Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sickies: Young vs. Old

We've have the flu in our house recently. Yuck. One thing that always remains consistent is that having sick kids is the worst. I have never felt more helpless as I do when my kids are sick. They don't feel good, they are cranky, there isn't much you can do for them, and anything you had hoped to accomplish for the day has gone out the window. You spend your day snuggled up, or fighting a cranky alligator. There is no in between.
When your kids are little a lot of times they are unable to tell you what doesn't feel good. They cannot tell you their head hurts, their tummy hurts, or their throat hurts. They cry, whine and drive you to the brink of insanity before you figure out they are running a 102 degree temperature. Then when you discover they are sick there aren't many medications you can give them. If they are old enough you can give them Tylenol and Ibuprofen for their fever. You can go to the doctor and get a prescription if appropriate. But, if they are suffering from a cold, or another basic virus, there aren't any options. There aren't many cold medications you can give them to help ease the symptoms like you can with an adult. Which, makes me feel helpless. I want to make my babies feel better. If there is a medication you can give them to help, they spit it out because it tastes bad. I end up making homemade remedies with hot teas, vapo rubs, diffusers and bubble baths. Also, when little ones are sick you cannot tell them they need rest and fluids to help their body heal. You cannot send them to their room to lay in bed, because to them that is the worst punishment ever handed down. You can't force your little one to drink more than they want. We spend our days snuggling and watching movies; I get nothing else accomplished. There are no trips to the gym, laundry done, dinner made, or groceries bought. Which is fine. I stay home so that I can be here for all the sick days; that was the plan when I left my job.
As #1 has gotten older I have discovered sick days are changing. She had the flu last week. She had the milder strain that is circulating and the doctor cleared her to return to normal life as soon as she was fever free for 24 hours. After two solid days she was stir crazy and back to her old self. The difference when she is sick now is that she doesn't want to sit in my lap all day. I can tell her that her body needs fluids and rest to heal, and she will spend her entire day laying in her bed watching TV or napping. She is old enough that if I need to run an errand or do something I can leave her home alone for a little bit. It is both sad and liberating for me. She is not the little baby who needs her Mommy 24/7 anymore. I can tell her she needs to drink fluids so she doesn't get dehydrated and she gladly drinks "special drinks" all day long. I may not see her for half the day. When she was home sick last week I still did a few errands, got the laundry done and a few other projects around the house I wanted to do.
I find myself torn between wanting my kids to stay little forever, but really liking these new stages we are entering. The boys are still little enough they want their Mommy 24/7, but #1 is old enough now that she is turning into an independent person that you can talk to and reason with. These differences have become extremely clear with our recent sick days.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Uncle Ryan

We have an Uncle Ryan. He's really a cousin, but all my kids call him Uncle Ryan, and it fits. He's fun, gregarious and the kids L O V E him. But #2 really loves his Uncle Ryan. Even before Uncle Ryan and Aunt Elizabeth moved to Oklahoma, #2's first question anytime there was a family get together was "Is Uncle Ryan going to be there?" Uncle Ryan speaks #2 extremely well. He builds robots and boats with #2, and they have long discussions about how the world works, and I am sure that one day they will solve some major world problem. #2 takes everything Uncle Ryan tells him as  true and absolute. #2 is also a concrete thinker, so sometimes this is problematic.
Recently Uncle Ryan casually told #2 that if he blotted his pizza with his napkin it would soak up the extra grease. We went out for pizza one night recently. This restaurant had cloth napkins, which is a novelty to my feral children, by my own failure. Our pizza arrived and I gave everyone a slice. We all started eating and I casually turn and look at #2. He has taken his cloth napkin and is rubbing his pizza with it. I can tell by his face he is frustrated, and I quickly realize why.

Me: Oh, #2! the napkin thing only works with paper napkins! That cloth napkin won't soak up anything. 
#2: But, Uncle Ryan said I could use my napkin and soak up the grease.
Me: I know, but he was just talking about paper napkins or paper towels. 
#2: Well, why didn't Uncle Ryan say that?!
Me: I don't know. He probably forgot.
#2: Now my napkin is really yucky.
Me: Yeah. Your pizza is kind of a mess too. Here, have another slice and you can have my napkin. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Doing Less

I am a habitual over-doer. I have always been that way. In years of observation I have learned I come from a family of over-doers. It used to drive me insane that my mother was never able to just sit down and chill out with the rest of the family, until I looked in the mirror one day and realized I was the exact same way. I was driving myself, and Mr. Mayer, to the brink of insanity. Last year I made a resolution to myself to do less. I was worn out, my anxiety was out of control and I didn't feel like any aspect of my life was getting the attention it deserved because I was stretched thin. It was difficult at first because I was used to having an over scheduled life that if I had free time I felt like I was missing something.
The first part of the year started by me saying no to requests for parties at my house and not scheduling "get together's" or "fun activities" every weekend. The kids rebelled at first. I had created little monsters that thought we should be doing something every weekend. Truth of the matter is that we were plenty busy without always scheduling extra things. Three kids in different sports and grades creates a busy calendar. Soon, I noticed that everyone would get really excited when there was nothing on our calendar or we had a free night at home. We had more time to watch a movie we had wanted to watch. We had time to play with our neighbors and have friends over.
This new plan of saying no more often and not scheduling as much continued for a few months. Summer arrived and I always let the kids pick two summer camps they can do. This kept use plenty busy this summer, and we had no other plans. We played, swam, had friends over, and would spend entire days doing nothing in particular. Just letting kids be kids. There were a few times I heard "I'm so booorrrreeeedddd....," and I would give myself a pat on the back because boredom is where creativity is born.
When school started again we had all adjusted to my new doing less lifestyle. Don't get me wrong-we are still busy, and I still fall into the wanting to do everything trap. I'm a work in progress and just taking things day by day. #1 is in competitive cheer so our calendar is pretty packed with cheer  practice and competitions. #2 and #3 did basketball in the fall which was every Saturday, and #2 does baseball every spring.
December is always the worst month as far as busy schedules go. Since I had #1 I have always felt the need to cram every tradition and "magical" thing into the month as humanly possible. I felt like my kids would be missing out on something if I didn't do everything. This year December turned into an awful month. In addition to #1 having out of town competitions two weekends in a row, my wheels were stolen (a major expense), my anxiety and depression were taking over, we moved my mother into a nursing home, and the general holiday chaos and expense that accompanies December, I was near my breaking point.
I have four oversized plastic tubs, plus various bags and trees in the attic filled to the brim with Christmas decorations. Every year I cover every inch of my house in decorations, and tell myself that the kids will feel cheated if they don't have a cluttered house. Every year by Christmas I feel suffocated in all the stuff and can't wait for it to be gone. This year due to the other things happening in life, and just a true lack of time, I did less. I put up our tree, hung stockings, and put a couple of wreaths on the door. That was it. I was sure that the kids would notice and throw a fit because we didn't have a nativity or fun themed coffee mugs. No one ever said a word. We had the unexpected expense of buying new tires and paying for my mother, so money was tight in December. I gave the kids a choice in what they wanted to do for their teachers for Christmas. All three wanted to make them candy and give. So, each child chose a candy and we made them and gave as gifts. I didn't make triple recipes and pass candy out to the entire neighborhood. Every year I have a dozen families over to decorate sugar cookies. I spend two days cutting and baking cookies for the kids to decorate (that no one ever eats after they are decorated). This year I asked the kids if they wanted to decorate. They did, so I picked one evening that we had free last minute, bought pre-made cookies and used last years sprinkles and let them decorate cookies. They all had a great time decorating.
Christmas Eve arrived and we sat our cookies and carrots out for Santa, we sprinkled our reindeer food outside, and opened our Christmas Eve pajamas. We had breakfast for dinner and watched a movie. There were no big productions or rushing around like crazy to cram one more tradition in. There was no stress. No one complained.
Over Christmas break I made no plans. Each kid got to invite some friends to do something. #1 chose two friends and we went and saw a movie at the movie theater one day. #2 and #3 had two of their best friends come over and play one afternoon. We went to Ada to stay with Aunt Margaret over New Years Eve and New Years, as we do every year. We hugged family, laughed and ate until we were delirious. It was pure bliss.
After a year of doing less I have challenged myself to continue the momentum. I don't know if it's age, experience, exhaustion, or a combination, but letting my kids be kids fills my bucket more than cramming in stuff every week. Piling in the living room and watching a movie with them is more fun than yelling at them to put on pants, shoes, etc. and get in the car to go somewhere. I have also given myself a spending challenge. The time challenge has gone so well, that why not carry that into other aspects? We do not need more stuff. The last thing we need is stuff. I'm striving to live with less this year. I don't need to buy that shirt off amazon that I may or may not like. I have a thousand shirts I never wear. What I need is peace, sanity and a little less stress in my life.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Just Keep Swimming...

Somewhere around my third phone conversation with my insurance company today I hit my wall, hard. I'm not fit for human contact today. I have cried with my dog, I have cried in the lobby of my kids school, through doctors appointments, and in the car. I will probably cry again before I go to bed tonight. My coping mechanisms are crying and chocolate. We are currently out of chocolate.
This weekend was epically bad. #1 and went to a cheer competition in Dallas, Texas for the weekend. We were just there last month, staying in the same hotel. Saturday was day one of the competition and a long day. We left our hotel early and came back around 8:30. We were exhausted and showers and bed were needed. #1 and I were both in bed asleep by 9:30. Around 11:40 a cheer mom calls my cell phone and asks me to come down to the lobby. I get a sweatshirt and pants on and start making my way downstairs before I even thought about it. It was an automatic response. Halfway down I decided to look at my phone and I had a half dozen missed phone calls and text messages and people asking me if I drove a red suburban. W. T. F.?? I get to the lobby and there is a group of people....and a police officer. My adrenaline starts pumping and I vaguely remember answering his questions. He walks me to the parking lot where my suburban is sitting on some cinder blocks. Someone had taken my two passenger wheels. Not just the tire. The entire wheel, and left me with cinder blocks. This isn't happening. This cannot be real life. I did a lot of deep breathing. My brain was not working. I remember people talking. I remember biting my tongue because I didn't want to cry then. The police took a report and said that another vehicle across the street had two wheels taken from them. I never in a 1000 years would have thought someone would steal my wheels. That's stuff you see on TV, not in my real life. A coach drove a Tahoe and had a spare I could use. A couple of the dad's put my spare and her spare on the suburban. The gym owner took my keys and the next morning he had lug nuts put on it and made sure it was safe enough for me to drive.

Now....I want to take a pause in the story.

This is #1's first year traveling for cheer. When #1 wanted to do cheer and made a traveling team Mr. Mayer and I decided that only one of us would travel with her. We made this decision for a couple of reasons. Mainly cost. Cheer is expensive and cheer events are expensive. We have a large family and getting all of us into a competition, plus hotel rooms for all six of us would be tough. The second deciding factor is that #2 and #3 are seven year old little boys. Dragging them to a cheer competition would be zero fun for anyone. This seemed like a solid plan, and #1 liked the mom and daughter time. Until this weekend and she begged me to have her Daddy drive to Dallas in the middle of the night because he can make everything better.

I don't know 75% of the other families on the cheer teams. I am starting to recognize faces, but I probably could not tell you who most were. I am a shy person in new situations and around new people. I have generalized anxiety disorder and it's been getting the best of me lately. If I don't know you I generally keep quiet. I was surrounded by cheer parents who I did not know during one of my worst times. These were the nicest people you could ever imagine. I am and will be eternally grateful for them all during this situation. Even into the next day everyone was completely lovely and supportive. I don't have words to describe how comforting it is to know that you are hundreds of miles away from home and there are people who are willing to spend their time helping you in the middle of the night.

#1 handled all this information the next morning about as well as you can imagine an overly dramatic and worn out preteen would handle all of this. I talked her off of the emotional cliff and we got to the competition. The day was rough and hectic. Towards the end of our day as we were waiting on an awards assembly for one of #1's teams the convention center was evacuated for a bomb threat. This was a first for #1. I had done good to keep her fairly even keeled all day. This evacuation was too much for her. At this point her coaches released her teams to leave for home. This is when something goes right!! No one could get in the parking garages to get their vehicles out. Because the gym owner had my suburban and his wife drove it to the convention center later in the day, the parking garages were full when she got to the convention center. She parked in a parking lot a block or two down from the center. #1 and I walked to the parking lot, hopped in and drove. I didn't stop until we got to Oklahoma. Then I stopped and filled up with gas and hit the road again. Home was a really great place to be last night. Mr. Mayer had a glass of wine waiting on me when I walked through the door.

Between two weekends in a row of competitions, #3 having another seizure last week and spending a few hours in the emergency room, moving my mother to a nursing home and being told today that we are going to have to continue to pay an obscene amount of money still, my wheels being stolen, insurance telling me today I have to pay my deductible and I still have to pay for the tires, Christmas, and a bomb threat...I hit my wall. Hard. I didn't cry or meltdown all weekend because I didn't want to upset #1 more than she already was. Today did me in. I had to check #2 and #3 out of school early for #3's doctor appointment today. A friend was in there and said "I saw you had a rough weekend..." and the flood gates opened again. My apologies to everyone in the school lobby for having to see that ugly cry. Hopefully I'm done.

In the grand scheme of things I know it could be much worse than it is. It could have been all four wheels, they could have busted my glass, they could have taken the whole vehicle. The other issues will work themselves out, and a night or two of good sleep will fix a lot of things. The chocolate at my friend's house a little bit ago didn't hurt either ;)

Monday, October 16, 2017


The news over the last week has been hard to ignore. A powerful man has been dominating the headlines for his misconduct against women. Over the past day the words "me too" have been trending. The actress, Alyssa Milano, tweeted out yesterday encouraging people to post "me too" if they have been a victim of sexual harassment and assault in an effort to shine a light on how prevalent it is in our society. 
I'm going to jump on this bandwagon and say #MeToo. In 2004 I was 23 and working for CPS in a small county about 30 minutes from where I lived. This particular day I had a court hearing. I had recommended the parental rights of one of my clients be terminated. I was sitting in the judge's chambers with the District Attorney, my client's attorney, the Assistant District Attorney and the children's attorney. We were all discussing what led to my decision and the ADA and children's attorney were explaining why they supported my recommendation. It was a normal, routine hearing. We would meet in the judge's chambers a lot to have hearings. Nothing was out of the ordinary for me. During the course of discussion my client's attorney looked at me and said "If you will go to the side of the building and get naked with me we can settle this matter now and I won't fight it." I was mortified. The judge was laughing. The other people in the room were just sitting there in silence. I didn't know what to say. I was so helpless, embarrassed and uncomfortable that I wanted to crawl out of the room, but I couldn't. The judge continued to laugh. Then, after what felt like hours, but I'm sure was just seconds, the children's attorney (who was the only other female in the room), spoke up and ripped into the attorney and told him how inappropriate he was. He stood his ground and said it would be a "simple solution" to the problem. The judge finally spoke up and decided we should postpone our hearing to another date. I ran out of the courthouse feeling humiliated. I told my supervisor what had happened. She laughed and said "Oh, that sounds like something he would say." I had to continue to see this man for months after this, and had to sit through a trial with him. I left that county a few months after this incident. 
At the time I felt helpless and embarrassed. After all, the judge thought it was funny and didn't seem to see anything wrong with what he had said. Looking back my 36 year old self can't believe my 23 year old self didn't stand up for herself. I am grateful for the other attorney in the room who stood up for me when I didn't know how. I don't know if I ever told her how much I appreciated her that day. She later went on to become the judge in that county. I hope that I can be a voice for someone else in a time when they need one. Unfortunately, I don't believe I was the first or the last person that man said something like that too. Incidents like mine happen to people daily, men and women. But, speaking up, reporting and saying "that's not okay" is the start of change. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Adulting is Hard

It's no secret that being an adult is hard. Being a parent is really hard, especially with the bombardment of social media and other outlets. Everyone has an opinion of what you should or should not be doing, saying, eating, etc. It's exhausting when you have average "normal" by society standards children. Throw in a little boy who is viewed as a little different and things get 10x harder.

A few weeks ago my favorite musician, P!nk, accepted the Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music awards. Her speech that evening struck a cord with me. At the time I could not place my finger on why it affected me so much, but this morning something happened, and I understood.

I have made no secret that #3 is different than other kids. He is loving, affectionate, empathetic, and will stand up for anyone he thinks has been wronged. He loves Minecraft, his laser guns, Five Nights at Freddy's, and the color blue. He also loves Queen Elsa, having his fingernails painted and wearing his hot pink shoes. I have blogged previously about #3's differences that you can read here. #3's differences are what make him the beautiful child that he is. If I had my choice I would keep all my children in a bubble and keep them from the outside world forever. I can't do that, so my next best choice is to prepare them for the outside world, and let them know that not everyone will love them. I have taught them from the beginning that they are perfect the way they are and we don't change for anyone. P!nk said it best in her speech--“... we don’t change. We take the gravel in the shell and make a pearl and help other people change so they can see more kinds of beauty." 

I have noticed over the last few months that #3 has become more sensitive to what others say and do. In July we went on a family vacation to Texas. One day we stopped for lunch at a Chick Fil A in New Braunfels, Texas. #3 had on his hot pink Nike shoes that his sister had given him. While Mr. Mayer and I ordered lunch all three kids went to the play area. A few minutes later #1 was at my side crying because a little girl in the play area was making fun of #3 for his pink shoes and #1 didn't know what to do about it. When I went to the play area I heard the little girls words and saw #3's face as this tiny little creature was telling him that boys can't wear pink shoes and it was a girl color. I went Mama Bear. I told the little girl that pink is just a color and anyone can wear any color they want. A few weeks later #3 asked to donate his hot pink shoes because he didn't want them anymore. My heart broke a little. 

Yesterday #3 came home from school upset because a little girl at school had made fun of his painted fingernails. She told him that boys couldn't have painted fingernails. We discussed the issue and I told him that not everyone is going to like the things he does, or understand some of the things he does. That is okay. Anyone can have painted fingernails, and if that little girl didn't like it, that was her problem, not his. My heart broke a little more. 

Then this morning my world shook, and my heart broke in half and I questioned my parenting. Ten minutes after school started the school nurse called me to come pick #3 up because he said he had diarrhea. Initially I was angry. I know that when he is upset about something that saying he has diarrhea is his go to illness. I knew this morning that he was not sick. I was initially angry because it was disrupting what I wanted to do today. Selfish, but that the truth. I go to the school and sign him out. While I am sitting there waiting for him to come up front the school counselor comes to speak to me. A knot formed in my stomach. She sat down and started telling me that a teacher overheard another student making fun of #3 this morning. The teacher stopped it, but the damage had been done and #3 was upset. DING DING DING. That explains his sudden bout of diarrhea. Then I feel terrible because I was upset about my plans getting messed up. The counselor continued to talk and discuss how we can help him, and that in November they will be doing a compassion unit for the whole school. I explained that we discuss with #3 not everyone will understand or accept him, and he is perfect the way he is. I offered to provide a few books for her to read with the kids on differences and she balked at the suggestion. She then starts stumbling on her words and asks "Don't you think there is some counseling, or something available for, him, that think..." this continued and I knew where she was going and I knew the words she was unable to say. I got angry. Really angry. I was not angry at the idea that #3 could be transgendered, gay, bi, or whatever else he may be. Because if and when the time comes we will cross that bridge, and my love for him will never change. My goals are to raise happy, loved, well adjusted children who are not assholes. I was angry that she could not say the words and could not see the real issue, which was not #3. This situation was not his fault. I stopped her and said we weren't there, and that was not the issue. He likes pretty things and having his nails painted. He also has an older sister who he adores, and the only time she ever pays him any attention is when he lets her paint his fingernails or when he plays dress up with her. 

#3 and I came home. I sent him inside and I sat in the car for a few minutes and cried. My heart was broken in half for this beautiful little boy. Then, I put on my big girl panties, went inside, and #3 and I talked about what had happened. I remembered P!nk's speech from a few weeks ago and it felt even more relevant to me in this moment. I told #3 that we don't change for other people, and he is perfect exactly how he is. We then spent 30 minutes looking at pictures of famous boys who like to wear fingernail polish. We listened to David Bowie, Prince, Michael Jackson and some DNCE. Then we looked at #3's favorite "You Tuber" Joey Graceffa who loves color and always has amazing fingernails. #3 was really excited to realize that Joey had painted fingernails, and this Mama, who does not understand her children's fascination with Youtube, is grateful for Joey Graceffa today. We also made plans to go get manicures soon with our cousin, and some of #3's sparkle was back. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Reaching Goals and Defeating the Inner Voice

Guess what happened today?! I completed something I started two years ago!!! I know. I know. Two years seems like a long time. Especially when I started and stopped a million times. But, 9 weeks ago I set a goal for myself, and today I completed it.

I completed a Couch to 5K program, and I am proud of myself for the accomplishment. I have started and stopped this program a dozen times, always around week five or six. I had a million excuses not to finish it. To some this may seem like a pretty minor accomplishment. I know lots of people who could do a 5K in their sleep. However, me, I have never been a runner. I have never considered myself an athlete. Finishing this today felt really great.
Growing up I was never encouraged to participate in sports or extracurricular activities. In fact, I was almost discouraged from participating. If I would say I wanted to try something, like running track, I was told "You can't do that. You aren't a runner." I wanted to do basketball one year and was told that I was not coordinated enough to play basketball, and the other girls were much better than me. One year in middle school I wanted to be a cheerleader. I wanted to be a cheerleader more than anything in the world. I asked my parents if I could try out. My Dad's general response was "Whatever you want to do Jaynabird." Surprisingly, my mother also agreed to let me try out. At the time I babysat a little girl whose older sister was a varsity cheerleader. She helped me practice and I gave it all I had. I was so nervous I didn't talk about it with anyone. I waited patiently for the list of girls who made the team to be posted. My name was on it!!! I was so excited. I told my mother and she said "Oh. I didn't think you would actually make the team. Those girls all have reputations, and you can't be a part of that." Devastated doesn't scratch the surface of how I felt. After that I stopped asking to do things. In high school I half heartedly tried out for the flag team. I was not surprised and a little relieved I did not make the team. During high school I became involved in yearbook and photography. I really enjoyed it, and never gave team sports a second thought. Over the years I convinced myself I wasn't an athlete, and sports were not my thing.
In college students could use the campus fitness facility for free. I had a boyfriend and a good friend who worked out there all the time. I started going with them and discovered I really liked it. It quickly became a habit that I have maintained. A friend of mine teaches spin classes. Six years ago he convinced me to try out one of his classes. I was instantly hooked and have done spin since then. About two years ago I started getting bored with the monotony of my workouts and decided I needed to shake things up. That's when I downloaded the app. I didn't tell anyone for weeks that I was doing it. The first time I made it to week seven and my mother broke her neck, and everything stopped. It took a while, but I started the program over, and quit, a few dozen times. During one restart I mentioned to my mother that I had started running and she laughed and told me I was not a runner. I reverted back to my childhood self and stopped running.
I have been working on inner dialogue a lot lately. I'm learning to stand up for myself more and voice my opinion more. I still have a lot of work to do. But, I have a daughter, who is watching me and I hear myself in her, a lot more than I want to admit. I want her inner dialogue to be "Anything you want to do Jaynabird."