All the Feels

So it’s not news to me, with the fifth kid, that Year Two comes with big doses of alllll the emotions, but apparently this year that means not just for said child but also for this particular mama.

I mean, I’ve probably cried during at least half of our kiddo birthday celebrations throughout the years, but something feels a little different when it comes to Wilson’s second birthday. I think it’s safe to say that 1) Sweet Girl has always done things different from Day One, and 2) even at two years out, I’m still reliving those early, different, difficult NICU days that consumed us for the first three weeks of her earth-side journey.24819275_10103621685305583_55478072_o

At the start of the month when Baby Girl (y’all, honestly. How will I ever stop calling her The Baby?!) was sick, my mom kindly took TJ to preK for me and I sat for three hours with my butt in the rocking chair and Wilson in my arms. The house was much (MUCH) quieter than the hospital ever was, but for some reason, my brain hopped back there lickity split to the days of no other kids around and just a baby in my arms that we desperately wanted to be better so we could in fact go home. I didn’t get all teary-eyed that day, but today? On img_59162nd Birthday Eve (can you tell we’ve been practicing showing off her new age)? Oh, goodness. I got super weepy thinking about the shock and challenge of all that and the emotional roller coaster it took our whole family on post-delivery.

And now, in what literally feels like no time at all, we’re here, at the stage of so much personality and so much activity. And did I mention SO much talking? Wilson is the perfect little magpie which is super cute and entertaining until someone says something you wish they hadn’t and then you have to try to divert really quickly until she finds some other word or phrase to latch on to instead.

Two of her favorite phrases are: “Pick-a-up” and “Supa-high” which refers respectively to wanting to be in my arms/on my hip and wanting to be in her toddler swing where yes indeed, she does want you to push her freakishly high and quick (which scares her mother on the daily but she loves it and squawks at you if you don’t comply, so yeah. Good Luck.)

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I am guessing that as we roll through the actual birthday and the coming weeks, there are going to be plenty more moments of big feels. There’s not as much shift happening in our family as we’ve always had in the past when a kid turns two, but processing that she is our last to do so is a big change all on its own and worthy of some feels.

And even though, or maybe especially because, I know time will just keep flying by, I will make note to enjoy all those moments she wants to be held and all the new Toddlerisms she teaches us because no matter how much I sometimes flash back, we thankfully, blessedly keep moving forward as a family.

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Opposites of Answers

For the last six-ish months I’ve been having “unexplained” abdominal pains.

For the last four-ish months, we’ve been trying to explain/fix it.

If I were a betting woman, I’d say stress is the cause. 11.5 months of living in renovations while raising five Littles is too much and I really think the pain is my body talking to me, telling me that all is not well with this set up and my system. But honestly, I can’t really test that theory until the house is done-done and we’re still a handful-ish of weeks away from that, so who knows. Considering that all the medical tests that we’ve run have been just as unclear (that’s not true; some concerns have been ruled out by the tests – they just haven’t indicated what is happening), it’s possible that I’m right.

The latest attempt to eradicate pain has led me back to acupuncture, something I haven’t used in my life since before Trumy was born. It has been both good and challenging on many levels, but three weeks in and I’m still experiencing the same symptoms, this week especially. I know healing methods like this take time, especially when the backlog is as deep as mine, but I was presented with an intriguing question recently that, like the pain, just keeps coming back to me.

In addition to being challenged to “let it go” (heaven help me; if 2019 has been a lesson in anything, it’s been about living with things outside of my control, even when in theory, I should have it and, quite frankly, I’m freaking over it), I was challenged with working to reverse the emotions that have set up camp in my system. The practice given to me to do this was to notice the emotions arising and then, assuming they were unwanted, imagine the opposite.

Call me crazy, but I am struggling.

For one, I’m a big believer in feeling all the feelings. Mr. Rogers and this excellent article a friend happened to share earlier today would seem to agree. As I’ve discussed with my therapist over the years, the important thing is not to get stuck in any one feeling. But stuffing or an inability to navigate through feelings is just as dangerous because those emotions are going to set up shop somewhere in your system and come back when you least expect or understand them.

But isn’t that what I’m already experiencing? Pent up emotions already messing with my physical body that in turn is hurting my emotional body? For example, I have been so mad these past couple days and I’ve also been experiencing more abdominal pain. Which one came first this week? I don’t know and am very much having an egg/chicken debate with myself about it because I can totally see how either one could influence the other.

So even though I didn’t really understand or even accept the opposite feelings challenge, I tried to do it. I’ve just been really, really angry lately and if I could opposite it away, I was ready for that to happen. Of course that’s when I realized, holy crap – that’s really, really freaking hard to name. So much so, that when I put it out to friends as a thought experiment on FB “the opposite of anger is _____” I got over a dozen different answers. I also got a link to an article that actually explores (and does so beautifully), the language and psychology behind this struggle to pinpoint an actual opposite of anger specifically which you should definitely read.

img_5572So how can I opposite my anger away if I can’t name an actual concrete opposite? Honestly, like the rest of this medical mystery, I still have no answers, which means I just have to keep trying to take care of myself and my system in the hopes that this really will get better (and by get better, I mean GO AWAY). That being said, if you have a favorite way for navigating (not stuffing) anger in particular, I’d love to hear it. I’ll be honest, one of my favorite ways is (shocker) with words, so a little writing and one of my favorite comfy sweatshirts go a long way some days. Others, not so much.

And if you have an opposite for anger for the thought experiment, I’d love to hear that, too! The list generated so far has been so eye and heart opening.

Words on Words

Today was a first. Even though I’ve been writing the words upon words here for over eight years now, today was the first time that they resulted in me getting up in front a group and giving voice all by myself to the same experiences that I share with you all here.

Y’all, that is a great honor and a terrifying thing to have done! But I did it, so now I can – in true form – write to you about it.

To explain: it’s been a few years since I’ve been a regular at MOPS because of preK schedules and having new babies and just life. But it’s still a special group to my heart because when I started attending it, also over eight years ago, I met some amazing people, many of whom are still good, good friends. So when that same group (now called Moms of Hastings; check ’em out here if you are interested in joining a local mama group) reached out early this fall to ask if I’d like to come speak to them about body image and postpartum and the basic challenges of motherhood, I said (to myself): “that sounds scary and also right up my alley” and to them: “Yes!”

Today was that yes come to life and while I won’t share the whole transcript of my (sorry ladies, a little rambly) talk, I do want to share the gist as well as the experience with you.

After the initial ask, I made some notes and wrote out some ideas weeks and weeks ago and then promptly set it all aside until just last week when I picked up my notes and flushed it out into a longer piece. Then I realized I needed to make it way longer to be the correct amount of time, so I kept reworking and managed to practice it a couple times. img_5750But then yesterday (spoiler alert: you may not know this about me, but I have always been a stellar student who is also a giant procrastinator) when I should have been practicing all the live-long day, Wilson got sick and wanted nothing more than to be in my arms the entire three hours Trumy was at preK. Somewhere in that experience is an upcoming post about NICU flashbacks, I promise.

So, I didn’t get to run through as many times as I maybe would have liked, but I felt pretty solid on my three main points which were as follows, and yes, I really did stand up and give an entire talk about words:

  1. Talk therapy saved me. I didn’t say those exact words this morning but that’s the gist of it, folks. Having access to a trained professional who listens to, guides, challenges, and helps me? Hands down the best form of self care I know. Plus she got me to the yoga and we all know what a role that’s played in my life.
  2. The words you use and surround yourself with matter. And yes, I did quote Daniel Tiger’s “Use your words” song because Wilson is obsessed with him and this blog is already named for a different PBS show, so how could I not?
  3. Challenge yourself (obscure reference here: Go Doane!) to quit belittling your body in passing conversations and don’t join in or feed the flame when others do the same. I’m not asking people to stuff their feelings or desires for change in their bodies, but I think if we could change the culture of shared body shaming, we’d all be a lot happier and healthier no matter what our metrics are.

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For the most part I think it went pretty well but gosh darn it, I thought for once I’d be able to get up in front of a group and speak about my life and NOT cry, but, nope. That streak continues.

But really, I know that’s OK because the part that got me was by far the hardest part to talk about which is that I have a condition that I will most likely always have to work against in my life/in my brain – body dysmorphia. And I don’t know how many speaking engagements I’d have to do before I’d be able to say “I have a mental condition that I work with and through every day of my life that impacts both me and my family depending on how I am managing it” and not cry. To quote Lizzo completely out of context, “that’s the human in me.” And that’s fine. I learned today, however, that when you are the only speaker instead of a member of a panel, and you get all sniffly, it’s a lot harder to stop and collect yourself/blow your dang nose while everyone in the room is watching you. You know, the important things you don’t think about until they are happening. In front of a group. 😉

Scary as it was to get up and do that this morning (and hard as it was to leave a sad, still img_5756sick Wilson at home to go do it), I’m glad I was asked and I’m glad I did, because the more we give voice to our struggles, the easier it gets to carry our individual loads because then they aren’t just ours to bear. To share one direct quote from this morning with you:

If sharing my stories has taught me anything, it is that real beauty in relationship with self, others, and spirit comes when we can speak truthfully to our imperfections and our successes and love our way through it all the same.

 

Time Change Woes

My husband doesn’t know it yet but he bought me “I’m Sorry” Coffee this morning. He also doesn’t know he is the reason I need it.

So we can probably all agree that the time change sucks. Every time, spring or fall, messing with clocks and sleep is a beast. And somehow, in his own sleep dep stupor thanks to having to sleep with a cold and cough recovering TJ, Ben also messed with my room darkening shades last night, the first night after the time change, also known as the worst time to mess with my shades.

So first, a little health update. Since August we have been trying to get a grip on my abdominal pain and three months later we still don’t have any clear answers. I’ve tried antacids and had bloodwork and an ultrasound and still nothing is clear and the pain still comes and goes. The only real known is that my sleep is still off the rails hence why the messing with the shades turned into such a caffeine requiring offense.

Again, a little background….I have never been a good sleeper and since Baby Lincoln arrived six years ago, Ben and I joined the 14% of American partners who don’t share a sleeping space because with all the babies bothering me, the last thing I needed was a snoring husband also keeping me awake at night. I also don’t sleep with a clock and do my best to shut out as much light as possible. Even though we no longer have a baby to keep us up all the live long night, my sleep is clearly still fragile and in need of repair, which I am working on in hopes that better sleep will equal a better belly (not abs; just not abdominal pain).

So, when B failed to put down the roller shades before closing my curtains last night, it is no wonder that strange, unexpected light came in and bothered me. When I saw it, I assumed morning was almost coming and with the time change that would make sense. But then no kids were running around and I was not sleeping and not sleeping and not sleeping for soooooo long that I finally realized something was wrong.

I didn’t know until after B left for school what had happened.

Turned out, though, that I was wrong and that the “I’m Sorry” Coffee actually came from my kids because it was one of them last night who put curtains down post bath without pulling shades, not Ben (we got a minute to chat over his lunch and he was appalled by the accusation, and not in a trying to get out of it way – it really wasn’t him!).

Clearly my brain is on backfire mode today, even with all the coffee and so it goes post time change.

Here’s to pulled roller shades and much better sleep tonight! And no misdirected marriage angst come tomorrow!

Eight is Great

For some reason, I have always been caught off guard with how old Raegan is getting. As in every year, all year long, other kiddos who share her birth year celebrate their birthdays and I think, “WHOA! _____ is FOUR (or SIX or now EIGHT)?! That means RAEGAN IS GOING TO BE THAT OLD SOON, TOO!” And for real – this internal monologue is always in shouty caps in my brain because it’s just so shocking to me.

At the exact same time, I’ve felt this particular year that she’s been eight for ages. I keep referencing her as such in conversations with people or when I tell stories about my children. She’s already my “8yo” which I’m guessing stems from the fact that because she’s so darn helpful all the time, I figure she must be moons and moons older than her sweet little face implies.

In all reality, both sides of my confusion are right. It’s both incredible that we are here already AND she’s a wise old soul wrapped in a youthful ball of energy.

I guess this makes eight the sweet spot of childhood because she is in many ways grown but still so capable of letting loose and having pure fun. And I am legit thankful for her every day. She helps with her youngest siblings (and about squeals herself in two whenever WA does some cute new thing) and keeps her surrounding brothers honest, too. But more so, she shares her big heart with us and others and all I can really say here is if you don’t know or have a Raegan in your life, I sure hope you find one because she is a gift on a daily basis.

And tomorrow she is EIGHT.

In keeping with this year’s birthday blog post tradition, here are Eight Great Things to know about Miss RL:

  1. Unicorns are still the best thing ever. She wants them on her PJs and shirts and pants and head and birthday cake and just anywhere she can get them please and thank you. img_5718
  2. She is – and has been for quite some time – our best sleeper. If you’ve been with the blog for the long haul, you may remember that she didn’t let me sleep through the night at all of the first 8 or 9 months of her life and almost broke me with her sleep-dep-inducing habits, but, friends! We made it through to the other side and now she sleeps like a freaking champ (unless the power cuts out the white noise and then heaven help us all)! Miracles do exist and irony lives.
  3. Give this girl some pasta and she’ll love you forever. She now knows what boiling water smells like and is always super pumped when I tell her that yes, yes it is for noodles (which she accepts in pretty much all form). Apple/Tree, I tell you!
  4. She devours books. Her favorite thing to do each morning is turn her light on 15 minutes early before get up time (which she’s allowed to do because of her sleeping champ status, much to the chagrin of her brothers) and read. Again: Apple! Tree!
  5. She is so darn good at creating. This takes the form of coloring and crafting and just flat out playing and imagining. She can turn any toy or item into a story. And if you’ve never heard it, her reading/narrating voice is the absolute best.
  6. As much as she likes quiet play and reading, she also loves being part of the action. From soccer and baseball to bike rides and the trampoline, Raegge keeps moving all the time.
  7. She finally lets me put her hair up in ponies! This may seem like a funny item to list, but seriously – this is her third year in full-day school and it’s the first one in which she’s come to me on a regular basis (actually more like every day) to request her hair being put up. You got it, Sister!
  8. She’s growing like a weed. Like her daddy and many a brother around her, she’s all legs for days and growth spurts as of late. Apparently that means some growing pains, too, which hopefully we can start to alleviate, but goodness me. So big. So fast. All of the sudden and totally expected. EIGHT.

Happy Birthday, Biggest Girl. We are beyond blessed to call you ours.

Our Drawn Out Dominoes

After RL started off September with the fever germs, LT decided last week to end the month/start October with a similar seeming virus. While he didn’t quite get the migraines that she did, he did keep popping fevers for four solid days and then sported a cheek-to-toe spotty little rash that was just lovely and kept him home from school for three days last week. We made a new family special sicky fort with a dinning room chair and blanket to block to the light and then did our best to keep the baby away from him (and failed, clearly).

We then had a lovely little Thursday/Friday/Saturday with the normal comings and goings of allllll the activities, and then came to today, Sunday, with the plans of going to Sunday School and church so we could partake in the communion service for which our kiddos helped make the bread at their Wednesday night programming. Thankfully, with the change in season, this morning was slightly less sweaty at church and I maybe even heard bits and pieces of the message. But I also noticed partway through that Truman was only going from Ben’s lap to mine and not in a bouncy way, but more in a “hold me, rock me, love me” way which for my active crew is never a good sign. (I mean, they do love on us when they’re feeling good, but extended daytime snuggles like that? Nope; not typical).

Sure enough, Little Dude skipped eating one of his favorite ever lunches after church (Gorilla Cheese and Tomato Soup) and then he voluntarily curled up on the couch for most of the rest of the day. And yep – he’s now sporting quite a fever to boot.

So, first of all, my apologies to anyone who was around him this morning. We had no idea he was going to take such a nosedive today, much less start it before the end of church.

Second of all, if you’re a praying person or a good vibe sending person, please throw some our way because this drawn out illness trading is way too similar to last fall and I’m not really sure I have the stamina to keep up with one kid after another after another with all this. Granted, it’s no easier to have a handful of sick kids all at once, but as we all know, the never-endings are just as brutal. img_5394

Deviation

When I was in college, I spent a semester in Africa traveling and logging many, many miles – from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania all the way to Cape Town, South Africa to be exact. Along that journey, we encountered many literal roadblocks, but one memory that will always stick with me is of coming upon road construction in which the sign read “Deviation” instead of “Detour.” It felt like such an excellent word choice because sometimes when your path goes off the rails against your control, the whole experience does feel a bit deviant.

Case in point? Home reno. We’ve spent this entire summer on a deviation thanks to the driveway and the roof/exterior of the house. In fact, come Tuesday, the roof and metal wrapping and sealing and wood replacement and all that jazz  shit will hit the one month mark on all its own. Like most aspects of life, there are multiple reasons for this, which I’d be more than happy to explain in a private message or in-person conversation, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree that that is just too long, especially when for at least half of that time, a giant trailer has been parked in my driveway and big old machines and tools have been stored in my garage. This means we can’t clean up the yard and just let the kids out to play, must less the sanity-losing that goes into such a drawn out process.

img_5220I was so at the end of my rope with the not-finishing/not-moving of things yesterday that I loaded up the baby in the double jogger stroller and pushed her a mile to the YMCA to pick up Trumy from Prek and then pushed them both the mile back, in a mad dash attempt to walk it out, but even all that in the hot midday sun barely burned off my mad and crazy.

Then, miraculously, enough of the stuff got done by sundown last night that the trailer and the tools disappeared, leaving us with the possibility of starting Operation Garage Clean Up. ‘Cuz, did y’all know that when your structure has three layers of shingles on it, but no plywood under those layers, and all that gets scraped off, it leaves a giant freaking mess all over everything underneath it? Neither did I, but it might just be the worst mess to date of this reno and that is freaking saying something.

So this afternoon, after we survived (and even enjoyed) our first Soccer Saturday with img_5253three kids playing and us coaching two of the teams in a Triple Header Extravaganza, we set to work on getting everything out of the garage (so it all could be cleaned) so we could clean the actual garage (so we could then put everything back in it).

I got out there first and noticed pretty quickly that it wasn’t just shingle and tar-dust coating everything but also like real chunks of splintered wood and even old nails and staples and all kinds of crap. When Ben came out to join me, I warned him and told him I was trying to sweep it all up so we could get rid of it safely because popped tires and poked feet have been my biggest fears for the last four weeks.

And with good reason, because not ten minutes in to my husband helping me, he somehow flipped a nail up with his Keen that caught the back of his heal and, you guessed it, ended up sending him to get a tetanus shot instead of cleaning with me. Ironically, the last one he had was in 2008 when we traveled with a Doane alumni trip to Africa.

img_5257So yes, deviations in many forms continue to crop up in the process, and with one more room left to go in the basement, we’re still not back on the road of just living in our house in peace and quiet (y’all know that it’s rarely quiet here, right? That’s just a metaphor or pipe dream or something.) which after 10 months of this feels like a foreign concept indeed. I know we’ll get back to that path eventually, but after how much more deviation is a big old guessing game.