Category Archives: parenting

Taking My 6 Year Old to Therapy Was the Best Decision I Ever Made

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Way back when I dreamed about becoming a mom, I dreamed about babies. Sweet, smushy, cuddly babies. Babies with chubby cheeks and heads I’d want to sniff for hours (it’s a thing, trust me). I didn’t picture having a kid with anxiety- I mean, who does?

This is Mental Illness Awareness Week. I hesitated to write that. I hesitated to link my child with words like mental illness. It makes my gut clench and it makes me second guess the writing of this.

But that’s why I am sharing this. Because I have to get over myself, my prejudices and my fears. Because I’ve talked to more parents this year than I ever have who have shared their stories of kids who are struggling and their feeling helpless, sheer exhaustion and frustration that comes with that.  Here is what I wrote a year ago on a community blog I contributed to about why therapy was the best decision we ever made for our kid.

When my son Scorch was 5, he saw a movie that he had seen before but, this time around, the villain in the movie- a hairless cat- terrified him. It sounds silly when I write it out, but it’s the truth. Scorch was petrified of that cat and his fear went from something that we joked about lightly to something that took over our lives very quickly.

It started with not wanting to go to bed by himself. The lights had to be on and we had to sit in his bedroom with him. My child who went to bed relatively quickly turned into one that took hours to fall asleep. Once he did fall asleep, nightmares became commonplace and all hopes of a good night sleep for Scorch, the Hubs and I went out the window.

We would sit in his bedroom as Scorch’s brain whirled on over drive – Mommy, what if the cat gets in the house? He won’t, go to sleep. But what if he does? Scorch, he can’t- all of our windows and doors are locked. What if he breaks in? Daddy is a police officer- no one is breaking into our house. But what if? The questions went on and on and on- it was like his brain was on a track that he simply could not get off.

A month or so after the worries about hairless cats popped up, Scorch watched my daughter Bean get sick in the middle of the cafeteria at school. She was fine (minus the 24-hour stomach bug), but it was like his fears jumped tracks and now he obsessed over getting sick. This fear became even more consuming and Scorch would have panic attacks before school because he was so worried he’d get sick there.

I remember going to dinner with my girlfriends one night and crying the minute that I sat down. I was so tired. The Hubs and I were fighting with each other and Scorch every night as we begged him to go to sleep. Please, child, just relax and sleep. Nothing we said to him made a dent though- we couldn’t rationally talk to him about why he wouldn’t get sick, or what we’d do if he did, and how getting sick was no big deal.

My mother had been gently hinting for months that Scorch’s anxiety level was a lot higher than most kids, but I kept brushing her off. He was 5- just about to turn 6 for goodness sake- what in the world would we do? He’ll get over it. Then another close family member on my husband’s side of the family shared that she had developed an ulcer at age 9 due to her anxiety. An ulcer at AGE 9.

That stopped me in my tracks and really made me evaluate how the Hubs and I had been reacting to Scorch’s fears. The child had had at least 3 legitimate panic attacks. He had missed school because he was so scared that he was going to get sick even though he was completely healthy. His sleep – 8 months later- was still horrible. And our approach wasn’t helping a darn thing.

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At times, it felt like Scorch’s anxiety was going to pull us under.

Had my child had long-lasting fevers, unexpected bruises or crazy insulin readings, I would have been camped at the doctor’s office 24/7 as we tried to figure out what was wrong. I would have called specialists and driven all over God’s green earth to get him healthy. But because his issues were in his mind, we excused them and assumed they’d resolve on their own.

We were idiots.

When we finally called a therapist, they were very open about things. First, they’d meet with us, then they’d meet with Scorch (with or without us in the room- it was up to us) and they’d let us know if they thought he needed to see someone or if this was simply a case of a worried kid and overreacting parents. After these appointments, they were pretty sure Scorch was dealing with generalized anxiety and would benefit from talking to a professional. We agreed and Scorch saw his therapist for well over a year- first weekly, then bi-weekly and then monthly.

Scorch’s therapist did Play Therapy with him and gave him a safe space to talk out his worries. She also gave him tools to handle his anxiety- worry dolls, rhythmic patting, breathing exercises and the like. These tools made a world of difference. It’s been 4 years since we started therapy and we have had to go back to see his beloved therapist a few times when things seemed overwhelming, but for now, Scorch knows how to handle his worries. He knows how to talk things out and self-sooth. Sure, some of this may just be his increased maturity as he got older, but I credit 90% of his coping abilities to his therapist. We haven’t seen his therapist in over 2 years, but the number is still in my phone just in case.

I know that anxiety may rear its head again as Scorch gets older, as diagnosed anxiety disorders run in our family, but now I feel like that we – he, the Hubs and myself – have a clear vision of what’s going on. I’m as committed to making sure my kids are as healthy mentally as they are physically and I refuse to be embarrassed or worry about the stigma of my son being in therapy. Scorch is wonderful, intelligent, funny, athletic, kind and anxious- all these parts of him help to make him completely perfect.

Thankfully, Scorch’s anxiety is well in check right now. Certain things will still trigger his panic, but it doesn’t rule our life like it did when he was younger. But he’s growing and puberty is going to hit us all in the face soon and I don’t know what that will do to his brain chemistry. What I do know is that I (with Scorch’s permission) will keep sharing, keep talking, keep normalizing any struggles he may have.

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6 and 4

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After one of the craziest, most fun, busiest summers ever, we’re firmly back into the fall routine. The kids are happy with their teachers, school is going well and we have a nice rhythm going on. This is actually our quietest time of the year with minimal after school activities and I’m enjoying every.single.second of the peace – because you know it won’t last long.

So, the summer. We did a lot – we visited Lady Liberty…

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Saw a professional ballgame (or 3 – baseball was big this summer)…

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Visited with hundreds of our friends at a local music fest…

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Spent The Best Week Ever in the Outer Banks with family…

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Visited a Fort…

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And drove a dragon in a Harbor.

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The kids went to different camps each week- school camps, nature camps, sports camps. The Bean learned to sail a boat and Scorch got to hang with friends. In short, the summer was really just about perfect and I was beyond sad to see it go. But you know was solves your dread of summer being over? Having your kids home for 2.5 weeks before school starts while you’re working full time. Trust me, that’ll teach you to embrace a schedule.

So- 6th grade and 4th grade.

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This picture of their feet makes me laugh every time I see it because it captures them perfectly. Scorch will stand still and do what’s asked of him because it’s easier and he likes to please. Bean is literally trying to back away out of the picture as quickly as possible because she wants no part in following an order and cooperating. His feet are 2.5 sizes bigger than mine and she’s still obsessed with all things gold.

I love those freaking kids so much and I’m so very excited to see how they grow this school years. But honestly- I’m even more excited for next summer, because summers are the best.

To Infinity and Beyond

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We just (a month ago…but it was “just” when I started writing this) returned from our annual trek to Florida and I’m trying not to question too deeply why we live in NY instead of a place where the sun comes out and the air doesn’t freeze my nostrils together. I know there are a million reasons we love living where we do, but when you leave 80 and sunshine and come home to 30 and sleeting, those reasons are hard to remember.

We knew going into this trip that it was going to be different than any other we’ve taken because we were going to fly. I know, I know- not a big deal for most, but we’ve always either driven or taken the train- but we got such a great deal on airfare that it was dumb not to jump on it. So we did and the kids were giddy about it. Truly, I think they were more excited about flying than they were what we were doing in FL.

4 days before we were scheduled to leave, Scorch came down with the stomach bug. Thankfully it was a 12 hours of sickness + 12 hours of recovery time- so nothing too bad and he was back to himself by Monday night. Tuesday, Winter Storm Stella hit our area so the kids were home from school Tuesday and Wednesday. We held our breath on Monday and Tuesday waiting to see if the Bean would get sick, but by Wednesday, we relaxed. It had been 72 full hours and if she hadn’t gotten sick yet, she wouldn’t. Surely, she wouldn’t.

(Do you see where this is going?)

Wednesday night at 10 pm, the poor child woke up and was violently ill. Between bouts of puking, she sobbed because she was sick on our last vacation to St. Louis and during Christmas and now she was going to miss going to FL. It was damn near the most pitiful thing I had ever seen and I was thisclose to crying with her as the Hubs and I freaked out over WTH to do. We were set to leave for the airport in 9 hours and there was was no way we could make this poor baby get on a plane. That wasn’t fair to her or the people on unlucky enough to be stuck on a flying tin can with us.

After some serious scrambling and a lot of late night phone calls, we were able to switch our flight to the same time on Friday, change our hotel reservation and rebook our rental car all with minimal fuss- thank goodness! Thursday we went to the pediatrician and got medication to prevent vomiting just in case and prayed everyone would be well enough to travel the next day.

Friday morning, the Bean wasn’t 100%, but she hadn’t been sick in 20 hours so we hit the road and drove the 3 hours to the airport. The whole first flight experience could not have gone better. We had zero lines, lots of time to kill and super excited kids who were thrillllled to be there. The flight itself was super smooth and we landed in FL almost 2 hours to the minute of taking off. We grabbed our luggage and rental car and took off for Disney, patting ourselves on the back over how well we handled the past 48 hours, ready to start enjoying vacation.

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The Hubs starting puking 10 minutes after we arrived at our hotel.

*sigh* At least he made it to FL. We settled him in the room and I took the kids to the pool and to get dinner, basically putting the poor man in isolation. My wonderful mother-in-law was in FL to spend 4 days with us so when she arrived at the hotel, the 3 of us moved into her room to stay as far away from the germs as humanly possible.

The good news isolation worked. I never got sick and the Hubs was up and rolling by mid-day on Saturday so vacation could officially commence! And we had the best time…

From the hotel pool, where I treated myself to a few of these…

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Watching the kids swim, praying the alcohol will kill all the germs.

To the parks…

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These guys were electrifying…so very cool!

And then finally over the West Coast to the beach…

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Dear Gulf Coast, I love you.

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At the aptly named Sunset Beach on our last night in FL.

…it was perfect.

And now, back to reality. Since I started writing this post, Spring has really started to bloom in NY and I’m remembering why we live here. That’s not to say though, I couldn’t be persuaded to live in paradise full time…

Oh, Christmas Tree

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Saturday was the day. We were going to get our tree, come hell or high water. I love Christmas Tree Day. While we don’t cut ours down (we know our limits), we go to a lovely tree lot, and carefully look around until we find the The One.  The One must be a concolor fir- not a very common type of tree- so it can be a pain, but it’s always worth it. We were going to get adorable selfies and a great tree and a great time will be had by all, damn it.

So, Saturday morning the kids and I set off to meet the Hubs at the tree lot. I had an inkling my plans for a perfect day were doomed when the Bean refused to wear her boots. When forced into doing so, she borrowed my phone while I was driving and texted the Hubs to come get her because she needed to be rescued from me. Nothing says family love like a stalemate over footwear and SOS text messages. When we got to the lot, the Bean refused to get out of the car because of said boots. Upon hearing that, Scorch then informed me that if she wasn’t getting out, he wasn’t getting out either- the adults could pick out the tree on their own.

Hell.No.

This is FAMILY FUN, DAMN IT and they would participate and like it even if it killed them! To prove that, I yelled/hissed at the Bean to get her shoes on and for both of them get out of the car before I counted to 10 or so help me God…

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The Hubs still wasn’t there yet, so when the children finally emerged from the car and started to run around like feral animals playing hide and seek between the trees, I found the man in charge and asked him to please point out all the concolor firs to me. And then….I saw it. All 9 feet of it in all its glory and I knew, I knew, it was our tree.  I mean, who cares that the diameter is so large that I couldn’t see around it and that it was 9 feet tall. We could work with that, right?

When the Hubs got there, he initially told me I was crazy but I knew his inner Clark Griswold was going to come out. I gave him a minute and sure enough, I saw him circle the tree a few times. I knew he was hooked. Only the Hubs asked the man in charge to take 1.5 feet off the base of the tree, so it wasn’t quite as majestic when we loaded it on the truck, but common sense does have to come into play at some point.

While the Hubs and the man in charge loaded the tree on the truck, I had the fun of running around yelling for my kids who didn’t want to get out of the car to stop hiding on me and to get back in the car. I’m pretty sure they would have paid us to take the tree had we let the kids run around much longer.

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Our tree goes in our living room. There are only so many ways to arrange our living room furniture, so for the past 14 years, our tree has stood in the same spot… it’s proper spot, right in front of our picture window. But that doesn’t mean the Hubs doesn’t have to spend a good hour trying all sorts of other configurations of our furniture before giving up and moving things to the same spot they go in every year. This year included the extra added bonus of muttering under his breath when he realized that our kids actually *gasp* stored things in the drawers of our coffee table. Doing so evidently made us into “pack rats”. Who knew?

But, the tree is up. It’s gorgeous. The kids are happy and we’re happy. Nothing about getting our tree or putting it up may be picture perfect- but neither are we.

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Thankfulness: School Moms (and Dads)

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This weekend the Hubs and I watched Bad Moms- the comedy from the summer about mom’s who are tired of doing it all, juggling it all and being expected to be good at it all. I wanted to like this movie- hell, I wanted to LOVE this movie because I, like 99% of the moms I know, do do it all as best we can and sometimes we all need a break. But I wasn’t a fan.

The stereotypes were too broad, the women too shrill and the marriages depicted too damn depressing. There were some great laughs in the movie, but mainly I walked away from that movie disappointed and VERY thankful that I didn’t recognize any of horrible, judgey, rude, condescending Queen Bee moms shown in the movie.

Tonight I’m thankful for the school mom’s who don’t care that on snack day, my kid’s contribution is store bought. Always. Who don’t give me the side eye when my son’s Saint costume for All Saint’s Day is a borrowed ninja costume complete with a fake 6-pack of abs. I’m thankful for the mom’s that wonder out loud with me why our kids fight so much about changing their underwear daily and who nod knowingly when my kids and I are running as fast as we can into school on a rainy day because there isn’t a freaking umbrella to be found anywhere.* Here’s to school parent’s who are kind, compassionate, and just as willing to laugh at the absurdity of raising kids today as I am.

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*All of those things happened in the past week.

 

When Accidents Happen

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When Scorch was 3, I shut our van door on his arm.

He and I were going to his swim lessons at a local YWCA. I carefully pulled into the lot, keeping my eyes peeled for kids darting around. I gathered up all our stuff, unbuckled Scorch from his 5-point harness, set him carefully on the ground, and pulled the door shut. In the time it took me to turn around from the van to the sidewalk- Scorch realized he forgot something in the car and reached in to the van to grab it.

The van door (a manual-slide side door), hurling at top speed, slammed into his arm above his wrist and bounced back. I was standing right there- literally not two feet away from him- and I couldn’t not stop it from happening- all all happened so fast. Thank God Scorch’s arm wasn’t broken, but it was severely bruised and we had it x-rayed 3 separate times over the next few months to make sure we didn’t miss a fracture because the swelling was so bad.

When the Bean was 3, I lost her at a playground. It was after a big charity walk and the kids were so very good that I decided to take them to the playground they had been drooling over all morning. There were a lot of people there, so I kept both kids by my side as we explored. At one point, Scorch wanted to go on the swings and the Bean didn’t. So I told her to stay put behind me while I gave her brother a push to get started- he was only 5 and not very good a pumping yet. When I turned around, literally 10 seconds later, she was gone. Thankfully we found her within minutes- she wandered away to check something else out- but I have never been so scared in my life.

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I don’t know what happened in Cincinnati yesterday. I have no idea if the child’s mother was on the phone. Distracted by an other child. Simply tying her shoe or looking in her purse. I have no idea what she was doing- but I can almost guarantee she was doing something we’ve all done before. Or maybe she wasn’t doing a damn thing and her kid still managed to get away from her. 3 year olds are quick and quiet when they want to be – and they are pretty easy to lose in a crowd.

It IS a tragedy that a gorgeous, majestic, endangered animal lost its life as a result. Should the zoo have responded different? Been built differently? Had a different safety plan in place? Perhaps- maybe it’s time we revisit the ethics behind zoos and how they are built. But what I seeing online and in the news isn’t about the zoo- it’s an attack on this child’s mother.

Here is what I do know. I know that society expect perfection- and that is an impossible standard. We’re not supposed to be helicopter parents, but if our kids fail, we’re blamed for not being on top of them all the time. I’m supposed to feed my kids organic, free-range, non-processed food all the time, but not really. Because if that is all I do, then I’m too out there and subject to eye rolls from the other moms. I know that I’m supposed to urge my kids to be happy and find themselves- but if they aren’t the top of their class/team/whatever than clearly I’m not doing my job at helping them excel.

I know that I’m supposed to keep my kids safe at all times- but I also know that accidents happen. I know that I’m supposed to be a perfect parent. But I’m not- and neither are you. And I hope that should my screw up be so public or so emotional, people would show me the grace and compassion all parents deserve.

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Happy Mother’s Day

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I’d like to think I’m everything in that saying. Wise, full of strength and dignity, brave and kind. And I am, sometimes. But I’m also full of BS,wearing in yesterday’s clothes, terrified about the future and sometimes not-so-kind to the Hubs, the kids or myself.

And that, right there, is the joy of Motherhood. My kids are the love of my lives and the biggest pains in my butt. They are my every joy and happiness as well as the cause of a lot of my fear and tears. There are days I look around waiting for the real grownup to step in, because clearly, I don’t know what I’m doing.

Motherhood is messy and heartbreaking- but it’s also my biggest joy, triumph and privilege. And I’m beyond thankful to be surrounded by women who feel the same way about their families regardless of if their babies are itty-bitty or if their babies are raising their own kids.

To my Mother, my Mother-in-Law, my sisters and my friends- I’m in awe of each of you and your strength, your determination, you kindness and your grace. I’m also appreciative as heck when you you’re none of those things and keeping it real, raw and honest because I need to see that too.

To my friends and family longing for a family of your own- I feel your pain and hope your dreams are realized, one way or another, soon.

 

 

Quiet, Part 2

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This week the kids have off from school. The game plan was for them to hang out with me all week which is fine- if not particularly exciting for any of us. So when my mother-in-law, who lives some hours away, offered to take the kids for a few days we all jumped at it. The Hubs and I get to work guilt free and the kids get to do something other than play video games and watch movies while I shush them during the hours I’m trying to be a professional.

We handed the kids off yesterday and I miss them like mad. I constantly feel like I’m forgetting something- this is both the longest they’ve been away from me and the furthest they’ve been without the Hubs and I. My poor mother-in-law has fielded more texts from me in the past 36 hours then she has all year.

But I’m also giddy. Do you know what I did today? I worked and was 1) early to work and 2) didn’t have rush right out to pick up my kids. No one fought in my car today and I didn’t have to threaten to pull over at all. I went to work out AFTER work (which was odd) instead of at 5:30 am. I came home and made a dinner I wanted. I didn’t have to fight with anyone over electronics at the table (the answer is always no- why do they keep asking?!) or what was on the menu. And now at 7:30 pm, I’m freshly showered, in my PJs, getting ready to watch The Walking Dead from last night on TV because there are no children around to be scarred for life about what’s on. I won’t remind my kids 10 times (with increasing volume) to brush their teeth or stay in bed. When I go to bed tonight I don’t have to worry about anyone waking me up due to nightmares or puke.

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Yes, I miss my kids like a limb and I cannot wait for them to get home. I miss tucking them in at night and hearing about their days. I miss the hugs and the kisses and incessant chatter. But that’s not going to stop me from loving the short-term silence.

 

Crazy 9’s

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So, you guys- none of you told me that 9 year olds are nuts. Because they are. I never associated 9 with being a tween- I still pictured 9 year olds as little kids, but nope, the hormones are a raging and the mood swings (slight as they may be) are starting.

And not one of you warned me.

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Our morning routines have been the same since the kids were itty bitty: eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair, pack up backpack and put on shoes. That literally hasn’t changed in 6 years and yet, some morning we (read: the kids) struggle with following that pretty basic task list.

Last Thursday was a rushed morning. The kids have 50-odd minutes to get ready in the morning and breakfast took up 30 minutes because they were messing around. I scooted them off to get dressed and told them very clearly that they had 2 minutes to do so (their clothes were already laid out- God bless uniforms). 2 minutes go by and Bean is dressed, but Scorch is making some sort of tunnel system under my blankets so I told him that he lost electronics for the day and that he had 1 minute to get dressed. He got dressed in 37 seconds and proudly proclaimed that he earned back electronics. When I told him that it doesn’t work that way, he sobbed. And raged. And sobbed some more. I yelled, he yelled, the Hubs yelled and the Bean acted like a perfect angel just to tick her brother off even more.

The sobbing continued on the ride to school with deep, gulping breaths telling me how hard the mornings were because all I did was yell and he was so overwhelmed because I gave him 3 things to do at the same time and he was only human. When I very calmly suggested perhaps he had a part to play in this by not doing what he was asked the first 4 times, Scorch protested loudly that he always does what he’s told and that I still yell all the time.

After 10 minutes of this, I started to doubt myself. Maybe I do yell too much. Maybe I should be more understanding. Perhaps I do give him too much to do at once- I mean, he’s 9 so maybe telling him that he has to get his shoes on, pack up his backpack and find his coat *is* too much. Maybe I don’t give the kids enough time in the morning and I set us all up for failure. Maybe *I* am the problem.

I apologized to Scorch and we brainstormed a new way to run our mornings to see if things can go smoother. By the time we got to school, the sobs turned into little hiccups and he calmed down. When I parked, I told the kids to get their stuff and hop out so we could head in. Scorch asked for a tissue to dry his eyes while the Bean went inside. I asked (calmly, I may add!) Scorch to get a move on because we were late so he leaned forward to throw his tissue away in the little garbage can I keep between the center console and the dashboard.

After he threw his tissue away, I told him to hop out, but be kept leaning forward further. And then further more. Next thing I know, he’s literally trying to wedge his head between the windshield and the dash. When I asked him what in the world he was doing because it was time to go to school (for those keeping tracking at home, that was the 3rd time he was told that), he told me he was trying to see if he could get his head stuck.

He. Was. Trying. To. See. If. He. Could. Get. His Head. Stuck.

That was when I realized that nope, it wasn’t me, it was that 9 year old boys are crazy, emotional, inattentive, pains in the neck.

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Someone told me that the honeymoon is over and this is the start of the crazy train for at least the next 4 years. Hold me.

 

Thankful Heart: Days 4 & 5

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You guys, this week has been amazing. 70 degrees and sunny almost everyday. That is crazy weather for up here this time of year. Snow is much more likely than this Indian Summer weather, so I’m ridiculously thankful for this heatwave. But I’m also thankful for other things..

Day 4: Work Life

It’s been a little over 2 years now since I was laid off from my job of 13 years. That was one of the most tenuous, scariest times time as we tried to figure out how we were going to live without my salary. But we did it. I was blessed with a few great part time gigs (which I still miss!) to tide me over until I found this job at the University. About half my coworkers at the University work remotely, but this week my whole team was in the office and it was wonderful. It’s a special kind of joy to work with people you like and respect; people you would have picked to be friends with even outside of the office.  This week was full of lots of meetings and more work to add to the to-do pile, but it was also full of lunches outside in this gorgeous weather and lots of laughs.

I really wouldn’t recommend getting laid off to anyone, but losing my job has instilled in me the confidence that somehow things will work out. Maybe not on your timeline and maybe not in the way you think it will, but it’ll happen. Trust me.

PinkSkiesDay 5: Deodorant

Scorch is 9. Bless his sweet heart, he’s not anywhere near starting puberty. But some of his friends are, which means some of them are wearing deodorant.  This is the year that the kids in Scorch’s school start changing for PE, so he’s seen just how many boys are putting it on and he wants to be one of those kids so badly. So, so badly. To him deodorant means growing up and getting closer to becoming a teenager and that is what he wants. Never mind that my sweet boy still sleeps with the same lovies that he has since he was 1 or that his bed is littered with stuffed animals. Never mind that he’ll still hold my hand in public and doesn’t like going to bed without being tucked in. Never mind that at heart, he’s still a little boy – there is still a part of him that is starting to pull away from his childhood. And it’s kind of breaking my heart.

This morning, unbeknownst to us, he stole the Hubs deodorant and put some on while I was making lunches. He slid up to me in the kitchen, eyes aglow, with a huge grin cracking open his face, vibrating with excitement and glee.

Mom, I put on deodorant. Can you tell? Can you smell it? Smell me, Mom- smell me.

Today I’m thankful that I get to witness these very small milestones- the stuff they don’t tell you about in the baby books- that bring my kids so much freaking joy that they can’t stand still. I’m in no hurry for my kids to grow up, but it’s hard not to laugh right along side them when they do.

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