She Chopped It Real Good

She was born with a full head of hair. I mean it was glorious, amazing, and everyone loved it. Every single person who saw her commented on how much and how amazing her hair was. As she got older it never really fell out, it just got these awesome blond highlights. People would pay hundreds of dollars to get natural highlights like these. I never cut bangs into her hair. I remembered my hair from the 80s and never would my daughter have to suffer that dreaded blunt bang. Never!!! So tiny pigtails and hair barretts were a staple in our house. Once when she was around 3 she got into some scissors and trimmed a bit off, but only a little. Enough that we had to take her in and she became the most fashionable 3-year-old with her bob. She totally pulled it off. Again the comments on her hair came rolling in.

I think it must have gone to her head. She began to tell people she was going to become a hair stylist. Originally it was doctor, but now it was hair stylist and fashionista. She practiced wearing different clothing styles and different fake jewelry, but she must have tired with these because at the ripe old age of 5 she decided that she was going to put her hair stylist techniques to the test.

She came downstairs shirtless but with a blanket wrapped around her head. She complained of how cold she was, but didn’t want to put a shirt on or anything like that. I thought nothing of this. She asked for a yogurt and went to sit down at the table with the blanket still wrapped around her. She looked like a nun. She began to stare at me. Really just stare me down. What did she want? What was she trying to say? I had no idea. Finally, she came back to the living room with the blanket just around her shoulders now. Something was different. She was different. Did she put a ponytail in her hair? Did we need to brush it? Then slowly the light bulb went on. She had cut her hair. I mean like she really went to town. She had bangs! Those dreaded bangs I had tried so hard to avoid! The left side of her hair was virtually gone. The back was various lengths. Um… this was more than just a trim off the end. This was a butcher job. This was like you slept with gum in your mouth and it got everywhere so your mom had to just chop it out willy nilly.

I was too tired to yell. When you get to your 4th kid doing ridiculous stuff you just lose the will to yell. It will do no good. I just looked at her and told her we would have to cut it. That in the end it may not look good. I told her it would be short. Very short. No more ponytails, no more pigtails. I told her she might cry when she sees what it looks like. I said that she did it, so she had to just deal with it. She took me upstairs to show me where it went down. She had cut all her Barbie dolls’ hair too. She took all the hair from everyone and placed it in her toy kitchen sink.

We went in to get it fixed. She wore a vest and fake pearls. She is her own glamorous girl. I sighed. She may have to have some type of pixie cut. I know it. We warned her. She knows it. In the end she survived. I survived. She showed us and herself that she has her own sense of autonomy and bangs can be great. I guess 5 isn’t too young to start pushing for your own sense of self and identity. She doesn’t love or hate her hair, but she does love the bangs. Those stupid bangs I fought so hard to avoid.

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To Medicate or Not

When he was two he broke the toilet and emptied chocolate sauce all over our apartment. When he was in early elementary he peed in a garbage can, at school. Later elementary school consisted of visits to the principal, many meetings over how to help him achieve his best self, standing desks, balls for seats, reading breaks out in the hall, and a constant wonder if the best way to help our son was to medicate him or not. Middle school brought about new challenges with organization. He isn’t at all. Papers everywhere, papers lost, homework done but not turned in, missing assignments, struggles fitting in socially, and all of it on a larger scale. We knew medicine could be like lifting a fog from his life, but we worried about all the things parents worry about. Would the already skinny child become dangerously skinny, what about dependency on the medication when addiction is already strongly indicated with people who have ADHD, shouldn’t he learn to find ways to cope outside of and off of medicine, and what about his personality? We had concerns and he did too.

Would medicine dampen him so much that he would be unrecognizable to us? Would he be listless and tired all the time? He isn’t afraid to speak out, which is part of the problem, but can also be seen as confidence, not being afraid of adults, and brave. He thinks outside of the box in so many ways and can quickly make connections between multiple things. He does various impulsive things, but is also very cautious. When he is interested in something he becomes very interested in it. He learns all he can, reads books, articles, and makes lists. What if that curiosity were to disappear? What if the desire to delve so deeply vanished?

We didn’t just sit on our hands. He met with social workers and school psychologists, he went to therapy, we talked to the teachers and principal to find ways for helping him out throughout the school year, we put him in sports, he had routines, and none of it seemed to help. He asked for a weighted blanket, he asked to try essential oils, and we started using melatonin to help him sleep. He was always in the loop and very much a part of every conversation we ever had. He is the one dealing with this every day so he should very much have a say. He was put on medicine to help with anxiety and depression. This did help some, but it was not the solution. There were still notes home, detentions handed out, and phone calls about behavior.

Finally, we decided it was time. His grades were starting to take hit. Not because it was hard, but he just had a hard time keeping everything together. All the balls were in the air and he started letting this thing slide and then that thing, and while a B average is totally acceptable it was starting to show signs of falling below. He was at a point socially where it was just on the tip of his fingers, but he couldn’t quite get there. The teachers were all starting to notice that as he was so at ease with them now that his behavior was showing this as well. At home we noticed things getting much harder as well. We could keep the course. We are his parents and we are allowed to make that decision. For years people have been suggesting medicine and we haven’t done it. It would be nothing more to keep doing the same. However, something switched in us. We saw he could be more. We saw we could make it easier for him. We also knew that just because we try a medicine doesn’t mean that we have to stay on the medicine. To try it, to see how it works, that doesn’t mean you have to stay on it forever. It doesn’t mean that you have to take it everyday if you don’t like the side effects. It was worth a shot though. What if it was the thing that made the difference? Shouldn’t we try? I take medicine for my depression. My husband took ADHD medication while getting his Ph.D.

The day we went into the office to get the medicine my heart was racing. I was holding my breath without even meaning to. When the doctor was prescribing it he looked at my son and said, “I think you will notice a big change and things will get better.” I seriously almost cried. Get better? He was always perfect to me. He was always my son. He was always everything I could ever want, but it was hard for him. It was hard for us. The fact that it was so hard for him is what hurt. That is what made it so much more painful. In his words and actions and withdrawals and angry lashes out we could see that being him was hard. If this pill could make being him easier and not so distressing, well, what had I been nervous about?

Within just 48 hours— it was amazing. Was he still a pain in the ass sometimes? Yes. Did he still sass and fight with his brothers and complain about taking the dog out? Yes. The things that did change: his planner was filled out, rubrics made it home, teachers were writing notes that said-Great Participation! Great Leader! At soccer practice his coach commented that for the first time since he has known my son that there was actual participation and focus during practice. I got an email from a teacher stating she noticed a remarkable difference in attitude, work ethic, participation, and overall demeanor. We hadn’t yet told the school we put him on new medicine. All of this came from people who have been dealing with him all school year and had no idea he was on medicine.

Will he be perfect? No. Do I really want him to be? No. Does he notice a positive change? Yes. Does he welcome it? Yes. Yes, he will still do therapy. Yes, we will still keep an open dialogue. Yes, he still meets with people at his school. He loves his weighted blanket and likes the smells of essential oils. He gets a say. We get a say. Together we are helping him be the best he can be.

jackmom

Relief

She stepped outside, and the rain washed over her.                                                                    It could have added to her burden.                                                                                                    It could have been extra weight she didn’t need.                                                                            It could have made her feel cold and lonely.                                                                                    It could have drowned her.

Instead, she felt free and reborn.                                                                                              Instead, she felt refreshed and calm.

It washed her tears, cleansed her soul, and calmed her spirit.Canva - Person in Blue Denim Jeans Standing Outside the Rain.jpg

Waves of Grief

Photo on 7-25-16 at 11.37 AMTo experience the loss of someone you love is something you know will come at some point because to love means being vulnerable to the loss of the one you love.When it happens here’s what I want to say to you. It hurts. It hurts in a place so deep within you that you never before thought anything could ever penetrate so far. The pain had to pierce your happiness, your joy, your hope, and sense of right and wrong. It had to pierce your heart and soul. The pain is real. You feel it physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. For something to penetrate so fully it can only have one word- grief.

Grief hits you when you least expect it. You are going down your path, maybe it has been smooth going. Maybe it has been bumpy, but either way you dared to venture out. You dared to dream; dared to hope. Then boom. It smacks you in the face. It shatters you. You break and fall into a million pieces. Your world becomes before and after. It is never again the same.

Grief isn’t kind. It isn’t gentle. The waves of grief come up suddenly and crash over you. They never seem to stop. At times it is constant. Other times you’ll notice days, weeks, and months go by before a song, a smell, a gesture, a turn of phrase, or a place sweeps you off your feet and tosses you back into the midst of your grief.

Grief becomes a place. A place you visit. A place you drive by. Over time it may change. It may not have such distinct sharp jagged boundaries, but it is always there.

One day you will notice that grief has made a pocket in your soul. Grief was needed. It had to tear you apart so when you were built back up there would be a hole inside of you where you could keep stories, voices, touches, moments, and memories.

Mmm, I would love… to find a bathroom. Right. Now.

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Ages ago I got tickets see Taylor Swift. Yes, I am in my mid 30s, yes I still sing along, dance around and feel like I am 22 when I play her music. No, my 11 year-old-son didn’t want to go and pretend he was actually an 11 year-old fangirl. So, I enlisted my husband to be my date. He enjoys the occasional song and appreciates her ability to write lyrics and put on a good show, so he was willing to be slightly ribbed by friends to attend the show.

My husband travels for work. Over the last 5 months he has spent most of his time in Norway. This means time with him is precious. We have put more of a focus on us when he is home. We do more date nights and try to make sure our marriage is still a priority. I am blessed with friends who also see the value in this and are willing to go above and beyond the call of normal friendship to help us have this time together. In the instance of the Taylor Swift concert my friend offered to spend the night in my house with my kids so the hubby and I could get a hotel room for the night. 

We get a nice hotel in the Magnificent Mile, we enjoy speciality cocktails in the hotel bar, and walk around the streets of Chicago past Tiffanys, Zara, Rolex, Coach, and Burberry. We head to dinner at a nice cozy Italian restaurant. We share a bottle of wine and head to the concert. It is the perfect night for whispering sweet nothings and flirting. It is a wonderful evening for love and reminiscing.

You might think that the conversation was delightful, I am sure parts of it were very engaging, but the part I remember the most was the conversation about mesh supports, vaginal slings, and urinary incontinence. Having been married almost 13 years and having had 5 kids, there isn’t much we don’t talk about freely. The inability to hold my urine is definitely not off the table, even on romantic evenings. We could have had any type of conversation we wanted, there would be no interruptions from kids. Instead I take this childfree moment to lean over and say, “ I hear there is a surgery where they can sort of hold your bladder up with some type of mesh thing or sling and you don’t pee on yourself all the time. I really want that surgery. I hate that even thinking about exercising, jumping, laughing, or sneezing makes to worried about urinating all over myself.” To which he agrees that sounds pretty good. There are times when the lovely aroma of urine follows me around. Not so great for spicing things up in your marriage. Darling you look beautiful and smell of body waste. There are days when I wear pantyliners because I know the chances of incontinence are high because having 5 kids does a number on your pelvic floor-no joke. Kegels don’t help. Although I don’t do them every second of the day, so maybe that is the problem.

So on this perfect date with the perfect man, instead of whispering sweet nothings in his ear, I loudly state for everyone to hear, I need a vaginal sling! To not smell like urine would be a wonderful thing. To jump and laugh and sneeze without pee, oh, what joy that would bring. Please darling, I really need a vaginal sling!

Summer Isn’t For Moms

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I hear people talking about how they are so excited it is summer. Many people have asked if I am ready for school to be out. No more packing lunches, no more finding homework and backpacks in the morning, I must be so excited. Sometimes I weakly smile and agree. The truth is I wonder if these people actually have amnesia. What parent is actually thrilled to have their children home all summer long?

I mean think about it. You still have to feed them. You still have to make lunches, not only lunches, now you have to make 100 snacks a day. I would take packing lunches in the morning over this any day. It isn’t like the lunches I pack are amazing anyway. A sandwich, an apple that I don’t even cut up, a gogurt, string cheese, a bag of chips or pretzels— that is it. Seriously, minimal work on my part. Some days I even say— pack your own lunch or buy it! 

I don’t help my kids with their homework. Now don’t get me wrong I still have to force them to do it, which can be a real screaming match, but it isn’t my homework. If the younger one needs help reading something, sure I am all over that. When the second one has to read out loud to me I sit on the couch and listen. There are occasional projects I supervise, and there are times I have to sit next to the older one and force the homework to be finished, but that is it. I will be honest most nights I just say do your homework and I walk away.

Now that it is summer I have to listen to them fight with one another all day long. He looked at me funny, he chews with his mouth open, he breathed on me, he called me stupid, he called me an idiot, he won’t play the game by my rules, he started it, or he won’t let me play. These will fill up my day-ALL SUMMER LONG!!  I will yell at them to just go outside, and they will come in constantly to tattle.

Screen time will be another issue. They will want more. They will want to earn extra time. I will want to just give it to them to shut them up, but I know that will cause more problems in the long run. They will fight over which devices to use. They will moan if they think someone got more. They will complain when I tell them to shut it down, even though we use timers to keep it fair. There will be days I want to banish all screen time forever. There will be days when I don’t care if they look up from the screen at all. It is a real love/hate relationship.

The summer will also be spent still running them places. Certain kids have day camps or sports lessons or doctors appointments. I will still be playing chauffeur. Sure I will take them to the pool, but my youngest two are still quite young, so I will not be relaxing. The middle one is allowed to go to certain places, but not all, so while it is fun for the children, it isn’t fun for mom. We have trips planned. Outings as families so we can bond. The good times will outweigh the bad I am sure, but it isn’t like summer is a rosy magical time of the year when Moms rejoice because their little ones are home all the time.

To make it a little easier on me I decided to load up on freezer pops. If they want freezer pops all day long, fine by me. Maybe it will help summer go a bit more smoothly. Maybe not, but summer isn’t really about me anyway, it is about them. Making memories. Being kids. Having fun. Taking a break from the stress of growing up. Let summer commence.