describe his progress. It meant so much that I had to blink back tears when she said it to me.

He broke a toy this morning. And he articulated that it was his responsibility. I am proud of my kid.

sweet yoda

Fourth year one of the boys has been Yoda. We sure got our money’s worth out of the costume.

Blast Off!

me and my boy

He is a snuggler.

Anxiety Vignettes: #1

You want to cry while you are waiting for a lemon cake to come out of the oven? Watch the Almost Famous trailer.

Glibly posted to facebook on Saturday night. While both crying and waiting for a lemon cake to come out of the oven.

A friend asked why? and I was confounded for a moment. Doesn’t everyone cry at almost every movie trailer ever? She pointed out the movie was fun and the characters were having a good time. And it sat me right on my ass. She was, or is right. For the most part they are having a pretty fucking terrific time. Particularly in the moment I cited as a tear making, when Penny tells the kid he already is home.

In yet another moment of glibness I typed I find 95% of all human interactions sad. Funny and then sad. Because I’m broken. Good news for you, though! Happy people live longer!

Anxiety creates emotional precariousness. Tears are never far away. Neither is laughter. Both show up at the most inappropriate times. Both show up at the exact right time. When life is overwhelming and absurd they are a valve that releases enough pressure to keep me from giving up. It is why someone who has intense IBS loves poop jokes so much. If I don’t laugh I cry. If I don’t cry I laugh.

So. Introducing Anxiety Vignettes. Moments of absurdity that make me laugh or make me cry. Coping mechanisms that seem reasonable until I need to explain them to someone else.

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Dad came with me and the boys to school drop off last Monday before I took him to the airport. We lingered in the kindergarten room which meant we pulled into the preschool parking lot the the perfectly worst time. I stopped at the t-bone in the road to assess options. Most spaces on the near side were full, and every single space was taken on the far side in the half of the lot closest to school.

Dad, ” There’s a space over there.”

Me, “I can’t park there.”

Dad, “Um, ok….there is a space over there.”

Me, “I can’t park there.”

Dad, “What are you taking about?”

I pulled around to the half of the lot farther from school. My parents usually have a no-visiting-Syracuse rule when the temps fall below 60F, and it was a pretty cold morning. I believe my dad was wearing every item of clothing he brought with him.

Dad, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

Me, “I CAN’T PARK OVER THERE!”

Dad, “WHY?”

Me, “BECAUSE SOMETHING BAD WILL HAPPEN!”

Silence.

Me, “If I park on that side something bad will happen. I have to park on this side…..so something bad doesn’t happen.”

Every space was filled on the right side, by which I mean the correct side. I pulled to the end of the lot. And I made my own space in the dirt/grass/beginning of a path.

Dad looked at me incredulously.

My face was burning, “What?”

Silence.

Me, “Um…..something bad will happen.”

I looked at him. He started laughing. I started laughing. He sighed.

We trudged toward the building. By the time we walked to the other end of the lot there were a bunch of empty spaces on the safe side. But who knows what calamity I prevented by parking on the correct side of the lot?

Please, don’t all thank me at once.

c school picture

School picture.

last soccer game

Last day of soccer. T’s level of focus was….underwhelming.

reluctant vampire

Reluctant vampire.

boy in tree

Boy in tree.