Longest Winter Ever??

We’ve had hard months before, no doubt (April, I’m looking at you). There have been some periods in our parenting where everything felt like a lot, and maybe a bit too much. But I don’t know that we have ever had six+ weeks of one after another illnesses that have left us with little more than a 48 hour window in which maybe all seven of us were feeling OK-ish.

Friends, I don’t know how I am going to do it if this trend that started the first week of October continues all winter. Because as you may know, we aren’t even TO winter yet, so holy moly cow. Please, please, please don’t let our fall be any indication of what is to come when actual cold and flu season arrives.

Our baby is one week away from being a year old and yet Ben and I both still feel like we are in Newborn Sleep Dep Mode. Trying to sleep with coughing and feverish kids one after the next, but rarely at the same time sick, has been exhausting on a whole new level. I told my mom last night that I felt like I’d been run over by a bus (this was after surviving an illness-induced meltdown with the 5yo for 15 minutes in the waiting room at the orthodontist because I had no choice but to be there solo with all five children) which is before the same child then had us up in the middle of the night and then sleeping lightly (read: crapily – what that’s not a word?) the rest of the night wondering what would come next. So maybe today feels more like being hit by a train than a bus?

img_2256Of course this is the day (night) B has conferences at school and RL has visitation at dance which I now have to bag out on because I have to stay home with her sick brother, so clearly the feeling of being plowed over isn’t just the physical exertion, it’s also the mental strain of being constantly worried about if you are doing enough to take care of one child (or more) while knowing you are also letting down another one (or more).

Normally there’s a “so what” to my posts, so chalk it up to my tired brain or my tired spirit, but I’m not sure I have a point in writing this beyond saying: This is hard. Of course we can do hard things, but This. Is. HARD. And it feels forever-happening at this point. So maybe that part will change and everything will feel a little less intense? Goodness, that would be nice.

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No Time for Time Frames

As all aspects of life do, my journey with body image struggles and body dysmorphia have had an ebb and flow feeling to them in the last year. At times I have been far too (read: entirely) consumed by the tasks of mothering and me-ing to be all too concerned about how my body looked and if I was “getting that post-baby” body back. At others I have been bogged down by the very fact that no, I am not getting that.

But honestly, after nine years of pregnancies (I found out just after Thanksgiving, 2008 about the first and delivered the fifth just before Thanksgiving 2017), what does that body even mean? What exactly would it even look like? Does any 36 yr old much resemble their 26 yr old self? With or without child bearing and birth?

I think what’s getting under my skin right now (beyond the fact that my three oldest children are of that age and we are of that stage where they’ve maybe been trained to start expecting a pregnancy announcement sometime soon [nope; never again] and keep making ridiculous statements about my belly) is that Wilson’s almost a year old. That means I’ve totally passed the sort-of accepted “40 weeks in/40 weeks out” time frame in which we give moms out to “bounce” back.

Yeah. Not much bouncing around here, folks.

I could give you a laundry list of reasons as to why (laundry could be one of them, come to think of it) this is so. The one that interests me most currently is that as much as I still feel societal and internal pressure to be as trim/fit/what-have-you as I have been before, I also am working really, really hard to just be OK with what IS.

And this is me:

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For the last month, I’ve hardly worn jeans or real pants. It’s been leggings and workout pants and sweats on constant repeat [Full disclosure: it’s probably going to stay like that for a while because my littlest two littles keep sharing germs with each other and me]. So I don’t really have my normal markers of knowing how things fit to gauge how I feel. (I haven’t been on a scale and actually seen the weight on it in five years. I can’t know those numbers and also know my sanity). I have still been doing my 30 minutes a day of yoga, but even that hasn’t been enough to keep the negative thought spiral from happening lately. Clearly, I have to keep working on that, and part of that acceptance and moving through it is honesty.

That pants in that picture (in which my shirt matches the wall AND my phone)? Those are maternity leggings and I LOVE them. I bought them last year to get me through the end of Wilson’s pregnancy. They were a size bigger than I normally wear in maternity clothes. And I’m still wearing them now, just shy of her first birthday. And they’re not all that loose. And you know what? That is what is. Am I thrilled about it? Not really. But does it define me? Hardly.

My weight at my six-week post-delivery appointment with Baby Lincoln is what sent me to counseling in the first place for body image concerns. I just knew I couldn’t keep living with that pressure. While the pressure and the thought spiral both still exist and get worse some times more than others for me, I can look at these leggings that I love, that I never thought I’d still be wearing and say: OK. Here is where I am in this body right now. Time frames and pressure to be different be damned.

I know I won’t feel quite this OK with what is every day, but any day that I can get a little bit of that peace? I’ll take it, leggings and all.

 

 

You Gotta Be

Recently I had to tell someone “no” to a request of my time. Full disclosure, I had already (many, many months ago) told them “yes,” so my “no” was totally a backing out which isn’t great to do, but sometimes it is just as necessary as it is shitty.

As has been pretty clear on the sparse, random posts of this month, 95% of October has kicked our butts. After the baby got sick and everyone else either recovered or maintained health, I got a full-on seven day sore throat that wrecked the majority of last week for me. I am just now, on the 29th of the month, sort of coming out of the fog of travel and sickness and pure on exhaustion. So no, when I got the call to remind about the thing I said I’d do darn near a year ago, “yes” could no longer be my answer even though I knew that was going to be displeasing and problematic for the asker.

I get it. It sucks when people leave you hanging. But it also sucks when you run yourself ragged for the sake of others. And I was honest. It would have been easy to lie and say that I had an appointment and couldn’t be there. But instead I straight up said we’ve had a crazy, draining month and that I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It.

Let me be real for a second….

I have no day time help (minus the fact that Ben can alternate preschool pickup with me most of the every-other days). I run a shuttle service. I am a professional waiter (not of food, but of time during speech and before/after preschool). I provide all the food, play, naps, bathroom duties, and the million other jobs of a daycare provider/SAH parent. I also own a business and work a separate job from home (which is bonkers hard, y’all, when your little people are still in that same home with you all the live-long days). I survive on coffee, social media, uplifting and also snarky GIFs and messages with my girlfriends, and books. And yoga. Always yoga. I don’t get to go out for lunch because I can’t afford a babysitter, much less find one, and my sweet 11 month old baby still won’t let anyone besides B hold her, so no. I don’t really have much effort or energy left for commitments outside the home because my home sucks every last drop out of me.

Clearly I feel guilty for backing out. You see that, right? But I’m writing this to remind myself of two things: 1) it is 110% OK to put my own air mask on first by saying “no” to something I don’t want to do. Even if it doesn’t feel that way, it IS. And 2) when I am no longer in this stage of parenting, may I please forever remember that when I ask something of a mama who IS still in it, that I always, always lead with, “How can I help?”

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Dissent

In the two weeks since my trip to DC, which happened to be roughly two days in which I lived at least three lifetimes, we have had non-stop child sickness in our house which has made this October the longest of Octobers in the history of ever and not in a cute pumpkin and scarf/boot kind of way. Truman took 13 days to recover. Raegan is on Day 6, and Wilson is on Day 1.5.

It has been an intense month.

And, needless to say, the sleep deficit around here as of late has also been bonkers, which hasn’t helped how any of us are feeling about this October to end all Octobers.

Also cast to the wayside with my sleep, really, has been my time to recover and process all that went down in DC. In fact, I am still dealing with the intensity of emotions surrounding my experience both in DC and that which led me to be part of that trip. The 48 odd hours that I was actually gone were packed with so much effort, on so many levels, that I legit had nothing left to give when it came to anything outside of our lobby tasks.

No sight-seeing. No souvenir shopping (except for keychains for the children at the airport). No friend/family visiting on the East Coast. No protests or marches even because just to do our prep work and meetings was enough to take it out of this first time advocate.

And that’s OK.

It was a matter of self-care to give myself permission to set all else aside and just be there for what was asked of me for the trip. (Have I mentioned yet how incredible and trauma-aware the ACLU folks were before, during, and after our Senate staff meetings? I know that part of my empowerment and strength those two days came directly from them being so supportive of and sensitive to their audience. From the language they used in emails to the pre-Hill trainings and stress-management techniques they shared with us, they has us covered. And you know the yoga teacher in me loved the breathing techniques they shared with the group.)

Why I still don’t really feel recovered two weeks later, though, is because life carries on. Especially when you have little Littles still in the picture, you don’t get to go off and be an adult only and then come home and still be an individual, too. I dove head first into advocacy and then head first back into parenting, and the super exhausting kind of parenting, too, where you are worried about and tending too a million extra germ-induced tasks each day. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t still been fighting the good fight.

Contrary to what some folks seem to think, I did not go in to this experience under a false assumption that it would definitely yield the results I wanted. Not at all. I knew, based on my Senators’ voting records and tendencies that neither I nor the group I traveled with would be likely to change their minds. But that was no reason not to go and I am glad I did not let that likelihood keep me from saying “yes” to the offer.

Using your voice, even when it shakes, even when you know it is likely to fall on deaf ears (which are often quite synonymous with closed minds)? That is dissent, my friends, and it is good and right to still let your voice cry out even when you know the decision has already been made.

Semi-side note: In case you can’t tell, I have been obsessed with Ruth Bader Ginsberg lately. As in, read a book, located a documentary, and ordered my very own version of her dissent necklace (half of the proceeds of each one sold go to some pretty rockin’ charities), all in the last two weeks. So this, along with a wall print of the shot of our lobby group that was taken on the steps of the Russell Senate Building after our meetings, is how I commemorate my trip and the use of my voice, even when it turned out ultimately to be one of dissent, not (yet) direct change.

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Wrecking Ball Wrecked

So in case the last two weeks haven’t been intense enough, Truman decided to throw us for a medical mystery roller coaster these last two days.

When I got back home from DC last Friday, he was already showing signs of a head cold which continued all weekend with your basic runny nose and cough that kept him (and Ben) from sleeping well at night. Even though he didn’t seem terrible, we kept him home Tuesday from preschool in hopes of not over extending him, but I decided Tuesday afternoon to take him in to the doctor because something just didn’t seem right.

Except nothing really turned out to be that wrong either (nose, throat, ears, etc. all checked out OK), so “rest and recover” was the treatment given and on we went. My mama intuition may have been bruised a bit, but OK.

img_1809Well, sure enough, Wednesday afternoon brought an out-of-left-field fever that left my normally all over the place wrecking ball boy tuckered out on the couch, snoozing on and off from late afternoon through supper. Nothing crazy, but nothing good either. [By the way, that blue thing is the crazy cool little fever wrap that my friend K told me about that is meant to make kids more comfortable when feverish (it draws out the heat but not in a freaky fast way). We thankfully haven’t had to use it a ton, but Truman seemed to like it these last couple days.]

This morning, he looked like thisimg_1825 and ate some cereal, so we thought the worst was behind us, but again this afternoon, he came up and asked for me to make him a nest (what we call a rest spot in our house) so he could sleep.

Clearly I could tell the fever was back, but didn’t even check it because I just wanted him to sleep a bit; however, a little while later after messaging with a friend, I decided to get an actual temp and my heart about stopped. His temperature, the very first time I took it today, was 104! I have never ever in my mamahood had a baby with a temp that high.

From there, frantic phone calls ensued including one to the doctor’s office where they asked for me to bring him back in which I was more than happy to do because honestly – WHAT?! Where did that come from?! But unfortunately, we still don’t actually know.

I was able to get him in and they were able to get the temp down (you guys, the official read out at the office was 104.7 and if I wasn’t already freaked the hell out, you can bet that number sealed the deal) with some medicine and cool water to drink, but everything else in his system – ears, nose, throat, lungs, etc. – still checks out pretty much mostly OK.

So maybe it was a cold followed by a virus that caused the fever? Or maybe we’ll be right back there tomorrow if anything else changes or the fever persists or we can’t get enough fluids in him because who the heck knows.

For now, he’s doing much better. After the meds kicked in and we got home, he wanted to eat and drink more than he had all day (yay!!). He also wanted to run around the house like a wild man with his siblings (heaven help me), which definitely makes him seem like his normal self, but wow. What a day.

Fingers and toes crossed and prayers lifted that the fever is on its way out and that whatever caused it is going, too, and withOUT any other flare ups in our house on its way out the door.

Four Weeks

Tuesdays.

Oh, Tuesdays.

Historically, these are my challenge days. Sometimes I meet them with grace. Sometimes I meet them with chocolate. Sometimes meeting them with chocolate IS meeting them with grace.

Today is rainy (again) and cold (again) and it seems that Mother Nature is really feeling me on this Tuesday.

It’s been one week since I found out that I was going to DC to lobby and in that week I am fairly certain I have lived 1,000 lifetimes. I have certainly experienced 1,000 emotions, and continue to do so on this Tuesday that feels weepy and a little bit hard and a whole lot gray.

But here’s the deal. You know I am all for feeling all the feels. I am a firm believer through my yoga teaching/practice, through my therapy, and through my parenting, that you can’t live without ALL the emotions, even the difficult ones. It is what you do with them, how you move through them, how you use them that matters, and you are not a failure for experiencing the hard ones.

So even though today feels like it landed on the heavy end of the emotional spectrum, that doesn’t mean all is lost. I know that I’m going to feel a million different pieces of life today, and if some of them – many of them – are the processing and purging of all the intensity I have lived in the last seven days, so be it. Like so many others, I have been re-traumatized by recent national events and I am doing all that I can to give myself grace right now, as I hope you are, too.

I thought that grace might look like stepping away. Away from social media, away from the public, just away.

And while we did take some much needed buffer/family time over the weekend, I have not gone in to complete hiding mode. For one, I am not ashamed that our trip did not result in the changes we hoped to see, and I am for sure not letting that defeat silence me. For another, I know that we have – from this very Tuesday – only four weeks left until the mid-terms elections, and I don’t know about you, but they feel like the most important mid-terms of my life.

So I am here and I am going to continue to show up here and other places online (and eventually in public when my introverted heart feels ready to do so) to remind everyone of that important, impending deadline of November 6. And I am going to encourage you – all of you – including those of you who don’t agree with my politically (which, if you’re even still reading this, thank you, because the need to see each other as human even though we differ in public policies is so necessary right now) to vote. Educate yourself on your candidates. Ask questions. Mark your calendars. And use your (in many cases, hard fought) right to case your ballot in four short weeks.

Because not all Tuesdays have to suck and we CAN be the change we do desperately desire to see in this world. We just have to show up for it.

Side note: this was clearly not taken on this particular rainy Tuesday.

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What Comes Next

The last four days have been a whirlwind. In an unfortunate twist of irony, I had my worst night of sleep last night, AFTER everything was all said and done. So in case I wasn’t going to be feeling it today anyway, I definitely am now after my whopping two hours of “rest” before my early morning wake up call to make it to the airport on time. I am already on my second set of tears for the day and I doubt they are my last.

The IT I am feeling? It has many forms.

For start, I am exhausted both in the physical sense but also, clearly, in the emotional, too. I moved mothering mountains to make this DC trip happen and the effort of trying to hold my shit together for so many days as I traveled and trained and lobbied (and pumped) was intense. Even all the yoga I know and do couldn’t keep tension from settling in to my jaw and shoulders (& also, how did I get shin splints?).

The “it”ness of emotions has been a roller coaster. I have been anxious, proud, determined, nervous, sad, pissed off, empowered, grateful, shocked, loved, hurt, bolstered, undone, hopeful, disappointed, and hangry (which I will argue belongs on this list), and often I have moved from one to the next and the next and then back again through this list and all the other emotions I can’t even name right now.

Whatever comes of the vote in the Senate, I can remain proud of the fact that I came and shared my experience, strength, and courage not only in those Senate offices but will all the amazing survivor sisters that I met. I have a forever place in my heart for all of them and all of you who reached out to share stories of your own with me. I hope you know I carried you in my pocket, in my heart, and in my prayers.

I also hope you all can see how the real effort here was in humanizing our experiences. Yes, we had a goal of encouraging our Senators to pick another judge. I’m not saying that the judge who fills this SCOTUS seat has to share my political beliefs, but I am saying that I don’t believe Kavanaugh is the right judge for the job. It is in that spirit that I hope everyone reading this can understand that at the core of it, many survivors like myself want to be seen as human beings worthy of respect and this nominee and how the situation has been handled feels very disrespectful. You do not have to agree with my politics to support what I did this week. It was an act of courage and that alone was a remarkable feat for each of us on this trip. We are worthy of being seen for our efforts, no mater the outcome.

If you know a survivor, and I am willing to bet you know several, even if they haven’t been as vocal as I have been lately, reach out. Don’t tell them what you need. Ask them what they need. We are raw right now and we all have our own way to process; please ask your people what you can do to support them and then do you damndest to make that happen. You humanize us when you give us choice and power like that. You help IT feel just a little bit lighter when you do that.

Yesterday, during our second meeting, I found my eyes wandering at times around the beautiful conference room in which we sat. I mean, do you see this chandelier? It is gorgeous. In seriousness, though, I had to remind myself in those moments to stay present, stay focused on the intensity. As I move through the coming days I hope to stay present for my family and for myself as I allow all of this – all of it – to become a little less intense. A little more settled. May we all find little ways to feel just a little more peace. If you can, be that for each other.