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!

IUD Inside

Last month’s Hobby Lobby ruling by the Supreme Court filled me with such blinding rage that I have been unable to write about it (or even think about it) in a reasonable manner. And railing at the universe with vitriol and bitterness is useless. It turns into preaching to the choir. If any of us hope to effect change that is one lousy way to do it.

So let me get this off my chest and I’ll be able to move on.

Ugh, I can’t do it. I can’t curse out the members of SCOTUS who formed the majority of the ruling or Hobby Lobby in writing. It would be irresponsible because it would basically invalidate everything else I say.

But I AM DOING IT IN MY MIND.

Okey doke. I do feel a tiny bit better. You know what else has made me feel better? Buying this T-shirt.

Why am I so upset? Obviously, an employer rather than a medical professional making health care decisions that only affect women is a big problem for me. But leaving that for a moment, what scares the living shit out of me is how this court values the rights of the few over the many. Business owners are not a majority in our country. They tend to be more powerful and wealthy than the general population. And in this ruling their wants were given more weight.

The ruling is un-American.

Imagine for a moment that Christian business owners were not the ones who brought the law suit, rather a group of Muslim business owners who disliked birth control being a component of the company healthcare plan. Do you believe for a second the ruling would have been the same?

Certain business owners do not want to pay for birth control, either all of it or some of it. But you know what? They aren’t paying for it at all. Health care is not some benevolent gift granted to workers by a company. It is compensation for services rendered. The idea that a company can dictate how any part of a compensation package is spent, especially based on religious ideology, is mind boggling. Could a closely held company run by a devout Jew ban employees from purchasing pork with money they earned in his or her employ? Could LBGT community members be denied jobs based on sexual orientation?

Those examples seem extreme, but no more extreme than the ruling handed down on June 30th. My shock that day was complete. I did not believe for a moment that the ruling could possible go the way that it did.

Fifty years from now when this court is considered by historians the majority opinion will be judged harshly.

Would you like to know why I choose an IUD as birth control?

Because my husband and I enjoy having sex and we cannot afford another baby. Because I have been on hormonal birth control to manage severe menstrual cramps since before I was sexually active. Because I had a D&C five days postpartum after delivering our first son to stem the horrifying bleeding caused by a piece of left behind placenta and I hemorrhaged six hours after the birth of our second son and menstrual bleeding now scares the hell out of me and exacerbates my anxiety disorder. The tiniest blood clot makes me seize up with terror. What does that have to do with anything? A side effect of the Mirena IUD is a much lighter flow. My reasons are complex and simple, much like the choices any woman makes about her reproductive health and life.

To have that choice compromised by an employer is unconscionable. The women who work for Hobby Lobby are hourly and low wage employees. They cannot just get another job. Low wage retail is a shitty existence. They would get out if they could. The women with the least power are the ones getting screwed. Un-American. Shameful. Frightening.

So what does an outraged feminist do? This one makes a t-shirt. And wears it in pubic with pride. My tiny action might not make any difference at all. I usually wouldn’t advertise my private choices on my t-shirt. But this one matters. I am not ashamed of my IUD. I’m grateful for it. And I’m pissed that I need to be grateful to my husband’s employer for not objecting to it.

photo (45)

Bam. The IUD is right in there doing its thing. Hope the folks I passed by at Target and at the Children’s Science Museum yesterday enjoyed it as much as I do.

 

Boobies

Five months ago today I nursed C for the last time. I miss it. I miss it almost every day.

For the first while I was careful to not be topless around C. Listen, we are a cool-with-nudity family. It is important to Z and me to teach the boys that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their bodies. That nudity does not always equal sexuality. Not to say we aren’t realistic. We teach boundaries. There was a frightening situation in which the child of an acquaintance was seemingly being groomed for sexual abuse by a childcare provider. Since that time we have quizzed T every month or so, “Who may touch your penis?” we ask. “Me, you guys when you are washing me, Doctor M when she is examining me.” he answers. We remind him that is it. He needs to tell us if anyone else tries, if anyone is making him uncomfortable when they touch his body. It sickens me that we have to have the conversation with him, that people who would prey on children exist, but better face the ugliness in this world than ignore it and not equip him to identify dangerous situations.

More than a month after C was weaned I was stepping into the shower when I heard a great crash, a moment of silence, a wail of pain. I pelted to the sound, dripping water everywhere and found C in a heap on the floor of his room. I swept him into my arms, checking for bumps and blood. He immediately tried to latch on. “No, no, no!” I told him as I laughed and cried and struggled to finish the check to make sure he wasn’t hurt. Dude was scared and looking for comfort and my boobs were right there. Old habits die hard. He was fine, I got him calm and headed back to the shower. That is the last time I remember him trying to nurse.

In the ensuing months my no toplessness rule relaxed. He didn’t have a reaction to seeing my boobs anymore.

Mom left for home early this morning. It is the first day I’m up and about. Still feel like shit, but definitely feel way better than I did just a few days ago. I do not recommend the flu, it really sucks ass.

Z and I were in the basement futzing with a load of laundry. I’d changed pants when I got out of bed, but was still in gross sweaty flu clothes from the waist up so throwing that crap in the wash seemed like a good plan. I grabbed the empty laundry basket and braced my weak legs for the walk from the basement to the second floor. C met me on the staircase coming down from his brother’s room engulfed in a cloud of poop stink. He’s been sneaking off to hide behind the curtain in that room to take a crap these days. I opened with the obvious “Did you poop?” “I pooped!” he crowed. And then he started pointing at my boob. I turned to look at Z. When I turned back his little face was upturned and he was working his mouth, suckling the air. “Mama! Mama!” he cried, pointing at my boobs again. “Baby. There is no more milk in them. No more. All gone.” He was still pointing and on the verge of tears. “Mine!” he shouted in frustration.

I burst out laughing. Had been near tears myself, but seriously? Mine? “Um, no.” I told him. “They are mine” I walked past him and his poop stink (worry not, his Daddo changed him) and got into the shower.

Old habits really do die hard. For both of us. I miss it too, C.

Mom C T

Last Sunday the family went to the Zoo. C ran up to this display and pointed to the skulls shouting, “Mama! Charlie! Thomas!” I get his confusion, those skulls look just like us.

treehouse breastfeeding

Reposting this one. C nursing in our treehouse last summer. When T was tiny Z took photos while I was nursing. I made him delete them. It is such a huge regret. My ideas about nursing and the importance of normalization have evolved so much since then. I regret not documenting that time.

Flu

Tuesday morning I went to the doctor’s hoping I had caught strep from the boys. Why was I hoping for strep? It is treatable. I’d be back on my feet pretty quickly. Nope, not strep. Not an ear infection. Not the common cod. She told me I had the flu and that I needed to go to bed for the week. She offered to write me a note for work. I laughed before I started crying. “I’m a stay at home Mom! Sick days aren’t part of the benefit package!”

“Oh, so you won’t need a note.” She was missing the point.

“I cannot stay in bed for a week.”

“You’ll just have to let them watch a lot of movies. How old are they?”

“Four and a half and two and a half.”

“Oh…..well…….good luck.”

Before you go feeling too sorry for me you should know that Z went into full-on Super Dad mode, getting the boys from school, putting C down for nap, all that jazz. We started to line up sitters for the rest of the week. And then my Parents called. Mom would arrive at 10:15pm that night.

I might have the flu, but I’m beyond lucky.

Yesterday I felt so much better. If I stayed still. The minute I started moving around the coughing that makes my lungs feel bruised and my head ache started. The fever and chills seemed more pronounced. The soreness that enveloped my skin returned. But my Mommy was here. Taking care of the boys, making dinner, checking on me.

The truth is I thought I’d wake up this morning feeling better still. How long could I really feel extremely bad? I was probably overreacting to this whole thing, after all overreacting is what I do best. Mom probably didn’t need to rush up here after all.

I feel awful.

Clearly the high of knowing I get to rest for several days has dissipated. I am not going to magically be better tomorrow. The flu sucks. Having C sidle up to me and tug on my blanket while saying, ” Mama! Cuddle me! Please!” sucks balls big time. Z sleeping on the sofa sucks and makes me feel lonely. I don’t want him to get this. And I’m glad that my wheezing and snoring and hacking is not keeping him awake. But I hate reaching out with my leg in the middle of the night only to connect with nothing rather than the reassuring bulk of my husband.

And yes. I did get the flu shoot. We all did.

And yes. I still think it was the right choice. Am I pissed I got the flu anyway? Sure. It impacts the whole family negatively and frankly it feels terrible. But I am not shocked. (Ok, I am feeling too shitty to verify at the moment, so this is from memory and I might get some stuff wrong-let me know in the comments and I apologize in advance for bad info) The flu vaccine varies in efficacy from year to year. This year’s shot was a pretty good match to the strains out there right now-think it was about 70%. Which means there is a 30% chance the recipient of the shot will catch the flu. Decent odds, but not fantastic.

Why am I not angry the vaccine didn’t protect me?

Who says it didn’t protect me? Who knows how many time I or a member of my family has been exposed to the flu this season and didn’t get sick? Also, having the vaccine might protect my family even though I am contagious. It might shorten the duration of the virus for me.

I’m sick. I’m pissed. I’m exhausted and need to wrap this thing up so I can rest. But the flu has not changed my mind about vaccinations. Z and I got educated before we got vaccinated. We understood the risks and benefits. I believe we made the right choice for our family.

someone found his halloween costume

T found his Halloween costume the other day. He’s been wearing it a lot.

love his sweet face

This kid’s sweet face melts me. So hard not to cuddle with him. Not touching my family is definitely the worst part of being contagious.

flu no filter

This is what the flu looks like. Scary. I know.

Confession

You know how my whole schtick is to be as honest as possible no matter what? I haven’t been honest. With you, with myself.

Let’s back up a bit. Winter sucks for my anxiety disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) gets sprinkled on top of my regular sundae of crazy. The fact that Syracuse has more overcast days annually than Seattle does not help.

This past week has been particularly unpleasant. I got a pretty brutal cold. Which led to not jogging for 4 days, the longest break I’ve taken since the jogging odyssey began last July. Z and I had a fight so ugly it necessitated an extra couples therapy appointment.

[Yes. Z and I fight. Our relationship is not perfect, nowhere near. We hurt each other, we disappoint each other. We calm down and try to figure out how to do better.]

I put my foot in my mouth epicly. C fell down and gave himself a bloody nose. T and C had an altercation so violent C’s nose was left bloody again. A manageable and forecasted snow storm hit us, but Syracuse has decided not to keep up with plowing this year so the boys unnecessarily missed a day of school because I couldn’t get my car off of our street. C fell out of bed AND HIT HIS NOSE AGAIN!

When a whole bunch of not great stuff happens, especially at the times my crazy is more…present the self loathing starts to take over. I feel worthless and useless, unfit as a mother and wife. I feel fat and ugly. I’m sure I disgust those around me, I certainly disgust myself. It is hard not to cry, hard to get out of bed, hard not to listen to the bitch who whispers, “I hate you, I hate you” on a nonstop loop in my head.

So the thing I haven’t been honest about has been festering in my mind. It has become the thing I think about constantly, turning it over and over in my head reminds me how weak and useless and stupid I actually am.

Just over a year ago I had a bad pap smear. It was scary, but I followed directions and had a colposcopy. That pretty much sucked. And it turned out I have HPV. The cool thing is the virus can clear itself so six months later when I had another pap I didn’t have HPV anymore.

In early December I got a call from my gynecologist reminding me about my annual visit that week. I panicked. And told the nice woman who called that I had a scheduling conflict, but I’d call back the following week.

I never called back.

Things aren’t going so well with me. I cannot deal with HPV coming back. Or another colposcopy. Or the thought of cervical cancer. I know I’m being stupid. I know I’m being irresponsible. But I can’t seem to force myself to make the phone call. I am really scared.

This week I came clean to Z. And now I’m coming clean to you. I mean, if you’ve been stupid about something you are scared of I get it. But I think you are strong enough to face it. You just need a little encouragement. I need a little encouragement as well. Monday is my day, I can feel it. I will call the doc on Monday. Pap smear, here I come.

my valentine

T made me a Valentine. It isn’t all bad around here.

sleepy boy C

This poor kid’s nose has been through the wringer this week.

Syracuse winter

Normal Syracuse morning.

Flip Side

It was cold out there during my jog this morning. In the high 20s, but the wind was cutting and brutal. Since I wrote the post about jogging last week I’ve struggled. Don’t get me wrong, I go. I do it. But it has been harder.

Writing a post that declared I’m sticking with this exercise thing nudged my anxiety. And she informed me that I was a fraud. A non-jogger. That after my fancy proclamation I would fall on my proverbial face and never lace up my sneakers again.

Oh my god, she is such a fucking bitch.

Wednesday was a rest day, so last Thursday was my first jog after the post last week. Man, the anxiety dogged me for the whole 3.12 miles. It was scary hard. At the end I wanted to cry.

That’s the flip side to this whole thing. It’s important to acknowledge. Exercise is as much of a head game as it is a physical activity. You have to convince yourself to go. You have to convince yourself that you can do it, that you are worth the time it takes, that you are doing good work even when you aren’t PRing all the time. Sometimes you give it your all and you still don’t achieve your goals. Sometimes you phone it in and hate yourself a little. I’m guessing that the struggle is just a part of the game long term.

If it is hard for you, if you get discouraged, well, I do too. Let’s just keep on keeping on.

photo (28)

Sometimes there aren’t ecstatic pride selfies. Sometimes there are exhausted and pissed and frustrated selfies. But it is part of the process.

If you guys love blogs and FB as much as I do you’ve come across that Fit Mom “What’s Your Excuse” meme. I don’t want to link to it because I think it is incredibly harmful, but a quick google search will locate it if you are interested. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the picture. While she is wearing workout gear, she also is in full hair and makeup. It is great for her that her hard work has paid off and that she has earned her conventionally attractive figure. She didn’t earn her conventionally beautiful face, she was born with it. But she is beautiful and if I looked like her I’d feel pretty great about myself as well.

A lot of conversation has happened in the media and online about her message. The fat shaming (which she insists is not fat shaming) is obviously problematic. But putting all that aside I find the image, the implied goal, to be rather boring. Instead it is extremely plastic, completely unattainable, and frankly I feel sorry for her because she is missing the point.

No matter how hard they work out 99% of women are not going to look like her. Especially without hair and makeup done and a professional photographer lighting the session. She has achieved what society and the patriarchy has dictated is the female standard of beauty. But that standard is bullshit. It is unrealistic. It is designed to keep us striving for a goal most of us will never achieve as a way to undermine us and keep us less than.

I don’t jog five times a week so I can look like her. No matter how hard I exercise the stretch marks from my second pregnancy aren’t going anywhere. My boobs will never be perky again. The lines will never disappear from my forehead or from around my eyes. In fact, they are going to be joined by a shitload more wrinkles as time marches on.

I do this because it makes me feel good. I have more energy. It is probably keeping my anxiety a bit in check. Last week my father asked me how I’ve felt since starting the jogging. “Lighter in my body.” I told him. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean I weigh less. I just mean it is easier to maneuver my body around in the world. I have more control, feel capable of more.” That is more of a reward than trying to look like Gisele.

If Fit Mom really wants to inspire people why is she advertising physical beauty as the outcome? Isn’t it more helpful and more honest to cop to how hard it is to regularly exercise? To admit that some workouts suck. You let yourself down, but you dust yourself off and try again the next day? Because cumulatively you feel pretty terrific in your body even if a group of frat boys wouldn’t deem it fuckable? No frat boy would want to get with this middle aged lady. And guess what? I don’t give a crap because I can’t imagine wanting to get with a frat boy either.

On her website she has a bunch of tips for her “healthy lifestyle” including putting post its in her kitchen that say “Food is Fuel”. It actually made me cry when I read it. I feel sorry for her. Food is joy, food is celebration, food is delicious, food is family, food is pleasure. Moderation is certainly key, but denying yourself the richness of experience that eating provides? Making food the enemy? Major red flag. And to be clear, this is pure speculation, but it is moving towards a disordered relationship with food.

I want to encourage my friends to exercise because I can’t believe how wonderful and proud it has made me feel. Just a month or two ago I would have told you that I could not jog for 5 miles. I simply couldn’t do it. And now I’ve done it three times. I am amazed that my body is doing hard things. If a lifelong couch potato can do this you can, too.

So keep posting selfies. Even if you don’t look like Fit Mom (I sure as fuck don’t). Even if the workout sucked ass. Every time out there isn’t going to be a win.

————————————

Back to this morning. After my jog I was chilled to the bone. Z had to split for work, so I settled the boys in front of a movie and ran for a quick shower. The hot water felt amazing everywhere but my belly, ass, and thighs. Fat concentration means less blood flow to the surface. The cold was intense in those areas. The water burned as it hit the red patches, still icy to the touch.

I was trying to rub life back into my thighs when I heard C pad into the bathroom. “Hey kiddo, what’s up?” I called. He sidled over to the corner of the shower curtain and pulled it back with a huge shit eating grin on his face. This kid. He really does have the shit eating grin to end all shit eating grins.

He grinned at me. And then he triumphantly held up a deli bag of ham.

Motherhood. God damned Motherhood. When I imagined it years ago I never thought it would involve a toddler interrupting my shower time holding a contraband bag of deli meat that he scored. Let me tell you, the shaved ham in the bathroom was way more hilarious than anything I came up with when dreaming of future children. Man, these kids keep me laughing. Even if I was pissed as hell when we went downstairs 20 minutes later only to discover the fridge door had been left wide open.

lion t

We went to the zoo today. When we walked by this display T insisted I take his picture. With his crazy hair he makes a perfect lion.

safari c

And here is my intrepid explorer. He’s probably hunting for some ham.

Double Date

On the phone this morning my Mom asked how yesterday’s date night was. Z and I went out to dinner with friends. We got a sitter and everything. I told her we had a terrific time. The food was yummy, which was a big deal. I do love living in Syracuse, but the food scene is pretty abysmal. No offense, Syracuse.

We’d been planning the evening with our friends for several weeks. We’ve been very tight with this couple for about three years now. They are our closest friends here in town. But in all that time the four of us haven’t gone out for a meal together. Most of our hang-out time takes place at Z and my home. With two young kids it is the easiest way to spend time with friends-have a meal and then put the kids to bed so we can drink and talk the night away. And J and C have been extremely accommodating about pretending our home is a awesome place to hang.

If I’m honest (and you know I will try to be) the kids aren’t the only reason we hang out here. If I can mangle an old James Carville quote–it’s the anxiety, stupid. Hanging out at home means I get to participate without a panic attack.

Back to that phone call this morning. Mom had me on speaker and Dad was there too. He piped up with “Hey, thought you couldn’t go out to a restaurant without an anxiety attack.” He was trying to point out that it was pretty great I hadn’t had one.

“Well about that….” I started.

C and I were texting about coordinating driving down to the restaurant in one car late yesterday afternoon when I let him know that I was anxious enough to need a pill. Although I was still really excited about going. He suggested we take different cars down so I’d feel like I had an escape plan. He knows me really well.

I avoid social situations outside my home for a ton of reasons. It’s fucking hard to do something that’ll make anxiety worse, even if I know that thing will be a ton of fun. It’s embarrassing to have a panic attack in front of an audience. And a big one is I worry my friends will think my anxiety is a reflection of how I feel about them. Which could not be further from the truth. On top of that stuff I fear it is a royal pain in the ass to deal with me and my problems. I’m not easy to be friends with. My anxiety is a perpetual third wheel.

All of that said, J and C knew that my anxiety didn’t have anything to do with them. They acted like it wasn’t a big deal. We did have a fantastic time. The food was great. My cocktail was a blueberry connection with the fetching name Veruca Salt. The conversation was the best part. The only miss was dessert. 

I feel lucky to have friends who really know me and still don’t go running for the hills. They make me feel safe and loved and like I’m worth it.

We won’t wait three more years to have another night out.

beautiful T

No pictures from last night. We were too busy having fun. When T isn’t paying attention I can sneak a quick shot of his heartbreakingly beautiful face WITHOUT his tongue sticking out or him grimacing.

how T watches tv

Watching TV. As one does.

5 miles

I know, I know. The post jog selfies are obnoxious. But yesterday I ran 5 miles. I am still in total disbelief. Took me almost an hour. The overall pace was a snail-like 11:48. But I jogged the whole time. In four and a half months I’ve gone from not being able to jog at all to 5 miles. This whole exercise situation is starting to make me believe that anything is possible.