Wednesday, September 23, 2009

approaching balance

In recent weeks I have had at least three conversations with friends about knowing one's limits and not being ashamed of them. I think I am finally realizing that it is ok to protect one's sanity, family time and say no to some things. I have spent so much time comparing myself to other women. "Why can't I juggle more activities, like J?" "Why do I get so stressed when I multi-task? D can do it with ease." You get the picture.

I have a friend who is constantly taking on more and more. She, at one point, was working full-time at night, while taking college classes during the day and caring for her family, which at the time included 2 kids (now it includes 4). Sadly, but not surprisingly, the stress and schedule took its toll physically and mentally and she had a bit of a breakdown. The really scary part, at least to me, is that she didn't really come away from the experience any wiser about her limits. She still seems to be trying to prove that she can do it all.

Though I can clearly see how unhealthy her attitude is, when I talk to her for any length of time, her thinking starts to rub off on me a bit. I begin to wonder why I can't handle more. Why I can't put more on my plate and cope? Of course, I remind myself that she ISN'T really coping, but still, it bothers me that I have that tendency to measure myself by how much I can get done.

Just tonight, it was brought home to me once again that I need to trust my instincts and honor my limitations. Months ago a friend asked me to teach the teen girls some really simple jewelry-making. I initially said no, because the activity would take place on a Wed. night and I would have to bring my kids, since Bil is working nights now. This would not only be stressful for me, but it would push their bedtime back an hour. And my kids don't do all that well if they don't get adequate sleep.

Yet, still, I said ok. I decided it wouldn't be too big of a deal. I could handle it.

And I did, but in the end it didn't seem worth it. Tommy fussed for the better part of the evening. It was well past his bedtime and he was exhausted. Danny and Charlotte were ok, but I was worried the whole night, because Danny and another boy there don't always play that well together. They are very much alike and tend to get too rough with each other. The whole time I was showing the girls how to finish off their bracelets, I was trying to soothe Tommy, while also periodically peeking outside to make sure no one was dead. I was stressed. I was tired. I just wanted to get the kids home and in bed where they belonged so I could relax. Have some peace and quiet.

I know it wasn't something that would stress some other people out, but this is exactly the kind of activity that is hard for me. This is also the reason why I rarely have people over for dinner. It is too hard for me to juggle the kids, converse with the guests, make the food and actually have fun.

This was a bit of an epiphany tonight: I can do these things. I am perfectly capable of juggling multiple activities and chores, but the likelihood of me enjoying myself while doing so is practically nonexistent. I get overwhelmed and frustrated and then often take the stress out on my family.

And, you know? That's ok. This is who I am, and as much as I am trying to change and become a better person, I just don't think this part of me will change anytime soon. I don't think I will ever be the kind of person who thrives in a really hectic, noisy setting. I like peace and quiet and calm. I don't like chaos.

Obviously, as a mother, chaos is part of the job, and again, I can handle it, but it is definitely not my state of choice. I like to make plans and be prepared. I like to have down-time and days where I am not expected to be social. I like to be alone sometimes. I really like some semblance of order and work so much better in that type of environment.

While I used to think these attributes were signs of weakness, signs that I can't handle enough, I am beginning to recognize that a mature person knows her limits. A healthy woman can say no to things even when her reasons seem totally insignificant to other people. It doesn't matter that any other person at church could have dealt with tonight with ease. I get stressed at these things. I know this and I need to start acknowledging it.

I know a certain amount of stress comes with life. I am not recommending eliminating it completely. I guess what I am in favor of is really considering whether the stress is worth it. Is it worth it to my family or my sanity to do a particular activity? Sometimes the answer would be yes.

And other times, like tonight, the answer would be no. And, you know? That is OK.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lance Armstrong, I'm not

Unless of course Lance Armstrong has ever pulled a groin muscle while trying to kick up the kickstand on his bike. Because really, I think that takes the talent of an exceptional cyclist. And he probably never almost puked after biking for only 45 minutes either, huh? Yeah, I guess I don't have too much in common with Lance....

I started a new biking regimen today because I have been having more foot troubles. What am I? 80? I swear I feel like it sometimes.

Anyway, in an attempt to allow my foot to heal, I have decided to nix the aerobics for the time being. However, not willing to lose momentum in my weight loss, (ie: not willing to gain back the measly 3 pounds I have managed to lose in the last 4 months) I knew I had to do some form of exercise. As I don't like to put my face in water, biking won out.

So, this afternoon, I packed Charlotte up in the bike trailer with a container of snacks (for her) and plenty of water, and off we went on a biking adventure. I decided to bike through our cemetery since it was the only place I could think of where there were no cars, and therefore few witnesses to my gracelessness. Well, unless you count any ghosts that might be haunting the graveyard.

As I was biking, it hit me that it might be slightly morbid and possibly irreverent for me to be exercising in the resting place of so many souls. I don't know.... But, at one point as I rode down one of the extremely steep hills there, I started to call out, "Whoohoo!" and I had to stop myself. As much as I am not superstitious, I so do not want to anger some disgruntled spirit. The last thing I need in my life is a poltergeist haunting my home. We already have enough objects flying through the air, not to mention items that mysteriously disappear (dang library books!), thank you very much.

Anyway, as I mentioned, there are a lot of hills in this cemetery---really steep hills, close to the size of what I imagine Mt. Everest to be. Let's just say that I had to walk and push my bike up most of the hills, while Charlotte lounged in the trailer commenting on how slow we were going in between bites of Goldfish crackers. Hey, before you judge, tell me when the last time you dragged 50 pounds of kid and trailer behind your bike. I swear, that trailer and my daughter were practically pulling me backwards on the hills. At one point, I thought we were done for, that we would roll backwards, picking up speed until we crashed into some 100 year old tombstone. So, walking up the hills was the only way to avoid certain death.

One plus about riding (or scaling hills, as the case may be) in a cemetery is there is plenty of reading material to peruse as you crawl by. I was busy reading names of all these interesting dead folks when the thought hit me, "Why did I bother to bring my bike on this trip if I was going to have to walk up all the hills?"

Well, so that when I actually did ride the bike, the breeze could dry off some of the sweat that was dripping down my face, maybe?

Monday, September 14, 2009

what must she be thinking of me?


I don't know if I have mentioned that Danny has the same teacher (Ms. M) as last year. She moved up to kindergarten and happened to have Danny in her class again. I thought this would probably be a good idea; Danny is already used to her and her style of teaching, and since he is a lover of all things routine, how could this be bad?

Well, just today it occurred to me how this could be a negative. And not for Danny, but for me. You see, she got to see all kinds of things last year, like when Danny insisted on wearing a pumpkin hat to school for weeks on end in the Fall. What's so weird about that? Well, the hat happened to be one Danny received from my friend when he was 6 MONTHS old. Yeah, it was pretty snug.

Then, there was the time when Danny got a pretty bad infection in his fingernail bed. It spread to about three fingers. I treated it with Neosporin and it looked like it was getting better. Then, I got a phone call from the school nurse telling me to take him to the doctor. I was so embarrassed. I had seen definite improvement in his fingers and didn't want to force him to endure a doctor's visit when it looked like it would get better on its own. Plus, I was only days away from my due date and .... well, I was so darn tired.

Anyway, my point is that if we had gotten a new teacher this year, any weird things that Danny or I do would be happening on a clean slate. Instead, Ms. M may already have some ideas of the kind of flakey parent I am, so now when I do something extra flakey it will not seem like an isolated incident.

I think I would prefer for my kids' teachers to think that I actually have my crap together. I know. Seriously, that perception wouldn't last long, but it would be nice to start the year with the teacher assuming I am somewhat competent. On the other hand, Ms. M probably has pretty low expectations of me, so whatever I do couldn't make it too much worse....

This year, though it is only 3 weeks into the school year for us, Danny has already come to school in very interesting ensembles. He has finally decided to take an interest in what he wears and I so miss when he let me dress him, for a number of reasons.

First off, he has absolutely no regard for any fashion rules and matching clothes doesn't even register as an option. And to me, it is so not worth the fight that would ensue if I refused to let him choose his clothes. I know most kids choose strange clothes to wear together. It's not really a big deal.

However, Danny doesn't stop there, but insists on wearing clothes that don't really fit the weather. He prefers to wear long-sleeve shirts and sweat shirts, though it is still in the mid 80s here, and he will sometimes beg to wear sweatpants, which is where I draw the line. After all, I don't want my kid collapsing from heat stroke on the school playground. Also, he only has a small handful of shirts that he actually likes, so Ms. M will probably start to think that he only owns 3 shirts: his Wall-e shirt, his G-Force shirt, and his Bakugan Battle Brawler shirt. He has no qualms about wearing these shirts over and over. I have to force him to let me wash them. Last week I even gave in and let him wear the Bakugan Battle Brawler (I like the way that sounds) shirt two days in a row. It was pretty filthy by the end of the second day, but hey, at least he got ready for school with unprecedented ease.

Anyway, I know these are all relatively minor quirks, but today, I did something that was especially flighty, though funny. Danny eats the school lunch about once a week and brings his sandwich the rest of the week. Today, he decided he wanted to partake of the corndog/tater tot feast the cafeteria was providing. Because Bil got Danny's bookbag for him I didn't realize Danny's lunchbox was still in his bag. His empty lunchbox.

So, when Danny got to school, the teacher probably assumed Danny had brought his lunch. What a surprise, then, when he got to the cafeteria only to discover his lunchbox was empty. Not a big deal, as he was able to just get a tray and enjoy the repast that he wanted, but I'm sure Ms. M must think I forgot to pack his lunch.

So, in the eyes of my son's teacher, not only am I a lenient parent who doesn't launder her kid's clothes or take him to the doctor when he has an infection, but I am also one who neglects to provide nourishment and sustenance to her growing son.

Well, I can only go up from here, right?

Friday, September 11, 2009

ISO: motivation

I get regular emails from freecycle.com, which is a group that encourages recycling. When you have something you don't want or need anymore, you can post it on the group's page and someone who needs it can come and get it. It's a great way to recycle, keep things out of the landfills and save some money while you are at it.

The only downside is the number of emails that can end up filling your inbox in a very short period of time. The header is always something like: "To Give: cute puppy to a good home" or "ISO (in search of): a working microwave."

Lately, I have been wishing I could post a request for a couple of things. Wouldn't it be great if someone in my area had some extra energy in the mornings to send my way? Or some patience? Motivation would be nice, too. I don't know what it is, but I just don't feel like doing any work lately. It's not like I'm sitting around eating bonbons, while watching Oprah. It's just that that is exactly what I feel like doing (well, maybe not watching Oprah; I'd really rather be watching Cake Boss or The Office or The United States of Tara but you know what I mean).

I just don't feel like doing yet another load of laundry or mopping the floors or worst of all, cleaning the bathrooms. Not to mention how little I feel like working out. I think the problem here is that I am not seeing results; I am losing weight so slowly I will hit my goal weight in about 20 years. And the housework? As soon as the floor is mopped, someone (usually Charlotte) spills OJ all over it. The laundy piles keep growing no matter how fast I work and the bathrooms are sprinkled with pee by the kids on an hourly basis.

Maybe I should look at it as job security. I don't know, but since the work will always be there, I guess I shouldn't feel guilty about putting it aside today for an afternoon picnic at the park with friends, right?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

comfortably numb

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Chicago. We were there less than 24 hours and went solely for the purpose of meeting with Danny's Occupational Therapist (not sure if, technically speaking, "occupational therapist" should be capitalized, but after all our OT has done for us, I think she deserves my devotion and admiration).

This was the second therapy session with Linda this summer and also the second time she raised concerns about Danny probably having Asperger's. As you might know, I have already been seriously suspecting this for a while, but Linda's observations pretty much cemented it in my mind that Danny has some form of high-functioning autism. We are waiting for our appointment with a developmental pediatrician to see if it is official, but I would be very surprised if the doctor didn't diagnose Danny as being on the Spectrum (I don't capitalize "spectrum" out of reverence here, but more out of awe. You know, as in the kind of awe you might have for something that has the capability of changing your entire world).

So, of course, this has all been uppermost in my mind, because I am the sort who tends to worry and obsess way too much. Interestingly, the feelings I would fully expect to be experiencing--fear, pain, disappointment, a deep sense of injustice, fury--are not there; instead I just feel numb.

I don't think it is the type of numbness you feel when depressed and can't seem to focus or get anything done. On the contrary, I feel galvanized. I have lists of things to get done or things I am in the process of achieving: I have talked with the school social worker about getting Danny into a social skills group, I have made an appointment with a developmental pediatrician, planned a therapy schedule to do with Danny, and started making plans for revamping his diet to help with his development. I will be insisting that Danny receive OT at the school for the visual processing disorder that Linda has discovered. I have ordered books from the library about autism and am registering for an autism symposium in Chicago. And that is just the beginning. I have so much to do.

Still, even as I write this, I feel like I am writing about someone else. Someone else's kid. It doesn't feel personal to me. And I know that is not normal. At least it isn't normal for me. I don't ever deal with any sort of crisis or bad news without feeling it. And often not without wallowing in it, if truth be told.

So, the numbness concerns me a bit. I don't believe it will last. No, I think sooner or later, those feelings will come. I wonder if they will come all at once, if they will last a long time, how I will deal with them. I guess only time will tell.

Until then, the numbness is sort of pleasant. Comfortable, even.