Softly nearing the end

It’s quiet in the house. Matt took the big kids to the track with him and I just put Audrey to bed. Usually Beau is my shadow during this time, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t in my room and he wasn’t in the hallway, which is somewhat unusual for him.

We started Beau on Prozac a few weeks ago. I just couldn’t handle watching him suffer as he had been. Ever since the water incident in the house, he hasn’t been the same. Stress caught up to him; he didn’t like the new smells or the sights or the sounds, and we finally decided enough was enough. We did the thunder shirt, the composure, the melatonin, the benadryl. We did the white noise, the classical music while away, the gating off into certain parts of the house.

But when I am away, I worry about him. When I am away, I fear he’s freaking out and I’m not there to help him. He won’t go outside after dark without major coaxing or cheese. He can’t see the way he used to. His hearing isn’t the same. It’s scary to him.

So, when we got home from vacation, I made an appointment with the vet, and we finally started him on a medicine that’s giving him a better quality of life.

Did I feel like an absolute failure? At first, yes, I most absolutely did. But here’s the thing – it’s not about me. It never was. It’s about Beau and the fact that every time he freaked out over a sound or a new hole made in the house, or a stranger coming in to take measurements, it was killing him.

Anxiety and depression, in adults, is often treated like it’s a joke. It’s not real. You can’t see it. So how is it really a thing?

But it is. And in dogs, imagine how you feel; anxious or sad, and then unable to communicate that with anyone. He would look at me, and I knew. I knew he was suffering and when I signed those adoption papers, I swore that I would give him the best retirement he could, because I don’t know how he was (mis)treated in the past. He deserves what I can give him.

So I came downstairs and saw him laying on the floor, sleeping soundly. I sat down next to him and he didn’t stir. I know that he won’t live forever. I know that he’s on the downhill slope. There are days I wonder if we have months, not years. I know he’s 11, and a big breed. I know this. But it’s hard all the same thinking about it. So I gently touched his head, and he lifted it and looked at me.

I like that look so much better than the ones before. His look was saying, “Thank you.”

We pause this post tonsillectomy recovery session to bring you my vacation

First, I’ll start by saying that Luca is doing pretty okay. As the days wear on, he is getting more sore and uncomfortable, as tonsillectomies typically do to people, but mostly, he’s not eating as much as he usually would, so he’s just tired. His spirits are high, and that’s all that really matters.

But I really don’t want to talk about that, because it’s stressful and I need to escape a moment.

So let’s talk about the vacation I took, that was actually a vacation, (because it was nearly perfect,) can we?

I went here:


It’s okay to be jealous. I’m jealous of me now, too.

So we went to my favorite place in the whole world, the Outer Banks of North Carolina. You know how sometimes you go somewhere and it speaks to you? Well, ever since I was a kid, it’s been that place. MY place.

We went with my in laws and some friends of ours, who have two kids, aged 9 and 6. So it really worked out well.

Duck Donuts Logo

First of all, this place has Duck Donuts. People. We know me by now, yes? I do crazy things for donuts. Remember that time I ate 6 in one sitting and ran two miles?

Where was I?


We did what normal people do on vacation.

IMG_5159And then we went parasailing.


Sadly, any photo documentation I have from that got lost when they went to burn it onto a cd. I do, however have GoPro proof somewhere around here. So that’s fun.

I also didn’t die. Even better.

Every morning, I took a different kid to the beach for special one on one time. We were up at 6 or earlier most mornings and it wasn’t terrible, because, how could you be sad when this was literally a minute walk away?


They got to choose where they went. Luca chose the sound first.

IMG_5247Where we stayed, it was less than a five minute walk to the sound side.

Mae chose the beach. And while we were walking, I was holding our sandals. She saw a plastic bottle and asked me to take it back to recycle (so my kid,) and when I did, I realized I had lost one of Mae’s brand new sandals. We walked up and down the beach looking for it, but it was nowhere to be seen. I asked an older gentleman to keep an eye out for it.


Later that day we got her a new pair, and when we went to the beach the next day, someone had left the missing sandal on our boardwalk for us.

Audrey chose instead of walking up and down the beach, to sit instead. I was fine with that.


The dad of the family that came with us is former Navy, and so one of the days, Matt, his dad and Claire and Luca, along with the dad and his son, drove up to Norfolk to take a tour of one of the planes he used to fly. While they did that, I took my mother in law and the girls to Bodie (pronounced Body) Island to tour the lighthouse. I had never been to that one before, so why not?


Mae and I climbed to the top, since she was just tall enough. It has a pretty neat history, if you ever want to google it.

The weather was pretty much perfect, up until the day they were to put off the fireworks for the Fourth. We still ended up seeing them, but they kind of haphazardly threw them off, since a storm was coming over the sound. We made the most of it, though.

My favorite was when a storm was brewing off the coast, and the clouds were absolutely amazing.


(That’s my friend’s son.)


Matt and I ran a Fourth of July 5k, where I didn’t PR, but I did place in my age group. It was super humid and hot, and my legs basically flipped me off, so it was a very painful 24 minutes.


Those are our fancy faces. Matt, however, got a PR. For the first mile and a half, he was within my sights. I probably could have gotten a best time, but man, my legs were lead.

So basically, it was a week filled with relaxing and shenanigans.

IMG_5503We didn’t have a hurricane push us out early this time.


In fact, we couldn’t have asked for better weather.


I’m not gonna lie. I thought that having four kids meant our vacations were over until they got older. But they were so well behaved.

IMG_5569I’m already planning for next year’s trip.


So now I’m back to reality where I’m force feeding popsicles on Luca all the while singing, “You’re my pop-si-cle!”

Please tell me you get that reference.

Pre-vacation insanity

Two weeks ago, I met with my new doctor. I lost my other doctor of 10 plus years, because of the whole Highmark/UPMC debate and I hadn’t seen her, for my own issues, probably since my PPD with Luca. Oops. The thing is, I see her all the time, because she’s also my kids’ doctor, but I tend to put things for myself on the back burner.

About 9 months ago, I was denied donating blood because my blood count was low. In all my years, that has never happened to me. Ever. I felt pretty defeated, and haven’t tried to donate since, which is silly, because I’m an every eight weeks donor. To put this into perspective, when I was pregnant, I was never even slightly anemic. Ever. I’ve always had a good count.

Then I noticed I’ve been having some hair loss, and major fatigue. And before anyone says, “Well you teach so much…” let’s just stop there. The working out was the only thing actually giving me energy. Otherwise, I felt sluggish. And when I’d wake up, I’d always feel foggy. So I knew it was time to see a doctor about it.

My new doctor is fantastic. She listened, was super personable and chatty, and before I knew it, an hour flew by and I was being jabbed with needles. Being as we have a family history of hypothyroidsm and my symptoms matched it to a T, I assumed that had to be the issue. She also threw on some iron studies to be sure.

So good news, my thyroid is just fine. My iron, however, was not. Turns out I’m anemic. Yay! But finally, I could have some answers. Why am I anemic? I don’t know. But my doctor is going to find out. Because she called me personally to tell me so.


I started my iron supplement, Iron Glycinate, because I know the horrors of iron supplements and stomach upset, and this one won’t do that.

And guess what? For a week now, since starting to take the supplements, I’m finally feeling a little better. I have more energy and when I wake up, on my own, at an early hour, I feel clear-minded and refreshed.

It’s like magic.

Saturday we leave for vacation. Sadie is staying with my sister, because everyone loves Sadie, but Beau doesn’t get along with Carly’s dog very well, so I have a dog sitter staying at the house while we’re away. She’s also handling the cats and mail, so that’s kind of a win all around. I often feel weird having people in my house, let alone in my house, alone, but I’m just letting go. I have to.

Truth be told, I’m embarrassed with how disheveled my house is with the water damage. Since it happened, nearly 3 months ago, NOTHING has happened yet. Not a single repair. It’s our fault, somewhat. Matt’s had a huge influx of travel lately, and we didn’t send the insurance check to the mortgage company right away, because we didn’t realize that along with our names, they were also cosigned on it. And waiting for them to make a decision on anything takes a ridiculous amount of time. I mean, come walk through my house, mortgage company. See the holes and exposed pipes and wires. It’s super fun. Now give us our money so we can fix it.

Eye roll.

I was tired of my house feeling unkept. I mean, I don’t keep a super tidy home, but it’s clean for the most part. And somewhat put together. And if a person walks in I’m not overly apologetic about how messy it is. So there’s that. But when they came and cut holes in the walls and pulled down cabinets, I have been apologizing to everyone who walks in, as if it’s my fault. I was so over it.

I had stopped caring, because everything was going to be replaced, so why clean it? To combat that feeling, I started to put things back together. The carpet squares I had to let dry, then stack, because our hardwoods were ruined, have been put back down in my bedroom. I know I’ll have to pick them up again soon, but screw it. I want to feel as if the wall next to it doesn’t have a gaping hole. I don’t care that the kitchen floor is going to be ripped up soon, I’m going to scrub it. Forget the fact that in a little bit, my kitchen will be redesigned, I’m going to take care of the clutter on the counter.

I mean, a very kind woman will be living in my home for several days until my mom takes over. I did NOT want her to dread coming here. So I oiled the couch, steam cleaned the rugs, put all the throw rugs through the washing machine, scrubbed all the bathrooms, put the basement back together in spite of the holes in the walls and the carpet half missing. I want to feel clean. I want to feel in control.


…I mean, look how white and clean everything is! It makes me feel okayish that my house has holes all over the place.

Then I made the kids clean their rooms.


Though, leave it to Claire to use the term “clean you room” loosely. At least there isn’t stuff all over her floor.

Luca, by far, did the best job. I wish I had a before photo, because it was an absolute disaster. He had a fun game of “holy shit, watch where you step or you’ll suffer death by Lego on your feet.”

I even cleaned my closet somewhat, and made a spot for Beau to sleep since he lays in it all the time. Then he lays on the hardwood to annoy me. (Also because it’s cool on his body, but I still am annoyed.)IMG_5007I mean, the way I look at it, when we get home, we’re coming home to a clean house. That can’t be all that bad, right?

But I wouldn’t be surprised if the kids try to hide my iron supplements from here on out, because I’ve been on fire.

I even fixed the portable DVD player with a butter knife, like MacGyver, subsequently saving the whole vacation from ruins of having to play the license plate game for 8 hours.

Kids don’t even know how good they have it these days for road trips.

Other things I have done because I’m borderline losing it:

Cleaning out Matt’s side of the garage, because he hasn’t been able to park his car in there since the accident due to all the ripped out cabinets and such has been held there. I organized and even VACUUMED it. A garage. I vacuumed it.


Arranged for my contractor to take the sliding glass door and old basement door away, because it had been sitting on my back patio for over a year. I told Matt it was an early birthday gift for him.

Tossed three bags worth of kid stuff in the basement for donation.

Threw away a broken dresser that had been just hanging out in the play room for several months.

Cleaned out my car. And didn’t loose a limb! I even oiled the leather.

Organized all the snacks for the trip down and made a list of things to bring.

So anyhow, the point is, if you send me on vacation, I clean stuff obsessively. So if you want your house cleaned, send me on a cruise, but not before I am invited to stay at your house for an extended weekend. I’ll make it shine.

Hoping for someday

I’ll just come out and say it. I hate today. Every year, on this day, I have the same dream.

It’s dark, and my friend Tony and I are sitting in an empty room on stools facing each other. He says he loves me. He says he’ll miss me. Then he says, “But I have to go now.”

And I wake up.

I was in California when he died, the first time I had that dream. On a trip by myself halfway across the country, when my mom called my aunt to tell her what happened. She woke me up early, around 7, and she had been crying. Anticipating the grief I was about to feel. I can’t even begin to imagine how horrible she must have felt to see my world crumble around me in a matter of moments. I just sat in her papesan chair staring at the wall, while she frantically tried to find me a flight home.

And I keep reliving it. Over and over. It won’t ever go away.

My best friend died, and I don’t really know what else to say about it.

Living in a world without Tony was very hard for me. I made reckless decisions, joined the Army, stopped caring about myself; I went numb. It was hard enough with him being gone, but I didn’t know how to talk about it. My friends didn’t understand, or they didn’t want to talk about it. Tony’s death affected so many people, I wasn’t alone, and everyone grieved differently.

I remember walking into my boyfriend’s garage after Tony’s viewing, where his brother was working on a car. He said I looked nice, and I turned and buried my head into my boyfriend’s arm and cried. His brother said, “Oooookay?”

And that’s the truth. No one knew how to handle me.

didn’t know how to handle me.

I changed that day. I went to bed on the 21st one way, and woke up the 22nd a completely different person. I don’t even remember who I was before.

I’ve worked very hard to get myself back on track. Deep down, I’m still the same person I was. Still funny and kind. But I grew cynical, and quieter. More introspective. Tony made me laugh – all the time, and I didn’t want to laugh anymore. I didn’t want to be happy. I wanted to feel everything, and nothing all at the same time.

This morning I woke up with a heavy heart. I had myself a good little cry while Matt was out on a run, and the kids hadn’t woken up yet. Then I sucked it up, and went about my day. Then I sit down and write about him, and completely lose it.

It’s been fifteen years since the accident. Fifteen. And I’m still a mess. Everything sucks about that day, and that won’t ever change. From now until forever, June 22nd makes me sad, and I have to let it. I know for a fact that Tony would tell me to shut up and move on, but I can’t and I won’t. I will always have that empty spot in my heart for him, it won’t ever be filled.

And while I lived, and went on, and made an amazing life for myself, it’s okay for me to think back on him and how I miss him like hell. Because I do. And sometimes I’m so angry with him I could scream. And some days I miss him so much that I cry. And sometimes I hear a song on the radio, and I smile.

I will let myself be sad today, but I won’t let it break me. Tony wouldn’t want that.

I’ll be standing at the edge of the Earth, Tony. Hoping for someday.

Flu, Fevers and the ENT

I need to get this all out so that I don’t go into that place. You know the one. The one that when you get so far in, you don’t know if it’s easier to turn around or keep going, because who knows which is faster?

It started on Sunday afternoon with a fever. It turned into me subbing out my Monday morning class because I was so miserable, I couldn’t fathom lifting weights. Then I subbed out Monday night because spinning wasn’t happening, either.

Tuesday I was going to power through, but Matt flew out in the afternoon and my fever spiked again, so I asked, again, for a sub. Wednesday morning I felt good. I felt strong. Mom came over to watch the kids and I was set to go to the gym. I got there, I started warm up, and oh, woah…why am I so lightheaded? I powered through, came home and immediately had chills. Fever came back.

Last night, I was up at 2 with full on chills, the fever started an hour later, and I couldn’t fall back asleep until 5. I didn’t get out of bed until nearly 8. By that time I had cancelled my 8:30 am class, and felt terrible for doing so.

And all while I’m sick, so was Audrey…and Mae…and now Claire.

I’ve been to the doctors’ twice now. Once for Audrey, and another for Claire’s startling temp of 105.

It’s viral, they said. Ears look good, nose looks good, throat looks good. It’s just a really nasty virus.

And during all of these doctor’s visits, I never once asked them to look me over. Never once. I don’t know why. I’ve gotten so good at putting myself on the back burner these days that I didn’t even consider it.

So on top of feeling physically down, I met with the ENT for Luca today, as well. He was looked over by several people and when the doctor came in, he didn’t mince words. He looked at the sheet I filled out about how he’s been ill. Looked at him. Listened to my recording of him sleeping. Asked me my concerns. Then he said, “OK, we need to schedule this. But I’m going to tell you right away, it’s a difficult procedure for him. It’s very painful.”

I’m a nurse. I know that, obviously, any surgery in a throat and sinuses is going to be painful. But hearing him say that to me, with those kind, but deliberate eyes, made me feel that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. Am I making the right decision?

Matt’s out of town. I feel sick. I am sick. I feel alone. And then there’s this little guy who is so excited to show Claire the spiderman sticker he got for being brave.

“Am I getting my tonsils out today, mom?”

And I explain to him, that, no, it needs to be done when you’ll be home for three weeks, so you can have time to get better. I tell him that I need to set up people to come and help me while you get better. And people are going to be so excited to spend time with you, and they’ll bring you ice cream and applesauce and make you all the smoothies you can handle.

Then we get to the car, and I sit for a minute and try to keep it together, because my baby is going to be getting surgery and I’m scared, but I can’t show him that I am, because he sees everything, so I get it together, and drive us home.

This week alone has been so trying. But to throw in where I’ve been with sick kids since March, I’m so ready for this to be done. Two weeks ago I spent the better part of the evening into the early morning while Luca was in the ER being given IV fluids because of dehydration because of these tonsils. He doesn’t eat. So I know that he’s not going to eat after surgery. He won’t. I know that I’m going to most likely be spending time at the ER giving him fluids, because he’s stubborn and won’t drink because it’ll hurt. No matter what I give him, it’ll hurt.

He’s lost 3 pounds since the beginning of May, which doesn’t seem like a lot to some, but he’s 6 and only 40 pounds. He doesn’t have a lot of room to loose.

But as my friend Jen said, “Prepare for the worst, and maybe it won’t happen. Just take it one hour at a time.”

I’ve already sent an email out to family asking for dates and times where I’ll need help. I already know that I cannot do this alone with just Matt and me. We just can’t.

Right now I’m in the processing phase of all the news. Maybe tomorrow it’ll seem a little better, a little more manageable. But until then, I have just over a month of worry until the big day. I’m usually so strong. I usually don’t let people know I’m scared. But this is bigger than me and I think it’s okay that I’m scared.

I just really want Matt home.

battle of the bikini

I have a lot of things I say when I teach. Mottos, if you will. One thing I ask the members when the workout is getting tough is, “Why are you here?” with a follow up of, “What motivates you?”

I read an article today that was talking about everyone’s different journey and how we are all looking for different outcomes. You’d think the majority of the people I work with are working towards a goal of sorts, but they’re really not.

When I meet a new person in class, I usually ask them what they’re looking to get out of the class. I leave it pretty open ended and the answers have been surprising. Instead of the whole, “Oh I’d love to look great in a bikini,” or “My jeans don’t fit anymore,” I get a lot of, “I want to keep up with my grandkids,” and “I need a way to relieve some stress.” And of course, “I just had a baby.” Solidarity, sister.

Of course, I always get that person who is looking to get ready for a wedding or really does want to look good in a bikini, and that’s fine! As long as we’re being safe and healthy about it, I’m just glad people are working out.

The article then went on about how people are very quick to judge others in a gym setting. I’ve seen it before. On my Facebook feed, and I’ve seen articles written about it. It always makes me feel really sad, mostly because I’ve done it before. I remember back before I was teaching, and could remain anonymous, I would look at other peoples’ clothing, workouts, heck – what they were drinking. And I’d judge. Hey lady in the leopard print running tights! Dude who grunts, what gives? Guy who walks sideways on the treadmill? What about the girl on her cellphone?

Then I became an instructor and started actually talking to the people who I work out around. Lady in the leopard print pants turned out to be a cancer survivor who went from being a quiet, meek person, to a person who has embraced life and could give a crap what other people think of her anymore. The guy who walks sideways on the treadmill, well he has a knee injury and that helps him build the muscle to help with the imbalance. Lady on her cellphone? Well, it’s still annoying, but maybe she had an emergency, or she’s using the daycare and it’s the only time she can have a conversation without a kid screaming in her face.

Point is, I don’t know. I’m not them.

Further more, why do I even care? What was it in me that felt the need to care?

When I got right down to it, judging others helped to cover up my own insecurities that I felt at the gym. Moreover, I thought, well, I’m sure I’m being judged, so I can do the same. Maybe it made me feel like I was better than them.

But becoming an instructor opened my eyes. Everyone has a story. We all have a reason to be where we are, and who am I to be unkind to them. Really, who am I?

I really wish I could shake the person I once was, years ago, when I cared all too much about what other people were doing and instead, I should have looked in the mirror. What I would have seen was a girl who was starting at the bottom of a really big, long, and exhausting hill. It’s intimidating starting out from scratch. In anything. A job, a relationship, a goal. I was, at the time, a mother of one, at the heaviest I had ever been to date, and I was scared to start, because I knew it would be hard, and long, and I’m an impatient person.

What I ended up finding, however, was a family I never knew I had. Now, it’s not as much about the workout and the results, it’s more, the journey and the friendships. And through doing this, day in and day out, I forgot to pay attention to it all, and realized that I’ve made huge strides since 2007. By simply living my life, and working out for me. So now that hill isn’t so big anymore. I’ll always be climbing and that’s probably my favorite part.

Another thing I tell the members is, “Look in that side mirror. Look at your hard work.” And when they do, I look for smiles. Because they should be smiling. Where we are today is further than where we were yesterday. And maybe my flex isn’t as big as the person next to me, but for me – FOR ME – it’s huge.

Yesterday I got a new bikini in the mail. I worked with a longtime friend who works for the company I ordered it through to help me pick one for my body. I said, “So you know I’ve had four kids. So, obviously, I have some residual pregnancy stretch marks and pooch in my lower abdomen. And my upper thighs aren’t where I want them to be yet. Can you find me a suit to match that?”

She responded with a yes, and she sent me a few options, and I ordered the one I liked best.

When it came, I sent her some photos of me in it, and she said, “OMG you look amazing in it! I love it with your hair!”

I said, “If only the backs of my legs were as defined as my back,” and she said, “No one’s going to be looking at your legs.”

And that’s the truth. And if they are, go for it.

I realized that I am doing the complete opposite of what I tell the members. I was looking, but I wasn’t seeing. I looked at myself and immediately looked away. Good enough, I thought.

I waited until last night to look at the picture again, because in my head I remembered seeing all the flaws. But in my dark bedroom, looking at the photo, I saw that it looked okay on me…good even. I had posted it to instagram because the suit is adorable and I felt like sharing. But I didn’t think looked adorable. But finally, I saw, and I was happy. I listened to what my mom wrote, “That is just a super FUN suit! Enjoy the FUN and don’t give a thought to your perceived imperfections while wearing it.”

I was bullying myself. That’s what I was doing. Until I really took the time to see that I was a person behind the suit, I was picking out all the things that were bad. Then I noticed the hard work I’ve done. The hours spent lifting and spinning and running. The days where I have felt so tired, but pressed on anyhow. The four babies I carried in my body. The life I live.

The person I am.

I’m going to the beach, and I’m playing in the sand with my kids. And I’m going to wear my suit and be proud and I’m going to tell my kids I look beautiful.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 1.23.02 PM

No Matter What

I’ve been thinking about to write all day, and no words would come to my mind. Instead, I watched you. When you crawled into bed with us at 5:30 and sang “Happy birthday to myself…” When I came downstairs, you were giggling with your dad over a plate of chocolate chip pancakes. When you stood at the front door with your backpack on, 20 minutes before you had to catch the bus, because you couldn’t wait to tell all your friends it was your birthday.

I watched you run down the street after school with your birthday cupcake necklace flapping in the breeze. I watched as you biked out front, with a huge grin on your face; a feeling of freedom. I watched as you told the neighbors that you’re six today.

I watched as you were helpful with the yard work. When I was mowing the lawn, you pulled weeds. When I carried the deck furniture around, you carried the cushions.

I watched you act like a big kid.

I had planned on telling you all the reasons why I love you. I planned on saying that when you’re around, I’m very happy. That your bright blue eyes make me feel alive. That when you curl up on my lap, I breathe in the scent of your hair, and count the days I have left to do that.

Today you turned six, and every time I pick you up, I wonder if it’s my last time.


You call me Mama, and I wonder, how much longer until it’s just mom?


Every time you stand outside and sing a song about whatever’s on your mind, I wonder, when will you think that’s silly?


You’re six.


You help me cook meals.


You dream super big.


You always take safety into account.


You always look after Audrey.



FullSizeRenderNot too long ago, you were just my little man. The guy who slept all the time, never made a peep, was super calm, danced a lot, and was just the kid all moms dream of having because you were so mild mannered.


Even when you made your sister cry.


But now you’re six.

My advice to you, on your sixth year, is always be proud of your accomplishments. Don’t worry about what the kids around you do, especially your sisters. You’re not them. You’re you. I like who you are, very much.

I like that you go at your own pace. You’re okay with taking your time. You have no need to rush.

But some day, someone is going to make you feel like your accomplishments aren’t enough. That you need to do or be better than who you are. You may get a feeling in the bottom of your stomach that makes you feel sad. I know that feeling. But when I feel it, I remind myself that I’m me. I am only in control of myself. You are you. And you can’t control how others feel about you, but you can certainly control how you feel about yourself or others. Never forget that. If you don’t like the way you’re behaving, change it.

But that doesn’t mean, that if someone says they don’t like how you’re behaving, you get to ignore them. Please remember to keep an open mind and question your motives from time to time.

Don’t ever be unkind.

My favorite thing about you, Luca, is that you listen. That’s a very rare quality, to be able to truly listen without judgement. It’s also a very important quality to have.

Time will pass, and the day will come where I can’t pick you up anymore and give you super big hugs, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t still try.

A few months ago I asked you if you’ll always love me, no matter what, even if you’re mad at me, and you looked at me with your perfect blue eyes and said, “Mama, I will always love you. No matter what.”

Happy birthday.

bend and not break

I don’t like to talk about my kid’s personal struggles, because I know that some day, they’ll care enough to read these things, or perhaps a person in school, and I don’t want to ever post something that could hurt them. Now that Claire is 7 and Luca is nearly 6, I ask their permission before I post anything about them on Facebook, be it a photo or a funny quote. The way I look at it, I’d want that same courtesy if I was growing up in the age of social media.

As a kid, I grew up with a columnist for a mother at a local paper, and she would sometimes write columns that centered around me. She always, always, had me read it before she even sent it to her editor. I don’t know how many times I’d walk into school with a teacher waving her column in my face saying how amazing of a write my mother was. And then the inevitable, “I had no idea about that part of your life…” like, for example, when I got my belly button pierced at 16. But, again, this was published with my permission.

I asked Claire if it was okay to share some of the things that’s been going on with her, and she said she didn’t mind. I told her exactly what I’d say, and she said, “Mom, I’m confident in who I am.”

I’ve briefly mentioned here before about Claire’s struggles with anxiety. I often worried that I broke her, that the way I was raising her was causing her issues. I mean, how many times do we hear the jokes about kids in therapy talking about their mothers. It’s always about your mother.

As the school year progressed, her anxiety increased, and I thought it was because she was having a hard time in school.

It was completely the opposite, it seems. She was tested for accelerated reading, and passed. So she was put into a different reading class where she was doing 2nd grade vocabulary lessons, comprehension, and reading chapter books, complete with comprehension tests. She was doing well, until all of a sudden, her anxiety kicked up again, and her scores started lacking. I reached out to her teacher and she said, “She’s doing great, but when tests happen, she rushes.”

If I had a dime for every time I told Claire to slow down, I’d have my kitchen paid for.

I told Claire, ‘Be the last kid to turn in your test. Promise me.”

She did. She aced it. Test after test.

Her anxiety lessened.

Last month I got a letter in the mail requesting Claire be tested for the gifted program. Her teacher had mentioned back in October that she was thinking she should be tested before year end, and I had been dreading this. It’s hard to explain, but when you have a kid with anxiety over failure, would you want to test them into something that A.) they may fail before they even make it in or B.) get in, and then stress over the work?

I talked at length with her teacher, her guidance counselor, her TKD instructor…anyone who sees her often enough to know her character, and asked point blank if they’d have her test.

The results were pretty unanimous that Claire is incredibly bright, and could benefit from the program. Apparently the program isn’t more ‘work’ rather it’s fun and gets like minded kids in the same room to do logic puzzles and things they’re good at, but also test their limits in a good way.

As my friend Jen said, “You never know. When I was in gifted, I found my people. Maybe she will find hers, too.”

She starts her two part testing on Thursday, and I told her that it’s going to be fun, and she agrees. She’s excited. I’ve also told her that if she doesn’t make it in, it’s OK. She admitted she would be disappointed, but also said she will be okay if that’s the case.

Last week, I got a letter from the school stating that Claire’s academic scores show she’s above average and they want to test her to skip 2nd grade math and subsequently be in 3rd grade math next year.

When Claire was in kindergarten, I was told that this is nearly impossible to do, skip grades in math. And, again, I thought she was just bright for a first grader in math. But half way through the school year, her teacher told me she was pulling her out of mainstream and having her and two other students do math one on one with her. (Another reason why I love her teacher.) Being as it’s been a long time since I was in first grade, I thought the homework she brought home was pretty standard. She’d bring home math where she was borrowing in subtraction, adding up to a million, carrying numbers…you know. Math. I figure when they start throwing in x=y, then that’s some hardcore stuff.

Then one day she brought home a paper with fractions on it and in pen on top was written: “This is 3rd grade math. We’re going slow. Only do page one.”

What the what?

Claire did it like I asked her to add 2 + 2. It’s…it’s hard to explain when you have a kid who does work so effortlessly, to realize that what they’re doing isn’t really at the grade level they’re in. So when I got this letter, I took a photo and immediately sent it to Matt, who thought, “Yup, this is about right.” I was taken aback. He always knew her math skills were good, I just never really caught on. I realized that all the homework she had been doing wasn’t what the other kids in class were doing, because her teacher, being the amazing educator she is, sent home homework based on each child’s skills.

So again, I’m here hoping my child doesn’t break. That I’m doing right by her, by allowing her to be tested for these things. I wasn’t a smart kid in school. I wasn’t in gifted. I was in talented, which I called the B-team. I also think I was in it due to sheer pity. I was a B/C average student. I often believe that I could have been smarter if I could have understood what I read, and if my brain wasn’t so wonky. But this isn’t about me.

I know this is wrong to say, but I always hoped for average kids. Mostly, because I don’t know what it’s like to be that intelligent. I don’t know the feelings and anxiety that comes with it. But, as I’m coming to find, anxiety and intelligence go hand in hand. Claire isn’t a perfectionist. She isn’t type A. She’s just a smart kid who is having a hard time coming to terms with being smart.

I worried that I made mistakes. Me misreading things as annoying, rather as super intuitive. That when she’d ask questions it wasn’t simply because she wanted to talk, but more that she honest to god wanted answers.

For example, a few months ago, in accelerated reading, they learned about the Komodo Dragon. And so today, at the zoo on her school field trip, she made sure she got to see one, because she studied it. She wanted to talk to it and really understand it. To make sure that what she read was true, and that made her so happy.

At the halfway point of school, her teacher said, “I want to push Claire a little bit…just enough to get her to bend.”

Bend she has, and I should know her well enough to know that she will bend, but not break.

I know everyone thinks their kid is smart, because they are. But this kid is so bright, and it’s scary for her.

I know that now. So I’m with her, and we will see it through.

A Runner’s High

I look at running races like a physical fitness test for me. I often wonder, that if I had the time or drive to really train for a race, how fast could I be? Two weekends ago, I ran a half marathon. This is my third year doing this particular race, after previously doing the full, and every year, it’s owned me. Everyone who has ever run Pittsburgh will tell you what a beast of a course it is. Even the elites who come here from all over the world say they underestimate Pittsburgh. It’s not so much the steepness of the hills, it’s the sheer volume of them. Every bridge is an incline, and we run over five. We go from being down at river level, to way above, where, if you’re afraid of heights, don’t look down.

I like to believe that I’m in pretty good overall physical shape. That said, I didn’t have much in the way of expectations for this race. I was running it solo, without a watch or GPS. I didn’t have anyone around me I knew. Frankly, I was more focused on Matt reaching his goals while running the full.

The way I looked at it, I ran the 10 miler in November keeping a 9:12 pace, I could probably do about that for a half marathon. That would put me in around the same finish as the previous year, 2:04.

I prepared the way I always do: got adjusted at the chiropractor, got my knees and IT band taped, drank water, ate the right things, and got enough sleep. My friend at the chiropractor’s office gave me this supplement that she called Runner’s Crack, and told me to take it every few miles.

So yah, I totally doped during the race.

Kidding, kidding.

But this stuff was amazing. Absolutely incredible. And it’s legal to use in the Olympics, so there’s that.

Anyhow, I had a great race. I ran most of it on the sidewalks where I could, because the first several miles were incredibly congested. I started in the second corral, and was passing more than being passed, so that felt really great. The hills didn’t feel like they slowed me down, the crowds amped me up, and every few miles I took a DMG supplement and felt great. I kept my head up, I read signs, I gave out high fives. At mile 6, my dad handed me a CLO sippy cup with some red wine in it. It tasted delicious. It was maybe a half a glass, and as I was running up the West End Bridge, a guy came up behind me and said, “This is a great day for a run!” I said, “It’s even better with wine!” He said, “Stop. Is that wine?” “Heck yes it is, want some?”

So I shared my wine with a super nice guy who was running his first half marathon after losing 140 pounds. I saw him at the very end of the race, when I was waiting for Matt to finish, and I said, “Did that wine help?” And he gave me a big sweaty hug and said, “Girl, you know it did!”

At mile 8, there was a sign that said, “Press here for power!” so I did and I actually felt better. The guy who handed out orange slices in the South Side was my hero, because it was getting hot, and that tasted so good.

At mile 11, I took a shot of ice cold beer, and powered up the steepest hill of the race.

For the last mile, I sprinted. According to the time clocks that I saw, my last mile was 7 minutes. I would agree. My feet had wings and I was flying. Something told me to do it, and I knew I could, so I did.

When I crossed the finish, I quick pulled out my phone and pulled up the Marathon app, and saw my finish time: 1:59:10.

My very first sub 2 hour marathon. At Pittsburgh, the hardest of all half marathons.

I was in a racing slump for quite some time. Three years ago, when I did the half, I was miserable. Every step I took was torture. I didn’t want to be there. Same for the 10 miler two years ago. Last year’s half was pretty good, because I ran with my friend Jen, but it still hurt.

Last November, I ran the 10 miler and it felt better. I finally felt like I was back into enjoying running. And now, after this half marathon, I feel like I remembered why I love running so much. Because I do.

So much, so, that I signed up for another half in July. I’m such a sucker. But it’s flat, and it’s on Presque Isle, so it’s scenic, and it’ll be nice and quiet. I’m really looking forward to it.

I have goals of becoming a running coach for kids. I figure if I say it out loud, I’ll be more driven to get it done. But, all honesty, I see myself becoming a cross country coach of sorts. I’ve been volunteering with the kids’ running club for two years now, and I just love to teach kids that running is more than an all out sprint. They see me outside of the club and shout, “Mrs. C! I see you!” (Mrs. C, for Cassie, not Conti. It was our compromise since they can’t just call me Miss Cassie.) I’ve worked with the third grade (now fourth grade) and just love them. While I know I could work with Claire or Luca’s grade, I don’t for two reasons: 1.) I’d have a hard time choosing which grade and 2.) they always have plenty of people willing to help with them. No one wants the older kids, and that’s a shame since they’re the most fun and eager to learn.

Who would have thought I’d enjoy working with kids so much? Especially since I say all the time how much I don’t like other people’s kids and I’m half serious when I say it. But man, something’s changed, and I can really relate to them, and they’re receptive to me, which is really cool, so I’m super happy.

Long story short, I’m so thankful to be in the shape I’m in, so that I can feel good doing things that are physically challenging. I’m so glad that I have worked as hard as I have, and haven’t quit just because it burns a little. That I can push others to strive to be stronger and better, and most of all, so that I can show my kids that exercise is not a thing you have to do, but rather, something you want to do.

A follow up to the flood

Look, I’m not a negative person by nature, and I do try to keep things positive, because let’s face it, one of my life mottos is to grin and bear it when things get tough, but I’m over today.

Something people tell me often is that I’m a super mom.

I am not.

And sometimes, when I’m doing something un-supermom like, I feel even more guilty for that.

There are times when I’m doing or saying something, that my mind kind of comes away from my body and I think, “Why are you saying that? Why can’t you stop?” as I see my kid’s face crumble before my eyes. And I know I shouldn’t say that. I know I should breathe and count to ten. I know I should do better. But in the moment; in that moment, I cannot.

Then I think about how my kids will talk to their future spouses about how mom was crazy and used to yell at them over stupid stuff.

Right now I’m not in control. For those that know me, know that I am a control freak. I’m the first to admit it. I wasn’t as a kid, and really not so much until I had kids. Something in me snapped and I had to be on top of the situation, all the time. I’m not OCD, I just feel like if I’m the one in charge, it gets done right.

I’m not in charge, because I have holes everywhere. I’m not in charge because I can’t make dinners like I used to. I’m not in control because Claire has softball that conflicts with my work schedule and I have to arrange for her to get there.  I’m not in control because the water ruined my TV and surround sound so I can’t watch Grey’s Anatomy, like I do every Thursday night.

I’m not in control because the garbage disposal decided to come loose and kick out the pipes and I’m so tired right now that my brain can’t even begin to figure out what is wrong with it to fix it.

I’m not in control because my brain isn’t letting me focus, because when I’m tired, everything looks wrong. For example, I just looked at the word does for the longest time because I swear it’s spelled wrong, but NOPE, MacBook says it’s correct. My brain won’t even let me be in control. Talk about a major dis.

I just need to get this all out now, because in the morning I’ll be fine and the hate fire I’m feeling right now will be gone.

Thursdays have been my Achilles heel for a while now, and it’ll be this way for another few weeks. Once June rolls around, it’ll be gravy train, and I’ll be back to normal, but right now there’s too many things, and I’m not a patient enough person to do it with a smile.

It just so happens that Thursdays coincide with water issues, and I’m just not a fan.

A lot of times, when I get this frustrated and overwhelmed, people will recommend I get help at home. I’m glad that people are concerned for me, because that is super comforting, but alas, it’s really not the issue.

It’s me. It’s just my control issues. My need to have things done on my time; My issues with patience. I’m a work in progress, and I had been doing a good job, until the whole house flooded and it went downhill. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this frustrated. But today when the sink started leaking everywhere and Claire said, “Uh, is that supposed to happen?” and I was on my hands and knees looking for the source of the problem, covered in sink contents, I lost it. I cleaned it up the best I could, but when I saw that I had burned my sweet potatoes, I slammed the wooden spoon on the stove a few times, causing Claire to cry.

And I felt horrible.

But tell me, that’s human, right? That’s not something a babysitter could help. That’s not something that a person, at the end of a very busy day, would handle with a smile and a laugh, right? Because we were already past bedtime, Audrey was mad at her dinner, Mae was whining about something, and the cats were at my feet, because I hadn’t fed them yet, and Beau just ate his own poop outside.

We all have our own problems. Maybe by reading my rant, your problem won’t sound so bad, or maybe it’ll sound familiar. I’m just frustrated with today, frustrated that this kind of stuff always happens when Matt travels, and frustrated that I can’t handle life with more grace.

I feel better already.


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