Headaches and hair loss

Today I think I truly realized that our little dude is way different from us. It's not a bad thing, it's just when I got married, I assumed we'd have kids naturally who would then share some of the same qualities as us: charming, hilarious, smart (stroking the ole ego here)...stubborn, fiery, sassy, clumsy...Even if the kid displays the non-desirable qualities, it seems like they might be easier to deal with since they are at least familiar. However, parenting another person's kid who is nothing like either one of us is proving confusing (that's putting it mildly). Obviously I knew little man is not equal parts me and Nate (the curly hair is a dead give away), but watching him play soccer today really reaffirmed it. I am a competitive person, and I think I was pretty high energy as a kid--as was Nate--so watching our little man stand on the soccer field with his hands in his mouth while most of the other kids herded around the soccer ball on the opposite side of the field was a frustrating experience for both of us. I still can't talk, so I could only text things to Nate to say to encourage little guy to participate---but nothing we said worked. He continued to mosey along the field like nobody else was there. I don't know why it frustrated us so much, but by the end of the hour long ordeal--Nate and I were just frazzled. It seems like this is a common feeling for us lately....

We're two months into this parenting gig, and of course, we are doing the best we can for our little man, but I often feel like we come up short. What works one time with him, doesn't work the second time; I'm all out of creative ideas. Pinterest isn't helping either; those tips may work for super moms but apparently I am not a super mom because having little guy hold his tongue for a time after he says bad words just makes him scream louder, or directing him to stomp on the driveway instead of tantruming again just makes him scream louder and makes us seem like the neighborhood crazies. And the book our therapist gave us on the Boys Town model of parenting: CRAP. None of it worked.

We try our hardest to be consistent with our expectations and consequences, but still, it seems like we do little good. I know it will take time for him to adjust to our home--probably way more time than we originally thought. But my head is pounding, and Nate is losing more hair (if that's even possible)...So what's a parent to do when all hope seems gone?


Musings from a sick day

Since about July 23rd, I've been battling sinus infections, coughs, a sore throat, and an incredible raspy voice. I've been on three rounds of antibiotics and have been to my family practice doctor three times since the end of July. Last week I was running a fever again and just felt crappy--not that this was an out of the ordinary feeling since it's been ongoing for about 8 weeks now--but my doctor finally referred me to an ENT. Yesterday I had the "pleasure" of experiencing a throat scope. They first tried to stick a giant tube and camera down my throat (after they numbed it of course), and though the doc ensured me the numbing medicine would soften my gag reflex, the minute she stuck it part way down my throat, I gagged and nearly vomited all over her. The back up plan was the scope through the nose and down into the throat. She tried my right nostril first, but it was too swollen from my sinus infections. Finally, she got a good look through my left nostril and concluded that I have severe laryngitis. She mentioned there has been some recent bleeding on one of my vocal chords due to the excessive coughing I've had in the last 8 weeks. She prescribed me three different medicines, gave my probiotics to help my digestive system return to somewhat of a normal balance, and then issued a blow: no talking or running for five days (after I run my coughing is just nasty).

"But I teach," I responded.

"No talking," she retorted. "Starting now."

"But I have a 4 year old," I persisted.

With a smile of empathy, she simply replied, "stop talking" and handed me a letter that stated I couldn't return to work until Tuesday.

So here I am. 8:30 AM on a Thursday in my pajamas, writing. While it's a pain in the backside to miss school (luckily tomorrow is a staff development day), I have to admit that I felt a little relieved when she handed me that letter. This school year has been exhausting. This week in particular I've been swamped with grading and feel like I just cannot catch up (guess what I'll be doing during my time off?!). I often catch myself wondering what it would be like had I followed through with my original plan to sub and work at the Writing Center...it's a fantasy, really. No grading. No pressure. More time with my husband and little man. I'm sure it wouldn't be as perfect as my mind has created it to be, and I know that my current position allows me to make a bigger impact on kids since I'm consistently around them; the consistent pay check is nice especially as we consider planning a vacation to Colorado this summer so little man can experience the mountains. I just get myself so worked up and wrapped into my job. I confess that I've (dare I say it) cared too much about my job--I'd even say I've made my job an idol. And because that's been my habit for 5 years, it's difficult to break. It's true that little man's mere presence forces me to invest less in my job, but there is an anxiety and a guilt that come with this. I feel anxious that I'm not as prepared as I should be. I feel like I'm not doing enough for my students. I try not to work when little dude is awake, but I suck at that...especially on the weekends. I use every minute of my planning period and my before and after school time, and when little guy goes down for bed, it's off to work I go, but I still feel behind. I think that's just the curse of an English teacher...especially a type A English teacher. Life would be easier if I could be more laid back and just learn to chill out. But that's just not me...and it drives me to the point where my body just shuts down and gives me a big "f-you."

I wonder if I'll ever be able to find a balance between teaching and parenting/marriage/personal life (what's a personal life?!?). Teaching is one of my passions, but I don't want that passion to be number one in my life anymore. I know that I need to work less, I just don't know how to do it. If you have the answers to this, feel free to send them my way; I'm all ears.


No longer a hare

Note: My students are currently writing personal narratives with fairy tale motifs. I try to write with my students each time, so this is the piece I will be sharing with them tomorrow. It's a debrief of this weekend's events. 

The alarm sounded with a screech at 4:30 AM on a Saturday morning. Perturbed, I poked the snooze button and pulled the covers over my head wishing for two more hours of sleep. The cobwebs of sleep were still thick in my head, and last night’s Nyquil had not yet worn off. My head was heavy with congestion and my throat burned. After five minutes of wishing I were sleeping, I mechanically kicked off the covers and swung my legs to the side of the bed. It was race day. Normally on race days I hop out of bed to the alarm, no matter how early, in anticipation for the event for which I’ve spent weeks and hours of my time training. But this race did not excite me. The task itself was daunting: The Double Half Mary. Run 13.1 miles on Saturday and 13.1 miles on Sunday. What made it worse was a lack of preparedness. For every race I’ve ever done, I’ve spent weeks diligently training, running through snow, hail, wind, sinus infections, and sore muscles. I’ve monitored my food intake and documented miles ran, never missing a weekend long run. But this race was different. I was running this race with a new hat: my momma hat.

We were thrust into parental roles a little over a month ago when we began the process of adopting an energetic, lovely, and challenging four-year old. No matter how a couple becomes parents, the event requires a lifestyle change. I no longer had the leisure to run whenever I felt like it because our new son dictated my schedule. My long runs felt exhausting because of the later nights I put in working after he fell asleep. To top it all off, since our little boy moved in, I’ve battled a sinus infection. I simply did not have the energy to diligently train for this race. I did what I could and felt selfish for being away from my family for four hours at a time on the weekends so I could run; I no longer had the spring in my step that allowed me to run 8:30/mile pace. Honestly, most days, I didn’t even want to run.

With my momma hat lingering above me, I lined up at the starting line to run my first 13.1. The starting signal sounded, and I shuffled out feeling more like the tortoise than the hare. It felt like hoards of people were passing me. By mile 10 the sun was hot and my head felt heavy. The trail seemed to be spinning around me. Out of fear of passing out, I slowed my shuffle to a walk and silently cursed myself for signing up for this race…I still had 3.1 miles to the finish line and another 13.1 miles the next day. The last time I had to stop and walk in a race was during my first full marathon. I gave myself a minute of walking, and then picked up the pace a bit. The last 3.1 miles to the finish line were mentally and physically brutal. I crossed the finish line with no sense of satisfaction or pride.

As I walked off the pain of the morning’s run, a fellow runner and momma caught me, gave me a high-five, and yelled, “Great job!”

Sensing my disappointment, she reigned in the enthusiasm and said, “Just remember…this is your new PR as a mom. It’s hard to run and be a mom, and it will be until your little man is grown. I ran my fastest time in years today because my daughter is grown and in college. You’re just entering a new phase in your life. Cut yourself some slack.” 

While I didn’t feel okay with my time that was eleven minutes slower than my PR immediately after this chat, later that afternoon I came to accept my 2:03 half marathon time. I will not be a speedy hare for probably quite a few years as I juggle my role as a mom. But being a mom is something I’ve wanted for seven years, and if this comes with my new role as a tortoise, then so be it.

The next morning my alarm sounded again at 4:30 AM, and despite the soreness in my legs, I woke up quicker than the previous morning. Soon I was pounding pavement for another 13.1 miles. My time was four seconds slower than the previous day’s, but I crossed the finish line today with a sense of accomplishment: I am no hare, but I managed to survive my first month of motherhood AND run a Double Half Mary. I’d say that’s an okay accomplishment.