This Week

Cool things about this week:

  • Yesterday I was invited to a meeting with the professor that I took a class with last semester and a student with a similar area of research interest (breastfeeding) as me that might lead to a really cool project.
  • I also got info on a class to take next semester that will hopefully be the next step on the path to becoming a matriculated graduate student.
  • Today Z’s Mom, sister, and our niece are coming to visit for a few days.
  • Today I ran two miles without stopping for the first time in my entire life.
  • Tomorrow Z and I are going to go get massages, go out to dinner, and go to a local hotel for the night.
  • Saturday our amazing friends will watch the boys as we drive to Baltimore so Z can get his 40th birthday tattoo.
  • We will spend the night in a hotel.
  • I am saying two nights in a hotel in one week, people. We haven’t done anything that decadent since we became parents almost 4 years ago.

Good things. Tons of good things happening right now. So why do I feel like the anxiety is suffocating me? Why do I want to run away? Why do I want to weep? Why do I want to fall asleep and never wake up?

The anxiety, she creeps in when the going gets good and she whispers to me that I don’t deserve any of it. That I will manage to fuck it up. That I am a burden and a disappointment and by the way we are broke, who the hell do we think we are going to hotels and getting tattoos and having fun?

I get it. I do. I’m engaging in life and this is the cost. The anxiety gets worse. But if I manage to do this stuff she doesn’t win. I win. And if I manage to do this stuff once it becomes easier to do it the next time. I’ll arm myself with my chill pills and I will get through this week.

It sounds ungrateful doesn’t it? That all these amazing things are happening and I’m dreading them. I had the same thought after I wrote about wanting to bail on the trip to the lake with our friends. How could I be so unappreciative about a generous offer to go to a lake house? What kind of friend am I?

Believe me, I am appreciative. For so much. For our friends, our family, the academic opportunities that are coming my way. It’s the agoraphobia. I want to do these things, yet I am terrified to do these things. If I choose to stay at home I feel safe. But the good news is staying at home is also making me frustrated. I feel like I’m missing out on my son’s lives. I feel like I’m missing out on my life. I’m embarrassed that engaging in the good parts of life is so hard for me. The anxiety doesn’t have to whisper I’m pathetic and ridiculous, I’ve already had the realization.

So many good things this week. I am fighting hard to actually enjoy them.

Pretty big rainstorm two nights ago.

superhero T

T posed and said, “I look like a superhero.” He sure does.

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Under 11 Minutes

Friends, have you been thinking about starting an exercise program? Have you not done it? Perhaps because you’ve been psyching yourself out for, oh, about two decades? I am here to tell you that you can do it. Seriously. You. Right there. You can do it.

A month ago I couldn’t run for two blocks without stopping. This morning I jogged for more than 1.5 of 2 miles.

I’m not trying to blow smoke up your ass about how easy it is or how it will transform your life or figure.

Here’s the truth. I weigh more now than when I started. My jeans are tight. I’m kind of pissed about it. When I jog my thighs rub together. The junk in my trunk moves up and down so violently I’m scared I’m going to be bruised. I’d gone less than one tenth of a mile this morning when I told myself it was too hard, there was no possible way I was going to make it. My chest was tight, I wished I had my asthma inhaler with me.

Here’s the truth. Somehow I did it. I kept going until the mapmyrun lady informed me I’d reached a mile (further down the path than yesterday-mapmyrun’s GPS doesn’t seem to be terribly accurate). When the lady interrupted the music I realized I’d only heard two songs, a third was just starting, And then she told me the time-I’d broken 11 minutes.

More truth: I’m not kind of pissed I’ve been working out for a month and have actually gained weight. I’m really pissed. Super duper pissed. But. When I heard the time this morning I didn’t give a flying fuck. I was amazed at what my middle aged body could achieve.

I am amazed that I am sticking with it. I am amazed that I am doing something really hard. I’m amazed that I’m starting to feel pretty damn terrific, weight be damned. And dare I say the anxiety hasn’t been as acute? It might be a placebo effect-I’ve been told exercise will help me for so long I absolutely believe it. It’s not like I’m not taking a chill pill every day anymore. It’s not like I don’t have anxiety attacks. I had a pretty nasty one just last night. But overall I really do feel better.

I’ve been putting off doing cardio for nearly 20 years. I used to say that if someone was chasing me with a gun I would simply lie on the ground and ask them to shoot me rather than run away. I don’t think I was joking. And yet, here I am thrilled because I’m actually doing this jogging thing. Believe me, I was a hopeless case. I promise, if i can do it you can do it.

broke 11 min

Red faced, dripping with sweat, no filter, and fiercely proud of myself. I have been boring my friends to tears on Instagram and FB with the selfies post workout. I am sorry about that. But the advice and encouragement I’ve been getting have helped me troubleshoot and stick with it.

boat tree house in progress

Z is making the boys a boat treehouse. Looks like it is going to be pretty fantastic.

A little progress video.

Dessert

Earlier this afternoon I told T if he touched his brother one more time before dinner he would lose his dessert. A couple of minutes later I caught him trying to smother C with a blanket.

T didn’t take the no dessert news with a lot of grace. I held him close as he wept hysterically. “Is C having dessert?” he choked out. “I don’t think so.” “Are you?” After an awkward pause I told him I was not.

But that was a lie.

I’m having chocolate ice cream with motherfucking rainbow sprinkles right now. And each bite is a taste of heaven.

I deserve this ice cream, damn it. I did not try to smother a single living being today.

group at gannons

Yesterday we had ice cream at Gannon’s with old friends who were driving through town. This is really my friend M’s picture. Well, it was taken by a friendly stranger, but it was on M’s phone. Isn’t her daughter a doll?

library

Our local library installed an awesome new bike rack.

boys watching TV

The boys were very serious as they watched some post-lunch TV.

In other really quick news, last night when we were walking to our cars after ice cream C cried out, “Daddy!” while reaching for Z. It was the first time he used a name properly and I almost cried I was so happy.

Look at that…two relatively positive posts in a row. Who am I?

Proud

It is hard to give myself credit for achieving goals because the anxiety, the stupid bitch who is making it so hard to reach those goals to begin with, whispers to me that they aren’t a big deal. She tells me that most people, normal people do the stuff I’m proud of without a second thought. She tells me I am sad and pathetic for feeling pride over such small steps. She explains that my feelings of excitement are further proof that I am a pathetic loser.

I fucking hate her so much.

And today I’m going to ignore her incessant whispering. I am proud of myself for a couple of things that have gone down lately. Proud enough to tell you about them.

Shortly after we got back to town from our trip south T started a summer school program. With Z’s encouragement I started fast walking every morning while T was at school. I didn’t own proper sneakers, so after a few days I bought a pair. I downloaded a GPS running app recommended by a friend who does exercise. I stretch before I start. I go two miles every morning. When I started three weeks ago I fast walked the whole time.  This morning I jogged the whole first mile and around .4 of the second. I logged my fastest time. I’m doing this, really doing it. Like for the first time in my life. I have an exercise routine. Evidently you can teach a 36 year old dog new tricks. The hope is that by the time T finishes summer school the 6 weeks of working out will have become habit. I want to continue doing this. I haven’t gotten regular cardiovascular exercise since elementary school. I’m not planning on running a marathon or anything, but I would like to be healthy for many years for my boys.

I’m doing something I’ve been too chicken to try, something I’ve wanted to do, something that is difficult for me and extremely physically uncomfortable. I’m so far out of my comfort zone I need a passport. After years of encouragement from therapists, doctors, family, and Z I have no idea why I’m doing it. Does the why really matter, though? The important thing is it is happening.

slow run

Some days the exercising doesn’t go that well.

happy run

And other days I manage to achieve personal bests. On all the days I have a cherry red face when I’m done. And for the next 90 minutes or so….

Now onto the second thing I’m proud of…this one is going to probably seem silly. One of the most oppressive side effects of my anxiety disorder is the mild agoraphobia. It prevented me from taking a class at SU for several years. I get extremely agitated in crowded places. Parties freak me the fuck out. I even get anxious when I’m preparing to go to a good friend’s home. We entertain a lot at our house. Because it is really the only comfortable way for me to hang out with people.

A couple of weeks ago friends of ours invited us to spend a weekend with them and several other families at a home on Lake Ontario. These people are my friends. I like every single one of them very much. We agreed to go. I was actually excited about it. But as the date came closer my anxiety grew more acute. I was sure I’d make a fool of myself, have a public anxiety attack, have explosive diarrhea. And then the day before the trip C spiked a fever. When he went to bed on Thursday night his temp was 101.9. Not terrible, but not great. By that point I had a migraine and was furious at myself for letting my anxiety manifest in such a shitty, physical, obvious way.

Z held down C’s arms as we took his temp. He saw the thermometer creep higher and higher and settle on 101.9. My anxiety was so out of control that I believed he thought I was making C’s fever up to get out of going to the lake. I’m well enough to know that makes no sense, but not well enough to stop thinking it was the truth.

I took a chill pill, took my migraine medication, and went to bed.

The next morning C still had a fever. We gave him ibuprofen and as the morning progressed he was much more chipper than he’d been the day before. I was sure I had my out, though. C and I would stay in Syracuse, T and Z would go and have a great time. But our hosts made it clear that it was cool with them that we brought a sick kid. Z really wanted us to be part of it. And I have no idea how I rallied, but I did. The whole family went. Of course we had a terrific time. Of course I had a terrific time. Ok, I went to bed hours before the rest of the adults, but that is what it is. When my anxiety is acute it exhausts me. And my children wake up hours before the magic children of our friends, so the extra sleep was a good thing.

Z T in the waves

Z slinging T over a big wave.

calm with cairn

The next morning the lake was like glass. Whenever there are rocks Z builds me cairns. He calls them cairns for Karen and it is one of the sweetest things he does for me. You know, besides putting up with the fact that I am batshit crazy. He’s a keeper.

***

Two seemingly little things. Exercise and a weekend away. It’s embarrassing to admit, but to me they feel like Mount Everest. I’m proud of myself for pushing past my comfort zone, for engaging in life. I’m learning that exposing myself to the anxiety is worth it a lot of the time. I’m learning that I like living life.

The boys split an ice cream sandwich for dessert last night. I think they liked it.

Our Non-Talker

When I give completely unsolicited advice to parents who are getting ready to have their second kid it goes something like this: “The great thing about the second time is it is a million times easier. You know you have the ability to keep a newborn alive. It really takes the pressure off and lets you enjoy the baby. But the hard thing is you think you have this parenting thing figured out. You don’t. Because every kid is different. You can’t just do the exact same thing. You have to recognize and respond to the needs of each kid individually.”

Pretty great advice, if I do say so myself.

It would be fantastic if I could, you know, follow it.

C, our wacky and cuddly and fearless and frustrated and frustrating C. He is a very different kid from T. And yet we seem unable to adjust our expectations to fit his needs. I worried because he was such a late walker. My expectations were based upon what his brother did-the boys are almost exactly two years apart. T was walking during his second Christmas, so during C’s first Christmas, when he was a tiny baby, I daydreamed about the next year when he would be walking. As we got closer and closer to that Christmas I was more and more upset that C wasn’t reaching the milestone. Why was I putting that pressure on him? His walking or not walking had nothing to do with Christmas or our family’s enjoyment of it.

A year ago I would imagine having conversations with C over this summer. The summer before T turned two he was speaking in complete sentences and could recite his ABCs. C says “bye bye”. He can mimic the number of syllables in a word. He hums the Star Wars theme. He says ball. Other than that his vocalization sounds like Young Frankenstein in the Putting On the Ritz scene. And while it is fucking adorable it is also frustrating as hell.

Months ago our pediatrician told me I should contact the state to have him evaluated if he did not steadily add new words between then and his second birthday, August 31. I’ve tormented myself over it. On the one hand I don’t want to be the panicky Mom who wastes state resources over a kid who is fine. On the other hand I don’t want to do nothing and find out he needs help. After a lot of hand wringing and talking to Z we decided to do nothing until he starts preschool in the fall. His school has a wonderful partnership with another school that works with special needs kids. If he is having a speech delay that requires intervention he will be quickly identified and given help. So we do have a plan.

But why does this delay in his development bother me so much? There are other kids in our extended family who talked late. And you’d never know it today. On his college application he isn’t going to have to disclose that he didn’t talk as he approached his second birthday. Hell, it isn’t going to matter to us a year from now when this is all behind us.

Why don’t I focus on the great parts of his development? He is a master climber. He approaches physical feats with an astonishing lack of fear. He completely understands everything we say to him and has the ability to follow direction.

Part of the problem is the frustration. He is frustrated with us. My Mom smartly pointed out that he thinks he IS talking and he doesn’t understand why we can’t figure out what he is saying. We are frustrated with him. Life would be so much easier if he could communicate with us!

If we are honest with ourselves we gave T tons of more individual attention when he was C’s age. Because he was the only kid. We haven’t taken the time to sing the alphabet song 85 million times to C. We haven’t gone over colors with him until we were blue in the face. We don’t spend ages reading book after book to him. We aren’t the same parents that T had. Because we are juggling two kids. And T is standing in our faces very clearly articulating his needs. It’s easy to respond to them because we don’t have to play 20 questions to do it.

For C’s sake and for my sake I need to chill the fuck out. My worries about his development are a waste of time and resources-two things that are already at a premium. Intellectually I know that I am not helping him. He is his own person and he is figuring out life as a pace that is perfect for him. We need to respect and respond to that.

So do you know what I’m doing now? Imagining next summer when C is potty trained and we don’t have to change diapers anymore. T potty trained a few weeks after his turned two and a half and had it figured out pretty quickly. C will be almost three by next summer. I’m giving him a couple of extra months in my mind.

Because that makes it reasonable….

K and C cry

C and me post workout. Z was taking T to school and little man felt left out. Another piece of the puzzle. Poor kid wants to do whatever big brother does.

The boys have been enjoying our luxurious pool.

HPV No More

Remember when I had an irregular pap smear which led to a colposcopy and biopsy? And then two weeks later I got the fancy call to tell me I did, indeed, have HPV?

That was a lot of fun.

I kid, I kid. I handled it with the grace and maturity of an eleven year old girl who just got her period for the first time.

Six months after all this went down I was scheduled to have another pap smear. That’s standard procedure with an HPV diagnosis. I had it done in early May, right before we left for the trip down south. I was nervous, but it was totally ordinary. If you can call being cranked open and swabbed with an extra large mascara wand ordinary. At least there were no coffee grounds, no vinegar, no fancy mustard. I know, how boring!

The doc told me if the results were normal I wouldn’t hear from them. He also told me if the HPV was still in my system it was not a big deal. I was worried about being gone for a month and a half and he said if it was still an issue we could basically wait until fall for next steps and nothing bad would happen.

Hold on just a second. The results could be normal?

Yup. Seems like they are still figuring out a ton of stuff about this pesky virus, but when you have mild dysplasia the virus can clear on its own. It might come back in 6 months. Or in 10 years. Or in never. But it probably will come back. You got to keep your eye on it.

I never heard from the doctor. So I felt happy and hopeful although deep down I was sure they’d made a big mistake and just failed to call because the results were that it actually got worse. I kept wanting to write about it here, especially if the virus cleared because Yay! Happy good news post! And because if there is a good outcome maybe someone who reads this won’t be so scared when they find out they have HPV. But I didn’t want to write until I’d called the doc’s office and double checked that I’m in the clear. I couldn’t bring myself to call because I was so scared. For two months I couldn’t call.

Yesterday I tricked myself. I dialed the office before my brain could shout at me to stop. And to quote the nurse I spoke to, “Your pap was perfectly normal.” Hallelujah motherfuckers. Hallelujah.

Ladies. Get your pap smears. This was a really unpleasant experience, yes. But cliche or no, knowledge is power. I’m glad I know that HPV might be an issue for me moving forward. I’ll be more emotionally prepared and can inform my future doctors that I have a history. If we head down the cervical cancer road we’ll probably catch it really early.

Seriously, friends. Take care of yourselves and get a yearly exam at the lady doc. Don’t have insurance? I’m furious on your behalf. Go to Planned Parenthood, they have a sliding scale based on income. When I was broke and living in NYC without insurance it is where I went. Find out if there are free clinics in your area. Call your local doc and explain you don’t have insurance and ask if they will cut you a deal or recommend a low price option. I know all that is a pain in the ass. I know you shouldn’t have to do it. I know it is easy for me to say because I have insurance and don’t have to do a ridiculous dance to try and get myself to the doctor’s. I used to be there, though. And I might not have gotten regular physicals or gone to the dentist, but since I was 16 I haven’t skipped a year at the Gynecologist. This is your long term health we are talking about. Take care of yourself. Figure out a way to make your yearly exam happen.

And if you are a young woman get the vaccine! If you are a parent make sure both your daughters and sons get it as well. You better bet my boys will get theirs. Men transmit this virus. They can be part of the solution.

Ok, slouching off the soapbox for now.

workout

In other very crazy news I’m working out. Here is some very honest, very unfiltered before and after action.

flashdance

Channeling the 80’s. He’s my flashdance boy.

daddy love

Early morning Daddy love.

The Talk

Today I wanted to write about anxiety and mental illness and a party and agoraphobia. More accurately that is what I planned to write about yesterday when Z and I figured out our schedule for Sunday to include some writing time for me.

Right before we went to bed we saw the jury had come back and delivered a not guilty verdict. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write about anxiety and mental illness and a party and agoraphobia. But today I can’t.

Today the boys played in the backyard while Z worked on a climbing structure he is building for them. They ran around, they used toy hammers and chisels and mallets and screwdrivers. They hit each other, pulled hair, kicked. Time outs happened. I watched them play, yelled at them when they started in on each other, gave out kisses when T fell onto a stool. My mind was half with them and half thinking about Travon Martin and his parents.

My boys. My beautiful boys with their blond hair and their blue eyes. My boys who are too young to understand that terrible things happen in this world. We are trying to figure out how to explain it to T. He is still obsessed with guns and weapons. He isn’t allowed to play guns at home, he isn’t allowed to have toy guns. It’s all abstract to him at this point. You shoot at the bad guys. Case closed.

The other day I was making dinner while T sat on the sofa and watched Disney Jr. The movie Pocahontas happened to be on. I hadn’t seen it since it first came out. I walked into the room and looked at the screen. A young man was pointing a gun at John Smith and Pocahontas’s brother as they fought with a knife. Suddenly I remembered that the brother was going to get shot. T was riveted. I had the time to turn the TV off, but I didn’t. I stood there and watched it with him. When Pocahontas turned to the kid who shot and cried, “You killed him!” I faced T. “Look at that. Look. That gun killed that man. That is why Daddy and I hate guns. They kill people. The kill good people. They kill bad people. They kill by mistake. They kill on purpose. They are horrible and unsafe and we do not think it is cool or funny when you pretend to have them. Police have guns to protect us, but guns are dangerous. They can kill.”

A little heavy for an almost 4 year old, yes. But T has been fascinated by death for months, it has been a frequent topic of conversation.

So we are trying to let him know what we feel about guns. It is going to be a long road. Obviously he didn’t get what I was trying to explain, but over time he will. And many people will disagree with our approach. That’s fine. We are all allowed to have different views. We are going to teach our kids that in our family we do not believe in owning guns. We don’t think they make us safer. And frankly, we don’t think other people should have guns either.

We are going to have to have a lot of difficult conversations as the boys get older. But we don’t have to have The Talk. Our boys will never be told that they can’t run in public for fear of raising suspicion of the police. Or that they can’t wear a hoodie without being targeted as a criminal. Our boys will think of the police as people who will help them, not as ones who will accuse them of crimes they didn’t commit.

Our boys are different than black boys or brown boys. They are going to get different opportunities. They are going to be treated better-I was going to type for their whole lives, but you know what? I hope and pray (fake pray? agnostic pray?) that it won’t continue for their whole lives. I hope equality happens in their lifetimes.

Today I’m numb and sickened and horrified by the world we live in. I will never understand what it is like for Travon Martin’s parents. And I’m not even grateful for the privilege that accompanies the color of my boy’s skin. It is dirty privilege. It is wrong.

These words don’t come from some ivory tower of race relation perfection. I’ve done and felt plenty that I’m ashamed of in my 36 years. I need to do better. Z needs to do better. You need to do better. We all do.

family cl

I wish we lived in a country where all families were treated with the respect that our family receives.