Category Archives: i need an instruction manual

balancing act

So I mentioned a couple posts back that I was really struggling to find balance in my life. I started this year with a few goals. One of them was that I was going to break free from running. Running and only running had tied me down and pinned me in. I had a big running resolution in 2014 that I couldn’t meet for many reasons (including weeks and months where no motivation was present) but a major one that derailed me more than once was injury. My knees are horrible to begin with but something happened to my foot in November that quickly ended my running for most of the remainder of the year.

I still run but I also decided to try new things. Yoga. Pilates. Zumba. Cycling. Water Fitness. Interval Training. Turbo Kick.  And I have tried all these new things except for Turbo Kick because frankly I’m scared to death. But I will. Eventually. I have learned that exercise SHOULD be fun. It should be something to look forward to and not dread, as I felt many times before. Something that I can’t miss, not something that I can be easily talked out of doing.

Good news: All of these classes are offered for free at the YMCA. Bad news: Class times that I am able to make are at the worst times. There’s childcare available, but my kids have gone from tolerating it to hating it. {The last time I took them, Theo said it smelled like a huge poopy diaper in there and he was never going back. True, it did smell like a huge poopy diaper when I picked them up.} Now that Theo’s 5, he would go to the next age group which would mean Dexter would be left all alone in the stinky baby room. I can’t do that to them. So, I can only go when Ryan is home. Which means a few things: 1. Ryan and I can never exercise together. 2. Every time I go to a class, I am missing out on family time. 3. The more time I spend away from home at the gym, the less convenient it is for Ryan to also get a workout in.

It sucks. Number 2 is the big doozy for me. I would love to work out with Ryan but the main reason I’ve been struggling with balance lately is because I LOVE my classes. I love going to the gym. I look forward to the physical strength I feel and challenging myself through difficult moves. Depending on the day, I might see my kids for 2-4 hours on a weeknight. They are still asleep when I leave the 2 mornings that Ryan takes them to school. To be gone for an hour and a half or more on a day when I barely see them to begin with flat out sucks. Ryan is doing the majority of the care for the children on these days, such as bathing and putting them to bed, but he’s also playing games and reading them bedtime stories while I’m away. One night last week I put on my pajamas before I cooked dinner and Theo practically shouted with glee, “Mommy! You’re not going to exercise tonight!?” When I told him I was staying home, he jumped up and down and ran and told his brother that mommy wasn’t going anywhere.

OUCH.

I have been feeling that way too – guilty – but hearing him say it just made me want to puke. I feel like I’ve been selfish, but have I really? I found workouts that I LOVE and look forward to. I feel strong. I don’t want to stop going to my classes. In fact, I wish I could go to more but that’s not realistic or fair to my family. I wish I could find more time in the day. I have been feeling a little bit better about it this week because I have been making a conscious effort to spend more quality time with the boys while we’re together. I included them in my many chores over the weekend and they actually helped. We played together and we worked together. I took the time to sit on the couch and watch a whole movie with them instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to get things done while they were distracted. Dexter sat on my lap and Theo laid his head on my arm. I have been missing out on something that I didn’t even know I was missing. Not only because I’m gone too much but because it’s right there and I haven’t been making it a priority.

I can justify 2 weeknights at the gym (2 nights that I don’t put my kids to bed or spend quality time with them) for the betterment of myself and indirectly, my family. But what if I want to take a 3rd class? Or a friend asks me to dinner one week and a different set of girls are getting together 2 weeks later. Then there’s a team dinner or a fundraiser the next 2 weeks. Then a haircut appointment the following week that’s going to take 2 hours. All of the sudden, I’m very overwhelmed. If I don’t give up my 2 weeknight workouts, I’ll end up being gone 3-4 nights a week every week. It’s just way too much. Time is flying and I don’t want to regret being gone more than I was home when I look back one day. I guess I’m struggling the most with not wanting to miss out on time with my family but not giving up everything else that I enjoy. I don’t want to lose out on friendships because I always say “no,” but I know I can’t say “yes” every time either.

So what I really need is to add about 6 hours to every weekday – I guess I could give up sleep but I’m not sure my friends or kids would want to hang out at 3am. The gym isn’t open and neither is my work. I know it’s a good problem to have, if there is such a thing. It’s great that I have friends and family and my health. Quitting my job is not an option. So how can I have it all without sacrificing myself? Is that even a thing?  I will keep trying to make more of an effort to be present, and really present, when I am home with my guys. I will say no sometimes. But not every time. And I will probably keep feeling guilty for not being at any one place as often as I wish.

xo,

~C~

2015 Resolutions

I am a little late getting this post published … what’s new? I feel like I am rushing most of the time these days. Christmas was a rush. The weeks since Thanksgiving have zoomed by and here we are, already well into January 2015. As I reflected on my progress last year, I realized that I still want to work on the same things – being a better mom, taking care of myself (so I can continue trying to be a better mom), and partaking in something I enjoy – something for me that benefits my family too.

1. I want to connect with my kids instead of yelling at them when we are all experiencing heightened stress and emotions. They are truly the biggest blessings in my life and I care about my family more than anything. It’s not fair to them that I take my own exhaustion, frustration, and every other negative feeling out on them when they dare act their age. Sometimes it seems there’s no alternative to losing my cool, but there’s always an alternative. I’m going to read Yell Less Love More and implement pieces of it daily.

love more yell less2. I want to lose those pesky few pounds (again) but more importantly, maintain a consistent level of activity so that I can not only look better, but feel better and have more energy. So I can be a role model for my children. This year I want to go beyond running. Running isn’t easy, but it’s not hard. It’s hard to mess up or to feel like a fool when you are running. Running is my comfort zone. But my fitness goals got derailed several times last year because I only wanted to run. And running hurts me. When something hurts, running is too painful and those injuries tend to take a long time to heal. This body was not born to run and while I don’t have any plans of stopping altogether, I need to branch out. I need to feel like a fool. I need to not care so much and just try something new. Yoga. Piyo. Zumba. This year I will try new things and I will get & stay in shape.

3. Finally, I want to improve my photography skills and courage. I am so timid and insecure when it comes to taking pictures of anyone but my family of 4. Or asking anyone to take a picture of me with my kids. I’m hesitant to take pictures of us when we’re in a place where I feel people looking at me because I’m taking pictures. I need to get over all of it. I want to get better. I want to be faster adjusting my manual settings. I want to learn … to take a class. Get a new lens. Practice taking pictures of all sorts of different things. Take pictures every day (do another 365). I want to put new pictures in frames to display around my home. I want to create 2 photo books – one from my 2014 Project 365 and one from our beach vacation in October. If I get really, really ambitious, I might create Dexter’s 1st Year baby book….whoopsy.

So there you have it. And yes…sure, there are other things I’d like to do this year but these 3 are still the biggies so these 3 will be the ones I focus on month in and month out. Somewhere in there I’d like to improve our budgeting. Our home improvement projects need to get done. I’d like to meal-plan ahead of time and shop on a budget instead of flying into the grocery at 9pm on Sunday night, wildly throwing random items in the cart that I might combine in some way to create a decent meal. But will I be planning all meals by the end of 2015? Will our home be “done” at the end of 2015? Will we be out of debt by the end of 2015? No way. I will try to be a better friend and wife this year…a better daughter and sister and aunt and mom and co-worker. And cat-owner. God, my cats must hate me. Yeah…I guess I’ve got a lot of work to do in 2015. But those are pretty hard to measure. What about you? Do you have measurable goals going into this new year?

~C~

Dexter at 3 1/2

As I mentioned in my previous post about Theo, we had parent/teacher conferences at the boys’ pre-school just before vacation.  I was most worried about Dexter’s conference because of his potty-training regression since beginning school in August.  This summer he was diaper-free, wearing underwear even at night. He had been doing great and I had no doubt in my mind that he was “ready” for pre-school.

Developmentally, he is right on target and has expressed interest in several areas. He is especially drawn to the water tasks, such as squeezing water from a sponge into a bowl, re-absorbing it, and repeating. His teachers said if there is a water “job” out, that is what Dexter chooses.  The Montessori classroom is organized into areas and right now Dexter spends most of his time in the Practical Life area, which is typical for his age. His teachers said that some days he is not interested in doing any work, but will instead watch his peers for long periods of time.  He isn’t particularly drawn to any of his peers, but gets along well with everyone and prefers to sit by his teacher during circle time. He is working with early math and language concepts.

My biggest concern was his potty-training.  After 8 weeks in school, he had only gone 1 week (and he only goes 3 days a week) with no accidents and most weeks he was having multiple accidents. Usually just pee, but not always.  Gross. I felt terrible that they were having to deal with this over and over and over.  It made me sad for Dexter, because to me, that meant either that he was nervous, anxious, or not feeling comfortable asking a teacher for help. It made me feel terrible for the teachers that they were having to clean up his messes.  How could a teacher not resent a kid that was crapping his pants once or twice a week? How could a teacher not resent the parents of a kid who swore he was potty-trained and “ready” for pre-school, who apparently was not.  I was spending way too much time worrying about it while at work and feeling apprehensive every time I pulled up to the school to pick them up, cringing from the inside out every time I saw a bag (or two. or three.) of wet / soiled clothing in his cubby.

I apologized profusely in emails to his teacher, to which she replied that it was not a problem and that they were still working on learning his cues. I still couldn’t help feeling sick about it because I truly feared that any day they would kindly pull me aside and tell me that Dexter just wasn’t able to return until he was potty-trained. So what would that mean? Putting him back in diapers? No, but if he had to go back to the sitter 5 days a week for having too many accidents at school, wouldn’t the sitter WANT him in a pull-up or diaper?  It was just starting to look like we were going down a path I didn’t want to travel.  After asking many questions about Dexter’s classroom behavior and discussing his progression, I brought up the potty training issue.

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His sweet teacher so calmly expressed that Dexter is doing FINE.  That I didn’t need to worry about it. That for every 1-2 bags of wet clothes I see, he is going to the bathroom and making it there on his own at least 4 or 5 times.  They don’t prompt the kids to go to the bathroom unless they notice them squirming. Sometimes they miss his cues.  They said that him having accidents and having to change his clothes provides a great learning moment in independence for him.  If he pees on his clothes, he is responsible for changing and he is capable of doing that all on his own.  Sometimes it takes him 20 minutes but that’s okay.

She really put it into perspective for me by saying that he is only 3.  Three. It’s only been a little over 3 years since he was inside my belly, completely incapable of doing anything independently. What was I doing three years ago (besides caring for a tiny baby)? Pretty much all the same things I am doing today.  Dexter, on the other hand, has learned to walk, talk, feed himself, dress himself, go to the bathroom, and so much more.  He has learned more in three years than an adult could hope to learn in the next 20.  He will continue to learn at a very fast rate for the next few years. It’s hard to do so many new things all day every day. So with that in mind, Dexter is doing FINE.

True.  It’s all about perspective.  He only had a handful of accidents on vacation. Even less the week after we returned.  I am not going to let myself worry about it anymore because my little boy is doing everything he is supposed to be doing.  He will figure it all out.  He’s just having a little adjustment period.

More post-vacation insight has come to me since we’ve been home, this time about Dexter.  During vacation, Dexter became very attached to his tennis shoes and a blue satin cape that he calls his Batman cape. He wears it at home a lot but it has never caused any problems. The tennis shoes we bought a couple of months ago are black with royal blue and yellow trim and he also refers to them as his “bat” shoes.  He didn’t want to take his shoes off in the car. He didn’t want to take them off for bed. He didn’t want to take off the cape to go into stores or to go to bed. Or the pool. Or the beach.  He threw some hairy tantrums over those items; it was as if we told him his puppy just died.  It was bad!!  He also got mad if we didn’t have a Batman shirt for him to wear – thank goodness we were able to do laundry there. He finally accepted that he could wear the cape in the car and condo but nowhere else and that he had to leave his shoes under the bed at night.  It was the first thing he thought about when he woke up – the cape and shoes went right back on.  Ryan and I started looking at each other with concern, thinking WHY is he so rigid about these things all of the sudden?  We optimistically and tentatively decided it’s just a phase.

As soon as we got home, the preoccupation with his shoes and cape was all but forgotten. OK, that might be a stretch – he hasn’t forgotten but it’s gone back to the way it was before vacation.  He doesn’t cry when it’s time to take them off. He doesn’t have to have them close at bedtime.  He doesn’t try to wear the cape out of the house.  Upon noticing this a few days after we got home, I recalled another time when Dexter became extremely attached to another item.

When Theo started Pre-school last year, it was the first time that the boys had ever been apart for any length of time.  Along with this change, they had started at a new babysitter just a month earlier. Dexter started asking to take one of Theo’s old stuffed animals (that Theo never played with a ton) to the babysitter. We let him. After a couple of weeks, the babysitter asked that he stop bringing it because it was causing problems. We agreed but there were some really, really terrible drop offs in the morning for the next week or two, with Dexter desperately begging for the puppy, bawling as I walked away, and me crying all the way to work. It was hard.

We had been home from vacation for a week before I realized the similarities.  Although he was with us, we were away from home. For a long time. He’s only 3; a week might as well be a month.  It just never crossed my mind during vacation that he was trying to adjust or find comfort in this new situation.  There’s something sweet and fascinating and well, comforting, to me about the whole thing – him self-soothing when feeling out of sorts, me figuring things out as we go, and knowing that we’ve got a long way to go on this journey, but that we’ll continue learning together.

Dexter. My bubbly, never-too-serious, blonde, blue-eyed, funny boy.  Sensitive and sweet. Learning by leaps and bounds and little by little, all at the same time.  He likes to pretend. One minute he’s Batman and I’m Wonder Woman. Then next minute he’s Baby and I’m Sissy. He’s got a vivid imagination and a love for Legos to rival his big brother’s.  He’s kind and forgiving. Passionate yet silly.  What would I do without him? He keeps us on our toes and makes our lives so interesting.

xo,

~C~