Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Brighter December

Ahhhh, December.  Here we are, one week in.  I'm not quite in panic mode yet, but everything's going too quickly, as usual.  On the bright side, the annoying amount of snow we've received so far this season (27 inches, to lead New York state's major cities) has made things feel very Christmasy.  So much of it has fallen in such a way that trees have been staying pretty covered, so everything looks picture perfect all the time.  It's pretty impressive and does wonders for the Christmas spirit when I'm listening to Christmas music in the car or looking out the window.  Heck, yesterday I took a day off of work--originally it was to go to the funeral home for my great aunt, though when it snowed (again) I decided driving to Buffalo probably wasn't the best idea, so I just stayed home and got things done instead.  I spent part of the day just lounging on the couch and watching a seasonally appropriate--though not Christmas-themed--movie, which felt even better with it snowing like crazy outside.  It was very relaxing with the tree on and getting all cozy on the new furniture (which I love, if I haven't mentioned it).  I keep trying to remind myself how quickly this time always passes, so any little low-stress bits I can soak up are good.

I know I've mentioned before that November is one of my least favorite months.  That period between Halloween and Thanksgiving tends to drag a bit, and all of the anxiety of the coming Christmas season builds, but I feel like there isn't much I can do about it, mostly because we don't have lists to shop from yet or anything like that.  We have to slog through three or more weeks of work and school before we finally get to a fabulous day of food, a few days off, and the official beginning of Christmas.  It's a lot of anticipation, and some years are more challenging than others.  Being sick this year didn't help.

I think I've also discussed before how I sometimes feel like the very difficult November when I was pregnant with Jacob still tends to cast a shadow over that time.  That year I was wrestling with a lot of emotions--not just the usual blahs when it's darker earlier and the colder weather sets in--but dealing with pregnancy-induced nausea and fatigue, and all of the uncertainty about whether the pregnancy would stick.  I found it really hard to live a sort of double life with not being able to tell people what was going on, and having to act normal when I felt sick and my mind was constantly distracted.  All of it was so hard.  But thinking back, while November felt so dark and difficult, I don't have the same feeling about December, even though not much changed when the calendar flipped.  All I can figure is that little by little, bright spots emerged.

First, we told a couple people our news, which took the edge off the secrecy a bit.  Then, 12 years ago today, we got an ultrasound.  Prior to that, we actually had no idea how far along I was.  We had no idea when I actually got pregnant given the odd timing around my cycle, so going in we had no idea what to expect.  When that image flashed up on the screen, my jaw dropped.  It was a real baby with identifiable parts--not just an amoeba-like blob on the screen.  I was a full 10 weeks along, and just seeing him move his little arms and legs left me stunned.  I was excited, no doubt, but simply shocked.  It made it all very real!

Of course, at that point we realized that we were so far along we almost could have told people at Thanksgiving, but now we were stuck waiting until Christmas because we were leaving for Disney in three days and wouldn't have a chance to see our families in person until the holidays.  Knowing I had that developed of a baby in my belly also complicated the Disney trip a bit, because I made the call to not ride any thrill rides for fear I'd miscarry while we were there.  But the good news was that we'd have a great week-long distraction!  That trip definitely brightened my mood, not just because we had a blast, but because the second we landed in Florida, my nausea and fatigue went away for good!  I felt fabulous on that trip.  I hadn't been to Disney in 20 years, and it felt like a dream come true!

Despite all of the holiday prep that inevitably waited for me when we got home with only a week until Christmas, that trip was such a wonderful way to move through December.  I still look back on it so fondly--and not just because it's the last time we went on an extended trip alone together!

Anyway, all of that popped into my head the other day when I realized how much happier the beginning of December was that year, even though so much was still so secretive and I was still pretty nervous about everything.  It's amazing what little things can do to change your perspective.

So, in the spirit of that happy December, I'm trying to stay positive for this one.  We're making a lot of progress on gift buying (thought we need to stay vigilant!) and some of the fun events of the season are coming up rapidly.  I know I need to savor this time because it will be over before we know it and then the slog of the post-Christmas winter will be upon us.  Despite the stress, this is the fun stuff.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Parenting is Hard

Yesterday I got chatting with a co-worker, and we were talking about kids' (and our) ever-present sickness in the winter.  That transitioned into her asking about sleep training, as it sounds like her six-month-old is waking up at night and it's getting exhausting.  I told her about how Jacob would wake up every night for a solid couple weeks, usually just around the time a tooth was popping through, and how it nearly made me crazy.  It brought to mind the many nights I was awkwardly slumped around the crib just so I could keep a hand on him so he knew I was there and wouldn't cry.  I had those nights with Carter, too, but far fewer.  Hard to believe those nights with Jacob are now 10+ years in our rear view mirror.  It's crazy.

As I was talking about it I admitted that I don't miss those kind of struggles at all.  I mean, I see babies now and love holding them and seeing their goofy grins.  It's the sweetest time when you have a baby that thinks you're the coolest person ever.  Those morning crib smiles, their face at daycare pickup, the sweetness as they drift off to sleep in your arms...all of it is awesome.  But it comes with some heavy baggage and I don't miss the angst of trying to figure out what to do with this tiny human who has very inconvenient (but very real) wants and needs that I feel inadequate at handling.  It's exhausting, though I'd venture it's more on the physical side than anything else in those early years.  The sleepless nights, physical body changes and hormone surges, and the sheer arm strength it takes to haul a baby everywhere or rock them endlessly--I think the physical challenge of that time just made the mental struggles even harder.  It's difficult to be clear-headed and logical when you're tired, and it literally took parenthood to teach me that.

Nowadays, the struggle feels far more mental to me.  Yes, there's the physical toll of shuttling kids around and keeping the closets and pantry stocked (gone are the days of one trip to Wegmans per week).  But the problems are much more complex in nature.  I don't miss trying to figure out what to do with a sick baby (although big kids have those moments, too) because that seemed life-and-death agonizing at the time, but now the problems are a bit more subtle yet ultimately just as impactful on your child's quality of life.  How do you teach them to manage school work and schedules?  How do you help them navigate dicey and difficult tween-to-teenage friendships (or even romances)?  How do you help them come to grips with pressures and tolerating unenjoyable things, particularly in this modern society where true boredom is halfway extinct thanks to the immediate gratification of electronic devices?  These are important life skills, much like learning to feed yourself or use the potty, but the how-to is so much more complex and usually there's no easy, one-size-fits-all answer.

After thinking about it more, I decided that God probably made parenting hard by design.  I mean, maybe it only goes back to the fall of Adam and Eve, and prior to that it was supposed to be easy and rewarding all the time, but I do think it makes sense that it's hard.  First of all, if it was easy, everyone would do it and we'd probably have a lot of overpopulation (and still somehow some extra terrible parents).  Second, would it even be rewarding if it's not hard?  Sure, we'd enjoy the good moments just fine, but doesn't the sweet baby smile feel so much better after rocking them through a miserable night?  And doesn't it probably make older parents even happier to see their kids become solid, functional adults after all those years of hard work?  The hard stuff makes you appreciate the good stuff even more, and if you can take a bit of credit for it, that's a bonus.

But you know the third thing I realized?  It would be seriously boring if it was easy.  If you knew how to raise a baby up through a teenager the second the baby was born, what point would there be in that?  The adventure is half the fun, at least once you're past the hard moments.  And similarly, thank goodness kids' problems evolve over the years, because I really wouldn't still want to be figuring out how to manage potty training or sleep training 10 years later.  The problems may get harder, but at least they're different problems and we're not constantly trying to solve the same one (well, unless it's my kids fighting--that may never end).  I can only take so much "Groundhog Day" in my life.

Having to evolve with their problems also helps us evolve as people.  It makes us creative and resourceful, and also sometimes makes us reflect on our own lives and choices in a way we wouldn't without kids.  When you have to teach a child the right way to do something, you may realize you're not really doing it right yourself.  Whether it's how you treat people, or how to keep a neat house, or how to reach for your dreams, I think going through these processes with your kids gives you a different perspective and it can actually help you catch some of your own shortcomings.  Without all that evolution, wouldn't parenting seem sort of, well...empty?

So, like I said, I think parenthood--hard parts and all--is divinely designed--as purposefully ordained as the very creation of that baby itself.  Without all of the twists and turns, it just wouldn't be the same type of life-changing experience it is.  I do wish we were all better at it and that it wasn't so hard sometimes, but I have a feeling we're all right where we need to be with it.  It's not supposed to be easy.  It's supposed to be hard work that's rewarding in the end.  And never a dull moment, that's for sure!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Thanksgiving Recap

I guess it's been a busy week-plus since I last posted.  Fortunately, I am feeling much better.  I'm pretty much back to my usual allergy-induced sniffliness, which is about to be expected.  It seems the steroids definitely did some good work and maybe the third antibiotic finished it off for good.  I still get an annoying round of noseblowing now and then when some thicker junk tries to make its way out, but for the most part things are back to normal.  I am only about halfway through the antibiotics, though, and they leave a terrible metallic taste in my mouth, but thankfully aside from a couple ragey incidents, the steroids have been more manageable than usual.  I go for a follow-up on Wednesday, so we'll see what they say.  But I'm very grateful to be done with the worst.  Now if my new alpha lipoic acid supplement would work to bring back my smell, that would be great!

It was nice to have a two-day week last week.  I had a ton of work to get done beforehand and pulled it off, so that helped make the five-day break much better.  Dreading going back tomorrow, but duty calls.  Jacob had a community service day at a nearby VA hospital last Monday, and I think that was an eye-opening experience for him.  He even heard one guy say that he played against Kareen Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor at that time) back in college.  I think it's easy to forget that these older veterans were once young, strong, athletic men, so I hope that sticks with him.  He had four days off after that, including one day on his own.  I did stop home at lunch to break up the solitude.  I think the break was probably good for him, though he's probably dreading going back more than anyone.

Craig has been working a ton, which has been extra challenging for the kids.  They miss him so much.  It's led to a lot of battling and trying to keep them occupied.  Last week when Carter and I stopped at Wegmans to get my prescription, he convinced me to buy a caramel apple kit.  We did it last weekend, and I have to admit they were really good--although VERY sweet!

A couple weeks ago Jacob's school principal sent out a message clarifying some things about the dress code, which effectively outlawed his sneakers.  Only solid color Vans, not the print we had gotten a while back.  Darn it.  We ordered a new pair through Kohl's, but they sent us the wrong ones, so last weekend while Craig was working we went out to dinner and then ran to the store to try to sort things out.  The boys were obnoxious as usual, but we did snag this cute picture with them and the giant $600 sloth!

We had a very nice Thanksgiving, almost a picture perfect day, in fact.  We went to Buffalo on Wednesday for our annual bar visit in honor of Craig's Uncle Mike who passed away five years ago.  Aside from Craig having to adjust to his 40-pound-lighter body and what food/drink it can handle now, we had a really good time.  It was a bit of a rough return to my parents' house, but after a little extra sleep while we went to church, luckily he felt much better by meal #1 with my parents and my aunt and uncle (my dad's siblings).  We had a very pleasant meal with delicious food, and it was nice to wish my parents a very Happy 49th Anniversary (!) in person!  Next we headed off to meal #2 with Craig's family, which was also very tasty.  I was quite full but I think the steroids helped me out as I got my fill!  Oh, and the Bills won their big Thanksgiving game against Dallas, which was somewhat unexpected, so that was fun to see, too!  The family time was great all around, and when we left that night I felt like the day couldn't have gone much better.  And even though coming back late at night is tiring, it was worth it to be home and have a fresh start on Friday morning!

After some in-bed Black Friday shopping, I started in on decorating.  Well, actually, I cheated a bit and put up my little tree in the dining room on Wednesday.  Just the tree, no decorations.  I figured it was out of the way enough and would save me some time and grief on Friday if I could get it up early, since I had to configure the branches a little funky to fit properly in that corner.  It ended up being one of my first completed projects on Friday, along with cleaning toys and moving furniture.  I had set aside all of my angel ornaments last year in a separate bin to make them my first theme tree.  It was actually really easy to just open them up and hang them one after another, and this was the (almost final) result.  I found a few more angels in the rest of the ornaments that I must have forgotten to set aside.

I absolutely love the final product.  I love the colored lights for a change and it's fun to see all of my angels--most from my mom's annual gifts, some from other gifts--all in one place.  And I'm pretty partial to my new Capiz shell tree topper.  I might use it on the main tree next year!  I love that I've had this tree for 19 years now and after 11 years of non-use since we got our current tree, it finally has made a reappearance.  I still can't believe it was my bargain $20 tree (can't find a tree that good for even double that now) that I decorated for about $10 that first year on my own.  I didn't have my ornaments available, so it was just lights, beaded garland, homemade red bows, and a glittered sheet of fake snow as the tree skirt.

As for the other tree, I had a lot of toys to sort through in order to move them out of the far corner of the living room so the recliner could move there and the new chair could move into the recliner's spot, which would open up space for the tree.  I made the best of it and moved a few things downstairs (including our old ottoman, to move the coffee table into that spot, and a handful of lesser used toys), and brought up the tree.  A 15-minute process to assemble it turned into a couple hours of misery, as each section had lights out.  This tree is not supposed to have lights go out.  It's like it hit its 12th year and freaked out!  Usually a string out means that a light is loose, and I managed to fix a section or two by checking each light.  But then I got higher up in the tree and no matter how many lights I checked, nothing worked.  All I can figure is that the one non-replaceable fuse light in two spots went out, which essentially kills the string.  Even though I've been eyeing up new trees for a couple years, it still bummed me out that my pretty tree wasn't really fixable.  Frustrated, I dragged the kids to Lowe's to look at trees, and only found one decent one, but it was sold out.  We came back home and I spent the afternoon very grumpy.  I blame the steroids.  I tried to take a nap since I didn't feel like decorating at all, but eventually gave up since the kids kept bugging me.  I dragged myself downstairs to pull out the bins and get started on everything else, since I knew I'd regret it if the weekend ended and I wasn't done.  The season is short enough this year with the late Thanksgiving.  By Friday night I had most of the d├ęcor up, and on Saturday I rigged up some strings of white lights to cover the sections that were out.  It's not ideal, but it works.  After that I dragged the boys off to three places to look at more trees.  We found an intriguing one at Home Depot.  It's not my ideal branch style, but the light functions were amazing, so it's definitely on the list and I could definitely be happy with it.  I know Lowe's has a couple possibilities that weren't in the store (but I'm hoping they might restock post-Black Friday), so I just need to consider my options over these next few weeks and hope my chosen one doesn't go out of stock permanently.  I finished the rest of the tree today, and now all of the decorations look lovely and all feels right with the world again.

As I mentioned, Craig has been working a lot as the Knighthawks' season officially started last night.  It was especially tough this week with the kids off school and having a lot of time at home.  I'm pretty sure they're sick of seeing me, that's for sure.  Late nights, busy evenings, long's been a haul.  I remind them it could always be worse because they could have a parent who is deployed for months or who works even worse hours compared to their schedule.  But it's still hard.  After a few weeks of training camp, the home opener was last night.

Admittedly it was a little weird to have a new team.  The old players are in Halifax and the old team colors are no more.  The atmosphere was different, and it all felt a little foreign despite familiar faces around the building, but I think eventually it will feel more normal.  It didn't help that they had a rough start, losing 14-4.  Expansion is tough.  However, I had the pleasure of sitting by Casey Zaph, a former Knighthawk from my sports days.  He was a gritty little player whose career was cut short by a brain bleed.  Recovery was long, but he's doing well now and it was a pleasure to chat with him as we suffered through a tough game.  I miss the days of his type of hard-nosed play--he was hoping for a brawl to shake the team up, which was exactly how he was as a player--but lacrosse is definitely a different game now, much like hockey has lost its rougher edge.  It was fun while it lasted, and thinking of his era's teams, it made me even more wistful for the old days.  Despite the tough start, at least the season is underway and Craig's schedule will get a bit more predictable.  He actually has the next two weekends off, which will be nice.  I'm dreading his first road trip, though, since it's the weekend before Christmas!

I have so much to do in the next three and a half weeks, and every time one of the kids talks about wishing Christmas was here sooner or how it's just three and a half weeks away, I freak out.  I have so many presents to buy and so few ideas (as always) and it never feels like it will get done.  It's weird because I was so eager for Christmas season to get here, given how late Thanksgiving was, and now that it's here I'm sort of like, wait, how'd it get here already?  It's December, for goodness sake!  We have lots of basketball coming up on weekends (along with a birthday party next weekend), practices during the week, and a couple other appointments to remember this week.  It basically tells me I'm not getting much done, so I'm going to have to find creative ways to chip away at the list.  I know I need to try to love this time--and I do--but the stress always challenges me.  And since I'm fresh off being sick for weeks on end, I don't want to get run down again.  I know the kids are excited, and I am too, but getting on a roll with Christmas always seems to take forever and I can't afford to let that happen this time.  Time to get organized and get this show on the road!  It's Christmastime, after all!

Friday, November 22, 2019

(S)Not Over Yet

So, more than six weeks into this sinus debacle, it's still not over.

I started antibiotic #2 last week, and it seemed like I was having slow but somewhat steady progress.  My right side was still very blocked up, but by the middle of this week I could get some airflow through and hear mucus rattling around in there, but it still wouldn't really blow out.  I generally felt halfway decent for a good portion of the day, but by mid-afternoon I usually had some sinus pressure that traveled from my eye down to my teeth, just on that one side.  Then I'd have a few sneezing episodes during the day, where the sinus pressure would get to be too much, I'd sneeze half a dozen times, and then have to blow my nose constantly for a solid 20-30 minutes.  But it was still better than I'd been, so I was hopeful.  Then on Wednesday night I sneezed and blew my nose, only to find the oddest thing I'd ever blown out.  It was mucus, but it was almost rubbery.  It didn't lose shape when I poked at it (as I had no idea what it was).  It wasn't hard or crusty--just solid with a little give.  It was nasty.  Of course, it came out of my good side, but even still I felt a bit better and started wondering if a mucus blob like that was what was blocking my right side.

Then came yesterday.  I'd felt the previous day like my nose was drying up a bit and felt that might be preventing what was there from coming out.  I figured I'd play around with the meds a bit to see if I could keep things loose without drying things up too much to blow out.  I opted to keep the Mucinex but skip the Flonase, but it backfired badly.  By the afternoon I was miserable again, like middle-of-the-worst-of-it pathetic.  On the bright side, that told me that I was just managing symptoms rather than actually getting to whatever was causing the problem, so that was my red flag to send a note to my doctor that I was going to call the ENT.  Also, the fact that it was consistently worse on one side (while the other was almost normal) was getting concerning to me, based on everything I was reading.

Of course, when I called, they initially wanted to set me up with the same doctor that I worked with on the smell test debacle, because he's a sinus expert, but given my negative association with him after he pretty much suggested nothing to help me, I wasn't interested.  He was booking into January anyway, so no thanks!  They took my info and said they'd call me back with availability for sooner, and maybe five minutes later they called with a last-minute opening for 4pm, which I was thrilled to take!

I got there and gave the nurse the rundown, and then did it again for a resident who was working with the doctor.  He took one look in my nose (not with anything fancy, just something to move my nostril), and said, "Wow!"  So, yeah, not good.  Later he numbed up the area and gave me something to clear it out so they could get a better look, then came back with the doctor, at which point they did an endoscopy to see what was happening.  There was a lot of mucus on the right side (duh) and they thought it looked pus-like (but doesn't most mucus?), which obviously would indicate a lingering infection.  Of course, after nearly two full courses of antibiotics, including one that definitely should have worked, it was unclear why it wasn't clearing.  Anyway, they took a sample for testing to see if there was some sort of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and then suctioned out a lot of the mucus.  I wasn't really able to enjoy the relief, mind you, because my entire nose and much of my mouth were numb for a solid hour afterward, and it plugged back up after that.  It got extra awkward when I stopped for gas, Carter, and Wegmans and could not really feel my nose run at random.  Sexy.

Much to my dismay, the first course of action was to prescribe me steroids.  I hate prednisone with every fiber of my being, but here we go again.  Bring on the agitation, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and every other crazy side effect.  That should lessen the inflammation and help things get over the hump, though.  Then, based on the lab results, they could prescribe another antibiotic.  Oh, and they gave me the next generation of a NetiPot, a plastic squirt bottle.  I tried that but it couldn't get through the one side so it kept coming out of my mouth.  Gross.

I was still quite congested overnight, but I was finally able to get some decent force to blow on the right side, which hadn't been the case in weeks.  It basically felt like I was hitting a wall--or at least, the majority of the mucus was.  And suddenly I was getting decent, productive blows.  Today I feel significantly better, congestion-wise.  Airflow is considerably easier and there's way less to blow out.  I started out the day feeling a little iffy, but I think that had to do with a rough night of sleep.  We'll see how I feel tomorrow when the early effects of the prednisone start to hit.  But at least the congestion is better and I feel nearly human.

The doctors did say that it was possible that there was just so much happening up there that perhaps even with the antibiotics it just couldn't "break through", and I'm starting to think that's what happened.  Once my sinuses got a little relief from the suctioning, maybe it gave them the leg up they needed to start healing.  I saw a picture on the wall there of how the sinus can close off with swelling in a certain area, and it would effectively trap mucus up beyond it and irritate everything around it.  It made perfect sense and seemed exactly like what I was experiencing with the "wall" preventing the mucus from coming down.  There was no way to get it out, so the inflammation remained and I felt perpetually sick.  No wonder I had so much pressure!  

Adding to that theory is that I got the lab report this morning, and it said, "No organisms found," which I take to mean that there's no bacteria, and presumably no virus either.  The doctor never called, so while I'm not sure what to think, the progress speaks for itself.  Hopefully that visit and the steroids will be all that I needed to get on track.

The thing is, this has already been going on over six weeks, and now I have many days of steroid misery ahead.  Last time it took me a full week after steroids to feel normal, so I'm still looking at multiple weeks before I feel "normal".  By then we'll be well into Christmas season and I'm concerned about so many things.  I've been so sick for so long that I've probably been shirking a lot of less important responsibilities, and I know eventually those could come back to haunt me.  I haven't worked out in weeks and now I'm really out of the habit.  I'm still very tired most of the time, probably in part from the interrupted sleep for weeks on end.  Prednisone makes me miserable to live with most of the time, because I get snappy and easily agitated.  I tend to say things I shouldn't (and not care about the consequences).  I also recall having sleep issues and a horribly dry mouth, and looking back in the blog I had bad dreams, too.  Yay.  Given that I've been on edge anyway and the Christmas season is stressful, I can only imagine what ugly form that will take.  Craig and I have barely spent any time together since this illness started, for a combination of reasons.  He's been working more with his season starting, I've gone to bed earlier, we're both still tired enough to fall asleep with Carter half the time, and obviously any sort of close contact isn't advisable when you have an unknown illness that won't go away.  So, we'll have some rebuilding to do when possible, and hopefully this doesn't do more damage in the meantime if I let the day-to-day issues take over.  I'm usually pretty on edge with the kids as it is, so I'm worried about how much grumpier and shoutier I'll be over the next couple weeks with them.  How will I manage all the stress when I'm agitated, or get enough sleep if I'm already up late and having sleep issues?  I'm just really worried about these next few weeks and how I'll maintain my sanity.  I'm so thrilled to be even close to healthy, particularly considering how I felt about 36 hours ago, but prednisone brings with it a boatload of challenges, too.

Oh, and if that wasn't enough, this all has me thinking about the smell thing again, because if I'm clear of infections and chilling out my sinuses again, maybe I should be trying something new--be it the acupuncture (last night's doctor said the chiropractor has no logical connection to smell--though I still wouldn't mind trying since I know one), or something else I came across called alpha lipoic acid, which is an antioxidant that has had pretty decent results with anosmics like me who seem to have lost smell from an infection of some sort.  I'm debating if I should start it now while on the prednisone or just manage one set of possible side effects at a time (even though the ALA doesn't seem to have any).  We'll see.

Anyway, I can't call this illness over, but it's good to see progress for a change!  It has been far too long and there's finally a real light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Surviving Your Blessings

This morning as I was driving from Jacob's school to work (stuck in traffic as usual) I pondered how the traffic I was stuck in was somehow less intolerable than most traffic jams.  I decided that the east side route is a bit more scenic than most of my old commute, and that the change of scenery this year probably helped as well.  After all, one section of highway had been part of my commute for over 18 years, which struck me as sounding like a very long time to be doing the same thing.  My first year in Rochester, I took 531 to 490, then I moved to Greece and took 390 to 490 for many years.  When I changed jobs almost five years ago, my commute became exclusively 390 (part of it the same route as before, plus one new section).  But for 18 years I've been on that one section of 390, twice a day every work day.  No wonder I was ready for a change!  Almost anything would be more interesting at this point, right?

That 18-year realization, though, really struck me.  I've been a part of the working world for over 19 years now.  As of August 2020 it will officially be 20 years.  That's a long time, especially considering that period has coincided with a drastic evolution of my life, from a college student to a 40-something wife and mom of two.  The changes over the first 20 years of life are pretty dramatic, from a newborn to a young adult, but somehow it seems like once we're adults, since you don't see as much physical growth and change, the evolution slows.  But I can confirm that my life today looks a heck of a lot different than it did 20 years ago.

This morning a friend posted a meme on Facebook that said something like, "My kid tells me he can't wait to be an adult and do whatever he wants.  And I just laughed and laughed."  Because, of course, all we wanted to do as kids was grow up and do what we wanted, not what our parents demanded.  But the joke's on us, as every adult knows that grown-up life brings with it many limitations and responsibilities that tend to make us feel a bit handcuffed.  You want to travel?  Well, you need money and vacation time for that.  You want to buy (or redo) a house?  Ah, money again.  You want to do this expensive hobby?  Well, money and time can put a stop to that.  Not to mention things like figuring out dinner every night or having to work your free time around your kids' schedules.  You don't realize that as an adult you'll be beholden to bosses and children (and bills and time constraints) that demand a lot of your time and energy.

The thing that has only started to strike me in recent years, though, is that not every adult has those responsibilities to the same degree.  We all have something, mind you, but for many people, it looks very different.  As I've gotten up past typical childbearing age, I've realized there are a number of friends (and even family) that won't ever be parents, be it by choice or bad luck.  Some never get married, so they can make decisions for themselves most of the time.  Some people never choose to buy a house, so they never have the mortgage/tax burden or the maintenance concerns we do.  Some have a different job situation that changes how they manage their time or that allows them to be free from a boss' oversight.  We all have something, but we all made choices or had life take us in certain directions.  It's just interesting how we all tend to struggle in our own ways...or at least, most people I know seem to indicate most days they're still just trying to make it through.

As for me, on the surface I have the life I always dreamed of.  I have a loving husband and two kids.  I have a great, mostly intact extended family.  I have a lovely house in the suburbs.  I have a decent job that uses my talents well, and I even managed to have something very close to my dream job for a while.  But it turns out that just because it's a literal dream come true, that doesn't mean it's easy.  It struck me that with every blessing that's been added to my life, from a spouse, to a house, to kids, hass complicated things a bit further.  Not entirely in a bad way, mind you, but sometimes it's a lot to manage.  At the end of the day I wouldn't change a thing (well, maybe a couple minor details here and there--but not the big picture), but with each good thing comes an additional challenge.

I guess I sort of liken it to the Christmas season.  So many of us are passionate about Christmas--we love the lights, the music, the sentiments--and we wouldn't trade it for anything.  We revert to childlike excitement when we see exceptional decorations or get that one awesome gift.  It's a highlight of the year, no doubt.  But as the Christmas season approaches, I admit I get a sense of dread, or at least anxiety.  I know that for a full month I will be sleep-deprived, financially challenged, and constantly checking off a to-do list.  I will be planning, shopping, baking, wrapping, partying, and otherwise completely mentally and physically booked up for weeks.  It's exhausting enough that I know that despite my sadness when the lights disappear and the carols stop, I will also feel an immense sense of relief.  Again, I wouldn't really change the craziness for anything, but it is hard.  It is truly a love/hate relationship most of the time--the joy is ultimately worth the work, but there are individual moments in the middle where I'm not too sure.

But again, like the rest of life, the burdens of Christmas are merely evidence of a life well-lived.  The more people we have to buy for, it means that we have a lot of people to love (and that love us back).  The decorations are all part of having a cherished home to fill with Christmas cheer.  The endless parties and school events are proof of the many valuable connections we have.  While travel is always challenging, it means that we have family we love enough to make sure we can share the holiday with them.  It's all a part of the experience for us, and we wouldn't have it any other way.  But does it complicate things?  Sure.  Still....worth it.

So, Christmas is not unlike daily life--the richer your life, the more complicated it gets.  But it's what you do, and even if it's difficult in the middle of it, at the end of the day you know you're lucky.  My life has evolved significantly since I graduated from college and started my adult life.  If my life hadn't evolved since then, I'm not quite sure where I'd be.  I venture to say I'd have learned a lot less (or if not less, it would have to be a very high volume of different stuff!), and even if I had a great support network of friends and family, the depth of life experience couldn't be nearly what I've earned at this point.  It's overwhelming to think about how far I've come and how my mindset has shifted in so many ways.  It hasn't always been easy--in fact, a lot has been very hard--but much like everything else, there isn't much I'd change because it's all brought me to where I am today.

I guess it's all about perspective and remembering in the midst of the hard stuff that it's all worth it.  We may not feel appreciated, or maybe we won't feel the love in that moment, but it's there.  It's what makes it all worthwhile in the end and gives us the strength to do it all over again next year.  This is the good stuff, even if we don't feel it now.  Someday, these will be the good old days, after all.  Better to make them "good" in the moment, too, right?  Hang in there this holiday season, and hopefully we all get a chance to take a deep breath and see the love hiding there somewhere. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

One Good Day

Sometimes you just need one good day.

Most weekends without plans scare me a little.  Particularly when Craig is going to be out of the house working.  I woke up Saturday feeling a bit crappy.  I was a few days into my second antibiotic for this sinus mess and wasn't noticing a lot of improvement.  I had a rough evening and an equally bad night of sleep again, and despite 12 hours in bed, I woke up feeling a bit cruddy.  But once I was up and moving, I started to feel better.  A lot better, like breathing through both nostrils and only blowing my nose a few times better.  It was a sunny day, I wasn't that congested, and maybe I could do this so much better than usual.

Carter's sun catcher looked so pretty in the bright sun (but just ignore the snow in the background)...

Then I noticed that my blooming violets sparkled so pretty in the sun.  Hard to get the camera to capture it, but there were gorgeous little pink sparkles on each leaf.

I had banned Carter from electronics early in the day, as he has no willpower and I didn't want to spend the day fighting him.  I know he can play with toys, but he just needs no other options.  He did a good job keeping himself occupied, and after lunch, he ran his Magic Tracks car through a magnetic tile tunnel he built and realized how it very naturally flipped up a tile at the end of the tunnel, almost like a doggy door.  Then he wanted to get it to automatically get back on its track.  And of course he wanted me to record it.  And after a bunch of bloopers, we finally got this one...

After that success, we went outside to play in the snow.  It was cold, but the sun took off the edge so it wasn't too bad.  We tried to make snowballs and snowmen, but the snow was still a bit too dry to pack well.  But it was fun to explore...  

Carter had fun with the snowballs we could make...even if they barely lasted after handling them once.


Another one!

He purposely liked to flop in the snow!

We were out for about an hour, and finished up by trying to sled down a small plow hill on a little "butt sled" we have.  Then I took him on a sled ride around the house.  We came across a giant icicle hanging from the back of the garage.  I figured I'd knock it down (which was probably dumb) to take the weight off the gutter, and finally this giant chunk (a "shield", as Carter called it) came down.  

So big compared to my boots!

The ice looked so cool!  It shimmered so pretty in the sun!

For the most part, the boys were pretty pleasant.  I had a couple fights to break up, but they were mostly fine.  I was struggling with what to make for dinner, but I decided that since Craig was gone, we could take advantage of the lack of lactose intolerance and the boys' love of shrimp.  Aldi's shrimp is pretty cheap and I had some in the freezer, so I quickly found a couple recipes on Pinterest--one for a lighter alfredo pasta that I had all the ingredients for, and another for garlic butter shrimp that could go with it.  It was so easy to make, and the boys loved it!

Bedtime went smoothly, and I had a nice evening just relaxing, blogging, and catching up on TV.  I had a bit of a sinus flare-up during that time, but by bedtime I felt so much better and I slept rather well without constantly waking up to blow my nose.  It really was a great day that led into a great night!  It felt so good for a change!

Today, of course, was a bit more mixed on all counts.  I still feel better in general but had a couple more flare-ups.  The boys fought a ton more.  We went shopping as a family (and me solo) with decent but not ideal results.  I washed our sheer curtains for the first time ever (gross, I know) and one had rotted a bit in the sun so it tore in the process.  You know, just a mixed bag.  Now we're facing down one full week of work and school before the long Thanksgiving weekend (for all except, and it seems like quite a mountain to climb to get there.  We will, one day at a time as usual...and then panicking when it gets here because there's too much to get done before the holiday and the official start of the Christmas season!  Here we go again...

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Love, Middle School Style

So, Jacob has his first middle school crush situation.  I'll spare you the details, but I need to work through this a bit, so bear with me.  Jacob has had a couple "girlfriends" over the years, including the girl he gave a Christmas gift to in second grade, and a girl he was sort of with in fourth grade.  But middle school is the real deal, and he's been hoping to find a girlfriend for a bit now.  I keep telling him there should be no rush because it's not that great at his age anyway (I mean, who wants their parents to drive them to a date?).  But there's this girl...and she likes basketball.

Long story short, modern middle school love isn't that much different than old school middle school love.  There's still the go-between friend, and instead of the note with the "Check yes or no", it's awkward text messages.  In the end, while this girl admitted she likes him, she's not allowed to date.  He's aiming to be more than friends but not "boyfriend-girlfriend", but then he's so nervous about the whole thing he could barely talk to her after all the text messages went down.  So, it's definitely not smooth sailing.  Ironically, he's telling me how he doesn't know what he's doing with all of this stuff, and I'm trying to give him advice that he's not listening to.  Ahh, typical.

It's definitely made me think a lot about being in sixth grade and how young love felt back then.  I had crushes on boys--most especially one boy--from the time I was in Kindergarten.  It never really went beyond a couple kisses on the cheek behind the bookshelf (haha) but by fifth grade we did end up being "official", with sitting next to each other at lunch, hand grazes in the pew during chapel, and one surprise kiss on the cheek that I can recall.  When I was in sixth grade, we almost got to the point of going on a date (to a Milli Vanilli concert, of all things!), but he broke up with me partway through the year to go out with a new girl in the class, who also happened to be quite developed (and I found out later, quite advanced in the physical realm)!  I'm not sure if he was the beneficiary of any of that, mind you, but it didn't last long and we did sort of get back together at some point, for a while at least.  I continued to have a crush on him at various times right through ninth grade, when we happened to share an earth science class.

When I think back on it now, it all seems a little silly, but those feelings were very real back then.  The getting together was euphoric and the breakup was crushing.  I'm trying to keep that in mind before I dismiss Jacob and his situation.  At the same time, I'm trying to keep him level-headed about it--that yes, it's cool, but you need to take it slow and keep things chill.  There's no need to rush the physical stuff (and I feel like there's more pressure for that now), and without the actual clearance to "date", there's only so much that goes into a relationship.  I warned him to not get too pushy in getting her to commit, because that could turn her off.  Just get to know her better and see where it goes.  In the end, I guess I'm just happy he's still willing to talk to me about it, so I'm trying to be as careful with what I say as I can.

I had this realization the other night that watching your child go through relationships is complicated.  On one hand, you don't want to see them get hurt, so you could hope that their sixth grade love is THE one.  They'll never know heartbreak, and they'll have one heck of a love story.  But when you think about it, so much learning and even fun happens through the dating process.  Yes, there's heartbreak, and it sucks.  But even that is a learning experience.  What kind of adult would you be, and how unprepared for life, if you never feel the hurt caused by losing love?  Whether you're the one causing the loss, or someone else is, there are learning experiences on either side.  And in between heartbreaks, there can be a lot of fun!  Not just the physical stuff, but the carefree dates and the excitement of new love.  You learn so much about thoughtfulness and caring for someone else more than yourself.  You learn how to get close to someone emotionally, and how to work through disagreements.  You make mistakes and do it better next time.  You learn what you like and don't like in a partner.  For all of the "I kissed dating goodbye" stuff I read in college (and that guy came out and said he was wrong, by the way), I strongly feel that dating teaches you a ton.  I'm not saying it should be taken lightly or done frivolously--I think if both parties are at the same level, maybe some of that is okay, particularly at Jacob's age--but if you do it as a conscious journey to find your way to forever, it's a valuable experience.  And I'd hate to see Jacob deprived of that by finding his true love at age 11.  Maybe the perfect scenario is to find your true love early, separate and see the world, then find your way back to each other as older, wiser humans.  Who knows?

Tweenhood and teenhood are no joke.  We're going to be doing a lot of learning together as we go through this process, and I'm admittedly terrified.  But for all the fighting we do, I think there's still a degree of trust there, and I hope he'll continue to talk to us (though based on recent experiences,  probably me) about the tough stuff as he goes through this process.  No one loves him more than us, so if he needs an advocate, we're here for him.  We're getting closer to the "spectator" role in parenthood, and it's not easy, but for now we'll be as helpful as we can with guiding him without depriving him of the very important learning experiences he'll need as he gets older.  I can't say we'll do it well, but we'll sure as heck try.