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.

——————————————-

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.

I DID IT!!!!

I ran a half marathon.

I ran a half marathon.

Me.

A half marathon.

It was awesome.

“Out of all of us can you believe I was the one to do this?” I asked my dad. “Well,” he said, “While we were waiting for you to finish I said to Z that I probably know about 1000 people. And if I was going to rank those people in order of who would be most likely to complete a half marathon you would be about 995. Right behind your grandmother and right in front of your Great-Aunt Margaret.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. His assessment was generous. A year and a half ago I’d have placed myself dead last out of 1000 with a kind of perverse pride.

This whole deal, situation, JOURNEY if you are going to be new age-y about it, is simply so unlikely that part of me can’t believe it happened. I mean, my dad flew up from Georgia to watch the race. My parents are completely bewildered by this strange new obsession in my life, but their pride is tremendous and sincere. You think you know your kid, and after more than three and a half decades I think it is quite the kick in the pants to be so surprised by her, by me.

I ran a half marathon and all I got was a lousy t-shirt. Ok, not true. I mean, I did get the shirt, but what I really got was the biggest boost in my self confidence of my life. I came in 957th out of 1107 finishers. My official pace was 12:06 per mile (well, that part burns me—because I didn’t run the shortest distance from point A to B, so I ran more than 13.1 miles. According to my app the distance 13.42 with a pace of 11:57. My super stretch goal was running at under a 12 minute mile and I’m pissed I missed it). The training program did not magically transform me into a svelte and beautiful 24 year old. But my middle aged body that has been caught in the iron grasp of anxiety for several decades managed to do something preposterously impossible. My body. With its overweight BMI. It ran 13.1 miles without stopping. I don’t need the body of a svelte and beautiful 24 year old to do amazing things. In fact, I’m even more proud that it was my imperfect body that rose to the challenge.

I’m not trying to blow smoke up anyone’s ass. My body didn’t just magically run 13.1 miles one day. It was hard work. It was scary and overwhelming and there were a lot of days in which I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it. But the training program worked. I surrendered to my running app and just followed the directions. In 16 weeks it took me from someone who ran around 12 miles a week to someone who was able to comfortably finish a half marathon. I’ve said this in basically every post I’ve written about running, but I’m saying it again. If I can do it you can do it. I promise.

Last night Dad took me to my favorite restaurant for a celebratory dinner. I was talking about next steps. I’m going to join the Y runners because I’d like to get faster. I’m aiming to keep the running at about 20 or 21 miles a week. My dear friend has asked me to do the Brooklyn Half in the spring and I think I’m in. Dad looked at me and smiled, “There is part of you that is thinking about doing a marathon, isn’t there?” I smiled back. “Yup.”

Because my 37 year old body can do impossible things.

pre race

Pre race.

Finishing. No vanity here! But this is honest. I’m proud of myself.

post race

Completely blissed-out post race. My family and friends made me feel like a rock star yesterday. Getting out there in the cold to support me sucked ass. But they did it anyway. So to Dad, Z, T, and C who were there at the beginning and the end. Thank you. To D and L who trekked out to about half a mile from the finish, thank you. To E who hollered to me as she was driving in and who made delicious soup and got cheesecake for after, thank you. To J and J who shouted encouragement and then ran next to me for the last bit, thank you. To M and S who were there with a hug at the end, thank you. To my family and friends who texted me and sent me encouragement, thank you. Yesterday was a tremendous victory for me, and you guys made me feel so very loved.

Friends

More than three years ago I met a gal and fell deeply in friend lust. I just liked her so much. She lived right around the corner, was having her first kid a couple months before I was having my second, she and her husband had moved here from Brooklyn, we had a lot in common. They were our people in a town that really is not full of our people. I tried to play it cool around her, didn’t want her to know that I was in desperate friend-love with her. On facebook I wrote frequent obsessively creepy status updates chronicling my quest to awkwardly befriend her.

Guess what? She is every bit as awesome as I thought she was. She also has an awesome sister and introduced me to an awesome woman I’d casually met who lived around the corner. That awesome woman introduced us to her awesome close friend. Z and I introduced all of them to an awesome couple who we are very close to. Our families and kids started hanging out pretty regularly. And over the course of several years these folks have become our community and surrogate family.

As a kid who moved around every few years it is the kind of group I’ve wanted to be a part of for my whole life. My boys will benefit from the consistency of these relationships even as their friendships with the various kids ebb and flow over the years. It certainly doesn’t hurt that my two will grow up knowing that there will be parental eyes on them all over the neighborhood. Fingers crossed that will help curb the number of dumb choices they are guaranteed to make as they slide towards adolescence.

I love these families, I do. The kids have a special place in my heart. The husbands are also dear friends. But the ladies. Oh, the ladies…..

During the moves of my childhood, and carried into my adult life I’ve usually had one or two extremely close friends. I’ve valued quality over quantity. Occasionally I’ve been a part of a larger group, the Sparky’s crew back in Brooklyn, but usually my social circle is tiny but tight.

This might be the first time in my life I’ve had been part of a group of ladies who are all dear friends. It feels effortless to be around these women, there isn’t jealousy or competitiveness. We expand to include new ladies, we sometimes hang out in smaller groups, there is an easiness in our friendship that feels like such a relief. It has made me wonder why I haven’t been seeking out this kind of group for my whole life. Not that women like these ladies are easy to find. But I’ve learned that quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive.

I’m working on a paper this semester and have been frequenting a local coffee shop. The other morning I approached the counter. “Can I please have a savory porridge and a pomegranate Italian soda?”

The woman behind the counter looked at me with panic in her eyes. “Are you all coming?” she asked.

“Nope. Just me.”

“Ok. Because if you were all coming I’d have to make more porridge.”

I laughed. “I hope that we aren’t too loud or anything.”

“No, but we have been wondering what you guys are. Like are you working on a project or something?”

I laughed again. “No, no. We are just…..friends. We are friends.”

some of the crew

Some of the crew. A couple of families are missing. I do wish there was a picture of all of us.

dads and kids

Dads with kiddos.

brothers on pumpkins

Brothers.

Better Parenting Through….Running?

“I’m not talking to you until Christmas!” T whined.

“Fantastic!” I snapped back.

“Mooooooooom. Why can’t I bring three lego guys to school?”

“Nope. Nope. You said you weren’t talking to me. Why are you still talking?” I turned up Morning Edition to drown him out.

Not my finest moment. Not his finest moment either.

Most days are made up of way too many not-my-finest-moments. Every morning I promise myself I will try to be a better mother to the boys. It is hard to focus on the moments beyond the mistakes.

On Sunday I shared a magical morning with T. The boys watched as I ran my second 5K. Last year, three months after I started jogging, I ran the same race with disastrous results. This year I’m two weeks out from my first half marathon. I’ve followed a 16 week training program and have worked hard to be prepared for race day. Running the 5K again was a lark. While I am extremely slow, I’ve been running so many miles that 3.12, a distance I’d only achieved once or twice before last year’s race, didn’t make me blink.

I ran the whole thing with a goofy grin on my face. As the leaders looped back around before I’d even reached the one mile mark I clapped my hands and whooped for them. I wasn’t concerned about my snail’s pace at the back of the pack. My boys were at the finish line to give me hugs and kisses.

A couple of minutes later the four of us made our way back to the starting line for the 3K community fun run. My husband walked it with C and some friends. T wanted to run.

It was up to him how much we ran or how much we walked. He started strong, darting through the crowds. I laughed as my much less nimble body chased after his. Just a few minutes in he looked at me, “Mom….Mom, my legs hurt.” “I know, baby. But I believe in you! Keep going!”

His pace was all over the place, but most of the time he ran. About halfway through there was a water station and I asked if he wanted do grab some. He shook his head and told me he didn’t want to stop. The effort was on his face, this race was hard for him but he wasn’t giving up.

Near the end he struggled, “I think I’m going to die!” he gasped. “It feels that way, doesn’t it? But I don’t think you are going to die today.”

He was exhausted and proud when we crossed the finish line. We made our way to the sideline to wait for Z and C. I could not get the grin off of my face.

T walked a little bit during the race, probably less than half a K. He is 5 years old and he really surprised me. Not just because he ran farther than I thought he could, but because watching him muscle his way through the distance was just like watching myself.

How many times have my legs hurt since I started running on a whim last July? How many time have I seriously thought I was going to die if I kept going? How many times have I skipped a water break because I knew if I stopped I’d never start again?

Today I am strong and confident. I don’t care that I’m slow, I am very steady.  I am a positive example for my sons. T can see my confidence. He wants to be like me. My running has the potential to inspire him and his brother to be active. He sees me setting goals that feel impossible and then he watches as I work to achieve them. He thinks running is cool. Because I run.

I have an anxiety disorder and self image problems. I don’t wear the confidence with ease quite yet. That doesn’t matter. It is getting stronger as I get stronger.

Did T tell me he didn’t want to talk to me until Christmas less than 24 hours later? He did. Was my response an immature and bad example? Yup. Every moment isn’t going to be one of parenting excellence. I’m still proud of the two of us for trying hard things. And for doing them together.

boys ready to race

C and T ready to race!

t and k post race

After the 3K.

t and k post 5k

Photo credit: Kevin Rivoil

T and I made the paper!