Friday, September 23, 2016

Grabbing Time

It's been a crazy back to school season. It's been all about transitions. 

Transitioning back into school, back into routines, and crazy busy schedules and homework and practices and ahhhhhhh. I hate transitions and being busy. I mean seriously, I hate it. My peri-menopausal hormone-induced heightened anxiety that I've been experiencing of late has made it all a million times worse.

So, this past week I took a little bit of control back and found time and hope and felt so much better.
Here's what I did:

I didn't wait for the right time. The only night we all were together for a family dinner was Monday night. So, I lit candles and put on some music and set the table for the fam. I made a normal night something special because it felt good and it didn't matter that it was a dumb Monday night.

I skipped curriculum night at all my kids' schools. Instead, one night we went on a family walk instead with the dogs; on another night, I watched Peyton's football game instead of missing the end and rushing to the elementary school. After I got over the initial feeling of guilt and like I was failing because I wasn't going to everything, everywhere, it felt nice. And relaxing.

I ran while the lasagna cooked. I found out last week that not running or exercising led to so much more anxiety. So, I snuck in a run when I could. One night it was while the lasagna was in the oven. I ran four very slow miles but I felt happier and more in control, and less guilt when I ate a lot of lasagna.

I watched TV with Tim. When Tim and I are out of sync the family feels out of sync. So, we made time for each other. Sure it was just hanging out watching TV, but it was really good TV and we were together in the same room (that's rare!). We watched the new show This Is Us and LOVED it. We also started watching Homeland...intense. It's nothing expensive and fancy, but it's also better than nothing and not talking.

(I so needed a show like this on TV. It's good.)

I left the game. At first this was a very low moment for me, but it turned out to be a good lesson. I had a mild panic attack at JT's football game. Instead of forcing myself to stay and fight through my anxiety and potentially have a bigger panic attack, I left. I was embarrassed and sort of full of shame as I was leaving and even later that night. But then I realized it was the best thing I could do for myself at that moment and taking care of myself was/is important. JT came home and excitedly told me all about his game. My mom friends in the stands texted to see if I was okay and gave me so much love and support. Just like an athlete who is cramping or playing injured, sometimes you have to take yourself out of the game to stay healthy. (We are big on sports analogies here at our house, so this one felt right on.)

When I was a teenager my dad used to say "it's not about not having time, it's about not making time." Oh my god, I hated that so much. But last week, I made some time. Instead of running around and doing all the things and resenting all the things and losing myself to all the things, I said no to some of the things. I made and found some time and it helped so much with everything. It probably won't be possible to skip all the meetings and I hope I stay for all the rest of the games, but when I can find time for a dinner on the porch or a walk through the woods with the kids and the dogs, I'm going to grab it because my god it feels good.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Celiac Disease Awareness--Gluten Free, Not a Choice, A Cure

Yesterday was Celiac Disease Awareness Day. In true me fashion lately, I'm a day behind. But I thought I would take the opportunity to share how Celiac Disease impacts our family and spread a little awareness.

My third child, JT, has Celiac disease. 

He was diagnosed when he was 3 1/2, a few months after Wade was born. JT had never been a big eater, he always preferred drinking a bottle over baby food and a sippy cup over lunch. He would get bad stomachaches and get sick to his stomach a lot.  But I had no idea what Celiac was. Being "gluten free" hadn't gone mainstream yet so I wasn't familiar with that either.  After he had hernia surgery, JT started losing weight and was sick all the time. He was slipping off the growth charts and was what doctors call "failing to thrive."  He couldn't digest any food. He looked like a starving child.

Once we got the diagnosis, everything changed. We got rid of the gluten in our house and in most of our life and JT started getting better. He gained weight. He grew. He got happier. He got healthier.

Going gluten free wasn't a choice, it was a cure.

Here are a few of our truths about what Celiac disease was and is for us....

Celiac disease was watching my 3-year-old waste away.
He could not keep any food down. His arms were like toothpicks. His belly was distended and hard as a rock and hollow sounding. He was pail and sickly. But he still smiled because he is JT, such a positive, sweet boy.

Celiac disease is a part of our everyday life. We read labels. We research online. We are very careful. Even a crumb can make JT sick. Our household is gluten free because JT gets sick from cross contamination and we want him to always feel comfortable and included at home.
We shop at all kinds of grocery stores and are reaping the benefits of everyone wanting to go gluten free. There are so many more products available at more affordable prices than there were seven years ago!!!!!

And duh, we still eat cake. Gluten free cake! 

When we travel, we don't think that much about restaurants. We have dinner in our room or on a picnic with the gluten free food we buy/bring. It's actually pretty awesome--we end up saving a lot of money and spending more time relaxing together. This was our spread in our tiny hotel in Atlanta this past summer.
Sadly, we miss stuff and mess up and he gets sick sometimes. One time we thought it was a gluten-free muffin mix and it was not and JT got violently ill. 

Celiac disease does not cause anaphylactic shock. Having to be so careful so JT does not get sick and stays healthy and strong has made my compassion sort of explode for other children and families dealing with any food allergy or autoimmune disease. I cannot imagine worrying about whether or not my child would stop breathing. So when a parent asks me to not bring peanuts to school, I don't and it's not a problem at all.

Celiac disease is not an allergy, it is an autoimmune disease. When JT gets "glutened" he usually throws up a lot and has severe stomach pain. He also gets very dazed and foggy-headed. He becomes very tired and can be in bed for at the very least 24 hours after ingesting the gluten. 

Celiac disease is our normal. It doesn't slow down JT for very long. He is an active, happy, pretty freakin' fantastic kid.

I love him so much. 

Here's some other information from a great web site, Beyond Celiac:

Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disease.

Celiac disease is the only autoimmune disease with a known trigger--Gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye and barley and foods and drinks that contain these grains.

Left undiagnosed and untreated, people with Celiac disease are at-risk for other serious health consequences such as osteoporosis, anemia, thyroid disease and even certain cancers.

Eighty-nine percent of patients experience brain fog after gluten exposure. Some describe it as difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness and grogginess.

Click here to learn more about Celiac disease.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Going to Bed at 8 p.m.

When I started this blog five years ago I thought life was hectic. I look back and I laugh because five years ago I had no idea what hectic was. The kids were little and busy sure, but none of them had phones and they all went to bed around 8 p.m. I never could have imagined how busy life would get, how busy the kids would get....but man, life is nuts right now.

It's not bad, just busy. And no one is going to bed at 8 p.m.

I miss parts of the early days. I miss being in total control of our schedule. I miss being able to entertain all the kids with silly kitchen dances and crafts. I miss writing about all of our sweet, simple adventures here on the blog.

There are so many cool things happening now that I want to document and share. Like Peyton starting high school and Wade's first football game. I want to talk about how I'm training for a half-marathon and how it's so different as an older/peri-menopausal woman (I'm slower and sweatier). I want to write about trying to find balance and my feelings about being a working mom. But god dammit no one is going to bed at 8 p.m. and I am having trouble carving out time to write and document and be creative.  And I miss it.

It's hard to find time for everything and everyone. I just didn't anticipate how busy life would get and how tired I would feel and how fast time would go. Waaaaa. Maybe I'm just worn out from the back-to-school mania of the past couple weeks. Maybe I hate change and I don't want summer to end. Maybe I wish school started at 10 a.m. and weekends were three days long and days had more than 24 hours. Maybe I just need start going to bed at 8 p.m., at least a couple nights a week.

Hereare a few things that happened in the last few weeks:

There were morning runs. Great thing about getting up early to run is morning skies like this one. I like to call these hell yeah skies.

A dinner party.
A birthday party. Yup, his birthday was in May and we just got around to having a few friends over. lol.
Better late than never, right?

One last trip to the beach. Lake Michigan dunes!
And yes, Tim is napping.

One last fishing trip to up north on the lake.

Everyone had a first day back to school.
More cake! 
There has already been lots and lots of football practice and games.

Wade played his first game! 
Post-game pep talks from grandparents. 
Some of us struggled more than others with the early school start time. 
The dogs aren't so happy about all of us going back to school or work. I totally get it. Waaaaa.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Off To High School--Round One

My son is starting high school in a couple weeks. 

Whaaaaaat? I both kind of can't believe it and feel totally okay with it. Yesterday we registered Peyton and got his schedule and got his locker. Then he had a team dinner with the football team. He seems appropriately confident and nervous. He seems ready.

Yesterday I had a talk with him that was equal parts "I Hope You Dance"/I will fucking kill you if you get messed up with drugs/grades matter/hard work matters/I will love you through all of it. He nodded while I just kept talking and talking. I have no idea if I was saying the right things or if it was too much or not enough. At one point I even admitted to eating "space cake" when I was in Amsterdam but followed up with "I was 20 and it was legal!" Ahhhhh! I stopped there because I'm not ready to tell him all the things I did or know if I even ever should. Oh hell, I have no idea! I switched gears quickly and talked about identity and threw out a Jay-Z quote because he's still cool right? Ugh. OMG. I ended with "well you get it right? I love you and I want you to have fun and know who you are and be good and be safe."

A bit cheesy? Maybe. Too much? Maybe. But god dammit I love that kid and I want him to carpe diem all the opportunities during high school. And um, I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. I just want him to have a sense of self and a sense of belonging in our family and know that we have his back (but we will also hold him accountable!). 

Years ago, my much younger brother, Harrison, was visiting us right before he started high school. Peyton was two and Lucy was a baby. We had a party, with just us, to celebrate Uncle Harry going to high school. 

Balloon hats were all the rage in our little kid house at the time, so we made one for Uncle Harry. 

We also made a cake and had streamers and signs and made him wear a tie. It was cute and fun and Uncle Harry was a good sport. "Someday we'll do this for you," I told a smiley, little Peyton. "When you go off to high school, you will get a balloon hat party."

Last night it was his turn. The balloon hat tradition continued and just like his uncle, Peyton was a good sport.

It was silly, but just as important to me as the big/cheesy/heavy talk. Traditions and a sense of humor are a big part of the family he belongs to. A family that celebrates together and talks to each other and laughs together and loves through all the ups and downs and carries on silly traditions and serious traditions...that's who we are. And my god, I'm hoping that helps Peyton and each of my kids as they grow up and carpe diem the hell out of middle school and high school and jesus, adulthood. And of course make good decisions and even if they mess up, and ahhhhh, I have no idea what I'm doing! Seriously, jumping into this next phase with my fingers crossed. :)

Here's the Jay-Z quote I used (I love it and have used it before and you better believe I will use it again. I believe it.):

"Belief in oneself and knowing who you are, I mean, that's the foundation for everything great."


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rebelling Against Time

"You are never going to believe why I'm here," I told the nurse who came into my room at the doctor's office. "I think I'm going through menopause stuff! I mean isn't that crazy?" 

The nurse did not look shocked, not shocked at all. She smiled kindly, nodded and then typed something into her computer. "The doctor will be in to see you soon," she said and then left. She did not say "oh my gosh, no way, you look so young, menopause? No way, it's probably something else, because you are so young, I mean weren't you just in here having babies? I'm sure it's something else that isn't scary or for old people..I mean you are so young." Nope, she didn't say that. She was not shocked.

The doctor wasn't either. She listened to me talk about how hot I was getting at night and how my anxiety was getting worse and how my metabolism stopped altogether and that my hair was thinning and how I overreact even worse than I used to and well, she listened to a lot.  "Can you test my hormones, because something is going on," I begged.

"I could test your hormones but they would be different tonight and then different tomorrow," she explained. "It sounds like you are experiencing peri-menopause and well, it's just a really hard time."

I was shocked. "But, um, wha....," I stammered. "How long will this last?," I asked.

"Two years or 10, it's different for everyone," she informed me.

What the fuck? Are you serious? I just spent a decade having babies and gaining weight and losing weight, managing high hormones and low hormones, bouncing back, getting in a groove and now I have to spend a decade doing it all over again? And  I have to do it while having teenagers going through their own hormonal struggles. Are you serious?

It seems ridiculous. My teenagers and I will all be raging together and bonding over how to deal with our acne, except I will be having a hot flash and wishing I could Botox my forehead wrinkles because I'm old and not a teenager.

"Who do I rebel against?," I asked my doctor.  "It's not like I can steal the car and smoke cigarettes and get drunk on peach wine coolers like I did when I was going through puberty. How am I going to deal with this? I'm the mom."

My doctor told me I will be okay. She suggested I try journaling and meditation and exercise. Ugh.

I left still in shock. I almost stopped at the 7-11 to pick up a pack of Marlboro's and some Seagram's wine coolers, but I didn't. Over the next couple weeks, I talked to friends....friends who had gone through menopause or are close to it. One friend told me that a woman in her book club had said "in this day and age, there is no reason a woman should have to deal with menopause." Amen! Another friend described estrogen as the "give a damn hormone" and without it she really didn't....give a damn.

As I am being dragged down the hot, sweaty path of peri-menopause, I refuse to go quietly. I kind of dig the idea of not giving a damn and rebelling. I choose to rebel against age and stereotypes and ridiculous expectations. I hope I put my loss of estrogen to good use--fight for more causes I believe in and not worrying about what people think. I hope I won't get embarrassed about my aging or my thinning hair, or too hard on myself. 

I still think I'm young-ish for all this peri-menopause stuff, but I guess not. I'm 42, but still feel 35. lol. 
I bought this mug last year when I was all "let's do this 40s!" I'm not so pumped now. But I am going to look at this whole getting older as a new beginning. It's what it's all about right beginning again and again and getting smarter and stronger and softer and more vulnerable and compassionate. 

Being a woman is not for the weak. We go through a lot. We really are badasses. I am going to journal about that. My meditation mantra is going to be "I am a badass mother who can do anything." My doctor was right, I think I will be okay, maybe better than okay. A little rounder, a little tougher, a tad moodier, but okay.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Road Trip Stories: The Beach

Last month part of our road trip was spent on the beach. It.was.amazing. We were scheduled to travel to Atlanta, Georgia for JT's baseball tournament and I thought if we drove that far we should just keep driving after the tournament to Tybee Island (it's only 3-ish hours from Atlanta!).

We have been to Tybee Island a few times over the years. In fact, it's the only ocean/beach experience my kids have ever had. The other times we visited were part of big family reunions, the kind where you stay in a house with 25 other people. Those are awesome, but I was looking forward to having a beach experience with just my family. 

And now that my family is full of older kids, kids that aren't in diapers and don't need naps, going to the beach was so much more fun. The kids read on the beach and played in the waves. We only had one minor swallowed too much water and a little bit of sand incident with Wade. The kids enjoyed collecting shells and jumping waves. They marveled at sunsets and glimpses of dolphins.

At one point I was swimming in the ocean a little off to the side of my four kids and I was watching them. My heart felt like it was going to burst with love and happiness and gratitude. I felt so much peace. Just like other times during our road trip, I started singing a song from Hamilton (because I mean we listened to the soundtrack 1,432 times and became obsessed and it really was the soundtrack of our trip). I kept hum-singing this line from one of the songs--"isn't it great to be alive right now." YES! I am so glad I got to live that moment and feel it so big and with so much love and gratitude and awareness. 

This kid especially loved the beach and the waves and the fishing and asked if we could move there. I so wanted to say yes.

I love the palm trees and all the colors on the island--from the colors in the sky to the buildings.

Even their hurricane category sign is bright and cheery.

One thing I am particularly giddy and proud about was that I paid for the house I rented with money I earned from my part-time jobs. Sounds silly, but it meant a lot to me. The house was adorable and the perfect size for us. It had a backyard and was only a short walk to the ocean. (I rented through a company called Mermaid Cottages and would highly reccommend using them if you ever find yourself going to Tybee Island.)

It had an outdoor shower that I FELL IN LOVE WITH! Who knew?

The property also had a side yard with this tree that was magnificent. There was a swing too and lime trees! It all felt very magical.

I wish I could run away and open up a souvenir shop on the beach and we could all live in the apartment upstairs. And maybe I will someday, maybe I will. But for now I will hold tight to the wonderful memories and adventures and laughs and sunsets we had together, and remember what a great time it was to be alive right then and there, and I will smile and feel happy.